Worshipful Wednesday: Belief in the Face of Despair

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Numbers 14:3-11

3 “Why has the LORD brought us into this land only to be killed by the sword, that our wives and our children should become plunder?  Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?  4 So they said to one another, “Let’s appoint a leader and return to Egypt.”  Then Moses and Aaron fell down with their faces to the ground before the whole assembled community of the Israelites. 6 And Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, two of those who had investigated the land, tore their garments. 7 They said to the whole community of the Israelites, “The land we passed through to investigate is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the Lord delights in us, then he will bring us into this land and give it to us – a land that is flowing with milk and honey. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord, and do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection has turned aside from them, but the Lord is with us. Do not fear them!” 10 However, the whole community threatened to stone them.  But the glory of the Lord appeared to all the Israelites at the tent of meeting. 11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me, and how long will they not believe in me, in spite of the signs that I have done among them?”

We can imagine that fear gripped many of the Israelite’s hearts as they prepared to embrace the new place God was bringing them to.  In our modern day, problems abound when you move from one location to another; the details surrounding relocating can be dizzying and something is likely to fall through – but if our neighbors were a burly sort and professed enemies, it might make us shake in our boots, too.  But fear does not have to equate to unbelief.  Believing in someone or something is an action formed by a choice.   Feelings and circumstances can affect our belief, but they do not have to.

The Israelites’ first inclination when spotting a potential challenge was to doubt God’s goodness and even ascribe evil motives to God.  Would a good God really bring them from slavery to annihilate them in the promised land?  Ironically, what their belief system was ended up being their end.  When doubt creeps into our hearts, we must recognize it and choose to believe the truth when tempted to focus on difficult surroundings.    They rebelled against God’s promise and His leaders and cleaved instead to their comfort zone, which they had forgotten was not as comfortable as they recalled.  They met their demise and did not enter the promised land, just as they believed.  What we believe in, often happens.

Disbelief in God is equated to hatred of Him in the above passage.  How can we love someone we do not believe?  What is belief when it is not tested?  It is easy to believe when we see the end, but faith in something unknown is difficult for us humans.  We do not want to be a fool and do not want to dare to believe if it means our hopes might be crushed.

The doubting disciple Thomas felt that way, too.  To believe that Christ had indeed risen from the dead was something he could not understand, so he chose to doubt until he saw it for himself.  God was merciful and revealed himself to him, anyway.  Blessed is the one who believes even when he does not see.

God has revealed Himself to us in countless ways.  The gift of His son and His precious Word along with all creation testifies to His goodness.  If you do not believe in Him, Why not ask Him now to help you believe?  Twenty-six years ago I did the same thing and I will never be the same.  Through good and bad times, He has proven Himself to be faithful to all of His promises.  Even in moments of despair, we can have perfect peace and know that He carries us through those times.  Believing might feel foolish when everything around you seems to say the opposite, but its fruit is sweeter than any pessimistic view could ever achieve.  Go with God.

Lord, thank you for the gift of faith and for opening my eyes to believe and trust in You at all times.  Be glorified in us, LORD!  Help us to be faithful and to recognize the lies of the enemy for what they are.

Preparation of Informed Intentional Worship

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Hebrews 2:1-3

1 “Therefore we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken through angels proved to be so firm that every violation or disobedience received its just penalty, 3 how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was first communicated through the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard him.”

Hebrews 4:1, 14, 16

1 “Therefore we must be wary that, while the promise of entering his rest remains open, none of you may seem to have come short of it.  14 Therefore since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin.16 Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.”

The book of Hebrews is like coming home to me. It is a fresh reminder of being fervent in our relationship with the LORD and full of zeal for the amazing gift of salvation He gave us.  Yesterday, like most Sundays, I had the privilege of serving on the worship team.  As I looked out over the congregation, I found myself distracted.  Not by any one particular thing, but by the lack of zeal I felt in my worship.  I began to contemplate deeper the words I was singing and wondered how I could ever mouth words without a deep passion within.  God is worth all that I have to offer Him and if I really believed the words I was singing, how could I ever offer worship void of passion?  I am not speaking of a blind zeal here, but the need for informed worship.

God understands.  He is able to sympathize in our weaknesses.  Sometimes it is frankly hard to concentrate in this chaotic highly stressful world.  Even Christ had to go away to a quiet place to worship God.  When I contemplate coming to worship the God of this universe in a public setting, sometimes I need to imagine myself before Him, bowing down before the King of kings.  I need to tune out all that is around me and focus singularly on the object of my worship – the lover of my soul.  This can be quite challenging, as many thoughts can flood my mind in a given moment.

It is not enough to strive to remove the excessive busyness of my mind, though.  I choose to reflect on some aspect of God’s greatness which informs my mind of how awesome my God is.  Contemplating a Scripture that pierces my heart or encourages my soul, meditating on His character that thrills my whole being, or reflecting on moments in my personal relationship with God – all can be a catalyst propelling me to sincere worship.  This makes the time of worship so much more meaningful than merely singing the same words I have sung before, perhaps many times.

A practical analogy might also shed some light.  My children have lamented about how many people lose affection for their spouses.  I earnestly desire to model a vibrant marriage before my children but realize that this takes constant intentional action.  It is very human to take for granted the incredible gift of our spouse, just as it is to take for granted the gift we have in Christ.  How can we keep this fervency?  Just like we need to recognize the amazing blessing our spouse is, we need to be Intentional and grateful to God, choosing to focus on the amazing things God has done and will do and simply on Who he is.

Lastly, worshiping God takes preparation.  We cannot just haphazardly enter His presence.  We can come as we are, desperate before Him, but need to be mindful of Who it is we are worshiping.  This might mean taking time to prepare the evening before the sabbath for this one day out of the week when we worship in our community.  It might mean having a strategy to help us worship during church when we are tempted to be distracted.  God help us to intentionally worship Him in Spirit and truth.  We will never be able to offer Him what He deserves, but may we come earnestly seeking Him with all our heart, soul, mind and being.

Lord, please forgive when I am distracted or lukewarm in my devotion to You.  You are worth so much more than I could ever give.  I love You, LORD, and desire to know You more.  Help me to do the one thing needful – kneel at Your feet in worship of You.

Thoughtful Thursday: The Purpose of Wisdom

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Ecclesiastes 7:19, 23-25

19 Wisdom gives a wise person more protection than ten rulers in a city.  23 I have examined all this by wisdom; I said, “I am determined to comprehend this” – but it was beyond my grasp. 24 Whatever has happened is beyond human understanding; it is far deeper than anyone can fathom. True Righteousness and Wisdom are Virtually Nonexistent, 25 I tried to understand, examine, and comprehend the role of wisdom in the scheme of things, and to understand the stupidity of wickedness and the insanity of folly.

Ecclesiastes 8:1, 16-17

Who is a wise person? Who knows the solution to a problem?  A person’s wisdom brightens his appearance, and softens his harsh countenance. 16 When I tried to gain wisdom and to observe the activity on earth – even though it prevents anyone from sleeping day or night – 17 then I discerned all that God has done: No one really comprehends what happens on earth. Despite all human efforts to discover it, no one can ever grasp it. Even if a wise person claimed that he understood, he would not really comprehend it.

Job 12:12

“Is not wisdom found among the aged?  Does not life bring understanding?” 

Proverbs 3:7
“Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.”
Proverbs 19:20
“Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.”
Proverbs 3:13
“Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding”

We have been exploring the book of Ecclesiastes the past few Thursdays and the purpose of monotony, time and wealth in the life of believers.  Now my favorite subject – wisdom.  Scripture pleads with us to pursue wisdom and yet places limitations on the wisdom we can attain.  We seek wisdom fervently that we may understand how to live before God, yet we never grasp it fully on this earth.  Where do we find this wisdom?  Wisdom is found in God’s word, in Jesus, Who is wisdom, and also in the aged by the humble seeker.  An older believer or mentor can guide you, but ultimately that counsel must also agree with God’s word.

The promise and blessing of wisdom is beyond value and unable to be gained in the flesh.  God’s word infuses the reader with peace and truth – far better than the folly which the world offers.  Living in ignorance might seem easier in the moment, but the fruit of folly is painful and never delivers its promise.

The irony in wisdom is that it cannot be imparted without being sought after.  I pray for wisdom for my children, but realize they need to ask God themselves for wisdom.  The best advice in the world falls on deaf ears unless the heart is ready to receive it.  Sometimes we don’t want wisdom because we do not want to be inhibited, yet the limits of wisdom offer far more worth than the supposed deceptive freedom walking in folly delivers.

The purpose of wisdom is to give insight to the living, that our days may not be wasted and lived fully for an eternal purpose; avoiding regret and living without guilt from choices bathed in wisdom.  Wisdom guides how we live and grants joy to those who live by it.  Without it, we live in vain.

God knows there is nothing good in us, no wisdom we have on our own.  He has given us wisdom, much like salvation, which are the most expensive gifts of all, yet free to those who recognize the value and pursue it.  Do you need wisdom? God promises to give it to all.  If we ask Him for and embrace wisdom, our souls are set free to live an abundant life for His kingdom purposes.

Worshipful Wednesday: Thankful For A God Nearby to All

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1 Kings 18:27

“At noon Elijah mocked them, “Yell louder! After all, he is a god; he may be deep in thought, or perhaps he stepped out for a moment or has taken a trip. Perhaps he is sleeping and needs to be awakened.”

Psalm 121

1 “I look up toward the hills.  From where does my help come2 My help comes from the Lordthe Creator of heaven and earth3 May he not allow your foot to slipMay your protector not sleep! 4 Look! Israel’s protector does not sleep or slumber5 The Lord is your protectorthe Lord is the shade at your right hand.  6 The sun will not harm you by dayor the moon by night. 7 The Lord will protect you from all harmhe will protect your life.  8 The Lord will protect you in all you do,now and forevermore.”

Jeremiah 23:23-24

23 Do you people think that I am some local deity and not the transcendent God?”  the Lord asks. 24Do you really think anyone can hide himself where I cannot see him?” the Lord asks. “Do you not know that I am everywhere?” the Lord asks.  

Praise God that our God is not a statue or piece of ancient rubble.  So many false gods that man has created, and yet none ever chose to come in the form of man and lay down His life for His creation except for the One true LORD – Jesus Christ.  None chose to leave His throne and inhabit sinful man, except for Jehovah-Tsidkenu (translated means The Lord our Righteousness; Jesus is the King who would come from David’s line, and is the One Who imparts His righteousness to us).  Today my heart is filled with joy to consider that our God is omniscient, omnipresent, and never unaware!  He is our protector and always available.

He is near to all who call upon Him with a sincere heart.  ALL.  How amazing to consider – the wretched can turn from their ways and cry out to God and He will hear.  Unfathomable.  Unmerited.  But that is our God – merciful, compassionate, faithful to a thousand generations.

It is so sad to see people serving a god who is not a god at all.  Their very acts of service testify to the lack of character of their invented god.  Killing people to please a god?  Not my God.  He took the place of the worst violator and died Himself instead.  Praying rote prayers to please a created deity?  Not my God – He wants to to talk with us and wants us to know Him.  Demanding good works, which include harming and raping innocent people?  My God would not call those good works, but evil, and instead asks that we believe.  Our good works are filthy rags to Him, anyway, which is why He is our righteousness.  Demanding that the unbeliever be killed?  Not my God – He says to love the unbeliever and pray for his salvation.

God is not far off.  Numb with busyness or pain, we tend to forget just how close He is.  Our devotions do not have to look perfect or be in an unencumbered, perfect setting to be able to communicate with the Almighty God.  No, we can pray continually, in constant conversation with our God Who sees and knows all.  He is nearer than we realize.  Come to Him!

Lord, thank You that You chose me and opened my eyes to know You.  I want to know You more.  Help me to never forget how close You are.

Thankfulness: Joy in the Humility of Gratitude

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Numbers 11:1, 4-6, 10, 18-20

1 When the people complained, it displeased the Lord. When the Lord heard it, his anger burned, and so the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outer parts of the camp. 4 Now the mixed multitude who were among them craved more desirable foods, and so the Israelites wept again and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we used to eat freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. 6 But now we are dried up, and there is nothing at all before us except this manna!”  10 Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, everyone at the door of his tent; and when the anger of the Lord was kindled greatly, Moses was also displeased18 “And say to the people, ‘Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, and you will eat meat, for you have wept in the hearing of the Lord, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat, for life was good for us in Egypt?” Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat. 19 You will eat, not just one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, 20 but a whole month, until it comes out your nostrils and makes you sick, because you have despised the Lord who is among you and have wept before him, saying, “Why did we ever come out of Egypt?”’”

As a mom and chief chef in our home, I feel the sting of this one.  Slaving over the stove to provide tasty meals, sometimes the creativity runs low.  But the attitude of gratitude is what the recipient should bear when provided with food.  God provided the food for them – they merely had to gather it.  But that was not good enough.  Ouch.  We can easily get spoiled when our needs are provided for.  When things come easily to us, we contemplate the value and wonder if we could do better.  Maintaining thankfulness takes effort.  It takes humility to understand what we really deserve instead of thinking we deserve better.

Moses was very humble – more than any man on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3).  He was surrounded by complaining yet lodged none of his own, well, except for having to lead the complainers themselves.  This is also something I have seen as a parent.  Loving parents tend to want to make their children comfortable.  But too much comfort leads to idolatry of that comfort and the flesh is not pleased when comfort is removed.  How do we treat such whining?  When tempted to complain we can always consider one less fortunate, but perhaps beyond consideration should be action.  Serving someone who has less would help produce a humility and take the focus off of ourselves.

Another aspect of our humanity is comparing – thinking that the grass is greener on the other side.  For the Israelites to say it was better to be enslaved than to follow God and be provided for by Him is a slap in the face of our LORD.  But do we do the same thing? Somehow we think earth should be like Heaven and when hardship happens or someone else is blessed more than we are, discontentment can grow – if we let it.  Back to the example in my own life.  One of my sons was not fond of split pea soup when he was a toddler.  So, much like the Israelites who consumed manna daily, he had split pea soup every day until it became his favorite.  He learned thankfulness and to appreciate what was given to him.

The parent/child relationship serves as a great analogy in my life when trying to understand why God our father would be offended over our discontent.  The hurt of sacrificing for another only to have it poorly received is painful.  If I am willing to examine myself, I can see where seeds of dissatisfaction are sown in my life, too.  A migraine kept me from blogging earlier today – crippled with pain, I first complained about headaches but then thanked God for medicine and a wonderful husband who made me soup.  Medical or household bills can be a source of a disgruntled attitude on my part, too, until I thank God that we have physicians.  As we are nearing the celebration of Thanksgiving, and in everyday life, may we turn the discontent in our hearts around into a praise instead.

Lord, forgive our discontent and lack of thankfulness.  Help us to trust Your provision and to recognize the everyday graces you bless us with and to have an attitude of gratitude and humility all for Your glory!

Real Hope and Deliverance


2 Timothy 4:16-17

“At my first defense no one appeared in my support; instead they all deserted me – may they not be held accountable for it.  17 But the LORD stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message would be fully proclaimed for all the gentiles to hear.  And so I was delivered from the lion’s mouth.”

Isaiah 54:17

“No weapon forged to be used against you will succeed; you will refute everyone who tries to accuse you. This is what the LORD will do for his servants–I will vindicate them,” says the LORD.”

Lamentations 3:58

“You, Lord, took up my case; you redeemed my life.”

Today’s blog is one that brings me some pain to think upon.  Even though I stand on the other side of great angst and suffering and have seen God’s amazing deliverance, reflecting on the horror of being dragged to court relentlessly is something I would rather not do.  Guess there is still some need for healing there.  But in my heart, I am driven by a passion that maybe these words today might offer up some hope to someone in a similar circumstance, or bring healing and confidence that God is indeed our Savior and will never fail us in our time of need.  So may this blog be an offering to my God and a healing balm to those who need it.

The pain of being falsely accused and the terror of my children being harmed is still very real to me.  The truth did not seem to matter and twisted words seared my soul.  Disbelief that one who once was my partner would manipulate and cajole to get his way still is difficult to fathom.  Betrayal by one who professed to be a believer.  How?  Why?  Where was God in all of this?  Right by my side.  How could He allow even a moment of this horror into my life?  Why would He allow the innocent to be condemned in place of the guilty?  So many questions, terror on every side, and yet my soul still hoped in God.  It seemed that the court system was in favor of the violator, but I knew God’s word was true and every man a liar.  Perplexed and crushed, but not destroyed.

Joseph probably wondered how God was going to achieve the promise and prophesy etched in his mind, yet he, too, trusted in God’s sovereignty.  At times when it seems all of life is against you and friends dissipate to avoid your drama, it feels like your life will be ruined forever.  But God.  He is using even the hideous things that we want to avoid to both bring Him glory and to transform our character. Why must such a painful tool be used?  Sometimes we cannot be truly changed with gentle persuasion.  A harsher tool can accomplish beautiful things despite the potential harm it seemingly brings.  More importantly, Why is it painful?

No one would say it was a pleasurable experience to discover betrayal and then have the tables turned on you, but why?  Because at the very heart of that experience is the death of what we knew.  The death of comfort, too.  Innocence is gone and replaced with disillusionment, heartache and shock.  Not pleasurable feelings or emotions at all.  Our very nature craves pleasure and peace.  But can the soul be steadied and at rest when all around it is turbulence and pain?  Yes.  The amazing revelation that pleasure and comfort are not to be worshiped, not to be pursued as an end in and of themselves is liberation.  The lesson is not that we want to become a masochist and crave discomfort, but that we learn to be content and wade out the storm in Christ.  Bathing in His word and looking to Him for deliverance, we discover that our goal was never supposed to be the American dream or our definition of utopia, but obedience and glory for Christ through our lives.

Perhaps a painful trial delivered us from clinging to a person or a circumstance instead of to Christ, as our salvation.  Or maybe it opened up our eyes to see the pain all around us that before we had thought of as things “that happened to other people”.  Ironically, the hated scorn and stigma in our lives can become the very thing the LORD wants to use in our lives to bring others as well as ourselves closer to Him.  It still hurts to recall the former suffering, but I can now see what beauty it has formed in my life and in others.  Although God delivered me mightily, the hurt from the experience is a scar that reminds me what is really important – being completely absorbed in Christ in whatever path He has me to travel.

If you are suffering now, I know no words can remove that pain, except the word of God, and strength is given to those who run to the living God for shelter.  Sometimes it is not until we have been shaken to the very core of your being that we can understand the purpose of its presence.  If we worship Him only for the good things He gives, we miss some of the greatest moments of fellowship with Christ – identifying with Him in suffering.  We cannot outrun the pain, but we can run to Him and His grace is sufficient for those found in Him.  This is what real hope and deliverance are – not avoidance, but strength and grace to walk through whatever this life brings.  My deliverance wasn’t when I finally had the victory in court, but rather when I was broken and desperate and had nothing else to hope in but Him.  Amen.

Thank You, Lord, for the pain and the joys You have allowed into my life.  You are truly good all the time and I worship You for your sovereignty and faithfulness!  I love You, LORD!

Thoughtful Thursday: The Purpose of Wealth

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Ecclesiastes 5:10-15, 18-20

10 The one who loves money will never be satisfied with money, he who loves wealth will never be satisfied with his income. This also is futile. 11 When someone’s prosperity increases, those who consume it also increase; so what does its owner gain, except that he gets to see it with his eyes? 12 The sleep of the laborer is pleasant – whether he eats little or much – but the wealth of the rich will not allow him to sleep.  13 Here is a misfortune on earth that I have seen: Wealth hoarded by its owner to his own misery14 Then that wealth was lost through bad luck; although he fathered a son, he has nothing left to give him. 15 Just as he came forth from his mother’s womb, naked will he return as he came, and he will take nothing in his hand that he may carry away from his toil.  18 I have seen personally what is the only beneficial and appropriate course of action for people: to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in all their hard work on earth during the few days of their life which God has given them, for this is their reward. 19 To every man whom God has given wealth, and possessions, he has also given him the ability to eat from them, to receive his reward and to find enjoyment in his toil; these things are the gift of God.  20 For he does not think much about the fleeting days of his life because God keeps him preoccupied with the joy he derives from his activity.

Proverbs 17:16

“Of what use is money in the hand of a fool, since he has no desire to get wisdom?” 

Ecclesiastes 7:12
“Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor.”  
Luke 16:13-15
“No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”  The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.  He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” 
1 Timothy 6:10
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 

Luke 12:33
“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.”

I hate money.  We never have enough of it and it can make life stressful.  Advertisements promise joy to those who pursue financial wealth and the belongings that wealth provides.  Ironically, materialism thwarts the enjoyment of life.  We think we will be happy with the more we own, but it ends up being entrapment.  The more we own, the more we have to take care of.  The saying, “the one who dies with the most toys wins” is clearly not the case – the stress of paying for such lavishness might be what drives one to the grave.  But money is not all bad . . .

Why do we have to have money in this society?  Silly question, I know.  Money is the currency with which we are able to buy goods needed to live.  God knows we need money – so how can it be evil?  Money is not evil in and of itself and is a necessary commodity for life, but the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.  Why?  Is it possible for one to have money and not get sidetracked?  Looking into God’s word we see that loving money is the problem.  Not loving the dollar bills, but what money can do for us, or putting our hope in money.

We do not have to feel guilty for enjoying the things God has given us – Scripture says that is God’s blessing for us.  It is when the things own us or we rely on our paycheck instead of God that our hearts begin to falter.  This is surely tested when one loses their source of income.  My husband and I have walked through job loss twice in the past four years and seen God provide in miraculous ways.  It was an amazing time of learning to trust in Him.  It hurts to be in need, but it also makes us depend upon our Father more.  We gain perspective when their is an absence of money – it forces us to contemplate more carefully what we spend God’s money on.  So what should we do with money?  Buy wisdom.

Ultimately, like everything else God gives us, the Christian needs to surrender this practical aspect of our lives to God, too, and ask what His will is for the finances with which he has been entrusted.  God has not left us without instructions regarding money.  He knows how weak our flesh is.  The first thing we do is acknowledge God with the money He gave and tithe.  It is all His, anyway.  After that, we need to care of the poor, provide for our needs and get wisdom.  I had not thought of getting wisdom with money before, but this principle is repeated in Scripture many times.  How do you get wisdom with money?  Invest in things that grow us in Christ or in knowledge, which translates to skills and serving others. Paying for counsel might be another means.  Though it cost all you have, get wisdom.  A fool has no desire to get wisdom with his finances and wastes his money, but a wise person sees more than just their physical needs.

We can spend an inordinate amount of money on entertainment or having the best of things, but will we later regret those decisions?  My husband and I would one day love to drive a new car, maybe even from the same decade we live in, but God has not provided that for us.  Our vehicles have been mocked, but I am sure God smiles, too.  Saving money each month makes it uncomfortable to make it just to the next paycheck.  We have to do without some things now, but believe that setting aside for the future will be far more enjoyable in the long run.  Godliness with contentment is great gain – far more than worldly wealth could ever give.

We need to think now about where our finances are going before we regret what they could have accomplished for the kingdom of God.  The line at the end of Schindler’s movie still grips my heart.  Looking at the ring on his finger, Schindler asks himself why he did not sell it to save more of the precious lives slaughtered during World War II.  Reflecting on my financial decisions, good and bad, the radical decision to adopt a son instead of buying a luxury car has brought me far more joy than words could ever do justice.   Adoption was not without sacrifice and challenges, but I am so grateful the LORD led me to invest His money that way.  All aspects of our lives are for God’s glory.  Whether it is two mites we have or vast riches we own, all is by Him and for Him.

Lord, thank You for all You have given to us.  We want to be faithful stewards all for Your glory.  Please help us to invest for eternity and not just the here and now.

Worshipful Wednesday: The Sweet Surprise of God’s Boundaries

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Psalm 119: 1-16

1 How blessed are those whose actions are blameless, who obey the law of the Lord.  2 How blessed are those who observe his rules, and seek him with all their heart, 3 who, moreover, do no wrong, but follow in his footsteps. 4 You demand that your precepts be carefully kept. 5 If only I were predisposed to keep your statutes! 6 Then I would not be ashamed, if I were focused on all your commands.  7 I will give you sincere thanks, when I learn your just regulations. 8 I will keep your statutes.  Do not completely abandon me!  9 How can a young person maintain a pure life?  By guarding it according to your instructions! 10 With all my heart I seek you.  Do not allow me to stray from your commands!  11 In my heart I store up your words, so I might not sin against you. 12 You deserve praise, O Lord!  Teach me your statutes! 13 With my lips I proclaim all the regulations you have revealed. 14 I rejoice in the lifestyle prescribed by your rules as if they were riches of all kinds. 15 I will meditate on your precepts and focus on your behavior. 16 I find delight in your statutes; I do not forget your instructions.

One person looks at rules and boundaries as an outdated suggestion.  Another sees them as something to aspire to, but impossible.  Yet another recognizes the wisdom in restraining oneself and the ironic pleasure self-denial brings.  It is possible to walk with God with the boundaries He has set – He would not command it if it were not so.  The decision to set boundaries in our lives does not just happen, however – it is purposefully planned and carefully carried out.

I was saved at the age of nineteen when the LORD placed on my heart to stop dating.  Peers thought I was crazy and labeled me everything from “miss purity” to a “lesbian” to being worldly.  Wow – I could not be all three things at the same time – what was I?  I was a new believer who recognized the present world system of dating was not godly.  I waited on the LORD and trusted Him for a mate.  I learned what it meant to place boundaries in my life and made mistakes but gratefully waited until my wedding to consummate that covenant.

Since then, I have experienced betrayal and now wear the scarlet letter “D” – something I never thought I would wear.  Yet walking through those dark waters has taught me more than my former skepticism of those who have also tasted of the scorn that divorce brings.  Despite following the path God set, I could not control the other person’s decisions or actions.  Forgiveness came but so did consequences.  Since that time, I have gone through the process of courting again and remarrying.  Boundaries that I had when I was younger were once again in place, only this time it was more difficult.  It was easy to maintain those boundaries while married, but when single again I had to learn all over again what that should look like.  Finding anyone who had waited until their wedding was seemingly impossible and excuses are readily available for failure – we are only human, after all.  Rationalization is an easy find, too.  It is a natural behavior to deem a standard too difficult and try to make an easier solution – that is our flesh.  But God’s Word gives a prescription and method that is altogether beautiful and truly freedom.

Excuses, rationalization and an ungodly culture make it difficult to obey boundaries set by God, but there is a treasure in this passage which shows us the path to victory – guarding purity with God’s instructions.  Time and culture changing do not affect God’s standard.  Instead of resenting the limitations, the Psalmist actually delights in the “lifestyle prescribed by Your rules as if they were riches…”.  Wow – what a perspective.  Satan loves to deceive us and trick us into thinking we are missing out – well, we do miss out on sin and its vicious consequences when we elect to live our lives God’s way.  The Psalmist cherishes the boundaries and keeps them with several means: he meditates, focuses on, delights in and does not forget God’s instructions.  I have to admit the forgetting part is more difficult as I have gotten older, but makes me appreciate why the Israelites had to repeatedly remind themselves to obey – our natural disposition is to disobey.

Now I have teens and young adults in my home going through the process of establishing boundaries and walking in purity.  It is a delight to walk beside them and counsel them and they benefit from my obedience and mistakes, too.  Despite the natural degradation that occurs from generation to generation, I have heard an admirable goal of a parent is to have the next generation be even more righteous than the one that went before it.  May it be so.

Maybe you have not ever had boundaries and it is scary to contemplate beginning a disciplined life.  Maybe you have failed and don’t want to have boundaries for fear of failure again.  Even though the Psalmist himself (a man after God’s own hear) knew what it was to fail, too, he recognized his folly and chose to redirect his life toward God’s boundaries.  He did not seek popular opinion or look to his own thoughts to form his standards.  He put forth God’s standard of holiness, knowing he himself could not maintain or attain to it, save the grace of God.  But he did not stop there – he set boundaries in his life and adhered to them tenaciously.  He began anew.  So can we.

Lord, help us to walk in the liberty that boundaries bring.  May we walk in integrity and not make provision for the flesh, nor excuse our sin.  You made us and know the best way.  May Your Name be praised forever and ever.

The Necessary Filter

1 Timothy 1:3-7, 18-19; 4:6-7, 

3 “As I urged you when I was leaving for Macedonia, stay on in Ephesus to instruct certain people not to spread false teachings, 4 nor to occupy themselves with myths and interminable genealogiesSuch things promote useless speculations rather than God’s redemptive plan that operates by faith. 5 But the aim of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. 6 Some have strayed from these and turned away to empty discussion. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not understand what they are saying or the things they insist on so confidently.  18 I put this charge before you, Timothy my child, in keeping with the prophecies once spoken about you, in order that with such encouragement you may fight the good fight19 To do this you must hold firmly to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck in regard to the faith.”  4:6 By pointing out such things to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, having nourished yourself on the words of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.  4:7 But reject those myths fit only for the godless and gullible, and train yourself for godliness. 16 Be conscientious about how you live and what you teach.  Persevere in this, because by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”

2 Timothy 4:3-4

the “time will come when [believers] will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” 

Not one of us has perfect understanding.  Our faith and doctrine are daily being made clearer as we look into the mirror of the perfect word of God.  Sometimes the latest spiritual insight can be couched or clothed in an appealing exterior. Or sometimes heresy slips in unnoticed – creeps into our pews and our minds.  There is inherently some truth within each errant doctrine, which creates confusion.  This calls for discernment – we perish without it.

It can appear very judgmental and intolerant to discern that something is not true.  Having absolute truth is viewed as inflexible, yet the solution of relativity leaves us without a constant compass and ultimately down a path toward destruction.  We must reject the doctrine which is not based in God’s wholly revealed word and cling to the simplistic Gospel message which is still more able to save than the latest Christian trend or technique.  Movements come and go and sometimes we acquiesce to them without knowing it.

Whether it is the prosperity movement, which overly emphasizes God’s blessing for believers, or the grace movement which can be imbalanced in its application of grace by minimizing the very real judgment and accountability we still have, the believer today still needs to avoid all extremes.  Paul modeled the reality of a believer living in plenty and scarcity.  Either way, He glorified God and learned the secret of contentment in the midst.  He did not name or claim anything, other than the fact that he was chief of sinners and grateful for the grace of God.  James well understood our need for grace, but also spoke of lives which reflect that grace by works done in humility.

We cannot avoid the reality of the life of Job while embracing the supposed modern prescription today for a blessed life.  No more than we can ignore the very real suffering godly men and women have encountered but still glorified God in.  The greatest stories we have ever heard are stories of those with faith who have overcome.  Joseph suffered unfairly, but was also blessed immeasurably.  Countless others stand as witnesses of what the truly blessed life in Christ is – salvation from an eternal damnation we deserved.

Perhaps it is our definition of what a blessed life is.  Not a perfectly comfortable life without pain or hardship, but a place of refuge and unmerited acceptance.  When faced with a new teaching, we must fun to the filter God has given us – His Word – as our Guide.  We must be like the Bereans, who did not just swallow the word shared to them, but searched God’s word intently to gain understanding.  Each one stands alone before the judgment throne – we cannot allow anyone to define for us what we believe.

Lord, help us to discern the truth and remain faithful to You.  May we never stray from the beautiful simple truth of Your salvation and live lives that help others to know You, too.

Resisting Apathy


Ezekiel 7:19-20

19 “They will discard their silver in the streets, and their gold will be treated like filth. Their silver and gold will not be able to deliver them on the day of the LORD’s fury. They will not satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs because their wealth was the obstacle leading to their iniquity.  20 They rendered the beauty of his ornaments into pride, and with it they made their abominable images–their detestable idols. Therefore I will render it filthy to them.”

Ezekiel 9:4-6

“The LORD said to him, “Go through the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of the people who moan and groan over all the abominations practiced in it.” 5 While I listened, he said to the others, “Go through the city after him and strike people down; do no let your eye pity nor spare anyone!  6 . . . But do not touch anyone who has the mark. Begin at my sanctuary!” So they began with the elders who were at the front of the temple.”

Judgment starts with the house of God – in His sanctuary.  Where does apathy toward sin or the world’s woes begin? When do we decide to pretend we cannot see, or to no longer care?  As souls deaden and our hearts grow cold, how can the tide be turned to revive the church?  Let it begin with me.

Political correctness eases into the church through the disguise of avoiding judgmentalism.  Only God is the One Righteous Judge, and we are all laden with planks in our eyes, so, who are we to ever speak against sin?  Yes, we are all flawed, but this reasoning is, as well.  We are all desperate sinners at the foot of the cross, but we need to speak the truth into one another’s lives – admonition and encouragement – spoken in love.  Judgmentalism comes with an attitude of superiority, not with a caring disposition from someone who loves you enough to point out the poison of sin that is slowly killing us all.  We must not neglect this benchmark of discernment and speaking into other’s lives – though it hurts, it is death to us if we do not.

Selfishness is the next proponent toward apathy,  To protect self, we don’t want to speak into someone else’s life, for fear of their perception of us (self worship), and because we know we are not perfect, we hide behind the log in our own eye with false humility.

Materialism and money were the obstacle mentioned in the passage above which led to their sin.  We value wealth more in our society, which can develop pride.  Pride is blinding and makes us forget what we really were before Christ found us.  What if no one ever spoke into our lives to reveal sin?  Where would we be then?  Their confidence was in their wealth, not in God.  We might not carve golden images today, but what are our hearts trusting in?  Are we trusting in God daily for our provision – spiritually, physically and materially?

It is so very hard to remain fervent.  So much chips away at our passion for God and His bride.  The fear of man, expressed through the PC movement as well as self preservation and popularity, can be very persuasive.  The tidal wave of sin in our culture can be overwhelming – it might seem futile to speak against it, but we dare not give in or give up!  We cannot allow our hearts to grow cold or apathetic.  We have to still care – love people but do not love the sin.  It is actually uncaring to ignore sin and ironically, it will be our own undoing, if we sit idly by and do nothing.  If we “okay” the sin, we slowly move from acceptance to participation on some level.  Doing nothing is perceived as condoning sin and grants a license for sin to grow.

When God was judging His people in the book of Ezekiel, who was it that God spared?  The ones who were burdened by the sin around them and cried out to Him about it.  The people of God who had God’s heart toward sin and did not shut their mouths about it.  Our eyes have been opened to make a difference right where we are.  We might not be popular, but we can make a difference for eternity.  So, although the image I chose for this article is humorous and science does not actually have the cure for apathy, God’s Word does.  Don’t compromise – stay fervent, praying for God’s people and this lost world.  Resist the urge to be comfortable and apathetic – who knows what God wants to do through You at such a time as this?

Lord, please forgive our silence and fading zeal for You and Your Word.  Help us to never stop caring about Your church, Your people and Your will being done.