Saturday, August 18, 2007

Painful Joy

"The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." Proverbs 16:9

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:3-9.)

“My dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful test you are suffering, as though something unusual were happening to you. Rather be glad that you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may be full of joy when His glory is revealed. Happy are you if you are insulted because you are Christ’s followers; this means that the glorious Spirit, the Spirit of God, is resting on you. If any of you suffers, it must not be because he is a murderer or a thief or a criminal or meddles in other people’s affairs. However, if you suffer because you are a Christian, don’t be ashamed of it, but thank God that you bear Christ’s name. The time has come for judgment to begin, and God’s own people are the first to be judged. If it starts with us, how will it end with those who do not believe the Good News from God? As the scripture says, ‘It is difficult for good people to be saved; what, then, will become of godless sinners?’ So then, those who suffer because it is God’s will for them, should by their good actions trust themselves completely to their Creator, who always keeps His promise.” (1 Peter 4:12-19.)

“But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; he will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness.” (Malachi 3:2-3.)

Oh boy is God, my Father purifying me this weekend! Just when I thought things were going to be smooth sailing He turned up the heat! And as I crumbled under the pressure and began to melt within the flames, all the impurities bubbled to the top where they sat and waited to be scrapped off. As minutes, hours, a day passed by, things began to cool back down again in the absence of the fire and I was able to emerge slightly stronger and more refined. Though I rejoice for the opportunity to be cleansed I must say it was a rather painful process.

Oh how joyful I will be indeed when the glorious day arrives and Christ Jesus is made known! Whoa to those who do not listen; those who hear the Word of our Father yet brush it off to live life as they see fit. How terrible for those who are cowards, traitors, perverts, and murderers. Condemned are the immoral, those who practice magic, those who worship idols, and all liars because the place for them is the lake burning with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8.) Happy are those who suffer greatly for their belief, trust, and absolute faith in our Father and His Son Christ Jesus.

Do not grow weary, my friend. Find renewal in His word. Hold tight to our Father. Hide your face against His chest. Allow Him to hold you near and assure you there is nothing to fear for He and He alone is sovereign.

“The world and all that is in it belong to the Lord; the earth and all who live on it are His. He built it on the deep waters beneath the earth and laid its foundations in the ocean depths. Who has the right to go up the Lord’s hill? Who may enter His holy Temple? Those who are pure in act and in thought, who do not worship idols or make false promises. The Lord will bless them and save them; God will declare them innocent. Such are the people who come to God, who come into the presence of the God of Jacob. Fling wide the gates, open the ancient doors, and the great King will come in. Who is this great King? He is the Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, victorious in battle. Fling wide the gates, open the ancient doors, and the great King will come in. Who is the great King? The triumphant Lord – He is the great King!” (Psalms 24.)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Not for the Faint of Heart

Why do we look toward man (who is not God but rather only made in His image) for help when the all powerful, sovereign God is our Father? With all the challenges life and humans bring I cannot help but wonder…why do we not trust in God more?

Being a believer is a very difficult and sometimes overwhelming thing. Not only do we have the devil prowling around like a lion ready to pounce, sin crouching at our door, and the flesh confining us we also have our loved ones, friends, and strangers alike challenging our very belief in the one true God and His Son Christ Jesus. It definitely takes a faithfully strong, persistent, steadfast person to hold their ground against satan, sin, the flesh, and those who mock and persecute believers. I think it is safe to say it is not for the faint of heart.

“At dawn the angels tried to make Lot hurry. ‘Quick!’ they said. ‘Take your wife and your two daughters and get out, so that you will not lose your lives when the city is destroyed.’ Lot hesitated. The Lord, however, had pity on him; so the men took him, his wife, and his two daughters by the hand and led them out of the city. Then one of the angels said, ‘Run for your lives! Don’t look back and don’t stop in the valley. Run to the hills, so that you won’t be killed.’ (Genesis 19:15-17.)

“The sun was rising when Lot reached Zoar. Suddenly the Lord rained burning sulfur on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and destroyed them and the whole valley, along with all the people there and everything that grew on the land. But Lot’s wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt.” (Genesis 19:23-26.)

But oh, what happens to those who, like Lot’s wife, do not believe? What comes of the people who turn away from salvation and yearn to be with the darkness in a horrible, unspeakable place like Sodom and Gomorrah that is so unclean and perverted that God destroys it with fire?

“Locusts came down out of the smoke upon the earth, and they were given the same kind of power that scorpions have. They were told not to harm the grass or the trees or any other plant; they could harm only the people who did not have the mark of God’s seal on their foreheads. The locusts were not allowed to kill these people, but only to torture them for five months. The pain caused by the torture is like the pain caused by a scorpion’s sting. During those five months they will seek death, but will not find it; they will want to die, but death will flee from them.” (Revelation 9:3-6.)

“For even though you know all this, I want to remind you of how the Lord once rescued the people of Israel from Egypt, but afterward destroyed those who did not believe. Remember the angels who did not stay within the limits of their proper authority, but abandoned their own dwelling place: they are bound with eternal chains in the darkness below, where God is keeping them for that great Day on which they will be condemned. Remember Sodom and Gomorrah, and the nearby town, whose people acted as those angels did and indulged in sexual immorality and perversion: they suffer the punishment of eternal fire as a plain warning to all.” (Jude 1:5-7.)

“Happy are those who reject the advice of evil men, who do not follow the example of sinners or join those who have no use for God. Instead, they find joy in obeying the Law of the Lord, and they study it day and night. They are like trees that grow beside a stream, that bear fruit at the right time, and whose leaves do not dry up. They succeed in everything they do. But evil men are not like this at all; they are like straw that the wind blows away. Sinners will be condemned by God and kept apart from God’s own people. The righteous are guided and protected by the Lord, but the evil are on the way to their doom.” (Psalms 1:1-6.)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Eaten by Worms

“So on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and gave an oration to them. And the people kept shouting, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died.” (Acts 12:21-23. NKJV.)

Yikes!!! How many times have we been blessed by the grace of God and did not give Him the credit and praise? Too many times in my life I should have been consumed by maggots. Thankfully Christ drank the cup of our Father’s wrath so that it is not ours to swallow and we are not subject to the same no tolerance policy that is seen in the Old Testament time and time again.

I feel so fortunate that our Father takes care of everything! It lifts a great weight from my shoulders knowing I do not have to control everything, I do not have to bear the responsibility for everything, and He is there to make the decisions. Even my husband has more of the stress than I as I am protected when I am obedient to him and follow his lead. With so many stressors in life, (i.e. the raising of children, finances, loved ones who sin against us, what the future holds, etc.) it is a breath of fresh air having our Father on my side and working everything for the good of those who love Him, those whom He has called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

And what of those pesky trials and tribulations? How in the world are they used to glorify God? Perhaps it is by our actions and reactions. If we are not challenged by the world and non-believers we would probably stand quiet and most likely in a prideful state. But the presence of difficult situations and those who sin against us keep us dependent on our Father and provoke us to act in a way that brings glory to Him instead of lashing out in defense, to “protect” ourselves. But how often do we choose to recognize God and behave in a manner that draws attention to Him? I am embarrassed to say it is not too often on my end. I am wretched and constantly seek to gain and maintain the quiet and gentle spirit of one who has unconditional, steadfast faith in our Father, His love, His tender guidance, and His protection.

By His grace we have been saved and woke up again this morning from our slumber to live this vapor of a life another day. We have been given a further chance today to honor, serve, encourage, worship, fight peer pressure, and defy the world!

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.” (The 23rd Psalm.)

Amen.

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