Food For Thought: Repentance

“1Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

2The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”

4“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

6When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

8Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

11And he said, “Who told you that you were naked?” ~Genesis 3

God’s perfect creation now crumbles. I don’t know where the serpent came from or how it became wicked, that much God has not disclosed to us, but it was there to deceive mankind. It spoke with Eve, not Adam, although it was obvious that he was there. The serpent asks Eve if it was true that God had commanded they not eat from any tree in the garden. Eve quickly defends God, saying they could eat from any tree except for the tree in the middle. And she adds something that is not mentioned beforehand—they weren’t even allowed to touch it. I’ve heard some people say that Adam had to relate to her the commandment after she was created but he added that to make absolutely sure she wouldn’t go near it. This explanation has never made sense to me, because 1. In chapter one of Genesis, God gives the commission to be fruitful and to subdue the earth to both the man and woman and He also tells them that He’s given them all the plants for food. Granted, when it says that He forbids the eating of the tree of good and evil, it only mentions that Adam is there, but if He gives the commission to both of them then why wouldn’t He mention the tree being forbidden to both of them as well? But the real reason that I don’t agree with this explanation is 2. It is wrong to add to the words of God. In Deuteronomy 4:2 it says, “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from I, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.”

Why Eve adds to it here I don’t claim to know, but I think perhaps it was because she was trying to defend God. She was trying to make it absolutely clear what He had said so much that she bent the truth a little. I know I’ve done that, felt like someone was attacking something someone said but they didn’t have all the information, and so I try to defend what was said as forcefully as I can, perhaps over exaggerating to do so. Or perhaps it was a sign of her already doubting because of the odd question put to her. In any case, the serpent is quick to reply with both blatant lies and half truths. The lies are, ‘you will not die,’ and ‘you will be like God.’ They certainly would die because God told them they would. And they were already ‘like God’—He’d created them in His image. The half truths are, ‘your eyes will be opened’, ‘knowing good and evil.’ This last one is a half truth because firstly, they already knew what was good and secondly, not only would they know evil but they would become a slave to it. It isn’t the recognizing evil that is sinful, but the committing of it. I think that if God had given them permission, they would not have become slaves to wickedness, but because they committed the sin they did. They had a choice of two masters, obedience or sinfulness, and they chose a side. Both of them did.

When their eyes are opened the first thing they become aware of is their nakedness. At first glance, it might be interpreted that being naked is evil and that’s what their eyes were opened to for the first time. But, if being naked had been wicked then God would not have made them that way. Instead what they saw was their sin and how much it was exposed to both God and to one another. Their remedy is that they attempt to cover themselves. The intimacy they once shared with one another has been marred; they no longer trust one another like they used to. And the joy they once had at hearing God walking in the garden turns to fear and they hide from Him. As God speaks with them we get a sense of God’s gentleness and how He is giving them every opportunity to repent, but neither of them does. Instead they point the finger at one another, at the serpent, at even God, but never admitting their own wrong. And so God curses them and the earth. But even then His love shines through because He gives Eve the promise that one day one of her children will bring salvation to the world.

As we read the rest of the bible, we see that these themes keep reoccurring; command, doubt, sin, shame. But the people that repent and trust again in the Lord are His, like King David or Jonah. And then we learn in the New Testament of Jesus fulfilling that promise to Eve. He breaks the power of sin and death for all who repent and proclaim Jesus as Lord over their lives. How wonderful it is to know that we no longer have to be a slave to the wicked master, but can instead choose to obey God! And that ought to make us all the more long for the day of His return, when all things are made new and sin no longer is in the world.

So be encouraged. You don’t have to be a slave to sin, but even if we do sin we have Jesus interceding on our behalf in the throne room of grace.

Have a blessed week!

~

“5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

1My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” ~1 John 1 &2

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Food for Thought: God Provides

‘18The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

19Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones

and flesh of my flesh;

she shall be called ‘woman,’

for she was taken out of man.”

24That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

25Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.’

The beginning of this passage has always been interesting to me. This is the first time that God says that something is not good, and it is before the fall. It is not good for man to be alone. Why does God wait for this moment to bring this up? Obviously God knew that it wasn’t good and who would be a suitable helper for Adam, but He chose not to just directly do it like He had for the rest of creation. Up until this point He had provided all that Adam could possibly need and then some, as said previously:

“8Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 10A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. 11The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12(The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) 13The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. 14The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.”

He provided a garden full of good trees, rivers of water, one of which had gold and resin and onyx—really, what need had Adam of such things at that time? But it was signs of God’s immeasurable desire to bless Adam abundantly. He isn’t just about providing needs but giving gifts. He gives everything to Adam, there is nothing that man does not lack. Except a suitable helper.

Yet even when God ‘comes to this conclusion’, He still doesn’t act to fix it right away. First He brings the animals to Adam for Adam to name. Something that is learned from the Old Testament is that whoever names another has dominance over that person, like when God changed Jacob’s name to Israel. It is interesting that God doesn’t name His own creation but leaves that honor to Adam. And it is in this way that it is ‘discovered’ that out of all the animals there still is no suitable helper for Adam.

Now at last God acts, but again He doesn’t act in the way He has with the other creation. With most of creation He spoke them into being or He manipulated what He already had formed to move aside (like the water for the dry land). In Adam’s case, He formed him out of the dirt of the earth and breathed into him life. But He doesn’t do that here. He first puts Adam into a deep sleep, and then cuts into him, removing a rib from his body. It is out of Adam’s rib that the woman is formed. And Adam is fully aware that he lost a rib in this process, because he says, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” This is the whole reason why he names her woman. This makes me wonder if he was in pain from the surgery or if his loss was just very noticeable. Imagine you had lost one of your ribs, I’m pretty sure you’d notice.

I wonder why God chose to create woman this way. Some have said it is because of symbolism; all the time I hear about how a woman protects a man’s heart or that the man needs to keep her close to his heart as his equal. Perhaps so, but God gives another reason for it in the next verse: “24That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” The man leaves his family to become united with his wife, they become one flesh. They complete one another, but also it is referring to the idea of loss. The man is losing something to gain the woman.

I am not pretending to understand this, but it does make me think of in Ephesians, the fifth chapter. Paul is talking about the roles of the wife and husband. The wife has a very small list, but the man is given a much bigger one. And the theme in his commands? To be like Christ and how He serves the church. And Christ gave up A LOT to gain her. He sacrificed his home, He lived among us as a human, and ultimately gave the ultimate sacrifice to make us pure. Whenever I read the passage in Ephesians, I suddenly don’t envy men their role given in the sight of God. In fact I feel the burden for them and wonder how in the world they manage it. Of course, the answer is God.

So be encouraged today, all you readers. I know I covered a lot of ground in this passage J I talked about how much God wants to bless us abundantly as His children and I talked a lot about the role of man and woman. I just wanted to stress that I do not believe that marriage is for everyone, this is not a devotional intended to make you feel sorry for yourself if you are single. Instead be encourage; God provides all you need for life, and whatever you are lacking He knows about it. He will provide for you, and sometimes you don’t even know what it is exactly or how He will accomplish it. He might drop it into your lap like He did for Adam in the garden, or He might take you through a process that ultimately makes you have to lose something to gain it. But whatever He does, it will be worth it. Just trust in Him.

Have a wonderful week!

~

“14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.” ~Ephesians 3

“21Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30for we are members of his body. 31“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” ~Ephesians 5

 

Food for Thought: For Work

My reaction to the word ‘work’ has usually been ‘ug’, unless it was for money or I was bored out of my mind.  I think of the strain it has on my mind or body and all I can think is “I would rather be doing–” whatever it may be, such as watching a movie or writing or sleeping or whatever.  And then Sunday comes and I’m like “Yes!  A day of rest!”  But more and more I’ve been becoming convicted as I read my Bible: this isn’t what God wants.

I’ve been reading the creation account in Genesis, and believe it or not this is one of the places I feel convicted. This is from chapter two:

“1Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

2By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

4This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

5Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, 6but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. 7Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

Before this, God has been very active, creating the universe and everything in it, down to the very last detail. In each ‘day’ He plans, He works, He surveys it to make sure it is good, and then He rests for the next day. For six days He did this until it was done, and He rested on the seventh day, and He set apart that day to always be a day of rest.

What do we learn about God? He works and He keeps the seventh day as a rest from all of it.

After we are told this the account seems to go backwards to give a bit more description. The plants have not yet grown because there has been no water and there is no one there to work the ground… Hold on, why does there have to be someone to work the ground? This is paradise, right? There shouldn’t be any work, there should only be an easy life and worshipping God, right? This is very often how we think of paradise, a place of eternal rest. But that is obviously not God’s intent for mankind. Adam was created to work. In the first chapter, God gives Adam and Eve this commission:

‘28God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”’

That was the beginning purpose of mankind. To increase, subdue the earth and rule over it. And guess what, that requires work. Suddenly I’m asking myself: “Do I work six days a week?” If the answer is no, which it usually is, I know that I must not be doing something I should. God created me for this, not for laziness. Not only that, but He desires that the seventh day be kept holy. This is even mentioned in the Ten Commandments:

8“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20)

Did you catch that? In verse 9 He says, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work.” We are commanded to be working six days and then resting.

Now I know that not everyone’s rest day is Sunday, and technically the Sabbath is on Saturday. But I do think we ought to take a day each week to rest from our work and to remember God. Also, I know that not everyone can do physical labor—I don’t think everyone is called to be a gardener. But each of us are given a gift from the Lord, and He has placed us in situations in which we can be working. So let me just encourage you to work for Him in any way you can, for when you do that you can truly honor the day of rest.

Have a blessed week!

~

“23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” ~Colossians 3

‘23One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

25He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”

27Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”’ ~Mark 2

Food for Thought: Being Shy

“47And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” ~Matthew 5

I have always been shy, for as long as I can remember. I would listen to people talk but then feel very awkward and uncomfortable if anyone gave me any sort of attention. As a result, I’ve grown up feeling like I would rather avoid as much ‘stranger danger’ contact as possible. If I go for a walk I look down when a car passes or I adjust my route if I see that I might cross paths with another person. I’ve always felt a little guilty about it and sometimes I’ve tried to make the change of smiling and saying ‘hello’, but then I draw back inside, finding the place of being comfortable, lined with flecks of guilt.

Some part of me has always seen my shyness as some kind of sin. I know that it really isn’t, but I treat it like it is anyway. I don’t speak easily to people, how can I share the gospel then? I would rather not look up and smile, how is that showing God’s love? I don’t know what to say in the instant, how does that fit with always being ready to give a reason for the hope I have (1 Peter 3:15)?

And in the past, I would read the end of Matthew 5 and feel guilty about it. “43You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” I would read this and somehow always come up with ‘I need to be more outgoing’, because obviously to be perfect like God you need to be able to talk easily and be super friendly, right?

That’s what I used to read whenever I read the passage. But when I reviewed it again for writing the poem for Tuesday’s post, I realized that isn’t what the passage is saying at all. In context, Jesus is talking about friends verses enemies. He’s saying that we need to take notice of others, be kind to them, just as God is kind to us. We are living in a time right now when God is showing mercy to both the ‘good’ and ‘bad’—how much more should we be willing to show mercy? I realize now that God isn’t burdening me to be more outgoing in this passage, but He’s explaining again the calling we have as Christians: that we love one another, just as Jesus said in John 15.

So be encouraged, all you out there that are shy like me. I know that God created all personality types for a reason and He doesn’t despise any of them. But there is a calling we all share: to love one another, good or bad.

9“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17This is my command: Love each other.” ~John 15

Have a blessed weekend!

Food For Thought: Maturity

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” ~1 Corinthians 13:11-12

Something that I’ve been realizing about myself is that I assume things.  I assume things will just happen without putting any real effort into it.  I noticed it first when I graduated high school.  I decided not to pursue college and thought that since I’d have all the time in the world I’d be able to spend half of every day in studying the Word and the other half in writing my book and poetry.  Well, when I was left alone at home, it didn’t happen.  I found that I only wanted to be lazy, playing games and watching movies, and as a result I became very depressed and lonely.  I had just assumed I would automatically do the ‘right’ thing, but in reality I only gave into lazy desires.

Then again more recently, when I got hired for my first job, I knew that I had some bad habits, playing games too much.  But I assumed that since I would be working nights, I would have less time to be lazy and focus my energies more on what mattered.  But what actually happened was that I would stay up even later to make time for my games, I would focus my energy on what didn’t matter because I was ‘tired’.

In the verse above, Paul says that when he was a child he thought and acted like a child.  When he became a man he put away the childish things from him.  From that one verse it sounds so easy, like just throwing off old clothes that don’t fit anymore into a trash bin.  But growing up really isn’t that easy.  It is a long and painful process.  It should never be just assumed to happen.

And that is the same with spiritual maturity.  We shouldn’t just assume that as we get older we will automatically get closer and closer to God.  Just because we go to church, we shouldn’t assume we know God or that we are being fed enough.  As the verse above says, now we know in part but there will be a time when we will understand fully.  That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t try to understand fully, even now, God.  But it also means that I can’t assume that I ever do know God fully now.  We need to be grown ups in faith, in knowledge.

11We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” ~Hebrews 5

19Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.” ~Romans 16

Have a blessed weekend and yearn for the solid food of life and the knowledge of God.

Food for Thought: Be in the Word

14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the servant of Goda may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”           ~2 Timothy 3

I was getting ready for a trip this weekend, packing and making sure the house is ready for some guests.  I basically started when I got up this morning.  In the back of my mind, I kept thinking: You need to read your bible.  But then I saw the list of all the things that needed to be done and I honestly thought I wouldn’t have time.

Then some down time was offered, and I decided to take it.  I read from 2 Timothy chapter three.  At the first part of the chapter, Paul is warning Timothy that a time is coming when people will be lovers of pleasure and money rather than God and lack self control and be disobedient to their parents.  And although they learn about God they can’t seem to really understand.  I couldn’t help but think of our times and even of myself.  I feel sometimes that I love pleasure rather than God.  I’d rather turn to a game for hours on end than open my mouth in prayer to Him when I feel down.  And society around us seems to be getting more and more selfish, less and less able to grasp the truth of the Word.  He urges Timothy to not have anything to do with these people, yet I don’t think we as a church are taking that advice.  Not that we have to cut ourselves off from them or hate them, but that we ought not to conform to their ways.  And I have a feeling we are, myself included.

Then, in the passage above, Paul reminds Timothy to keep on learning about the truth.  He says that Timothy knows that what he has already learned is reliable because of the people he learned it from and that he has the advantage of having been learning since his infancy.  He reminds Timothy what exactly the Scripture is for: make one wise as to the road of salvation, namely Jesus Christ; training, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.  Many times when I hear the latter list, I think of them as in I’m using the Word to help others.  I am training someone, rebuking someone, and so forth.  But while it can be used to help others, it is also supposed to be applied to oneself.  God is the one the Word finds its source, and He wants to conform us to the image of His Son.  And part of being conformed is being washed daily in His Word, letting it shape us into the person God wants us to be, for we are cannot be complete if left to ourselves.

So wash yourself in the Word this weekend, no matter your schedules.  It is always worth it.  God is worth it.

1We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. 3For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”a 4For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.  5May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” ~Romans 15

Food for Thought: Commit to the Word

8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13

Have you ever felt like you’ve read a book of the Bible so many times it has become meaningless to you?  That usually happens to me when my pastor goes through a book of the bible.  I love when he preaches and the insights I get, but it takes me a while to read the book for myself after he’s done with it.  It almost feels like the book has been wrung out so much that it loses any mystery or significance I know that it still has.  It feels like I don’t care about it anymore.  And that has always upset me a little bit.

My boyfriend and I have been reading books of the bible for a week and then meeting together to discuss them.  This past Monday he suggested 1 Timothy, which is the book Pastor is going through right now.  I felt my heart sink within me when he said it because I really didn’t want to read it.  But I agreed because I despise the thought of not wanting to read any book of the bible just because ‘I don’t feel like it’.  Because of that I’ve been having a hard time reading my bible this week.  Many days I just want to skip it, but I force myself to do it anyway.  And that brings e to something I’ve thought about often: commitment to the Word.

All the time I hear from other people that they haven’t been reading the bible.  Either they ‘don’t get anything out of it’ or they just don’t feel like doing it.  And I understand.  Feelings are fickle.  One day you feel like you could run a marathon and then the next day you feel so low all you want to do is stay in bed all day.  And, as I’ve said, I understand feeling like you’re not getting anything out of the Word.  But I also know that these things should not get in the way of my daily diving into the Word of God.

In our passage above, Paul says that there was a time when he thought and acted like a child because he was a child.  When he grew up he put those ways behind him.  What are characteristics of childishness?  Doing what I feel like, being impatient, being lazy.  When I became an adult I learned responsibility, doing things despite what I felt, being patient, and that work is good.  These are the same things we need to have when approaching God and His Word.  And why should we do them?  Why should we care what God says?  What if we can’t understand?  Well, should we just give up?  No, and why not?  Because we love God.  Love of God endures.  We can have faith that He exists and that He saved us, and that’s important.  We can have hope that He will help us and will return for us again and that’s VERY important too.  But what is the most important thing we could and should have?  Love for our Savior, just as He loves us.  And that means reading His Word despite what we feel.

And He tells us what love is:

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” ~1 Corinthians 13

Persevere in your love for Christ this weekend!

Food For Thought: Never Pure Enough

1As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.” ~1 Thessalonians 4

Have you ever felt like you’ve gotten to a point where maybe you’re being ‘good enough’, or that you feel like your being pressured to do something that you don’t think is best but you do it to make someone else happy?  I have.  I’ve made compromises that I still don’t know that I should have.  I’ve allowed steps to happen in relationships that I never thought I would allow.  I think, “Well, I’ll let this slide, but I will definitely NOT let this happen.  We’re doing alright.”  But are we?  Is God ok with what I’m doing?

I was thinking about that this morning, about the things I’ve let happen, wondering if it’s really a good thing.  But since I’ve already allowed it, can I really back out now?  I didn’t know and I didn’t really want to face the questions.  But God rarely let’s us just back away.  I read from 1 Thessalonians 4 today.   It started out encouraging.  We need to be pursuing lives that please God, never satisfied with where we’re at, always pressing forward.  I’ve always known this.

It was the next part, when Paul gets more specific, that is difficult and reminded me of the issue I was trying to hide from.  “3It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4that each of you should learn to control your own bodya in a way that is holy and honorable, 5not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.b The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.”

It doesn’t get more clear than that.  I should be avoiding what I see as passionate lust, even if others may not see it that way, because I need to do what is pleasing to God.  I don’t have to worry that it won’t please others because this is what the Word of God says, and if I or others reject it, we aren’t rejecting men but God who gave us His gift of the Spirit.  And I shouldn’t worry that it’s ‘too late to go back’ on what I’ve originally been ok with because God has not called me to be impure but to live a pure life.  This sanctification is something to be constantly pursued.  I can never be pure enough, but I can always be becoming more pure, and this is pleasing to God.

I hope that this encourages you to choose the path that pleases God, even if you haven’t been for a long time.  God will give you the strength to do what’s right.  Remember, even if something pricks your conscience and not another’s, it doesn’t mean you should ignore your convictions.  As it says in James 4: “17If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”  And do not envy the wicked.  It may seem that they are free of worry sometimes, but read Psalm 73.  “12This is what the wicked are like—

always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.

13Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure

and have washed my hands in innocence.

14All day long I have been afflicted,

and every morning brings new punishments.

15If I had spoken out like that,

I would have betrayed your children.

16When I tried to understand all this,

it troubled me deeply

17till I entered the sanctuary of God;

then I understood their final destiny.”

Choose God.

God bless your weekend.

Food For Thought: Praise the LORD

1Praise the Lord.a  Praise the Lord, you his servants; praise the name of the Lord2Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forevermore.  3From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.”  ~Psalm 113

This week, I didn’t really feel like praising God.  I was tired from work and several times felt to be in a bad mood.  After snapping at my sister, I felt guilty, and I started wondering, ‘Why am I like this?’  Sure, I could use the excuse of being tired, but that really meant nothing.  In all actuality being tired was partially my fault because I was staying up too late, even though I knew I hadn’t been sleeping well.  So why was I so grumpy?  Was it really just lack of sleep?

No, it wasn’t.  Because the other thing I’d been neglecting was real bible reading and true prayer.  I’d been avoiding real intimate time with God, and therefore I wasn’t being fed the way I should.  So I read the bible.

The first passage I read was Psalm 112.  In the very first verse it says, “1Praise the Lord.b  Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands.”  It says that we are blessed who take delight in the Word of the LORD.  And the rest of psalm talks of the benefits of following and trusting in Him.  I was encouraged that I can indeed follow Him.

The next day I read Revelation 5.  This day I grew especially excited.  This is the chapter where an angel asks if there is anyone who can open the scroll, but no one is found who can.  John weeps because of this, but then he is told that the lion of Judah is here who can open the scroll.  So he looks and there is a lamb who was slain who is worthy to open the scroll.  And then the rest of the chapter is of everyone singing praises to Him.

Now I’ve read this chapter before, but this time something new jumped out at me.  It was the progression of worship.  The first to sing are the four living creatures and the elders, and we’re told that they sing a new song.  The song begins like this: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain,”.  Suddenly, a huge crowd of angels appears.  It’s like they heard the song and grew excited by it, because they sing a song of their own that echoes the first.  It goes like this: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” And then we are told that all the creatures on earth sing, excited by the song of the angels.  “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”  And this final song causes the four living creature to say “Amen!” and the elders to fall down and worship.

Can you sense it?  The excitement, the worship?  Can you see how one song was bounced around, causing more and more to lift their voices in praise to God?  I can, and it fills my heart with joy.  I want to be among those who praise Him forever from no matter where I happen to be, as the passage in Psalm 113 says.

Will you join me and all of creation?

Food for Thought: Spiritual Leadership

21Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansingb her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” ~Ephesians 5

I’ve been contemplating this past couple weeks a question.  I want one day to marry and that my marriage will glorify God in every way that it should.  I know we are in an imperfect world and so it cannot be perfect or glorify Him completely as it should, but that is no excuse for the effort not to be made.  One of the ways that I see that God wants it to be is that I would submit to my husband and that he would be my spiritual head, just as Christ is the spiritual head of the church.  It’s not that I can’t speak, for I believe that God created Eve to help Adam, and so I am supposed to be a help mate.  But my husband is to be the one who leads me down the road of sanctification.

My question is this: what is the difference between being a spiritual leader and being a helper spiritually?

I was thinking of this question as I went through my bible readings.  In 1 John, I learned that the leader walks in the light with God.  He must love others and obey God’s commands because if he does not then he is a liar and not in the truth.  And when he sins he knows that he was an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ who has washed away all his sins.

But these things must be true of a helper as well.

Then I was reading in Philippians.  In chapter 2:3-11 I read about how we are supposed to view others as higher than ourselves and be as Jesus.  Jesus did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped but made Himself a servant and obeyed the Father, even to death on the cross, and this resulted in glory.  This made me think of a leader.  A leader is a servant, for Jesus said, “27For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22).  A leader is obedient to the Father no matter what the cost is. Also, a leader, although putting others as higher than himself, puts the glory of God as higher than even them.  And, just as Jesus is, the leader is an example to those around him.

Can a helper be an example?  Can a helper be obedient to the Father?  Can a helper be a servant?  Can a helper glorify God?  Yes, and the helper should.

But in the end, it is the leader who is and does these things more, for the leader is to be seen by everyone as being like Christ, while the helper is to be seen by everyone as the church.  The helper does all these things, but the leader does them more.  It is on the leader that the helper can trust and lean on, and the leader seeks after the helper for help, but both ultimately find their foundation in the Lord.

What do you think?  What is the difference between a spiritual leader and a spiritual helper?