Friday, November 29, 2013

Wrap Up - Entering Rest

Yesterday was such a nice day!  We spent most of the day taking it easy and being with each other.  We went to spend Thanksgiving with some friends later in the day, so I prepared the couple of dishes I was bringing.  It was a very easy and restful day!  It was so nice to spend such an easy day with our family and then to finish off the day with friends.  Just think, God's rest will be even better!  As I wrap up my "Entering Rest" study, it makes me think of how amazing it will be to be in the rest God promises for all who follow Him.  I want to go to where we started seven weeks ago and remind us of Hebrews 4:1 (NIV), "Therefore, since the promise of entering His rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it."  I would like to throw out the reality that none of can fully comprehend what this rest will be like, but I know that it will be better than any rest here on earth could possibly be like!

Some things that God has made very clear throughout these seven weeks are:

  • The promise for His rest still stands.
  • We need each other to help motivate us to keep from falling into sin.
  • We need the Holy Spirit to empower us on this journey.
  • When facing temptation, God gives us what we need to be victorious.
  • When we can remember the great prize that lies before us, we can be motivated to press on - even in the face of temptation.
  • When we remember and are thankful for all the Christ has done for us, we will be motivated to continue on in obedience.
I hope all of my U.S. readers enjoyed Thanksgiving with family and friends and took the time to reflect on what God has done for them.

This Sunday marks the beginning of Advent, so I would like to spend the next few weeks looking at verses that remind us of why we celebrate Christmas.  I hope you join me and take time during this busy season to remember the great hope we have in Christ.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

In All Its Richness

Each year, my church has a tradition to have a Communion service on Thanksgiving Eve.  But this service is such a casual service of giving God thanks for all He has done.  There is a time when people have the opportunity to share why they are thankful and it is always so wonderful to hear people express how God provided for them.  Last night, we had the opportunity to hear some people say that they started their journey following Christ this past year.  We had the opportunity to hear from people who experienced a difficult year but within that year also experienced God in ways that they needed.  Others expressed thankfulness for God's provision through the church body.  And of course, children expressed thankfulness for having Jesus.  God is a great and generous God and we really do not need to look far to remember what we have in Jesus to give us a heart of thanksgiving.  This week, I am wrapping up my "Entering Rest" study and how appropriate and wonderful it is that God directed me to finish up with giving thanks to Him.  For one final time, please use the link and read through Colossians 3:1-17.

"Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives."  That phrase is sticking out at me this morning!  If we just cannot find anything in our lives for which to be thankful, this is what redirects our hearts to thanksgiving.  If we let the message of Christ fill our lives we would always be thankful.  The wonderful hope we have is something that this world just cannot offer.  Our Creator, who is perfect, has lavished His generous mercy on us so that we will not pay the penalty for our arrogant sin.  Yes, our sin is arrogant because when we are in the moment of sin we are forgetting about our amazing God and we are choosing to please ourselves.  But even with our self-centered motives, God still chose to give us the gift of Jesus so we could experience eternal life.

I love the phrase, "in all its richness."  What a rich message the love of Christ is to our hearts!  It is such a rich and wonderful message; there really are no human words that can possibly express God's amazing and prodigious love for us.  This is the wealth we are to be seeking; so many treasures are buried in His amazing love for us and He sets us on a journey where we get to discover them piece by piece.  We have an extraordinary God who wants to be with us.  Let the message of Jesus fill your heart in all its richness - you will be overwhelmed with thankfulness!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

And Be Thankful

Throughout the last 6 1/2 weeks, one thing that keeps coming back to me is the idea that the promise of eternal life is a hope that helps us with all that we are facing here.  Are you facing temptation?  Keep your eyes on the prize that we are looking forward to.  Are you overwhelmed and tired?  We have a hope that reminds us to keep pressing on.  Do you feel incapable?  God empowers us with the Holy Spirit so we can live a life worthy of our calling.  Today, I want to focus a bit on how our attitude should change as a result of knowing that we have such great and precious promises.  Please use the link and read Colossians 3:1-15.

Reading through this can seem overwhelming because it is a list of very specific dos and don'ts; however, remember the wonderful reminder we are given in verses 1-4.  When Christ appears, we will share in His glory.  The very idea that someone like me who has failures and sins on my record could share in His glory overwhelms me!  But, when we believe in Jesus and His sacrifice for us and His victory over death, He shares His victory with us.  Those failures and sins are not only wiped away, but God can even redeem all our failures and turn them into something He can use.  It is so wonderful to see how God chooses to use us (failures and all) and shows His glory by redeeming us.  Have you ever thought about the idea that we share in His glory even here on earth just by Him using us?  Incredible!

And that brings me to my final point - thankfulness.  When you think on these things, is your heart filled with thanksgiving?  After being told very specific things that God wants to see in our lives (with His help), notice the last sentence, "And be thankful."  NLT tells us to always be thankful.  We can have those difficult days (or years) where it is truly hard to scrape up anything to be thankful for, but when we focus on the promise of eternal life and entering God's rest we have a lot for which to be thankful.  There is no greater gift and it is one that can keep us going.  And be thankful.

Are you thankful for God's great gift we have in Jesus?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A New Perspective

There are times when things can just bog us down and we forget why we do what we do.  For example, when we are in the midst of preparations for something big, we can lose the joy in all the details.  We can lose sight of what we are preparing for and focus merely on the preparations.  All of us have been there!  Think about hosting a Thanksgiving meal.  I love to prepare and cook a Thanksgiving meal and have company over, but the details of cleaning the house and cleaning up the cooking mess as I prepare throughout the week can get me off-focus.  While mopping the floor, I could easily forget and lose sight of how much fun it will be to be with family and friends giving thanks to our amazing Creator.  We each have different things that weigh us down, but we also can redirect our minds to why we do what we do.  The verses I am looking at today remind me of this.  Please use the link and read Colossians 3:1-11.

These verses have a long list of things that we need to clean out of our lives.  When we choose to follow Christ, He sets up home in our hearts and He wants to help us do some housekeeping.  I like to have company over, but the preparations can be a lot of work.  That is the way it is when we choose to follow Christ.  We want Him living in us, but the housekeeping is work!  This list of things that God wants out of our lives has different challenges for each of us.  One person may not struggle with lying, but they struggle with greed.  Another person may struggle with anger.  But, we are told in a few verses right before this list why we want to clean the garbage out of our hearts.  Colossians 3:3-4 (NIV), "For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory."  Christ is our life and we are told that we will be with Him in glory.  That is amazing and something that we can focus on while we allow God to clean house in our hearts.

So, instead of thinking of it as a list of don'ts, we can have a thankful heart for what is to come and clean up the garbage with joy.  God is working something wonderful in our lives!

This post is linked with Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, November 25, 2013

On Things Above

I enjoy Black Friday shopping with my husband.  It is kind of strange that someone like me would like Black Friday because I really don't like crowds.  However, early in the morning there is almost a camaraderie with fellow shoppers that forms while waiting in the long line; people chat with each other and share info on other deals.  But, Black Friday is changing and it is bleeding over into Thanksgiving which I think is unfortunate.  I really enjoy Thanksgiving because it is a day to spend with family or friends and reminds us of why we give thanks to God.  I think it is too bad that a day set aside to be thankful for what we already have is becoming a day filled with consumerism; it is the opposite of what Thanksgiving is about.  But, it made me think of how there is so much in this world that wants to pull our attention away from what we should be focusing on.  Distractions are everywhere, but we are told to set those aside and focus on the One who gives us life.  Please use the link and read through Colossians 3:1-4.

These verses are very clear that our focus should be on the things above.  The promise of entering God's rest comes to us because Jesus' has victory over death.  So, when we chose to follow Jesus we died to ourselves and were raised to new life in Him.  Colossians 3:1 (NIV) says, "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God."  Since we have been raised with Christ, we shouldn't be focusing on the things that we rose from.  We focus on the One who raised us and promises us life.  I think this is key to helping us with our temptations and the things that want to drag us away from the amazing promises of God.  When we keep our hearts focused on Him, it will help us to keep our minds from wandering into our desires.

Maybe this is why I wanted to do this study on the promise of entering rest because it is helping me to stay focused on things above and the things to come that are promised for all who believe.  As you go throughout your day and find the things surrounding you wanting to take your focus away from God, pray that God helps you keep your eyes on Him.  2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV) reminds us, "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."  What is unseen is eternal, so let's keep our hearts focused on that!

Where is your focus?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Bound in Peace

When I think of the amazing design of the human body, I am reminded of how marvelous our Creator is!  Something I am thinking about this morning are ligaments.  Ligaments are bands of tissue that connect bone to bone.  These are what hold the body together.  Ligaments can either provide elasticity to allow movement in joints (for example, the knee), or they hold bones in place (for example, the ribs).  In joints, ligaments provide both movement and stability.  Without ligaments, our bodies would not move the way we want them to move.  In fact, our body wouldn't work correctly at all!  Yesterday, I explored the idea that an important part of our faith walk includes the body of believers and how we are motivated by love.  Today, I want to look at a wonderful word-picture we are given in Ephesians about how we are bound together in the way that ligaments holds the body together.  Please use the link and read Ephesians 4:1-7.

Ephesians 4:3 (NLT) says, "Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace."  Over the last few weeks, we've seen the phrase, "make every effort" several times.  This phrase not only gives me a sense of urgency, but it also conveys the idea that it isn't easy.  I guess if it were easy we wouldn't have to put much effort into it at all.  Unity is definitely something that requires effort because it really is a lot easier to react poorly to situations than to exercise self-control.  I know from my own experience that if I am reacting immediately to a difficult situation, I will most likely find myself ashamed from my response.  However, if keeping peace is my goal and I hold my tongue, I've just given myself time to think through things and will even find error in my own thinking.  Keeping peace isn't about controlling someone else's behavior, it is about controlling our thoughts and behaviors.  The wonderful thing about peace is that the Holy Spirit is the one who empowers us with peace.

Peace is amazing and necessary in the church body.  We are told in Ephesians 4:3 that it binds us together.  The word translated as bind is the Greek word, syndesmos.  This word means "that which binds together, a band, bond of ligaments by which the members of the human body are united together." (see footnote 1).  Just as the ligaments hold the body together and allow for movement, peace does the same for the church body.  Isn't that amazing!  Peace is absolutely necessary for us to work properly as the body of Christ.  Let's make every effort to come to one another in peace.

Have you prayed for God to fill you with peace?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

1. Greek Lexicon :: G4886 (NIV). Retrieved from 
http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G4886&t=NIV

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fueled By Love

How often do you think of your faith walk as something that is done collectively with other believers?  We each have our individual response to God when we believe Him, and we are each accountable to God for believing and trusting Him.  However, we also have been given the beautiful gift of being a part of the body of Christ, which is the church.  This is so much bigger than the local church building that you meet in every week, this is the collective body of believers.  Yesterday, I explored the fact that it is such an honor to have high expectations placed on us by our wonderful Creator; today I would like to look at how those expectations are lived out within the body of Christ.  Please use the link and read through Ephesians 4:1-7.

"Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love." Ephesians 4:2 (NLT).  That phrase "because of your love" is jumping off the page for me this morning.  Because of your love....be humble.  Because of your love...be gentle.  Because of your love...be patient with each other.  Because of your love...make allowance for each other's faults.  None of those expectations are easy, are they?  Last week and the beginning of this week I explored the qualities that we are expected to have in our individual walk with Christ - these were things that we worked into our lives on our own with God.  But this list is specifically how we interact as a body of believers and it is fueled by our love.  Remember love was the last quality listed in 2 Peter 1:7 that we are to add to our faith?  Do you see how our personal growth with God has a direct impact on our collective growth as a body of believers?  When we are adding love to our faith, it will fuel our passion to the body as a whole.

Think about it for a moment.  The moment we add love to our faith we begin to look outside ourselves, because that is what love does.  Love doesn't mean to think only of ourselves; love requires us to consider the people around us.  That in and of itself builds humility because love makes us think of others.  Love will treat people the way we would want to be treated since we are thinking of others.  That shows us how love helps us to be gentle.  Love will remember that the person your are interacting with is human and imperfect just like you, which will in turn help you to be patient with them and make allowance for their faults.  Do you see how it is impossible to sustain these healthy interactions without love?  When we add love to our faith, we are given the ability to interact with one another the way God intended.  If you struggle adding love to your faith, remember what you believe.  The very fact that we are saved through Jesus was the greatest act of love!  We were created because God loves us!  Meditate on His outrageous love for us and it will help grow love to your faith.

Are you fueled by love?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Worthy of Our Call

When I know someone has high expectations for me, it motivates me to do all I can to live up to those expectations.  Can you relate?  It is not a high pressure thing; if I feel someone has seen enough in me to think I can do something, I want to do all I can to live up to it.  As parents, we are told that when we allow our kids to see that we believe in them and their ability to accomplish something, it is like we've empowered them to do it.  This morning as I was praying, I was feeling as if God does the same with us.  For a little over a week, I've looked at how the promise we have of entering God's rest also comes with expectations.  God wants to see us grow more like Him and He has even given us the Holy Spirit to change us.  But as I was praying, I was astonished by God's incredible expectations for us.  It was such a beautiful thing to realize that these expectations for us came out of His immeasurable love for us.  He doesn't give us tasks that crush us, instead He asks us to use the power of the Holy Spirit to do something we didn't think we could accomplish.  Isn't that amazing?  With that thought in mind, please use the link and read Ephesians 4:1-7.

I love what we are told in Ephesians 4:1 (NLT), "Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God."  Have you ever thought about having a calling on your life?  So often we think of someone being "called" as someone who has stepped into some type of ministry position.  But that is not what I see in these verses.  You have been called to live a life for God - whether or not you have taken a ministry position in a church or other organization.  This calling is to follow Christ which is the most worthy calling you will ever have and it comes with high expectations.  But remember, it isn't to crush us or overwhelm us; these high expectations come from the One who created us.  He knows what we are capable of achieving, especially since we are empowered by the Holy Spirit.  So, just as any other job has expectations of how to live up to the job, we have these amazing expectations to live up to the most honorable calling that exists.  The awesome thing about God's incredible expectations are that they just make our lives even better.

Pray and ask God to open your eyes to see what an honor it is that He would place such high expectations on your life.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Proof

If you couldn't tell people you are a Christian, how would people know?  What are the non-verbal ways you show you are a Christ follower?  As I have continued through my study of the promise of entering God's rest, I have spent some time looking at the expectations God has for us.  When we call ourselves Christian, we are saying we are following Christ.  That means that we need to live according to the example Jesus gave us when He lived on this earth.  So, my question is: Since we call ourselves Christian, are we living in a way that shows we are following Christ without having to verbalize it?  If people look at the way we are treating others and how we are living out our lives, will they be pointed to Christ?  It is really easy for me to type out those questions and be convicted of the things I am ashamed of doing or saying.  However, instead of looking at our failures and being stuck there, let's consider the redemption we experience and look at what we can do to bring God glory.  One more time I am going to ask you to click the link and read through 2 Peter 1:3-11.

I want to remind you of 2 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV):
"His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires."
 I feel these verses are very important because they remind us that we are given the ability to live out a godly life through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  We are not doing this alone or by our own strength; God gives exactly what we need right when we need it to obey Him.  We have great and precious promises to share in His divine nature!  That is incredible.  Since we have these promises and we know that we have what we need to add to our faith all the wonderful qualities listed in these verses, let's look at 2 Peter 1:10-11 (NLT):
So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We are told to work hard or "make every effort" (NIV) to show that we really are part of God's family.  I look at that statement as what we need to be asking ourselves - Am I living in a way that shows that I am a Christ follower?  Without going into this too much, we are told that we are not saved by what we do; we are saved by faith.  However, we can also see that our faith should be the motivator for what we do.  What we do is the evidence of what we believe.  When we are working hard to obey God because of His extravagant love for us, we are providing proof of our faith.  I want to be clear: without faith we will never be able to consistently add these qualities.  Faith is what gives us what we need to add these qualities.  And the promise we have is so great!  We will receive a grand entrance into Jesus's Kingdom!  The prize at the end is worth it.

Are you living in a way that proves you have faith in Christ?

This post is linked with Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Productive and Useful

If you have ever applied for a job or college, applied for a special position, or auditioned to get a part or a position, you know that just getting accepted isn't the end of the story.  There are minimum requirements that you need to keep in order to keep the position you have been given.  That is just a normal expectation for most things we will do in life - it isn't unfair.  Those requirements just assure that you are doing what you should be doing.  They also help you to stay fresh in your school work or job.  In our faith walk, we should be motivated by God's love to continue to work going beyond believing - it should make a difference in all that we do.  Last week, I looked at the qualities that God wants to see us add to our faith as we grow in our walk with Him and I want to continue looking at what we are told in 2 Peter why we need to add these qualities to our faith.  Please use the link and read 2 Peter 1:3-11.

Today, I am focusing specifically on verses 8-11 because these tell us why we need to make sure those qualities are evident in our faith walk.  Notice the first thing we are told why to make sure we are adding these qualities to our life in verse 8.  The NLT tells us that we will be more "productive and useful" in our knowledge about Jesus.  Isn't that an interesting phrase?  Our knowledge of Jesus is supposed to be productive and useful.  Last week, I explored the word, "knowledge" in verse 6, but the word "knowledge" in verse 8 is a different word.  Verse 6 expressed a knowledge of understanding our faith, in particular how we are supposed to live.  In verse 8, the word knowledge is epignōsis, which means, "precise and correct knowledge; used in the NT of the knowledge of things ethical and divine."  (see footnote 1.)  So, in this verse, Peter is specifically referring to our spiritual knowledge of God.  This is the knowledge that our faith is based on.  However, don't you find it interesting to see that we could become ineffective and unproductive in this knowledge?

We are told to not just add those qualities to our faith, but we are to add them in "increasing measure."  To me, that means that we should continue to grow in those qualities.  There is no mark that says that we have enough of those qualities.  We are even warned that if we are not adding these qualities to our lives continuously, we are forgetting the great sacrifices that Christ made in order to cleansed from our sins.  I don't want to be near-sighted in my faith!  I don't want to forget how much Christ has done for me!  I don't want my knowledge to be unproductive.  Reading the Bible is a good and necessary thing to do, but if all we do is read to increase our knowledge we are missing the point.  Look at what James 1:22-25 (NIV) says about that:
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
Let's not just add to our knowledge about God - let's make sure that we are motivated by His love to add these qualities to our lives.  Let's not deceive ourselves.  Let's make sure our knowledge is productive and useful.

Are you adding these qualities to your faith?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty.

1. Greek Lexicon :: G1922 (NIV). Retrieved from
http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1922&t=NIV

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Furnishings

Think of a person who is building a mansion for a king.  It is a beautiful building which the builder spared no expense.  The best materials were used in the construction of the mansion and the best construction workers were found to build it.  Once the mansion is finished, the interior decorator comes in to fill the home with furnishings.  But the interior decorator decides that it just isn't worth the effort to seek out the best furnishings for the new home and puts in old, used furniture.  This furniture isn't just old and used, it is stained and ragged and doesn't fit the surrounding of this beautiful mansion.  Do you think the king will be pleased when he sees his new home?  We are told in the Bible that we are to be adding certain qualities to our hearts, which is similar to furnishing our hearts.  For the last few days, I've been looking at 2 Peter at the qualities we are to be supplementing our faith.  Please use the link and read 2 Peter 1:3-11.

The word supplement from the NLT is really sticking in my mind this morning and I want to look briefly at the original Greek word.  According to BlueLetterBible.com, the Greek word is, epichorēgeō and it means, "to supply, furnish, present." (see footnote 1).  I like the word furnish.  It makes me think of an empty house that needs to be filled with furniture.  Think of our faith in Christ as that house, which is good and important.  We all need to have the shelter of a building; however, it would also be good to have furniture to sit or sleep on and a place to sit when eating meals.  So, while our faith is absolutely important and necessary, think of it as an opportunity where God cleans house in our hearts and now it needs to be furnished with good things.  If we do not furnish our faith with the qualities mentioned in these verses, it is like building a new home and inviting a king to live there and filling it with old, ragged furniture.  We don't need to let our old human nature to stay as furnishings in our hearts, we need to fill it with good, high quality furnishings.  After all, we are told that the Holy Spirit is taking residence in us and He deserves the best!

I spent a little time in yesterday's post looking at what each of these qualities mean.  It is worth finding out the original Greek definition because our English version just doesn't quite give the entire picture of what God is telling us how to furnish our hearts.  Once again, we are given everything we need in order to do this!  The Holy Spirit empowers us to be able to choose the best items to furnish His residence.  So, we are not doing this alone; we have the best help!  We just need to make the effort to work with Him to add quality furnishings.

How are you furnishing your heart?

1. Greek Lexicon :: G2023 (NIV). Retrieved from
http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2023&t=NIV

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Recipe For Success

My daughter has recently discovered a love for baking, so it has been fun watching her look up new recipes to try.  She enjoys watching shows like Cupcake Wars and DC Cupcakes and it stirs up her creativity.  Something she has learned from watching Cupcake Wars and from her own baking experience is that every ingredient is important.  If you forget an ingredient, it will change the flavor and consistency of the cake or cookie.  God has given us a recipe for success to follow.  But, success in God's eyes is so different from how humans like to define success.  In God's eyes, success means becoming more like Him.  I want to continue looking at 2 Peter to read through the recipe that is guaranteed to please God.  Please use the link and read 2 Peter 1:3-11.

Yesterday, I focused on verses 3 and 4 and explored the mighty power we have living in us - the Holy Spirit.  We truly are empowered to live out the life that pleases God!  Today, I want to dig through verses 5 through 8 and read through the "ingredients" that are a part of God's recipe for success.  The first thing we read is faith; faith is the required ingredient to live a godly life.  Without faith, all the rest of the qualities will amount to nothing.  In fact, I think it is impossible to add the rest of the qualities to our life without faith because when we do not have faith we cannot be empowered by the Holy Spirit.  So, we must believe that God is the one and only God and that Jesus sacrificed Himself so we could experience forgiveness from our sins.  Jesus, who is God, had victory over death and came back to life and shares that victory with everyone who believes in Him.  Once we have the faith to believe this miraculous plan God has for us, we are given the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit to empower us to add godly qualities to our life.

So, we are told to add goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love.  In fact, we are told to "make every effort" to add these things.  Whenever I see that phrase, I am given a sense of importance and urgency.  It gives me a feeling that we cannot afford to not work toward adding these qualities to our faith.   Since this is a blog post and not a book, I am going to quickly look at the definitions found on BlueLetterBible.com to see what they mean (see footnote 1).  For example, goodness isn't a very descriptive term to me and the definition is: "a virtuous course of thought, feeling and action."  It is not just what we do externally, but it is also internal - a part of who become.  One definition of knowledge is "moral wisdom, such as is seen in right living."  Knowledge just isn't knowing a lot of information, but it is understanding how we are supposed to live.  Self-control used in these verses means, "the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, esp. his sensual appetites."  Perseverance means, "in the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings."  Godliness means, "reverence, respect" [toward God].  Mutual affection means, "brotherly love."  And love means, "affection, good will, love, benevolence, brotherly love."

As you can see, the English words don't always give us the bigger picture of what was originally stated.  It would be really easy for us to come up with our own definition of what they mean, but when we look up the Greek, we see what God is expecting from us.  I will continue more on these verses tomorrow, but I hope this has helped open your eyes a little to how we are supposed to live - I know this has helped me!

This post is linked with Soli Deo Gloria.

1. 2 Peter 1 (New International Version). Retrieved from 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Great and Precious Promises

A while back while on a diet, I learned if I focused on what I could eat rather than what I couldn't eat I was more successful.  The weeks where I had more victories in my weight loss were the weeks where I had spent time meal planning good food that was good for me.  Because I had planned out my meals, I had less hunger and cravings throughout the day and I experienced greater will-power to resist the foods that would increase my cravings.  I believe that the same practice is true for our spiritual selves; when we have a plan and focus on what God wants us to do we will be more likely to live it out in our lives.  I spent all last week on temptation and how God has promised us help when we face temptation.  He has given us each other to give us encouragement and prayer when we are facing temptation.  He has given us the Bible that is full of humans who had their own struggles with temptation and successfully ran the faith race.  And most importantly, He has given us Jesus, who died for us, and we are told to keep our eyes on Him who perfects our faith.  When we think of Jesus' sacrifice, it helps us overcome our temptation.  What wonderful gifts!  I believe when we focus on the good things God wants for us we live it out in our lives more and more each day, so I want to spend this week looking at the good God wants us to do.  Please use the link and read 2 Peter 1:3-11.

I love these verses!  They are packed with so much and I believe these verses give us a plan on how to live the life God called us to live.  I want to spend a little time looking at verses 3 and 4 because they remind us why we live a life that pleases God.  We are first reminded that God has given us everything we need to live a godly life.  I don't know about you, but I think it is such an empowering statement!  That statement in and of itself reminds me that I am not doing this on my own, I have the divine power of Christ working in me.  Look at what Romans 8:10-12 (NLT) tells us about that:
And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God.  The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, He will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.  Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.
That is some serious power we have in us - we really have been given everything we need to live a life that pleases God.  I can confidently say there is nothing more powerful than what is living in us who believe.

We are reminded that when we tap into this amazing power and live out a life of faith, we are given "great and precious promises."  Oh, how precious these promises are!  These are promises of eternal life - experiencing God's rest.  When I think of the fact that these promises are given to me through Christ even though I do not deserve them, it motivates me all the more to do the good He wants me to do.  So much has been sacrificed so I can experience these promises and I want to live up to them.  I want to live a life that is worthy of these "great and precious promises," and I have the greatest power living in me and giving me what I need to do it.  So, not only do we have the promise of life, but God even gives us what we need to live up to it.  How amazing is our God!?

Do you look forward to these "great and precious promises?"  Does it motivate you all the more to live a life that honors our great God?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Unshakable

When I was studying music in middle school and high school I was taking private lessons where my teachers would have me do exercises that were not always fun and often difficult but they were intended to make me a better musician.  It worked because when it came time to audition, I got accepted into music school and was able to work toward my goal of becoming a music therapist.  Then once in music school I had to face my performance anxiety in order to continue on in my major.  Once again, it was unpleasant but it was worth reaching my goal.  That is kind of what this week felt like in my study because this week's focus has been on an unpleasant topic - temptation.  No one likes to talk about temptation and the dangers of caving in to temptation, but since the Bible gives us warnings about temptation and promises for help it is something we need to look at.  None of us are immune to temptation and I think we each have periods in life where the temptation pounds on us with great intensity.  Knowing the warnings and understanding the tools God has given us to walk away from temptation is important in keeping us on track in our walk with God.  I want to wrap up this week with one more reminder of why we don't want to cave to temptation and what God gives us to help us.  Please use the link and read Hebrews 12:25-29.

We are reminded in these verses that the reward is great when we stay the course - an unshakable kingdom.  Imagine a kingdom that cannot be shaken!  There is nothing on earth that cannot be destroyed, yet God has a kingdom that cannot even be shaken and He wants us to be a part of that.  We are told in these verses to listen to God, and to be thankful and worship Him.  There is nothing in these verses that tell us it will be easy; however, we are told that it is worth it.  Remember Hebrews 12:1 (NLT), "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us."  Yesterday, we were reminded of Esau giving up his birthright for a meal and how that is what we are doing when we purposefully choose to walk back into sin.  We were reminded that what we are promised as God's children is so incredible and we do not want to give it up just to satisfy a human desire.  Paul wrote in Philippians 3:7 (NLT), "I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done."  This what we looked at in Hebrews 12:2-3 and were reminded of how much Christ sacrificed for us.  That is far more valuable than giving up a sinful desire.

We also looked in James 1 where we were reminded that God doesn't tempt us; our temptations come from the desires in our heart.  Look at what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 about temptation:  "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."  What an amazing promise that God will provide a way out!  This happens when we keep our eyes on Jesus, the One who sacrificed so much for us.  Being a part of a body of believers is also the gift God has given us.

And one last reminder: the rewards are great when we resist temptation.  James 1:12 (NLT) says, "God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him."  So press on and pray for God to give you what you need in the midst of your temptation.  He has an unshakable kingdom waiting.  It is worth it!

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Single Meal

In recent posts, I've already shared how I feel it is important to get into a small community of believers (small group) to help you grow in your relationship with God, grow with each other, and serve others.  One of the ways that a small group that is essential in your relationship with God is helping each other from falling into sin.  I've already looked at a few verses that show what a beautiful gift God has given us through fellow believers and the verses I am looking at will remind us of that reality again.  However, that will not be my main focus for today as I look at a greater warning the author of Hebrews gave us.  Please use the link and read Hebrews 12:14-17.

Okay, first I will point out verse 15 that says, "Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God." (NLT).  This another reminder that God has a wonderful plan for us to be in unity so we can help each other in our walk with God.  We do this by encouraging one another just as the author of Hebrews did at the beginning of Hebrews 12.  But now I want to look a little further at the warning we are given of falling into sin.  "Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal." Hebrews 12:16 (NLT).  This is referencing the story of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 25:24-34.  Esau in a moment of hunger let go of his birthright for a bowl of stew.  Now, before you consider how ridiculous that may sound, think about what is something that is a great temptation for you.  Yesterday I looked at Hebrews 12:2-3 where we are told that all we need to do is look to Jesus to help us from caving into sin.  We are reminded that He has done so much for us and that is all we need to remember not to let our temptations lead us away from God.  But, going back to the example the author gives us about Esau giving up his birthright is the very warning we need to heed.  When we choose sin over Jesus, it is the same.

Without going too far into this, we are told in the Bible that when we believe and follow Christ, we are adopted into God's family.  We are His children.  But when we know this and still choose sin over the great promises we have as God's children, it is no different than Esau giving up his birthright.  I am talking about a purposeful and willing walk right into sin.  This is why God gave us each other - we can go to one another to encourage us and pray for us when we are facing great temptation.  We don't want to give up our birthright just for a single meal - a moment of pleasure.  We don't want to give up the great promise of entering God's presence and experiencing His rest just for a single meal.  We have too much to look forward to and we just need to look to Jesus and remember all that He has done so we could have the birthright we possess.

What is the single meal that tries to lure you away?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Temptation

Today, I just want to jump in where I left off in yesterday's post. I left off with the idea that when we are in a difficult situation or facing temptation, we are also given the encouragement of those who came before us. The greatest encouragement we have in everything we face is Jesus, who faced the same temptations we face and lived a sinless life. Being perfect, He offered Himself as a sacrifice for all of us so that we could be right with God. He was scorned and mocked by the very sinners He sought to save, yet He continued on His mission because His love for us was greater than the temptation to walk away. That is why it is so important to turn our eyes to Him when we are overwhelmed by our temptations and situations. Hebrews 12:1-4 (NLT) says,
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.  Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility He endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.  After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin."
 Jesus has done so much for us so that we could have victory over sin.  This is why it is so important to keep our thoughts on Him when we are struggling with temptation.  None of us are immune to temptation - even Jesus face it.  But that is the very reason we can turn to Him; He understands how overwhelming it can be at times and He also shows us that we can come out of it victorious.  We just need to turn to Him.  Hebrews 12:4 reminds us that He has done so much more than we have in our struggle against sin, so we have to turn to Him and remember His sacrifice.

James 1:12-13 (NLT) reminds us:
"God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.  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."
Our temptations may be a time of testing that God can use to perfect us; however, He is never the one who tempts us.  In fact, James 1 continues to tell us that our temptations come from our own desires.  But when we endure the temptation and trials, we have the promise of eternal life!  We fix our eyes on Jesus who endured so much more than we have and know that it is because of Him that the hope of this promise is ours.

Are you being tempted today?  Have you turned to Jesus and remembered His sacrifice?
 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Consider Him

Who inspires you?  When you are facing something difficult and you need inspiration, who is it that you think of?  For me, it really depends on the situation.  I look to someone who has been through my situation and I am inspired with the thought that if they could do it, so can I.  But sometimes, we may be in a situation or facing a temptation and we don't anyone else who has been there and has come out victorious.  What do we do in those situations?  Maybe that is why Hebrews 11 and the beginning of Hebrews 12 contain some of my favorite verses.  They inspire me and remind me that there have been so many humans living out their faith before me and have faced the same temptations and difficulties that I face.  The author of Hebrews reminds us it is their faith that made them victorious - they trusted God would give them what they needed right when they needed it.  For the sake of this post, I will not be asking you to read through Hebrews 11; however, I highly encourage it!  We are given a list of fellow humans who exercised a faith that we can exercise as well.  Great faith was not meant only for those who we would consider heroes in the Bible; God wants great faith from all of us.  If others who were human could do it, so can we!  After reading through the list of great faith, the author launches into such an inspirational piece of writing that encourages me to keep on when things seem bigger than me.  Please use the link and read Hebrews 12:1-3.

Okay, these verses motivate me to continue on that I just have to put them in this post.  Here is what Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV) says:
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
We have these great heroes of faith to look to for inspiration - they ran the race and finished well and we can too.  Even when we are hitting the wall in the race when we just don't think we have what it takes to finish well, we can place our eyes on the One who gives us what we need to finish well.  I love the description of Jesus in these verses - the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  The pioneer of faith!  Think on that for a moment.  What does it mean to you to know that Jesus is the one who shows us true faith?  A few weeks ago, we read about the fact that when Jesus walked this earth, He was tempted with the same temptations we were tempted with yet He triumphed.  We can look to Him when we are weary because He is the One who will provide what we need when we face temptation.

There are more verses that inspire me on this topic in James 1:2-4 (NLT), "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing."  Don't grow weary!  Those very things that you feel will consume you are the very things that God can use to perfect your faith.  Jesus is the perfecter of faith and He resisted temptation and faced great trials and shares His victory with us.  Don't grow weary!  Finally, in Hebrews 12:3 (NLT) we are told, "Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."  Consider Him who was put to shame by the very ones He was dying for and remember that it was for you, too.  Do not grow weary in this walk.  The prize at the end is worth it!

I have so much more to say, so I will continue on tomorrow.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Visible Image

I really enjoy reading; especially fantasy fiction.  I like it because it draws me into another world and my imagination takes over as I picture in my mind the scenes described in the book.  In fact, sometimes my imagination can be vivid enough so when I see a movie based on a book I've read, I can be easily disappointed in the contrast between my imagination and the picture on the screen.  But there is something that my mind cannot fully picture because I know it is far greater than anything my imagination can sketch.  It is God in His glory - how is that even possible to imagine?  But  there are wonderful glimpses that the Bible gives us to fuel our hope about the things we cannot see.  It is when we cling to that anchor of faith that our hope in these promises will not fail.  Today, as I begin week 4 in my "Entering Rest" study I want to continue on in Hebrews as we read more about the connection of faith and the promise of God's rest.  Please use the link and read Hebrews 11:1-3.

"Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see."  I like the way the NLT words Hebrews 11:1 - Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen.  What a wonderful definition!  When we have faith, we have the confidence that the promise of being in God's presence will happen.  Our faith truly does give us assurance even though we cannot see God.  We are reminded the heroes in the Bible are commended not for what they did but for their faith - who they believed.  They chose to believe God even though they couldn't see Him; they knew that God was faithful.  It is by faith that we know that what we cannot see is what created everything we can see.  We know by faith that God spoke everything into existence.

As I reading through the material for my small group, I came across these wonderful verses in Colossians 1:15-17 (NLT):
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
for through Him God created everything
in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
Everything was created through Him and for Him.
He existed before anything else,
and He holds all creation together.
Isn't that an incredible gift God gave us!  His Word, who created this world, was made human and became the visible image for all that we hope for.  We are told that everything that we see and cannot see were created by Him and for Him and He is the One who holds it all together.  Not only is He the visible image, but He is our salvation - He is our hope.  Even though we are not walking on the earth at the same time He physically walked the earth, the gospels give us a clear and visible image through Christ of who God is.  He is our way into God's presence.

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Spur One Another On Toward Love

When my husband was called to ministry thirteen years ago, God placed a passion in my heart for small groups.  I didn't realize at the time that the passion was for small groups, I just wanted to have a Bible study in my home because I had a desire to see women reading the Bible.  Our church at that time didn't have a small group ministry; however, they supported my efforts.  For the next three years, we met in our living room every Wednesday morning growing in our relationships with one another and I got to witness everyone spending more time in the Bible as time went on.  Over the years I have led and participated in groups.  One of the groups that my entire family was in was a family group.  The family group was where I experienced how a group not only grew in relationship with God and each other, but we also served with each other.  We were only a part of that group for a short time; however, it opened my eyes to how a small community of believers could live out our faith together.  Now fast forward to where I am today in Western New York and I am on staff at our church where I am the ministry assistant for Community Life, which oversees the Community Groups (small groups) in our church.  Our church has a vision to see all our groups growing in their relationship with God, growing in relationship with each other, and reaching out to others.  I feel very strongly that God created us to be in community with each other so we could encourage one another in our faith walk.  Please use the link and read what the author of Hebrews had to say about community in Hebrews 10:19-25.

Continuing on in my "Entering Rest" study, you may be wondering why I am writing about small groups and community.  But I want to show you why I firmly believe that it is in a healthy community of believers that we grow our faith and learn to live it out as God intended.  We have seen throughout the last few weeks that our obedience is evidence of our faith, and that God promises His rest when we believe.  Reading through these verses, I feel that the author of Hebrews is telling us that it isn't just important to live out our faith walk with each other, but it is a vital part of our growth and obedience.  The author wrote in Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV), "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."  I know so much of my personal faith growth has been in the time I have spent alone in prayer and in the Bible, in fact that time is necessary for growth.  But I have also experienced growth because of the time I have spent in community with other believers.  This is because when I am in community with other believers I am challenged to live out my faith.  I am challenged to serve others.  I am encouraged and motivated to do it because we are doing it together.  And when we cannot physically doing it together, we can pray for each other to have the empowerment to do what God asks us to do.

This starts with going to church.  Yes, I've heard the stories of how people have been hurt in church - I have been hurt, too.  I've also heard the argument that the church is full of hypocrites.  But here's the thing - we are all human and we have all hurt someone and I believe most of the time it is unintentional.  And yes, we all say how we are supposed to live and then catch ourselves doing the opposite - all of us!  That is also the beauty of the church.  It is in those moments where we can also experience grace, mercy and forgiveness.  Rubbing shoulders with a bunch of imperfect people who desperately want to do what God wants helps spur us on all the more to do what God wants.  But then I believe we need to create an even smaller community of trusted friends (small group) that has the intimacy to encourage each other all the more in our faith.  That is where we are motivated to truly live it out.

Are you in a community with other believers?  As Hebrews 10:25 tells us, don't give up meeting together!

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.