Today we’re continuing with the gem found in the book of Numbers that we looked at yesterday. You can find yesterday’s blog here. We’re looking at this passage:

22  The LORD said to Moses,
23  “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
24  ‘The LORD bless you and keep you;
25  the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26  the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.’
27  “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
Numbers 6:22-27 (NIV)

Today I want to look at the specific elements of the blessing. Remember it is the specific instruction God gave to the priests about how to bless the Israelites. And God promised that when the priests blessed the people in this way, God would bless them. As I wrote yesterday, there’s nothing “magical” about the words, but they are instructive about how we are to bless others. So let’s look at each element.

Verse 24: “The Lord (Yahweh) bless you and keep you.”

“The Lord bless you” – may He bless you as He desires to bless you. Let’s let Him decide how to bless, rather than being more specific and praying that He would bless them with __________ (fill in the blank). God knows the needs of the person being blessed better than we do, and I sometimes think we are working against the purposes of God when we are overly specific in our prayers. I’m not saying it’s wrong to pray “Lord, my friend needs a job, we ask that you would bless her with one.” I am saying that this passage encourages us to pray “Lord, bless my friend where he or she is right now” – because God knows each of our needs beyond the obvious we may see or feel.

Notice that the object of the blessing is “you.” In the original language, it is a singular “you.” It is a personal blessing for the one being blessed. It’s not a mass-produced blessing that God just pulls off His shelf of ready-made blessings. It is a blessing unique to the needs of the person being blessed. Wow! God knows my name, He knows my thoughts, He knows my needs, He knows me – better than anyone else – and he has a blessing designed and created just for me. Again – wow! And Thank You, Lord.

A favorite verse of mine is Psalm 34:15 – The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry” (NIV). The verse says to me that He is always listening and ready to respond to my cry. He hears me. He is El Roi – the God who Sees, and El Shama – the God who Hears.

“The Lord bless you [wow!] and keep you.” The word translated “keep” comes from a root word that means to put a hedge around, to guard, to protect, and to attend to. Remember this is a blessing – we are not asking God to do these things, we are blessing the recipient with these things. We are giving them God’s hedge around them, His protection of them, and I love the last phrase – we are bringing God’s attention to them that He might attend to them. He will be attentive to those who are blessed, knowing even the number of hairs on their head (Matthew 10:30).

Verse 25: “The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.”

Notice the third word in that verse – “make”. The blessing invokes the Lord to purposefully make His face shine upon you. Just as I want to be intentional about my walk with the Lord, He is intentional about blessing me. May the Lord make the glory and light of His countenance shine upon you.

There are some who describe prayer as holding others in the light of God. It is a phrase often used by our Quaker brothers and sisters. Light blows away darkness. Light brings healing. Light leads the path before us. Light warms our bodies. May the Lord be purposeful in shining His light upon you.

The word translated “gracious” is almost equally translated mercy or merciful as it is gracious or favor/favorable. May God make His face shine with His glory upon you, and may He be merciful and gracious to you. There is only love in that verse. There is no condemnation, there is no judgment, there is no taskmaster-like ruler or kingship. There is love and compassion and a ready desire to bless.

Verse 26: “The Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.”

May God turn His face toward you, see you, and give you peace. Again, we have God being purposeful in turning toward us, looking upon us with His glory shining upon us (from verse 25), and “give you peace.” The word “give” literally means put or set upon you. His peace transcends anything happening in our lives – it is more like a blanket that covers and protects us, it settles on us and we can wrap ourselves in it. Even though all around us there may be chaos, His peace covers us. Peace is not the absence of conflict or chaos, it is God’s light covering us and shining on the things that are most important so that our attention is directed toward them instead of the chaos. It is also knowing that He will bless us and keep us, that He will be gracious to us, and that His solutions will prevail no matter what the day looks like.

The word is “shalom” and it means prevailing peace and well-being, and is the final phrase of the blessing that with which we are to bless the people of God. And God’s promise is that when we do so, He will bless them.

Our Powerful Opportunity

Friends, as I wrote yesterday, let’s not shy away from our authority to bless others. Know that you bless others with this blessing, you invoke God’s blessing upon them.

That’s a powerful opportunity. And dare I say responsibility. Go forth and bless, friends.

Comments No Comments »

I love finding gems in the midst of what might otherwise seem like fly-over territory in the Bible. I am reading the book of Numbers, and “buried” at the end of chapter about Nazarite vows and heads being shaved, I found this familiar gem:

22  The LORD said to Moses,
23  “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
24  ‘The LORD bless you and keep you;
25  the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26  the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.’
27  “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
Numbers 6:22-27 (NIV)

I noticed 2 things about this passage that I hadn’t noticed before: It is a blessing and it invokes God’s blessing upon the recipient.

It is a Blessing to be Given by Priests

It is sometimes translated as a “special blessing”, and it is the blessing that the priests were to say to bless the Israelites. As I thought about this, the Holy Spirit reminded me that as believers, we are part of the “royal priesthood”. The Apostle Peter wrote about in 1 Peter:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)             

While Peter’s letter is addressed specifically to the Israelites, it applies to all who have accepted Christ as their Savior – including those of us who are not Jewish but have been “grafted in” as the Apostle Paul described in Romans 11:17.

What does that mean? It means that we have the authority of priests to proclaim the blessing upon others. Did you get that? It’s a powerful statement – you have the authority to proclaim this “special blessing” upon others. Let me encourage you (and myself) not to shy from the authority God has given us.

Yes, I know, that this blog bounces back and forth between referring to “them” and “us”. I’m sorry. I can’t correct that – because what applies to “them” applies to “us.” So you will find that I write about the blessing that is given to them and then slip into how it is a blessing to you and to me. Remember, what God has done for them, He does and will do for you and me.

It is a Blessing with a Promise from God

The other exciting thing about this passage is God’s promise at the end – that when the priests proclaimed this blessing on the people, they “put God’s name on them” and God would bless them. Let’s look at each element.

When we pray this blessing, we “put God’s name upon them.” Oh my, there is so much in God’s name. It is His banner over them – His protection. It is His blessing over them. It recognizes a relationship with Him – that we are His and He is ours.

And then comes the promise – that God will bless them! That is so exciting to me – that when I proclaim this blessing upon others, God says He will bless them. My blessing on them – me praying these words over them – moves the hand of God to bless them. Is there anything magical about these words? While I would not use the word magical, of course, I would say that these are the specific words God instructed the priests to use when blessing the Israelites. I’ve checked many translations, and most say something like “this is how you are to bless the Israelites.” No, they are not magical words, but they are instructive words – words from God about how to bless others. Do I have to speak the words of the blessing exactly as they’re written? Of course not. But the concepts behind the words is how we are to bless God’s people. I’ll write more about those words – the actual blessing we’re to proclaim over others – tomorrow.

In the meantime, let me encourage you to spend some time today thinking about (that is, meditating on) the role of priesthood that God has given to you as a Child of the King. How does God want you to fulfill that role? And come back tomorrow to read more about the blessing God instructed the priests to use when blessing the Israelites.

May the Lord bless you and keep you, Friends. May He make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

Comments No Comments »

Every Prayer Has Potential

What a powerful statement and great reminder to me. It’s can be so easy for me to fall into a rut in my prayer life. Yet the words “prayer” and “rut” shouldn’t even be in the same sentence. Not when we realize how truly powerful prayer is. God’s Word tells us that the fervent or earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results (James 5:15, NLT).

That means you can have powerful and effective impact on your world through your prayers.

So often people say “there’s nothing I can do but prayer.” I know I’ve said it. But I always feel a little squeamish when I do – because the Holy Spirit reminds me that prayer is everything. It is doing more than anything physical I could do. (Don’t hear what I’m not saying – I’m not discouraging you from physical actions, I’m just remind myself (and you) that the power of prayer is beyond those physical actions.)

I get caught up in the “doing” sometimes when I should be in the “praying” sometimes.

This quote from Jared Brock reminds me of the power of prayer.

Let me give you an example of the reality of this quote. In May 1934, a group of businessmen began to pray in Charlotte, North Carolina. They held their third prayer meeting in a pasture belonging to William and Morrow Graham. The pasture usually corralled the Graham family dairy cows, but this day a group of businessmen gathered to pray. “Lord,” one of them prayed, “raise up a man out of Charlotte, North Carolina, who will preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth.”

No one at the time imagined that the answer would come in the form of Billy Graham, the oldest son of William and Morrow. He was a teenager at the time, more interested in baseball and girls. He wasn’t even aware of the prayers happening in his family’s cow pasture. But someone prayed and God moved.

Within just a few months, an evangelist came through their town. Billy and his friends were bored and went to the crusade to ridicule the evangelist. The Holy Spirit had other ideas. Billy wrote in his autobiography “I was spellbound…The next night, all my father’s mules and horses could not have kept me from getting to that meeting.”* He attended each night and soon came to Christ. The rest, as they say, is history.

The power of prayer. Each one has the potential to change the world. Scripture is full of answered prayer. Which is your favorite? Which motivate you to pray more diligently?

* From Just as I am, The Autobiography of Billy Graham (New York: Harber Paperbacks, 1997), pages 27-28 by Billy Graham; as quoted in Top Ten Most Influential Christians Since the Apostles (Franklin, IL: Truth Books Publishers, 2012), page 98, edited by Ken Lambert & Abby Matzke, chapter written by Sandra Parks Hovatter

Comments Comments Off on Prayer Impacts Your World

2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days
he reasoned with them from the Scriptures,
3explaining and proving that it was necessary
for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying,
“This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”
Acts 17:2-3 (ESV) (emphasis mine)

Such a profound statement – “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” We may not recognize the power of such a sentence, but the first century Jews would have. You see, they were looking for “the Christ” to come. The word (or title) “Christ” means “the anointed one, the Messiah” and Jews had been looking for the coming of the Messiah for generations – centuries and centuries of generations! Their prophets had told over and over again that their Messiah would come and deliver them. Christ was the fulfillment of all they had been waiting for, all their ancestors had been waiting for.

When I came to know Jesus, I wasn’t looking for a Savior. I didn’t know I needed to be saved. I didn’t know, so I wasn’t expecting. The Jews were expecting – waiting in anticipation – for their Messiah – the One anointed by their God to save them. “This Jesus is the Christ,” Paul told them.

This Jesus, is not only the Messiah, He is your Messiah…If you will let Him be that for you. If you will recognize that you need a Savior – someone to pay the price for your sins – He will be your Messiah. He’s already paid the price, all that you must do is recognize it, accept it as payment for your sins and thank Him by giving Him your life. He bought it, after all, when He paid for your sins. Notice the phrase “accept it as payment for your sins” – it’s not just enough to objectively understand or intellectually believe the truth that Christ died for your sins, you must accept that payment wholeheartedly. It’s not enough for me to objectively understand how an airplane flies through the air (something called the Bernoulli Principle I believe) if I want to go from New York to San Francisco in a few hours – I must wholeheartedly believe it and get on the plane, forsaking all other options. Accepting Christ’s payment for your sins is like that – you must get on the plane by inviting Him into your life. This is done by a simple prayer – something like “Lord, I believe you died for my sins. Forgive me – I’m sorry. Come into my life and help me to live for You.”

“This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” Get to know Him today.

For more on our sin, God’s grace and accepting Christ’s payment for your sin, check out this blog titled “The Gift of Life.”

Comments Comments Off on Is The Christ YOUR Christ?

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.

Psalm 40:1 (ESV)

I love Psalm 40, but especially this first verse. The word “inclined” is most frequently translated “stretched out”. The NIV translates this part of the verse as “he turned to me and heard my cry.”

Every time I read or hear this verse, I see in my head the Lord pausing as if He’s heard something, stopping in His tracks, turning toward me and leaning in to be sure He hears me fully. He is attentive to me and he hears me! Out of everyone who is calling out to Him, He hears me. Now because this is Scripture and He is God, the verse applies to all of us and He turns and hears everyone. He hears you as much as He hears me. But that picture in my mind reminds me how very much He loves me and how He is always listening for my call and ready to respond.

And then there’s the first part of the verse – “I waited patiently”. In Hebrew that’s communicated by repeating the word “waited”. In other words, the word-by-word translation is “I waited waited.” I like that. It brings to mind the phrase that is spoken before a great surprise – “wait for it…wait for it…” And then all of a sudden something wonderfully fantastic happens! It’s something we used to say when training our dog to sit. We would have a treat in our hand and command him to sit. He would sit with his eyes locked on either our eyes or our hands, just waiting for the indication of a wonderful treat to come his way. Then “suddenly” we would release him and the treat was his. Oh happy day! (Don’t you love the “suddenlies” of God?)

Interestingly, the word translated “wait” (“waited”) comes from a root word that means “binds together (perhaps by twisting)” (Strong’s Talking Greek and Hebrew Dictionary). So as we wait, with anticipation and expectation in our hearts and showing on our faces, we bind ourselves to God. We immerse ourselves in Him, His Word, and in fellowship with His people. And then suddenly, He gives the nod and the treat is ours!

One last thing – I’ve used the word “suddenly”, but it’s only suddenly to us. Scripture is clear that God is working on our behalf even when we don’t see it. Not bound by the constraints of time like we are, He works in our past, our present and even our future, to bring about what we see as the “suddenly”.

So friends, know that He hears you today, and as you “wait wait” for His response, bind yourself closer to Him. Wait for it – His suddenly is coming!

Comments Comments Off on Waiting for the Suddenly

“So the LORD God formed out of the ground every wild animal and every bird of the sky, and brought each to the man to see what he would call it. And whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name.”
Genesis 2:19 (HCSB)

The second telling of the creation story describes that God made every wild animal and bird and brought each to Adam for Adam to name the creature. This verse sparked my imagination today.

God brought each animal He had created to Adam and gave Adam the privilege and responsibility of naming them. How cool is that? How collaborative was that? Imagine the process! I’m smiling at the thought of it.

God brings an animal to Adam. The animal doesn’t have a name. God says “look at this, Adam, what do you think we should call it?” Adam looks closely at the animal, noticing its shape and coloring. He watches it move, maybe even spends time examining its behavior and habits.

And then an appropriate name comes to Adam. “Let’s call this one ‘elephant’” he exclaims.

And I imagine the delight that is in God’s eyes as He watches the creativity and thoughtfulness in the man he created as he names each one. I also see pride in God’s eyes. Not sinful pride, but pleasure in the goodness of a job well done. I love that God brings us into the process of all that He does – that He enjoys our participation with Him. I can feel His pleasure in us as I write this.

And it occurs to me that the enemy doesn’t like this. His purpose is to steal, kill and destroy. Jesus’ purpose is to give life and give it more abundantly. (John 10:10) My job is to pay attention to the One who gives life and ignore the lies of the destroyer.

Don’t let the enemy steal your joy. It’s a good thing to revel in the pleasure of God. Know that He is pleased with you. He created you in His image – with creativity and goodness and life to share with Him and those around you. Enjoy God! Enjoy life! He is worthy of your enjoyment!

Comments Comments Off on God’s Pleasure and Delight

The Treasure in God's Word

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)

In today’s world of instant communication it’s not nearly as common to write a letter or email to someone just to share your life with them, but I find that it is especially appreciated. Years ago I would write long letters to Phil’s mom telling her what was happening in our lives – the big things and the small things. We would talk with her on the phone at least once a week, but the letters provided more of the everyday things and the deeper what’s-on-our-minds things than we might communicate in a phone conversation. Phil now writes long emails to his sister sometimes. I always ask him to send me a copy of the emails because I get a different perspective of how he views what is happening in our lives as I read him describing situations and encounters to his sister.

Reading a letter has a way of bringing us into the life of the person writing. Think about a time when you have received an unexpected letter or an email from someone you love. As you read, you enter their world for a short time. You can hear them speaking the words that have been written. You can see the gestures they might be making if they were standing in front of you telling you stories you are reading. The letters bring you into their presence.

The same is true of God’s Word, but to an even greater degree because God’s Words are “God-breathed”. They were written under the anointing of the Holy Spirit and they carry that anointing with them. How amazing is that? I mean they are just words on a page, right? No, they are not. They are God-inspired and they bring us into the presence of a holy and amazing God.

16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)

In a previous blog, I encouraged everyone to read through the Bible each year. It is so do-able. Today, however, I want to talk about different ways to read the Bible. Each has its own purpose and benefits. We’ll look at three methods:

  • Reading for Information
  • Reading for Inspiration
  • Reading for Transformation

Regardless of how you’re reading, there are a couple of principles that apply:

  • Pray before you read. This seems so obvious, but I find that it is so easy to forget this step. I sit down to read each morning and I might be so eager to read what’s next I just start reading. Or I might just be in the routine of things and forget to pray. Ugh! That’s so wrong. Remember, if Scripture is God-inspired (and it is), it is the Holy Spirit that unlocks that inspiration as we read. Pause to thank God for preserving His Word and speaking to you today through that Word. Ask the Holy Spirit to open its treasures for you. Even when we are reading for information we’ll find treasures that will stick with us throughout the day, and sometimes we’ll find treasures that change our lives forever.
  • Avoid distractions. Find a place where you won’t be distracted by your To Do list. I find it helpful to have a piece of paper or spreadsheet open where I can jot down things that might flit through my mind that I don’t want to forget. Writing them down lets me avoid the distraction of trying to remember them. It releases me to return to reading.
  • Look for application in your life. Regardless of how you’re reading, you always want to ask God how and what to apply to your life.
  • Take notes or journal. Develop the habit of taking notes or journaling what you’re reading. I don’t do this every day, but frequently when a verse or an incident in Scripture grabs my attention, I will journal about it. The experience of writing about it opens my thoughts (or perhaps my spirit) to it so that I receive more insight into the passage or verse. I’m a writer, so my journal is all words with the occasional song or diagram. If you are an artist, perhaps your journal will be a collection of pictures instead of words. Let me note here that often when I start to write, I don’t have a clue what I’m going to write – I just know that a verse has caught my attention. So I start writing about it. It almost feels silly sometimes to be writing when I don’t know where I’m headed. But God (don’t you just love those two words? I do)…But God opens the door to more treasures as I write and Scripture becomes more alive to me.

Now let’s look at the three different ways to read Scripture. It’s important to note that there is a great deal of overlap in the methods, but they are distinctly different. God will speak to you when reading using each method.

Reading for information
Typically, when we are reading through the Bible according to a schedule or reading through the Bible in a year, we are reading for information – that is, to get the “Big Picture” and to understand the principles, facts and directives of Scripture. Reading for information is like reading a history book. You are reading to learn names, places, dates, facts. You are reading to learn the story of the Bible. But the Bible is more than a textbook and as you learn the story, you will see how it is the story that leads to salvation and power through Jesus Christ. What I love about reading through the Bible in a year is that by reading larger portions in each sitting, I see the inter-connectedness of Scripture.

Reading for information is looking into the Word and brings light into your life.

Reading for Inspiration
Reading for information engages your mind; reading for inspiration engages your heart. It is devotional reading and usually involves reading only a single chapter or story. Reading inspirationally allows you to get to know God more intimately and love God more deeply. It is reading at a slower pace. It is pausing to consider what characters are saying and thinking about what they’re feeling. It is reflecting on actions and words.

Reading for inspiration is looking into the face of God and calms your spirit.

Reading for Transformation
Reading for transformation is the step beyond reading for inspiration. It is learning what God wants for and from my life. Primary purpose of the Bible is to change and transform us. The objective of reading for transformation is not to cover as much as possible or complete a specific reading assignment. You might find yourself on a single verse for quite a while (that is, a number of days or weeks). The point of transformational reading is meeting God in the text. It’s more indepth. You have to take time with it to hear what it says.

The practice known as lectio devina (literally “divine reading” in Latin) is transformational reading. It involves reading the text slowly and with reflection, meditating on the text, praying through the text and waiting and listening for God to speak to us through the text. It is a relaxed, meditative process.

Simply reading for information doesn’t typically transform us. M. Robert Mulholland, Jr., author of Shaped by the Word: The Power of Scripture in Spiritual Formation wrote this:

 “In informational reading, we try to master the text. In transformational reading, it masters us.”
M. Robert Mulholland, Jr. Shaped by the Word: The Power of Scripture in Spiritual Formation

If reading for inspiration is looking into the face of God, reading for transformation is crawling into His lap and listening to His heartbeat.

Where Does Study Happen?
What we typically call “Bible Study” occurs in all three methods, although you may find it more heavily in reading for information than the other approaches. But in all cases, good Bible Study guides, devotionals and commentaries can improve your understanding and personal application of the Bible in your own life. For me personally, I find that learning what the Greek or Hebrew words really mean greatly enhances my reading in all three areas. But I’m a word nerd. He may speak to you differently. The point is to not eschew outside help. God wants to speak to you, He wants to teach, inspire and transform you. He wants to see you become more like Jesus day by day.

Why Read?

Because God’s Word holds the greatest treasure of all:

13You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:13 (HCSB)

What is the Holy Spirit speaking to you today?

Comments Comments Off on Immerse Yourself in God’s Word, part 2

6So Isaac settled in Gerar. 7When the men of the place asked about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” for he was afraid to say “my wife,” ?thinking,? “The men of the place will kill me on account of Rebekah, for she is a beautiful woman.”
Genesis 26:6-7 (HCSB)

Sins of the Father Visited Upon Their Children

This verse records Isaac committing the same sin as his father Abraham. In Genesis 12 verses 2 and 3, God makes a covenant with Abraham (then called Abram) to make him into a great nation, to bless him and to bless all the people of the earth through him. (The covenant is repeated in Genesis 17.) He also told Abraham to leave his country and go to the land God would show him.

Also in Genesis 12, just 10 verses later, Abraham instructs his wife Sarah (Sarai at the time) to pretend to be his wife “so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” (Genesis 12:13).

We have a classic example here of the sins of the father continuing in the son. We read this in Exodus 20:5 (and other places):

5You shall not bow down to [idols] or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity [sins] of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,
Exodus 20:5 (ESV)

Hmmm…does this mean that the children commit the sins or they simply experience the negative consequences of the parents’ sin? I would say both. It’s easy to understand how children experience consequences of their parents’ sin, but if we look around us, we also see many examples of children committing the same sins as their parents. This leads me to believe that the passage can also indicate that the sins of the father somehow spiritually give the children a proclivity toward that sin. John Piper, author of Desiring God and many other books, agrees and says this about the passage:

We are not told how the father’s sins become the children’s sins. That is a mysterious thing left in God’s mind. But they do. What we are told is that when father’s sins are visited on the children it is because the children have become sinners like the fathers. The father’s sins are the children’s sins.

It All Comes Down to Trust

What impressed me more than the repetition of sins through generations is that Abraham’s sin and Isaac’s sin both boil down to being acts of not trusting God. Both men had a covenant with God (although Isaac hadn’t yet received it personally). Both men chose not to trust that God was able to keep them safe so that He could, at some future time, fulfill the promise He had given them.

It was only ten verses of Scripture from the time God established His covenant with Abraham until Abraham denied Him. God’s covenant with Abraham wasn’t a small thing. He made it clear that He was going to make Abraham into many nations and that Abraham would not only be blessed himself, but that he would be a blessing to all people on the earth. So Abraham began to follow God. But along the way, he quit relying on God and began to rely on himself.

I’m sure Abraham (and Isaac) didn’t see that they were missing the mark on this. They were simply doing “what seemed right in their own eyes” (ref. Judges 17:6). They were protecting themselves. Protecting ourselves often seems like wisdom. So they too action – probably without a lot of thinking and certainly not a lot of praying. Abraham and Isaac developed plans to protect themselves in a foreign country.

What they didn’t do was trust God to protect them.

We’re Not So Different from Abraham and Isaac

I suspect that most of the lies people tell come from the same root – wanting to protect themselves either from the consequences from something they’ve done or not done, or from some real or imagined threat. So we make compromises hoping (or perhaps “helping” God) to “protect” our current life so that God can fulfill His promises for the future!

Can there be any Godly wisdom in that? Of course not. It is foolish, earthly wisdom. God wants to use our present situations to prepare us for the future fulfillment of the promises He’s given us. He wants to teach us to trust Him in the little things and the big things of today so that we are better prepared to trust Him in the little and big things we will face tomorrow and ten years from now.

We know that God uses all things for the good of those who love and pursue Him (Romans 8:28). So He takes our lies and our other missteps (aka sins) of the present, redeems them and uses them in our future if we submit them and ourselves to Him. But how much the better to have not sinned at all! How much the better to trust God in our present so that He can bring about the fulfillment of His promises

Where Do We Go from Here?

  • First, friends, ask God where you have made compromises in your life. The Holy Spirit will reveal them to you. Repent in those areas. Make changes where changes are necessary. Trust that God is in the process and He will be faithful as you do the right thing in difficult situations. I’ve lived by one maxim for many, many years: Do the right thing and trust God with the results. I find it especially helpful when faced with difficult decisions. Ask God to reveal the right thing, then do it, trusting Him to protect you.
  • Trust God to forgive past sins. Don’t carry around old guilt. That’s condemnation from the enemy, not conviction from the Lord. Confess your sins and trust that He is faithful to forgive them (1 John 1:9).
  • Be appropriately transparent with your children. Seek God about what, if anything, of your past sins you should discuss with children. They will see the change as you repent of past sins, but if a discussion with them helps them to avoid the same sins, ask God if and when the time is right to have those conversations.
  • Serve God in confidence that He is working in you and will fulfill all the promises He’s made to you as you continue to pursue Him.

God is very good, friends. He already knows your sins and He still loves you. Rejoice in that!

Comments Comments Off on It Was Just a Little Lie…

16All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (HCSB)

Bible and Gems

I love the Lord, and if you’re reading this blog, I am guessing that you do, too. And I love how He changes things up sometimes. And the source of that change-up usually comes from His Word.

On New Year’s Eve we were worshipping and praying in a small church service. During the service my husband Phil quoted a verse of Scripture that will be his key verse in 2018. It has been a significant verse in our life for many years, but we believe it has special significance this year. (No, it’s not the key verse quoted above.)

As I meditated on the verse on New Year’s Day, I began to develop a sermon around it. About 2 weeks later I went back to polish up that sermon to deliver at a nursing home in which we minister. God didn’t polish the first sermon, He gave me a totally different message.

I tell you this only as an intro to say that it really excites me that God can give two totally different (yet related) messages on the same verse. It also really excites me that God gives the Word or message that specific people need to hear. When He gave me the first message I anticipated sharing it at our church. It turned out that our nursing home service was scheduled before I was scheduled to preach at our church. I thought I would be sharing a small part of the message I had prepared for our church at the nursing home. God had other ideas He used the same verse but totally changed the focus of the message. How cool is that?

God’s Word is amazing. It is what we need, when we need it. I suspect you’ll see bits and pieces of those two messages over the coming weeks, but today I wanted to praise God for His Word. It is good and powerful and life-changing!

God’s Word is a light to our path, correction when we’ve made a wrong turn, and wisdom for daily living. That’s easy to say (or write) but it’s not always easy to live. We can’t live it unless we know it and are immersed in it every day.

Being immersed in God’s word doesn’t mean simply reading your Bible every day. In years past I have placed a great emphasis in this blog encouraging you to read through the Bible in a year. I still do that personally and I still think it’s something that anyone can do. You can easily read through the New Testament in a year – there are only 260 chapters in it, so the only thing keeping you from accomplishing that goal is setting it – getting over the thought that it is un-doable, finding a reading plan you like (google “Bible reading plans”) and getting started. There are 1189 chapters in the entire Bible. Divide that by 365 days and you learn that you can read through the entire Bible by reading less than 3.26 chapters a day. That’s do-able, too! But I digress.

Immersing yourself in the Bible and reading the Bible are two different things. Last year, I decided NOT to read through the Bible. It was actually a hard thing for me to do, but I purposed to read each day until God impressed something from the reading on my heart. Guess what! (Again, I’m digressing, but…) God allowed me to read through the Bible while doing this and I actually finished early! That’s a first!

The point is, I wasn’t just reading. I was reading and listening for God to speak – to impress upon my heart some verse or event or concept. Then I was meditating on that. Now, let me be honest – each day wasn’t a “WOW” impression. That would have been overwhelming. But many days He did open my eyes, spirit and heart to something I needed to know. Many times He did highlight a verse as I read and that verse would speak specifically to a need in my life or the life of someone I would encounter in the next couple of days.

So, friends – in this first blog of 2018 – written here on the 15th of January (and refusing to feel any guilt about that), I want to encourage you to immerse yourself in God’s Word. Read it, study it, meditate on it. The treasures it will unfold will amaze you.

Comments Comments Off on Immerse Yourself in God’s Word, part 1

1 Very early on the first day of the week, at dawn, the women came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the entrance of the tomb, 3 but when they went in, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, two men in shining clothes suddenly stood beside them. 5 The women were very afraid and bowed their heads to the ground.

The men said to them, “Why are you looking for a living person in this place for the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen from the dead. Do you remember what he told you in Galilee?”

Luke 24:1-6 (NCV)

As I read this passage this morning, verse 5 struck me – “Why are you looking for a living person in this place for the dead?” This is the New Century Version translation of the more familiar translation “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

Sometimes reading from a different translation allows the Word of God to speak to us in different ways. We know this verse relates to the women looking for the dead body of Jesus to anoint it with spices. The angel’s words were the first announcement that Jesus had risen from the dead – “why are you looking for a living person in this place for the dead?” In other words, “Jesus is not dead, He is alive so you won’t find Him in this place for the dead.”

Jesus is not dead, He is alive. And you won’t find him in this place for the dead.

We serve a risen Savior, praise God! His life means that I too can find life. It means that you can find life, no matter how horrible – or dead – your circumstances are.

As I read this passage this morning, it was as if God were saying… “If you want more of me, don’t look for me in the dead areas of your life…Don’t focus on those things because they are dead. I’m alive – look for me among the living.” I’m not saying that God doesn’t come to us in our darkest circumstances. I’m saying that finding Him means looking away from our dark circumstances toward His goodness.

You may feel like there is little in your life which is good right now. That’s a lie from the enemy, my friend. Seek even the smallest good, focus on it, and thank God for it, and then ask Him to open your eyes to the greater goodness around you. I have no doubt that if you do that consistently, God will reveal Himself to you in greater and greater ways. Yes, focusing on the smallest good is a discipline that must be learned and developed – but it is doable and you can do it.

That first smallest good thing might be simply an unexpected smile from someone who crosses your path, an unexpected beauty (in nature or in a painting, for example), or an unexpected joy (perhaps from a song or phone call). That good thing is among the living and it is where you will find your Savior.

I am reminded of the old hymn Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. Written by Hellen Lemmel in 1922, you can find many versions of it on Youtube – performances from the current decade by artists and groups such as Hillsongs, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Alan Jackson and more. I listened to many of them, but chose this version by Loyiso Bala, Neville D and Ivan Siegelaar. Listen to it. Allow it to seep into your soul and lead you into finding the smallest good thing and then the greatest good thing – Jesus.

Comments Comments Off on Seek Him Among the Living

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