Thursday, October 29, 2009

Psalm 139: He Knows You!

Read Psalm 139

This is one of my all-time favorite Scripture passages. Reading Psalm 139 makes me feel so loved by God! It is one of the places in Scripture that I turn to the most when I'm feeling down. I cannot begin to fathom the depths of God's knowledge or understand His workings! How can a God who knows all of the billions of the stars by name (Psalm 147:4) also be concerned with counting the number of hairs on my head (Matthew 10:30)? God is so vast, yet He is so intimate and personal at the same time.

This Psalm starts out by proclaiming the Lord's intimate knowledge of His people. He knows everything we've ever done or are going to do in the future. He knows what we're thinking and what we're going to say before we actually speak it. Verse 6 states that this kind of knowledge is too high for us...we can't come close to attaining it! This quality of God is what theologians call omniscience. This means that God has supreme knowledge of all things at all times. Talk about supernatural power!

David (the writer) then begins to speak of the truth that there is no place where he can hide from God. Wherever we go, we can always be certain that the Lord's presence is with us. I hear many people pray, "Lord, be with [this person]." The fact is that the Lord already is! Theologians call this characteristic of God omnipresence. This means that He is everywhere at once, which is a truth we can't wrap our human minds around!

In verse 13, David begins to speak of God's skillful and careful design of each human being. This is why you hear pro-life activists proclaim that all life is sacred. Verse 13 states that God formed you when you were in your mother's womb! This is in direct contradiction to the pro-choice mentality that destroying a human embryo is OK. According to this verse, God had a plan for that little embryo from the beginning. Before a baby is even born, God already knows exactly how his/her life will unfold (16). He forms and designs each baby exactly how He wants him/her to be(13). Eye color, hair color, race, talents, etc, are all carefully selected by Him. That should make us feel extremely special. God's works are wonderful, and because He made us, we are wonderful too (14).

When I was a teenager, I used to hate the way I looked. I wished I had different hair, different skin, a different body type, etc. When someone pointed out to me that those traits weren't accidents, and that they were each carefully selected for me by God, I realized how sinful such an attitude was. Complaining about the way we look is really a slap in God's face, because He intentionally made us that way!

Verses 17 and 18 really sum up the vastness of God's thoughts, as we talked about earlier in this devotional. They are more than a human can possibly fathom. I love verses 23 and 24, and I try to pray those verses frequently. I've realized that when I do honestly ask God to search my heart and expose my sinfulness, He does! If you want to grow and mature in your faith, repentance is a big part of that. As a teenager, repentance wasn't a big part of my life. Compared to all the other kids in my public school, I was really "good" in my opinion, and I didn't think I really needed to repent of anything. It was only later that I realized how sinful I really was! Remember that 1 John 1:8 says that if we say we have no sin, we are liars. If you truly can't think of areas that you need to repent in, then I encourage you to ask God to reveal them to you.

I hope this Psalm was encouraging to you! God loves you more than you could ever imagine. Before you even entered this world He knew everything about you. He created you in His image and carefully selected the traits that make you unique. Praise Him right now for His love and care for you!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

1 Timothy 2: What's a woman's role in the church?

Read 1 Timothy 2:9-15

By God's grace, I'm going to try to explain this much discussed passage in Scripture concerning a woman's role in the church. My purpose in choosing this passage is not to start a debate, but rather to carefully examine what God is trying to tell us through these verses. The book of 1 Timothy is a letter written to Timothy from the apostle Paul. The purpose of the letter is to explain how the Christian church should operate. In 1 Timothy 2:9-15, he talks specifically about what a woman's role in the church should be.

In verses 9-10 Paul describes how women are to dress and behave themselves. Women should not be vainly drawing attention to themselves through ostentatious or eye-catching apparel in the church. This takes the focus off of Christ and distracts others during worship. The point is not to avoid braids, gold, or pearls specifically, but rather to avoid the kind of clothing that puts the focus on yourself. A woman's clothing should be modest rather than revealing and causing others to stumble. When women in the church are focused on their appearance and on attracting the notice of others, it is easy to see that their hearts are not where they should be as believers. Rather, verse 10 states that their focus should be godliness. They should strive as women to be pure and holy and filled with inner beauty.

As women, we have a strong tendency (myself included) to place our focus on our appearance. We want others to notice us and give us attention. What a sinful thing that is to do in the house of God! Christ deserves all of our focus and attention, and all glory should go to Him alone. The only thing that should be bringing you attention is that others are seeing the Lord's work in your life and praising Him for it!

We go on in verse 11 and 12 to see what a woman's role is in the church. Based on this passage, which is the inerrant Word of God, women are not the leaders of the church. Verse 12 clearly states that a woman is "not to teach or have authority over a man." Does this exclude women from all service in the church? If that was the case, I'd be out of a job! No, there are certainly many ways women can serve the body of Christ (such as teaching other women-Titus 2:3-5-or children), but these do not include any kind of teaching or authoritative position over men. Therefore, this excludes women from the role of pastor or elder, because these offices include teaching and exercising authority over men. This is a crystal-clear verse, and it is the way God has designed the church to operate. We don't have the freedom to pick and choose which texts we will follow. The entire Bible has been inspired by God and is without error. Even the difficult passages must be followed in obedience! Just because God has ordained different roles for men and women doesn't mean that women are any less in His sight. Different doesn't mean inferior!

Verse 13 tells us that a man's role was made clear from the beginning of creation. Adam was created first, not Eve. He was the leader to whom God gave the responsibility. When Adam failed to be the kind of leader he was called to be and allowed Eve to usurp his authority and control him, there were catastrophic consequences. She sinned and then led him into sin, leading to the fall of the human race (vs. 14).

Verse 15 is tricky, but I believe it means that women will be preserved by embracing their God-ordained role as a woman. Though many see a woman's role in Scripture as bondage, there is true freedom in following the will of God. Women are to continue in "faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint" (15). They may not understand why God has not given them the same role as a man, but regardless, they are to continue on in faith and obedience to His revealed will in Scripture.

Many women find this a hard passage to read. They feel that this teaching is sexist and misogynistic and choose to skip over it. However, we must remember that this is just as much the inspired Word of God as the gospels are! God loves women and created them in His own image. I can give you so many examples of Jesus showing compassion to women that he met and truly valuing them. However, though God's love for us is the same, His roles for us on earth are different. I chose this passage, because in our ultra feminist culture, it is important for us to know what God called women to do in the church. We must firmly hold to His Word rather than allowing our culture's message to change our theology.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Want to be Wise??

Read 1 Kings 3:5-15

I remember hearing this story as a child and imagining what it would have been like to have been in King Solomon's shoes at this point in his life. What would I have asked for if God had offered to give me anything at all? I hope it would have been something as noble as Solomon's request was. Most of us would probably ask for something primarily selfish that would benefit ourselves. However, the passage tells us that Solomon asked for "a discerning heart" (9). We see in verse 10 that this greatly pleased the Lord. He not only gave Solomon the wisdom he asked for, but he also gave him riches and honor (13). If you have read much of the Old Testament, you know that Solomon was famous for his tremendous wealth, as well as for his wisdom (he wrote many of the Proverbs).

So why don't we get such an amazing offer from God like Solomon did? Actually, James 1:5 tells us that we do!
"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."

This is an amazing verse for believers. Our God is a generous God who will give believers wisdom when they ask for it. So why don't we ask? I think the main reason is that we don't fully believe this verse. It's hard to believe that God would make unworthy sinners wise. Instead, we try to get wisdom on our own, by reading lots of books, listening to sermons, etc... Sure, those things give us insight and knowledge, but God alone makes us wise. We can't obtain His wisdom unless He gives it to us.

James goes on to describe how to ask for this wisdom in 1:6-8:
"But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does."

When you ask the Lord for wisdom, also ask God to give you faith and to erase your doubts! I know that I have often been like the double-minded man in this verse, blown and tossed by the wind because of my lack of faith. I must continue to ask the Lord to increase my weak faith!

Solomon was a very wise man, which is shown through many stories of him in Scripture, as well as through the Proverbs that he wrote. However, if you read the entire story of Solomon's life, you see that he ultimately turns away from the Lord. He marries foreign wives and lets them lead his heart astray to follow other gods (read 1 Kings 11:1-13). The once wise king turns away from his God-given wisdom and follows the foolishness of the world. Solomon knew the truth, but he failed to follow the Lord in obedience later on in life.

You can be wise, but only by God's grace. In faith, ask Him to give you wisdom to use for His glory. Then, (unlike Solomon) follow the path of wisdom all of the days of your life.

Girls, have you ever struggled with this?

Hey girls,
A friend of mine from seminary, Michelle Myers, recently gave a radio interview on her struggle with Anorexia. It is an incredible story of how the Lord delivered her from this disease and used the trial for His glory. If you have ever struggled with an eating disorder or know someone who has, please check her story out by clicking on the link below:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Worship: 2 Samuel 6:12-23

Read 2 Samuel 6:12-23

This story in 2 Samuel is one of the reasons David is my all-time favorite Old Testament character. After a time of great tragedy (you can read about this in 2 Sam. 6:1-11), David is now moving the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. During this processional, a huge praise service is taking place, and the people are praising God "with shouting and the sound of the trumpet" (v. 15). David joins in with all of the people and praises God "with all his might" and is "leaping and dancing before the Lord" (vs. 14, 16). Does this surprise you? Picture this scenario in your head. The King of Israel has thrown off all restraints and hindrances. He is unashamedly sold out for God, and he doesn't care who knows it! His soul is so overflowing with joy and praises, that he is actually leaping around and dancing in celebration. What a worship service that must have been!

As David is worshiping, his wife Michal is observing from a window in the distance, and verse 16 says that she "despised him in her heart." In verse 20 she rebukes David for how he had acted and basically calls him a fool. Is David embarrassed or regretful of what he has just done? Quite the opposite! He responds by claiming he would gladly be even "more undignified than this" (22). David is clearly only concerned with what the Lord thinks, rather than preoccupied by what others are thinking about him.

Why was Michal so repulsed by David's actions? We don't know exactly what was going on in her heart. Perhaps she felt guilty because she wasn't worshiping God in such a way as David was. By tearing him down she could make herself look better and could justify her own failure to praise God with such a display of worship. Or perhaps she didn't walk with God herself and simply couldn't understand why David would act that way. Regardless of her reasons for despising him, we can see that the sight of David worshiping God made her angry, ashamed of him, and bitter.

When reading this story, it's easy to criticize Michal and look down on her. However, the more I read this story, the more I start to realize that I am oftentimes just like her! I will be the first to admit that I have, like Michal, judged people during worship times. Perhaps they were raising their hands a little too much, or on the other end of the spectrum, perhaps they were too motionless or stoic. Who am I to judge the heart? We must recognize that believers worship in many different forms.
It's interesting to note that during this time of great celebration and worship, that Michal was not worshiping at all! She was too busy watching other people worship and evaluating what they were doing to actually praise God herself. We must let God alone determine whether or not a person's worship is truly authentic; it's not our role!

So does this mean we should all start leaping and dancing around on Sunday morning? I think the point is not necessarily the outward expression of David's worship, but his heart. This was total abandonment. He was surrendering everything to the Lord in worship and holding nothing back. He wasn't focused on what others were doing but was instead tuned into God alone. How many of our worship times look like that? It's much easier to watch what others are doing around you and copy them so you can blend in. If everyone else is closing their eyes, then you feel like you'd better do it also. If no one else is clapping, then you'd better restrain from doing so. I definitely don't think our worship should be a distraction to those around us, but I wonder why we are so tuned in to what others are doing during worship time. I am just as guilty of this as the next person. During worship time I am often thinking about why I don't like the song played, or how I can harmonize with the melody; this keeps me from truly worshiping God in my heart. This is certainly something I need to pray about, and I hope you will as well!

I'd encourage you to spend some time in private worship this week. When no one's around, go in your room and turn up Hillsong or another worship band of your choice, and worship God! With no one else there, all of your focus on what others are doing disappears, and it's just you and God~

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

1 Corinthians 12: What's your part?

Read 1 Corinthians 12

What's your spiritual gift? I've always loved this passage on the body of Christ. There are several things we can learn about spiritual gifts from 1 Corinthians 12. In verses 4-6 we read that different gifts are given out to different Christians. Though these gifts are different, they are all from the Lord. This may sound simple, but it's important to understand this truth. Just as children receiving different Christmas gifts often start to fight and become jealous of what the other child has received, Christians receiving different spiritual gifts can become competitive and envious in the church. Paul reminds Christians that everyone is on the same team and working for the same purpose, which leaves no room for jealousy!

We read on in verse 7 that each Christian gets a gift from the Spirit, and that the purpose of these gifts is to benefit the common good. We are not given spiritual gifts to benefit ourselves, and we are not given spiritual gifts so they can remain unused. We are given these gifts to edify the church. There are so many Christians who fail to use the gift that the Spirit has entrusted to them.

Paul stresses unity many times in this passage. It is God's will and purpose for the different parts of the body to work together in unison to further His kingdom. How many times do we fail to accomplish God's will because we are preoccupied with our own envious and competitive spirits? I am sure all of us at some point have desired a gift that we don't possess. We may wonder why we can't speak like Beth Moore or sing like Natalie Grant. Their gifts are so exciting and have touched so many people! However, we're assured in this passage that all gifts are important and significant parts of the body. Verses 22-23a state, "On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts we think are less honorable we treat with special honor." This is so encouraging to Christians who have more behind-the-scenes gifts such as service. They may not get recognized by others or viewed as the really important and honorable parts of the body, but they are in God's eyes!

I find verse 18 to be the most encouraging verse in the entire chapter. It states, "But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be." This makes me feel so special! God knows you better than you know yourself, and He specifically selected the perfect gift for you...the gift He desired you to have. How encouraging!

If you don't know what your gift is, I would advise you to start praying about it. God wants you to know your spiritual gift, and He will reveal it to you if you ask! A great way to discover your gifting is to start serving in the church. Oftentimes this opens people's eyes to what they are gifted in. You can also ask other Christians who know you well what they think your gift is.

I hope that this passage encourages you to contemplate how you can use your particular gift to build up the body. I also hope that it challenges you to stop envying other Christians' gifts and be content with your own...the gift He chose especially for you.
What a privilege to be part of His body!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Micah 6:6-8: "What does God want from me?"

Read Micah 6:6-8

In this short book of the Bible, the prophet Micah is bringing God's message to the people of Judah. These people had been rebellious and would soon face God's wrath and judgment for their wickedness. After announcing the coming judgment of Judah, Micah anticipates the Israelites' response in Micah 6:6-7. In these 2 verses, Micah voices what he knows the Israelites are thinking, which is ultimately, "how many sacrifices will it take to get us out of this mess?" The people of Judah would first think of offering sacrifices to appease the wrath of God. In verses 6-7, Micah lists extravagant sacrifices such as burnt offerings, yearling calves, thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil, and even a firstborn son! Micah isn't literally suggesting human sacrifice as a way to please God, because this act is something God detests. Rather, Micah is exaggerating to make a point--how many sacrifices should be given to the Lord to appease Him, and how costly must those sacrifices be?

In verse 8 we see what God really wants from His people...a loving heart and a godly life! Yes, God created the sacrificial system, but He is stressing the fact that costly sacrifices mean nothing to Him without a changed heart. God wants obedience and godliness over rituals. Those sacrifices should be an outward act of obedience overflowing from a loving heart. Though we don't perform sacrifices today, this concept can still apply to us. Do you think going to church, singing praise songs, and giving money to the church means anything if your heart is far from God? He cares more about the state of your heart than about how many church functions you have attended. Again, ministry and worship should be an outpouring of your love for God, not an empty ritual.

So what exactly does God want from us, according to Micah 6:8? The prophet lists 3 things that the Lord has revealed. First, we are to "do justice." You don't have to read far in Scripture to see that God hates dishonest gain, lying, and cheating. God wants Christians to be fair and honest, living lives of integrity and justice. We're also to "love kindness." We are to love others, demonstrating compassion and loving kindness in our everyday lives. Last, we are to "walk humbly" with the Lord. Again and again in Scripture we see that God detests pride. Christians are to live lives of humble devotion to Christ rather than displaying arrogance or even self-reliance. We are to be dependent on Him in complete humility and to never forget the price Christ paid for us! We are undeserving of His salvation and that humble gratitude should govern our lives.

Pray right now that God would change your heart and help you to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly before Him. This is what He wants from us!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Luke 18: "God, can you hear me?"

Read Luke 18:1-8

Have you ever felt like your prayers were just bouncing off the ceiling? Have you ever prayed for something over and over again, only to have that prayer remain unanswered by God? I think we have all felt discouraged in our prayer lives at some point. That's why I love this parable. It offers great encouragement for those who are weary in their prayer lives and feel that God has forgotten them.

In verse 1, we read that this parable was told so the people would learn that, "at all times they ought to pray and not lose heart." Christians must persevere in prayer, even when they don't see immediate results. We must trust God to answer our prayers according to His will and in His perfect timing.

In this parable, a widow was in need of help. Widows are characteristic of people who are needy, alone, vulnerable, helpless, and afflicted. This poor widow persistently went to ask a judge for help, over and over again. This judge was not a God-fearing man, and he did not care about people; therefore, he continually denied this poor woman’s cry for help. However, because the widow was so persistent in her request to him, he eventually gave in and granted her appeal in the end.

When you compare this scenario to a Christian’s prayer life, you can see how God feels about prayer. We are like the widow; we are weak and in need of help. However, God is not like the judge in the story. While the judge was unkind and unrighteous, God is merciful and delights in showing compassion to the helpless. If the unrighteous judge eventually granted the widow’s persistent cry, of course our Lord will answer our cries! Psalm 145:18-19 says, “The LORD is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him; He hears their cry and saves them.”

Believe this truth: God hears all of your prayers and will answer them in His time. Be encouraged by Jesus' words in Luke, and do not grow weary or lose heart! Persevere in your prayers to the Father, trusting Him to answer them. This parable ends with a challenge in verse 8, as Jesus asks, “when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” When Christ returns, will you have given up on God? Or, will you be found to be a faithful and prayerful Christian, who demonstrates continual perseverance in crying out to God? I know which one I want to be!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

1 Peter 2:11-17: Respect for Authority

Read 1 Peter 2:11-17

How do you feel about President Obama? Do you respect your teachers? Do you follow your parents' leadership? Do you take your boss at work seriously? If a cop pulls you over for speeding, do you laugh it off?

Many teenagers have a big problem with authority. Because they are growing up and don't feel that they are kids anymore, they think they can make their own rules. Many think that they shouldn't have to answer to anyone. I remember being shocked by how other students treated our teachers in school. Still others would appear polite but slander them behind their backs. I know I've been guilty of that last one. What does God say about all of this? Isn't He our only authority as Christians?

God is certainly our ultimate authority, but He also places other authority figures in our lives for us to follow. Verse 13 states God's will clearly: "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority or to governors..." Of course we don't have kings in America, but we all have various authority figures in our lives. In a teenager's life, the authority figures include parents, teachers, principals, ministers, employers, government officials, etc. The truth to be gleaned here is simple. As Christians we are to be law-abiding citizens who respect the authority figures in our lives and follow their rules. We are doing this "for the Lord's sake;" whether we personally like the authority figure or not, we are submitting to him/her out of obedience to the Lord (13).

Clearly, if your leader asks you to do something unbiblical, you should disobey, because God is the supreme authority of Christians. One example of this is the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego;the king asks them to worship a statue, and they refuse. Obviously this was a rule they could not submit to, because it broke God's law. You also see this in the lives of the apostles, who were commanded by city authorities to stop preaching the gospel, but kept on spreading the good news of Jesus anyway.

Not only does this type of respect for authority please God, but it serves as an excellent witness to those who fail to do so. Verse 15 states that your godly actions may "silence the ignorance of foolish men." Your good deeds will bring glory to God and lead others to Him (12).

Are you respectful to authority? Do you grumble complaints against our president or ridicule your teachers? It is hard to respect someone when you don't agree with their beliefs or admire them personally. However, regardless of how we feel about a leader's choices or values, they deserve our respect. Do you need to repent of disrespecting authority figures in your life? I know I do! Ask the Lord right now to help you show respect to the authority figures in your life and follow their rules with a joyful heart.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Faith: It pleases Him

Read Gen. 12:1-4 and Hebrews 11:6, 8-12

Do you want to please God? I know that many of you, myself included, want this desperately! Hebrews 11:6 tells us exactly how we can please our having faith! The more I read through the Gospels, the more I notice how often Jesus commends people for their faith. It seems that this is the thing He praises people for the most. It is such a simple thing, but it can be so difficult to do. I can't count the number of times I have had to repent for my lack of faith or pray for God to increase my faith.

Though there are tons of examples in Scripture of people having great faith (read Hebrews 11 in its entirety to see a "faith hall of fame"), I especially look to Abraham as a man of astounding faith. There are so many examples of this in his life. One of these is found in Genesis 12:1-4, when God calls Abraham to go to a foreign land and promises to make him into a great nation. This is the same story referred to later in Hebrews 11:8-12. Leaving your home is a difficult thing to do. Abraham had to travel from his hometown, leave his relatives and friends, and uproot his family to settle in a foreign land he knew nothing about. People couldn't travel nearly as easily or communicate with each other very much from a distance back then; this would make the separation a lot harder than it would be for us today. God doesn't give Abraham the specifics of His plan, and I'm sure he had tons of unanswered questions. Nevertheless, Abraham placed his trust in God and faithfully carried out his request.

Furthermore, while God promises to make Abraham into a great nation, Abraham is 75 years old and childless at the time. It would seem impossible for such a thing to be accomplished in a man so late in life, but Abraham believed God and trusted Him in this area as well! We find out later in Genesis 21:5, that Abraham was 100 when his son Isaac was born to him, which means he had 25 long years of waiting on God to fulfill His promise. Talk about a true test of faith!

Having faith can be so hard to do. I would rather know what is going to happen before I step out and do something God has called me to do. But that wouldn't be faith at all! Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as "being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see." Are you certain of what you can't see? Do you truly believe that God knows best, and that if He is calling you to do something, that there is nothing better for you? It's easy to say that you have faith in God, but your true heart is revealed when that faith is tested. If you truly believe that God is good, perfect, faithful, loving, and has a plan for your life, then following His will shouldn't be so hard afterall...even when you don't know what's coming next.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rev. 3:14-22: Are you Lukewarm?

Read Revelation 3:14-22

In Revelation 3, John records this letter from Christ to the church in Laodicea. Though it was written to a specific church a couple thousand years ago, it is still startling applicable to many Christians today.

The Lord voices a strong rebuke to this church for being "lukewarm" (16). Jesus wishes that the church would make a decision--either be on fire for Him or leave Him completely. Passively lying in between these two actions is detestable to Christ, and He wants to spit those people out of His mouth. So what does it mean to be lukewarm? In verse 17, we see that the Christians in Laodicea were rich. Because they already had all that they needed materially, they stopped depending on God and didn't think they needed Him anymore. They turned to their riches to bring them satisfaction rather than looking to the Lord. Their wealth led them to believe that they already had everything that they needed. However, Christ reveals their true condition in that same verse, calling them, "wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked." They were doing great materially, but they were poverty-stricken in a spiritual sense. What's worse is that they didn't even know it!

As a result of their sinful and complacent spiritual state, they are called to repent earnestly (19). Christ urges them to work for treasures in heaven ("gold refined in the fire"), to become pure and righteous ("white clothes to wear"), and to open their eyes to their own wretchedness ("salve to put on your eyes, so you can see") (18). Thankfully, our God is a God of mercy and forgiveness. When we sin, we are able to repent and be cleansed of our sin. However, repentance is more than just passive confession. It requires actively turning away from that sin and pursuing obedience.

In verse 20, Christ proclaims that He is standing outside the door and knocking; when the door is opened, He promises to come in and dine with the believer. This is not a verse about salvation (as many mistake it to be), but a verse about fellowship with Christ. The church of Laodicea was not abiding with Christ. They were living in sinfulness and consequently were out of fellowship with the Lord. This verse is about restoring that fellowship with Christ after repentance.

What is your current spiritual state? Are you lukewarm, hot, or cold? Is Christ waiting outside your door for you to repent and restore your fellowship with Him? I am scared to death of receiving a rebuke from Christ like the church of Laodicea did. Nevertheless, many times I find myself drifting into complacency, going through the motions of Christianity on autopilot rather than actively pursuing Christ and abiding in Him. Cry out to the Lord right now, repent of lukewarmness or whatever sin you are remaining in, and ask Him to make you "hot" today!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

God's faithful provision: 1 Kings 17:1-16

Read 1 Kings 17:1-16

Our God is a God of provision. This truth has been so comforting to me at so many times of financial uncertainty in my life. I grew up as a pastor's kid in a 1-income household. We were never wealthy, and I saw my parents worry over money more times than I can count. Now that I'm married and have my own family, Lee and I face the same financial struggles ourselves. Finances have always been my main area of worry. However, when I look back on my life, I can not think of one time that I ever had an unmet need. No matter how bad it seemed, God always faithfully provided for all of my family's needs.

This story in 1 Kings is a beautiful picture of God's provision in the lives of Elijah, the widow of Zarephath, and her son. In verse 3, God tells Elijah to hide by the brook of Cherith, where God will supply him with the sustenance he needs to survive. No matter how many times I hear this story, I can't get over how amazing this miracle is. God actually commands a raven to deliver Elijah bread and meat two times a day, in addition to giving him a brook to drink from! What a powerful and compassionate God we serve! The almighty creator of the universe actually cares about our little needs and faithfully meets them for us.

When the brook dries up and can no longer fill Elijah's need for water, God sends him to Zarephath, where He has already prepared a place for Elijah to stay ahead of time (9). When Elijah gets to the designated place, he doesn't find a bountiful feast awaiting him. Instead, he finds a poverty-stricken widow who has only enough ingredients for one last meal for herself and her son, which she plans to eat before ultimately dying of starvation. It's funny how the Lord often leads us to places which seem so hopeless. God led Elijah first to a deserted wilderness and then to a starving widow's empty kitchen. However, each time the Lord provided for Elijah in miraculous ways. God is not limited by the circumstances or surroundings which seem hopeless to the human eye. He is more than able to accomplish more than we could ever imagine in any situation!

When Elijah hears the widow's explanation of her dire situation, he doesn't lose heart. Instead, he trusts that God will do what He has spoken and boldly asks the widow to prepare a bread cake for himself first (13). That very bold request must have taken a lot of faith! The widow has much faith of her own. Though she is aware of the fact that she has only a small bit of food left, she does as Elijah says. Giving up a portion of the meager amount of food that she had must have taken tremendous faith in the Lord. Her trust in God is so humbling to me, because I have certainly never been in a situation that desperate. The faith of Elijah and the widow is rewarded, as the Lord performs another striking miracle. How amazing that our God could make the flour and oil supernaturally reappear after being used up!

We are living in a time where many people are struggling with finances, due to the economic downturn and many other factors. Perhaps you see your parents arguing about money, and you're scared or anxious. I want to encourage you with the fact that God always provides. He knows exactly what your situation is, He cares deeply about it, and He wants to meet your needs! Trust Him to do what He is so faithful to accomplish! I will leave you with 2 verses that are encouraging to me:
"I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread." Psalm 37:25

"And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Proverbs 31:25--Could this verse describe you?

Read Proverbs 31:25

In Proverbs 31:10-31, King Lemuel's mother describes a wife of noble character to her son. Though there is much wisdom to be learned as a young woman from this passage, I've decided to focus in on verse 25 for today. My prayer is that this verse will become one that describes each of you girls.

In this verse, the noble woman is described as being metaphorically adorned with strength and dignity. How can we emulate this? When I think of a woman being strong in our culture,
I tend to visualize the famous picture of "Rose the Riveter," with the famous caption, "We can do it." Our culture tends to label women as strong who are tough and aggressive and who have overcome great odds to successfully accomplish incredible things. Women like Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, and Amelia Earhart come to mind. However, I don't think this is at all what the verse is talking about! I believe that the strength mentioned in this passage is the kind of strength that comes only from the Lord. Because believers have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, we can do things we would never have the strength to do alone. I'm not talking about having the strength to accomplish the same tasks that men can. I am talking of a supernatural strength that gives believers the power to love the unlovable, resist temptation, endure hardships, preach the gospel effectively, share wisdom with those who are struggling, and forgive those who have hurt them (among many other things). Because I am a Christian, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil 4:13). Does this type of strength characterize your life?

Webster's Dictionary defines "dignity" as "the quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed." The original Greek word in the text is "hadar," and can also be translated "honor" or "splendor." A dignified woman is one who is highly respected and held in honor by those who know her. Does the word "dignified" describe you? I think a picture of a dignified teenage girl would look something like the following description. This girl would dress modestly, speak respectfully to adults, submit to the authorities established over her, speak in a wholesome and godly manner, and live obediently to the Lord. This upright way of living makes her dignified. This picture of a dignified girl may be unattractive to you, because she would be considered by many to be a "goody-goody." However, upright and holy living is what God has called Christians to exemplify. Are you someone others would describe as dignified? Just like the last quality listed, this quality also comes from the Lord's work in you. As you follow Him and obey His commands carefully, the Holy Spirit will work in you to make you one who is worthy and honored.

The last part of this verse says that the woman can "laugh at the days to come." This woman is not worried about the future in the least. If you read the entire passage (31:10-31), you can see that she is very careful in making all necessary preparations for her family's future well-being. She knows she has worked hard and done her best. More than this, she trusts God with her future. Rather than being anxious about the unknown, she is secure and at peace, because she knows that God is in control and has a plan. Does this characterize you? Are you procrastinating to get things done, causing great worry and anxiety in your life? Perhaps you have a large project or paper coming up. Do you do your best and work hard to have it done on time? I am not a procrastinator, but I am a worrier. Maybe you are like me. You have done all that you can do to prepare for the future, but you are still worried about the outcome. You fail to trust God completely and hate not knowing what lies ahead. How I long to be someone who laughs at the days to come! Those with great faith in the Lord can do just that.

I like to break down this passage in Proverbs 31, because as a whole it can be so overwhelming! Focus on this one verse and pray about the area in which you need God's help the most. Are you strong? dignified? trusting God with the future? Lift your area of need up to Him today!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Luke 17: Do you forget to thank Him?

Read Luke 17: 11-19

I have always found this story in Luke interesting. Jesus heals 10 men with leprosy and surprisingly, only one comes back to thank him. As someone who was raised to always write prompt formal thank-you notes when I ever received a gift, I have always found the remaining 9 lepers to be appallingly rude. How could they be so inconsiderate and ungrateful to Jesus? However, the more I read this story, the more I discover that I am a lot more like the 9 lepers than I would like to admit.

Let's take a closer look at the passage. Verses 11-12 tell us that Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem and was entering a village. He suddenly hears 10 lepers cry out to Him from a distance, begging Him for mercy (12-13). Why were these men all together in one place outside the village? Leprosy was a skin disease that caused more than just physical affliction in those times. In addition to the physical pain and discomfort, people with leprosy faced the humiliation and loneliness of being ostracized from society. Lepers were considered to be "unclean" and were not allowed to associate with others. They had to live outside the cities in leper colonies with others like themselves. These men in the story were not only physically suffering, but they were also suffering from being isolated from their homes and families.

When Jesus hears their cry to Him for mercy, He immediately tells them to go and show themselves to the priest (14). Jewish law stated that those who had formerly had leprosy and had recovered had to show themselves to the priest. The priest would examine the leper and reinstate him as "clean" if he had indeed made a full recovery. The 10 men obey Jesus' order, and as they are walking to see the priest, they are healed from their disease (14). What an amazing display of Jesus' power! He only had to give the command, and they were healed! Can you imagine how overcome with joy and gratitude these 10 men must have felt? They had each witnessed a powerful miracle before their very eyes!

However, we only see the reaction of one of the lepers. The other lepers went their separate ways...perhaps to tell their friends and families the good news. We cannot know for sure where they went after discovering that they were healed. We do see what one of them did. He immediately started loudly proclaiming praises to God and glorifying His name! He went right back to find Jesus, falling at His feet in humble adoration and grateful praise. This man gave all of the glory to the Lord for what had happened. Interestingly, we discover that this man was a Samaritan. At least some of the others must have been Jews, because Jesus is surprised that this Gentile is the only one to return, stating in verse 18, "Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?" Jesus' own people--the chosen people of God--failed to give God glory for this miracle. Instead, the foreigner who knew nothing of God or His covenant was able to recognize God's power displayed in Jesus and praise Him in faith.

As I meditate on this passage, I start to recall all of the times that I have failed to thank God and give Him the credit He is due. How many times have I asked God to protect me in travels and failed to thank Him and give Him the glory for my safety when I arrived at my destination? How many times in school did I ask Him for help on a test or project and then forget to glorify Him when receiving a good grade? What about you? Do you remember to thank the Lord and give Him the glory for answered prayers in your life?

When Lee and I were on our honeymoon in St. Lucia, we stopped in a local church on Sunday morning. It was a small one-room building with no air conditioning. The people in the congregation were poor and uneducated. However, when they started praising God, I was so humbled by their gratitude and joy expressed to our Father! They worshipped through song for over an hour. Throughout their worship service, they would often sing the same phrase, "Thank you Jesus, Thank you, Thank you, Jesus; Praise God." They sang these words with so much sincerity and passion. They were overflowing with gratitude to the Lord, and it was apparent! I felt so convicted as I watched these people glorifying God so joyously and openly, without shame or restraint.

Ask God to forgive you for all of the times you have failed to thank Him and give Him the glory He deserves. Ask Him to give you a spirit of thanksgiving and start praising His name today!