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December 2006
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February 2007

Our Proper Place

Philippians 2:5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (NKJV)

I'm not sure why, but the above passage and the personal application of the passage have been on my mind a lot the past few days.  I don't think I've been terribly prideful, but then again, maybe God wants me to take a closer look at some areas of my life that I haven't let Him completely have yet.  So, maybe I have.  That's how God usually works, isn't it?  He starts picking at us with a verse in a bible study or our daily reading, a comment by a friend, or a phrase from a sermon that was meant "just for us".   Finally we start paying attention.   My recent musings on humility leading me to this passage started as a result of a phone conversation with a friend.  A day later, I was led to the passage above in my CBS Bible Study homework.  Then, I later read the passage on a blog I regularly read.   Now, you, dear readers, are going to hear about it.  :) 

We can't compare ourselves to others to determine how well we "stand" with God.  We need to compare ourselves with Jesus.  In the passage of Philippians 2:5-8, we see Paul elaborate on the humility of Jesus.   Do any of us compare with His humility?  Jesus came to earth as a man, giving up His throne in heaven, giving up his spiritual body for the limitations of a physical one. If that wasn't enough, our God was a servant-leader and ultimately allowed Himself to suffer the humiliation of a being crucified for the sins of the world.   Friends, that is humility, is it not?   Paul says to "Let this mind be in you..." (Phil 2:5).  Do you have it - the mind of a humble servant, doing all for God's glory and not your own?  Are you willing to surrender every thought, action and area of your life to God?

David knew his place in this world as he prays in the Psalms:

LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am. (Psalm 39:4)

Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. (Psalm 39:5)

As I ponder these verses in psalms and really think about the nature and character of God, I am humbled.  I do want to have the kind of humility that Jesus had.  I suppose God will have to take care of it.  Being humble requires a lot of strength. 

Heavenly Father, please forgive us for thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to think.  Forgive us for wanting to have our own way instead of following Your ways completely.  As David penned in the Psalms, show us the depths of our frailty and the limits of our humanity.  Give us soften hearts to allow Your words to change us.  Make us weak so we can use Your strength.  Amen.


Suspicious Minds

Through what kind of "lens" do you see?  Naturally, we all view the world around us through the lens of our own individual perspectives.  If we came from broken homes, our view of the family might be tainted.  If all we've known is a mediocre marriage, we may not think too highly of the arrangement.  If we have been stabbed in the back or manipulated by someone close to us either at work or in our personal lives, we may have a low opinion of people in general.  Unless we make the effort to see all sides of a situation, we tend to get stuck in the rut of always seeing things the way we "want" to see things rather than how they actually are in in reality.

Biblical characters are no different.  They are flawed just like us.  The stories are in the old testament are filled with intrigue, suspense and drama.  We find some "drama" in 2 Kings 5:1-7.  Some real, some not so real.  Let's dig in. 

The Disease, & The Dispatch & the "Deception"

In our passage, we see Naaman, commander of the king of Aram's army, valiant though he was, suffering from leprosy.   People were shunned in that day because of leprosy so this was a serious matter.  However, there was hope for a cure to be found thanks to a young servant girl taken captive from Israel.  This young girl knew things of the true God, the one of Israel and His power to save through men like the prophets.  She knew of Elisha and of his storied miracles.  The girl passed on this information to Naaman's wife, who then told Naaman, who then told the King, who then dispatched a letter to the king of Israel asking for his help.  This reminds me of an old hair care product commercial: "And they told two friends, and so on, and so on and so on...  :)  Isn't God's power contagious? 

But the letter wasn't initially received as planned for...

As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, "Am I God?  Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy?  See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!" (2 Kings 5:7 NIV)

You will either have to stay "tuned" to see how the story turns out or read the rest of 2 Kings 5 for yourselves, because I don't want this post to be too long.   However, I do want to look at a few application principles before closing.  After all, we aren't just reading our bibles for the stories and the knowledge are we?  What "fun" would the bible be if it didn't make us think?

"TAKE HOME" THOUGHTS:

1. Focus on God. I thought it was interesting that the power of God was remembered in pagan Syria (Aram) through a kidnapped Israeli servant girl.  She passed on her faith to Naaman & the others and they acted on this faith.  On the contrary, in the land of Israel where God should have been on the king's heart and mind, the king, upon receiving the letter referenced above, did not even think about the wonderful prophet Elisha who lived in his city.  How are we Christians like the Israelite king?  How often are we blinded to God's presence because our focus is on the wrong things?

2.  Perspective is everything.  As I mentioned in the introduction, we all naturally view life through the lens of our own personal experience unless we change our view by focusing on the things of God and His kingdom, renewing our minds with His word.  Why do you think the king of Israel thought that the Aram king was up to something with his innocent letter?   I think he might have been so focused on worldly things like power and prestige that he failed to see the blessings of God all around him.  What has your focus been on lately?

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. -  Colossians 3:2


Be Still and Know...

Psalm 46:10 Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in this earth.

I'm a little rushed this morning and will be for most of the day but I'm SO wanting to post about my escapades through 2 Kings and a recent story I just read there about Elisha that I can't stand it!  :)  But, that will have to wait until I have some more time, most likely for tomorrow. 

Consequently, what better time for me to think about being still - if only on the inside - and knowing that the Creator of the Universe is there right beside me to guide, protect and comfort me every step of the way.  Remember, we can praise God no matter where we are. 

So for today's post, I'm going to refer you to a brand new blog, not even a month old, of an online friend of mine.  She is doing a short series on the song "Be Still My Soul", and is doing some nice work over there.  Her posts will definitely make you reflect on life.  So, go say "Hello" to Sara at Stones of Remembrance.  I know you won't be disappointed!   

Have a blessed day!


A Sacrifice of Praise

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. - Hebrews 13:15

Last night, after all things were right with my world again because my blackberry was mysteriously able to reconnect with my email, I was spending some random time in God's Word just following some "rabbit trails" through the cross-references in my bible.  I love it when I have the time to do this, because inevitably after some prayer and relaxed rambling, God gives me a treasure that really speaks to me.  Last night, my treasure was the verse above, Hebrews 13:15. 

I was in a thankful mood yesterday, even though my connections were a bit awry with my email.  I was thankful for several new friends I've made within the past year that I had never known before.  They are gifts from God, and I think they know who they are.  I was thankful for the CBS bible study in which I've participated in that has provided me some small group bible study and continuity in my life while I search for a new church.  I was even thankful for my job, which although it is not very challenging for me at times, it provides me with the flexibility to do more of the things I love to do. 

But am I thankful continually, always giving a sacrifice of praise to God through my words and actions?  Is anyone?  Who even knows what kind of "grade" I would get on the curve of God's grading scale on this one.  That is irrelevant anyway, because God "grades" us all individually anyway, doesn't He?

As I think about the verse today (I put it on a 3x5 notecard to carry with me throughout my day), I will ponder the folowing pieces of the verse with a little more energy:

By Him- One of these days I'm going to start relying on God's power more than I rely on my own.    I'm getting better every day with this, but still have a long, long, way to go. 

The sacrifice of praise, giving thanks… - I want to be thankful today, for everything, even the things that I'm not always thankful for.  For the traffic, for the inevitable slow checkout person at Office Max, for everything. 

I'll close with the following prayer today before I get back to the job I love.  :)  Won't you pray with me?

Dear Father in heaven, I thank You for all of the blessings you bestow on me each and every day.  I know that I don't even notice half of them because I'm tend to not always be content with what I have but want something more.  Forgive me for that. Show me how to love and appreciate You completely and continually.  Make the words of my lips and thoughts of my heart be acceptable to you, my Lord.  Help me to rely on You, because it by You only that I can be pleasing to You.  Amen.


Disconnected?

"This email account is no longer accessible by your BlackBerry handheld.  This issue is likely caused by a recent change to the password used to access the account.

To resume receiving email from this address, login to your Blackberry Internet Serivce account and verify the password is correct for this email account."

AAAAggggghhhh!!! That is all I really have to say about the matter.  Okay, I lied.  There is nothing that irritates me more than computer problems.  You see, I'm pretty connected to life and others with my computer and my blackberry.  I have this blog, my Blackberry, my email (which I can access through my blackberry) and I love it -- until I get messages like the above for no apparent reason.  I tried their advice by signing on and verifying the account to no avail.  You see, my password had not changed.  I was relying on my password and settings that had been working for months now.  So what happened sometime last night?  Who knows. 

So this morning, inspired by my hot shower as I tried to "cool off" about the whole disconnection thing, I thought that their must be a lesson here that I could blog about.  And there is ... the eternal security of salvation to those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ for their eternal destiny.  Can you see the connection?   You see, God will not change our "settings" to stay connected with him some random night while we are sleeping.  God will not change our password to gain entrance into heaven.  Praise the Lord!!!  Once we have truly been born again into His kingdom we cannot be "unborn" out of it.  Because we have done no good deed to gain entrance into heaven we can do no bad deed to cause us to be cast out. 

Eph 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Romans 8:38-39 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels,nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The triple witness of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God the Father seals the "deal" we made with God (our confession of sin, repentance and personal acceptance of Jesus' work on the cross) until the day that Christ comes back to this earth and establishes His Kingdom forever. 

That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.  In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1:12-14

How great it is to have these and so many other bible verses in writing to assure me that I am forever a child of the King once I've taken the initial steps.    Hmmm....Too bad that apparently isn't the same situation with my blackberry handheld device.  Rats.


Is there no God in Israel?

But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, "Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say to them, 'Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?' - 2 Kings 1:3

Glory, every knee falls down before Thee... we sing glory to Your name.... Oh, I'm still singing the song I posted about in my last post.  Sorry.  :)  Seriously, the song is still running through my mind.  Back to the task at hand.

I got caught up in reading some of the bible stories this morning as I finished up 1 Kings and moved on to 2 Kings.  I noticed something interesting in the 2 Kings 1, as I've posted a rather unusual verse to head up this post.  Unusual in the fact that I wonder if I've ever read it before, ever?  Can anyone else relate?  2 Kings 1 was an interesting chapter to me.  King Ahaziah, Ahab's son and successor had fallen through the lattice of his upper room in his house in Samaria, had gotten hurt and was wondering if he was going to recover.  I can just hear him exclaiming "I've fallen, and I can't get up!"  :)  Ahaziah was just like his daddy - not being close to God, if at all - and he decided that he needed to send messengers to inquire of the local god as to whether or not he was going to recover or die.  Funny thing how God works things out.  The messengers ran into our prophet Elijah who in short, tells the messengers to pass on the ugly truth to Ahaziah. 

This was an interesting passage to me.   Elijah's message regarding Ahaziah's fate was the least of this story in my opinion.  Rather, I believe the whole story is placed in our bibles to cause us to ask ourselves "Whose answers do we seek?"  Work with me a minute.  Did you know that the phrase "Is it because there is no God in Israel?" comes up three times in this chapter?  (See 2 Kings 1:3, 6, 16).  God told Elijah to ask the messengers why they were seeking another god's advice rather than His.   If I was God in all of His power and glory and majesty, I would be wondering the same thing of my people. 

This passage caused me to think about how many times I seek others' advice or opinions rather than consulting God first.   Are we really that different as a culture than Ahaziah was in his time?  We call and ask our friends for advice before we pray to God for guidance.  We spend more time reading books about the bible than we do reading the bible.  And do we even need to mention how much time we spend watching TV rather than investing our time in eternal things?  I'm not saying all of these things are bad and should be eliminated in their entirety, but do you see my point?   If God would send a messenger to each of us personally, I wonder what He would ask us.

We have access to the words and wisdom of the God of the universe at our fingertips.  We really don't have an excuse for not tapping into it.  I read an very insightful post that Vicki wrote regarding whether or not we have an increasing desire for reading God's Word.  Stop by and take a look.  I guarantee you it will make you think further.


Glory

9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

10 That at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:9-11

"What inspires you?'  I asked a friend this question in an email this morning as I sat wondering what to share today in this space.  I had just finished my devotional time in God's Word, but just wasn't feeling inspired to write anything about what I had just read.  (Another day, another bad king - remember, I'm in 1 Kings).  Afer I signed off on my email to her, I proceeded to get on with my day, popped in my new Selah CD "Bless the Broken Road" and became absorbed in the song "Glory" by Nichole Nordeman.   I was suddenly inspired by the beauty of the song and how it built up to a wonderful song of praise and hope for that one day when good wins over evil...finally.  Glory to His name.

Glory - by Nichole Nordeman

One day, eyes that are blind will see You clearly
One day all who deny will finally believe
One day hearts made of stone will break in pieces
One day chains, once unbroken, will fall down at Your feet.

So we wait
For that one day
Come quickly, we want to see Your...

Glory
Every knee falls down before Thee
Every tongue offers You praise, with every hand raised
Singing Glory
To You and unto You only
We'll sing Glory to Your name.

One day, voices that lie will all be silenced
One day all that's divided will be whole again
One day death will retreat, and wave its white flag
One day love will defeat the strongest enemy

So we wait
For that one day
Come quickly,we want to see Your...

Glory
Every knee falls down before Thee
Every tongue offers You praise, with every hand raised
Singing Glory
To You and unto You only
We'll sing Glory to Your name.

We know not the day or the hour, or the moments in between
But we know the end of the story...when we'll see Your...

Glory
Every knee falls down before Thee
Every tongue offers You praise, with every hand raised
Singing Glory
To You and unto You only
We'll sing Glory to Your name.


Positive Possibilities

Why is it that no matter who we are, we have our moments of weakness where we can't seem to believe that God will come through in our own personal situations, whatever they may be?  Elijah had his moment of fear in 1 Kings 19 when Jezebel was after him.  Moses didn't seem to believe God at one point that God could use him to deliver Israel out of the hands of Pharoah.  The disciples even wondered how Jesus was going to feed the 5000 with the pittance of rations they were to dole out. Yes, I do think we all have our moments.  I'm certainly glad the bible has examples showing the characters' weaknesses, aren't you?

God's word also flat out tells us that God can do anything.  Flat out.  Anything.  That includes fixing our jobs, our marriages, our prodigal children, our ministries, our finances, our attitudes, and so on and so on. 

For with God nothing shall be impossible.  - Luke 1:37

Is there anyone out there that needs to hear this simple truth?  Here, let me share it another way:

But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.  - Matthew 19:26

Hmm....can I find it anywhere else?  Absolutely!!!  God Himself says ...

Is anything to hard for the LORD?  - God, Genesis 18:14a

Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me? - Jeremiah 32:17

And my personal favorite:

Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee: - Jeremiah 32:17

Dear friends, did you get the message?  You know that I'm telling myself this as well for some undisclosed reason, don't you? Obviously, I'm not sharing the reason for the world to see because I'm protecting the innocent, but the truth is still the same.  We just need to take God at His word, be obedient to His call on our lives and remain steadfast until God's blessings come our way.  And they will come, according to His will, and in His time.

Dear Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, I thank You that You are in control of my life and have my best interests at heart.  Help us to call out to You with the belief that You can change things for the better in our lives.  Help us to remember when we get tired of waiting on You that You are in control and that You are working in ways we may not see.  Show us where we need to change as well, but most importantly, give us an unwavering faith in Your promises and in You.  Amen.


The Elijah Effect

The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?  (Psalm 118:6)

It is interesting how when I study the bible the passages that jump out at me at different times in my life.    I'm still in 1 Kings and am seeing a little more of Elijah, but I'm intrigued by Obadiah instead - or rather Obadiah's reaction to Elijah.

Elijah's presence had an interesting effect on people.  I wonder what it was about his presence or his reputation at this early mention of him that made people afraid.  I think it must have been his known closeness to God combined with the self-consciousness of the individuals he came into contact with that caused all of the fear.  Remember the widow in my last post from 1 Kings 17?  She was afraid that Elijah came to bring God's judgment on her sin.  In 1 Kings 18, Obadiah, the governor of the house of Ahab and a man who feared God, we are seeing the same thing - fear.

Remember, Elijah had been hiding and King Ahab just wasn't a very nice guy.  Ahab's wife, Jezebel, was a nasty individual in her own right, and Obadiah feared the Lord.  Apparently, Obadiah had saved a hundred of God's prophets from being slain by Jezebel by hiding them in a cave.  Give Obadiah credit at least for not being afraid to do the right thing.  However, this time, I think Obadiah was afraid that his deeds might catch up to him.  The bottom line: Elijah wanted Obadiah to tell Ahab that he was back in town and Obadiah was afraid to deliver the news for fear that Elijah wouldn't show up.  Here are Obadiah's words to Elijah:

1 Kings 18:11 And now you say, ‘Go, tell your master, “Elijah is here”’! 12 And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from you, that the Spirit of the LORD will carry you to a place I do not know; so when I go and tell Ahab, and he cannot find you, he will kill me. But I your servant have feared the LORD from my youth. 13 Was it not reported to my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the LORD, how I hid one hundred men of the LORD’s prophets, fifty to a cave, and fed them with bread and water?

Sounds like Obadiah is pretty scared.  He had not yet memorized Psalm 118:6 (see above).  Okay, even the best of us forget our memorized bible verses from time to time.  The point I"m trying to make is that no matter what situation we are going through, if we as Christians fear God and are obedient to His word to the best of our ability, we will be protected by Him.  We don't have to fear what "man" can do to us.  But should we forget our bible verse as Obadiah temporarily did, we can always pick ourselves up and start anew at any time.

To think about:

1) Who am I living my life for?  Another person or God?

2) Is there anything in my life that I'm not doing or doing because I'm afraid of what someone else will think?


Who's Sustaining Who?

In the 17th Chapter of  1 Kings we meet our prophet Elijah for the first time.  Did I mention that I'm really enjoying blogging through the old testament because I'm getting refamiliarized with some of the kings, etc.?  I haven't been through these chapters in awhile.  Oops. Sorry for the digression.   

In 1 Kings 17, we see Elijah as he was told by God to tell bad 'ol Ahab that there was going to be a 3 year drought.  After this, God tells Elijah to leave town  and hide in Cherith by the brook there for water and promises to have the ravens bring food to Elijah.  (v 2-4).   Wouldn't you be rolling your eyes if you were Elijah at the thought of ravens bringing you food?  Interesting thought.  Finally the brook dried up and God told Elijah to move again, this time to Zarepheth, where a widow (a poor one with only enough food for her own family's last meal, it turns out) would sustain him.  (v 8-9)  Elijah must have been a faithful follower of God because he obeys God's every word.  The widow had nothing to give, but Elijah assured her that God would provide enough for her, her son & Elijah for as long as was necessary.  (v 14).  God came through.

I'm not sure how long Elijah stayed with the widow, but he did stay long enough for her son to die and for God to raise the boy from the dead through Elijah.  What is interesting about this miracle is that before the boy was given new life, both the widow and Elijah questioned God's plan.  The widow wondered if Elijah hadn't come to slay her son (v 18) and Elijah asked God if He had "brought evil upon the widow...by slaying her son." (v 20).    It was part of God's plan though, wasn't it?  God sustained Elijah through the ravens and Elijah's coming to the widow's house sustained her and her son because Elijah brought God's life to her household both by the extra food God had promised to her and by bringing her son back to life.  Hence my post title: "Who's sustaining who?".

There are lots of lessons to be learned from this chapter to apply to our lives today:

1) We can always trust in God's plan. God has things under control, even though we think He doesn't sometimes.  Can you see how God is providing for you today? 

2) Even the best of us sometimes don't "get" what God is doing.    Have you given God enough time to work out His "crazy" plan in your life?

3) Sometimes things have to get bad before we see the good. The widow saw the glory of God through the life being restored in her son.  Don't you think her faith was revitalized?  Don't give up just because there appears to be a bump in the road.

Lord, give us Your healing touch today in whatever area of our lives needs peace, comfort or strength.  You can do all things, even resurrect the "dead".  Please show us how to truly live in this world that is not our home, trusting Your timing and your tactics.  Amen.