Monday, December 28, 2009

God is Great

I know that the Lord is great,
that our Lord is greater than all gods.
The Lord does whatever pleases Him,
in the heavens and on the earth,
in the seas and all their depths.
Psalm 135:5-6

The lot is cast into the lap,
but its every decision is from the Lord.
Proverbs 16:33

God is in control. Doesn't it just make you feel safe to realize that?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Proverbs 11:6

The righteousness of the upright delivers them,
but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires.

The righteousness of the upright is Jesus. That's why we can be sure of our deliverance.

Evil desires are a trap. Sin is a trap. Satan has the victory when people think they are safe from the penalties of sin and therefore feel free to pursue sin.

Jesus sets us free from Satan's power and from sin and from death.

God rest ye, merry gentlemen
("Be still and know that I am God"--Psalm 46:10)
Let nothing you dismay,
("But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people!'"--Luke 2:10)
Remember Christ our Savior
was born on Christmas Day,

(" 'Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord!' "--Luke 2:11)
to save us all from Satan's power
when we had gone astray,

("But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons."--Galatians 4:4-5; "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly."--Romans 5:6)
O tidings of comfort and joy,
comfort and joy!
O tidings of comfort and joy!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Fear and Forgiveness

Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord;
O Lord, hear my voice.
Let Your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with You there is forgiveness;
therefore You are feared.

Psalm 130:1-4

"With You there is forgiveness; therefore You are feared."

What does that mean?

In our culture, forgiveness and fear are mutually exclusive, and fear of the Lord is something that people dodge, avoid and even deny.

So how do we make sense of a statement like this?

"With You there is forgiveness; therefore You are feared."

The first thing we need to realize is something we miss all the time: The Christian life is not all about us. It is all about God. It is not about what we get, but about what He has given. It is not about where we stand in relation to our eternal destiny, but about where we stand with relation to our eternal God.

Man-centered theology is so prevalent that we embrace it even as we decry it. We hear the terms "man-centered theology" and "God-centered theology" and we know that God-centered must be better than man-centered. We might even say something about this. But we are so immersed in the man-centered that we cannot even imagine what God-centered is.

This may seem like a tangent, but bear with me: I think Disney's "Little Mermaid" movie is among the worst movies ever made. (Thematically, I mean; it has very cute music, which is a very dangerous thing, indeed.) It has the most destructive message I have ever seen in a movie, but it typifies the American attitude, an attitude that has sadly pervaded the church.

Think about it: Ariel's father gives her good instruction on how to live and be safe. Ariel is dissatisfied with all that her loving father has offered her and must have more (ummm... doesn't this sound a little like Eve in the garden of Eden?). She has been sternly warned not to go above sea level onto land, warned for her own good, by her father who loves her and does not want anything bad to happen to her.

Ariel heedlessly seeks her own way, selling her most precious gift, her lovely voice, to the sea witch, so she can pursue her lover. Why? Because she wants to. She wants her own way, and she takes it, breaking rules and disobeying all the way.

In the end, she gets herself into a terrible, deathly predicament. And what happens? Her father Triton appears and nearly dies while fighting to save her life (which, I remind you, is in danger precisely because she disobeyed her father). And after he saves her and appears Disney-esquely alive after seeming to be dead? She says, "O Papa, I am so sorry I disobeyed you! Will you please forgive me and take me home to the kingdom?" Oh no. Oh, heavens, no!

In the end, King Triton apologizes to his daughter because he was a mean father and did not give her her way. And she gets her way, along with everything she had demanded all along, and everyone lives happily ever after. I was literally spitting mad the first time (possibly the only time) I watched this movie. I never let my children watch it, although I expect that they saw it somewhere.

Sadly, this warped morality is exactly how many people see God and the Christian life. They think the Old Testament Law is like King Triton's rules for his daughters, mean and unreasonable (though possibly meant for good at the time). We are like Ariel, longing for freedom from rules and regulations. Jesus came and died for our sins so that we can have what they call "Freedom in Christ," and thereafter we are free to sin, because we have been forgiven, and God, something like King Triton at the end of "The Little Mermaid," is sorry that He ever placed such a burden as Old Testament Law on us.  Did you see that?  In the last sentence?  The supposition is that God is sorry.

With a paradigm like this, it's no wonder we can't understand a verse like, "But with You there is forgiveness; therefore You are feared."

Let's get something straight. Freedom in Christ does not mean freedom to sin. It means freedom from sin. It means that, because God sends His own Holy Spirit to live in the hearts of His children and empower them, we can live lives free from sin. Originally, in our fallen flesh, we had no power to live righteously.  However, after Jesus died for us and sent His Holy Spirit to live with us, to comfort, counsel and empower us, we do have the power, through Him, to live righteously. If you do not believe me, please read Romans 6. Yes, the whole chapter. I am not for pulling one verse or phrase out of context. Read Romans 6, because it teaches exactly what I am trying to say here, but it has the advantage of being the word of God.

And if you understand this, then you can start to understand what it means that "...with You there is forgiveness; therefore You are feared."

"With You there is forgiveness" puts the focus on God as the great Forgiver. The focus is not on the fact that we have escaped an unpleasant consequence. Grace doesn't mean God looking down and saying, "Awwww. I'll let you into heaven anyway, because I am Love and you are a cute little human." No! It is about God totally blasting away the stronghold of sin and hurling Satan into the depths so that we can be free forever. (See Revelation 12:10-12. Really, please read it.) God is mighty and full of grace and love and truth. He is the only one who can forgive us, because all of our sins are ultimately only against Him (see Psalm 51:4).

"Therefore You are feared" means, at the simplest level, that the forgiven one has been able to grasp something of the magnitude of what God has done and what this says about God, about who He is and the extent of His power and His might as well as His grace and His love.

I think corollary to grasping the extent of God's love comes a heartfelt love and appreciation that expresses itself in the desire to be pleasing to our God and Savior who has done such magnificent wonders for us. Who gave His own life for us.  And along with this deep desire to please God, because He is so unutterably wonderful, comes a fear of displeasing Him, a real fear. If we can begin to grasp how worthy God is of our lives being a living sacrifice for him (see Romans 12, yes the whole chapter), we fear letting Him down. This is not a paralyzing fear, because 2 Peter 1:3 tells us that His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness. Rather, it is a fear that drives us to the source of our righteousness and makes us utterly dependent on Him.  Being utterly dependent on our Lord is a very safe dependence to have, because He will never leave us nor forsake us. He promises, and He always keeps His promises.

Back to Psalm 51 (I mentioned it earlier, you should read that, too), the Psalmist cries out: "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me." Now, I do not think that God threatens to take His Holy Spirit away, but He does warn us that continual sin will grieve the Holy Spirit and quench our ability to utilize His power. (See Ephesians 4:29-32 and 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22). So although God will not take back our salvation from us, we should live with a certain amount of fear at the effects that sin can have on our lives and particularly what sin can do to our relationship with Him.

We should indeed fear displeasing our great Forgiver and damaging our close fellowship with Him. Without Him, who can stand? Without Him where is hope? He is everything to us, and we need to apprehend the truth and live accordingly.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Who is Jesus?

There is a child in our Sunday school class who does not believe that Jesus is God.

He is a bright child, and very active and verbal. He has also been afflicted with a serious case of brash, youthful arrogance. I am not sure how to handle him. I do not want to humiliate him. However, I do not believe that it is right to allow him to declare, in front of the other children, "Jesus wasn't really the same as God. My dad says there's no way Jesus could actually be God."

Because God is wonderful, He has been leading me to verses that clearly proclaim the divinity of Christ.

Romans 9:5
[the Israelites'] are the patriarchs, and from them are traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

For years I have been teaching that the Old Testament is about the nation of Israel, because they are the ancestors of Jesus. And only today I noticed that what I have been teaching is clearly and simply explained in this one specific verse. Glory to God! The nation of Israel is specially blessed because they are the ancestors of God. Jesus is God!

Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.

The child, the baby, the son of Mary is our Mighty God. The Bible says so. Jesus is God!

Titus 2:13
... while we wait for the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is our Savior. Jesus is our God. It doesn't get much clearer than this.

Acts 20:28
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers
[Paul said to the Ephesian elders]. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood.

Whose blood paid for the church? God's own blood. That's what it says. I am not making this up. Jesus was the one who shed His blood, and this is the blood that bought the church, God's blood. Jesus is God.

John 1:1-3, 14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made, without Him nothing was made that has been made... The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the the One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The Word was God, it says, and then the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. That's Jesus. Jesus is the one who became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus, who is God, became flesh and lived with humans on earth. I didn't even highlight the fact that this passage also states that the Word is the one who created the heavens and the earth, and Genesis 1:1 specifically states that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Jesus is God.

Please read this slowly and worshipfully...
Colossians 1:15-20
He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.
For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.

Jesus is God.

There are other supporting scriptures that you can read on your own:
John 10:30
John 14:9
Philippians 2:5-11
Colossians 2:9
Hebrews 1 (the whole chapter, but particularly verses 8-9)

Jesus is God. If you don't believe the Bible, or if you do not believe in God, this means nothing. But if you accept the Bible as God's Word, you cannot deny that Jesus is God in flesh, "God incarnate" as the old theology states.

1 John 4 speaks of testing the spirits. Whether a spirit is true and good or false and wicked hinges on one thing: what does it do with Jesus? The Spirit of God in someone "acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh... but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God." Acknowledging Jesus means understanding who He is, that He is God, not just agreeing that he was a guy like any of the rest of us, a guy who just happened to be born in the year that changed BC to AD.

I think I am going to need to have a serious talk with this child. If you read this, please pray for me.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Fallen leaves remind me that the earth is in a constant state of flux. Although God, in grace, grants us the gift of beauty in the nature with which He surrounds us, nature is not constant, except in its constancy of cycles. Night follows day. Winter follows summer. Harvest follows planting. Death follows birth.

I sometimes become discouraged at the suffering that God uses to refine us, because this, too, seems to be a constant. There is virtually no growth without pain, no change without loss, no improvement without discipline. Sometimes this truth makes me feel tired. I am a lazy person.

Last year I spent much time in Job and then in 1 and 2 Peter. These books of the Bible teach a lot about suffering. I should be strengthened and built up; I know God promises to stay with us, helping us, holding us up, carrying us through. He is our shield and the lifter of our heads. Such a baby I am... I don't want my head to need lifting.

Lately, God has brought me to the Psalms in the 120's. Psalm 121 is one of my all time favorites. It was such a comfort to read it the other day. You should read it, too, if you need a word of encouragement. But, today I am going to write about Psalm 125, verse by verse.

Psalm 125:1
Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.

We will endure forever if we trust in the Lord. We will not be shaken. Our eternal destiny is secure as long as our trust is in the Lord. It's going to be all right.

Psalm 125:2
As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people both now and forevermore.

I just love that imagery. God is there, as solid and steadfast as the mountains around Jerusalem, surrounding us and protecting us. He will even outlast the mountains of Jerusalem when the earth comes to an end. He will remain forevermore, our shield and protector.

Psalm 125:3
The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous, for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil.

This is a little harder to understand. I think the key is where it says that the scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous. This means that God has a territory reserved for His people where evil cannot reign, where we will be utterly safe from any evil influence, and where His perfect justice is absolute. One of the things that astounds me most about the idea of heaven is this: I will not even be tempted to sin anymore; there will be no more battle with the sin nature. I think this verse supports that.

Psalm 125:4
Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, to those who are upright in heart.

Once I was reading the Psalms and I became very disheartened at the promises and blessings on the righteous. My own sins and daily failings keep me well aware that I am not righteous, blameless or pure. I remember thinking, "That would be great, if it only applied to me... but clearly, I am not righteous." One day, while I was reading a Psalm and thinking this negative and self-incriminating thought, God's voice broke through in my mind and He told me, "You have the righteousness of my Son. It is in Him that these promises apply to you. I have imputed my Son's own perfect righteousness to you, through grace, so that you may indeed be counted among the righteous." (You can find proof of this truth in Romans 3:22, 5:17, 10:4, and especially 2 Corinthians 5:21.) It was a most wonderful and glorious day when God brought this truth home to me. I had heard it many times, but on that day, He spoke to my heart and I understood. When the Psalmist asks the Lord to do good to the righteous, he really is asking the Lord to do good to me.

Psalm 125:5
But those who turn to crooked ways the Lord will banish with the evildoers.
Peace be upon Israel.

OK, I know we aren't supposed to gloat. But I think this means that everyone who enjoys hurting us and forever refuses to be sorry will be banished by God from the presence of His children, and peace will reign.

Yes, "peace be upon Israel" means peace to the children of God, and that means those of us who believe, putting our faith in him. Galatians 3:29 tells us: "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Abraham was the father of Israel (Israel the nation... he was grandfather of Jacob who was renamed "Israel"). If we are Abraham's seed, then we count as the children of the promise, the chosen ones of God.

I don't know about you, but I needed this lift today. God is surrounding us like a range of mountains, keeping us safe, and blessing us with peace.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

God is happy

The first time I ever heard John Piper preach, probably in 1987, Shawn and I walked into his church, Bethlehem Baptist, with no idea of what to expect. We had heard that he was good, but beyond that, we knew nothing.

It was just as his book, Desiring God, was being published. The sermon was about Christian hedonism. By Christian hedonism, what Dr. Piper means is that humans were created for happiness: we crave it, we miss it, there is a void inside each of us that longs for it.

Because we are sinful beings living in a fallen world, we seek happiness in all the wrong places. But in truth, happiness is within our grasp: our joy is in the Lord. And the best thing about it is, unlike any other pleasure we may pursue, the pleasure that we find in God is--get this--good for us!

You can be addicted to God and never run short of your supply of Him, because He is limitless, and it is His joy to fill us and overflow from us in glory and grace. (see Psalm 81:10, Isaiah 55:1-2, John 10:10, John 15:11)

The point is that God is the source of all that is good, and He loves us and shares His goodness with us to the glory of His name and for the good it does us to be filled with joy.

It brings God great joy to bring us great joy.

Inherent in all this is a fundamental fact that is missed all the time. All the time...

God is happy. God is joyous. God is filled with pleasure and delight.

I had never thought about this before that day when I sat in a lovingly cared for old church building in Minneapolis, listening to John Piper preach his heart out.

God is happy.

Psalm 115:3 says, "Our God is in heaven; He does whatever pleases Him."

As I sat there, I was stunned, completely and utterly stunned. God is happy.

God is not worried. God is not in despair. God does not look down at the sins of man and wonder, "Oh whatever shall I do now?"

God is completely and utterly in control. He is sovereign. He is in charge of all history. And on top of that, He is omnipotent and omniscient. That means He is all mighty and all knowing.

Proverbs 21:1 "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord; He directs it like a watercourse wherever He pleases."

Psalm 33:10-11 "The Lord foils the plans of the nations; He thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations."

Psalm 139:1-4 "O Lord, You have searched me and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue You know it completely, O Lord."

Ephesians 1:4-10 "For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will--to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ."

1 Peter 1:20 "He [Jesus] was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake."

Perhaps I will take these scriptures individually over the next few days and write about them in more depth.

But I just have to share my wonder at this, my wonder and excitement and joy and relief. God is not up in heaven wringing His hands and worrying that we will mess things up. He knew we were going to mess things up before He ever created the world... that's why He chose Jesus and planned our redemption before He even made us.

God is not worried, so we do not have to worry... we can trust Him fully and believe that, as He promises, His purposes will all be accomplished!

God is happy, so we can be happy. We can serve Him with joy and confidence because He is in control, because He is our sovereign Lord, and He does indeed have the whole world in His hands.

Does this mean that things will always go the way we want them to go, that we can expect Him to give us fulfilling relationships, nice houses, plenty of food and clean water, and no illnesses?

Heavens no! Not here. God knows what is best for us, and it isn't always what we think is best for us. We need to humble ourselves and trust Him, even when it doesn't make sense, and never lose our expectant hope for eternal redemption.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


The really amazing thing about this flower: it's blooming outside my window, and it is November. November. In New York.

God is so gracious and merciful. I was bracing myself for February today, thinking about the upcoming sleet, snow and frigid weather. But today it is November 12, the sun is almost shining, and there is a white rose blooming outside my window.

Sometimes God is gracious in up-front, out-right kinds of ways... like in giving me a rose blossom in November.

Other times, His grace comes in stranger packages.

The other day I was reading in Isaiah, and I came across this verse:

"The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death." (Isaiah 57:1-2)

It reminded me of the story where wicked King Jeroboam's son became very ill, and Jeroboam sent his wife, in disguise, to ask the Lord's prophet whether her son would live or die. God was planning to send judgment on Jeroboam, a terrible judgment that would be awful to behold. Regarding the king's son, God gave his mother this message: "As for you, go back home. When you set foot in your city, the boy will die. All Israel will mourn him and bury him. He is the only one belonging to Jeroboam who will be buried, because he is the only one in the house of Jeroboam in whom the Lord, the God of Israel, has found anything good." (1 Kings 14:12-13)

We always assume that earthly health, wealth and prosperity are the blessings of God, but sometimes the opposite is true. Sometimes God takes a person out of this life to spare him earthly pain. And sometimes God strikes a man into disaster in order to break down his mistaken belief that he is fine on his own and has no need of a Savior. This looks harsh from our point of view, but in truth it is a mercy, because it takes a man headed for eternal disaster and points him toward heaven instead. Sometimes God uses discomfort in this life to help us prepare and look forward to the next life, the real one, the one without an end.

We should not fear death the way we do. We need to remind ourselves that God is sovereign, and everything is part of His plan. This is hard; it goes against every natural fiber of our being. It requires super-human faith, the faith and trust that come only from God.

For those of us with faith, we should remind ourselves every day:

" live is Christ and to die is gain."

(Philippians 1:21)

Because, believe it or not, in heaven, God has much greater wonders for us than even a white rose blooming in November.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Faith and faithfulness

Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:1

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.
Hebrews 11:6

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.
Hebrews 11:8

However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.
Romans 4:5

Abraham's faith was credited to him as righteousness.
Romans 4:9b

Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring--not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.
Romans 4:16

If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise.
Galatians 3:29

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
Galatians 5:6b

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.
Ephesians 2:8

...from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 3:15

These scriptures all highlight the role of faith. Faith is the means by which we are saved. In fact, to say that a person has faith is the same thing as saying that a person is saved. Faith in Jesus Christ equals salvation.

Where does faith come from? Faith comes from God. Faith is what was lost at the the Fall in Genesis 3, and it is what we regain in Christ when we are reunited in a relationship with God.

Apart from God, our spirits are dead within us. When He reaches down and touches our spirits with His Spirit, the life of His Spirit vitalizes our spirits, sparks faith, and brings spiritual life where none existed. This is a supernatural miracle.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:1-10

Grace is God's favor towards us. The term that is commonly applied here is unmerited favor, which basically means undeserved favor. God did not favor us with salvation because we deserved it. He does not choose the good people, the smart people, the strong people or the rich people. He chooses whomever He wants to choose, and upon those undeserving people, by grace, He bestows the gift of faith, which we have seen is tantamount to the gift of salvation.

How do you get faith if you want it? There is only one source of faith: God. There is only one way to get it from Him, and that is to humbly ask Him for it. Ironically, you won't even want to ask for faith unless He has already touched your spirit and breathed into it. It takes faith to desire faith. Only God can break into the cycle of a dead spirit and bring out life.

Faith is the essence of salvation. It is believing that God exists, and it is believing His promises. It is the kind of belief that translates into action; it affects what you do because it permeates and shapes your entire mind. That is what faith is. It's a wonderful thing to think about.

Faithfulness is something different.

You might think that faithfulness is the quality of being full of faith. After all, it is "faith" plus "full," two words put together. When the Bible speaks of "the faithful" as a group of people (for example, in Psalm 31:23), then it does mean that we are talking about a group of people who are full of faith.

However, even here, we need to draw a line. "The faithful" is not the same term as "faithfulness."

So what is faithfulness? To begin to understand it, we need to look at it first as an attribute of God Himself. When we say that God is faithful we mean something quite different from when we call people "the faithful." The simplest way to understand is to break it down into two simple sentences:

1. Faithful followers of God exhibit faith in God by trusting and obeying Him.
2. Our faithful God always keeps His promises and is completely trustworthy.

Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.
Deuteronomy 7:9

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made.
Psalm 145:13

So when Galatians 5:22 says, "The fruit of the Spirit is... faithfulness..." it is not talking about basic faith. Basic faith is what brings salvation, which brings the indwelling of God's Spirit in the first place. Faith, salvation and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit are all the same thing, or aspects of the same thing. This is the root from whence all the fruits of the Spirit are able to grow.

So when Galatians 5:22 says, "The fruit of the Spirit is... faithfulness..." it is talking about how the Spirit of God in us enables us to reflect God's quality of faithfulness. This means that we keep our promises. We are true to our word. We are completely trustworthy, even to the point where God can trust us to keep our covenant with Him, not because of what we are like, but because of what He has done in us... He can trust His own work.

A faithful husband stands by his wife through good and bad, and keeps his marriage vows.

A faithful friend is there when you need her.

A faithful dog camps out by your bedside when you are sick.

These are everyday examples of faithfulness, not hard to understand.

Faithfulness has less to do with the faith of the person who is faithful, and more to do with the fact that others can be safe putting their faith in such a person.

When the Bible says that the fruit of the Spirit is faithfulness, it means that we are learning to keep our promises as God keeps His.

I just felt the need to explain this difference, and I hope I have been more clarifying than confusing.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I'm sorry I have not been writing here.

I struggled with my devotional times this summer. After awhile, I joined a Beth Moore study on the fruit of the spirit, but I didn't even finish that. I got hung up the week we were to study faithfulness, because she kept talking about faith rather than faithfulness. It is very important to study and and learn and understand what faith is. Without faith, you can't be saved, so it is absolutely critical. However, the fruit of the spirit is faithfulness, not faith, and faithfulness is different from faith. Which is why there are two different (albeit related) words.

Anyway, I didn't know where to go with my consternation, so I stopped doing the study and I stopped going to it.

I started reading 1 John with my daughters.

I am also, finally, reading my brother's book on Revelation and taking notes (which makes all the difference).

Last night I got to discuss Habakkuk with my older son. That is an opportunity you don't get very often.

I feel dry, but I do keep going back to Psalm 63.

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.

Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.

Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. They who seek my life will be destroyed; they will go down to the depths of the earth. They will be given over to the sword and become food for jackals. But the king will rejoice in God; all who swear by God's name will praise him, while the mouths of liars will be silenced.

I have felt dry, but maybe it was more that I was not in control of my devotional times this summer. And maybe I am not supposed to control them. Maybe it is OK.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


This plant is called obedient plant. It pretty much stays where you plant it and does not overtake your garden. This puts me in mind of spiritual obedience.

We used to sing a hymn, Trust and Obey:

When we walk with the Lord
In the light of His word,
What a glory He sheds on our way.
As we do His good will,
He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey,
For there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus
But to trust and obey.

Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command..."
(John 14:15)

He also said, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.
If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in His love.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and and that your joy may be complete.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you
(John 15:9-12)

Monday, July 27, 2009


July 25

July 26

July 27

July 28

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.
Philippians 4:8

We need to do this, not out of pleasure so much as out of desperation. Our desperation should lead us to heights previously unknown, in the presence of God.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Still alive

I am doing a graduation party and will not be posting until after July 18.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

So I said I would be posting on Tuesdays and Fridays, but for the past two weeks I have only posted on Wednesdays, and it looks like that's about to happen again.

The above is actually a photo of my daisies. I photoshopped it to death... cropped it, played with the colors, then distorted it with washes and effects. I'm sure many would say I ruined it.

The daisies, by the way, are weeds. They grew in my garden, and I left them. Here's hoping they don't utterly overtake everything next year. I also have Shasta daisies; they have not bloomed yet, and when they do, they will be quite a bit bigger, but they won't last as long as these have.

I tend to second-guess myself and wonder whether I am doing the right thing. Should I photoshop my pictures? Should I leave the wild daisies to grow in my garden? Should I keep daisies in my yard at all, since I am allergic to them? Why didn't I wear sunglasses to my son's graduation, since my eyes are itchy and watery from my daisy allergy which is provoked by the daisies I keep in my garden?

I could drive myself absolutely batty worrying over these things. Sometimes I do.

Today in VBS we studied Peter's denial of Christ.

The thing that deeply comforts me is that Jesus warned Peter and, at the same time, reassured him that it would come all right in the end: "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:31)

"I have prayed for you..." What awesome words of comfort. And Jesus prays for us, too. "Christ Jesus, who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." (Romans 8:34b)

Jesus prays for us, but, you know, we pray for each other, too. Although it is a wonderful feeling to know that my Lord and Savior prays for me, it is not quite as astonishing as the fact that He knows and controls the future. Now THAT is what really makes me feel safe and secure. Look what He said to Peter: "When you turn back..." Not if you turn back, but when you turn back. Jesus knew that Peter would turn back to Him after his failure, that he would be restored, that he would grow and become effective for the Kingdom, carrying out a powerful ministry.

The same is true for us. We do not have to beat ourselves up and fret over our mistakes. We need to confess our sins, receive His forgiveness, and move ahead with confidence in His power and grace, believing that He is the God who creates beauty from ashes, that He can use every circumstance in our lives for our good and for His glory.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Instead of writing every day, I will be posting one or two times per week. My plan is to do this on Tuesdays and Fridays, but that will flex according to the family schedule.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


In case you can't tell from this perspective, the yellow flower in this photo is a tomato blossom. Tomato blossoms are not the most beautiful flower in the garden, but they hold some of the most wonderful promise... the promise of delicious, red, ripe, juicy tomatoes!

Blossoms signal beginnings. Actually, the bud is the beginning, and then the blossom, finally culminating in fruit.

Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."

Before the beginning, there was nothing: no plants, no people, no life. In fact, I do not think there was even any space or any time. I think that God created time, and then space, kind of the way I mixed topsoil, peat moss and compost together in my raised garden bed this spring. I was preparing a place to grow tomatoes, and other vegetables and berries. God was creating a place to raise eternal souls.

Yesterday I was reading about Aaron's rod that budded.

Numbers 17:8, "The next day Moses entered the tent of the Testimony and saw that Aaron's staff, which represented the house of Levi, had not only sprouted, but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds."

The main point of this story is to confirm the spiritual authority of the tribe of Levi, and particularly the authority of Aaron and his sons within that tribe. God had charged the priests (Aaron and his sons) and Levites (the rest of the tribe of Levi) with the care of the Tabernacle and the overseeing of the sacrificial system.

Going back a chapter, we see that some Israelites had challenged Aaron's role and wanted to burn their own incense before the Lord.

Numbers 16:3, "They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, 'You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord's assembly?'"

God instructed the head of each tribe to bring a staff to the Tabernacle. They were to write their names on these staffs and leave them in the Tabernacle overnight. God's plan was to put an end to all this bickering by sending a sign of His favor to the staff of His chosen leader. God said that the staff of the man He chose would sprout.

In the morning, Aaron's staff not only sprouted, it also budded, blossomed and bore fruit. Or, nuts, as the case may be. This is interesting because if the staff had merely sprouted, observers could have accused Moses and Aaron of replacing Aaron's staff with a sprouting branch from an almond tree. But God did a huge miracle and made the staff sprout, bud, blossom and bear almonds all at the same time, something that never happens naturally in nature. There was no explaining away this sign.

This is also a beautiful picture of how God brings life from nothing. My grandfather had a cane. It was rather a distinguished cane, shaped and polished and given a rubber end to keep it from skidding. There is no way that cane would have started to grow, apart from a miracle of God. Aaron's staff, and the staffs of the other men, were just as lifeless as my grandfather's cane, yet God brought life from Aaron's.

Ephesians 2:1, "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins."

Just as the cane of Aaron was "dead," totally devoid of life, so were we before the Spirit of God breathed into us faith and life and a hunger for Himself.

When we live through the Spirit, we bear fruit that is pleasing to God. Just as I await tomatoes at the sight of the first blossom on one of my plants, so God looks forward to the fruit He knows we will bear by His grace and through the power of His Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23a, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control..."

Did you ever think of how Spirit-fruit in our lives gratifies the Lord even more than a bountiful garden of vegetables gratifies us?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Still pondering the same questions...

If you have ever grown flowers, you know that they do quite an amazing thing. They turn their faces to the sun. Sunflowers are the funniest, because their huge blossoms twist slowly around to face the sun throughout the day.

I am still pondering on the thought of what it means to have the Lord turn His face toward us and make His face shine upon us. (See the previous post).

Today's scripture is from Numbers 8:1-4. It is about the lampstand that God had told Moses to direct Bezalel and Oholiab to craft for the tabernacle (Exodus 25:31-40, 27:20-21, 37:17-24, 40:24-25). We know that the lampstand was a symbol for Jesus, the light of the world.

The Lord said to Moses, "Speak to Aaron and say to him, 'When you set up the seven lamps, they are to light up the area in front of the lampstand.'"
Aaron did so; he set up the lamps so that they faced forward on the lampstand, just as the Lord had commanded Moses. This is how the lampstand was made: It was made of hammered gold--from its base to its blossoms. The lampstand was made exactly like the pattern the Lord had shown Moses.

Numbers 8:1-4

The lampstand was made of hammered gold from its base to its blossoms. Exodus 25:33-35 explains that the ends of the "branches" of the lampstand, where the oil was poured and lit, were to be cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms. This must have been a beautiful piece of craftsmanship.

Aaron, according to God's directions, set up the lampstand with the lamps "so that they faced forward on the lampstand."

Somehow this reminds me of flowers turning to face the sun, which reminds me of God turning His face toward us and making it shine on us.

Which brings me back to the questions I asked in the last post...

What does it mean for the Lord to make His face shine on us?

What does it mean for the Lord to turn His face towards us?

Are these things the same or different?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Scripture for the day

The Lord said to Moses, "Tell Aaron and his sons, this is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.
So they will put my name on the Israelites and I will bless them."
Numbers 6:22-27 (The Priestly Blessing)

What does it mean for the Lord to make His face shine on us?

What does it mean for the Lord to turn His face towards us?

Are these things the same or different?

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Psalm for the Day

After the rainstorm we had last night, my white peonies don't look like this anymore. The huge, lush blossoms take on water like sponges and fall to the ground with the extra weight, losing petals on the way. I guess it is a lesson in excess... if we live in luxury and surplus, when troubles come, will are more ill-equipped to deal with them than ever. But, just as I love my peonies, God loves us and comes out to clean us up after the storm. Of course, there will have to be some drastic pruning...

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face shine upon us, Selah
that Your ways may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations.
May the peoples praise You, O God; may all the peoples praise You.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for You rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth. Selah
May the peoples praise You, O God; may all the peoples praise You.
Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us.
God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear Him.
Psalm 67

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A verse about respect

This is also an angel face rose. It is similar to yesterday's rose, yet unique. I think it is amazing how God makes each plant grow, and each blossom on each plant. As every bud unfolds, it is like a song of praise to the Creator who formed it and filled it with color and fragrance.

I did not have any inspiration for what to post here today, until I read Chris's comment from yesterday. Now I know what to share.

Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.
Leviticus 19:32

We often let this slide, and it is to the utter detriment of our culture. We see old people as a "nuisance." They don't know how to use computers, or cell phones. They don't know what Facebook is (and they might not even care!). Often they are hard-of-hearing and we have to repeat ourselves when we speak to them. They are weaker, slower, and more confused than they used to be (never mind that they were the ones who taught us the alphabet, bandaged our scraped knees and cleaned up our vomit in the middle of the night when we were little).

If you put yourself in their place, you will suddenly understand why they get a bit cranky and defensive sometimes. With the breakneck speed of technological progress these days, anyone over the age of 25 might start to feel threatened. When we feel threatened, we get defensive, and when we get defensive, we get cross. It's just the way it is.

Yet old people have beautiful memories to share of days gone by. Sometimes the old way really was the best way, but we never take time to slow down and hear about it. No wonder our elders get frustrated, trying to tell something important to young people who constantly accelerate off to grasp the urgent all around them. The urgent is not always the same as the important, and often precious treasures of timeless truth are dashed aside for the sake of urgency.

Not only do we lose a valuable perspective when we marginalize the aged, we set ourselves up for a bitter and unhappy old age.

I read a story that went something like this:

Once there was a family, a father, a mother, and a little daughter. They lived happily in their cozy home, until one day the father's father died, and his dear old mother came to live with them.

This grandma could not hear very well. She had a bad back, so it was difficult for her to help with chores. She tried to contribute to the family as best she could by sitting in the corner and sewing or knitting.

As days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, the wife became bitter and resentful of the old woman. She gave her the worst chair in the house, a three legged stool that wobbled to one side, while she kept the best chair for herself. Then she shoved her mother-in-law into a corner of the room where there was very little light. "She's almost blind, anyway!" said the wife.

She shouted at the old woman to get out of her way when she was sweeping. She scolded her harshly when she spilled her tea, and gave her an old cracked mug, explaining, "She would only break one of my nice china tea cups!" She fed her only the crumbs and leftovers after the family had finished eating, "She can't taste anything anyway, and she certainly doesn't work hard enough to need much food!"

In the evening when the fire was burning, the wife sat close to her husband before the fire, in a comfortable rocking chair, while her mother-in-law sat in her cold, dark corner alone. The wife spoke softly to her husband about the day's events, and if the old woman asked a question about what was being said, she shouted, "Don't bother us! You can't hear anything anyway!"

The little girl played with her toys on the hearth, but her ears were open and there were eyes on the back of her head.

One day the wife noticed her daughter playing with her dolls. She paused from the bread she was kneading and listened as the little girl made a pretend conversation among them. "Over there, grandmother! Go over there and get out of my way!... Oh, please excuse me, could I have a drink of water, please?.... No! I'm too busy!"

The wife furrowed her brow and went on with her bread.

Later that same day, the little girl climbed up into her mother's beautiful rocking chair by the fire. She rocked back and forth and smiled brightly, humming a tune. "What are you doing there, my child?" her mother asked her.

"Oh, I'm just thinking about when I am the mother and I get to sit in this nice chair by the fire, and you are the old grandmother on the tipsy stool in the corner."

That evening the wife gave up her place in front of the fire to the grandmother, inviting her to sit in the rocking chair. She even gave her a pillow to sit on. And she let her have the first helping of each recipe she had made for supper, served on the very prettiest of her dishes.

This woman learned a lesson that was to her own advantage. If we would obey God's commands concerning the aged, we would not only guarantee better treatment for ourselves when we are old, we would have the opportunity to learn from the wisdom of the aged, a resource God has given us that we largely ignore.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Some scripture for the day

This is called an "angel face" rose. I like that name.

Today I am just going to publish a montage of Bible verses that comfort me when I get all worried about the state of the world.

The way of the Lord is a refuge for the righteous,
but it is the ruin of those who do evil.
Proverbs 10:29

Come and see what the Lord has done, how awesome His works in man's behalf!
Psalm 66:5

He rules forever by His power, His eyes watch the nations--let not the rebellious rise up against Him.
Psalm 66:7

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance. From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from His dwelling place He watches all who live on earth-- He who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.
No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.
We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name.
May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in You.
Psalm 33:12-22

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Verse of the day--Leviticus 15:19

This is a picture of a peony. It is pink, pouffy, pretty, and incredibly girlie. I picked it because: (1) God made it grow in my yard, and (2) today's post is very girlie.

Just so you know, I am reading through the Bible, and I am in Leviticus right now (you may have noticed that a few entries back). Often I will choose a verse of the day from where I am reading, and today it comes from Leviticus:

When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening.
Leviticus 15:19

If you go on to read the following verses, you find that anything this woman lies on or sits on or touches will be considered unclean, and anyone who touches her will be unclean. If a man approaches her for sex, he will be unclean for seven whole days.

Do you see what this means? Where has this law been all my life?

"Unclean" means that she has total reprieve from household duties for the seven days she is bleeding. As in, why would she clean if everything she touches becomes unclean? That means no cleaning and no laundry! Are you getting the idea? She can't cook for others, because everything her hands touch is unclean.

Do you see the beauty, the absolute wonderful marvel of God's Law? He says: leave the woman alone, for goodness sake, while she isn't feeling well. Stay away from her and give her a break from her daily routine.

If we followed God's Law in this, I'll bet there would be almost no PMS. I think PMS comes from trying to act normal when you don't feel normal, an unnatural strain that God never asked us to undergo.

Also, there is no condemnation for this uncleanness. The woman didn't have to offer any sin sacrifices at the end of her seven days or anything like that. All she had to do was rest a week, then wash and get back to business. I could be so happy to live under this system...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Verse of the day--Lamentations 3:24

Along with Bible verses, I am publishing some pictures of things that God is making grow in my yard! Every spring and summer, when things start to grow, the grace of God amazes me all over again. I am about the worst gardener in the world, and yet God brings me things like this columbine, right in my very own yard.

Our verse...

I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him."
Lamentations 3:24

The Lord is my portion. The LORD is my portion.

I think this means when everything is divided up in the end, and the final reckoning is passed out, and we all get what we have coming... I get THE LORD.

This is a most wonderful and encouraging thought. The treasure that surpasses all treasures is mine. Jesus is mine. MINE!

Have you ever sat at dinner with your family and passed around, say, a lovely casserole of macaroni and cheese, and there was one particularly beautiful, mouthwatering corner with perfectly golden browned cheese on the top, and you hoped and hoped for that portion? Or have you hoped for the middle piece of cake? The biggest strawberry? The pinkest, juiciest steak?

At a potluck dinner, you never know what your portion is going to be. But when you belong to Jesus, He is your portion.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 73:26

(OK, that was 2 for the price of 1--what a bargain!)

Saturday, June 6, 2009


This blog will be officially unattended on the weekends. I will not be posting or moderating the blog on Saturdays or Sundays. Feel free to peruse old entries you may have missed, and leave any comments you feel led to leave. I'll be back on Monday!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Scripture Passage of the Day

Oh God, You are my God,
earnestly I seek You;
my soul thirsts for You,
my body longs for You,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.

I have seen You in the sanctuary
and beheld Your power and Your glory.
Because Your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify You.
I will praise You as long as I live,
and in Your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise You.

Psalm 63:1-5

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Verse of the day--Leviticus 3:17

I had trouble picking a verse of the day today.

My reading was Leviticus 3-6. I was hoping to find a verse of the day in my Proverbs or my Psalms, but nothing jumped out. So I guess this is it:

"This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live: you must not eat any fat or any blood."
Leviticus 3:17

Admittedly, in reading about the sacrifices, I was not thinking deeply about the significance of each directive. I just read about them, and a couple of things jumped out at me.

(1) The parts of the animals that were set aside for God included the fat, the backbone, the tail portion, the kidneys along with the fat connected to them, and the liver and something called "its covering".

This does not appear to me to be the prime edible part of the animal. It reminds me of my grandma, my father's mother. During the Great Depression, she had her family convinced that her favorite part of the chicken was the wings, and she encouraged them always to set a wing aside for her. This, while making sure that her husband and children were fed the choice breast pieces and the meaty thighs and drumsticks.

I'm not completely sure, but it looks to me as though God commanded His people to give Him the portions that were not particularly good and healthy for humans, reserving the prime protein-packed servings for His people to eat. Something to think about...

(2) There was blood everywhere. After reading (in Exodus) about all the labor and attention to detail that went into making the Tabernacle and setting up God's dwelling, it seems odd to me the way they threw blood around everywhere while they sacrificed... God commanded them to sprinkle blood on all the sides of the altar, to pour blood out at the base of the altar, to take a finger and apply blood to the horns of the altar (and depending on the sacrifice, this could be the horns of the brass altar of sacrifice, or the horns of the golden altar of incense inside the Tabernacle).

Does this bother anyone besides me? There is a place where it gives instructions for cleaning blood that has been splattered on the priestly robes, but other than that, there are no cleaning instructions that I see. The Israelites donated their best gold, silver and brass and their purple, blue and scarlet thread, along with many other treasures. They spent time and care crafting the dwelling place of God exactly according to His instructions. And then they proceeded to muck it all up with blood.

Did all this blood dry into a sort of patina? Did it flake? Did it smell bad? Over days and weeks and months and years of sacrifice, there must have been tons of blood poured out at the base of the altar. Did it fertilize the ground? Did flowers grow?

I really cannot conceptualize this. We have our nice, tidy studies on the Tabernacle and we talk about the significance of the number of golden rings or the beauty of the weaving or the tinkling of the bells sewn along the hem of the high priest's gown. But if you were transported back in time to where you could walk into the courts of the Tabernacle, I think the thing that might overwhelm you most would be the shear volume of blood, and the cry of animals as they were slaughtered while sinners in need of forgiveness held their hands on the animals' heads.

It seems to me that God went to great lengths to demonstrate that blood must be shed in order for us to gain entrance into His presence. (Hebrews 9:22--without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins) How many nearly countless bulls, rams, sheep and goats were burned on the altar, their blood poured, sprinkled and smeared according to a myriad of instructions?

Hebrews 10:4 says, " is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." But what it was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to do, the blood of Jesus did, perfectly and completely. No more sacrifices will ever be needed, now that the blood of the precious Lamb of God has taken away the sin of the world.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Verse of the day--Proverbs 10:18

"He who conceals his hatred has lying lips,
and whoever spreads slander is a fool."
Proverbs 10:18

This is an interesting proverb. It seems like a catch-22... if you conceal your hatred, you're a liar. But, on the other hand, if you go around talking about how much you hate someone, you are a fool. What should you do?

Well, obviously, you should not hate people (Matthew 5:21-23). It's a heart issue, and we need to have hearts of love. Where do you get a heart of love? How can you love difficult people who drive you crazy? Only by the grace of Jesus and the power of His Holy Spirit who lives in God's children (1 John 2:3-6).

This proverb presents an impossible situation. If we search for the answer, we find that we need a miracle, we need Jesus, the Maker of new hearts.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Verse of the Day--Psalm 57:1-2a

Have mercy on me, O God have mercy on me,
for in You my soul takes refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings
until the disaster has passed.
I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills His purpose for me.
Psalm 57:1-2a

Last fall and into the Christmas season, we memorized Psalm 57:1 in Bible study. It speaks for itself with little need of any explanation. God is our protector and refuge in time of disaster. I am so thankful to have Him.

This morning I added Psalm 57:2a because I think it is significant to remember that God has a purpose for each of His children, and He will fulfill it. We never have to fear that God will fail, because God absolutely never will fail. His purposes will be accomplished. Knowing that this is truth, we can be sustained in even the most terrible times, the bitterest disappointments, the most painful illnesses, the most frightening circumstances.

God is in control. His purposes will be accomplished. We, His children, can huddle in the shelter of His wings and wait out the storm. The disaster will pass, and when it does, God will still be God, and those of us who are in Him will still be alive and well.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Verse of the Day--Exodus 33:14

The Lord replied, "My Presence will go with you and I will give you rest." Exodus 33:14

Yesterday was Sunday, and a very busy Sunday it was. Actually, the busyness started on Saturday, with a Youth Choir "retreat" to a local amusement park for the day. On Sunday, the "retreat" turned into a "tour" and Jonathan needed to be at church extra early to travel to another church where he and his friends were to perform a concert.

I got Jon all delivered, and settled in to teach my Sunday school class of third and fourth grade students. After Sunday school the girls and I met up to attend the Cove service, a smaller, slightly quieter service that our church offers as an alternative to the main service. However, Shawn and David were on tap to play instruments in the main service, and Shawn was singing special music in the main service with his men's acapella group, "Theophonics."

Laura is in Youth Choir, too, but she was unable to go on the touring part of the tour. She and Shannon teach Sunday school to three-year-olds. Also, she and David had a school commitment after church to play in a concert at their high school. So they had to slip out of church as soon as the sermon was finished, skipping the closing song, and hurry over to school.

Laura and David also got an early release from the school concert, because they had a piano recital at 4:00 p.m. They detoured home to change their clothes, and the rest of us (minus Jon, who was on tour) actually arrived at the recital before they did.

After the piano recital, we all hurried back to our church where we met up with Jon, Laura changed her clothes one more time, and the Youth Choir finished their tour with a concert at home, this time with Laura in amongst the sopranos.

By the time I got home I was exhausted. I was so tired, I threw my back out sleeping last night.

This morning my Bible reading included Exodus 31-34. Exodus 31:12-17 is an exhortation to rest on the Sabbath. I was humbled and convicted at how busy I had allowed myself to become over the weekend, and particularly on Sunday. I know that this busyness is not good for my body or my spirit. God wants us to rest. He commands us to rest. Why can we (I) not remember that His commands come from a heart of love, and that they are good for us? (Deuteronomy 10:13)

Often our busyness becomes a point of pride in our lives. "How are you doing?" someone asks. And we respond with a self-satisfied sigh of pretend aggravation, "Oh, I'm so busy!" It is a quasi complaint; really, we feel validated that with such busyness in our lives, so much we are obliged to do, we must be very significant people indeed.

How beautiful that God's promise is, "My Presence will go with you and I will give you rest." He did not say that He would provide us with a long list of important jobs and social engagements; He said He would give us rest. And this original statement was made to the Israelites after they had sinned by making the golden calf, but now were coming back to the Lord, begging Him to be their leader and not to send them into the Promised Land without His presence. Grace all the way.

It is not only an Old Testament promise, either. Jesus said, "Come to Me , all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus is never in a hurry, never out of breath, never cross because He has overscheduled Himself, never stressed. As we seek to grow in His likeness, let us remember to try to humble ourselves to a simple life and learn to rest in Him. Let us honor the Sabbath. He is perfectly capable of holding our lives together when we do.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Verse of the Day-- Exodus 30:25

"Make these into a sacred annointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred annointing oil." Exodus 30:25

As God lays out the precepts and procedures for Tabernacle worship, He fully engages all of the human senses. The preceding verses in Exodus 30 list an exact recipe for the sacred annointing oil, which was comprised of myrrh, fragrant cinnamon, fragrant cane, cassia and olive oil. It must have had a very distinctive aroma.

I make preparations from essential oils. The scents come in tiny bottles of essential oil, and I mix them by drops in "carrier" oils which are predominantly unscented, or very lightly scented. I can custom make moisturizers, preparations to treat various skin conditions, and facial products. I have a small cardboard box in my closet where I store all my essential oil materials, and it smells so nice!

Reading the recipe for sacred annointing oil makes me want to go online and order the ingredients to try it out and see what it was like.

However, God's Law goes on to warn against casual usage of the sacred annointing oil... "Anoint Aaron and his sons [the holy priesthood chosen by God] and consecrate them so they may serve me as priests. Say to the Israelites, 'This is to be my sacred annointing oil for the generations to come. Do not pour it on men's bodies and do not make any oil with the sacred formula. It is sacred, and you are to consider it sacred. Whoever makes perfume like it and whoever puts it on anyone other than a priest must be cut off from his people.'" (Exodus 30:30-33)

I'm pretty sure "cut off from his people" means put to death, but even if it just means that he would be banished forever, it is a pretty harsh consequence for stealing a perfume recipe. Or is it?

The issue is what is sacred. There have been many discussions about the sacred and the profane. Sacred things are holy, set apart, things of God. Profane things are common, earthy, and sometimes sinful. The books of the Law show God making clear delineations between the two and keeping them separate.

Under grace, we who belong to Jesus are sacred, because we have His Holy Spirit inside of us. Everything we do should have that sacred aroma of His presence about it. 1 Corinthians 6:19 reminds us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit who is in us because we have received Him from God.

Sometimes we take for granted the incredible blessing God has bestowed on us in granting us this sacred standing. Sometimes as we live in this physical, material world, we feel that to be set apart and holy is too hard and we blur the line between the sacred and profane, assuming (wrongly) that since we are sacred, anything we do is therefore sacred by association. Sometimes we actually stop living like God's children and seek instead to emulate the world. I don't expect that this is particularly pleasing to Him.

Under grace, rather than being required to obey an impossible system of laws, we are filled with the Holy Spirit who enables us to love God, love God's Word, and love God's ways. Ultimately this begets Spirit fruit in our lives (Galatians 5:22), and we start to act like Jesus, and eventually even look like Him (see Ephesians 4:17-32, Colossians 3:1-17, 2 Peter 1:3-11).

Then, when we come before God, we not only look and sound beautiful in our actions and our words... we even smell beautiful. His sacred annointing is poured out on us (2 Corinthians 1:21--He anointed us), and we are perfumed with the glorious scent of His grace.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Verse of the Day...Exodus 27:21

In the Tent of Meeting, outside the curtain that is in front of the Testimony, Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the Lord from evening till morning. This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come.
Exodus 27:21

The Tent of Meeting is also known as the Tabernacle, God's dwelling place. God gave precise instructions to Moses for how this dwelling place was to be built (Exodus 25-30). Scripture records in detail how explicitly the Israelites followed God's instructions (Exodus 35-39). God's promise throughout was this: "Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them." Exodus 25:8

Besides the Tent of Meeting, this verse refers to the Testimony. That is the Testimony of God, God's Word, otherwise known as the Commandments of God, which Moses received on the mountain, on tablets of stone. These stone tablets were stored in the Ark of the Covenant, in the Holy of Holies, in the deepest room of the Tabernacle, the place where God dwelt.

When I read about the Tabernacle, I am always struck by how the beauty God asked them to craft was hidden under layers and layers of coverings. The golden Ark of the Covenant was hidden in the innermost part of the Tabernacle, and was not to be seen by anyone except the High Priest, and even he only approached it once a year.

This hiding away speaks to me of humility. We are not to flaunt our blessings, but to keep them quietly in our hearts and treasure them. When Mary gave birth to Jesus, she did not go around boasting. She did not say, "I am the mother of God, and angels sang at his birth!" No! Luke tells us, "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:19)

This hiding away also speaks to me of prudence. God is holy and wonderful. Matthew 7:6 says, "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces." We are to guard the things of the Lord with reverence and awe.

But today's verse tells of a light in the hidden place, a light that was kept burning all night, every night, so that the testimony of God would never be in the dark. You can read about the beautiful lampstand that kept the interior of the tabernacle lit (Exodus 25:31-40). This light was a witness that God is real, that He is alive, and that He desires to show Himself to us.

God showed Himself to us through Jesus, His Son.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made. Without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it." (John 1:1-5)

"When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'" (John 8:12)

Jesus is the light of the world, but we are to emulate Him, to be conformed to His image (Romans 8:29). That must be why Matthew tells us Jesus said, "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden." (Matthew 5:14)

We must burn with holy passion for Jesus, so that the world will see and wonder and long for God. This is our witness, not that we shout in people's faces, but that we dwell in God's presence and, like Moses, emerge with a glowing face (Exodus 34:29-35).

Do you remember the old children's song...

Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning,
Give me oil in my lamp I pray,
Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning,
Keep me burning till the break of day.

May we have a lasting passion for Jesus that never goes out.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


I'm finding that I need a little accountability.

I'm out of a routine right now, and my Bible study habits are starting to show it. This blog is to help me, and anyone who wants to travel the road with me, to keep accountable with a daily quiet time with the Lord.

Each day, I will try to publish a verse of the day (VOTD). It will be taken from my daily Bible reading. Some days I will write out my thoughts on it, other days I may just type it out and leave it at that.

Today's verse of the day is Psalm 50:12, where God says, "If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it." This verse fills me with confidence in the all-sufficiency of the Lord. He does not need us to solve His problems! On the contrary, we need Him to solve ours... which He does with wisdom and grace beyond our imaginations (and sometimes beyond our understanding).

God can handle anything. And He loves us, so we can follow Peter's instructions: "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7)