Saturday, July 30, 2011

Memory Verse #15

2 Timothy 2:24

"A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people."

This is my new memory verse!  2 Timothy is a letter written by Paul to Timothy.  Paul is instructing and mentoring Timothy about godly leadership.  Not all of us are pastors, but we may find ourselves in leadership at our local churches or maybe our workplaces or neighborhoods.  As a ministry assistant for small groups and outreach at our church, I hear the stories of the people who have felt God calling them to reach out to their neighborhood by starting a small group of their neighbors.  That is leadership whether or not we want to recognize it.  Either way, if we all examined our lives, we would see that God placed us somewhere where we are to shine as godly examples to others.

The first thing mentioned in this verse is to not quarrel.  This is mentioned a few times in 2 Timothy 2 and Paul is warning against the idea of arguing over words.  He later says not to get involved in ignorant arguments that only start fights - kind of like making a mountain of a molehill.  Is it really worth causing possible division among each other over little things?  Sometimes you have to consider things and weigh out if it is a battle worth fighting.  Paul instead gives Timothy instruction of what is expected from a servant of God.

A servant of God must be kind to everyone - not most people, but everyone.  Another thing is that the servant of God must be able to teach.  Not everyone is a great teacher; however, we should all know what we believe and why we believe it.  We are not all going to be the next Billy Graham, but we can all teach others what we have learned.  God can and will use anyone to teach both the life-long Christian and the new Christian.  I noticed that the last part of this verse is different in the NLV from the NIV, so I looked it up and saw that it is the word anexikakos and it means to be patient when someone has wronged you.  That is certainly difficult to do, especially the deeper the wound is.  But this is also what God wants because it is in the times when we show patience that we shine as lights to the world.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Hesitation

2 Peter 2:6-9

My husband and I have moved quite a bit in our marriage.  When my husband was a music teacher, some of our moves were forced on us because he didn't have tenure in the school district and budget cuts forced him out of a job.  When my husband went into ministry, we have had moves where we knew God was sending us to a new place.  I have to admit that there were times when we were in ministry when I was comfortable where we were and was willing to obey and go, but I wasn't necessarily happy about it.  In every move, I saw that God was with us in every change and had called us to a new place.  It was in moving forward when He said to "go" that we got to experience God in a new way and were blessed unexpectantly.  Moving wasn't always easy and sometimes painful; however, we have always been able to see the good that God had planned for our lives after following Him in obedience.  We have always grown as a result of following God, but sometimes He was rescuing us from potentially bad situations.  Please turn to 2 Peter 2:6-9.

Yesterday, I looked at the example Peter wrote about Noah, and today I am looking at part of Lot's story when he lived in Sodom.  Please turn to Genesis 19:1-30 to read the story that Peter is referencing.  There are a couple of things that have stood out to me as I have read both sections of scripture.  The first is that  Peter points out in 2 Peter that Lot was tormented by the wickedness of the place he was living in and that God rescued him.  The interesting thing is that even though Lot was tormented, he continued to live there because it was home.  When reading the account in Genesis 19, I noticed that even though Lot hesitated God literally pulled him out of the city by the hand in order to rescue Lot.  It reminds me that when God wants us to move, it is for our good.  He either wants to take us to a place of greater growth or He is saving us from a bad situation.  It is interesting to see that Lot hesitated even though he knew that God was going to destroy the place because it was his home.  We can be in a bad situation, but because it is familiar to us we can be hesitant to leave.

One more thing that I noticed is that God wanted Lot to go to flee to the mountains and Lot asked God to allow him to go to Zoar.  God allowed him to go there; however, Lot eventually ended up in the mountains anyway because he was afraid of the environment of Zoar.  Lot was sure that the little village would be better for his family than the mountains, but he learned that the mountains were best.  We can think we know what is better when God tells us to do something, but God always knows what is best.

Whether or not we are ready, Peter reminds us that God knows how to rescue those who follow Him from their trials.  No matter what is going on around us because of man's disobedience, God is with us.  We have personally experienced God's protection when in a bad environment.  Even though the environment was oppressive and at times harmful, we can look back and see God's hand of protection during that time and also how He pulled us out and took us to a new place.

Are you willing to trust God's protection?  Are you willing to let go of what you think is best in order to obey and go where God is leading you?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Who Do You Follow?

2 Peter 2:4-5

Noah was a man in an unusual position.  We are told in Genesis that he was a righteous man - the only blameless man on the earth.  When God saw how wicked the rest of the world had become, He was both angry and hurt.  He couldn't tolerate the violence that His creation was doing, but He saw that He had one man who spent time with Him and walked in the way that God wanted him to walk.  Because of this, God told Noah that He was going to destroy the creation with a flood but He would spare Noah and his family.  God gave Noah specific instructions to build an ark and to fill the ark with two of every animal.  Noah did everything God asked him to do.  The full account of Noah starts in Genesis 6:9 - Genesis 8.  Peter mentions the destruction that humans brought to themselves in the ancient days of Noah.  Please turn to 2 Peter 2:4-5.

Peter reminds us how Noah and his family were the only people spared in his day.  When looking up and reading the story of Noah, we see that Noah was spared because he spent time with God and was found to be blameless.  Noah honored God in his actions and attitude despite what was happening in the world around him.  We have all been in a place where we felt like we were the only ones doing the right thing and wondered if it really mattered.  In those situations, it is far too easy to ask yourself, "If no one else is doing what is right, who really cares if I do what is right?"  The problem with that thinking is that we forget who made us and who loves us so deeply that He sacrificed greatly to buy us back.  What we do matters to God.

Now that I have a child going into high school, I am remembering the sometimes overwhelming peer pressure that I faced in high school.  I remember so desperately wanting to fit in, yet I also knew that because I needed to make the right choices it would immediately cause me to stand out.  I think of the tremendous pressure that Noah must have felt while He was being obedient to God and building the ark.  He must have stood out quite a bit building a large boat in the middle of the desert because there was going to be a flood.  Noah knew that he could trust God and chose to obey Him.  We can trust God as well because He will help us deal with the pressures we face when we are going against the grain.  We are told in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that we do not face temptations that no one else has ever faced and that God would always provide a way out of our temptations.

No matter where we are, it doesn't matter what other people are doing - it matters what we are doing as individuals.  God is watching us and reading our hearts and is desiring a relationship with us.  Don't follow the crowd; follow God.  Following God may mean traveling a different road than what our friends and family are traveling, but it will mean eternal life.

Are you following the crowd or God?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Judgement

2 Peter 2:1-3

Those of you who are parents can relate to the concerns we have with our children's friends.  We want our children to make good choices with their friends so they continue to make good life choices.  Because we have life experience, we understand how much influence a friend (especially in high school) can have on our children.  God gives us similar warnings about who's influence we should allow in our lives.  I feel like 2 Peter 2 is a chapter of warnings for those of us who know God to stay away from the false prophets and false teachers.  I also feel it is a warning for those who are turning those astray because of their own greed for power and money. Please look up 2 Peter 2:1-3.

The last part of verse three says, "But God condemned them long ago and their destruction will not be delayed."  The people who are being condemned in this section of scripture are those who purposely deny God and lead others astray just so they can gain.  We see that God doesn't tolerate that.  Jude 1:4 warns of such people, "I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ."  As I was looking through Jude 1, I was struck by how similar the words are in 2 Peter 2.  I have learned that when God has made a point to have something repeated in the Bible, it is something important that He is stressing.  There are those who will come to tell you that you can live however you want because you have received God's grace; however, as we read in chapter 1 God wants His grace to be a life changing catalyst.  Do not follow people who teach different from what the Bible says, they are living a condemned life and will take you with them.

The other point that came out at me is the phrase, "...even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them."  These are people who once knew the grace that was offered to them and decided to turn their backs on Him; Christ bought them with His blood.  I think this is why the judgement is harsh on them, they knew Christ and still have chosen to teach and lead others astray.  The other thing that has stuck out at me is the fact that these people are teachers.  James 3:1 says, "Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly."  I just think of how it must hurt and anger God that those who are in a position to teach good things instead teach destruction.  We see that those who are in a position to teach others are judged more strictly because they are to be examples of how we should be living.

Their judgement is harsh, and we are not to follow them.  Get to know the Word of God so you will not follow in their footsteps!  That may sound dramatic; however, remember that Peter warns that many will follow them and Christ has spoken similar words as well.  I studied the Armor of God before beginning this study and this reminds me all the more how important it is to put on the belt of truth - we need to be able to understand the truth so we can recognize false teaching.

Are you spending time becoming familiar with God's truth?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Destructive Path

2 Peter 2:1-3

My husband and I once had an opportunity to see the great dinosaur bones of "Sue," the largest T-Rex remains ever found.  While we were at the museum displaying Sue, we had an opportunity to listen to a lecture by a paleontologist explaining the study of dinosaurs.  It was interesting to listen to the paleontologist explain that for many years they had taught how the T-Rex stood incorrectly.  The incorrect teaching was happening when I was in school because they taught that the T-Rex stood erect; almost perpendicular to the surface.  This was incorrect because the bone structure in the tail would be buried in the ground if they stood that way.  The paleontologist explained that since they had no good explanation, they curved the tail of the T-Rex to make it work.  Years later, they change the way the T-Rex stood to what they believe is correct because it works with its bone structure.  So now, if you look at pictures of the T-Rex you will see that they stand almost parallel with the ground.  It amazed me to think that they knew that they were teaching incorrect information about the T-Rex but continued on anyway.  While this is not nearly as dangerous as false teaching about God, it shows that purposeful false teaching exists.  Please look up 2 Peter 2:1-3.

Peter warns of the false prophets and teachers that will cleverly or secretly teach false doctrines - but he words it very strongly and tells us that these teaching will be destructive.  The Greek work for destructive is apōleia, which means perishing, ruin, destruction - "a destruction that consists of eternal misery in hell," (please see footnote 1.).  This is the same word that Christ used in Matthew 7:13-14 to describe the two choices that every person has.  Jesus says, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.  Just as Peter warns that many will follow the false teachers' direction, Jesus warns that many will follow the way to destruction.

The narrow gate requires discipline and increasing our knowledge of who God is and to allow Him to change us into the person He wants us to be.  The narrow gate seems dull and boring and too difficult; however, once you begin to follow the path that leads to the narrow gate you find that your burdens are lifted because you can give them to God and begin to depend more on Him every day.  That doesn't mean we will not face difficulties in life, it just means that God is with us through them and He will hold us through those times.  The narrow gate leads to eternal life.  The wide gate sounds fun and exciting because we can do whatever we want; however, the road that leads to it is destruction.  When we do whatever pleases ourselves, we also find ourselves slowly destroying our dreams.  We need to ask God for the discernment to know the difference between truth and false teaching.  We need to be in the Bible daily to be more familiar with what God says so we can compare what is being taught with what is in the Bible.

Are you on the road to destruction or the road to eternal life?  What are you doing to discern the difference between truth and false teaching?


1. Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for apōleia (Strong's 684)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 25 Jul 2011. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?
Strongs=G684&t=NLT >

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Dangerous Path

2 Peter 2

As I was getting ready to write this post, my family was watching Dateline on NBC where they were exposing internet scams artists who had stolen $200,000 from a woman.  It was amazing to see how far they were willing to go to continue collecting money from her and the convincing lies they told her.  They produced false documents that looked official to show her that their story was real.  There are those who prey on people using religion to convince them that their way is best.  This next chapter in 2 Peter gives a description of what these people are like and how they try to deceive.  Please read through the entire chapter of 2 Peter 2 so you can get a big picture of what Peter is saying to us.

The first question that I want to ask is what does this section of scripture tell us about God?  Verses 3 through 10 tell us that God does not tolerate wickedness - even from the angels who have sinned.  God will bring destruction on those who sin against him and lead others astray.  But, we also see that God will also rescue godly people from their trials.

The next question I want to ask is who is Peter warning us about?  We see that Peter is warning us about false teachers and false prophets.  We are told that they will deny the truth of God and will make up lies just to get your money.  We are told that they are arrogant.  We have seen modern day examples of those who will use religion to cheat and steal from others and lead them away from God.  Maybe they preach what sounds like truth because they mix a bit of truth with their lies; however, God's teaching is all truth and their path is dangerous.  Remember Peter made a point in chapter one to tell us of his credibility in what he preached and wrote about.

The last question I will as today is what does this mean for us?  Peter writes how convincing their lies and deceptions are, and that means all the more the importance that we are grounded in the truth.  It is important that we can weigh out what we hear from others and see if it balances with what we read in the Bible.  If they do not match, stay away.  That path will only lead to destruction and 2 Peter 2 describes a terrible end to the path of destruction.

Are you spending quality time in God's Word so you can be trained to recognize truth?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What Does Shakespeare Have To Do With Christ?

I love how God can provide encouragement right when we need it!  Friday's post, A Princess For A Day, was about how God used a day in my daughter's life to show me the unfair way people are treated in this world.  I ended the post with the idea that we who know Christ have a responsibility to share the hope we have in Christ with the world.  Today God reminded me how He is using people every day to reach out to those who are hurting greatly and have been believing the message that they are worthless.

Peace of the City (POTC) in Buffalo, NY is a Christian ministry that reaches out to children and teens on the West Side of Buffalo.  POTC uses literacy, arts, advocacy, and transformation to reach out to the families in their neighborhood.  While they are helping families through homework clubs and the arts, they are also sharing the love of Christ with them and giving them hope.  Today, I had the opportunity to see some of the students who participate at POTC perform "A Midsummer Night's Dream" by Shakespeare.  It was great to see the kids not only having an opportunity to learn and understand Shakespeare, but they had a moment to shine.

These are kids who do not have an opportunity at school to see or perform Shakespeare because their school budget doesn't allow for such "frills."  These are kids who have little opportunity for recognition otherwise.  These are beautiful, talented kids who deserve the same opportunities that my children receive, but do not.  But where there is little hope, God is great.  God is using the staff and volunteers at POTC to show His love for these kids.  I went to see them perform, and I saw hope.  I saw kids get recognition and praise for their hard work and shine in their moment in the spotlight.  I saw kids who were receiving the message that if they could learn Shakespeare, just imagine what else they could do!  I saw kids who were learning to hear the message that if they are in a relationship where they are not being treated as God intended for them to be treated it was okay to walk away from that relationship.

Just today, I was having a conversation with a friend who gave me permission to share this.  She was sharing how she struggled with how her boyfriend was treating her.  She had never had anyone in her life give her the loving attention that she was receiving from him.  She explained that she struggled with the fact that he treated her like a princess and she didn't feel like she deserved it.  But in his love for her he told her she deserved every bit of attention and love he gave and that God loved her even more.  He is so right!  God loves us more than we can even comprehend.  Ephesians 3:18-19 says, "And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is.  And my you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.  Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God." (NLT).

So what does Shakespeare have to do with Christ?  The connection is that God can use anything for His purpose to reach out to us.  POTC is using Shakespeare to reach out to kids to share with them that they are special.  But not just special because they can understand and perform Shakespeare; they are special because God loves them deeply.  They can learn to believe that they are who God says they are and not listen to the messages that this world gives them.  Thank you, POTC for allowing God to use you to reach out to those He loves so dearly!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Princess For a Day

Since I had already posted one post last week for week 3, I thought I'd even out the weeks again by posting a "Simple Saturday" post today.  Thanks to my husband's wonderful parents, our family got to go to Disney World in Florida with the rest of my husband's family, which is part of the reason that my weeks got a bit messed up.  This was my first visit to Disney, so it was quite an experience and I have to say that when they say it is "magical" in the commercials they are not exaggerating.  Disney has created an escape where families as a whole (not just the kids or just the parents) can enjoy every experience.  One of the wonderful things that my daughter experienced was the Bibbidy Bobbidy Boutique in Downtown Disney.

My daughter's aunt and uncle treated her to a princess makeover at the boutique where she had her hair, makeup and nails done by a Fairy Godmother.  It was so much fun watching her get treated with so much attention and care and being told that she was special.  She sat in the chair and had her French braid taken out carefully as she was being complemented on her pretty hair and nails.  Her fairy Godmother let her pick out a hairdo and began to work on it with much care.  Another Fairy Godmother came over to work on her nails and makeup and asked her what colors she would like to wear.  Her picture was taken by the "royal photographer" the entire time she was in the chair.  She even had a tiara put on her head to wear with her fancy hairdo and had "pixie dust" sprinkled in her hair.  It was absolutely precious to watch her feel special and be treated with such care.  For the rest of the day, whenever a Disney employee saw her they would address her as "princess" - even as we were getting off the elevator back at the resort!  It was a magical time in the boutique and in the park that day!

Then we returned home to our reality and went to church.  In church, our pastor showed a picture of two precious little girls who were dirty, alone, and living under a bridge somewhere in India.  They were clinging to each other because that was all they had.  He put the word "worthless" up on the screen over their picture and explained that in India they were considered worthless.  Worthless because they were girls; worthless because their parents didn't want them.  God's precious creation was being given the message that they were unimportant and unlovable.  It broke my heart to see such an incredible contrast and it was all I could do to keep myself from bursting out in tears.  Those little girls are just as precious and special as my little girl and they should have a chance to have their hair done up pretty and wear a tiara and be called princess all day.  The unfairness of it all shook me to the core.

I want to take them in my arms and tell them how I am a princess of the King of Kings and that they are not worthless.  I desperately want them to know how valued and loved they are by God and that they can be His little princesses too.  I want them to know that the hope we have in Christ is better than anything this world has to offer.  I want them to feel loved.

I do not begrudge my daughter's moment to be a princess for a day, in fact I am so happy that she got to experience that day.  I do mourn that many more girls do not get tucked in by their mom every evening because of this broken world we live in.  I mourn that even here in America, we have little girls that are abused, mistreated and told they are worthless.  We can not keep God to ourselves!  There is a hurting world that needs to know that there is so much more to this life than making it through the day.  There is a hurting world that needs to know that they are special to God.  Let us share the light that God has put in our hearts.  (2 Peter 1:19, Philippians 2:14-16)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Servants of the King

2 Peter 1

I remember studying Shakespeare in school and ripping it apart to understand what was being said.  When I put it all back together and watched it acted out  it had even greater meaning to me as a whole.  I want to look at the first chapter of 2 Peter after spending time looking at individual sections of it.  I have to admit that when I first started out my study on 2 Peter I did not expect to spend three weeks on chapter 1.  After three weeks, I feel like I have only scratched the surface; however, I also feel that I have learned so much.  It seems that the more I learn the more I realize that I have so much more to learn.  I have been so blessed by reading through this chapter and being reminded of the importance to add to our lives goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love.  These are qualities that need to grow in order for us to experience a freshness in our faith.  Please read through all of 2 Peter 1.

As I have looked back on what I wrote and what I read today of all of chapter 1, I am glad to do a review.  I began this study by asking what this section of scripture tells us about God and what it tells us about what we should do.  We learn in these verses that God is divine, fair, just, and generous.  In His incredible generosity, we receive grace and peace and everything we need to live a godly life.  We also read that God has called us to Him.  God has given us promises that enable us to share in His divine nature.  God wants to give us a rich welcome into His kingdom.  Christ is coming again and we know this because it is written by the prophets, who God spoke through as they were led by the Holy Spirit.

As I looked back on what we learned about ourselves in this chapter, I realized that I skimmed over the beginning.  I want to jump back to verse one where it says, "This letter is from Simon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ."  I looked up the word slave on BlueLetterBible to see what Peter was saying to us and I am so glad I did!  These are the definitions given for the word, doulos:  "a) a slave b) metaph., one who gives himself up to another's will those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men c) devoted to another to the disregard of one's own interests" (see 1 below).  To me, that seems stronger than a servant or slave because there is a willingness to give up one's own desires.  We willingly give up our human desires to serve our beautiful Savior.


So, I am putting together what this passage is saying to me about myself, I see that the message is that we do these things not because we are forced to, but because we want to serve Christ the best we can.  Our love for Him and our understanding of what He has done for us makes us realize that we get to serve Him not have to.  The difference is huge, and it is no wonder God wants to give those who continue following His direction a rich welcome into heaven.  We understand that it is an honor to be His servants and we give up everything of ourselves to serve Him.

What a great chapter to study!  I love God and I love the richness of His Word.  I love how He reminds us of things we have already learned and teaches us new things through the same Word.  I love the freshness of God every day.  I am so blessed to be His daughter and His servant.  What a privilege to serve the King!

Are you excited to be His servant?


1. Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for doulos (Strong's 1401)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 20 Jul 2011. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?
Strongs=G1401&t=NLT >

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Even Greater Confidence

2 Peter 1:19-21

There are certain things in life that you can learn a "book knowledge" about, but until you have experienced it, the knowledge has little value.  For example, when I studied music therapy I studied about the many developmental disabilities that exist and music therapy methods that work well with someone diagnosed with a particular developmental disability.  I learned it and thought I understood it well, but it wasn't until I had the opportunity to observe a music therapy session using those methods that I really began to understand the process of therapy.  When I finally had the opportunity to practice music therapy as a student and intern, my understanding and confidence in the various methods I was using grew.  Yesterday, I looked at how Peter wrote about Peter explaining his personal experience with Christ being revealed to him and how we each have reason that we follow Christ from our own personal experiences.  Today, I want to read the next section of scripture that explains how that personal experience gives us more confidence in our walk; please look up 2 Peter 1:19-21.

The phrase in the NIV "completely reliable" in verse 19 is the Greek word, bebaios.  This word means firm, steady, or fast; sure or trusty.  To me, "completely reliable" almost doesn't convey the strength of the fact that it is not going to change.  Peter begins this sentence after describing his experience on the mountain with Christ and how that has proven the reliability of the prophets' message.  Peter is also reminding us that we are to heed the words of the prophets because they are not their own words, they are the words that God gave them through the Holy Spirit.


The more time we spend with God and reading the Bible, the more we find the life and truth that His Word is.  When we read the Bible not merely as a book, but as the Word of God we find ourselves growing in our relationship with Him and see the importance to listen what He is telling us.  Because we have personally experienced God, we can see the reliability of the Bible.  God spoke through the prophets not only about Christ while He was on earth, but we have been given a picture of when He will return.  Remember why you were drawn to Him originally, and you will remember that He is life as is His Word.


Do you see and believe in the reliability of the prophets and all of scripture?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What Is Your Story?

2 Peter 1:16-18

My husband has a story about a sight he saw while on a road trip and I know him well enough to know that when he is telling the story he is telling the truth.  While he was driving on the freeway (I don't remember where) he was approaching an overpass and saw a motorcyclist on the overpass.  That doesn't sound too exciting except that the motorcyclist was not sitting on his motorcycle, he was STANDING on the motorcycle while it was driving down the road.  My husband says that it was so distracting that he almost got in a car accident because he couldn't believe what he was seeing.  He later found out that there was a police force that was known to do motorcycle tricks for parades and whatnot and he probably saw someone that was on that force.  Needless to say, it is so fun hearing him tell the story with all his passion and excitement because he knows what he saw and experienced and he loves sharing it with other people.  Please look up 2 Peter 1:16-18.

Peter is recalling a time when he and John and James witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus.  Please look up Matthew 17:1-9 to read what Peter is referring to.  Peter is explaining that it more than just stories that he is telling; he saw Christ with his very own eyes and heard the voice of God saying that He was His son.  Peter had great passion for what he was teaching because he knew that he was teaching truth and he wanted to see others come to know the truth as well.  For those of us who have a relationship with Christ, we also have a story that we can share to explain how we know that Christ is real.

I have never seen Christ face to face; however, I have experienced Him in very real ways on many occasions.  I have experienced His love in the way He has healed me and made me whole and I have experienced His amazing provision.  For example, my husband and I are currently experiencing tight finances because we have been unable to sell our home in another state since moving almost two years ago.  During that time we have been able to pay our bills even in months where it seemed that it would be impossible.  Somehow (I cannot always explain how) God stretched our dollars and made it work.  This summer, we were given a car at a time when we desperately needed one and we were given an incredible trip to Disney from my husband's parents that we would not have been able to do with our current finances.  God has not only provided our needs, but He has also provided fun.  This is only a small example of how I have experienced Christ.  Christ reveals Himself to us in ways that are very real to us and that is how we can share with others why we know that He is real.

How have you experienced Christ?  What drew you to Him?  What is your story with Christ?

Monday, July 18, 2011

After I'm Gone

2 Peter 1:12-15

Last fall, as I was preparing to go to Zambia, there were things that I had ready for my family in my absence.  I had a few meals ready for my husband and I had cleaned the house before leaving.  I also prepared the kids for the fact that I wouldn't be able to contact them regularly and that they would have to go several days before I could call.  I had things set up for my husband so he would know of any upcoming events for school such as open houses or parent/teacher conferences.  The verses I want to look at today gave a similar message to the church Peter was addressing.  He wanted to make sure that they would be prepared to continue growing in their walk with Christ even after he was gone.  Please look up 2 Peter 1:12-15.

Peter told the church he was addressing that even though they were already doing the things he listed earlier in the chapter, he would continue to remind them of these things as long as he lived.  His hope was that if he reminded them about how they should be living that they would remember even after he was gone.  Part of the human experience is that we will eventually die.  We may die unexpectedly or we may die from old age or a disease; either way, we will not always be here.  While we are here and are children of God, we have a responsibility to share God's love with others and to live out our faith.  This section of scripture makes me ask myself, "Do I live out my faith in a way that will continue to build into others even after I'm gone?"

I know that I can answer the question in regards to my family with a yes.  I try to model for my children what it means to have faith in God and to model the life He wants us to live.  When I look at my interactions with my neighbors, I find myself lacking.  Do I share the Good News with them so they can have the hope I have in Christ?  Do I show them in my interactions that God has made a difference in me so that they want what I have?  If I were to die today, would it matter to my neighbors?  I don't ask in a prideful way, I ask because if I am living the way God wants me to live in regards to my neighbors, it would matter to them if I were gone.

God has such gentle ways to remind us of areas He wants to see us grow and change, and today the idea of "after I am gone" has me thinking of the spiritual footprint I am leaving behind.  I am thankful that God is helping me to be a parent that is living a way that should remind my children to live as they should even after I am gone, but I realize that I need to step it up with my neighbors.  I want to leave a footprint that shows God's love and grace to all and not just my children.

How about you?  Are you living in a way with your family or neighbors that leaves them with an impression of who God is after you're gone?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Memory Verse #14

Romans 12:3

I'm sorry I was unable to post throughout the week!  My husband's wonderful parents gave everyone in their family a trip to Disney World in Florida, and we were thoroughly enjoying spending time and playing with the family!  It was great!  I honestly thought that I would have an opportunity to post, but not so!  Thank you for your patience.

I wanted to share what my current memory verse is (I can't believe it is number 14):

"Because of the privilege and authority given to me, I give you this warning:  Don't think you are better than you really are.  Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us."  Romans 12:3 (NLT).

I chose this verse prior to going on vacation, and I believe God knew I would need a reminder of not being prideful.  The reality is, anything I have been able to do is because of Christ.  My abilities are a gift from God and anything I have done that extends beyond my abilities are all God.  Christ is the One who gives me my strength to do what I need to do and it is good to remind myself of that truth.  So, I need to remember not to think too much of myself and give God all the praise.

Enjoy your weekend, and I will be back to my regular posting schedule next week!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Never Forget

2 Peter 1:5-11

I was able to afford to go to college because of scholarships and student loans and what I did not receive from those sources, I had to work to provide the rest.  I worked through high school as a waitress at a Greek restaurant and I worked in college as a computer lab attendant, and a front desk receptionist.  I also held the odds and ends of summer work such as secretary, grocery store cashier, and (my favorite) I planted flowers for a landscaping company that specialized in flower beds.  Sometimes this meant that I didn't have time to study or practice as much as I needed to or wanted to.  But I worked hard to make sure that I wasn't wasting both my time and money while I was in college and so that I would maximize an opportunity for higher education that I may never have again.  Because I worked so hard to get there, I never forgot and was always thankful to be able to go to school.  We should never forget the sacrifice Christ made for us so we could be saved; please look up 2 Peter 1:5-11.

Verse 8 tells us that if we possess the qualities listed in verses 5-7, we will keep ourselves from becoming ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of Christ Jesus.  Verse 9 tells us that whoever does not possess these qualities is "nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins."  These are very strong words and words that we seriously need to listen to carefully.  Just like I remembered the sacrifices I made to go to school and therefore poured a lot of effort into what I did, we are to remember the sacrifice Christ made for us.  This is not a condemning and guilt ridden memory of His sacrifice, this is a remembering that makes us grateful and we joyfully live in a way that honors God.  Remembering that Christ sacrificed so that we are free from sin keeps us from going back to our sin.

Verses 10-11 gives us the feeling of great importance that we are not to waste our time, but we are to make haste and do the things listed in verses 5-7 so that we will not stumble.  Reading through this, I feel a sense of urgency that these are the things that need to happen so that we will continue to live out our salvation.  It reminds me of music school in the fact that I had to audition to get in, but that did not make me free and clear.  If I slacked off and never practiced or did my homework, I could get kicked out of school.  It is as if Peter is saying, "Don't do anything that is going to cause you to stumble - keep working!  Keep going!  There is a reward at the end!"  Verse 11 reminds us of the great hope that we have at the end of this life - a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of Christ Jesus.  That keeps me going!  The thought of seeing my Savior face to face gives me the endurance to run this race.

Are you continuing to work on those qualities in increasing measure?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Love For All

2 Peter 1:5-8

As a mother, I enjoy watching my children play with each other.  It is also interesting to watch how their relationships with each other change as they grow older and develop new preferences.  For the most part, they get along really well and enjoy each other's company.  Yes, my children are normal and they definitely have their moments of arguing, but when push comes to shove, they love each other and they would do what it takes to protect each other.  There is a bond that they have because they know each other better than anyone else knows them.  It creates fun conversation for the whole family (and they also know how to tease each other very well).  But our family also knows other people and has friendships outside the family unit.  God uses family for us to understand how our relationships within the church body and outside the church are meant to be.  Please look up 2 Peter 1:5-8.

I am focusing on verse 7 today, and I have to admit that I was unsure what the difference between "mutual affection" and "love" was.  When I looked it up in Greek, it helped me understand a little more of what Peter was writing.  "Mutual affection," in Greek is philadelphia, which means brotherly love.  This is the love that is shared in the family for one another.  Hebrews 13:1 says, "Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters."  It is a reminder that our love for one another as a body of believers is different because we are now family.  This doesn't mean that we will always have the same ideas about how things should be done because God in His infinite creativity made us all different, but it does mean that we can respect each other and care for each other.  When we see someone in our family struggling, we come together to help and lift that person up.  When someone in our family is rejoicing, we all rejoice with them.  We are family when and we have a bond with one another that the world does not share.

The Greek word that Peter used for love is agapē, which means affection, love, benevolence, brotherly love and good will.  This word doesn't necessarily signify that it is only focused toward the family of believers, in fact, I think that Peter was talking about a general love that we were to show everyone - family or not.  This is the same word for love that is used in Romans 5:8, "But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners."  Ephesians 2:4-5 says, "But because of His great love for us God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ even though we were dead in our transgressions.  It is by grace you have been saved."  1 Thessalonians 3:12 says, "And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows."  This love has been modeled for us through Christ and shows that it is for everyone.  While we are to have a loving bond as a family, we are to love everyone.  After all, God loved us even while we were sinners.  This is the same love that is defined in 1 Corinthians 13.

Are you showing love to one another and to the world?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Godliness

2 Peter 1:6-7

When I was a child, my mother knew that she needed to get me in band because I loved music.  At the time I didn't know I loved music, I just sang non-stop.  When she asked me what instrument I wanted to play, I had no idea what different instruments looked like.  I knew what the flute sounded like, so picked the flute.  When my parents bought my flute, the salesman came to our house to bring me my new flute and opened the case.  I remember feeling so excited about getting my flute and being surprised to see it in three pieces.  I think back on that day and appreciate the time the salesman spent with me and showing me how to put my flute together and I am thankful for the excitement he built in me.  It started an obsession with music and the flute and shaped my career for my early adult life.  While I no longer play my flute every day, I still receive so much joy in playing it and I love worshiping God with my flute.  Just as playing the flute and my love for music shaped my career choices, godliness shapes who we become; please look up 2 Peter 1:6-7.

I enjoy learning new things, and this morning I learned something new!  When I looked up the Greek word for godliness, I learned that in this section of scripture it is a noun that means to have respect or reverence for God.  Vines describes it as being devout or having a Godward attitude.  I always looked at godliness to be how we behaved, but the reality is that godliness shapes how we behave.  Godliness is our attitude and respect toward God.  Just as my attitude and love for music shaped me into becoming a musician, godliness shapes us into becoming the person God wants us to be.  If we are always looking to God, we are going to do the things that please Him.  It makes me think of the book, In His Steps where the characters were challenged to think, "What would Jesus do," before they did anything or made any decisions.  When we are focused on our beautiful Creator, it will change the way we react and the things we say.  When we are focused on God, our motives change.

The Psalms are full of godliness; please look up Psalm 1:1-3.  The author of this Psalm tells us that those who meditate on the law are like trees planted by a river bearing fruit each season.  Basically, the writer is saying that those who look to what pleases God will live a life that will be fruitful.  In Psalm 25, David shows how a Godward view is what keeps us from falling away from our walk with God.  Verse 12 says, "Who are those who fear the LORD?  He will show them the path they should choose."  The Hebrew word for fear is yare' which means fear, but it also means to have an awe or respect.  We know that when we respect God and focus on Him, He will show us the way we should live.  I want to follow God and I want to bear fruit for Him!  I will know how to do the things that please Him by having my focus be on Him.

Is your focus set on God?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Good Soil

2 Peter 1:6

My husband and I are currently renting, which means I am unable to dig up a garden; however, I am learning container gardening.  Last year, the results were less than impressive but I also learned about some things that I could change to make it better.  Making some small changes has already yielded better results this year, but I have already mentally made the decision to make some more changes next year in the type of material I plant in. The type of soil is important, and I think it becomes doubly important when you are container gardening because the plant has limited resources for oxygen when it is in a container.  Good soil will keep a nice amount of oxygen in the soil.  I enjoy gardening because it is relaxing and I am especially learning to enjoy container gardening because there is significantly less weeding to do.  I also enjoy gardening because there is always more to learn; I am constantly evolving the way I garden to make it better.  Our walk with God should be the same; we should be learning more every day and making small and large changes to make our lives match up with how God wants us to live.  Please turn to 2 Peter 1:6.

Yesterday, I looked at the importance of increasing our knowledge of Christ and what it means to be a follower of Christ.  I also looked at how self-control helps us take that knowledge and live it out.  In 2 Peter 1:6, Peter writes that we are to add perseverance to self-control.  There are so many ways to look at perseverance, but BlueLetterBible (1) has a nice definition in its lexicon:  "in the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings."  So basically, it takes self-control to live out the knowledge we have learned; however, it takes patience or perseverance to to not be swayed by our external circumstances.  I think of how I pray for my children that they will be able to continue making wise choices no matter what their friends are doing around them and that is what we should be praying in our lives as well.

It is perseverance that helps us to react in a way that pleases God rather than in a way that pleases our human and sinful nature.  It is perseverance that reminds us that over time the persistence will produce a life that reflects God to others in this world.  Please look up Luke 8:4-15 and read the parable Jesus tells about the soils.  Focusing on verse 15 it says, "But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop."  Just as it takes perseverance for me to continue to make the changes necessary to have a productive garden, it takes perseverance to produce the life we are to live.  The good soil is the person who hears the Word and does what it takes to apply it to their lives.  We do not produce good fruit overnight, it takes perseverance to see the results of the changes we are making.

Are you exercising perseverance to produce a crop that is pleasing to God?

(1) Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for hypomonē (Strong's 5281)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 5 Jul 2011. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Shine Like Stars

2 Peter 1:5-6

Yesterday, I shared that I was waiting to see how my yogurt turned out so I thought I would share the results with you.  It tastes much better than store bought yogurt and I know I will make it again!  I also shared how the live and active yogurt cultures take over the milk and change its flavor and consistency.  We know that the Word of God is alive and active and it will change us over time and it will help us to put into practice godly living.  Last week I studied how God has given us everything we need to live a life that pleases Him and yesterday I looked at what it meant to add goodness to our faith.  I looked at how that includes not just what we do, but also what we think about.  If we lack for any good thoughts, we know that God is good and we can think on Him.  Please turn to 2 Peter 1:5-6.

Peter writes that we are also to add knowledge.  The Greek word used for knowledge is gnōsis which is referring to a general knowledge about Christianity and the law and moral wisdom.  It is also referring to an advanced knowledge of our faith.  We are to continue growing in our knowledge about God and how that applies to the way we should live.  Paul wrote about the importance of gaining knowledge of Christ in Philippians 3:7-9; please look it up.  He used such strong language when he said that everything else is a loss compared to gaining knowledge of Christ.  We gain such precious knowledge by reading the Bible and spending time praying that God would help you gain understanding.  We also gain knowledge by going to church and Bible studies that have us dig into the Word and challenge our thinking.


We are also told to add to our knowledge self control.  It is as if Peter was saying that not only do we need to gain knowledge of our faith and Christ, but it takes self-control to put it into practice.  I would liken it to a person who has been diagnosed with diabetes.  In order to truly fight the disease, they must gain knowledge about the lifestyle that they need to follow.  They learn about the foods that they should avoid and the foods that they should eat and about the importance of living an active lifestyle.  None of that knowledge will do them any good until they put it into practice.  It isn't until they have the self-control it takes to eat the diet they need to follow that they will see changes in their blood-sugar level.  Our spiritual walk requires the same self-control.  We need to have self-control to live out what we are learning about God and how He wants us to live.  The more we exercise self-control, the more those habits will become a part of who we are.


Let us add to our faith goodness and to goodness, knowledge and to knowledge, self-control.  Putting these into practice will change the way we think, feel, and behave and we will truly shine like stars.  Please look up Philippians 2:12-15.  Once again, we are reminded that God works in us and gives us the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.  Let your behavior shine so that people can see the difference that God has made in your life.  He has given you everything you need to do this!


Are you adding knowledge and self-control to your faith?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Excellence

2 Peter 1:5

I am currently writing this post after having a very productive and busy day.  First thing this morning, my husband and I went to a strawberry farm (just in time) to buy some of their last strawberries.  We then went to the store to pick up some groceries.  After coming home, I began to make some strawberry freezer jam (I LOVE strawberry jam).  After making enough jam to last several months, I made a strawberry pie for dessert tomorrow.  I then began a new food adventure by making homemade yogurt (which seems to be quite simple).  We'll see how it turns out in about another hour, but the process is interesting.  The milk needs to be heated to 185 degrees (Fahrenheit) and then cooled to about 110 degrees.  When it is at 110 degrees, you add 2 - 3 tablespoons of quality plain yogurt with live cultures.  It then needs to be kept warm for about 7 hours and the live cultures do their work on the milk and make it into yogurt.  Since it is my first batch, I had to check on the progress and I am excited to report that it is looking like it is turning into yogurt!

Making the yogurt made me realize that it fits so well with the verses I want to study over the next couple of days.  Please look up 2 Peter 1:5-8.  Maybe you read these verses and wondered how that could have anything to do with making yogurt, but please stay with me.  Peter is instructing us to add these particular qualities to our faith in order to keep us from becoming ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of Jesus.  Milk spoils quickly, and many societies made yogurt in order to keep the milk from spoiling too quickly.  The live cultures change the milk over time by eating the milk sugar (lactose) and replacing it with lactic acid.  When we diligently work on possessing these qualities, they change us over time.  Today, we should not look like the same person we were last year.

The first quality we are told to add to our faith is goodness.  The Greek word for goodness can also be translated as "moral excellence," as it is written in the New Living Translation.  It is also a "virtuous course of thought," according to BlueLetterBible.com.  Philippians 4:8 uses this word when Paul writes, "...think about the things that are excellent and worthy of praise."  It makes me think about goodness being more than just what we do; it is also how we think.  We are not adding to our faith moral excellence shown by only our actions, we are also thinking about things that are morally excellent.  I have looked at how so much starts with our thought patterns, and it seems to come up so many times during my Bible study.  God wants us to hold what we think about with just as high importance as how we behave.  This may sound too difficult, but remember last week I looked at how God has promised that we have the tools we need to live a godly life.  Through Christ, we can do this (Philippians 4:13).

Let the active cultures of excellent thoughts change you forever.  When our thoughts are about excellent things, we begin to live out excellence in our lives.  That is one of the reasons I am memorizing scripture; I want scripture to fill my head.  When I begin noticing that my thoughts are not of good things, I rebuke them by saying, "This thought is not from God.  I command these thoughts out of my head in the name of Jesus."  That may sound silly, but it truly clears my head and sets me back on the right course.

Are you thinking and living goodness?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Memory Verse #13

Romans 12:21

"Don't let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good."

This is a verse that is short but packs a huge punch!  My husband and oldest son had chosen this as their memory verse, and I knew I had to work on it as well.  After completing my study on the Armor of God and now digging into 2 Peter, I felt this verse fit in with where I am.  This verse is at the end of a chapter that spells out how we are to live with one another.  The verses just before verse 21 tells us how we are to respond when people are attacking us with evil.  Romans 12 tells us that instead of responding to those difficult situations with evil, we are to respond in love.  We are told to allow God to handle the situation and we are to continue to show love to our enemies.  The author of Romans then tells us, "Don't let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good." 

We do not have to respond to our situations with immaturity and with the thought of getting people who hurt or annoy us back (easier said than done).  The other day, I found myself saying to my husband about a situation that was bugging me, "The next time they do that...."  I instantly felt the Holy Spirit convict me about how that was not the way to respond to the situation.  I knew that God wanted me to continue to respond in love.  When we respond in a way that our human nature wants to respond, we are allowing evil to conquer our responses.  When we respond in a way that pleases God, evil has been conquered.  It is amazing how such a small verse can say so much!

Friday, July 1, 2011

What Does God Expect From Me? Part 2

2 Peter 1:1-1

This morning, I am writing this blog with perfectly clear sunny skies.  It is distracting to me because unlike my mother in Arizona who sees clear skies every day, there is always a cloud of some sort here in Buffalo.  I am also distracted because my backyard is very scenic with woods and a stream and I keep finding myself taking a peek at God's creation.  I also keep looking to see if the deer I saw a few days ago running down the hill to the stream will return at a time when I can watch them again.  Seeing the hand of God in nature never ceases to amaze me - I definitely experience God in being outdoors.  Just in Western New York alone, there is so much variety and beauty that I can't help but worship Him!  What an amazing Creator we have who loves us and draws us to Him.

In fact, this week I looked at what 2 Peter 1:1-11 tells us about God and how we should respond.  Please refresh your mind by re-reading 2 Peter 1:1-11.  Yesterday, I looked primarily at the first few verses and saw that we are reminded of God's great and precious promises and also how he gave us the ability to live out a godly life.  Verse 4 even tells us that we can "participate in the the divine nature..."  Verse 5 starts out with "in view of all this..." (in NLT), and this is where we begin to take a look at what that means for us.  Peter is basically saying that when we think of all the promises of God and His nature we should do these things.  Peter says that we are to "make every effort to add to your faith..."  I want to stop right there, because the English translation almost misses the urgency of the voice in this verse.  The Greek word for "make every effort" is spoudē which means to do something with haste or diligence or to be striving after something.  To me, this conveys a message that this is very important and should not be ignored and we should begin doing this immediately.


Peter then begins to list what we should be adding to our faith:  goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love.  Next week, I am going to look at these qualities more closely; however, I just don't want to miss the fact that Peter's voice in these verses is of urgency.  In view of all that God is and all that He has done for us and remembering that He has equipped us to live out our calling - we need to be working on adding these qualities to our faith with diligence.  God did not give us the tools to live out our faith just so we can continue living a sinful life style and plateau in our faith.  God gave us the tools so we can continue to grow in Him.  Please look at verse 8.

Peter tells us that when we work on these qualities in our life, they will keep us from becoming "ineffective and unproductive" in our knowledge of Jesus.  This is where looking at the character of God throughout the Bible and looking at the big picture is important and helps us to develop our faith, but it doesn't end there.  When we develop our faith and believe in His salvation, we need to live it out.  When we live it out in our lives, our faith will continue to grow because our knowledge will grow.  The cycle will continue on as we grow closer with God.  I don't know about you, but I do not want to be ineffective and unproductive in my knowledge of Jesus Christ.  I don't want it to be just in my head, I want it to be who I am.

I am not done with these verses!  This week went by so fast for me and I honestly had no idea I was going to be parked on these verses for a while.  Please bear with me, because God is growing me through this!

Do you want an effective and productive faith?