Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Genesis 19: Escape for your Life!

Read Genesis 19:1-26

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is certainly not one of those "feel-good" Bible stories parents like to read to their children before bed. The infamous encounter between Lot, the 2 angels, and the wicked men of Sodom in Genesis 19 is hard to stomach. Nevertheless, I believe there is much to learn from this passage concerning the correct attitude toward sin.

After we see a glimpse of the dark and perverse deeds that are rampant in Sodom in verses 1-11, we see God's response to this great evil in verse 12 when the angels say, "For we will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the Lord and Lord has sent us to destroy it." Remember that God always judges sin. Though it sometimes seems like the wicked are getting away with their sins without consequence, God sees all that goes on and He will not leave sin unpunished. In this passage, God has had enough of Sodom and Gomorrah and has decided to wipe them out completely.

In the midst of God's wrath and judgment, we see a glimpse of God's mercy in saving a remnant from destruction. Verse 16 says, "and while he (Lot) lingered, the men took hold of his hand, the wife's hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought them out and set him outside the city." This is a beautiful picture of the gospel...sin brings destruction, but through God's mercy we're delivered from death through faith. Without God's intervention in sending Jesus to die for us, we would all be in the same boat as the people of Sodom. Don't you love the way the gospel is weaved into the entire Bible? The whole Bible always goes back to this same message!!

Listen to the angels' words in verse 17: "Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed." In the midst of the wickedness surrounding him, Lot is urged to run as fast as he can in the opposite direction, or he will literally be destroyed. Is this not the case for us as well? We often are content to dwell among sin and linger as Lot did (16). We may even have the lackadaisical attitude that Lot's sons-in-law had, who refused to believe that anything serious would really happen to them if they continued to dwell in that wicked place (14). Or we could even resemble Lot's wife and foolishly look back with longing at our former sinful life rather than embracing the new life God has offered us (26). Do not be fooled into thinking there will not be consequences for disobedience and will reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7).

Girls, let me remind you that complacently remaining in the midst of sin will undoubtedly destroy you. If you do not have a sense of urgency to escape from all sin, you will get swept up into it. We are sinners by nature and "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matt 26:41). We must not be naive in thinking that we can dwell among sin without consequence, but we must have an urgency to flee from sin as fast as we can. When faced in a tempting situation, don't linger and don't look back...escape for your spiritual life!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

2 Chronicles 20: Who Do You Turn To??

Read 2 Chronicles 20:1-30

Don't you love it when God speaks to you through His Word? I try to make it a point to read through all books of Scripture in my quiet times rather than just focusing on the books that are more well-known or easier to read. I always love it when I'm reading a more obscure book of the Bible and an amazing little piece of truth jumps off the page and ministers to me.

When reading in 2 Chronicles this morning, this prayer by King Jehoshaphat in chapter 20 really touched me. When the King hears that a multitude of people are coming to Judah to wage war against him, Jehoshaphat immediately responds with prayer. He could have spent that initial time gathering all of his best officers and drafting a battle plan, but instead, he turned to God. Verses 3 and 4 say, "Jehoshaphat was afraid and turned his attention to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. So Judah gathered together to seek help from the Lord; they even came from all the cities of Judah to seek the Lord." In response to this terrifying news of an impending attack, everyone in Judah joined together to cry out to their only Hope...the only One who could save them.

In Jehoshaphat's prayer, he proclaims to the Lord that He is ruler over all, and power and might belong to Him. He confesses that when God's people cry out to Him in their distress, God hears and brings deliverance. My favorite part comes at the very end of his prayer when he says in verse 12, "O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” Jehoshaphat confesses his complete powerlessness to know what to do on his own...but rather than falling into despair or trying to fix things by his own might, he fixes his eyes on God.

This is so applicable to our lives as believers. So often we face problems that seem to overwhelm us. Our fleshly response is usually either to worry or to try to come up with a solution on our own. Why is it so hard for us to fall onto our face before our Father in heaven and confess, "I do not know what to do, but my eyes are on you!" Is God not big enough to deliver you from any situation if He chooses to do so? Is God not loving enough to have mercy on you in your desperation? Is God not powerful enough to help you? Is He not kind enough to comfort and encourage you as no one else can? I am certainly convicted by Jehoshaphat's humility and complete dependence on God for help in His time of desperation. May we all learn from this beautiful prayer he uttered so many years ago~

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Jeremiah 17:9: Should you Follow your Heart??

I can't recall how many times I have heard people say, "follow your heart" or ask, "What is your heart telling you?" Our culture sends us many messages...some positive and some negative...and as Christians we have the responsibility to test this worldly wisdom against the standard of Scripture. Many pieces of advice given to us by society may sound great, but if they don't align with the one Truth revealed in God's Word, we must reject them. "Follow your heart" sounds sweet and inspiring, etc...but is it biblical?

Unfortunately, it's not. Jeremiah 17:9 reveals to us the true state of our heart. It says:
"The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?"
Ouch...not very optimistic news about the state of our hearts. The truth is, our hearts are wicked, and they deceive us. We can't trust in our own fleshly feelings and impulses, because we all have a sin nature.

The advice to "follow your heart" is perhaps the most dangerous when it comes to romantic relationships. "If it feels right, do it," seems to be the common worldly philosophy when it comes to love. The world seems to think that when you fall in love with someone, it's all must obey your heart. That may sound good, but what if you're already married? What if the person you fall for is married? What if he's a drug-dealer, an alcoholic, a convicted felon? Do you follow your heart then? Can you see how this is quite dangerous advice to follow? I imagine you won't "fall in love" at age 16 with a drug addict or a married man. But, many of you will fall for boys who you know aren't living for the Lord. You want a boyfriend so bad, and you like a certain guy so much, that you would rather feed that desire than do what is honoring to the Lord. Our hearts continually deceive us into justifying decisions that don't glorify God. We can't trust ourselves! We must put our trust in God alone!

I'm currently reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and I am loving it. One reason that I am enjoying it is that it sends such a different message than our culture sends us. In the book (spoiler alert!), Jane falls desperately in love with Mr. Rochester. They seem to be so perfectly suited for each other and their love for one another is passionate and strong. After Mr. Rochester confesses his feelings for Jane and proposes to her, she experiences sheer and total bliss. She is beside herself with happiness and head over heals for her fiance. The only problem occurs on their wedding day, when she finds out that Mr. Rochester has secretly been keeping his insane and uncontrollable wife locked in his attic. After hearing this, Jane is undone. Her feelings for Mr. Rochester remain as strong and fervent as ever before, in fact, she forgives him immediately for deceiving her. However, she quickly decides that she can't compromise her integrity and stay involved with someone who is already married, despite the fact that his wife is demented. Listen to her inner struggle:
"I was experiencing an ordeal: a hand of fury iron grasped my vitals. Terrible moment: full of struggle, blackness, burning! Not a human being that ever lived could wish to be loved better than I was loved; and him who thus loved me I absolutely worshipped: and I must renounce love and idol. One dead word comprised my intolerable duty--'Depart!' (321).
The easy thing for Jane to do would be to stay with Mr. Rochester, the one man she truly loved and adored. At least, that's what her heart was telling her to do. However, she decided to deny her own emotions and do what she knew to be right. She couldn't stay with someone who was married, not matter how much her heart clung to him.

A story like Jane Eyre is practically unheard of today. The advice nowadays would be to let your heart lead you. Following your heart is the easier thing to do, and it will make you temporarily happy as you indulge your feelings. Following God, on the other hand, will be harder. It will mean denying yourself and surrendering your life and desires to Him. But by choosing His way, you will experience the joy, peace, hope, and purpose that you can find no where else. Girls, don't follow your heart...follow God's heart~

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Encouragement from J.I. Packer

I just read a really encouraging passage of truth from one of my favorite authors, J.I. Packer, from his book "God's Plans for You." I thought I would share it with you~

"It is a mistake, as we saw earlier, to imagine that the good of which God works is our unbroken ease and comfort. God's goal is, rather, our sanctification and Christlikeness, the true holiness that is the highway to happiness. Constant ease and comfort, therefore, are contentment from their knowledge that God is making everything that happens to them a means of furthering and realizing their glorious destiny. 'Whatever is good for God's children, they shall have it,' wrote Richard Sibbes the Puritan, 'for all is theirs to further them to heaven. If crosses be good, they shall have them; if disgrace be good, they shall have it, for all is ours, to serve our main good.' To understand this statement is to have the secret of abiding contentment in one's grasp" (119).

God never promised Christians an easy or comortable life. In fact, He promised us trials, suffering, and persecution! How do we maintain our joy in Christ through these seasons of pain? By remembering that God is still in control, that He still has a plan, and that He will work everything together for good for those who love Him (Rom 8:28).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

1 Peter 5:8: Our Enemy

1 Peter 5:8: "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."

I'm not sure where the image of the devil as a cute little red creature with a tail, horns and pitchfork came from, but I know that it certainly didn't come from the Bible. It makes me sick around Halloween to see children dressed as little devils. It made me so uncomfortable in high school that our school mascot was a demon (which is why I had no school spirit and never purchased a class ring, demon t-shirts or other paraphernalia!). Why do I take things like this so seriously? What troubles me is that the world is making light of something that is gravely serious. The Scriptures don't paint Satan as a cute little mischievous creature. The Scriptures paint Satan as a savage beast out to kill.

Peter warns Christians in this verse to be "sober" and "alert." We are to be on our guard against spiritual attack at all times, protected by our spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:13-20). Though it is a grave mistake to give Satan too much credit and focus on Him too much, it is also a tragic error to ignore him altogether. There is a spiritual battle going on that we can't see with our own eyes. We must remember who our enemy is and be on our guard against his devious schemes, temptations, and outright lies. How do we do this? Stay in the Word, which is the only truth, and pray that God will "keep us from temptation, and deliver us from evil" (Matthew 6:13)

The reason Peter instructs us to be "sober" and "alert," is because we have an "adversary, the devil." If you are someone who thinks she has no enemies, think again! As Christians, the devil despises us. What does he spend his time doing? This verse tells us that he "prowls around like a lion, seeking someone to devour." He is a troublemaker. He isn't just a bit mischievous, he is a thoroughly vicious and evil beast. What is he trying to devour? Well, the good news is that he can't take away your salvation. However, he can attempt to weaken your faith, rob you of your joy, and make you an ineffective and unproductive Christian. Right now, I feel that I am under attack from the enemy. I know that as someone in vocational ministry, he especially hates me and wants to destroy my work. He is relentlessly trying to discourage me and bring me down. Perhaps this is the reason that the average tenure for a youth minister is 1 year! Its hard to persevere while under attack.

That's the end of the verse, but I don't want to leave you on such a depressing note! As I said before, while we must soberly understand the reality of demonic assault, we also shouldn't give the devil more credit than he deserves. Remember that the devil's power is nothing compared to the all-surpassing authority, dominion, power, and majesty of our God. God is still in control. Satan knows all too well that his demise is coming, and he will be cast into eternal torment one day soon. Until then, we don't have to be afraid of him, because we have God on our side. Satan and his minions are nothing before Him. They tremble at the sound of Jesus' name. He has the victory over evil, and as believers, we share in that victory. We don't need to be afraid...just alert. Be aware that you have an enemy who is trying to bring you down, but you also have an infinitely more powerful God who loves, protects, and cares for you.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Caring for the Orphans~

James 1:27 says this: "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."

There's no getting around it...God has called Christians to care for the orphans. This means, that as believers, we're called to be ministering to the orphans of this world in some way or another. This could be by adopting an orphan either domestically or internationally. It may mean committing to daily prayer for the orphans to be protected from harm and placed in loving Christian homes. It may mean giving financially to orphanages or families who do feel called to adopt. Or it could mean flying overseas and ministering to orphans all over the world firsthand.

My sister Julie and her husband Flynn have felt called to adopt a baby from Uganda. They are just starting out in the process, and need all the prayer and encouragement they can get! Please commit to praying for them and consider making a donation if you are led~

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What Will Be Said At Your Funeral??

Recently, I attended a funeral in the Dallas area for Clint Dobson, a pastor who was tragically murdered at his church. I've never personally known someone who was murdered, and it's unthinkable to imagine something so horrendous happening to anyone you know. Because of the nature of Clint's death, I was unsure of what to expect at his funeral. Could God be glorified after such a tragic end to the life of one of His servants? After attending that funeral, I can answer a resounding yes to that question.

At the funeral, there was testimony after testimony given of the quality of Clint's life on earth. Many things were said, but the same message pervaded the entire service...Clint lived His life wholeheartedly for the Lord. Above all else, He loved the Lord with all of his heart, mind, and strength. He loved to preach, to study God's Word, to debate theology, and to minister to other people. He also dearly loved his sweet wife Laura and was fully committed to her and their marriage. What an amazing legacy to leave.

If I were to die today, the things said about Clint are exactly the things I would want to be said about me. I would love to be able to leave this earth fully confident that I had lived my life for the Lord alone....that I had loved Him above all else, that I had loved His Word, that I had passionately ministered to others, and that I had loved my husband unconditionally. Clint's funeral really inspired me to reevaluate how I am living my life and seriously consider what would be said about me if I were to die today. I want to encourage you to consider the same question. If something were to happen to you, and you were taken from this earth today, what would people say about you at your funeral? What would your obituary or your tombstone read? Could people honestly come forward and state that you lived a life of fierce devotion to the Lord above all else?

Check out this news clip about Clint's funeral service: