Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Living Up To Our Potential

Acts 19:1-7

At work, we have a data base that was created by a young company.  I have worked with many data bases in my different jobs and when they are designed well, they can make your job so much easier.  Basically, with a data base information is entered in different fields, and when you want to run a report for information you can pull the data you entered in various fields.  The data base at work has so many fields that we can enter data into such as what time groups are meeting.  However, they have a pre-set queue that doesn't give the flexibility to run a report that would tell me which groups are meeting when.  It is so frustrating because all the information is there, I just cannot access it!  I have jokingly said that this data base is not living up to its full potential because there is so much more it should be able to do.  Sometimes, in our walk with God we run just like that data base. We are not living up to the full potential God has in us because we are not tapping into the power He has given to us.  Please look up Acts 19:1-7.

Yesterday, I looked at Paul's first visit to Ephesus where he planted a few seeds.  Apollos entered the scene and was taught about the baptism in Christ by Priscilla and Aquila.  Apollos was lead by God to go to Corinth and now Paul is returning to Ephesus to see how the church is doing.  When I first read this section of scripture, I found it interesting that the first question Paul asked the believers was if they received the Holy Spirit.  I think there are two things going on: first, Paul knew that they were to receive the Holy Spirit when they believed in Christ and second, Paul knew that if they were not working in the power of the Holy Spirit they were working without the power of God.  When they answered that they didn't even know about the Holy Spirit, he began to explain the difference between John the Baptist's baptism and the baptism in Jesus' Name (I studied a little about this in yesterday's post).  When they were baptized in the Name of Jesus, they received the Holy Spirit and began to experience the power of the Holy Spirit immediately.

Doesn't it seem that we live our every day lives forgetting that we have the Holy Spirit in us?  I know sometimes it seems as if I am spinning my wheels because I try and try to fix things on my own.  Paul wrote about this in Galatians 3:2-3 when he says, "Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?"   I need to be praying and asking for the Holy Spirit to empower me and not rely on my own abilities.  God has so much that He wants to do through us!  Let's live up to our potential in Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Are you living up to your potential?

Linking up with iFellowship Seeds of Faith and The Wednesday Word.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Rest of the Story

Acts 18:18-28

When I went into high school, I was coming from a small parochial school.  At the parochial school, I had been in the advanced math, so the high school counselor put me in the advanced math class.  The problem was, advanced math at the parochial school was not as advanced as it was in the public school.  I went from beginning algebra concepts to advanced algebra.  Needless to say, that first quarter in math was a bit of a disaster for me; however, I was understanding somewhat.  My mom sent me to a tutor for a few months to fill in the gap that I had missed from not taking algebra.  It was amazing what a difference that made for me because suddenly equations and theorems that I didn't fully understand made perfect sense and I could understand how to solve problems more effectively.  The verses I am looking at tells of a similar idea for a man named Apollos who learned the rest of God's story.  As I mentioned yesterday, I am starting a new study on the book of Ephesians.  In order to start it with a better understanding of the church in Ephesus, I am reading about Paul's missionary journey to Ephesus.  Please turn to Acts 18:18-28 to read about Paul's first visit to Ephesus and about Apollos.

Paul's first visit to Ephesus happened because it was a stop on the way to Syria.  One thing that I noticed is that even though this was not a city he was acquainted with, he stopped in the synagogue to share about Christ.  It seems as though the Jews were willing to listen and wanted him to stay longer, but Paul needed to go on and he left the believers that had been traveling with him in Ephesus.  I just want to pause for a moment here because I think it is important to acknowledge that even though this was not a purposeful visit to Ephesus for Paul, he took advantage of the opportunity to share Christ with others.  We will see later how his willingness to visit with the Jews in Ephesus changed their community.  Never underestimate the opportunity to plant a seed somewhere; God will use it!

These verses tell us that Priscilla and Aquila stayed in Ephesus and found a man named Apollos.  Apollos was a man who believed and wanted to see others around him believe in God.  Verse 25 really stuck out at me as I was reading this story; it says, "He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about John’s baptism."  Apollos was excited and taught with accuracy; however, he only knew part of the story.  This verse also had me digging a little deeper, because I wanted to understand what was meant by "John's baptism."  As I looked up the word in Greek, I learned that "John's baptism" represented the repentance of sin and pointed to Jesus. But when Jesus came and sacrificed Himself, this baptism became obsolete.  Baptism in Jesus signifies the washing away of our sins.  I also learned that there are several Greek word that can be translated "baptize," but they don't all signify the change that happens when we are baptized in Christ.  Blue Letter Bible (1) explains that it is the difference of immersing or dipping something that creates a temporary change verses baptizing and causing a permanent change - such as pickling vegetables.  A cucumber is "dipped" in water first, then it is "baptized" in vinegar, causing a permanent change.  The baptism of Christ uses the word, baptism that causes permanent change, signifying that we are no longer the same person.  So, while the baptism of John also uses a word that signified permanent change and required us to change since we are repenting, Christ's baptism makes us new.


Priscilla and Aquila explained the difference to Apollos and he learned the rest of the story.  He learned that when we are baptized in Christ, we are cleansed from our sins and we receive the Holy Spirit.  It is not just a repentance of sin and we change our ways, we are cleansed and made new.  We are never the same person when Christ touches us!


Have you allowed Christ to make a permanent change in your life?


(1) Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for baptizō (Strong's 907)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 29 Aug 2011. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=G907&t=NLT >

Monday, August 29, 2011

New Study - Ephesians

I am looking forward to starting a new study on the book of Ephesians.  I was just telling a friend the other day that I always get excited about new beginnings.  I always liked starting a new year at school and meeting my new teacher, getting new school supplies, and buying new school clothes.  My kiddos have one and a half weeks left before they start school, and at work I am gearing up for the fall groups at church.  It seems perfect that with the fall coming quickly, I get to start a new study.  My desire is that by sharing my time in the Bible with you on this site, that it only inspires you to spend time in the Bible every day.  I have personally seen how God has grown me through the time I spend in the Word, and I have a passion to see others grow as well.

A description I read of the book of Ephesians said that this book was a book of encouragement to the church. This book was written initially for the church in Ephesus; however, it is believed that it was circulated in the area around Ephesus as well.  Paul spent three years in Ephesus preaching and living with the believers there.  So, as we look through this book, we can guess that Paul wrote this letter knowing individuals within the church that would be reading it.  But we know that God used Paul not only to write to the church in Ephesus; God was speaking to all believers everywhere.  In fact, many ancient transcripts of Ephesians does not include Ephesus in verse one, where it says, "...I am writing to God's holy people [in Ephesus], who are faithful followers of Christ Jesus."  Before digging into Ephesians completely, I want to look at the time Paul spent in Ephesians just to get a little background.  So, for the next few days I will be looking at the book of Acts.

It never fails to amaze me that words written two thousand years ago are still applicable to us today.  I pray that as I dig into this book, God will use it to change me into the person He has purposed me to be.  I pray that you will also experience encouragement and discover how the Bible is truly alive and active and will change your life.  I leave you with the prayer that Paul prays in verse two, "May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace."  What a beautiful prayer that we can accept and believe in the Name of Jesus.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Simple Saturday - The Body

Romans 12:4-5

I clean because I want a clean house not because I enjoy cleaning; in fact, I don't think it would be an exaggeration at all to say that I hate cleaning.  So, years ago when the small church we were attending put out an all call for help with cleaning on Saturdays, I cringed.  The person who had been cleaning the church was just not physically able to do it anymore and the church was asking for people to sign up to be put on a rotation to help clean.  That was definitely a sacrifice to go do something at the church that I hated to do in my own house!  However, the person who had been cleaning loved cleaning.  They found so much joy cleaning the church even though most people had no idea who was cleaning the church.  There was another person who mowed the lawn each week because that gave him so much joy to share his gift for taking care of landscaping.  On the flip side, I enjoyed working with the kids and being a part of the worship ministry (and not everyone liked that).

All of those things needed to happen in order for the church to function properly - if the church was not clean, no one would want to come.  If the lawn didn't look nice on our busy street, no one would find the church worth visiting.  If the kids were not safe and learning godly lessons, families wouldn't return.  I could go on; however, my point is that no matter what task God has given you - it is important.  Ministry takes on so many forms and there is not one type of service that is more important than another.  If one task fails, it affects all other tasks.  Romans 12:4-5 says, "Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other."  We all need to use the gifts that God has given us and to do the things that we enjoy to build up the entire body of believers.  1 Corinthians 15:58 says, "Therefore my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, for you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."

No matter what you are doing, it is important to God.  If it wasn't important, He wouldn't have given you the task.  When you are serving, remember that you are serving the Lord and He is using your service for His glory.  We are serving the King of all kings!  Is there any greater honor?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Peace and Joy

Psalm 119:65

I remember many times following my parents' advice and direction and finding that they were right and they had given me good advice.  I can say without a doubt that when I had my greatest slip-ups growing up, it was when I didn't listen to their advice or I didn't follow their directions.  A perfect example was when I was just getting over swimmer's ear and we were at the beach.  My mom told me I could go in the water up to my knees, but no further so I wouldn't get water in my ear.  Well, at first I did very well at that but before long I found myself jumping in the waves and swimming.  By the time it was time to leave the beach, I could feel the pain building up into an infection that was worse than the original infection.  That is called learning a lesson the hard way.  I don't want to learn that way, I'd rather learn by following instructions and having peace.  Please look up Psalm 119:65.

This was Bible Gateway's verse of the day yesterday, and it resonated with me.  This doesn't mean that bad things will never happen to us; however, we definitely will experience peace because we are not getting into situations on account of disobedience.  Psalm 1 reminds us that those who follow God's instruction will experience joy.  Sometimes it may seem difficult to follow God's instruction; however, we are not doing this on our own - we have Christ with us.  Philippians 4:13 says, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."  We can know that anything we need to do to live the way God wants us to live is accomplished through Christ.  Let us use the power of Christ to experience peace and joy in our lives.

Please join me on Monday as I begin studying the book of Ephesians.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dirty Floors and Bathroom Sinks


I have always wondered how it is that as soon as I have cleaned the bathroom and mopped the floor in there, the toilet overflows.  It doesn't happen every time, but when the toilet chooses to hemorrhage onto the bathroom floor, it always seems to target the moment the floor is clean.  How about that sink in the bathroom?  As soon as I have the faucet shining beautifully, someone comes in and brushes their teeth and spits on the faucet!  Or they leave a big clump of toothpaste in the sink.  Ugh!  Housework never really ends.  No matter what, there will always be more laundry and dirty dishes in the sink and there will always be more dirt on the floor.  Sometimes I feel like our spiritual life is like that, too.  Just when we have cleaned up an area in our life with God's help, more junk comes to the surface.  But that is okay because that is how we grow closer to Him and depend on Him.

Depending on God is the answer because no matter how much we clean, we just can't seem to get it clean enough.  There is nothing we can say or do in our own abilities that will clean up our sin; we have to depend on God's grace through faith.  Please look at Galatians 3:9-14, and see what happens when we depend on our ability to follow the law rather than depend on grace.  When we depend on following the law for righteousness and salvation, we are cursed instead.  It is through Jesus's sacrifice that we can be made right with God and saved from the curse; it has nothing to do with what we can do better.  Please look up Philippians 3:8-11.  It is through faith in Christ that we can experience righteousness.  "For God's way of making us right with Himself depends on faith."

This doesn't mean that we can just go on living life the way we want to live it; after studying 2 Peter this summer it is clear that it is important to continue to grow in order to keep from falling into the enemy's traps.  But, isn't it good to know that we don't have to concentrate on our own ability to clean up our lives?  Isn't good to know that God loves us so much that He allowed for a New Covenant to make a way for us?  2 Corinthians 3:6 says, "He has enabled us to ministers of His new covenant.  This covenant is not of written laws, but of the Spirit.  The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life."  Oh, to know that we have life!

Are you depending on your own abilities, or are you depending on God to give you life?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Lord Knows

Psalm 139

This is one of my favorite Psalms!  When I read it, it is like taking a deep breath and letting it all out with a sigh.  David spoke from his heart when he expressed that God was always with him.  David even went as far to say that if he tried to hide from God, He would still be with him.  God is always with us and He loves us dearly.

Life here on earth is not always easy and it is often unfair, but isn't it wonderful to know that God is always with us and always watching and always caring?  No matter what you are going through, the Lord knows and is with you.  No matter what has caused you great pain, the Lord knows and He wants to heal you.  No matter what you are doing, the Lord knows and He wants you to honor Him in all you do.  No matter what...the Lord knows.

He knew you before you were even born!  Have you thought about that?  God knew what you were going to do and where you were going to go before you even thought about it.  God saw you before you knew Him.  God knows everything about you; all your strengths and weaknesses.  He knows all your favorite things and He know what you dislike.  God knows all of you and He still loves you and wants to be with you!

Let God's love surround you today.  Pray and thank God for being with you through everything.

Linking up with iFellowship Seeds of Faith Blog Hop.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Summary of 2 Peter

I am on my last day of looking at 2 Peter, and I am so glad that I spent this summer reading through this book.  This book has challenged me this summer to live more purposefully - especially with a purpose to grow and stretch my faith.  Since I spent several weeks on this book - some of which was interrupted time due to vacationing and computer issues (which, by the way are all fixed!), I thought it would be good to go back and summarize some of the main points that I read and studied.    Thank you for following along with me, and I hope you were as blessed as I was by reading and studying God's Word.  We can always trust that when we are actively in the Word, we will be changed!

This book has three main themes that are easy to find because each chapter breaks them up:

  • Purposeful, godly living and growth in knowledge of Christ
  • Warning against false teachers
  • Day of the Lord is coming
I want to remind you that Peter ties all these themes together; they are not unrelated in any way.  In chapter one he reminds us of the the grace we have received and how that should be changing our lives.  In verse two he says, "May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord."  Peter then spends quite a bit of the chapter explaining how we can grow in our knowledge.  In fact, we learn that when we are not purposeful in growing and adding to our faith, we will become ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of Christ.  We are also reminded that God has given us everything we need to live godly lives, therefore we should make living such lives an urgent priority.

Chapter two begins to explain the importance of growing in our knowledge by warning us about false teachers.  However, it is important to remember that the only way we will be able to identify a false teacher is to grow in our knowledge of Christ.  Peter gives a description of what these teachers will do and how they will lure people into following them and tells us that their motivation is greed.  We are also told in this chapter that they are people who will even be in fellowship with other Christians to appear to be a follower of Christ.  Peter tells us in chapter 2 verse 13 that "they are a disgrace and stain among you."  We are warned to stay away from them because they and anyone who follows them will be destroyed.  We are also reminded that it is important to grow in knowledge of Christ because it would be better to not have known Him at all than to know Him and then "get tangled and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before," (2 Peter 2:20-22).

Chapter three reminds us that Christ will return.  We are told to stand firm even when there will be those who will mock the idea of His return.  We are told that there will be those who "deliberately forget" who their Creator is and that there was a flood.  We are also encouraged to remember that God's timing may seem slow to us as we yearn for Christ's return, but God is not being slow - He is being patient.  He is waiting so more people will turn to Him because He doesn't want to see people be destroyed.  Peter then wraps everything around the importance of living godly lives since we know that there will be a day of judgement.  

To me, it seems like a cycle that we must never find ourselves falling out of - we have received grace from God though Christ.  Our response should be to live the godly lives that God desires from us and has given us the ability to do so.  When we live out godly lives, we will grow in our knowledge of Christ.  As we grow, we will be able to recognize and avoid the traps that are laid out by false teachers.  The false teachers will be destroyed on the day of judgement; therefore, we are reminded of the importance to keep growing.  I will say out of personal experience that the more I grow, the more I want to grow.  The closer I get to God, the closer I want to be and the more I want to throw off anything that hinders me from growing closer.

Even though I cannot do this book justice in such a short summary, if you have joined me late in this study I hope you have been encouraged to spend some time in this book!  It is a book full of warnings; however, it is also full of encouragement.  Since so much of this study was warning and talking a lot of destruction, I want to spend the rest of this week looking at some scriptures that give us great encouragement.  Next week, I plan to start a new study.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Lord's Patience

2 Peter 3:15-18

I am at the end of 2 Peter and I believe God had me studying this book at just the right time.  There have been conversations that I have been a part of where reading through 2 Peter has helped me.  While it is a small book in comparison to other books in the Bible, it is rich and full of both warnings and hope.  Today, I want to look at the last three verses in 2 Peter 3, and tomorrow I will summarize everything I have studied over the last several weeks.  I am so thankful for God's timing and how He works in my life, and I pray that those of you who have been following along with me have been blessed by God's life-giving Word as well.  Please read 2 Peter 3:15-18.

Peter starts out by reminding us one more time that God's timing and patience is just giving more time for more people to come to Him.  I love how God can wait; especially when we know that what He sees here on earth pains Him.  He doesn't want to us hurting each other and walking away from the very One who created us; however, He is willing to wait so that more people will turn their hearts to Him.  What a loving, patient, and wise God we serve!  With that in mind, what is our role to be?  If it is important enough to God to wait for more people to come to Him, should we remain comfortable in our churches and expect people to just walk through our doors?  I don't think so; I believe we should be going out and seeking others (and I am currently preaching to myself because I need to be doing this better).  Please look up John 4:34-38 and see what Jesus was telling us to do.  He is telling us that people are ready to hear the Good News; go out and tell it!

Peter also gives us one final warning to be on guard for those who twist God's Word to mean something completely different.  We are reminded that the best way to be on guard is to keep growing "in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."  The grace is our salvation and we are to grow in that wonderful and beautiful grace that we have been lavishly given.  Paul reminds us in Philippians 2:12 that we are to continue to work hard to show the results of our salvation.  Peter told us in 2 Peter 1 that when we work hard on showing the results of our salvation, we will grow in our knowledge of Jesus (2 Peter 1:5-8).  And we learned in 2 Peter 1:4 that God has given us everything we need to do this.

Are you on guard for false teaching by growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Memory Verse #16

Romans 14:8

"If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord.  So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord."

One of my memory verses is 1 Peter 2:9-10 which says, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, now you are a people of God.  Once you had not received mercy, now you have received mercy."  As I sat down to write this post I realized how much these two verses compliment each other.  In 1 Peter, we are reminded that we are God's special possession; a people of God.  This verse in Romans is a good reminder that no matter what we are doing, we belong to God and we should live (or die) in a way that demonstrates who we belong to.  1 Peter tells us that one thing we can do is to declare the praises of the One who saved us.

I will say this: my life is forever changed because of Christ.  I have always known Him and He has always been so precious to me; however, when I faced tragedy He was there to pick me up.  He loved me, He healed me, He set my path straight, He strengthened me, He taught me to forgive, and He did so much more with me.  Instead of my pain and tragedy defining me, Christ defines me - I am God's special possession.  Is there really anything better to be?  So, I want the life I live to reflect Romans 14:8.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Preparation

2 Peter 3:11-14

I grew up going to church, so I really don't remember a time when I didn't know Jesus.  I always remember having a passion for Him that grew as I got older.  For as much as I wanted to be with Him, I didn't want to leave this world behind - I had dreams and goals to accomplish!  I remember hearing my mom tell me that the signs were around us that His coming would be soon which would send me into a panic.  Later in the evening as I was lying in bed I would pray, "Don't come yet!  I want to get married and have children!  I want to be a mom!  Just let me grow up!"  While I was thinking about growing up physically, yesterday I studied that God is waiting for us to grow up spiritually.  It makes me laugh because I had mentioned on Monday that this chapter seems to be about godly perspective when my perspective in different stages of life never seem to match His completely.  When I was young, I wanted to delay the inevitable and now that I have experienced much more of life I'm sure that Jesus can't come soon enough.  Please read what Peter tells us our response should be in light of all this in 2 Peter 3:11-14.

Peter reminds us that knowing what the day of judgement is going to be like and knowing that God is going to destroy everything, we should be living godly lives.  I think about how we occasionally hear about someone in the news who has been able to predict the end of the world.  I am not going into all the problems with such predictions, I just think about how people who believe the predictions spend all their savings frivolously because they know money will not matter in the end.  Their focus is off; that isn't what we should be doing in preparation!  God wants us to continue on and live godly lives, and we were reminded in 2 Peter 1:4 that God has given us everything we need to live godly lives.

It is like the parable of the Ten Bridesmaids; please turn to Matthew 25:1-13 and read the parable.  In this parable, Jesus is reminding us that we will have no idea when He will return and we just need to be ready.  Our preparation is to live out our faith in the way God has called us to looking forward to the day of His return.  The Greek word translated as hastening is speudō which means to hasten along and it also means to desire earnestly.  As we are living out godly lives, we can desire and anticipate His coming.  We are looking forward to the "new heavens and new earth that God has promised" filled with His righteousness.  Just as we saw the urgency in 2 Peter 1:5, Peter writes with a similar urgency in 2 Peter 3:14.  We are to begin living godly, peaceful, and blameless lives immediately.  We do not want to be like the foolish bridesmaids who were not quite prepared for their groom.

Are you living a life of preparation?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Waiting

2 Peter 3:8-10

When I have taught music lessons for flute, there was always a moment with the beginner who suddenly realized that they were not going to become an amazing musician over night.  It didn't seem to make a difference which instrument the student started on; the beginner starts with an assumption that they will not have to work too hard to play the music they like.  On the flute the student realizes that a beautiful, clear tone is something that happens after years of playing - with a particular focus on learning how to create a clear tone.  In fact, I have a systematic way of teaching vibrato on the flute (that my teacher used with me) with which some students become impatient. I'm really not trying to torture my students, it just that if you don't learn vibrato correctly, you can still do vibrato but it just will not sound as nice.  So, until I feel that a student has mastered one step to learning vibrato (for example, proper breath support) I will not move on to the next step.  Each student learns how to do this at different paces.  Our faith is the same way; please turn to 2 Peter 3:8-10 to see how Peter explains it to us.

Yesterday, I studied how Peter warned of what will happen to those who "deliberately forget" who their Creator is and how they will taunt those who believe and are waiting for Christ to return.  There are times when I watch the news and I want to cry out, "Come now Jesus!  Stop the brokenness!"  But Peter reminds us that we need a new perspective on God's timing.  "A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day," (verse 8).  Our perception of time is so different from God's.  Verse 9 explains why our perception is different, "The Lord really isn't being slow about His promise, as some people think.  No, He is being patient for your sake.  He doesn't want anyone to be destroyed, but He wants everyone to repent."  When He comes, verse 10 reminds us that everything will be destroyed and we will face a judgement.  He knows the right time for all of us and He wants to give us time to come to Him.

Don't doubt the Lord's love for you - remember He made a way so all people could be forgiven.  Christ's sacrifice didn't just happen for a minority of the people, He sacrificed for all people (1 Corinthians 1:2).  The Lord is waiting for more people to turn to Him - He loves all of us.  We are His creation.  God loves us so much that He doesn't want to see anyone be destroyed.  Remembering that He is drawing people to Him, it gives us patience to wait longer for His coming.  How many more people will come to Him in one day?  How many in one more hour, or one more minute?  Remember, there is a purpose for everything God does.  Stand firm in your faith and wait patiently.  This gives us more time to share God's love with others.  We may not know when, but we know that Christ will return to bring us salvation!

What are you doing with the time God has given you?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

To Choose To Forget

2 Peter 3:3-7

Eternal Flame Falls
I live in an area in Western New York that is absolutely beautiful. I look around and there is no way I could say that all this variety and beauty came by chance. If I drive just a few miles south, there are foothills and if I go to the county park just a few miles away from my home there is a small canyon. When you follow the creek through the canyon you will come to a 30 foot waterfall. Behind the waterfall is a little grotto with some cracks in the floor that emit natural gas that burns as a flame. It is a beautiful walk to get to the spot (the kids love it because they get wet from creeking) and a very popular hike in the area. This area is also loaded with fossils and there is a nature preserve about two miles from our house where you can find fossils laying all over area without looking too hard. I find the fossils interesting because there are fossils of creatures that are extinct such as the trilobite (which my son was desperate to find). Who knows how or why they are there - the guides say it is because the area used to be a shallow tropical sea. Maybe it was from the flood. There are those that would say that fossils are evidence of evolution; however, I say it shows even more evidence of an extremely creative God. 2 Peter 3:3-7 addresses the problem with forgetting who God is.

Yesterday, I wrote how Peter was reminding us of the good things of God and of what the prophets said. Today, Peter's tone is a little harsher as he tells us that there will be those who will try to put doubts in our heads about the coming of Christ. This is why it is so important to remember what we have learned in the Bible because the pressure we face in the world can be strong. Just because others laugh at the ideas of God doesn't mean that they are not real.

The other thing that Peter wrote about is the fact that there will be those who "deliberately forget" that God created the world by His command and also destroyed it with a flood. The phrase deliberately forget really has struck a chord with me. The Greek word translated as deliberately is thelō which means to be resolved or determined. It can also mean to take delight in [something]. The Greek word for forget is lanthanō which means hidden or unaware. To me, this implies that the people Peter is writing about are people who once knew that God created the world and they have purposefully set it aside and kept it hidden from their thoughts. This shows that they made a choice to turn away from God, which is probably why Peter reminds us that the day of judgement really is coming whether or not they want to believe it.

This may seem harsh; however, I ask that you stay with me this week because Peter writes about a patient and loving God within all these warnings. The warnings are for both us and those who have chosen to walk away. For us so that we understand what we are doing if we were to choose to forget who our God is. For those who have walked away and kept God hidden from their thoughts (although they are not hidden from His thoughts) they are warned so they can come back. Stick through this chapter so you can see the hope we have to look forward to and the immense love God has for the entire world.

Do you choose to remember your Creator?

Linking up with iFellowship Seeds of Faith blog hop.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Reminders

2 Peter 3:1-2

Why are there things that we seem to remember on our own and other things we need reminding?  For example, I never forget my morning coffee; however, I can find myself forgetting to put the dinner in the crock pot before I leave for work (I hate it when I do that!).  I can remember to check my email, but I often forget to return a phone call if I don't write myself a reminder.  My kids never forget to watch their favorite shows on T.V., but remember to clean their room?  I know for myself, it really boils down to what I prefer to be doing and what I would rather do later.  Either way, I have learned that I need reminders so my Google calendar is set up to email me my agenda each day and send me reminders on all my family's appointments.  Peter is also giving us a reminder today; please turn to 2 Peter 3:1-2.

In verse one, Peter tells us that he wants to "stimulate [our] wholesome thinking and refresh [our] memory."  When I read through that verse, it reminds me of one of my memory verses that says, "And now dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.  Fix your thoughts on whatever is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.  Think about the things that are excellent and worthy of praise," Philippians 4:8.  That is wholesome thinking!  When we think on such things, our lives will be filled  with praise to God.  Have you ever known anyone whose thoughts always seem to be on God?  They can still have difficult times in life and experience pain, but it doesn't destroy them.  I know being in the Bible every day helps remind me to think on such things because it reminds me to think about them.  I also remember to refresh my thoughts through my morning prayer as I pray and ask God to help protect my thoughts.

Peter goes further into verse two that it is important to remember what the prophets have said long ago and what we have learned from the apostles.  Philippians 4:9 continues with, "Keep putting into practice all the things you learned and received from me - everything you heard and saw me doing.  Then the God of peace will be with you."  I love how God spoke through many different people in the Bible and the message remains consistent!  When Paul wrote that, he wasn't glorifying himself; he was pointing out that he was modeling the very life that God wants all of us to live.  In fact, reading through Philippians you will find Paul with a very humble attitude.  I do not have enough time to do a study on all the things that the prophets said because it would take a lifetime; however, there are things that I have studied in the past that show God's heart and how He wants us to be a reflection of it.

Micah 6:8 tells us, "He has shown you, O mortal what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."  Isaiah 58 tells us a lot of the Lord's heart, but verses 6-7 explain what God wants from us, "No, this is the kind of fasting that I want:  Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you.  Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people.  Share your food with the hungry and shelter the homeless.  Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help."  I know I may sound like a broken record, but the only way to remember to do what God has commanded is to be in His Word daily.  If you have difficulty doing that, find a way that will help be accountable such as joining a small group that requires daily Bible study at home or find a friend that will study the Bible with you.  Begin to memorize scripture.  Beth Moore has a site that I use to help me stay accountable by checking in on the 1st and 15th of each month to give my new memory verse.

How are you remembering to think on good things and to do what God has commanded?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Perspective

2 Peter 3

The other day, my kids and I had an opportunity to go to a nature center for an evening of fossil collecting and some astronomy.  When we arrived, the sun was still out and the telescopes were pointed at it.  Looking at the sun in the sky with just our eyes, it looked like a non moving large yellow-orange ball that occupied only a small part of the sky; however, looking at it through the telescope was completely different.  The sun took up the entire view in the telescope and along the edges of the sun were little moving hairs.  Those hairs were solar flares.  While those flairs seem like little hairs in the telescope, the reality is that they can shoot out thousands of miles.  The sun is about 109 times the diameter of the earth, yet it looks smaller than the earth from our point of view.  It is all perspective.  Perspective changes everything, it can even change our mind.  Think about a corn maze.  While in the maze it is hard to find your way out; however, looking at it from above can make the maze seem easy.  2 Peter 3 seems like a lesson on perspective, specifically God's perspective.  Please read through 2 Peter 3.

I feel like there are three themes of perspective that Peter is reminding believers in this chapter.  These perspectives are just as important for us today as it was for the early church.  I like Peter's approach in this chapter because he wrapping up everything he wrote in the first two chapters with the theme of perspective.  It is as if he is telling all believers, "Don't forget!  There is more to the story than meets the eye."  As I study this last chapter, the three themes I will be exploring are:

  • Remember what the prophets said - the day of the Lord is coming.
  • God's timing has a purpose and it is different from our timing and purpose.
  • What is our response to all this?
As I explore these three themes, I pray that God will open my eyes to see His perspective more clearly than looking at the small close-up perspective that I currently have.  This chapter is a good chapter to read when we feel the pressure of our own perspective taking over and blinding us from God's perspective.  We can have encouragement remembering that there really is so much more than what we are currently experiencing.  We are reminded of our hope of new life in this chapter.

What is your main focus right now?  Could you use a fresh perspective/

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Short-sighted

2 Peter 2:17-22

When I was in high school, my mom bought me a cat.  I enjoyed having his company and he seemed to enjoy mine.  There were times; however, that he was completely disgusting.  For example, when he had a hairball, I would hear him making the most horrid sound and when I would go to see what was happening I would see him throwing up (on the carpet of course).  I would go get some things to clean it up and when I returned I would see him licking it back up.  Disgusting!  I never could understand why he did that.  Well, Peter uses a similar word picture for us in the last part of 2 Peter 2 to describe those who knew Christ and then chose to follow a different direction.  Please look up 2 Peter 2:17-22.

Yesterday, I looked at the word pictures Peter gave us in verse 17 for false teachers as a dried up spring or a mist blown away in the wind.  Going further in this section of scripture, we can see that Peter warns that they enjoy bragging about themselves and get themselves tangled up in "twisted sexual desires."  I think about many of the cult leaders that have made the news and how they all fit that description.  It is a good baseline to look at because we know that God wants us to grow an attitude of humility not arrogance and when we see people claiming to be a prophet or leader of God and bragging about themselves, it is a red-flag and we should stay away.  Peter is clear that they are good at luring people away, particularly those who may have recently found Christ.

This is our warning to not follow these false teachers - we read that Peter says it would be better to have never known the way to righteousness than to turn away from the command to live holy lives.  A few weeks ago, I was studying chapter 1 and saw that we were given everything we need by God to live godly lives.  We were told for that very reason we should urgently add these qualities to our faith in order to keep us from being ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of Jesus: goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love.  When we have an effective and productive knowledge of Jesus, we will recognize the false teachers.  We are also told in 2 Peter 1 that those who do not develop these qualities become short-sighted or blind.  That is dangerous because we will then be tossed about with every teaching that comes our way.  When we are short-sighted we will not be able to see the big picture of what we are being taught.

Peter then tells us that if we know the way of God and reject His command for holiness, we are the equivalent to a dog returning to his vomit or a washed pig going back to the mud.  Please look up Proverbs 26:11.  Peter is basically calling that person a fool because they are not living out who they are in Christ; they are returning to their chains of sin.  Peter says that we are a slave to whatever controls us, and if we choose to be controlled by sin it is our master.  Don't return to the master of sin, stay yoked to Christ!  Continue to grow in your faith and knowledge of Christ so you will not be lured away by the false teachers.

This is such an unpleasant and tough subject to study, and I thank you for sticking with me through it!  Next week, I will begin studying chapter 3.  Be encouraged!  God has truly given us everything we need to live out the lives He has called us to live.  Remember what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:58, "Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."  Your labor to add those virtues to your faith will not be in vain!

Are you working with urgency to grow in your knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus?

Friday, August 12, 2011

True Water

Peter 2:17-19

Water is important to humans and all of nature.  In my opinion, water is probably the greatest source of life on this planet.  Is there anything living that doesn't depend on water?  There are plants that are drought resistant; however, even they need some water.  We have seen the effects on both humans and the ecosystem when there is a lack of water.  We have seen how severe droughts have caused many people to die because there was no food.  We have seen majestic forests burned to the ground because everything was so dry as a result of drought.  I am currently gardening vegetables in containers and they have an even greater need for water because there is no deeper source of water for their roots to seek out.  The other day, there was a mist but no rain and because of where my containers are placed, they remained completely dry.  Peter uses a couple of word pictures for us to see the problem with false teachers.  Please look up 2 Peter 2:17-19.

Peter tells us that the false teachers that he had just compared to Balaam are the equivalent as a dried up spring of water or a mist blown away in the wind.  Think about that word picture for a moment.  Have you ever seen a dried up river?  When my family spent two weeks traveling throughout the state of Arizona, we saw many dried up rivers that were called "washes."  Basically, because the ground is so dry and they get so little rain, when there is a heavy rain it collects in these spots and run like a river or a spring.  However, they don't last long and before you know it, they are a dried up spring again.  In some spots, the road is built right in their path for the water to run over the road, but at other washes a small bridge is built over it.  When we would approach such a bridge, my kids would look out the van's windows expecting to see a river in the middle of the desert to be disappointed that it was a wash.

That is the picture that Peter gives us.  A false teacher looks like the real thing far off, but the closer you examine their words and life you see that they are all dried up.  It is like digging a well only to find the spring dried up.  They will not lead you to the eternal life you are seeking.  I find it very interesting that Peter used this word picture because Jesus referred to Himself as living water.  Please look up John 4:9-14.  Jesus explains that the only way to get living water is through Him.  This is the water that gives us life - eternal life.  Please look up Jeremiah 2:12-14.  God is showing that He is the living water and that to turn away from that living water is a sin. Do not follow what looks like a river when we know that Jesus is the only true source of living water.  If anyone else claims to do so, they are a false teacher.

Are you seeking the true source of living water, or are you following a dried up spring?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Right Road

2 Peter 2:15-16

Thank you once again for your patience as my computer issues have not been resolved...I am working on it!  I love how God can use the Bible to speak to us!  When I last posted about Balaam, I mentioned that I was a little confused on some details but felt I understood better.  Yesterday morning as I got up to pray I found myself reading through Proverbs 16.  I especially want to look at Proverbs 16:1-3; please look it up.  Monday, I looked just a little at how Balaam really wanted to follow his own plans and went to God to see if he could.  The second time Balaam asked, God gave him permission to go but reminded him that he would say only what God wanted him to say.   Please read what Peter had to say about Balaam in 2 Peter 2:15-16.

Peter refers to the false teachers as those who have wandered off the "right road" following in Balaam's footsteps, which implies that Balaam had wandered off the right road.  Please look at Proverbs 16:1-3 again and see what God says in verse one about our plans verses the answer God gives us.  Balaam is a perfect example of someone who already knew what he wanted to do, but wanted to appear to do the right thing by asking God.  Initially, it looks as though he was willing to follow God because he sent the people away.  However, when they returned a second time he didn't send them away reminding them that God already said "no."  He asked them to stay so he could go ask God again. 

Proverbs 16:2 says, "People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives."  Balaam may have even felt good about going back to God and asking again when the offer became more enticing to him; however, God understood that he really wanted to go with these men and earn money.  This makes me ask the question:  When I go to God, am I willing to listen and obey what He tells me, or am I looking for permission to go and follow my own wishes?  There is a difference that may seem small at first, but when we dig deeper into our hearts and examine our motives we could see something that displeases our Beautiful Creator.

Are we going to God to see what He wants for us, or are we just seeking confirmation to go ahead with our own plans?  Proverbs 16:3 brings us an awesome encouragement, "Commit your actions to the Lord and your plans will succeed."  When we commit that everything we do will be what God wants us to do, the plans we make with God will be successful.  When we give over our desire for independence to make our own plans to God and trust that He will lead us the way we should go, we will find the strength and power through Christ to complete the task set before us (Philippians 4:13).  God's definition of success is not the world's definition of success (money, power).  Success in God's kingdom is completing the plan He has for us.

We are to be discerning when we are following the direction of others and matching up what they say with what the Bible says.  When you are struggling to know the difference, pray for understanding.  We do not want to follow someone who has their own motives, we want to follow God.

Are you going to God with your own motives for success, or are you going for direction?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

More Problems

Hello Everyone!

Once again, my computer is working against me!  Ugh!  I will try to get today's post up and running tonight when I am at home (if my computer will stay on).

In the meantime, I will leave one of my memory verses with you because it fits in with what I want to write about...Proverbs 16:3 "Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and He will establish your plans."

Thanks for your patience!

Monday, August 8, 2011

True Obedience

2 Peter 2:14-16

Recently, I was offered an opportunity that I desperately wanted to take; however, when I prayed God made it very clear that I was not to grab a hold of that opportunity.  While God did not explain why, I understood that I was to continue on with what was already on my plate.  Disappointed, I had to go back and tell the person that I was not to do it.  Thankfully, this person completely respected the fact that I felt God telling me "no" and didn't push and let it go.  The reality is that I do not want to walk out of what God wants for me - if He doesn't want it for me then I don't want it (even if it is tempting).  But I do pray that God will always give me the strength to do what He wants and that I can resist doing what I feel would be best.  The situation I want to look at today is one that is mentioned in 2 Peter 2:14-16.  Please look it up.

Peter makes an example out of Balaam in these verses so we can have a comparison of what a person will do to satisfy their greed.  My original intention was to write one post on Balaam; however, as I have studied it a little further, I would like to look at this story both today and tomorrow.  I have to admit there were a few things in the story of Balaam that I found confusing and I would like to share a little of what I have learned by digging into my questions a little deeper.  Please read Numbers 22 (I promise that you will be tempted to continue reading into chapter 23) and begin reading why Peter used him as an example.  When I first read this chapter I was confused why God told Balaam to go with the men and then was angry (the Hebrew word used in verse 22 conveys a deep anger - furious) I didn't understand.  I looked in Matthew Henry's commentary and it helped me to understand the situation much better.

Balaam received some visitors who wanted him to curse Israel.  Balaam had originally told the men that he would only do what God told him to do and after consulting God, he told them that he couldn't go.  When the men returned a second time, he said he would consult God again.  This was part of the first mistake - God had already told him no and he didn't need to ask again.  Those of you who are parents can relate when you tell your child no and they come and ask again maybe because a friend encourages them to try again.  I know that makes me frustrated because I felt that my "no" was clear the first time I said it.  God's reaction is one that we should note - we may ask Him for direction; however, if we do not want to follow it when He gives it to us He will allow us to follow our own destructive plans.  Just because God allows it doesn't mean it is the right thing to do.  How many times have I had God tell me something more than once before I obeyed?

Our God is One who will continue to make His plans succeed whether or not we humans are following Him.  In this case, He got Balaam's attention by having his donkey talk to him on his journey.  Matthew Henry draws attention to the fact that Balaam beat the donkey each time he faced resistance because he wanted to continue on his own plans.  We will see that as well when we are looking at those who will lead people away from God for their own gain.  They will stop at nothing and will continue on their road to destruction just so they can have earthly gain.  As we have been reading in 2 Peter 2, this is a path that is not worth taking.  Don't follow them - follow God.

Do you trust God to lead you where you should go?  Are you willing to obey the first time He asks?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Computer Fixed (Hopefully)

Okay!  Hopefully the computer is fixed!  We took it in to have it looked at and they took off a couple of little annoying viruses that seemed to sneak through our security software.  They also fixed some updates that were not working right (probably due to the viruses).  So we brought the computer back home and started to re-install the printer software and it did it AGAIN - inexplicable shut down.  Ugh!  We uninstalled all the printer software again and now it is working fine.  We are now trying to figure out if the issue is our printer/software or if there is an update that has now decided that our printer is evil.  It is frustrating to be sure; however, I am at least able to post an update for you.  I am working on getting some posts scheduled so this week will be normal again.

I will say that my study was interesting since all my Bible study tools are online (can't afford all the HUGE books) and I just had to read the Bible.  It was good to stand back and just reflect on what was written on the page and not do some digging.  I just needed a reminder that spending time just reading and thinking is effective and necessary as well.

I'm glad to be back and I hope this is a permanent state...thanks for your continued patience!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Needing Patience

Okay, I am still lacking computer access because there is something wrong with my home computer.  This means that I can only post at work and it will have to wait until a break or the end of my work day.  So sorry, but I'm sure many of you have dealt with virus/computer issues as well.  Thank you for your continuing patience!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

No Computer

Hello faithful readers!  Today, I do not have computer/internet access, so I am unable to spend the time posting a blog for today.  Sorry, but thank you for visiting!  I will have a post up again tomorrow.

Monday, August 1, 2011

On Guard

2 Peter 2:9-14

When we were young children, most of us were pretty innocent about the fact that there were some people that were unkind.  Even now, I prefer to think the best of people.  I like to believe that most people want to be nice and at times do hurtful things because they are not considering how their actions may be affecting other people.  After all, I don't ever want to hurt anyone; however, sometimes I do without meaning to.  But we are reminded in 2 Peter 2 that not every one has good intentions.  In fact, there are those who intentionally cause harm because it will give them gain.  Please turn to 2 Peter 2:9-14.

I think the phrase that is sticking out to me the most is in verse 13 when Peter warns, "They delight in deception even as they eat with you in your fellowship meals."  He is referring to the fact that they were part of the early church community.  It makes me shudder because we know that it is still the same today.  This danger is still something that the church needs to be aware of.  The church is still going to run the risk of having people there that only want their own personal gain.  While the Bible tells us that their behavior is leading them to their destruction, we still need to be wise and on guard.

When Jesus was sending His disciples out to tell Israel that the kingdom of God was near, He instructed them that they needed to be wise.  Please turn to Matthew 10:11-17.  Jesus told them that He was sending them out as sheep among wolves.  That seems like a dangerous journey they were given; however, it is no different than what we do today.  And we are to always remember that even if we are surrounded by those who would like to take advantage of others, we are to remain innocent.  We can keep our eyes open for such things but we do not need to participate in those things.  It reminds me the importance of practicing and putting on the Armor of God.  God has given us the protection we need to do the work He has called us to do and we don't need to fear.  2 Timothy 1:7 says, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline."  We can still love others and have self-discipline to live the life God wants us to live.  He has given us the power to do what we should do.

Are you on guard yet remaining innocent?