Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Here Your Proud Waves Must Stop

“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: ‘Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth and issued from the womb; when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band; when I fixed My limit for it, and set bars and doors; when I said, “This far you may come, but no farther, and here your proud waves must stop!”’” (Job 38:1-2 & 8-11. NKJV.)

How wretched am I to question my Father and become frustrated with the struggle He places before me! What an untrusting, whiny, ungrateful daughter am I who complains to all who will listen about how difficult my walk has become. Yet my Father remains true to me and continues “pruning” me so that I may bear fruit. (John 15:2.) And I have not to this day abandoned my prideful, foolish nature.

“‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble’. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:5-7.)

“‘Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the ends of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it? Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Or have you seen the doors of the shadow of death? Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth? Tell Me, if you know all this.

“‘Where is the way to the dwelling of light? And darkness, where is its place, that you may take it to its territory, that you may know the paths to its home? By what way is light diffused, or the east wind scattered over the earth? Has the rain a father? Or who has begotten the drops of dew? From whose womb comes the ice? And the frost of heaven, who gives it birth?

“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, that an abundance of water may cover you? Who has put wisdom in the mind? Or who has given understanding to the heart? (Job 38:12-13, 17-20, 24, 28-29, 34 & 36.)

Humble me, Father! Let my eyes be focused on You and my thoughts kept in perspective. This life is but a mist that will leave just as quickly as it came. It will be a moment of time in the scheme of eternity, yet it will determine my time without end. By Your grace I have been saved, Father, and by your grace I awaken each morning to a new day. I should have a joyful spirit instead of wallowing in self pity and self love.

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’ But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:13-17.)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

There is a Great Gulf Between Us

“So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’” (Luke 16:22-26.)

I am drawn to this story for many different reasons. I love the contrast between the beauty of Heaven and the torment of hell; the anguish of the rich man who has fallen from his pedestal and begs for a drop of water from the poor man’s finger. I am comforted by the fulfillment of a promise that “those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31.) “So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts her mouth.” (Job 5:16.)

“Then [the rich man] said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send [Lazarus] to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’” (Luke 16:27-31.)

Oh Father, there is nothing you cannot do! I pray for the salvation of my loved ones; those who are dear to me yet mock you, Father. I must “not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” (Matthew 7:6.) Yet, my heart wants them to be saved; to have each name written in the book of life so that they will glorify you and we can be together for eternity.

There is a great gulf between us. They are caught in the web of sin “which so easily ensnares us”. (Hebrews 12:1.) Please Father, set them free!

“My heart rejoices in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. I smile at my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation.

“No one is holy like the Lord, for there is none besides You, nor is there any rock like our God.

“Talk no more so very proudly; let no arrogance come from your mouth, for the Lord is the God of knowledge; and by Him actions are weighed.

“The bows of the mighty men are broken, and those who stumbled are girded with strength.

“Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, and the hungry have ceased to hunger. Even the barren has borne seven, and she who has many children has become feeble.

“The Lord kills and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and brings up.

“The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and lifts up.

“He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the beggar from the ash heap, to set them among princes and make them inherit the throne of glory.

“For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and He has set the world upon them.

“He will guard the feet of His saints, but the wicked shall be silent in darkness.

“For by strength no man shall prevail.

“The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces; from heaven He will thunder against them. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth.

“He will give strength to His king, and exalt the horn of His anointed.” (1 Samuel 2: 1-10.)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Every Branch that Bears Fruit He Prunes

“Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Because of His great mercy He gave us new life by raising Jesus Christ from death. This fills us with a living hope, and so we look forward to possessing the rich blessings that God keeps for His people. He keeps them for you in heaven, where they cannot decay or spoil or fade away. They are for you, who through faith are kept safe by God’s power for the salvation which is ready to be revealed at the end of time.

“Be glad about this, even though it may now be necessary for you to be sad for a while because of the many kinds of trials you suffer. Their purpose is to prove that your faith is genuine. Even gold, which can be destroyed, is tested by fire; and so your faith, which is much more precious than gold, must also be tested, so that it may endure. Then you will receive praise and glory and honor on the Day when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:3-7.)

Ah yes, trials and tribulations. How I despise tests and troubles, suffering and pain. Numerous times I have prayed asking my Father why I must hurt so much; why my heart must be broken. Christ gives me the answer for this in John 15:1-2 when He says, “‘I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.'”

“'You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.’” (John 15:3-11. NKJV.) (Some translations use the word “remain” instead of “abide”.)

I should not allow myself to get frustrated by trying times, loss, and sadness. Instead I should worship like Job, maintain a joyful heart, and rejoice in all things; for my faithfulness is in Him who I should trust and lean against completely.

“You love Him, although you have not seen Him, and you believe in Him, although you do not see Him. So you rejoice with a great and glorious joy which words cannot express, because you are receiving the salvation of your souls, which is the purpose of your faith in Him.” (1 Peter 1:8-9.)

For 20 years I lived in Florida and experienced its hot and sultry afternoons; incredible thunderstorms complete with bolts of lightening that split the sky; and winds cast off by hurricanes which threatened to strike. I could not see the powerful, swirling air that whipped about and left us fearful yet I did see the effects it had on everything. Christ lives and my Father is real! I cannot see Him but I see, hear, and touch all that He has produced.

“Yes, my children, remain in union with Him, so that when He appears we may be full of courage and need not hide in shame from Him on the day He comes. You know that Christ is righteous; you should know, then, that everyone who does what is right is God’s child.” (1 John 2:28-29.)

“He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” (1 John 3:8-9. NKJV.)



Saturday, July 21, 2007

Oh That You Would Bless Me Indeed

“And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!’ So God granted him what he requested.” (1 Chronicles 4:10.)

What terrible pain I cause others with my sinful ways. Wretched, wretched sin begins in my heart, pulses through my veins, and escapes in the very breath I use to speak. It causes my body to tremble, my heart to pound, and my words to cut like sharp knives leaving deep wounds. Certainly Christ would not behave as I do. Surely I would avoid His eyes if I were standing in His precious presence. Yet all I selfishly pray is, “Help me, Father. Help me be triumphant. Show others the truth in what I say. Let me be victorious,” when I should be saying, “May You be glorified!” Why can I not just utter the words of Jabez?

Only You know my heart, Father. You see the good, the bad, and the ugly within me. You notice the anger that rises like molten lava and spews forth from my very lips; the ugliness that crouches, covered in shadow only to reveal itself when the pressure threatens to become more than I can bear; and droplets of venom hidden within the creases of my soul. Envy whispers greed and self love into my mind and I begin to covet what my neighbor possesses.

“Oh that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!”

“Surely He scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble.” (Proverbs 3:34. NKJV.)

“Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:5-11. NKJV.)

“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith— to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:25-27. NKJV.)

Oh Father, convict me to be prayerful, humble, and obedient to You for “he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23.)



Friday, July 20, 2007

Marriage and the Covenant Between Christ and the Church

“Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave His life for it. He did this to dedicate the church to God by his word, after making it clean by washing it in water, in order to present the church to himself in all its beauty – pure and faultless, without spot or wrinkle or any other imperfection.” (Ephesians 5:2527.)

Marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman just as Christ made a promise to the church and took it to be His bride. Though we are wretched sinners and as the church (and Bride) take Christ for granted and certainly do not deserve Him, He remains with us and honors the pledge He made to us. So then why are we so quick to walk out on a marriage that does not seem to be going as we had planned and/or hoped?

“Submit yourselves to one another because of your reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband has authority over his wife just as Christ has authority over the church; and Christ is Himself the Savior of the church, His body. And so wives must submit themselves completely to their husbands just as the church submits itself to Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21-24.)

When we, as wives, do not offer ourselves to our husbands we are not trusting in the Lord for He is sovereign. He controls the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. He tells creation when to act and when to be still. He leads the tiniest dust particle and speck of pollen. All is within His charge to do with as He pleases. We are His children and He is our loving, nurturing, protective Father.

“Jesus answered, ‘How unbelieving and wrong you people are! How long must I stay with you? How long do I have to put up with you?”…Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked him, ‘Why couldn’t we drive the demon out?’

“‘It was because you do not have enough faith,’ answered Jesus. ‘I assure you that if you have faith as big as a mustard seed, you can say to this hill, ‘Go from here to there!’ and it will go. You could do anything!” (Matthew 17:17 & 19-20.)

Oh to have that kind of faith! I wish I had infinite trust in my Father and leaned on Him completely but instead I feel as though I should just give up and run away sometimes. When the tide comes and hurricane blows, I want to retreat instead of standing on firm ground with Christ.
“‘Why are you so frightened?’ Jesus answered. “‘What little faith you have!’ Then He got up and ordered the winds and waves to stop, and there was a great calm.” (Matthew 8:26.)


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