Daily Study

05 Aug Victory

In our human understanding, death is the end of life, but as we read God’s Word, we see that it is the end of our struggle for life. It is the point when we finally and completely give up our flesh and become wholly spirit.

“For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”Where, O death, is your victory?Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:53-55)

There is no more offense. We stand before God complete in Christ. “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

(1 Corinthians 13:9-12)

For us, in our humanness, yes, Jesus is difficult. “Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?” (Job 11:7) The answer is no. For now we know in part. Our perspective is limited by our experience. When we finally shed our flesh, what is in part disappears and we will know fully. We will see Jesus face to face and know that all along He has been working all things for our good. (Romans 8:28) We will see that our difficulties have been light though at the time they felt heavy. We will see that our troubles were only momentary in the light of eternity and that they have achieved for us an eternal glory that is more than worth anything it has cost us. Our faith will be sight!

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

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04 Aug Nailing Your Flesh

We looked yesterday at the difference in responses to being offended by Jesus: Turning back and away from Jesus or turning to Jesus and away from our sin. The second option is called repentance. In 2 Corinthians 7, Paul writes to the Corinthians acknowledging that his first letter to them was frank and had offended them. The Corinthians must have submitted to the offense and learned from it because Paul writes, “Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you…”

Jesus was crucified for our sin. Why would He allow that sin for which He died go unchecked in our flesh? He, who came in the likeness of sinful flesh yet was without sin was put to death. He was nailed to a cross to condemn sin in the flesh so that the righteous requirement of the law could be fulfilled in us as we live not by the flesh but by His Spirit. Therefore, we have an obligation, not to the flesh, but to Jesus, to by the Spirit, put to death the misdeeds of the body. How many nails will it take to crucify my flesh? (Romans 8:1-14)

There seems to be a constant battle between the flesh and the Spirit. Paul puts it this way, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:14-25)

Part of the deliverance we receive through Jesus is imparted to us through discipline. Look at Hebrews 12:1-12. It tells us to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us. We are told here to focus on Jesus who endured the shame of the cross for us. He is our encouragement. In this passage, we see that God is FOR us and that His discipline is proof of His love. “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

So I say that the offense to my flesh must be allowed to penetrate my spirit so that it can do its work and produce the fruit of godliness. The offense is made so that I can repent and be freed of my flesh. With each offense, I have another opportunity to repent and to be transformed into The Lord’s image with ever increasing glory. (2 Corinthians 3:18) Paul says “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)

Jesus says, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

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03 Aug Does This Offend You?

After our studies of the last two days, we are ready to look more deeply into John 6:60-69. However, I am not sure how far we will get because verse 61 stops me short. Jesus’ disciples are grumbling about the teaching we discussed yesterday saying it was too hard to accept. In verse 61, Jesus said, “Does this offend you?” Why, yes, if I am honest, it does.

While I do look for nourishment in The Word of God, I must admit that quite literally I am too concerned with physical food. It is something that affects my health and is a constant struggle in my life. When that is pointed out to me, it is offensive. Sometimes it makes me mad; Sometimes it produces guilt. Sometimes I just ignore it. My guess is that Jesus’ disciples were tempted in all those ways when Jesus confronted them about their concern for the flesh rather than the Spirit. After all, that is a fleshly response – anger, guilt, denial.

I realize that I took this Word quite literally and that it is about so much more than what you eat, but that is an area where Jesus wants to work in MY life, so it was too obvious to avoid. I must also confess that my prayers for “daily bread” are all too often requests for Jesus to preside over my fleshly kingdom than for Him to provide what is needed to further His Kingdom. My concern is far too often for the satisfaction of my own or others’ temporal needs rather than for spiritual sustenance.

So yes, this Word offends me. It points out my sinful nature. It brings it up into my face where I am forced to look at it and choose THE WAY or MY way. Even the words that the Holy Spirit gives me to write about it prick my own flesh. Can you relate to such an offense? Has a pastor’s message ever “plowed a little too close to the corn?” Has your spouse’s observation of a sin in your life ever caused you to be defensive or angry? Has a Bible Study or life group lesson ever made you want to escape scrutiny and hide behind your justifications and excuses?

What is your inclination when your sinful nature is pointed out to you – when it is put up into your face and you are forced to look at it.? In John 6, we see two different responses. Verse 66 tells us that from this time many of His disciples TURNED BACK and no longer followed Him.

They chose death.

The other response follows in verses 67-69. Jesus asked the twelve, his closest hand chosen disciples, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Simon Peter spoke up, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” Peter and the twelve submitted to the offense and learned from it. They TURNED TO Jesus. They chose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

I read a quote on Facebook this week that puts it perfectly:

“Sometimes God will offend our minds to reveal our hearts.” Havilah Cunnington

When Jesus offends your mind, what will be revealed in your heart?

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24

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02 Aug Take and Eat

The text of Sunday’s message was John 6:60-69. It begins with many of Jesus’ disciples struggling to accept what they considered a hard teaching. We have to look back a bit to verses 16-59 to see what teaching they were grumbling about. After Jesus had fed the 5000, in the evening, Jesus’ disciples took a boat across the lake to Capernaum. Jesus did not go with them but later, after dark and amid strong winds and rough waters, Jesus walked across the lake to their boat which was 3 or 4 miles out. The disciples were frightened at first, but when Jesus identified Himself and told them not to be afraid, they took Him into the boat and almost immediately found themselves on shore.

The crowd that Jesus had fed stayed on the opposite shore, but the next day, when they realized that neither Jesus nor His disciples were there, they boarded boats that had landed from Tiberius and crossed the lake in search of them. When they found them, they asked Jesus when He had got there. (They had seen the disciples take the boat and knew that Jesus had not been with them.)

Rather than answer their question, Jesus called them out as to their motives for “following” Him. “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.  Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” They didn’t care so much FOR HIM as for what they thought He could do FOR THEM. Little did they know He could do so much more for them than they imagined.

Their response was to ask what work they could do that would please God, to which Jesus replied, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” (See Hebrews 11:6) Evidently Jesus’ admonition about their motives had fallen on deaf ears because they asked for another sign or miracle. They asked for more bread!

They referred to events recorded in Exodus 16 when the Lord had told Moses that He would rain down bread from heaven for the Israelites grumbling in the wilderness. They were to go out and collect each day just enough manna (a bread that was white like coriander seed and tasted like wagers made from honey) for that day. It was a miraculous provision of God that they were now asking Jesus to duplicate.

In effect, Jesus told them, “That was just bread, but the true bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Not understanding the difference between bread that satisfies physical hunger and THE BREAD that would satisfy their souls, the people carelessly said, “Yeah, give us some of that!”

Jesus’ answer would shake them out of their shallow and superficial ignorance. It would confront them with truth and force a choice to believe or not- to follow or not. “I am the bread of life.” The truth was not lost on the Jews who remembered the “I Am” who had led their ancestors out of captivity in Egypt and into the Promised Land. (Exodus 3:14). They began grumbling. How dare this son of a carpenter who grew up here among us claim to be God!

Jesus did not stop there. He told them to stop grumbling and took his claims further by saying, “I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” WHAT???

As the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves about how Jesus would give them His flesh to eat, Jesus continued, ““Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

As Christians, we read this and we think of communion. That is PARTLY right. It is the reason we celebrate communion – to remind ourselves that Jesus is our nourishment – that we have eternal life because we received Christ. We believed in Him whom the Father sent and we received the sacrifice of His flesh on our behalf. We took His blood which cleansed us of our sin and it was applied to our innermost being, washing over us and satisfying the judgment of God and our spirits within us. We are sustained by the flesh and blood of Christ forever. Our salvation is complete in Him.

Remember that after Jesus’ baptism, He was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil forty days in which He ate nothing. This is recorded in Matthew 4. The devil tempted Jesus to satisfy His physical hunger by changing the stones into bread. Jesus answered him, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Interestingly, this was a reference to Deuteronomy 8:3 which pointed to the same provision of manna that the Jews brought up in John 6 when they wanted Jesus to give them more bread. “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

The Jews in John 6 would have known this Scripture contained within their Pentateuch or Torah, the primary reference for the Judaic religion, the first five books of our Bible. They would have known it, but seemed oblivious to its import and application in this conversation with Jesus which was reminiscent of a former conversation Jesus had with his disciples in John 4. Jesus’ disciples had urged Him to eat something, and He had responded, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” He went on to say, “My food is to do the will of the One Who sent me and to finish His work.”

While our physical life is sustained by eating food of which bread is considered a staple and therefore representative of all food, eternal life which is so much more important is sustained by Jesus – the Word of God. The Jews in John 6 were more concerned with the temporal, with satisfying their flesh while Jesus was offering them satisfaction for their souls. They closed their minds to His teaching because it was difficult. It would rearrange their priorities, interrupting and complicating their lives. Jesus offered them His food, and they refused Him. They chose to starve their spirits and feed their flesh.

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01 Aug It’s Harder Than I Thought

Ah, the good life! Retirement! The Golden Years! The kids are raised and out on their own. No more job demands. I can stay up late and sleep in late. And the vacations I’ll take…

Somewhere about now we should hear that screeching brakes sound. As it turns out, the dream of retirement is much different than the reality of it. Note, I DID NOT say, that the dream was BETTER than the reality – just different.

Those kids we raised are indeed out on their own, but now they have kids of their own who have completely stolen my heart. So, of course, when a babysitter is needed, Grandma is first in line for the job. Never mind that I have to get up at 6 a.m. to drive an hour and report for duty at 8 a.m. That is once a week. Another day of my week, I again drive an hour to babysit, but not until 10:30 a.m.

It is true that I am not employed, but it is NOT true that I don’t have a job. Two, sometimes three days a week I make that same hour’s drive to and from Canton to volunteer in Women’s Ministry. Those vacations I dreamed of are now planned around Bible Studies, retreats, and mentoring classes, and so are naturally limited to the same 2 or 3 weeks that I managed while employed. I DO stay up late, usually writing this study guide or some other thing the Lord has laid on my heart to write.

All this to say…retired life is DIFFERENT than I had imagined. Retired life is HARDER than I had imagined. Retired life is BETTER than I had imagined. I think God designed us with a need to work – a drive, if you will. A life devoid of challenges is a life without purpose – a life without growth. A life lived only for self is lonely and joyless. God, in His Word, encourages us to be faithful unto death and promises to give us life as our victor’s crown. (Revelation 2:10)

1 Corinthians 4:1-3 speaks of Paul’s desire to be regarded as a servant of Christ and as one entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. He writes, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” Because I am a Christ follower, I too have been given a trust and it is my greatest desire to prove faithful!

Recently, in an attempt to guide my mentoring partner in determining her life’s mission statement, I pulled out an old chart I had made. It recorded my spiritual gifts, my strengths, my core beliefs, and my life goals and objectives, thereby determining my mission statement. One of my objectives was to “Die Well”. We got a little chuckle out of that, but I am so glad that I determined some twenty years ago that I wanted to be faithful unto death, whenever and however that death would come.

That decision instructed not my death, but my life. As long as I breathe and have a heartbeat, I want to be filled with the breath of the Holy Spirit and I want my heart to beat for Jesus! I want to fight the good fight, finish the race, keep the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7). I press on to “finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24)

Forgive me for being long winded (I hope it is the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit that will somehow  touch your spirit for Jesus). Just as retirement is different, harder, and better than I dreamed it would be, so is marriage, parenting, ministry…being a Christ follower.

In our text (John 6:60-69) those who had been “following” Jesus found out it was different than they had anticipated. It was harder. He was asking more of them than just being excited by His miraculous powers. He would not bend to their image of who they thought He should be. He did not come to fulfill their will, but His Father’s. Jesus was asking them to set aside their own agendas to participate in the fulfillment of His Father’s will. For some, it was too big an ask, but for those who accepted the invitation to really follow Jesus, it was different than they had imagined. It was harder. And it was immeasurably better than anything they could ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)

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29 Jul Jesus is Personal

You might have wondered how this week’s study related to Ryan Wolfe’s message about Jesus being personal. As I read in the gospel of John about these encounters Jesus had with people I do not see them in isolation but rather as pieces of a puzzle that when put together give us a more complete picture of who Jesus is. Last week, we discussed how Jesus called Nicodemus out of the shadows of pride, we, and me into the light. Part of that discussion was that Nicodemus and we can be illuminated by Christ to be a light. A light. Not THE light. I felt it was important to spend some time reflecting on the thought that we are not God, but we are God’s and that by the power of the Holy Spirit we are given the privilege of reflecting the light of Jesus and certifying to others that God is truthful and that they can trust Jesus for their salvation.

It is only by stepping out of the shadows into the light that our “religion” becomes a personal relationship with Jesus that positions us in His presence, transforms us by the renewing of our minds, and clothes us with power so that we can “shine like stars in the sky as we hold firmly to the Word of life“(Philippians 2:15-16). We cannot reflect the light of Jesus from the shadows.

As I was praying for our church last week, I “saw” us all standing in the rows of our worship center, quite comfortable in the shadow of “we”. But there was a beam of light just in front of each of us, beckoning, inviting us to step into it. I found myself praying for people to have the courage to step into that beam of light – to step out of the shadows of pride, we, and me and into the light of Jesus. It was so clear that until we were willing to be in the light one on one with Jesus in total honesty and surrender that we would be powerless and of no use in the Kingdom How awesome it would be if one by one we stepped forward into that beam of light and were illuminated by Christ! Can you imagine how it would look? Better than a Christmas Eve candlelight service in which the candles are snuffed out before we leave the building – We would be lit up with the eternal fire of the Holy Spirit, bearing it into the world!

In John 4, we see Jesus inviting a Samaritan woman into the light. He disregards social barriers and initiates conversation with a woman – and not just a woman, but a promiscuous woman who was racially disdained by the Jews. Though the people of God did not reflect the love of God, the Son of God did. They would not have spoken to her, but Jesus not only spoke to her, He took the time to draw her out…to pursue her right where she was.

Jesus spoke to her about living water that would satisfy her thirst forever. It sounded too good to be true, but she was enticed. Could it be true? Did you ever wonder, “What if God could really change my situation, meet my need, heal me….satisfy me?” “What would happen if I trusted God fully?” In those moments, Jesus is inviting you to step into the light.

Jesus made it clear that He chose to have conversation with her not out of ignorance of her sin, but with full knowledge of it. He has full knowledge of your sin too. Yet He chooses to engage you in conversation. Will you avoid the truth and change the subject as she did?: “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem” (1John 1:9). Or will you step into the light and allow Him to purify you from all unrighteousness?

I get very impatient and weary of small talk so I appreciate how Jesus cuts to the chase: “Woman, believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” True worshipers step into the light, out of the confines of religion into the power of a personal relationship with Jesus. Religion has a form of godliness but denies its power which is to be found in the close relationship of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit – the gift of God through faith in Jesus for salvation (2 Timothy 3:5).

The Samaritan woman begins her faith journey with the little knowledge that she has. “I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” She didn’t have all the answers. She didn’t completely understand, but she had quit avoiding the truth and was ready to take the next step into greater truth which Jesus gave her, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” Jesus rewarded her earnest seeking (Hebrews 11:6) and showed her who He was. She, in turn, brought others to Jesus.

You don’t have to have all the answers and understand everything before you step out in faith. Faith is being confident of what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1) Faith propels you to step into the light and with each next step of faith you take as you walk in that light you will “abound in love for Christ and grow more and more in knowledge and depth of insight” (Philippians 1:9-10). You will be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” In other words, you will be illuminated by Christ and be a light reflecting THE light, Jesus Christ, to a lost world desperately in need of a Savior!

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28 Jul Who are You? Who are You Not?

Today, I would encourage you to prayerfully search yourself. What are your earliest memories and what do they tell you about yourself? Are they truths or lies?

Has Satan or anyone or thing else whispered lies to you that have influenced your behavior? What are they? What truths in Scripture can you replace them with?

How will this change your life?

Do you ever feel like you are worshipping yourself rather than God? Like you are denying the power of the Spirit and truth?

Make a list of who you are not and then of who you are (according to Scripture). Write those Scriptures out and keep them handy as reminders!

My prayer:

Lord, I thank you, that by your divine power, you have given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of you who called us by your own glory and goodness. You have given us your very great and precious promises so that through them we may participate in your divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

Father, as we worship you in Spirit and in truth, please add to our faith goodness, to our goodness, knowledge, to our knowledge, self control, to self control, perseverance, to our perseverance godliness and mutual affection, and to our mutual affection love in increasing measure – for you and for one another! May our lives flow out of that love.

In Jesus name, Amen.

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27 Jul Not Omnipresent but in the Presence of the Lord

I am not Omnipresent! I can only be one place at a time! I have to be careful to accept my own limitations and set appropriate boundaries so that I can be balanced and healthy. When I first started in my capacity as benevolence director, Reverend Barto at the total living center advised me that “the poor you will always have with you.” I did not fully understand what he meant then, but now I know that no matter how much work I do there will always be someone else needing something else and probably right now! I could have worked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and it still would not have been enough to satisfy everyone. My job was supposed to be 20 hours a week but it could consume me and easily become a 40 or 60 hour a week job. When I allowed that to happen, I neglected relationships, I neglected my own health, I neglected my spirit, I neglected my God – all in the name of ministry that I supposedly did FOR GOD! I have come to terms with the fact that I cannot be available to everyone at all times! I’ll leave that to God. But I can live in the presence of the Lord. I can live in the moment and enjoy it fully. I can participate in fellowship with the person beside me right now.

I am not Omnipresent. I am:

Weak, dependant on God’s sufficient grace and power which is made perfect in my weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Called to rest as well as to work.” Hebrews 4:1

I am part of a body made up of many parts and to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. I am dependant on the Head of that body, Jesus Christ, and on the rest of that body. I am responsible for the use of my gifts to build up that body and that includes my family and friends. I am careful not to be a burden to that body by thoughts, attitudes, words or actions.” 1 Corinthians 12

I am blessed abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that I need, I will abound in every good work God asks me to do.” 2 Corinthians 9:8

Finally, I am not what I do! When God releases me from any assignment, it will go on without me and I will go on without it. I am called to employ particular gifts in a given time and place. I don’t do it the same way others would, but I do it to the best of MY ability and in obedience and full faith that it is God’s work and His purposes will be accomplished. My identity is found in Christ, not in my work.

I am a sinner saved by grace, created in Christ to do good works which he prepared in advance for me to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10) I am a Christian, a wife, a mother, a mother in law, a grandmother, a daughter, a daughter in law, a sister, a neighbor, a friend, a servant, a student, sometimes a teacher, a writer; always a child of God! And I am so grateful!

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27 Jul Not Omniscient but Being Transformed by the Renewing of My Mind

Omniscient: all knowing.

As I recently posted on Facebook, “The more I learn, the less I know!” As God reveals himself to me through His word, His people, His spirit, He also reveals a sense of how vast, complex, unfathomable He is. Usually when I learn something new, I come away with a desire to study more, to meditate on what I learned, to turn it around and around looking at all the facets, to connect it with other things I have learned and weave it into a more complete tapestry of my knowledge of God.

I connect with the person of Mary of Bethany because she epitomizes for me John 15:15 – “I no longer call you servant, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Mary was a woman, in her culture, used to serving men, expected to be about the meal preparations, yet was praised by Jesus for sitting at His feet and learning from Him. She ultimately understood, at least in her Spirit, that Jesus was about to die. She was privileged to act upon that knowledge and worship Him and prepare Him in a sense for his death as she poured out her expensive perfume and wiped his feet with her hair. She had gone full circle from servant to friend to loving servant.

It was a turning point in my life when God spoke this verse to my spirit. I have always seen myself as a servant and found my value, thought my best contribution to be that I am a hard worker. Since that day, God has shown me over and over again that He desires to be known by me – to teach me things I do not know.

The Exchanged Life and Spiritualities studies have affirmed and more fully illuminated this for me. To think that God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have made their dwelling place in me and are carrying on a divine conversation and desiring me to join in thrills my heart and excites my spirit. It turns out that I have the spiritualities of knowledge and prophecy and teaching. NOT service and mercy as would be expected in my former role as benevolence director. In Acts 6, we read that Stephen was chosen to wait tables to free up the disciples to give their attention to prayer and ministry of the word. He did that job, but he also was full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people and was given wisdom by the Spirit as he spoke. I have been privileged to do the job of benevolence and free up others to give their attention to prayer and ministry of the word, but God has given me other gifts which he allows me to use in the benevolence ministry and elsewhere.

In that role as benevolence director, people came to me for help everyday.Sometimes, because of past experience with them or with someone else, I thought I knew how to help them. I made assumptions about them that may or may not havebeen true. There were times when the Holy Spirit stopped me short and gave me a word – either knowledge or Scripture that directly applied or a nudge to obedience in how I dealt with that person. He counseled me to help and even go the extra mile with people that I would have preferred to send packing. In some cases I have been privileged to see why, to see the positive result. In others, I just have to trust in His purposes. I was most effective in ministry when I prayed about each and every request for help and was obedient to God’s leading. He alone is omniscient.

No, I am not omniscient. I am:

Being transformed by the renewing of my mind.” Romans 12:2

Taking off my old self with its practices and continually putting on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge and in the image of my Creator.” Colossians 3:10

Growing in the knowledge of God.” Colossians 1:10

By the Spirit, filled with goodness and knowledge, made competent to instruct.” Romans 15:14

Enriched in every way will all kinds of speech and with knowledge, God thus comfirming my testimony about Christ.”  1 Corinthians 1:4-6 and 2 Corinthians 9:11

Known by God and built up in His love.”  1 Corinthians 8:3

Being led in Christ’s triumphal procession and being used to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.”  2 Corinthians 2:14

Making an effort to demolish every pretense which sets itself up against the knowledge of God and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  2 Corinthians 10:5

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26 Jul The Tamarisk Tree

We have taken our time through some of the chapters in Genesis, but now we are going to have to make up for lost time. Genesis 18 and 19 tell us the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is rather a bizarre story as Abraham negotiates with God to save his nephew and his family who lived in Sodom. The bottom line was that God agreed to spare Lot, but when the Angels came to his house in that evil city, men came to the house and clam ores for him to let them have sex with the Angels! Lot offered his daughters instead but they were not having it. The Angels struck the men blind and told Lot they planned to destroy the whole city and he should take his family and head for he hills. Believe it or not, Lot argued that he couldn’t do that and asked to go to Zoar instead. The Angels relented and Lot, his wife and two daughters escaped the city and its destruction, but Lot’s wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt!

Wow! She had been given a way of escape but could not resist one last look back! Has that ever happened to you? Has God ever drawn you away from destruction but your affection pulled you back? Beware! Romans 1 warns us about the hardening of our hearts, futile thinking and the darkening of our foolish hearts. Proverbs 4:25 warns, “Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.” Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” 2 Peter 2 talks about people being slaves to whatever has mastered them. “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.” Jesus himself said, in Luke 9:62, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Genesis 20 tells a bizarre story of Abraham once again saying Sarah was his sister and a king (Abimelek, king of Gerar) )taking her into his harem. God warned Abimelek that she was married so he would not touch her and sin against God. Abimelek returned Sarah to Abraham and basically God cleaned up the mess.

Genesis 21 sees the breakthrough moment of God’s promises to Abraham – the birth of his son, Isaac, the delighted laughter of Sarah, Hagar and Ishmael were sent away, God reaffirmed that His covenant was with Isaac but he was compassionate and made provision for Ishmael. Abraham had built a well and it was seized by Abimelek’s servant, but he and Abimelek came to an agreement or treaty sealed with seven ewe lambs given by Abraham. The well was named Beersheba which means “well of seven” or “well of the oath”. Abimelek returned to the land of the Philistines and Abraham planted a tamarisk tree, calling on the name of the Lord. What-Wait! I almost missed that! Abraham planted a tamarisk tree…does that have meaning?

Remember the tree of life in Genesis 2? Could this planting of the tree be an affirmation of life, a re-placing of Abraham’s trust in God? Hadn’t he just messed up by trying to protect himself when he allowed Abimelek to take Sarah? Hadn’t he been confronted with the possible consequences of taking things once again into his own hands? The consequences of sin is death, but God, in His grace had prevented the sin of Abimelek warning him that Sarah was married. In so doing, He kept Sarah from conceiving by another man and preserved her womb for the life of Isaac – the one who would carry the seed of life – eventually to a Savior who would defeat death!

Perhaps, in planting that tree, Abraham was acknowledging God as the giver of life! Did you notice that he planted the tree and called out to the eternal God? A tamarisk tree is very slow growing and is traditionally planted not for oneself but for generations to come. Perhaps He was symbolically placing his trust in God to fulfill all His promises. Have you planted any tamarisk trees lately? Have you placed your trust in God, not just for yourself but for generations to come? Have you affirmed your God as the giver of life and the keeper of promises?

In Genesis 23, we read the famous story of God testing Abraham (perhaps testing his declaration of trust in planting the tamarisk tree) by asking him to sacrifice his one and only son on the altar. It is a fascinating story which points to God’s plan to place His one and only Son on the altar as our sin offering. David, the writer of Psalms is often referred to as a man after God’s own heart, but here we see Abraham’s depth of obedience as he got so far as reaching for his knife and lifting it to slay his son! The angel of the Lord stopped him and said, “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

Are you withholding anything from God? What is it you are not willing to place on the altar? Romans 12:1 tells us that we are to be the sacrifice. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, (shown by His willingness to sacrifice His one and only Son on the cross-altar) to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” God used the sacrifice of His Son to give life and he will do the same with the self sacrifice you make in response to His. Go ahead – plant a tree! A tamarisk tree for generations to come! And call out to the eternal God, the giver of life and keeper of promises!

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