Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Worthy of the Calling

My flute professor in college was female and her entire studio (with one exception) were female.  This allowed her to speak very frankly with us about appropriate dress and demeanor while on stage.  She talked about wearing clothing that was neither revealing or something uncomfortable because it looked terrible when a performer was fidgeting with their clothing.  She talked about considering the angle of the audience and how they would be seeing us from the stage and let that determine what we would be wearing.  She reminded us that when we tried on our clothes for performance that we hold up our arms the way we would hold our instrument so we could see if there were any awkward gaps showing.  She then told us that this was important because we had all worked hard to get to the place where we were.  She told us it would be a shame when we were performing in front of people after investing hours and hours of practice into a piece that the audience would be distracted by how we looked.  While performing, we needed to present ourselves worthy of being on stage.

Reading through the book of Ephesians, Paul does something similar for all believers in his letter.  The beginning of the letter reminds us of the gift of grace we have received through Jesus - our calling.  But the second half of the book is like a guide to how we should be living.  First, Paul tells us to "live a life worthy of the calling." Ephesians 4:1 (NIV).  He continues on in Ephesians 4:2-3 (NIV), "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."  He wrote of the importance of this in order to build unity within the body of Christ (which is the church), which will bring us to spiritual maturity as a whole.

He reminds us again in Ephesians 4:31-32 (NIV), "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."  He warns of other behaviors that are not worthy of the call in chapter 5.  But then at the end of chapter 5 he gives instruction on how everyone in a household should be honoring and respecting one another.  So, not only as a body of Christ should we be unified, but even on the smaller scale of a household he stressed the importance of unity.

Finally, one more instruction he gave in how we were to live worthy of our calling was related to our prayer life.  He instructed us to pray in the Spirit on all occasions (Ephesians 6:18).  He showed us the tools we have when we put on the "Armor of God."  So, living a life worthy of the calling can be roughly summed up as:

Keep unity and peace in the body of Christ through love.
Do not sin against each other.
Honor everyone in your household.
Pray in the Spirit on all occasions.

Sounds simple...but not so much!  It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that this can be accomplished.

Are you living a life worthy of your calling?

This post is linked with Word Filled Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Diligence

In May, my husband and I will be celebrating 20 years of marriage.  We look back on that day and it seems like it has been just a few years but we also note how young we were starting out our life together.  It has been an incredible 20 years, but it has also required diligence on each of our parts to continue growing in our relationship with one another.  It doesn't take any effort at all to drift away from each other; however, it takes purpose to stay together.  There are many things that can put stress on a marriage like temptation, financial pressures, and so much more.  But we can keep doing things that will build our relationship with God's help instead of tearing it down.

Today's reading with the Community Bible Experience takes us through the book of Colossians.  I have to admit that I was happy to see that the reading for today was Colossians because I love how clear and concise the book is about our walk with Christ.  I was trying hard to make sure that the reading was fresh for me because I had spent so much time studying the book a while ago.  Reading through it without all the headings helped keep it fresh this morning, and I want to point out a theme that seemed to surface as I read Colossians.

Paul starts out the letter with encouragement and a reminder of where their hope and salvation comes from.  He points out that it is through Christ that we are saved and uses the phrase "the firstborn of all creation."  He really is the firstborn since we know that it was through Jesus that the world was created.  But in this reminder, Paul makes a statement that reminds us to be diligent in our walk with Jesus.  Colossians 1:21-23 (NIV) says,
"Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.  But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—  if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel."
 I don't think I ever noticed the "if" in those verses before.  And it is an important "if" because it reminds us that it takes purpose and resolve to continue on.  Just like saying "I do" on our wedding day is the beginning of our journey together and not the end, our walk with Christ is similar.  Just by believing when we first start our walk with Christ doesn't mean that there are not influences in the world that would like to pull us away.  It takes an intentional walk to "continue in your faith, established and firm" and not moving away from the hope you held rooted in the truth of the gospel.

I would highly encourage you to read through Colossians because Paul gives some more explanation into what can pull our attention away from the path we are on with Christ.  He warns against deceptive philosophies and legalism that can divert our attention from what is truth and what really matters.  He encouraged us through this letter to stay diligent in our faith, because Jesus is all we need.

What are the things that want to pull your attention away from Christ?  Are you resolved to continue on in your faith?

This post is linked with Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Riches

Today starts the fourth week of my church's eight week journey in the Community Bible Experience, takes us from Romans 8 through the end of Romans.  It is impossible for me to write out everything that is found in these verses in a blog post; however, I have been attempting to share my thoughts on themes that stand out to me during my reading.  At the time of writing today's post, I haven't had a chance to complete the reading for the day, but I read through Romans 11.  Last Friday, I read through the middle of Romans 8 and read Paul's amazing and compelling case for salvation through grace.  He explained that grace was a gift to us not based on any ability to follow the law (works), but grace through belief.  He showed us that our belief in God's salvation through Jesus is what pours His grace so lavishly on us.

But the verses I want to share with you this morning is Romans 11:33-36 (NIV) that have sung such great joy to my heart this morning.
"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
'Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?'
'Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?'
For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things.
To Him be the glory forever! Amen."
No matter what, we need to remember that only God fully understands His plan and knows what is best.  We cannot ever know the mind of God because it is so far beyond us.  There is nothing we could ever do or give to God that would merit a repayment from God.  Oh, how great God's riches are; full of wisdom and knowledge!  They are so far beyond us, yet God shares them with us!  Does that humble you a bit?

Are you amazed at the greatness of God?  Are you humbled by "the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God?"

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Payment or Gift?

Anyone who has had a job understands that there is a direct correlation between how much they work and how much they get paid.  So, if you worked for 20 hours you will get paid for 20 hours of work.  These are our wages (or for some, salary).  Each job and workplace offers different wages and when we are hired we agree with our employer of our wages.  But, sometimes we receive a gift; a gift that really was given to us freely.  For example, as parents it brings us great joy to give good gifts to our children.  Sometimes we choose to wait until their birthday or other special event, but sometimes we buy them something just because we love them.  Paul writes of the fact that there are also spiritual wages that we have, but there is also an incredible gift given to us by God.

Today, as I am continuing on through the Community Bible Experience, I read through the first eight chapters of Romans.  I know I have been saying this a lot; however, it really has been refreshing to read through this letter without having all the chapter and verse breaks and all the editor headings.  It really does allow us to read with a much bigger picture in mind.  Today, Paul was writing to the Roman church explaining that the gift of salvation was open not only to Jewish believers but to the Gentiles as well.  He was explaining that it truly was a gift not based on what we do (works) but what we believe.  I caught something new that I never noticed before and I wanted to share it with you.

In Romans 3 and 4, Paul showed that it is not by works and circumcision that we receive salvation.  He explained that Abraham received righteousness because he believed God (Romans 4:3) and that this righteousness was given to him before he was circumcised (Romans 4:10).  Paul began to explain this by equating it to the wages one earns through working.  In Romans 4:4-5 (NIV) Paul wrote, "Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness."  Paul spent the next few chapters explaining that there is nothing that we can do to "earn" righteousness because the Law only gives us condemnation.  However, righteousness is given to us as a gift from God.  He sums it up in Romans 6:23 (NIV), "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."  So, when we try to work for righteousness we will always be condemned by our sin and will receive death; however, when we believe in the salvation we receive through Christ's death and resurrection we are given the gift of eternal life!

There are so many other important points that Paul made in these verses, and I would highly encourage you to read through them.  It isn't possible to touch on all his points in a short blog post (such as, just because we receive this gift doesn't mean we can continue to live a life of sin).  Such beautiful treasures are found in the Bible, and God wants you to receive them!

Are you relying on doing the right thing, or do you believe that salvation is given as a gift to us through Jesus?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Fridays.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Rules or Spirit?

There are so many religions and denominations that have a certain set of rules to live by.  Some are more complex than others, but they all have rules that a person follows in order to show that they will go to Heaven.  The rules don't even have to be terrible rules, but the message is sent that if you are going to make it to Heaven, you must live this way.  But, I would challenge you to take a look at what the Bible has to say on how we are to live.

Today's reading from the Community Bible Experience takes us through the book of Galatians.  I don't think I've ever read the book in one sitting before, and once again I am finding myself with a completely different perspective.  There is definitely an appeal from Paul to the Galatians to not forget what they first believed in and to not get tied up into matters of the law.  Reading through the book, the theme seems to be all about whether or not a person should be circumcised; however, there is a much deeper argument going on in this letter.  Paul lays out the basis of our faith and how we should know how to live.

This is a very strong letter because Paul is warning the Galatians not to mix their faith with a form of legalism.  Throughout Galatians, Paul reminds the believers that they were saved because of their faith in Christ not because of following the law.  However, there were people who were causing confusion among the believers in Galatia by telling them that they needed to be circumcised according to the law of Moses.  Paul responds to this by reminding them that even James (who was considered a pillar in the early church) agreed that it was unnecessary for a Gentile to become circumcised.  Paul explains that this is because when Jesus died for us on the cross, He broke our burden from the Law and we were given the Holy Spirit who would guide us in what was right.

Paul by no means tells us that we can just do whatever we want because we are no longer under the Law, because he explains very clearly that living in the Spirit is very different from living in the human nature.  Paul wrote in Galatians 5:13 (NIV), "You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love."  So we no longer should indulge in the desires that are part of the human nature.  He continued on in Galatians 5:18 (NIV), "But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law."  But there is even more because he describes life in the flesh verses life led by the Spirit in Galatians 5:19-23 (NIV):

"The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."

 It isn't about following a set of rules, it is all about following the Holy Spirit's guidance.

What is your guide for living a life that pleases God?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Suffering and Endurance

Continuing on through the Community Bible Experience, I am reading through chapter 13 of 2 Corinthians today (although at the time of writing this post, I've read through chapter 4).  As I've said before, it really is a blessing to read through these verses without the chapter and verse breaks and read it as a letter rather than text.  Without having the chapter headings, I'm not influenced by what someone else decided was the theme for the verses and just rely on what God is showing me. While I didn't have time to read through the entire reading for the day before writing this post, I saw a big picture through the first four chapters: suffering and endurance.

That is never the topic we like to talk about or experience.  In fact, I'm sure the title of this post will keep several people from even opening the page!  But that's okay, because it is very much a part of walking this life on earth through Christ.  If anyone believes that there will be no suffering once they decide to follow Christ is sorely mistaken and will be bitterly disappointed.  With that said, suffering isn't all we experience in our walk with Christ; we experience peace, joy, love, and so much more!  Paul gives us an idea of why he was so willing to suffer in his journeys and I want to look at the encouragement he gives us from the viewpoint of his own experience.  But keep in mind that this experience is written by someone that relied fully and completely on God to help him through everything.

In 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 (NIV) Paul wrote, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body."  So we first see that the power we have in us is not from ourselves but from God, which then helps us through the suffering we may face.  In fact, Paul wrote several times the fact that we die to ourselves so that the life of Jesus is revealed in us.  How amazing is it that God chooses to use us to reveal the resurrection power of Christ!?

The other verse I want to leave you with is this message of hope that Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (NIV), which is one of my favorite verses:  "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."  I want to remind you that Paul is not making light of what we experience here because by the time he wrote that sentence he had been stoned and threatened and imprisoned and beaten.  He understood what it meant to go hungry - Paul had suffered much.  He had seen fellow brothers and sisters put to death for their faith.  But he was reminding us of an important truth.  What we see and experience here on earth is temporary and will someday be gone, but what we do not see is eternal and holds so much more hope!  For those who follow Christ it is the hope we hold in the promise of eternal life with Him.  Let that hope hold you through the difficulties that life brings.

Do you cling to the hope you have in Jesus?  Do you believe that there is a much better eternal life that we can look forward to?

This post is linked with Word Filled Wednesday.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Gift of Wisdom

Today's reading for the Community Bible Experience takes us through 1 Corinthians chapter 7 (or pages 117-126).  I have to say that out of all the readings I have done so far, today's reading is the one where I have noticed the most of how beneficial it is to read through the Bible this way.  Reading through 1 Corinthians without any chapter breaks and section titles made me read through these verses so differently.  It really allowed me to see the bigger picture themes that Paul was writing about without someone else's predetermined thoughts.

I saw a call to action in faith.  Paul gives an incredible description of godly wisdom verses wisdom of the world.  He reminds us that godly wisdom that comes from the Holy Spirit will appear foolish to those who are not following Christ because they do not have the Holy Spirit working in them.  For example, Paul explains about the fact that they should not be concerned over following a certain human, but that they should be following the direction of the Holy Spirit.  Paul explains that they should not be judging one another because God will have the final judgement in the end.  Paul explains that if we are judging one another and having lawsuits against one another we are already showing our defeat.  He explains that it is far better to resolve things within the body of believers than to go to courts of the world that do not have the wisdom that comes from the Holy Spirit.  And he also tells us that it is better to be cheated than to be the cheater.  He also tells us that the Holy Spirit's wisdom will help us live a life that is pure; without sexual immorality or greed or idolatry.

The overall theme that I picked up is that the Holy Spirit's wisdom is what should be telling us how to live rather than our culture.  That is a challenging idea, isn't it?  We shouldn't be relying on a favorite preacher or the laws of this world because we who follow Christ have the greatest wisdom in us - the Holy Spirit.

With that said, I want to share a video I saw on Kendal's blog, A Spacious Place.  This brings a little perspective in life and reminds us that God's heart is focused on justice and it reminds us that what we often complain and fight about really isn't that big of a deal.



We received a great blessing and gift from God when He gave us the Holy Spirit.  Let's listen to His wise counsel.  What is the Holy Spirit telling you?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

No Fear

Do you experience fear?  When do you experience it the most?  Is it during stressful times or do certain events bring you fear?  For me, I used to have a lot of fear at night.  There was never a traumatic event that happened at night that caused the fear, but when I was a child (around 10 or 11 years old) I began having terrible nightmares.  The fear at night never left me from that point on.    A few years ago, I had the opportunity to be prayed over by a team and we prayed against the source of that fear.  I've had peace at night ever since then.  Don't get me wrong; every now and then that fear tries to creep back but I can pray against it and ask God to put peace in my heart.  You see, fear is not from God but from our enemy.  That is why when I saw this verse published in a magazine recently, I chose this for my memory verse.

"When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet."  Proverbs 3:24 (NLT)

Here is the context of the verse (it is wonderful!):

My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight,
preserve sound judgment and discretion;
they will be life for you,
an ornament to grace your neck.
Then you will go on your way in safety,
and your foot will not stumble.
When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
Have no fear of sudden disaster
or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,
for the Lord will be at your side
and will keep your foot from being snared.  Proverbs 3:21-26
When we are walking in God's direction, we know that He will give us the wisdom we need if we ask for it.  Notice the author of this proverb says to not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight.  We keep these things in our sight when we keep our eyes on God.  We do not need to have fear because God is with us.  No matter what is going on, we have our Creator with us!  Take comfort and have peace with that thought today.

This post is linked with Spiritual Sundays.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Busy or Busybody?

A while back, I found myself with a couple of days off after running hard for several weeks.  Normally, when I have a day off I am happy to sit and relax with a good book and hot cocoa.  But during this particular time, I found myself not knowing what to do with myself.  My brain was too tired to read, but physically I wasn't tired enough to take a nap and remedy the situation.  It was strange because I don't get bored very often, but I found myself feeling bored.  I am currently in the middle of a diet, which has been going well and I found that I just wanted to eat that day.  My idleness wasn't good for me, and while I mostly resisted the temptation to munch all day I did eat a little more than I have been eating.  I wasn't necessarily hungry, but I didn't have anything else to do.  This morning, I thought back on that day because the reading for today with the Community Bible Experience was through 1 and 2 Thessalonians, where Paul wrote about the importance of not being idle.

Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, "We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies."  Not busy...busybodies.  That is an interesting phrase, isn't it?  It is true that when we keep ourselves busy, we do not have the time to get into trouble.  It is when we allow ourselves to be idle that we easily get caught up in our old temptations.  This verse in particular makes me think of the neighborhood gossip.  Too much time on our hands gives us too much time to peer into other peoples business that isn't necessarily something we need to know about.  If we have enough time to watch everyone around us, then we are not taking enough time investing into our relationship with God.  I am not saying that we shouldn't be aware of the needs around us, but I am saying that we need to keep busy enough helping people rather than finding out about people.  Do you understand the difference?

Are you taking the time to be busy or are you a busybody?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

How God Loves You

I have been struggling with some migraines this week which has been making mornings very slow for me.  But all is good at the moment and I wanted to share this video with all of you today.  This was done by a college student in my church and has a wonderful message of hope and love.  Use this as a reminder of how extravagantly God loves you!

Lost Love from Jeremy Cooper on Vimeo.

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Strength

Today is the 8th day of reading the Books of the Bible New Testament for the Community Bible Experience.  So far, this has been a great journey as our church reads through the New Testament together.  The thing that is exciting is that last week, there were so many other churches starting at the same time that it crashed the site that was providing the daily readings online.  So, if you are following along, know that there are thousands of people reading along with you!  This morning, I read about half of today's reading and noticed the boldness that the Holy Spirit gave to believers.

Paul and Barnabas were sent to preach the truth of Jesus to other areas, and they found themselves  in cities around Greece.  Even though they were still a part of the Roman Empire at this time, the Gentiles still worshiped the Greek gods.  What I noticed was that it really didn't matter who they were talking to, Paul and Barnabas was going to face opposition.  Either they faced opposition from the Jews, or they faced opposition from the Gentiles who worshiped Greek gods.  At certain times, both groups of people joined together to persecute Paul and Barnabas.  But that opposition never stopped them!  Even after being stoned and left for dead, Paul got up and went back into the city and began preaching in Derbe the next day.

But the thing that we need to remember that it wasn't out of their humanness that this persistence was found; it was from the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit gave them the boldness and wisdom to know what to say in every situation.  When we are doing what God wants us to do, it is important to remember that it is not in our own strength and power that we do it, but it is through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Where does your strength come from?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Empowered

I am starting my second week of following along with my church's journey through the New Testament using the Community Bible Experience.  This is the sixth day of reading, which brings us through the beginning of the book of Acts (or pages 55 - 64 in the Books of the Bible New Testament).  I want to apologize for posting so little last week; two of my kiddos were in the school musical which had three performances last week.  That caused some major adjustments in our schedule, so I had difficulty making the time to post my thoughts.  The good news is that they both did a great job and now we are back to our normal schedule.

Looking at that last sentence makes me chuckle because I refer to a "normal schedule," when the beginning of Acts is far from normal.  The pages I read this morning were interesting because it takes us from the day that Jesus ascended into Heaven to the first days of the early church.  Before Jesus left, He promised them that they would receive the Holy Spirit, who would empower them to say and do what they needed at the time they needed it.  He promised them that they were not left on this earth alone.  If you have been following along with reading through the Books of the Bible, you may have noticed the theme of the Holy Spirit in this bigger picture look at the New Testament.

The theme started with our first day's reading and has continued throughout our reading.  I made note of the fact that there were a few people that Luke pointed out that were filled with the Holy Spirit prior to Jesus' arrival and then we read that Jesus was also filled with the Holy Spirit.  Incredible things were happening after having 400 years of not hearing God.  Suddenly the Holy Spirit was filling people and empowering them to prophecy and have the boldness they needed.  So we go from seeing the work of the Holy Spirit through Jesus to the promise of the Holy Spirit being fulfilled for Jesus' followers in the book of Acts.  Before Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit, we saw how he denied that he knew Christ.  With the Holy Spirit, we see that he was given a boldness to speak truth to those who were threatening him.

Reading the beginning of the early church is inspiring.  The Holy Spirit is still working among us, but do we open our hearts to His direction?  How often do we start our day asking God to lead us through the Holy Spirit in what He would have us do?  Do we often rely on our own work, or are we relying on the work of the Holy Spirit?  Challenging questions....

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What Pleases God

I am continuing on with New Testament Community Bible Experience and reading the reading for day two, which is pages 11-24 in the Books of the Bible New Testament.  This takes us through the middle of the book of Luke.  One again, the idea is to get us to look at the New Testament in a broader view rather than taking a few verses and studying them.  I believe both methods are vital when reading the Bible and since I usually write about a few verses at a time, it is both challenging and refreshing to read through a large portion and share with you what caught my attention.  With that said, let me take you through my thoughts this morning for day two's reading.

This morning, I read through page 15, so my thoughts are on the first half of the reading for today. I read about what Jesus did following His baptism, which was to return to His hometown.  There He read the prophecy about Himself in Isaiah and offended the people in the synagogue.  Afterwards, He traveled Capernaum where He was so well received that He was asked to stay.  There He had healed people and cast out demons.  Jesus began inviting people to follow Him and become His disciples.  As He continued to heal people, He also was catching the attention of the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees.  They were not as pleased with Him because He didn't seem to interpret the Law the same way they did.  In fact they became offended by His actions - healing on the Sabbath, letting His disciples pick wheat on the Sabbath, His disciples didn't fast, and He ate with tax collectors and sinners!  He also forgave people of their sins.  Between all these moments, we are told that Jesus spent time on His own to pray.

What I saw was the fact that while Jesus was doing amazing things, there were still people who were going to take offense.  Jesus didn't offend people just to offend them, He was showing that He cared about mercy and justice far more than pleasing people.  He spent time in prayer so His focus was always on the mission that God sent Him on and therefore He had the ability to keep God's perspective in His heart.  This is such a good reminder to me to continue to grow in my prayer life because that is what will keep my perspective in check with God.  It is the time I spend with Him that corrects my vision so I see things the way He wants me to see them.  Then I will not be so focused on what others think, I will be more focused on doing what pleases God.

Are you spending time with God and growing in your prayer life?

This post is linked with Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Looking For Rainbows

I am taking a break from my reading through the book of Matthew in order to follow along with my church's journey using the Community Bible Experience.  You can click on its link in order to learn more about it.  The Community Bible Experience will take me through the New Testament in eight weeks, and they have ordered the books of the Bible in a way that makes it flow both chronologically and as a story.  With that said, I am very excited to start with the first day of the reading which is pages 1-11 in the Books of the Bible New Testament.  If you wanted to follow along with the reading plan, you can find it at YouVersion as well.  The idea is so that we can get a different view of the New Testament - a big picture view.  Instead of looking at small portions of scripture, this helps us to look at the New Testament in a broader context.  Since I've been spending so many weeks on one book of the New Testament (Matthew), it will be good to take a break and look at the New Testament as a whole.  With that said, it will also be harder to write out my thoughts; however, what I plan to do is just write out one of the thoughts that stuck out to me.

Today's reading is found in the first few chapters of Luke.  This weekend, my pastor pointed out that when the book of Luke starts out, it is important to remember that Israel had gone 400 years without hearing God.  I love that he gave us the perspective that would be the equivalent of us going until the year 2413 without ever hearing from God.  But even though the Israelites never received any prophecy or visions or any type of word from God, there were still those who remained strong in their faith.  We are told that Elizabeth and Zechariah were both righteous in God's sight and God chose them to raise the first prophet to come to Israel in 400 years.  Suddenly, God's silence was broken and in a period of a few months Israel had two angelic visits!  In today's reading, I was struck by the fact that John (Zechariah and Elizabeth's son) was filled with the Holy Spirit even before he was born.  Then we see that Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, then Zechariah, then Mary, and Simeon.

400 years without a word and suddenly people are being filled with the Holy Spirit.  God was up to something big!  Angels sang of Jesus's birth to shepherds.  The introduction of our Savior to this world did not come as quietly as we like to think.  Even though there were amazing things happening, most people didn't see them.  Simeon and Anna saw the signs, but most people missed these events.  It makes me wonder, how many amazing things of God do I miss because I am not looking for them?  For example, I love finding rainbows.  When I see that conditions seem just right for a rainbow, I will go outside in the rain and try to find the rainbow.  I purposely find where the sunlight is shining so I can look in the direction where the rainbow is most likely to be.  I am often rewarded by my search, but they are often at an angle that if I didn't go outside I would have never seen the rainbow from inside my house.

I think our spiritual awareness can be similar.  We can never notice the things God is doing because we are not really thinking about seeing what God is doing.  Today's reading is reminding me how I need to pray that God keeps my eyes open and on Him so I can rejoice in the wonderful work He does each and every day.  Just like finding the right angle for the rainbow, I need to keep my eyes on God's angle.  I need to step outside of my little world and interact with God's bigger picture!

Are you looking for God's work every day?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Sin and Forgiveness

Lately, my life has been extremely busy between my children's schedules and my work responsibilities!  Between school musicals and band/orchestra performances and contests, the kids have been solidifying the reality that my husband and I exist to taxi them around.  Of course, I'm only joking, but I'm sure there are several of you out there that can completely understand what I am saying.  My husband and I limit how many things the kids are allowed to be involved in and even with that, when you multiply it by three there can be some very crazy weeks.  These busy couple of weeks has been making me a little slower in the morning and I haven't always had the time to jot out my thoughts on what I've read for the day.  This morning I am asking you to read through some verses and pray through what God is saying to you.  That pretty much is my routine and it may sound simple, but God uses the Bible to speak to us - something we need for each day.  I am constantly amazed at how I can be using a reading plan or just going through a particular book and He speaks an important truth that I need to hear that day.  With that said, please click on the link and read Matthew 18:15-35.

These seem like two different stories with different themes; however, consider how the first set of verses flow right into the truth that is expressed in the second set of verses.  Without putting out all of my thoughts, please consider and pray through these questions:

What do verses 15-20 tell us to do when someone has sinned against us?

What do verses 21-35 tell us about how much God has forgiven us?

What do verses 21-35 tell us about how others' sin against us compares to our sin against God?

Knowing how much more that God has forgiven us, what does Jesus expect from us when others sin against us?

How do verses 15-35 wrap sin and forgiveness into a continuous response that Jesus expects from all His followers?

That's a lot to chew on, isn't it?  When we begin to understand that our sin (debt) against God is greater than we could ever repay, it helps us to appreciate all the more the forgiveness that He extends to us.  In turn this should change our attitude when we need to forgive others, whose debt to us doesn't even compare to the debt we had to God.  Praise God for His forgiveness and praise God that He gives us the ability to forgive!

I want to wrap up today by letting you know that I am taking a break from my journey through the book of Matthew.  What a wonderful journey it has been so far!  I am excited to let you know that I am following the journey that my church is taking through the Community Bible Experience.  This will take our church through the New Testament in eight weeks; however, we'll be reading through it in a different order from the way our Bibles are put together.  Biblica has put together the New Testament in an order that reflects the books more in the order they were written.  For more information about it, you can use this link.  If you want to follow along with me, you can sign up for a reading plan at YouVersion.  If you are not reading the Bible every day, what a wonderful way to start!  You'll be reading the same verses with hundreds of other people at the same time, which I think is very inspiring.  I'm looking forward to it!

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.