1 TIMOTHY 3:16-17

"All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us...God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work."

Sunday, February 27, 2011

NEHEMIAH - Time to Build!

I get by with a little help from my friends.

Oh, how true that is –

We’re not supposed to live this life on our own. Of course, we have God with us, every step of the way. But we also have each other.

Today’s "Bible Pick ‘Ems" comes from the book of Nehemiah.

I just love it when God brings me a message in the middle of the Old Testament.

I found the verses He had led me to, but I read the chapters before to get some background information.

Jerusalem lies in ruins. The exiles have returned to their land, but it is in a decimated and ravaged condition.

But God laid a message on Nehemiah’s heart – He told him an audacious plan. He wanted Nehemiah to rebuild…

So, in the middle of the night, Nehemiah snuck out with a few other intrepid souls, to inspect the broken walls and burned gates of the city. Rubble was everywhere…

But Nehemiah did not see the impossibility in the ruined heaps

Because he had heard the Voice of the One who could turn it into a "Him-possibility." And now, in the quiet, wee hours of the night, he whispered to those few souls surrounding him…

"Psst. You know very well what trouble we’re in. But God has spoken to me. Let’s rebuild the wall and end this disgrace!"

And I just love how the friends replied…

"YES! Let’s rebuild the wall!"

So they began the good work…

No hesitation, no doubting, no committee meeting, no vote – unbridled enthusiasm and God-sized faith.

And boy oh boy – did they get busy!!

The entire 3rd chapter of Nehemiah is a listing of people who worked –
a Who’s Who of some of the faithful…

…each one working on "their section" – taking care of their responsibility.

Now Sanballat was very angry about this.

Sanballat was the governor of Samaria. He may have hoped to become governor of Judea as well, but Nehemiah’s arrival spoiled his plans.

Listen to his rant – "What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they’re doing? Do they actually think they can make something out of stones from a rubbish heap – and charred ones at that?"

Well, yes – evidently that’s exactly what they thought – because God was with them.

Today’s "Bible Pick ‘Ems" comes from Nehemiah 4:4-6:

"Then I [Nehemiah] prayed, ‘Hear us, our God, for we are being mocked. May their scoffing fall back on their heads…for they have provoked you to anger here in front of the builders.’ At last the wall was completed to half its height around the entire city, for the people had worked with enthusiasm."

Friends, we are the Body of Christ – we are the builders. And we must work with enthusiasm and dedication.

We must work without fear –

We must work side by side, determined…each doing his or her part.

The enemy will be outraged by this – (isn’t that kinda motivation in itself?!)

He will mock us – but He will not stop us.

Let’s get out there and work on our section of the wall – doing what God has called us to do – our part. We’re working next to each other, alongside our brothers and sisters…

…and we have God with us, every step of the way.

Are you guys with me?

(Today I am linked with Spiritual Sundays, hosted by Charlotte and Ginger - and Super Sunday, hosted by Peggy)

“When in doubt, search God out!”

Sunday, February 20, 2011

HEBREWS - Our Hero!

I just love epic movies.

Ben Hur, Braveheart, Gladiator, The Lord of the Rings –

I like the idea of an unlikely hero – an underdog.

I am inspired by victory snatched out of the jaws of defeat.

I sit on the edge of my seat, watching in horror as the hero falls – seemingly destroyed. I cringe as he is taunted by the ruthless powers of evil. I find myself looking anxiously to the horizon for the amazing rescue…

And when it comes, I find myself cheering – ready to go out and do battle myself.

The story of God’s great love for mankind is just that sort of epic story.

Just when it looks like all is lost – an unlikely hero emerges.

Born in a manger, hunted by Herod, living a quiet life for 30 years…

Meanwhile, the earth spins in its selfish, sinful ways.

And then, He bursts onto the scene. The vanquishing Deliverer that Israel had looked for, longed for – the One who would redeem their suffering, and restore their nation!

Um…not quite.

His message is not one of vengeance. He uses words like humble and sacrifice and servant. His sword does not vanquish – it pierces the heart and convicts. He does not claim a crown. He is not declared king. He is arrested, tried, condemned, and killed – crucified on a symbol of shame.

On the edge of my seat, I watch in horror as the hero falls.

Today’s "Bible Pick ‘Ems" comes in two parts – the first captures this moment:

"So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood. So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore." (Hebrews 13:12)

I find myself looking toward the horizon for the amazing rescue…

I needn’t have looked further than an empty tomb.

Did the world stop when Jesus arose from the dead? Was anyone aware of what had taken place? That history had irrevocably changed? That a Temple curtain being torn in two was really the cleaving of the human heart?

The world was quiet.

But oh, the Enemy and his cohorts knew – they saw the amazing rescue and it sent them reeling.

Victory out of the jaws of defeat – life redeemed out of death!

And here’s the rallying cry of the undefeated ones, the conquerors through Christ, the victorious soldiers of the cross – the ones rescued by The One...

The Hero restored to His Throne –

"Now may the God of peace –
who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus,
the great Shepherd of the sheep,
and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood –
may he equip you with all you need for doing his will.
May he produce in you,
through the power of Jesus Christ,
every good thing that is pleasing to him.
All glory to him forever and ever! Amen." (Hebrews 13:20-21)

I find myself cheering – ready to go and do battle myself!

How about you?

"Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name." (Hebrews 13:15)

(Today I'm linked with Spiritual Sundays, hosted by Charlotte and Ginger, and Super Sunday, hosted by Peggy)

"When in doubt, search God out!"

Sunday, February 13, 2011

2 PETER - Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Remember that old game called, "Telephone"?

Where everyone sat in a circle, and one person would whisper a sentence into the next person’s ear…

"The dog buried a bone in the dirt."

And then, one by one, each person passed on the sentence they heard to the next person. Until by the time it reached the last person – who said the sentence out loud – it wasn’t quite the same message.

"The hog married a scone in a skirt."

Everyone laughed at how garbled things got as they were passed along incorrectly. In this case, there’s no harm (unless, perhaps, you’re the hog, now married to a tasty biscuit!!).

But other times, changing the message can be very dangerous.

Today’s "Bible Pick ‘Ems" demonstrates this:

"I am warning you ahead of time, dear friends. Be on guard so that you will not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people and lose your own secure footing. Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 3:17-18a)

A little background to provide some context for Peter’s stern admonition.

By the time Peter was writing these words, Paul’s letters had already garnered a widespread reputation. In previous verses, Peter attests to the fact that Paul’s letters were written "with the wisdom God gave him." Peter spoke of Paul’s writings as if they were on a level with "other parts of Scripture." (Verses 15 and 16)

Already the early church was thinking of Paul’s letters as authentic, inspired, reliable – the very word of God Himself.

Consequently, this meant that they spoke truth – God’s truth.

However, people had begun to stir up dissension. They were distorting the message of God as given through these two great men.

Peter and Paul had lived very different lives. They had come from very different backgrounds. Peter had been a humble fisherman. Paul had held a high position in the Jewish religious sect known as the Pharisees.

They had very different personalities, and they preached from different viewpoints.

Paul emphasized salvation by grace, not law, while Peter preferred to talk about Christian life and service. Because the Holy Spirit was with them, they did not contradict each other – and they had always held each other in high esteem.

But the devil has a way of putting wolves in among the sheep.

And false teachers were around in abundance in the days of the early church. They were intentionally using Paul’s writings to condone lawlessness. No doubt this made these teachers very popular. Have you ever noticed how people like to have their favorite sins justified?

So, Peter is issuing a warning here.

And giving some practical guidelines about how to avoid falling into the seductive pathways of distorted truth.

Be on guard – always be looking out for false teaching. Like a sentry, be constantly aware of incoming threats.

Do not be carried away – keep your emotions in check. Feelings can often deceive us. God tells us not to trust our hearts – they are deceptive.

Recognize errors – use the Word of God as the yardstick. If something doesn’t agree with Scripture, it’s not truth.

Don’t lose your secure footinghold on steadfastly to what you have been taught. Ask the Holy Spirit for power to stand firm.

Peter concludes by urging his readers to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. He is compelling them to get to know Jesus better and better. This is the best way to discern false teaching.

The better we know Jesus, the less attractive false teaching will be and we’ll learn to recognize it a lot sooner.

No matter where we are in our spiritual journey, no matter how mature we may be in our faith, there will always be people who are willing and eager to spread untruth. We have enemies, spiritual enemies, who actively work against us.

Every day we need to draw closer to Christ.

We need to explore and know God’s Word.

We must be prepared to stand for truth in any and all circumstances!

Hang up the "telephone" of false teaching – and pick up the Bible. The message remains the same…

We just need to hear it correctly.

(Today I'm linked up with Spiritual Sundays, hosted by Charlotte and Ginger)

"When in doubt, search God out."

Sunday, February 6, 2011

ACTS - A Faithful Witness

It was a devastating phone call.

My youngest son called one day after school.

"Mom, I just heard someone say that Cory was in a car accident…and he’s dead."

I held my phone…stunned, speechless.

"Are you sure?" I said.

"I don’t know, Mom, can you find out?"

And so, I began a series of phone calls, finally reaching a school counselor who was a friend. And yes…

…it was true.

Numb, I got in my car to go pick up my son. I wasn’t sure how to break the news to him. Cory had been a close friend of my son’s since 3rd grade. He was a bright, shining light. The sort of person who made EVERYONE feel like they were his best friend. He was smart, and funny, and a delight.

As I approached the intersection that led into my son’s high school, there was Cory’s truck, upside down, crushedstill sitting where it had come to rest after flipping over three times. And there was his gray sweatshirt, just a few feet from a shattered driver’s side window.

I picked up my son, who was more silent and unapproachable than I had ever seen him before.

He looked at the scene of the accident as we drove past – he looked away.

When we got home, calls started coming in, and we were informed that there was going to be a gathering that evening at a local church – just for people to come together.

Of course, we decided to go…

I remember showing up, a bit shell-shocked – as we wandered around the room. Dazed by our joint sorrow, everyone mostly just hugged and cried – there weren’t really any words to say.

I remember finally seeing Cory’s father across the room – my son’s teacher in 5th grade.

And he was smiling…

He was talking to people, hugging them, offering them comfort through his own tears – asking others if they were OK.

He assured person after person that everything was going to be all right – Cory was with the Lord.

I remember speaking to him, though I can’t remember what we said – I just remember him telling my son how much Cory loved him, and what a good friend he had been. I remember him saying, "You’ll see him again…"

It was quite a testimony.

A few days later, there was a candlelight service at the high school. A couple of days later, a funeral.

Over 1,000 people attended the funeral. The HUGE church sanctuary was filled to overflowing. We watched slides of Cory, heard person after person speak about him, signed his surfboard, cried and laughed…

But, the most important thing of all? The Word of the Lord went out that day, and hundreds heard Cory and his family’s testimony.

Today’s "Bible Pick ‘Ems" reminded me of this time in our life.

"So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks. Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening." (Acts 16:24-25)

On a terrible and sudden, ordinary day, Cory’s family was slapped into the "inner dungeon" of their lives. They found themselves in the darkest night of their souls. They were literally imprisoned by the worst this life has to offer – death. Overwhelmed by grief, crippled by sadness – yes, they were.

But, like Paul and Silas, they chose to pray and sing to God they looked to the only Hope they could cling to. They offered honor to a God that they knew loved Cory – a God whom they believed was GOOD.

They did not allow the "stocks" of grief and bitterness to overcome them. Their spirits rose above their imprisonment –

And all the while, people were watching them, and listening…

You never know who’s looking at you – especially when you find yourself walking through the "valley of the shadow of death." It is often at your darkest hour, at your weakest moment – at the absolute lowest time of discouragement – that is when people are paying the most attention to you.

Wondering how you’ll react…what you’ll say…what you’ll do.

Will you be praying and singing like Paul and Silas? Like Cory’s family?

No matter what the circumstances, we should praise God. Others may come to Christ because of our example. The Bible tells us that the jailer and his family were all brought to the Lord because of the witness of Paul and Silas.

I can only imagine the hearts that were reached through the faithful witness of a grieving family – who chose to sing through tragedy…

…and love a God whom they KNEW loved them.

(I am linked up today with Spiritual Sundays, hosted by Charlotte and Ginger!)

"When in doubt, search God out"