Monday, April 30, 2012

Legacy

Genesis 4:17-26

Have you ever put much thought into legacy?  If so, what does it mean to you?  I'm sure if you were to ask what legacy meant to several people throughout the day you would get a variety of responses.  According to Dictionary.com, legacy means, "anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor," (see footnote 1).  When we think of handing something down, we think of some type of possession such as money or maybe something that bears sentimental value.  For example, my husband and I just received a table that his great-grandparents bought when they were first married.  Other people may feel that legacy is the way people will think of them after they are gone, in a sense it is the memories they leave behind for their loved ones.  But, have you ever considered that there are other deeper legacies that we can leave for future generations?  Please read Genesis 4:17-26.

In these verses, we read about the legacy of Cain and his descendants and we read a little about Seth's legacy. As I read through the description of some of Cain's descendants I was struck by how talented and smart his family must have been.  First, Cain himself founded a city and then he had descendants who were the first to work with iron and bronze and the first to play flute and harp.  Both the music and the forging are things that have formed and shaped our cultures today.  That is a pretty incredible thought, isn't it?  But we also see that he had a descendant who murdered someone; however, he said it was out of self-defense.  What these verses tell us is that there was also a legacy of sin that was getting worse.

Genesis 4:25-26 tell us a little of Seth's legacy.  In these verses we read that Seth had a son named Enosh but things were also changing for the good for some people.  We are told that at this time, people began to worship the Lord by name.  I would encourage you to read through Genesis 5 because it is a tremendous legacy of Seth's descendants who followed God.  Generation after generation followed the Lord and we are even told that Encoch didn't die but was taken from this earth because he walked in close fellowship with God.  

We can leave a legacy for future generations of good stories and great inventions; however, the legacy that matters the most is a close relationship with our Creator.  We cannot make decisions for our future generations; however, we can live and worship God in a way that instills the importance of a relationship with Him.  We can pray over our children and unborn descendants that they would learn to walk in close fellowship with God; however, we need to live it as well.  What we do and say models how we should live for future generations.  We can either let our children know that pleasing our human desires is important or that pleasing God is important.  I will close with this final thought:  we now have a tangible possession of my husband's great-grandparents, but they left behind a far greater legacy for us.  When we go to the family reunion, we see so many followers of Christ.  This family even has pastors and missionaries in every generation that has followed his great-grandparents.  We even worship together at the family reunions.  That is an amazing legacy to be a part of!

What legacy are you leaving behind?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty and Monday Musings.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Master or Slave?

Genesis 4:6-16

As I wrote yesterday about the gifts Cain and Abel gave God, I looked at how we are to give God our best.  He doesn't want our left-overs, He wants our best.  When we have the greatness of God at the forefront of our minds we will want to give Him our best.  When we are focused more on ourselves, in our hearts we have diminished how great God truly is.  Today, we will see what happens in our hearts the more we allow ourselves to forget who He is.  Please read Genesis 4:6-16.

Reading through this story, we see that Cain killed his brother, Abel.  This is the first recorded murder in the history of the world, but there is something that I want to point out in these verses.  The thing that stuck out at me was what God said to Cain in verse 7, "Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”  Notice the words "eager to control you."  Have you ever thought of sin as something that wanted to control you?  The word that is translated as eager to control is the Hebrew word, tĕshuwqah.  This word means to desire, to have a longing, or a craving and can also refer to a beast devouring something (see footnote 1).  Does that give you a strong word picture?  Sin wants to devour you, but God also shows us that we can master it.  We even see how Cain was unable to master it when he murdered his brother and again when he answered God's question with insolence.

How do we master sin?  It is not by our own power, but through Christ this can happen!  God told Cain that Abel's blood was crying out to Him, but there is another reference to this blood in the New Testament.  Hebrews 12:24 says, "...to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel."  When Christ died on the cross, His blood spoke a much different message to both God and all of us.  The word is forgiveness.  Anyone who believes this word is spoken over us through Christ is forgiven.  Praise God this word is spoken over us!  When we are in Christ we are forgiven, so what does this mean?  It means we are no longer slaves to sin!  Romans 6:6 says, "We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin."  Through Christ, we master sin and sin no longer owns us and Jesus is our master and Savior.

Who is your master?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

1. Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for tĕshuwqah (Strong's 8669)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2012. 27 Apr 2012. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H8669&t=NLT >

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Best of Me

Genesis 4:1-7

Adam and Eve and their children had a unique relationship with God because they had walked with Him.  Because of this, I'm sure it gave them a greater understanding of His greatness.  It is something I know I cannot fully understand because I have never seen God.  I cannot imagine or comprehend His greatness.  Going through the book of Genesis, I am now at the story of Cain and Abel, where we get a glimpse of how God's greatness can and should be our primary motivator.  I am looking at the first half of the story today and I will finish it tomorrow.  Please read Genesis 4:1-7.

In the past, I couldn't understand why God accepted Abel's gift and not Cain's.  I wondered if it was because Abel gave meat and Cain gave grain; however, something else was happening in this story.  Please notice the difference in the wording.  Cain gave God some of his harvest while Abel gave the best portions of his firstborn of the flock to God.  It seems that the difference was the recognition of who God is.  For those of you who are parents, think about when a child gives you a homemade gift.  They are so proud and excited to give it to you because they did their best on their project.  When Abel was giving his gift, he was giving his best to God; however, it almost sounds as if Cain didn't give his best.  Notice that verse 3 says that Cain gave some of the crops.  We are not told, but given the wording of Abel's gift it seems that perhaps Cain's gift wasn't his best.

This just makes me think of what I give to God.  Am I always giving Him the best of me, or am I giving Him some of me?  There is a difference.  I think if I could keep God's greatness at the forefront of my mind, I would always be giving Him my best.  But I have to admit that is not what I always give Him because there are times when I am more focused on me.  Do you see the problem?  The minute I am focused more on me is the moment I have diminished who God is in my mind.  In that moment I have put me before Him.  God wants the best of us not our left-overs.  So, when we are serving in church, He wants us to be giving our best effort in what we are doing.  When we are serving our neighbors, we are to be serving them as if we were serving ourselves because that would be giving our best.  When we give our best, we are acknowledging God's greatness.

Do you give your best?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Knowing Good and Evil

Genesis 3:14-24

As I have watched my children grow up, I have also witnessed their growing maturity in understanding what is the right thing to do.  In most situations they are able to know what God would like them to do.  But, as they grow in this knowledge, they also have an increased accountability for their actions.  For example, when they were infants they didn't know that they shouldn't bite someone the first time they tried; however, if my children bit someone now they would be held accountable.  They know that is not how to treat someone.  All week, I have been looking at the account of Adam and Eve's disobedience in the Garden of Eden, today I am looking at the result of their actions.  Please read Genesis 3:14-24.

Reading through the descriptions that God gave to the serpent, Eve, and Adam we can imagine how awful all of this must have been after living in perfection.  While Adam and Eve had a job to do in the garden, they didn't have to contend with control issues or with constant weeds and stubborn roots.  Suddenly they were thrust into imperfection and strife.  They were separated from the Garden of Eden and had to work hard in order to eat and survive.  But God didn't abandon them; He still cared about them and helped them.  But now there was a separation between them and God.  Their relationship with Him was forever changed.

They now understood the difference between good and evil and that also meant that they would be accountable for their behavior.  To me, the change in their relationship with God had to be the worst part of their punishment; however, I also think carrying the burden of accountability also had to be difficult.  They were no longer innocent and understood that there were consequences for their behavior.  This is a change that we cannot relate to because we were never innocent, but I can imagine how that had to be a difficult weight to bear at first.  We are also held accountable because we also know good and evil.  With this knowledge comes consequences to our sin, which is death.  Not just a physical death, but we are spiritually dead.  But God didn't want that to be the end of the story.  The whole reason He sent Jesus to earth was to make us right with Him once again.  Jesus took our punishment for us when He died on the cross and conquered death when He rose again.  Jesus shares His victory with anyone who believes in Him, His sacrifice, and His victory.  John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life."  That is a promise to cling to and a promise full of hope!  The pain in this world is not the only story, we have a hope of eternal life with our Creator.

Do you believe in the hope we have through Jesus?

This post is linked with iFellowship Blog Hop, Winsome Wednesday and Word Filled Wednesday.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Where Did That Fear Come From?

Genesis 3:6-13

If you are a parent, you know that it is challenging at times to help your children understand what is right and wrong.  Sometimes, when you go and talk to your children about something that you want to correct you find that they don't understand what the bigger issue is and they are focusing on something much smaller.  For example, it would be like your children bringing some food into the living room when you have a rule about no food in the living room.  Suppose they wrestle while they are in the living room and spill the food and their focus is on the fact that they spilled the food rather than the fact that they broke the rule about having food in the living room in the first place.  The story of Adam and Eve is very similar.  Yesterday, I looked at the problem with the fact that Eve chose to trust the serpent over God, today I want to look at what became another issue as a result of their sin.  Please read Genesis 3:6-13.

The New Living Translation tells us that they felt shame because they were naked, but the New International Version does not use the word shame.  When I looked it up on BlueLetterBible.com, the word shame is not part of the original Hebrew.  We are told that they were aware of their nakedness, which may be why the word shame was used in the NLT.  That did get my attention because Adam and Eve became aware of the fact that they were naked and that is what they chose to focus on.  Notice what Adam told God - he hid because he knew he was naked and was afraid.

Sin is ugly, there is no way around that truth.  Sin also perverts the truth and distorts our vision.  Don't you find it interesting that Adam and Eve at that point were not afraid because they disobeyed God?  Do you notice how they immediately replaced the truth and problem of their sin with having fear over their nakedness.  Isn't it interesting that they were afraid to be naked in front of God when they had been naked the entire time they existed and God never condemned them?  The thing is, we all do this, we become fearful and forget the truth about God.  The Bible tells us that God does not give us fear (2 Timothy 1:7), in fact we are told that anything good and perfect comes from God (James 1:17).  In our shame, we begin to believe that lies are truth and we forget all that we know about our Creator.  We begin to believe in condemnation that isn't ours and forget the sin that originally brought us to where we began to feel fear.  Whenever you feel fear, know that the fear does not come from God and find the root of the fear.  Confess your sin to God and pray for His strength to keep you from repeating that sin.  Know that in Christ you are forgiven.

Are you experiencing a misplaced fear?

This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesday and Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Who Do You Trust?

Genesis 3:1-7

Have you ever known someone who was very trustworthy and for some reason something happened where you struggled to trust them?  I know I struggled with that more when I was a young adult and that distrust stemmed from a betrayal in childhood by someone who I should have been able to trust.  Distrust can have many roots, but the result is often walls being put up between people.  So many of us know the story of Adam and Eve and the original sin; however, today I would like to look at this story from the idea of who they were choosing to trust in their moment of sin.  Please read Genesis 3:1-7.

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil becomes a central piece in this story.  The question that I have heard the most from people I know is why would God even put that tree there in the first place?  If He didn't want them to even touch the tree, why did He put it within their grasp?  I've heard anger from people saying that if God was so loving, He would have never placed temptation in front of them like that.  James 1:13 says, "And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, 'God is tempting me.'  God is never tempted to do wrong, and He never tempts anyone else."  If God never tempts anyone else, what was going on here?  God was providing a choice - to obey or not obey.  God wanted our worship to be one of choice, which meant that He was risking the chance of our disobedience and lack of worship.  So, God was risking vulnerability.

The thing that strikes me in this story is the fact that Adam and Eve had a relationship with their Creator.  He visited them in the garden and they enjoyed each other's company.  They knew they could trust Him, yet something happened when the serpent visited on the day that changed the world.  The serpent approached Eve with misinformation, and she caught it and corrected him.  The problem was that he answered with more lies and this time she chose to believe his lies over God's truth.  This weighs heavy on my heart because when I truly sit and think about when I sin, at that moment I am choosing to trust the immediate results rather than trust what God says about sin.  At that moment I am thinking more about my pleasure than I am thinking about my amazing Creator.  Why would I do that when I know my Heavenly Father is the only One who always speaks truth?

We can trust that God wants what is best for us.  We can trust that He will help us in our temptations.  We can trust that He loves us and only tells the truth.  We can trust that He is greater than anyone else.  We can trust our God.

How does your trust in God help you in your temptations?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty and Monday Musings.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

What Was I Thinking!?

I have been working out at a gym for about 6 months; however, for the last two months I haven't gone in every day as I did when I started out.  I had trouble for a couple of weeks because of migraines, then I got sick and it took all my energy just to get to the gym on top of working.  So, even though I've gone for the last couple of months, I'm not in as good of shape as I was prior.  I'm working back up to it, though I know it will not happen over night.  In an effort to help myself in this endeavor, I decided to join my friend for a class this morning that was a combination of Pilates and Yoga stretching (without all the religion behind it - strictly a workout class).  I went in knowing it would be a tough workout, but I figured with all the cardio and weight stuff I've been doing I would be okay.  I assumed way too much of myself!  About halfway through the class, I was beginning to wonder if I was going to make it through.  Even though I've been doing weights, this class had me working on some muscle groups that just the weight machines alone doesn't do.  And to make it even worse, there was a much older gentleman in the class that was doing all the poses, stretches, and strength exercises way better than me!  My weight machines just did not have me prepared for this hour long torture (of which I'm planning to do again - twice a week).

Our spiritual walk can be the same way.  We can be spending time with God daily and reading in His Word daily and growing!  But sometimes we are thrown into a difficult situation that exercises our faith in a way that we have never done before and it can be very painful.  But the thing is, we can get through that exercise because Christ is with us and will help us through it.  Hebrews 2:18 (NLT) says, "Since He Himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested."  Our faith may be tested unlike it has been tested before, but think of the amazing work God is doing in your heart as a result.  You are exercising and growing into an oak of righteousness (Isaiah 61:3) full of endurance (James 1:4).  That is a promise to hold on to during the trials.

Is your faith being exercised in a new way?

This post is linked with Spiritual Sundays.

Friday, April 20, 2012

United Into One

Genesis 2:18-25

In less than two weeks, my husband and I will be celebrating our 19th anniversary.  There is no other person that knows me as well as my husband knows me, and I can say the same for how intimately that I know my husband.  We have shared a lot of wonderful experiences together and have lived through many changes throughout our marriage.  It is such an amazing idea how two people can be united into one, but we have experienced what that means.  When my husband is hurting, I am hurting.  When my husband is joyful and excited, I am excited for him as well.  There is a reason that such a bonding and unity happens and it is mentioned in Genesis 2:18-25.

God knew that Adam shouldn't be alone and needed a person to share the work of tending the garden.  What God did next was interesting because He could have just created a female out of the dust just as He created Adam.  But that is not what He did!  He took one of Adams ribs and used it to create Eve.  So, Adam was not only excited about having another human in the garden with him, but he was excited about the fact that she was created from a part of himself.  We are told that this is why when a man and woman join together they become one.

When I was studying Ephesians and then again in Colossians, the word submit came up in how we are to relate to one another.  Ephesians 5:21-26 speaks of what that means for a wife and a husband.  One of the things I discovered was that the Greek word for submit also means to share the burden.  When looking at marriage with the New Testament word of submission and then looking back at Genesis it really is beautiful.  God created Eve not only so Adam wouldn't be alone, but He created her to be a help-mate for Adam.  He created Eve to share the burden with Adam!  So, when we as wives follow the lead of our husbands, we truly are lifting up the burden with him.  When husbands love their wives, they are also sharing the burden.  It is a mutual submission that looks different for each partner, but that is equally important.  When we are mutually submitting in these ways with each other, we strengthen that bond of unity with each other.

How are you submitting in your marriage?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Fridays.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Planting the Garden

Genesis 2:8-17

When God created the world, He knew He had made something special.  When He looked at all He created, He said that it was very good.  As I looked at the account of creation yesterday, I looked at the beautiful way He created humans.  God desired us to be like Him and breathed His breath of life into us.  It was such an intimate and amazing thing He had done in the creation of humans and we were set apart from the rest of creation.  Moving on in Genesis, we can read a little about the garden He created in the land called Eden.  Please read Genesis 2:8-17.

We are not given a ton of details about the garden except that God had planted it Himself with a variety of wonderful trees full of delicious fruit.  Since we know that He created the garden as a home for Adam, I just imagine the wonderful care He used as He planted the garden.  I wonder if He had pleasure knowing that Adam was going to enjoy a particular fruit the most.  I think of when we moved to a different house recently and we were painting the kid's bedrooms.  My husband and I had fun going to the paint store to look at swatches and bringing a sample home for the kids to make their final decision.  At one point, even though our daughter had chosen a light blue to put on her walls we noticed some decals that were perfect for her.  They were peace signs (which she thinks is very cool) in various colors and sparkles that matched and contrasted with the color of her walls perfectly.  We had to buy them knowing that it would make her bedroom feel even more like home for her.  Our boys wanted the walls painted in the colors of their favorite football team and even though it was a lot more work, we painted their walls in stripes of those colors.  It gave us a lot of pleasure to make their rooms into something that reflected their personality and something that they would really like.  I'm sure, planting the garden gave God great pleasure as He knew how much Adam would enjoy it.

There is something else that I thought of as I was reading these verses because I enjoy gardening.  Even though at this point the garden was just as God intended it to be, He created it in a way that Adam would have to tend the garden.  Adam would have to trim the trees and pick the fruit.  Since I know how much work even a small garden can be, I'm sure this was a full time job!  We will find out later that he didn't necessarily have to contend with weeds; however, even just taking care of the plants themselves can be work.  God made us to be busy - not crazy busy, but to have something to do.  But I think of how God created the garden for Adam to live and work, and then I think of my life.  Even though I cannot see things clearly, I can rest assured that God has me where He wants me and He has a job for me to do.  Jesus referred to the harvest of souls (Matthew 9:36-38), and I think that His metaphor is interesting.  Just as God made Adam a gardener, we are also gardeners of the souls around us.  We are to be looking around us and tending to the garden God placed us in and care for the garden.

Are you tending the garden you have been placed in?

This post is linked with Proverbs 31.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Breath of Life

Genesis 2:4-7

Over the last few days, I have looked at the account of creation in Genesis.  The theme that has come back to me on Monday and Tuesday is the greatness of God.  The main character of this story is God and we can read through the story with total amazement at His ability to create something so wonderful out of nothing.  We are not given a lot of details on how He did it, but the verses I am looking at tells us a little more about how He created humans.  Please read Genesis 2:4-7.

I want to look back for a moment at Genesis 1:26:  "Then God said, 'Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.'"  Isn't it an amazing thought that God made us to be in His image.  Once again, we don't know entirely what that means; however, we know that He created us to be like Him.  Meditate on that thought for a moment because that is an incredible thought!  God created us to be like Him.  Think about our God whose creativity is beyond our ability to comprehend and who could have created anything but He wanted to create us to be like Him.  He didn't have to create duplicity because He was out of ideas, He created us this way because that is what He desired.  Does that already speak a truth of intimacy to you?

God is still the star of the story; however, He begins to share the story with us.  I don't mean that He makes the story all about us because the story is still His story; however, He puts us into His story.  When He created us with such intimacy, we were invited into His story.  It seriously touches my heart to think that our Creator, who is so great and powerful, wants a relationship with us.  It is incredibly humbling because He is so awesome.  Notice what Genesis 2:7 says about how man was created:  "Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person."  He breathed the breath of life into us!  Notice that it wasn't until God breathed into man that he became a living person.

The idea of God breathing His breath in us is also a very intimate thought.  What is so wonderful is that He could have created us differently, but He wanted us to be like Him and made us living through His breath.  Isaiah 42:5 says, "God, the Lord, created the heavens and stretched them out. He created the earth and everything in it. He gives breath to everyone, life to everyone who walks the earth."  His breath is what gives us life.  Don't you see that means that we exist because of His breath of life?  Your Creator's breath is in you and that is what gives you life.  No one can give or take away your life; only God decides whether or not you will have His breath in you.  Don't forget, this is His story.  But, you are a part of the great and Almighty God's story.  How amazing!

What does it mean to you that you have God's breath in you?

This post is linked with iFellowship Blog Hop, Winsome Wednesdays, and Word Filled Wednesdays.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Amazed by Creation

Genesis 2:1-4

Yesterday, I cut myself short about how amazing it is that God created the universe.  I can't create a single thing, even though I may feel like I did.  But the reality is, I come up with ideas based on something that already existed.  A composer doesn't create music, he/she just learned to put a combination of notes that already exist together that make a new song.  An artist doesn't create color, they just put colors that already exist together in a way that pleases our eye.  An inventor uses things that already exist in our world to make a new product.  But our God created the entire universe out of nothing.  If you need to, please read through Genesis 1 again to think about how amazing it is that God created this world.  For today, please read Genesis 2:1-4.

In his book Crazy Love, Francis Chan writes about God as our Creator.  He writes about how just that reality of who He is should amaze us intensely.  In order to think about His greatness and our size in comparison, please watch this Crazy Love video just to get an idea of the size of our universe.  After watching this video, I felt incredibly small and it amazed me even more how God is bigger than I can comprehend.  So, read Genesis 2:4 and see if you read it a little differently now.  "This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the LORD God made the earth and the heavens."


This year, we had the opportunity to see the planets Venus and Jupiter lined up in the sky and it reminds us that our Solar System is pretty big.  Last night, my husband and I enjoyed a clear sky and took a short stop from our business to look at the constellations.  It is funny how we still got excited when we saw the Big Dipper.  What is amazing about the stars is that we are looking at a grouping of stars that are so far apart from each other yet they make pictures for us in the sky.  God knew where to place each one, and He knew that we humans would enjoy seeing the pictures.  I wonder what God sees when He looks at His creation as a whole.  What pictures does He see?

Did you know that there are 200 varieties of the woodpecker?  That amazes me to think that there are that many varieties of a type of bird.  The woodpecker can peck at a speed of 20 pecks per second and does not experience any brain damage.  This is because there are pockets of air surrounding and cushioning their brain.  Not all woodpeckers even have the same diet!  My point is that we have an amazing God who is our Creator and everywhere we look reveals His glory.  Since God gave Himself a day of rest after all this incredible creating, we could spend an entire day at the end of the week and praise Him for where we saw Him throughout the week.  If we really were looking for revelations of Him throughout creation, I'm sure that entire day wouldn't be enough to praise Him for what we witness.

How does creation tell you of God's greatness today?

This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesdays and Soli Deo Gloria.


Monday, April 16, 2012

In the Beginning

Genesis 1

I have spent a lot of time in the New Testament lately, and I felt like it was time to go into the Old Testament for my next study.  I am going to spend the next several weeks in the book of Genesis.  This is a book full of amazing history and full of people of faith.  We will not have to step too far into the book of Genesis to see the need for our wonderful Savior; however, it is also amazing to know that our Creator already had a plan in place to redeem us and to draw us back to Him.  So, starting today we will get to read the account of creation.  I know many of you have read it countless numbers of times; however, please read through it and pray that God will give you a fresh understanding of Genesis 1.

For those of you who have grown up in church all their lives, I want you to stop and take a step back and look again at Genesis 1 from the viewpoint of someone who has never opened the Bible.  Look at it from the perspective of what this chapter is saying to someone who is reading about the creation of the world for the first time.  What kind of questions does it raise in your heart?


We are told that God spoke the world into existence, but we don't know entirely what that looked like.  But there is a piece of the picture that we don't see right away reading this account, but the more we dig into the Bible the more understanding we can have of who God is.  John 1:1-5 (NLT) says, "In the beginning the Word already existed.  The Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He existed in the beginning with God.  God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through Him.  The Word gave life to everything that was created, and His life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it."  Further down in the chapter, we read in John 1:14 (NLT), "So the Word became human[d] and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son."

The thing that stuck out in this first chapter is that we see that God created the world through His spoken Word, which we learn in John 1 is Jesus.  We also see that God's Spirit was hovering above the waters (Genesis 1:2).  God already reveals some of who He is to us in the first few verses of the Bible, and we already get a glimpse of the Trinity.  But the prominent theme we see in chapter 1 is that God is our Creator.  No matter what, we can't shake the reality that God tells us that He is our Creator and we exist only because of Him.  But that is not the only truth...we read that when we were created God said that His creation was very good.  Let the beauty of that thought sink in for a moment.  We have been created in His image, and He was pleased with the creation of us.  Let the idea that God was pleased to created you sink deep into your heart today.

How does the truth found in Genesis 1 motivate you today?

This post is linked with Monday Musings and Sharing His Beauty.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

What Controls Me




"Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them."  2 Corinthians 5:14-15

This morning, I have doing a little thinking about what my passion is as part of the challenge I am participating in called Living Intentionally.  I could just shout out an instant answer, but the posts written by Lisa Pullam found on Internet Cafe Devotions puts us through a more thought out process.  But I can say that while I am thinking about my specific passions for right now, I know this verse reflects the overall purpose we have in Christ.  "Either way, Christ's love controls us...."  No matter what, what controls me should be Christ's love if I am a follower of Christ.  These verses tell us that we have died to our old life when we took the step of faith to believe that Christ died for everyone.  But then this means that we will no longer live for ourselves.  We live for Christ because His love shown on the cross and in His resurrection controls us.  So, no matter what I feel God leading me to in my life, I know that His love should be what guides me.  His love should be what motivates me.

What controls you?

This post is linked with Spiritual Sundays.

Friday, April 13, 2012

As For You...

John 21:15-25

If you are a teacher or a parent of more than one child, you have probably heard something like, "Why does she get to...?"  If you have worked with children long enough, you know that what is fair doesn't always seem fair to everyone.  That is because each child is different and each child responds differently to encouragement and discipline.  Each child excels in different skills and each child has different interests.  However, each child also demands fairness.  But wisdom tells us that we need to respond to each situation as it presents itself.  In the verses I am looking at today tells of an encounter Peter had with Jesus that sounds similar; please read John 21:15-25.

I once worked with a teacher that would say to children when they were pointing out another classmates faults, "Imagine how much more you could do if you focused on yourself instead of focusing on everyone else in the room."  Since this was said to first graders, the idea behind that sentence was often lost to the listener.  I can't help but wonder if that is something God wants to say to me at times.  There are times where I just want fairness in my human view, but God is saying to me, "What is it to you what I do with them.  Just focus on you and Me.  Just follow Me."

A thought that I have this morning, is how we are told in Ephesians that we are unified as one body in Christ.  So, does that mean that because we are unified we can know each other's business with God?  I don't think so!  This may sound backwards, but I believe that when we are focused on our own relationship with God and focused on how God wants to grow ourselves we actually become more unified.  This is because as we grow and understand that God wants to do an amazing work in us, we become less concerned with whether or not something is fair and what God is doing with someone else.  When we are less concerned about our human understanding of fairness, we can truly be more unified with one another.  We can honestly celebrate and have joy with another believer when God does something amazing in their life and we can truly mourn with them in their grief.  As we grow in Christ, the more confident we are in our relationship with Christ.  So, unity in Christ isn't so much about being concerned about someone else's experiences with God as it is being focused on our own relationship with God.  We can remember Christ's words to Peter when He said, "As for you, follow me."  That is to be our focus...following Christ.

Where is your focus today?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

My Greatest Love

John 21:15-19

This morning, as I was praying I found myself thanking God for His amazing love.  But then I was struck by the reality that I cannot completely comprehend His love, but I can be thankful for the little I do understand.  I understand that as my Creator, He loves me affectionately as His creation.  I understand that He loves me enough to make a way for me to still have a relationship with Him through Jesus' sacrifice.  I understand that He loves me greater than I can love my own children and husband.  Just this reality blows my mind away - that my Father's love is greater than my greatest love.  No matter how much and great I love God, His love will always be greater.  The verses I am looking at today talks about love for our Savior; please turn to John 21:15-19.

I have said so many times on this blog that I am not a biblical scholar, and I have not studied Greek or Hebrew.  However, we have such wonderful resources available to us that can help expand our understanding of the Bible (or create more questions) and I believe that we should use them.  Since I have heard so many sermons on these verses, I already knew that there are two different words that is translated as love in English.  The first word is the word Jesus uses in His first two questions that He asks Peter - agapao.  This is a love that signifies a deep fondness for someone or to love dearly.  Peter answers Jesus with phileo, which also means to love, but it can also mean to show signs of love (such as a kiss).  This has me thinking a lot this morning.

This short little conversation goes pretty deep, doesn't it?  I've heard that Jesus asks three times to rectify the three times Peter denied Him during His trial.  Maybe some of the different wording is because Peter was trying to say that there was no way his love could compare to the love of Christ.  Just as our greatest love cannot compare to the vastness of God's love for us; Peter knew that his love for Christ did not equal Christ's love for Him.  But the thing that is interesting is that the last time Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, He also uses the word phileo.  Right after that, Jesus tells Peter of how he will die and then gives the command, "Follow me."

Since phileo can also mean to show signs of love, we see that it can be looked at as an active love.  We know that we cannot just go and kiss God right now in our physical sense, so how can we show signs of our love?  Jesus tells us this in John 14:23, "Jesus replied, 'All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.'"  Jesus uses the word, agapao in this verse and is telling us that our greatest love for Him is to do what He says.  The signs of love we express to God is to obey and follow Him.  That is our greatest act of love for our Creator.

How can you show God your love for Him today?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday and Proverbs 31.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

He Comes Familiar

John 21:1-14

I remember once picking up my dad from work with my mom and even though it was night I knew it was him coming out the door.  I couldn't see his face, but I recognized his silhouette and his gait.  I even remember telling my mom that I knew it was him because he was the only person I knew that walked that way.  We each have traits or idiosyncrasies that allow others to recognize us.  The closer we know someone, the less of the entire picture we need to see that it is them.  Some of that is because we have enough shared experiences that allow us to see each other in many different lights.  Sometimes those things are personal; something that only a close friend or spouse would know about us.  Have you ever thought of the fact that we can have a relationship with God that is so intimate that we can recognize some very personal things that are shared between us and Him?  Have you ever considered that God sometimes comes to us in a familiar way so we can recognize Him?  Please read John 21:1-14.

When we are just looking at this as an isolated story of another appearance of Jesus to His disciples after His resurrection, there doesn't seem to be anything happening except that Jesus performed a miracle with the fish and He served them fish and bread.  However, there is another time when some of these same disciples had their first encounter with Christ that was very similar.  Please read Luke 5:1-11.  Aside from the fact that it was amazing in both stories that Jesus created a miracle in catching fish, I'm sure that is why John was able to declare so confidently that it was the Lord on the beach.  This was familiar to him, He had a similar encounter with Christ.

No two encounters with Jesus are ever the same; however, I do believe that Jesus comes familiar to us so that we can recognize Him.  And the more we seek Him out and spend time with Him, the more familiar He is to us so that we can see Him near us without seeing the entire picture.  I love what it says in verse 12, "None of the disciples dared to ask him, 'Who are you?' They knew it was the Lord."  This makes me wonder if Jesus looked different than how they were used to seeing him, but they knew Him in other ways.  They didn't just need the physical attributes to recognize their Lord.  We can know, too.  God has a way of letting us know who He is in a very personal way.

Do you recognize when God comes to you in a familiar way?

This post is linked with Winsome Wednesday, iFellowship Blog Hop, and Word Filled Wednesday.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Unless I See

John 20:24-29

"I won't believe it until I see it."  Have you ever said anything like that?  Sometimes we hear a story that seems more like a tall tale and it is hard to believe.  Perhaps the story sounds too good to be true.  In this day and age with media bombarding us from all sides, I'm sure most of us have put up some sort of wall of skepticism because we've been disillusioned by what we've heard once or twice.  Even without the media showering us with exaggerated stories, we can become skeptics from our own experiences with the people we are around.  This skepticism protects us from falling prey to lies; however, it also build up a wall around us so we don't believe the truth unless we have experienced it first hand.  The story I am looking at today is about Thomas, a man who was skeptical about Jesus' visit with the other disciples.  Please read John 20:24-29.

I grew up hearing the name, "Doubting Thomas," in Sunday School.  It almost seems unfair that one moment in his life has him branded as a doubter for centuries, doesn't it?  The reason why this moment of doubt was so big was because it had to do with Christ's resurrection and him doubting the word of ten other men.  These are ten men he spent three years of his life with - eating, sleeping, and traveling throughout Israel.  Thomas made some very strong statements of what he would need to see and feel before he could believe that Jesus was alive.  And then Jesus came and showed him everything he needed to believe.

Before we judge Thomas too harshly, let's remember some of our own moments of skepticism.  Perhaps there are some things that you're still feeling skeptical about.  Maybe you are skeptical about someone's claim to physical healing.  Perhaps you've heard someone say that God has called them to do something that was life changing and seemed a bit radical.  Maybe you've heard a story of someone saying that after a life of pain and sin that they have come to know Christ as their Savior and their heart is new.  Sometimes, things that God does can be difficult to believe unless we have seen it ourselves.  But here is the thing...do you believe that God can do those things?  Even if we haven't experienced it ourselves, we can still praise God because He can do anything.  God can do things that goes beyond our imaginations.

Our skepticism can steal our joy of worshiping the God who can do anything.  Our skepticism can steal the belief that Jesus rose from the dead and shares His resurrection with us.  Colossians 3:1 says, "Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of Heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand."  Our skepticism can blind us from the realities of Heaven, which is a completely different reality from what the world tells us.  But Jesus said to Thomas, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me,” John 20:29.  Jesus wants us to throw away the skepticism in our hearts that demand that we need to see it to believe it and have faith.  Christ's victory really is ours!

Do you need to throw away some skepticism?

This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesdays.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Behind Locked Doors



John 20:19-23

I hope you all had a great time of celebration at your local church on Easter.  Easter is the celebration of Christ's victory over death which He shares with us.  All who believe in Christ as their Savior and Lord receive an inheritance of victory as a child of God.  I pray that amazing truth gives you great joy and hope knowing that our life in Christ is so much greater than anything this world can ever offer us.  I am going to continue looking at some encounters people had with Jesus following His resurrection this week beginning with the disciples in John 20:19-23.

The first picture we are given in these verses are the disciples hiding in a locked room for fear of the religious leaders.  This is understandable because they still were not entirely understanding all that was happening.  They knew Jesus had risen from the dead according the account John wrote earlier in chapter 20; however, they didn't know what that would mean for them.  Suddenly, Jesus was among them.  Remember how this had to be astonishing to the disciples since the doors were locked.  Maybe not astonishing; maybe it caused them to be afraid even more.  Instead, Jesus told them to have peace.  Think about that for a moment; Jesus spoke peace into their lives not just once, but twice.

We all live in a way that has us hiding in a locked room at times.  Even though we understand  and believe the truth of Christ's resurrection, sometimes we forget what that means in all our situations.  We listen to the fear easier than we believe that Christ's resurrection is more powerful than anything.  Maybe we fear that we cannot change because of our circumstances when Christ's resurrection tells us that He makes us new.  But Christ has a way of breaking in even though the doors are locked.  He speaks a new truth that settles our fears when we listen: Peace.  Peace can be ours in all circumstances when we look and see that no locked door can keep Christ out.  Peace can be ours when we choose to see that He is alive and has conquered death.  Jesus is our Prince of Peace.

What locked door are you hiding behind?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty.


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

John 20:1-23

He is Risen!  Easter is my favorite day of the year because I know that it is because of Christ's victory over death that I am who I am today.  It is what all my hope is staked in because Jesus shares His victory with everyone who believes in Him.  Without saying too much, please reflect on John 20:1-23 and celebrate the freedom we have in Christ who sacrificed and rose again for us.

God bless all of you and may you celebrate this Easter with fellow believers!

This post is linked with Spiritual Sundays.

Friday, April 6, 2012

No Greater Love



John 19:16-42

Today is Good Friday, the day that we recognize Jesus' crucifixion.  This truly was the greatest act of love that God extended to us.  Jesus, who had no guilt, chose to suffer the consequences of our actions by taking our sins, shame, guilt and punishment on His shoulders.  He did this because only God has the power to conquer the punishment of death.  In all honesty, I have nothing to say because His love overwhelms me and His willingness to go through everything we have read about this week is such selflessness.  Please read through John's account of His crucifixion knowing that there is hope at the end of the story.  Come back tomorrow to read about the greatest reason for our hope.  May you be blessed and your eyes be opened to the immense love of our Creator.  John 19:16-42.

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

"I Find Him Not Guilty"

John 19:1-16

One of the things that I pray over my children is that God would give them the strength each day to do what honors Him.  I pray that no matter what their peers are doing, they would have the courage to make the wise choice and to do the right thing.  Even as an adult, there is still a peer pressure that we can feel while at work.  For example, maybe it is too easy to engage in gossip while at the water cooler.  The verses that I am reading today shows that we can even be in a position of authority and know what is right but still succumb to the pressure of the majority.  Please read John 19:1-16.

Yesterday, I looked at Jesus' trial with Pilate, and even though I focused on His accusers' worry about defilement I still read through the account.  One of the things that struck me about the trial was the fact that it was a farce because Pilate really didn't find any guilt on Jesus.  Even though Pilate found no guilt, we read today that he still had Him flogged anyway because that was what the Jews wanted.  Already, we see how Pilate wasn't nearly as concerned about doing the right thing as he was concerned about making everyone happy.

After Jesus was flogged, we see that Pilate once again tells the crowd that Jesus is not guilty.  But instead of just making a decision and letting Him go, Pilate went before the crowd and asked them what they wanted.  Pilate was full of fear because he knew there was a chance that Jesus was God; however, His fear of the crowd was greater.  Pilate's supposed indecision over this situation was his decision.  Just because he didn't like it or support it, he still allowed it.

Before we shake our heads and point our fingers at Pilate, we need to look at ourselves.  When have we failed to make a decision when we knew what was right and just let it go instead?  When have we chosen to turn away and pretend that we don't see something?  When we fail to make a decision, we are still making a decision to do nothing.  So, when we see the mistreatment of someone and we choose to turn away, we are making a decision to not help.  When we are not responding in a way that honors God, we are dishonoring Him.  Honoring God sometimes takes courage, but God is the One who gives us the strength to do it.

What opportunities is God giving you today to honor Him?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Defile

John 18:28-40

This week is what is often referred to as Holy Week in the church calendar because it is the week leading up to Easter.  Easter represents our greatest hope as Christians because it means we have life in Christ.  I am following the account of Jesus' last moments with His disciples and through His resurrection according to the book of John.  Today, I want to look at His trial before Pilate; please read John 18:28-40.

There are so many amazing truths Jesus speaks in these verses; however, I want to point out something that is leaving an impression on my heart.  Look at verse 28.  Why wouldn't Jesus' accusers enter the house of Pilate? We are told in this verse that they didn't want to be defiled so they could celebrate the Passover.  Have you thought about the irony of that idea?  I wonder if that is why John made a point of adding that detail in his account of Jesus' trial.  They were so worried about the one thing that really would only make them "ceremonially unclean" and were about to send our Lord to the cross as they clearly stated to Pilate.  This is exactly what Jesus was speaking against when He told the Pharisees that they were more concerned about their traditions that had no power to set them free than they were concerned about God's law (Mark 7).

This makes me think of the phrase, "missing the forest for the trees."  Jesus' accusers were not interested in the bigger picture, they were concerned about their traditions.  Jesus didn't care about tradition; He wanted to draw people back to Him.  It is so easy to get caught up in the details that do not overall make a difference and forget who we are in Christ.  Jesus' accusers were sinning in their unbelief, yet they were more concerned about something that wasn't going to make a difference in their salvation.  And they were more concerned about celebrating Passover, a tradition that merely reflected what Jesus was about to do for all of us.

Do not think that Jesus' accusers were the only ones to make this mistake.  We are all capable of it, and we have all done it.  What tradition have we focused on rather than looking at the bigger picture?  Where have we gotten caught up in legalism rather than thinking about showing God's love to the people around us.  When have we told God He was wrong because our comfort was more important?  We need to make sure that we are focusing on God's heart so we don't lose His vision and purpose for the commands we find in the Bible.

Where is it easy for you to miss the forest for the trees?

This post is linked with iFellowship Blog Hop, Winsome Wednesdays, and Word Filled Wednesdays.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Denial

John 18:15-27

Have you ever denied anything?  Maybe it was because of fear or it was because you were trying to be someone different.  Either way, a moment came when you denied that part of who you were.  When I was in school, I often acted different from who I really was because I just wanted to fit in somewhere.  I had friends who never really got a chance to see all of who I was because I was afraid to admit some parts of myself to them.  Even though they never asked me questions about those things, I still denied it by hiding it.  Today, I am looking at the account of Peter's denial of Jesus in the book of John.  Please read John 18:15-27.

I have to admit that I always wonder what would have happened in these scenes if Peter would have stood up for who he really was.  Would the people around him done something horrible to him, or would they have asked him questions about what is it was like to follow Jesus?  Who knows, and it really doesn't matter because that is not what happened.  Peter was probably afraid because his whole entire world had just been turned upside down.  Think about the last 24 hours he had with Jesus and the rest of the disciples.  Jesus shared so much intimacy with them and shared so much of who He was with them and then Jesus was taken away to go to trial for nothing.  If Jesus, who is God, was on trial for nothing, what would happen to Peter if people connected him with Jesus?

But here's the thing...Peter is not the only person to deny Jesus.  Don't we deny Him each time we worry and forget that He knows exactly what is best for us?  Don't we sometimes deny Him the opportunity to comfort us when we are afraid or hurting?  Don't we deny who we are in Him every time we act out of our sinful nature rather than our new nature in Christ?  Don't we deny Him whenever we don't spend time with Him in prayer and in the Bible.  Our denial of Christ just isn't possible with the people we are around; our denial can happen with ourselves as we put other things before Him.  Just like we can feel conviction at the time we deny His work in us, Peter knew what he did as soon as he did it.  But we also know the end of the story; Jesus forgave Peter and Jesus forgave us.  I am so thankful for His grace!  When we stop denying His presence in our lives we can witness His incredible work.

How does Christ want to work in you today?

This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesday.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Betrayal

John 18:1-14

I love my friends.  It hurts me when I realize that I have hurt a friend because I do not want to intentionally hurt anyone.  There have been times when I have thought that I may have offended or hurt a friend, and it kept me up all night wishing I could rectify it right away.  When we are hurt by a friend, it can feel like a betrayal.  But the reality is that most people do not go around trying to hurt their friends purposely; we usually hurt others because we are reacting to something else.  What about a real betrayal?  Maybe a friend shared a deep secret with others or they did something that they knew would hurt you.  What if you knew ahead of time that they were going to betray you?  Would you let them, or would you do whatever it took to stop the betrayal from happening?  Please read John 18:1-14.

Reading through these verses, we see that Jesus was aware of the betrayal that was about to happen, yet He approached Judas and the soldiers anyway.  He knew that the time for prophecy to be fulfilled.  Even though Jesus knew why they were there, He still asked, "Who are you looking for."  Did you notice what happened when they answered that they were looking for Jesus?  When Jesus answered, "I am He," they all fell to the ground.  I just wonder what the soldiers had to be thinking when that happened.  Do you think they realized the great power that came from Christ when He declared who He was?  I know they were Roman soldiers and not Jews; however, did they wonder who this person was they were coming to arrest?

Even when Peter cut the ear off a soldier, we are told in Luke that Jesus healed the man's ear.  So much power was witnessed by the soldiers that night in the garden and Jesus could have stopped everything at that moment but instead He went along with the soldiers peacefully.  Jesus knew that this was to happen in order that we should all be saved.  How prophetic the words of Ciaphas when he said that it would be better for one man to die for all the people...he just didn't know what exactly that would mean.

It is easy for all of us to look at this scene and some of the references of Judas leading up to it and judge his heart.  However, I wonder how many times I betrayed my beautiful Savior?  How many times did I fail to do what was right out of fear, pride, or selfishness and Jesus knew that was I going to fail yet He chose to die for me anyway?  It is the fact that our sin is a betrayal to our Creator that Jesus came to die.  So, even though Judas' betrayal as a friend had to hurt; this was the very reason that Christ came to earth.  He came to make everything right again.  He came to forgive.  He came to heal us and to make us whole.

Are you grateful for Jesus' unfailing love?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty and Monday Musings.