Restorer

 

 

Ps 51:12, Lm 5:21, 1 Pt 5:10

About 20 years ago I was gifted a pair of Jenny Lind style twin beds from my parents. The beds were purchased by my grandparents and had been in their house before my parents got them. When they were purchased they were stained a dark rich brown. When my mom inherited them she wanted to update them to make them more usable in her home so she painted them. Over the years they were painted several more times to match whatever room they were being used in. By the time I got them, they were thick with layers of crazy colored paint and guess what style of furniture finish was back in fashion? Right, natural dark wood was the craze of the day. I was young and dumb and decided I’d just sand them down and re-stain them. I started sanding by hand. That got maybe one or two coats of paint off on the flat parts of the beds. The bulb shaped spindles and grooved frames were still loaded with paint. Not to worry, my energetic self found a family member to borrow a hand sander from and I attacked the beds again. This time I got down to the wood on the rounded bulbs of the spindles and the flat parts of the beds, but all of the rest was still multiple shades of paint. By then I was weeks into this project, I had little kids and little time to do the labor intensive, intricate sanding work, and I was missing the expertise it took to bring these beds back to their natural beauty. I had no choice…if I was ever going to be able to use these beds, I needed help! I bit the bullet and paid some guy to “dip” them in paint stripper for me. It still took me a few more days of sanding, a day to stain, and several more days to varnish, but I got them back closer to their original beauty, and definitely to a usable state. Now, ask me if I have ever tried to restore another piece of furniture since! The answer is a firm no!! I had bitten off way more than I could chew when I tackled the project and that decision and month of work has left a lasting memory in my mind that won’t ever be forgotten. I learned my lesson.

When I looked at the name of God for this morning, that bed project popped into my mind. It’s the only thing I have ever tried to restore, and it didn’t go well. When I start considering the type of restorer God is, the job becomes even more insurmountable. Most of us humans struggle to restore things. God is in the business of restoring hearts, minds and people, not pieces of wood. He has the power and patience to work on us, to restore us from sin, to bring back the joy of our salvation, and to place us on a firm foundation. To this Peter says, “all power to Him forever! Amen” I couldn’t agree more!

We serve a God who is perfect, all knowing, all powerful, and created each of us individually. He knows us intimately. He loves us deeply. He knows what is best for each of us when we probably think we know what is best, but truthfully only know what we want. He is willing and patient enough to do the labor intensive, intricate work of restoring us. He has the expertise to know exactly what motivates us and what reshapes our thinking and He is powerful enough to arrange our circumstances so our extra layers of yuck/sin can be scraped off. God can do for us what we are not able to do for ourselves. On some issues, we don’t even realize that we need to be restored. God’s perfect truth pinpoints what needs to be changed or scraped away. Because He knows us intimately, He is able to reveal to us where we are buried under layers of wrong thinking and how we are justifying sin to ourselves. His power and might can change any circumstance to help us see truth. All of this personal and individual work is done on our behalf to restore us, to set us back on a firm foundation. He is the perfect Restorer!

Purifier

 

 

Malachi 3:3

“For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes. He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the Lord.” This is Malachi’s warning to the people of Israel, specifically to the Levite priests who had become corrupt stumbling blocks to the people of Israel instead of spiritual leaders to them. The people’s relationship with God was broken because of their sin, and they were showing no signs of changing their ways. Hypocrisy, neglecting God and careless living have devastating consequences…we read about it all of the time in the Bible, but do we believe the same is true in our own lives? Hopefully as participants in this blog, we are experiencing shorter periods of time where neglecting God and careless living describes our lives, but the Israelites were characterized by being unfaithful. Even though they weren’t openly saying they rejected God, they were living as if He did not exist. Men were marrying women outside the faith who were worshiping idols, people were choosing divorce for no reason other than they wanted a change, and people acted like they could do anything without being punished. Then they wondered why God refused to accept their offerings and bless them. This society sounds so much like ours today, it is frightening.

So God speaks through Malachi of the process of refining metal. In this process, the raw metal is heated with fire until it melts. The impurities separate from it and rise to the surface. They are skimmed off, leaving the pure metal. Without this heating and melting, there could be no purifying. I wish we could have witnessed what this process actually looked like in people’s lives for the 400 years after Malachi, but the Bible is silent for this period of time. We know that God did what He said He would because Zechariah is the next priest mentioned after Malachi and He was faithfully serving God in the temple when we meet him in the Gospels.

What can we learn from this name of God? If God is our purifier just as He was the purifier of the Israelites at the end of the Old Testament, what can we expect? I think we need to start by putting this name in the context of our relationship with God. Let’s start with the fact that He loves us and desires to be with us so deeply that He gave His only Son to pay the price for our sins. He did the work and made the way available to us to have relationship with Him. We may also have to look back at a few more of His characteristics to put this name into the proper perspective.  He is our atoning sacrifice, our author and the perfecter of our faith, our comforter, compassionate, our defender, familiar with suffering, our fortress, gracious, our holiness, our hope, our peace, and our resting place. In the context of who God is and how He cares for us, does it not stand to reason that His purifying us is for our good?

I think we can all agree that being “refined until the impurities rise to the surface” does not sound pleasant. But can we also agree that sometimes, for specific reasons, this process may be necessary for us to become the people who God wants us to become? Are there things we hold too tightly to, or is there specific sin we refuse to be honest about in our lives? Are we blind to certain behaviors or beliefs that are enjoyable for us?  I hope that we are seeking God and His truth in our lives. I hope that we are not professing God from our mouths yet living for ourselves. I hope that when sin arises in our lives, we are honest about it and asking God to help us turn away from it. I hope our hearts desire right living so much that we can see the benefit of God being our purifier.

 

I hope this morning that our hearts are like David’s in the 139th Psalm. “ Search me oh God, and know my heart. Test me to know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

Protector

 

 

Heb 12:2

Our verse today is smack dab in the middle of a paragraph. We can’t really understand it’s meaning unless we look at the context around it. Heb 11 is considered the- “Hall of Fame” heroes of the Jewish faith- chapter of the Bible. It is an entire chapter of accounts of people throughout history who trusted God and followed Him. Many saw or were part of miracles, some spoke prophesies, others saw their lives spared or their families lives spared or raised from the dead. If you haven’t read through it lately it is a powerful reminder of who our God is. Chapter 12 of Hebrews starts out with the word, “therefore”. “Therefore”, lets us know that to understand what is coming, we have to know what was written before, so let’s look at chapter 12 in the context those heroes of the faith in chapter 11.

Heb 12, (vs 1) “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.

(vs 2) 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.

(vs 3) 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 is our champion. He initiated our faith by doing the work of becoming human and giving His life on the cross to buy us out of sin, wash us clean and place us back into God’s family. Is this not enough? Has anyone else ever offered to take your place in punishment for the whole of your sin? But God’s love is so vast, so deep and so all-encompassing, that giving His life for ours is not enough. He wants more for us. Being saved from death is not a big enough gift from Him. He wants to help us change and become more like He is. He wants to help us love others like He loves. He wants us to experience the joy that He has. So He is willing to enter our lives, have relationship with us and do the work of helping us change, to perfect us. Are you not blown away by this kind of love…this sacrifice…these gifts?

Since Jesus has done the work of making a way for us to have relationship with Him, what is our part in this relationship? How do we hold up our end of the bargain? We all know that relationships require two parties and both parties have to be committed to the relationship in time and energy for that relationship to form and stay healthy. There is usually ebb and flow in relationships where one is able to give more time or energy for a period of time than the other, but one party can not sustain the relationship on it’s own over the long haul. Verse 2 tells us the short answer, “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus”. So simply written, but I feel like it takes a lifetime to learn how to do this consistently throughout each day, so we are characterized by focusing on Him. So what if we start thinking of our relationship with God just like we do any other relationship we currently value? Instead of the “Sunday school” answers we are temped to throw at this question of what our part is, let’s consider what it takes to grow and maintain human relationships. Long term, close relationships require time spent together. Even in the rare cases where relationships grow from a long distance, time communicating between the two parties is essential. As trust grows between the parties, honesty, vulnerability, and shared experiences become the foundation of the relationship. When all of these criteria are met consistently, love and relationship grow and flourish. The Bible is clear that we are made in God’s image so it stands to reason that the same efforts that foster relationship with humans must be effective in our relationship with God. To evaluate our relationship with God, I think we have to ask if we are actually spending time with Him consistently. Are we trustworthy to keep our word to Him? Are we honest and vulnerable with Him allowing Him in to all parts of our hearts no matter how uncomfortable we feel about showing them to Him? Are we sharing our days with Him so we have experience to draw on in the future when we face tough circumstances and feel alone in them? I don’t know about you, but I have work to do.

Last, because we are looking at what our part is in relationship with God, we can’t forget about addressing our sin on a regular basis. If we aren’t willing to be honest, name our sin and ask for forgiveness in conversation with Him, we are creating a canyon between our selves and God. Jesus’s payment is the only way to bridge that canyon and we have to acknowledge it when we realize we have sinned. If we don’t address it routinely and ask for forgiveness, our relationship will not be able to grow. We all know this in our heads, but are we actually in the habit of looking back over our days for sin? Are we consistently making time each day to acknowledge the specific choices we make and actions we take or don’t take, to tell God we know we have messed up? Do we go to Him throughout the day when we realize we have sinned? This is part of honesty and vulnerability and without it relationship is broken. Praise God that He never withholds His gifts, time or energy from us! Jesus is our champion who initiates and perfects our faith!

Obedient Son

 

 

Luke 2:51, Phil 2:8, Heb 5:8

 

Do you remember being a kid and the thoughts that rolled through your mind when you were forced to follow rules or do jobs you didn’t want to do? Did you think, “I can’t wait to be an adult so no one can tell me what to do, and I’ll get to do whatever I want to do, all of the time”?  If only that were true… Obviously now that we are on the other side of childhood we see that the demands on our time choices, societal rules, government regulations and work responsibilities far outweigh the 15 minute jobs assigned to us as kids like sweeping out the garage or picking strawberries. Most of us would welcome childhood tasks over our daily adult responsibilities these days. As kids, we couldn’t understand the weight that our parents were carrying or the discipline they were trying to teach us by requiring some tasks. What is the saying? “You don’t know what you don’t know”!

Today we get to look at three different places in the Bible that tell us about Jesus choosing to be obedient as a human to human parents, to human government and to His Father while here on earth. I don’t think we can begin to comprehend what that was like for Him. Humbling, humiliating, uncomfortable, painful, frustrating…all words that weakly describe what leaving Heaven and His King’s throne to become human must have been like for Him. But He did it. He chose to complete the plan. He humbly left His home and rightful spot in heaven and lived an entire human life with family, work, friends and a mission that we can never fully understand the weight of, because He loves us. He wanted to make a way for us be able to have relationship with Him. We are that important to Him.

Every year as Jesus was growing up, His family made the trip to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. The year that He was around 12 years old, His family headed for home at the end of the celebration and at the end of the first travel day his parents realized Jesus wasn’t with them. Panic! They returned to the city and eventually found Him in the Temple sitting among the teachers and listening to them and asking questions. His parents were frustrated with Him for not sticking with the family and He responded to them by asking why they had to search for Him. Didn’t they know that He must be in His Father’s house? They didn’t understand what He meant. Luke 2:51 says that “He returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.” Such a short simple sentence, but its meaning and action are loaded with more weight, humiliation, and patience than we can understand. Philippians 2:6-8 explains my point beautifully. “Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and He died a criminal’s death on a cross.” The commentary I read on Heb 5:8 says that, “Jesus’ human life was not a script that He passively followed. It was a life that He chose freely. It was a continuous process of making the will of God the Father His own. Jesus chose to obey even though obedience led to suffering and death.”

I think that sometimes I downplay in my mind what human life was actually like for Jesus. I tell myself that He was perfect, He was mighty, He knew all and because of these traits, He had a special “hall pass” from the frustration of life. But now that I think through this in light of His name “Obedient Son” I realize that being God made human life harder instead of easier. He faced the same things we face during His entire life, but He knew who He was and that He could remove Himself from the situation at any second. He chose daily to stay. He also knew the perfect home He left and His position of King over all and still He chose to leave it behind to complete the plan. Knowing what His future on earth held for Him, He chose to sacrifice His life and give it for us. He chose the ultimate gift of love, His life for ours. No other can or will offer you this.

Man

 

 

Acts 2:22

Why is it significant that one of the names of God is “man”? We have spent half of the year looking at God’s character, His power, His might, His love, His Lordship,… the list is long. “Man” seems so out of character for God. “Man” is beneath God, because He is above all, knows all, sees all, is everywhere, created everything and God is our King. But it is true, God became “man” in Jesus.

God becoming “man” was completely His idea, part of His plan. He knew that the only way we could be in relationship with Him was for our sin debt to be paid, and He knew that the only way we could pay our debt would be with our lives, our own blood poured out as payment. He wanted relationship with us so deeply, He decided to make another way for our debt to be paid. He left His perfect home in heaven and came to earth so He could die in our place. His blameless perfection was the only substitute valuable enough and pure enough to take our place. There was no other option for us. Jesus lived on this earth just as you and I do, and He died a tortuous, humiliating death to cover the cost of our sin because He wanted to buy us back out of our death sentence. He chose to become man.

God becoming “man” is the best gift we have ever been given. God trading His life for mine/ours is the most meaningful, rich, costly, and selfless gift I can imagine. Never will there be another gift more valuable. It is valuable because He gave His own life for you and me, and didn’t have to do it. He could have let us live and die on our own. If He had chosen to leave us on our own, the first time we sinned, our relationship with Him would have been over. We couldn’t have been in His perfect presence again with sin separating us. Because He loves us and desires relationship with us so desperately, He gifted us a replacement for our payment of sin so we could be washed clean and still be able to commune with Him. I am amazed at His gift.

God becoming “man” is pure grace and generosity. We do not deserve His payment for our sin. No one is good enough to make the cut on our own. God’s love is different than our love. His is so enormous, so full, so rich and completely unconditional, He was willing to pay whatever it cost Him to buy us back. He knew He was the only perfect payment, the only possible replacement and He was willing to lavish us with exactly what we didn’t deserve.

 

The only reason for God to take on the name “man” was to save us and wash us clean so we could have relationship with Him. This name of God reminds me of His enormous love for us, His willingness to give up His only Son, His grace because I am so undeserving of His gift, and His perfect knowledge because He knew we would need to see His actual life on earth to be able to believe His plan. This name of God might be the most humble name He has. It stops me in my tracks to fall face down in His presence in gratitude to Him.

Living Water

John 7:38

I made a mistake! I underlined the wrong passage to write on today as I was highlighting my assignments for this month. Jacob wrote on this passage yesterday and explained beautifully our necessity for Living Water. As I was preparing this week for this post, the Spirit lead me in a different direction from what Jacob covered. Since I discovered my mistake too late in the day to rewrite, I present “Living Water” take two…

 

As I think about God and try to describe His three persons, I have an easier time knowing and listing functions of Jesus and God than I do the Holy Spirit. As I pray and think, I give God credit for creation and being the Sovereign Father, Leader and Protector of people, especially in the Old Testament. Jesus is my Savior. He came to earth as a human, lived like we live and then gave His life on the cross to pay the price for my sin. The Holy Spirit seems more mysterious and maybe has less tangible traits than Jesus or God. Today the character trait of God’s we are looking at is “Living Water” and in our verse, Jesus tells us He is speaking of the Holy Spirit when He says Living Water. So I thought today we should look at some of the functions of the Spirit written about in the Bible so we can more easily recognize Him and His work in our lives.

 

John 14:26 tells us that the Holy Spirit teaches us and helps us remember the things we have already learned about God. He is our helper and counselor as we are trying to learn Gods ways and put them into practice in our daily lives.

John 16:7-8 say that the Spirit convicts the world of sin. He is the One who “speaks” in our minds to let us know when we are thinking wrongly about an issue or making a self-serving choice. He is the One who points to righteousness so we know what is right and wrong.

1 Cor 3:16 tells us that God’s Spirit dwells in us. This verse is maybe where some of that “mystery” comes in. It is very hard to explain this “dwelling” unless you have experienced it yourself. I can confidently attest to the fact that I notice His dwelling in me more when I am watching for it and listening for His voice. When I am not seeking Him, He seems much more quiet.

1 Cor 2:10-11 says that the Spirit is a source of wisdom in our lives. Because He dwells in us and He is God’s Spirit, He knows the thoughts of God and reveals those thoughts to us when we believe in Him.

Acts 1:8 says that “we will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on us”. In Eph 1:17-20 Paul explains the Spirit’s power more clearly by telling us that the power we receive from Him is the same as the mighty strength He used to raise Jesus from the dead and seated Him at the right hand of the Father in heaven. This is a very tangible explanation of the Spirit’s power!

John 16:13 proclaims that the Holy Spirit is the called the “Spirit of Truth”. “When the Spirit comes, He will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on His own but will He will only speak what He hears. He will glorify Me (Jesus) because it is from Me (Jesus) that He will receive what He will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine (Jesus), which is why I (Jesus) said that the Spirit will receive from Me what He will make known to you.

1 Cor 12:7-11 lets us know that our spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit. We are all given wisdom, knowledge and power and then verses 9 and 10 give more specific gifts that the Spirit gifts to people. Verse 11 says that “The Spirit alone decides which gift each person should have”.

A few weeks ago we looked at Rom 8:26-27, explaining that the Spirit is our intercessor. You can look back at Apr 29 if you want to read over that again.

Eph 1:13 lets us know that the Holy Spirit is a seal in our lives. The term “seal” may not be very familiar to us, but as we look more closely it is actually a beautiful promise that I would like to close with this morning. The Holy Spirit is our mark/seal of adoption as God’s children. “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing that He will give us the inheritance He promised and that He has purchased us to be His own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify Him.”

 

After looking at all of these verses and their meanings, the term “Three in One” (that we hear so often describing God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit), seems to make much more sense. I was struck as I thought through these verses how perfectly each One of the Three has specific functions, but that they all work from the same truth and knowledge. They all work together to the same end. My mind will never comprehend this relationship or personhood fully, and I’ll never have words to articulate God while on this earth, but reading God’s word and thinking through His word pictures helps me understand a little bit more than I did before I started this morning. Thank you Holy Spirit for dwelling in me, teaching me, convicting me, giving me wisdom, giving me power, being perfect truth in my life, being my intercessor, and for marking me with Your seal as one of God’s children!

Knowing

 

 

Psalm 139

 

Would you describe yourself as a person that is an open book? Are you quick to share yourself with others, do you make friends easily, finding connecting points with just about everyone you meet? Or do you find that you hold your thoughts and opinions tighter? Do you need to be with longtime friends to open up and share your emotions? I think that all of us are a little bit different and feel comfortable at different levels of friendship with others. No matter where you find yourself on the spectrum, there are times when we don’t let people get too close because we are afraid that they will discover something about us that they don’t like. We are scared that too much honesty on our part will bring judgement or changed opinions of us. Let’s be honest, we all like to control our reputations and our personas. We like to present the good and downplay the ugly.

But with God, there is no “presenting” for us to do. God already knows EVERYTHING about us. He watched as we were being formed in our mother’s wombs. Every day of our lives was recorded in His book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. He knows when we sit or stand, when we travel or are home. He knows our thoughts and He knows what we are going to say before we even say it. If we went to the heavens He would be there, if we went to the farthest oceans He would still be there to guide us and support us. Darkness cannot hide us from Him, we can never escape His presence. He knows and loves us completely and He still accepts us. God is with us through every situation and in every trial…guiding, loving and protecting us. His love is so different than the love we are capable of. We are mostly only able to love with conditions and expectations. God’s love is vast, all encompassing, ever present, generous, sacrificial, lavish, helpful, perfect, overflowing, unconditional and mighty.  David says, “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them, they outnumber the grains of the sand”.

The beginning of Ps 139 starts with David saying. “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.” Then David finishes this chapter with, “ Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” David knew just as we do that God knows everything about us. So he asked God to point out the areas where David was lacking or choosing his own thoughts over God’s thoughts. It takes some maturity and a lot of trust to ask the One who knows every thought you have and every motive in your heart to examine your heart and point out any offenses. The truth is that God is already there, He already knows and sees all, but sometimes we act like children and pretend that we are keeping things from Him. We tell ourselves that our thoughts are private and only known to us. Isn’t that the only way we can live with ourselves some times? Maybe it’s time to get real about what God knows. Maybe today we should focus all day on how aware we are that He knows everything. We could ask God to point out to us where we are not being honest with ourselves, where we are trying to cover and hide our messes. Are you brave enough to ask Him to point out your offenses today?

 

(If you are too scared, maybe go back to the end of the second paragraph and reread the ways that he loves us. The purpose for His pointing out offenses to us is so that we can change for good, not so he can zap or punish us. He loves us and wants the best for us. Him turning a blind eye and letting us continue on a sinful path doesn’t help us. He knows this and loves us too much to let us lie to ourselves if we are seeking His truth.)

My Intercessor

 

 

Job 16:20-21, Is 53:12, Rom 8:26

Has the definition of what you need changed in the past month? Are you seeing that some of the things you thought were most important in life are less so after living without them for over a month? Have your priorities changed with less activity and busyness filling your time?

I have been thinking a lot lately about what is important to me. I have had a more honest look at how I spend my time with less on my schedule. This length of time with life changed so drastically has put a magnifying glass on my choices. I’d love to report that all is well and that my priorities are well defined by now, but I’m still smack dab in the mire of the process. God is gently showing me that some of the things I was telling myself were important to me, are actually not. Some of this new truth is freeing. Projects that I had previously been telling myself I wanted to do if only I had the time aren’t getting done. I am finding that time was never the issue. I just don’t really WANT to do them. It’s good to get to the truth on these things so there is less weighing on my mind. I can let them go, knowing that they really are not that high on my priority list. But there are other issues, when the truth is revealed that honestly are making me sad. I’m disappointed that my prayer time hasn’t increased drastically with more free time. There isn’t much that I would name more valuable in life than time spending with God. Before this SAH order, I would have told you that I would spend more time in prayer if I had it, and now I see that while my number of days in prayer per week have increased, the amount of time I spend in prayer hasn’t grown like I thought it would. I am disappointed with the truth that I have failed to fulfill my own expectations.

I am realizing that I don’t know my heart as well as I thought I did. I am able to lie to myself and make myself believe my own lies. This scares me. I need real truth. I need someone who knows perfect truth about every detail of me to bring that truth to my conscious mind. Prayer, petition or entreaty in favor of another… this is the definition of “intercessor”, earnest or humble request on my behalf. This is one of God’s characteristics, a name He calls Himself. Romans tells us that the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. He prays for us when we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. When we are unable to see the truth about ourselves. When our hearts are earnest in prayer but aiming at the wrong thing, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. God knows we need help. He knows how little of Him we are able to comprehend, He knows how weak we are and how far we will miss the mark trying to live like Him in this world. He loves us so deeply that He is willing to help us when we can’t even articulate what we need.

Intercession becomes even more meaningful when we remember that God knows us completely and intimately. He says in the Psalms that He knit us together in our mother’s wombs. He knows everything about us like when we sit and when we stand, when we travel or when we are at home. He knows our thoughts and everything we do. He knows the number of hairs on our heads. He knows each of us personally and the Holy Sprit is petitioning in our favor. He is on our side, working for our best interest. He knows everything about us, our situations, and our circumstances. He is personally making humble requests on our behalf.  Job tells us that he pours out his tears to God knowing that he needs someone to mediate between God and himself. He recognized his need for intercession before the Holy Spirit had been given to people. I’m amazed at his self-awareness and the concepts he was able to verbalize because of the circumstances in his life. We have the privilege and gift of the Holy Spirit at any second in time and don’t have to wish for a mediator or intercessor like Job did.

 

So what is God revealing to you in this time? Are you giving God the chance to show you truth?

He who is able to present you…

 

Jude 24

 

The book of Jude was written by Jesus’ brother Jude, who was a leader in the early church. This book was written as a warning against false teaching. At this point in history it seems that people were opposing the incarnation of Christ and the call to Christian ethics, so Jude spoke to the importance of the relationship between true doctrine and right conduct. In these short 25 verses, Jude points out that there are ungodly people that have wormed their way into churches and profess that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. He goes on to say that all through out the Bible there are examples of how God dealt with people who chose to not stay faithful to His instruction. In verse 12 he says that these people are like dangerous reefs that can shipwreck us, and that they are like shameless shepherds who care only for themselves. He goes on to say in verse 16 that these people are grumblers and complainers, living only to satisfy their desires. They brag loudly about themselves, and they flatter others to get what they want. Then he tells us in verse 19 that these people are the ones who are creating divisions in the church and that they follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s spirit in them. Then in verse 20 Jude starts his instruction to believers. “You must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.” Jude closes his letter with the blessing, promise and declaration of verses 24 and 25. “Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time!”

We can see the same type of issues in our society today. We are often challenged in our faith and drawn to take advantage of God’s mercy. Temptation is never far away because there are people everywhere who don’t have the Spirit of God in them. Did you notice the instructions God left us in verse 20 to combat these people and their propositions? Build each other up in our faith, pray for each other and await God’s mercy. These instructions are so practical! Right now, most of us have the gift of time, so we actually can search out ways to build each other up that would be meaningful. We have more time now than ever to spend lifting others to God in prayer. Waiting on God’s return feels more comforting than usual with all that is going on in the world right now.

Look again at verse 24. “All glory to God who is able to keep you from falling away.” How are we so loved and so blessed that God offers to keep us from falling away from Him to false teachers? He loves us so deeply that He protects our hearts and minds when we commit to following Him, and He tells us how we can re-enforce our commitment to Him through building each other up in faith, praying for each other and waiting on Him. The most beautiful gift, to me, is that He promises to bring us with great joy to heaven with Him, without a single fault! I can hardly wrap my head around this promise when I know what is in my heart, and how I behave, and how often I choose other things over God. I don’t deserve the gifts in this promise. I am so far from “without a single fault” and I am powerless to present myself any other way to God. He knew this would be the case for every single one of us. He wanted so much to be with us for eternity because of His huge love for us, that He made a plan that caused Him to pay the price for our sin instead of us having to do it for ourselves. He took the punishment for our wrong, so we could be presented without a single fault. I have known this truth since I was 4 years old, and I still can’t really grasp the full reality of this plan or the completion of it. I don’t know all that God knows and I am not the same kind of love that He is. But I have seen His personal love for me in so many tangible ways, that I know whether I can understand all of it or not, that His plan is real and true. I don’t have words to describe my gratefulness inside. I hope this morning, that each of us takes a few minutes to try to express our awareness and esteem for our loving Father and the good good gifts He provides.

Gracious

 

 

Isaiah 30:18, Nehemiah 9:17

In this culture and time, people are doers, fixers, problem solvers. When we face an issue, we research, plan and figure out what needs to be done to fix the problem. We help each other by doing tasks that require more time, skill or brainpower than our loved one, friend, or coworker has for a given situation. Sometimes we just provide a different perspective which helps others view the issue from a different lens, and enlightens a better solution than was previously obvious. We solve problems by implementing our time and our talents. Many times our love and care are shown by doing.

…Until we face something we cannot solve. I feel like we can all concur that we are at just that point. We can’t do much to change the situation the world is in today. Yes we all have our personal parts to play by following directions from the CDC, but by in large, we are helpless to make a real difference in the midst of this pandemic. We cannot stop it or change it’s effects. We hate not being in control. We don’t like the unsettled feelings we face because it has become obvious that we are mostly helpless against this virus today, and if we honestly look back over our lives we have faced other sets of circumstances that have caused these same helpless feelings and loss of control. This is helplessness brings us to the place where we are forced to look outside of ourselves for help and hope. Isaiah 30:18 tells us, “So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help.” Nehemiah 9:17 says, “You are a God of forgiveness, gracious, and merciful, slow to become angry and rich in unfailing love. You did not abandon your people.”

God won’t insert Himself in our hearts and minds. That’s not how He operates. He loves us too much to choose for us. He waits for us to recognize Him. He waits for us to realize how much we need Him. He waits for us to come to Him so He can show us His love and compassion, His Grace, His mercy, and His unfailing love. If we come to Him, He will not abandon us. These promises and characteristics of His are like gifts of gold to us. They comfort us, bring peace to our lives and change our focus from our selves and our fears to His gifts of grace. He doesn’t promise us He will remove the pain or the causes of fear, but He does promise to never leave us, and to love us perfectly through whatever we have to walk through.

I have loved the past few months of looking into the scriptures that describe God’s many names. The circumstances of these last few months have made these posts more meaningful and more precious than previous times I have studied through God’s names. The Bible says that God’s word is “living and active” and I sense that His word is more applicable, healing and comforting for a lot of us now than maybe other times in our lives. Circumstances change our outlook and our thoughts. I am praying that soaking in the names of God, over these next few months overrides our human thoughts, fears and reality. I am so grateful that God nudged BJ to choose this topic of study for this portion of the year. I don’t think BJ had any idea what these months would hold for all of us when he chose this, but God did. God knew what we would be facing, and how our hearts would react to these circumstances. I am so grateful for the daily reminders of who God is. I need the reminders of His perfection, His grace, His faithfulness and His unfailing love. When I focus on Him, I see the world differently than when I sit with my own thoughts. He is waiting for us to come to Him for help, hope and whatever else you are carrying this morning.