Thoughtful Thursday: Hidden Treasure – Our Prized Possession

Proverbs 7:1-2

“My child, keep my words and treasure up my commands in your own keeping.  2 Keep my commands so that you may live, and obey my instruction as your most prized possession.”

Proverbs 2:4-5

“If you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”

Luke 12:34

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Colossians 2:2-3

“My goal is that their hearts, having been knit together in love, may be encouraged, and that they may have all the riches that assurance brings in their understanding of the knowledge of the mystery of God, namely, Christ,  3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

We can go our entire lives searching for treasure – what our hearts long for.  Yet all the while it is right in front of us, sitting on a shelf, gathering dust.

Imagine finding a treasure and looking at it and taking just one piece of the treasure out, then leaving it there.  The treasure would not benefit us and would not be shared with anyone else, either.  In this fast-paced world, we can step over the greatest treasure and miss it, if we are not careful.

What are the various gems in this treasure chest?  Understanding.  Why is it that our eyes were opened to be able to comprehend what God has done?  Knowledge.  Adding to our understanding, more and more knowledge of Him and the ability to see our sins and His grace.  Wisdom. Knowledge applied and used for God’s glory.  Peace. Souls at rest no matter what is transpiring around us.  Salvation.  The penalty for our sins removed – our guilt stains washed away! Communion with God. being able to fellowship with Jesus and go to Him anytime.  Forgiveness.  All of our guilt washed away.  Grace.  Strength to live for Jesus.  Healing.  Changed hearts and minds yielded to Him, delivered from the burdens of this world.  Assurance.  The sweetest jewel – assurance that we will be with Him for all eternity lasts longer than any temporary treasure on this earth.

On and on the precious gems to be found.  To some the Bible is a book of rules, void of life.  To those who have recognized it’s worth, it is the greatest gift God has given to us.  Boundaries set to free us, counsel to comfort us, His word a lamp to guide us.

To be able to know the God of this universe and fellowship with Him is the greatest treasure given to mankind, but often we accept what is more tangible as a substitute and miss out on the gold He has for us.  No where else will we be able to find such a treasure, that supplies all our needs to each individual.

Lord, we delight in You!  Thank You for the treasure of Your most precious Son!  Help us to seek You without ceasing and to daily,moment by moment bask in your Word.

Weapons of Warfare

Photo Credits: covenantpromises.org

Photo Credits:
covenantpromises.org

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

“For though we live as human beingswe do not wage war according to human standards4 for the weapons of our warfare are not human weaponsbut are made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds.  We tear down arguments  5 and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ.”

2 Timothy 2:23-25

But reject foolish and ignorant controversies, because you know they breed infighting.  24 And the Lord’s slave must not engage in heated disputes but be kind toward all, an apt teacher, patient,  25 correcting opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance and then knowledge of the truth.

2 Corinthians 10:4

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”

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.”

It is difficult to live in this body of flesh and live for the LORD.  Fatigue and worldliness creep in easily if we are not watchful. Sometimes I can be lulled into a false perspective that being Christian is to be “nice” and flexible, tolerant of everyone and everything.  I can become disillusioned when I think salvation is equated to being loved by all and living a trouble-free life.

While we are called to love everyone, that does not mean we should expect reciprocation.  It also does not mean that we ought to condone sinful lifestyles or give in to the philosophies of this world.  Paul, who had previously zealously persecuted Christians, was a fighter.  He knew that to be faithful to God meant to be vigilant with our thoughts, faithful to seek God and spread His word.  He recognized that this Christian walk is a battle and he armed himself for the task at hand.

But we all do not have personalities like Paul.  I confess that I am naturally a shy person and a peacemaker.  I would rather avoid conflict, but sometimes it is necessary.  On one hand, I will not seek it out and waste energy on controversial arguments, but on the other hand, I want to be ready at all times to give an answer when someone is truly seeking.

Timothy strikes me as a more gentle soul, wanting to shepherd those around him, but equally as faithful to disseminate the word of God.  I love his heart to keep what really matters in perspective – winning one precious soul with gentle correction. It wasn’t about being right, but about caring for the other person enough to be unpopular with them while the truth was lovingly shared.

We have all perhaps seen hostile arguments over faith and even tearing down of fellow believers because their style or personality was different.  We might have even done so ourselves.  These are not the weapons we are to use as believers. Pride and vanity can cloud our view and cause us to see things from a merely human point-of-view, but love can clear the fog.  Not the world’s definition of love, but God’s Agape, unconditional love, which speaks the truth completely in love.

Boldness from God consumes me and causes me to see my need of God and to fulfill the calling He has on my life.  I just want to be faithful.  Sometimes we can be about the work of God and suddenly find ourselves under attack.  (Which, by the way, should not surprise us, but being that my short term memory is lessened a great deal, I am surprised every time).

Even fellow believers can nip at our heels and judge the work we are doing in the LORD.  What weapons should be use in our arsenal?  Prayer.  Forgiveness.  Love.  When persecution or judgments arise, they are opportunities to walk after the Spirit and not the flesh; to cry out to God, not man; to read His Word and apply it in our lives.

The stumbling blocks of fear and self-preservation can inhibit us from using the weapons God prescribes for use in spiritual battle and from trusting in God to fight for us.  He is our Deliverer and able to accomplish far more than we ever could with our human tools.  His weapons are not of this world and the battles we face are not, either.

Lord, thank you for being our Defender.  Help us to recognize that every we battle we face in this life is a spiritual encounter, not a physical, fleshly one.  You have overcome all!  Help us to use the weapons You have given us, that many will be saved and healed.

Worshipful Wednesday: Provision of Promises

Photo Credits wau.org

Photo Credits
wau.org

Psalm 37:30-40

“30 The godly speak wise words and promote justice. 31 The law of their God controls their thinking; their feet do not slip. 32 Evil men set an ambush for the godly and try to kill them. 33 But the Lord does not surrender the godlyor allow them to be condemned in a court of law. 34 Rely on the Lord! Obey his commands!  Then he will permit you to possess the landyou will see the demise of evil men35 I have seen ruthless evil men growing in influence, like a green tree grows in its native soil. 36 But then one passes by, and suddenly they have disappeared!  I looked for them, but they could not be found.  37 Take note of the one who has integrity! Observe the godly!  For the one who promotes peace has a future. 38 Sinful rebels are totally destroyed; evil men have no future. 39 But the Lord delivers the godly; he protects them in times of trouble. 40 The Lord helps them and rescues them; he rescues them from evil men and delivers them, for they seek his protection.”

We cannot fully appreciate the grace of God until we understand salvation and what we were saved from.  Nor can we really apprehend God’s promises until they are all we are holding onto.  Until we have walked in the steps of suffering, we do not need to hang onto the precious promises contained in this chapter of Psalms and they will be a concept we learn and trust in by faith.

When we consider this reality of suffering, gratitude for the challenges of this life consumes us.  We recognize that we would not have the relationship with God if it were not for struggles that cause us to turn our face upward.  Sure, it would be great if we did not have to walk through dark valleys to appreciate God, but our nature is to crave comfort, not trials.  Our relationship with God would be shallow and we would not know the joy of intimacy with God.

These promises are completely free – for those who qualify.  I know, there is always a kicker to gaining promises.  But the thrill of this Good God is that living in the manner prescribed by God is the most blessed life, anyway.  When we are immersed in His word, His Spirit quickens our hearts to do what is right.  What kind of God would save us, provide promises to encourage us to keep pressing on, then remind us through His Holy Spirit and then enable us?  God Almighty.

Those who study His Word are apt to want to keep it.  Some think of it as brainwashing, but meditating on God’s word is life to our soul, not mere religion nor an attempt to just reform our external behavior.  The Word of God has power to change us from the inside out.  What an awesome God who set a standard, instructs us how to walk in that standard, gives us an incentive to follow His precepts, then grants us grace and forgiveness when we fall short.

Especially precious to me is when I read specific examples of God’s action in the lives of His children, like in this scripture passage above, and see times when God honored those very same promises in my life.  I praise God today for the fact that He makes promises to us at all.  We certainly do not deserve it, but He is the Covenant Maker and Keeper who faithfully continues to show us signs of His never-ending kindness and mercy.

Lord, thank You for providing for the righteous demands of Your law and graciously giving us promises to hold onto when life sends us on different roads we never thought we would travel.

The Goal of Selflessness

Photo Credits: followpics.co

Photo Credits:
followpics.co

Genesis 44:33-34

“So now, please let your servant remain as my lord’s slave instead of the boy. As for the boy, let him go back with his brothers.  For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I couldn’t bear to see my father’s pain.”

Philippians 2:4

“Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well.”

2 Corinthians 6:3

“We do not give anyone an occasion for taking an offense in anything, so that no fault may be found with our ministry.”

What a beautiful picture this is of selflessness.  Although Judah had spared his brother’s life before by suggesting they sell Joseph into slavery rather than killing him, Judah had finally seen that his former jealousy hurt others.  He had robbed his father of a son and was now willing to take the place of another brother, rather than see his father suffer anymore.

Jealousy is an ugly thing.  Striving for favor instead of being content with what God has provided is prideful.  Condemning others as if we hold the one correct view is sinful, yet we do this even in the body of Christ.  Why?  Self preservation. Defending self when we have been unfairly judged is understandable, but is it really the highest goal?  I know, I know. More death to self.  Ugh.  I feel it, too.

Don’t worry – dying to self does not mean we do not matter.  Biblically, we are to be concerned about our own lives, as well, but not myopically focused on self alone.  Deference hurts, especially when you have been wronged, but ultimately not one of us is always in the right.  Seeking God’s glory in the matter is paramount and helps to clear up our vision.

As we all want to have people believe the best in us, so must we extend this grace.  The church is a place where people should not be condemned for being imperfect, for we would all be condemned then.  As Christians, we cannot think that we are better than our fellow brother or sister.  No, we are all in the trenches side by side, working out character and sharing the Gospel.  Instead, humility and grace lived out and generously bestowed is demonstrated by loving one another in the face of rejection and hurt.  God help us to do so.

This weary world always has some new drama to unfold; someone who is not happy with you, or someone wanting “our” position.  But when we see everything we have as not ours in the first place, we have no need to defend self or hang onto anything.  Since we are hidden in Christ, He is our Defender and ultimately the harm others do to us is not to us at all.

Lord, help us to seek the best for others and favor them above ourselves.  May we be sensitive about Your Name being glorified by how we live and not as sensitive about ours.  Everything You have given us to do is about You. 

The Context of Promises

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victoryoutreachwhittier.org

Jeremiah 29:10-11 “For the Lord says, ‘Only when the seventy years of Babylonian rule are over will I again take up consideration for you.  Then I will fulfill my gracious promise to you and restore your homeland.  11  For I know what I have planned for you, says the LORD.  I have pans to prosper you, not to harm you.  I have plans to give you a future filled with hope..'”

Jeremiah 30:10 “So I, the LORD, tell you not to be afraid, you descendants of Jacob, my servants.  Do not be terrified, people of Israel.  For I will rescue you and your descendants form a faraway land where you are captives.  The descendants of Jacob will return to their land and enjoy peace.  They will be secure and no one will terrify them.  11 For I, the LORD, affirm that I will be with you and will rescue you.  I will completely destroy all the nations where I scattered you.  But I will not completely destroy you.  I will indeed discipline you, but only in due measure.  I will not allow you to go entirely unpunished.”

We all fondly cherish God’s promises, in particular the very popular verse found in Jeremiah 29:11.  We all want to believe, especially in dire times, that God does have a future and a hope for us.  Yet we often ignore the context of such promises.  Just before the wonderful promise of Jeremiah 29:11, God is letting Israel know that they are about to get a big spanking (ok, that is greatly minimizing being made eunuchs and taken into captivity 70 years).  In that moment of promised retribution, He also injected encouragement and a promise of good things to follow the hardship about to visit His chosen people.

This reminds me of how much I detested punishing my children when they were young, but the folly bound in their hearts had to be purged, in order to get to the blessings in store for a child who would walk in wisdom.  My heart deeply desires blessings for my children, but sometimes the road to blessing is paved with discipline.  The one who disciplines is often viewed in a harsh light.  Why can’t sin just be overlooked and we still get our reward?  Because God knows that treasuring sin will ultimately destroy us.  If we excuse sin, we allow it to live in our members and grow.  Dealing with sin as it should be dealt with is actually a kindness and brings life.

Discipline is never meant to be rejection, but rather restoration of our relationship to God.  Living in the moment, we can neglect to see the larger picture of God’s activity in the lives of His people.  Perspective of hardship is altered when we recognize it is but one piece of fabric in the large quilt of our lives.  Herein lies a bittersweet truth: We cannot claim the promises of God without claiming what precedes and follows them.  Will we be a sunshine Christian, only praising God when blessings come, or a faithful follower, during blessings and hardships?  Trusting His character, we can have eyes to see that what He permits is truly always for our good and achieving something far greater than what we see on the surface.

This morning, I was contemplating the fourth poor soul awaiting execution by ISIS, displayed for the world to see.  Wanting to cling to God’s promises through this crisis, I asked my children to pray with me for this man and for God to show Himself strong in this situation.  I asked that God would strike the executioner dead and inject a fear of God in this vile enemy.  My daughter then injected a prayer of her own – “can we pray that they would be saved, too?”  I was at once humbled.  Could I pray that?  Is it possible that even this wicked organization could be saved?  God knows.  But while we wait for God’s deliverance, we have to trust that even these difficult times serve a purpose – God will not waste this sufferingOn the other side of every atrocity in history, there is a plan of redemption all for God’s gloryThat is where I place my hope this morning – in the context of God’s promises.

Oh Lord, just as You were sovereign and Almighty when Paul was murdering Christians, You are the same All-powerful, All-seeing, All-knowing God who can convert a murderer into a man of God used by You to save many.  Lord, I want to see You glorified in these times.  Help us to understand and endure all hardship as discipline from a loving father.  Please defend your people all for Your magnificent glory!!

My Delight is in Her

deights in

Isaiah 62:4
“You will no longer be called, “Abandoned,” and your land will no longer be called “Desolate.” Indeed, you will be called, “My delight is in her,” and your land “married.” For the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married to him. 12 They will be called, “The Holy People, the Ones Protected by the LORD.” You will be called, “Sought After, City Not Abandoned.”

A little girl dancing in a ballerina outfit with her Daddy’s praise spurring her on . . . a young woman glowing as her father’s eyes beam with pride at her dressed in a wedding gown . . . a wife blushing at her husband’s praise . . . all moments that evoke the feeling of being delighted in.

When is the last time you have felt delighted in? Oftentimes we take one another for granted and forget what gifts each one of us are to one another and to God. The word, “Hepzibah” which God is calling Israel, literally means my delight is in her. Unconditional acceptance, cherished, favored. I believe we often feel the opposite – unaccepted, not good enough or rejected. But that is not what God’s Word says.

Difficult times can make you feel insignificant and forgotten, like you will never see the goodness of God in the land of the living. But God desires to lift us up out of that place, for His glory, and redeem what was lost. Today He proclaims His favor and chooses to lavish His love on you – if You have accepted His free gift of salvation. We love one another imperfectly, but God’s love is perfect and eternal. I am in awe of God, Who would choose a people and then graft in others who were not a part of the original promise and delight in them. What a wonderful heritage and blessing that is.

You, my friend, are delighted in! Bask in that truth and choose not to stray from it. He’s not through with you yet. Amen.

Thank You, God, that you never give up on us – You will complete the work you have begun in us. You do not delight in our stagnation or destruction, but in restoring us. You are good – all the time! Love you, Lord!

Promises, Promises

Promises, Promises
By: Denise Pass © 7/8/14

promises 2
Isaiah 54:4-6, 13-14, 17

:4 “Don’t be afraid, for you will not be put to shame! Don’t be intimidated, for you will not be humiliated! You will forget about the shame you experienced in your youth; you will no longer remember the disgrace of your abandonment. 5 For your husband is the One Who made you – the LORD who commands armies is His Name. He is Your Protector, the Holy One of Israel. He is called “God of the entire earth”. 6 Indeed, the LORD will call you back like a wife who has been abandoned and suffers from depression, like a young wife when she has been rejected, says your God. 13 All your children will be followers of the LORD, and your children will enjoy great prosperity. 14 You will be reestablished when I vindicate you. You will not experience oppression; indeed, you will not be afraid. You will not be terrified, for nothing frightening will come near you. 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.

Have you ever felt shame from a circumstance in life, like there is no recovery for you? Not so, according to God. He is never finished with any of us. I remember the biggest fear I had in the wake of the scandal that rocked our home was that my children would no longer believe in or love the Lord. How could a Christian do something like this to his family? Hypocrisy from a believer is almost worse than the crime itself. The damage infidelity and abuse do to the human soul is incomparable. Lives are shattered by a parent who do not keep the sacred promise to not harm their own children. But God.

Maybe it was a family member, a friend, a co-worker, a stranger who you were counting on, or maybe you were the one someone else was counting on. In an uncertain world, we all cling to the hope that there is something, someone we can count on. But when that person lets us down, our innocence and hopes are dashed temporarily and we can search for something, someone to fill that void. The problem is, no one is perfect but the One. Whatever we find that we think will deliver perfect comfort simply cannot bring lasting peace and security.

So how do we learn to trust again in promises in such a shaky world? Promises are the foundation of every good relationship, but being vulnerable to another person or entity is an act of faith and difficult to do in a day and age when promises can be taken very lightly. Without promises, there is no security, but broken promises can be mended by the One Who always keeps His Word.

These verses above are full of amazing, precious promises from God to … His servants … not just anyone. Who would not want to be His servant when you see what God does for them? We have all been on the receiving end of a promise not kept, or kept a promise that was not deserved. But nothing is ever wasted with God and what we detest which was a reproach to us can be the very tool God uses to bring us into a beautiful place. Instead of trying to cover over our shame and pain, lay it bare before the Lord and trust Him to pick up the pieces. He’s good at that… and He keeps His promises.

Lord, Thank you for making and keeping your promises. Help us to honor our promises and to let our yes be yes and our no be no.