Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Are You "In Love"? Part 2

A couple of days ago I addressed the question posed in this title.  To prevent you from being confused, if you haven’t read Part 1 yet you should probably do it now!
Today I want to look at another aspect of being “in love,” the way God describes it.  Look at Ephesians 4:14-15: 
“As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (emphasis added).
Truth.  Is there such a thing?  Some people think there is no truth, and that the only absolute is that there are no absolutes.  (This is nothing new!  Even Pilate made a similar comment just prior to Jesus‘ crucifixion -- see John 18:38.)  But truth does exist.  Jesus addressed this when, in reference to God the Father, He said, “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17).  The Bible is the source of truth.  
Truth prevents us from being like children.  My sweet 4-year-old believes whatever my husband and I tell her.  It melts my heart (and humbles me), but this also gets my husband into trouble when he attempts to be sarcastic with her!  She can’t think in the abstract.  She just simply believes whatever we say.  It is precious, but we cannot live that way, spiritually speaking.  God’s truth guards us from being like children and believing whatever new teaching we hear, even those in the guise of “biblical doctrine.”  God’s truth prevents us buying into the most popular teachings of the day, or listening to what a person says instead of what God Himself says (through the Bible).  It prevents us from being deceived -- and, oh, how easy it is for any of us to be deceived!  There are so many lies we are prone to believe.
Looking at the context of Ephesians 4, the goal is to guard against false teaching as well as build up one another and help each other grow more like the Lord Jesus.  The method is to speak the truth (God’s Word), and to speak it in love: with humility, gentleness, patience, and tolerance toward others, striving for unity and peace between one another.  (Remember what I mentioned about love in Part 1 of this brief series?)  So much more could be said on this subject; I am barely scratching the surface, but I hope this has given you something to ponder without causing confusion in the process!
Hold onto truth.  Be ready to speak truth and combat deceitful lies by saturating your minds and heart with God’s Word.  May He give us the grace to grow in our ability to filter all through the His truth: our words, thoughts, judgments, perceptions, attitudes, and actions...and be prepared to speak the truth to one another in love.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Legacy of Love

I am deflecting from the subject of being “in love” for today, because a most unexpected event occurred yesterday and I must write about it.

The young husband of a new friend of mine died suddenly in a motorcycle accident. My heart is heavy today for my friend and her two little daughters. This is the kind of thing that stops us in our tracks and makes us consider -- really consider -- what kind of life we want to live. How do we want to be remembered? What legacy do we want to leave?

We never know the last day, the final instant that we will be on this earth. Nor do we know the last moment we will see or talk to a loved one. Only God knows; He has ordained our days for us (Psalm 139:16).

Will we be ashamed to stand before Him? Will we be ashamed of the legacy we have left behind?

This husband left a legacy of love: love for his wife, love for his children, love of music and worshiping the Lord through song, and most of all love for the Lord Jesus Christ. This is how he will be remembered. And now he is with his First Love for all eternity in Heaven, only because during his life here on earth he came to understand that he is a sinner in need of the forgiveness of God; forgiveness that can only come through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus, who died and shed His blood to forgive the sins of the world. Jesus, who rose from the grave revealing to the whole world that He has conquered death. Jesus, who is alive in Heaven with the Father right now.

This is the same Jesus who offers you forgiveness of sin and an everlasting relationship with God. Do you have it?

I may write more on this subject as so many things are on my heart and mind. But for now, I will leave you with these thoughts to ponder.

In the grip of His grace alone,


Friday, August 26, 2011

Are You “In Love”? Part 1

It’s not the classic “love at first sight” scenario.  Nor is it defined by flushed cheeks, sweaty palms, and a heart thumping so loudly you are certain others can hear it if you don’t faint first.  It’s not the kind of love that you can “fall” out of, either.  You either walk in this love or you don’t, and it’s your choice.  It’s God’s definition of being “in love.”
After looking at several passages in the book of Ephesians a couple of weeks ago, I challenged myself with that very question: Am I in love?  Of course, I thought primarily of my relationship with my husband: he sees me at my best...and at my worst, which is not pretty and certainly not fun to live with!  We can ask ourselves the same question about every relationship we have: friends, spouse, children, parents, you name it, especially those who are fellow believers in Jesus, part of the family of God.  Are we living and relating to others in love, the way God describes it?
There are many verses in the New Testament that use the phrase “in love.”  (Now there’s another idea for a Bible study: study all passages that use this phrase and compile what you learn.)  In this brief series, I will focus on just four of those verses, all in the book of Ephesians.
Ephesians 4:1-2 provides a context with which we can understand the remainder of the book: “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.”  If we are to walk (live) in a way that is worthy of being called a believer in Jesus -- a follower of Christ -- this passage teaches us that four qualities ought to characterize our lives:
    • Humility
    • Gentleness
    • Patience
    • Tolerance
Wow!  So much could be said about each of these qualities that I could have a whole separate series!  Just take some time and reflect on each of those and ask yourself if you live in such a way toward others.
Ephesians 4:3 completes the entire thought that flows from verses 1-3: “being diligent to preserve unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  This caused me to ask myself if I am diligent to preserve peace with others.  Do I humble myself and ask forgiveness when it is necessary, or humbly ask a friend if I sense strife?  These are the kind of questions that came to my mind as I looked at these verses.  
Again, this passage applies primarily to relationships with other Believers.  (The phrase “one another” in verse 2 and “unity of the Spirit” in verse 3 indicate this.)  But the application extends to interaction with anyone; we should strive to cultivate these qualities so that they describe who we are.  I know I am not there yet, but God isn’t finished with me, and as painful as that is at times, I am thankful!
So, the question still remains, are youin love”?  Don’t stop there: what are you going to do about it?   
More on “love” next time!  Blessings, my friends!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Digging Deeper into God's Word, Part 4

Think of the last time you were hungry. I mean really hungry. Your stomach yearned for food  and may have let you know it with a obnoxious, sometimes embarrassing, growling sound! Do you experience the same kind of hunger in your soul for the Word of God, the Bible? If not, pray for it! I guarantee you that this is one request God will grant. You can begin to cultivate a love for God’s Word (or maintain that love) by faithfully reading it every day. 
We all have to make time to read the Bible, just as we make time for many other activities throughout our day. The time will not just present itself; we have to plan for it and then follow through with our plan. What time of day is best for you (personally) to read the Bible? How long will you spend? What will you read? These are questions each of us need to answer. 
Here is one more recommendation I offer you that will cultivate a great appreciation for God’s Word: study Psalm 119. It’s a long chapter, so take your time, reading perhaps just 5-10 verses a day. As you read, write down everything you learn about the Word of God: what it is, what it does, blessings that come from obedience to it, etc.  Use some of the suggestions from my previous three posts to help observe the chapter.  If you'd like to, go a step further and write a summary of what you learned that day. Spend some time in prayer, thanking Him for His Word and what He has taught you in just those few verses.
Remember to begin with a heart-felt prayer such as Psalm 119:218: “Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things from Your law.”  He will!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Digging Deeper into God's Word, Part 3

I don’t want to be redundant, but I must. The best advice anyone can give for Bible study is this: study the Bible! That sounds simplistic, but the point is that no book, “devotional,” or Bible teacher can or should replace you, personally, spending time reading the Word of God. 
That said, here is a simple -- though not simplistic -- method you can use to study any verse, any chapter, any book of the Bible: 
     SMAC the Scriptures 
  • What does this verse/passage SAY? 
         (Rewrite it or summarize in your own words.)
  • What does it MEAN? 
        (What are the main lessons or principles? Write them out.)
  • How do I APPLY it?
       (List specific way(s) you can practice the principles.)
  • What do I need to CHANGE? 
       (In your attitude/ words/ actions/ beliefs/ etc.)
Ask yourself these four questions as you read the Bible. Write out your answers in a notebook or journal. Then ask the Lord to help you live out what you are learning from Him. You will be able to say with the psalmist: “I have not turned aside from Your ordinances, for You Yourself have taught me” (Psalm 119:102).  

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Digging Deeper into God's Word Part 2

How many times have you read a chapter in the Bible, only to get to the end and find yourself thinking more about what you have to do next than about what you just read?  I have been there, too!  Here is an idea to help you become engrossed in God’s Word by reading thoughtfully.  Ask yourself some questions as you read the Bible:
    • Is there an example for me to follow?   
    • A command to obey?
    • A sin for me to avoid?
    • A condition to meet?
    • A promise to claim?
    • A verse to memorize?
    • A prayer to repeat?
    • A priority to change?
Make your time in the Word interactive by asking questions like these. Make it applicable by answering them. If you read my previous post and are currently studying Proverbs, try this out -- and let me know what you learn!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Digging Deeper into God's Word, Part 1

I am passionate about encouraging people (women in particular) to study the Bible.  Maybe that passion has already come through in my posts.  Well, I realize that a lot of women do not study the Bible because they think they don't have the time, the energy, or they just don't know how to do it.  Hopefully my next few posts will be an encouragement to you if you find yourself among these women -- or even if you already study the Word and just want to try something new.

It has been said that wisdom is knowledge applied. If we want to mature as Christians, we have to practice studying God’s Word for both knowledge and application. That is true wisdom. A great book to start with is the book of Proverbs. There is so much we can learn from this treasure trove of wisdom!  
For one month, read through a chapter of Proverbs each day. Keep a notebook or small journal nearby to jot your thoughts. Try to choose at least two verses from each chapter that you realize you have not been applying. Seek wisdom, not just knowledge: rewrite the verses in your own words, and write out a plan to apply it. You can go a step further and ask a friend to hold you accountable to your study and application of Proverbs.  
Remember to always begin your study in prayer!  Here is a simple prayer you can be sure the Lord will accomplish: "Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law," (Psalm 119:18).

Enjoy God's Blessings,

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why All the “God Stuff”?

Some of you may be asking this question about my blog.  Why did I chose a verse for my theme?  Why do I refer to God so often?  What is the deal?!  Life can only be properly understood through God’s perspective.  
This may seem like an elementary illustration, but I really like it: Think of life as a pie.  (Any kind you like -- blueberry, pumpkin, chocolate, lemon meringue...)  We divide that pie up into different aspects of life: family, work, leisure, even so-called religion.  Our tendency is to think that God is “one slice” of life -- that He is just a part of life, like on Sundays when you go to church or a day you go to a Bible study, or even just when you read the Bible.  For some, the slice is missing altogether.
Really, God is not to be a slice of the pie of life; He is the filling.  Life is all about Him.  The God of of the Bible is involved in our family life, our work ethics, our leisure activities, whatever we do.  We were created to fellowship with God, to glorify Him in all that we do: “Whether then you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).  From the most basic elements of life -- eating and drinking -- to the most challenging trials we face, we are to do all to God’s glory.  It is from this perspective that I try to view life.  I do not approach this with a “holier-than-thou” attitude, but with the admission that I fail daily to do all to God’s glory.  This is why I am so grateful for the forgiveness I have in Jesus and the changes that He continues to work out in my life.  That explains all the “God stuff.”  
What about you?  Is God the “filling” of your life?  Do you consider Him as just a slice?  Or have you cut Him out completely?  Give Him His rightful place as the “filling” of life through Jesus Christ, and watch Him fill your life.

Blessings, my friends!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Lessons from a Preschooler

On several occasions after receiving correction for her disobedience, my 4-year-old has given me a big hug full of smiles and sweetness, and then says to me, “Mommy, I am going to obey my parents!  I am not going to disobey ANY more!”  She is least as sincere as a 4-year-old can be.  I think at the moment she really means it!  But, as you can guess, it doesn’t take long for something to happen and she is off and disobeying us once again.  

This reminds me so much of the Israelites.  How many times did they eagerly say that they would obey God: “All that the Lord has spoken we will do!”  (Exodus 19:8; 24:3, 7).  It wouldn’t take long for them to become dissatisfied, unhappy, and angry with their situation.  They would soon turn away from the true God to serve idols.  They never seemed to learn.  
Then I think of myself.  How many times do I determine that I will obey God, only to turn away from trusting and obeying Him when things don’t go my way?
What great opportunities these are to share with our kids (my 4-year-old) why they need Jesus Christ -- and why we do, too.  No matter how adamant we are, how determined we may be to do what is right, we cannot follow through without Jesus.  Even those of us who trust in Him still battle the powerful enticement of our flesh!  
I observe my daughter’s heartfelt cry, “I will obey!”  I want her obedience, but even more than that I long to see her to throw herself upon the grace of God in Jesus someday.  I pray her cry will be, “I will trust Jesus!”  Obedience is born out of loving trust.  Our kids want to obey because they love and trust us (I’ll save comments on this for another time!).  We can only obey the Lord, however imperfectly, when we love and trust Him first.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Mom's Ministry

Something hit me this morning as I reflected on James 1:22-26.  It may be obvious, but for whatever reason the thought never really dawned on me until today, at least not as powerfully:  

My number one ministry is to my children; the number one method of my ministry is my example.

It is not so much about "doing," but being.  What kind of example am I to my children?  They learn a great deal about the Lord by how I live my life!  What am I teaching them about the goodness of God by how I handle disappointments or frustrations?  What do they learn about God's character by observing my perspective on life?  Do they see the joy of the Lord in my attitude and actions?  What kind of a God to they think I serve, based on the life that I live before them?...  

These are some sobering thoughts!  I praise God for the riches of His grace and the mercy He gives in Jesus Christ.  How desperately I need His help as I minister to my children not only in the activities I participate in with them, but in the example I set before them.  Partner with me in prayer about this.


Friday, August 12, 2011

A Piece of My Mind

I’m finally an author!  I can actually say that I have had a book published.  For as long as I can remember I have been a “writer.”  I have journals and notebooks dating all the way back to...well, let’s just say the 6th grade.  I can’t get rid of any of them.  Believe me, I have tried!  They have been with me from the US to Germany and now to South Korea.  I have written plays and stories over the years as well.  I actually enjoyed writing papers in high school, college, and graduate school.  

I just love to write, but rarely ever had the courage to write anything that I knew others would read and critique.  Every time I write something it feels like a little part of me.  Any time someone else reads what I have written, I allow them to read my thoughts.  But the hardest part has been listening to what others have to say about what I write!  This blog is one way I can start to share my thoughts and listen to the critique and comments of others.  My journals are filled with lessons God has taught me over the years that I want to pass on to others.  I have been praying for a ministry; maybe this blog is one way to have one.  So for now, I’ll let you read my mind.  I’ll even let you comment on it...for now!