Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Trust and Obey

We must obey God, rather than men. Acts 5:29

The Old Testament is rich with stories about people’s obedience and disobedience and the consequences. Even Moses, whom the Lord knew FACE TO FACE (Deut. 34:10) was banned from the Promised Land because he disobeyed God by striking a rock instead of speaking to it. (Num. 20:11-12)

Another example of disobedience and its dire consequences can be found in I Samuel 15. Saul was king at this time, and God instructed him to strike the Amalekites, and utterly destroy all they have – put to death man, woman, infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey. Saul and his men defeated the Amalekites, and captured Agag, their king, alive. Except for Agag, they destroyed all the people – but they kept the best of the sheep, oxen, fatlings and lambs and “all that was good.”

Can you see what happened here? Saul thought he knew better than God. God instructed him to UTTERLY DESTROY all people and all animals. Saul kept Agag alive and kept the best animals for himself. As a result of Saul’s disobedience, God spoke to Samuel and said “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not carried out My commands.” (I Sam. 15:11) When Saul and Samuel met the next morning, Saul very proudly told Samuel that he had carried out the command of the Lord.

I love Samuel’s response! “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of oxen that I hear?” Saul answers that the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen to sacrifice to the Lord. Samuel reminds Saul that God instructed him to fight against the Amalekites until they were exterminated, and asks, “Why did you not obey?”

Saul answers, “I did obey…I brought back Agag and destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took some of the spoil… to sacrifice to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”

Samuel responds to Saul with these very important six words:


And then brings the bad news: “Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.”

Wow. This is such a powerful story. I can see myself in Saul in so many ways. Can you? I love how Saul tried to blame “the people” – on two occasions, he tells Samuel that “the people” took the spoils for an offering. He is king, and he passes the buck!! Don’t we do that with God sometimes? We blame others instead of accepting responsibility for our sin.

I also am guilty of partial obedience like Saul – “partial obedience” is the title my Bible gives this passage. But we can see that partial obedience is really disobedience. Not doing all that the Lord commands is disobeying Him. I know I sometimes think I know better and obey God half way, and then obey my flesh. That’s disobedience!

We can obey God because He can be trusted. He is God, and He knows what He’s doing. Proverbs 3:5 tells us

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

Our understanding is limited, but His is not.

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your way My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways. Romans 11:33

This simple little song that many of us learned as children is a good reminder of how we need to live every moment…trusting, and obeying.

Trust and Obey
Words by John H. Sammis

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can remain when we trust and obey.

Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.

But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet.
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way.
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

May the Mind of Christ, My Savior

But we have the mind of Christ. I Cor. 2:16

I love this hymn because it really gives me something to aspire to. And I love how the hymn is written – in most verses there is a “may this be” so that “there is this result.”

May the mind of Christ my Savior dwell in me from day to day
SO THAT His love and power control all I do and say.

I don’t know about you, but I am not yet at the point that I am letting His love and power control all I do and say. I’m making progress, but I certainly can’t say “all.” Too often, my flesh is controlling what I do and say. I feel like Paul in Romans 7:15:

For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.

I need to be exhorted like the Galatians:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. (5:16)

It is truly my desire that His love and power will control what I do and say, all I do and say, every day, from day to day. This is possible because, as Paul reminds us in I Corinthians, I have the mind of Christ!

May the Word of God dwell richly in my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph only through His power. (Here I don’t even have to add the SO THAT – it’s in the text!)

I also aspire to have the Word of God dwelling richly in me – there is so much to be gained from knowing God’s word. I find tremendous comfort in reciting passages when I need encouragement or a swift kick, and I have seen the power in praying scripture and boasting in God’s promises. You can only do this if you know what His word says.

In Chapter 3 of his letter to the Colossians, Paul instructs them to put aside the way they used to walk, and to put on a new self. This new self includes compassion, humility, kindness, patience, and love. He goes on to encourage them

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you…Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.

The hymnwriter tells us that when the word is dwelling richly in us, others will see Christ through us and see His power at work in us. Have you experienced that? Is Christ’s word so alive in you that others notice?

May the peace of God my Father rule my life in everything,
SO THAT I may be calm to comfort sick and sorrowing.

Does the peace of God rule your life? It is so empowering to live knowing you’re at peace with God. And knowing you have His peace and can share it with others. See this post for more on peace.

May the love of Jesus fill me as the waters fill the sea;
SO THAT He is exalted, self is abased, this is victory.

Stop to think for a few minutes about this word picture: the love of Jesus can fill you as the waters fill the sea. Have you seen the ocean? If not, have you seen a picture of the ocean? How much water is there? A LOT. In fact, it’s 300 MILLION CUBIC MILES of water. One of my favorite hymns, The Love of God, says

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
and were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
and every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above would DRAIN THE OCEAN DRY
Nor could the scroll contain the while, THOUGH STRETCHED FROM SKY TO SKY.

God’s love is so vast and unmeasurable that it would drain the oceans dry if they were ink and we used them to write about His love. DRAIN THEM DRY. That’s the same love that can fill you!! The hymnwriter says the goal here is that God is exalted, and self is abased (degraded). More of Him, less of me. That is victory! (We could have another discussion here about the flesh and the Spirit! This is why walking in the Spirit is so important – we want to be filled with the Spirit, so that God is exalted and our fleshly desires and selves are degraded.)

May I run the race before me, strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus as I onward go.

This stanza breaks our SO THAT pattern but it is filled with encouragement – run that race, look to Jesus, keep going! This is what the letter to the Hebrews is about – the author urges the Hebrews to consider Jesus (3:1), to press on (6:1), to run with endurance the race set before us (12:1). We can do that when we are focused on Jesus.

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Col. 3:1

May His beauty rest upon me, as I seek the lost to win,
SO THAT they forget the channel, seeing only Him.

I think this stanza offers great encouragement – and something I hope happens in my life eventually. I want others to not see me, but instead to see Christ. I hope that when I share the gospel with others, they forget the channel (me) and see only Jesus and His redemptive love and grace. I want to live my life in such a way that Christ is seen, and that I am forgotten. I desire to attain what Paul prayed for the Colossians. And I join Paul in praying this for you as well.

For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. Col. 1:9-12

May the Mind of Christ, My Savior
Words by Kate B. Wilkinson

May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling
All I do and say.

May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His power.

May the peace of God my Father
Rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.

May the love of Jesus fill me
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing,
This is victory.

May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.

May His beauty rest upon me,
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Faith of our Fathers

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7

It’s quite something to think of all the generations that have gone before us, who have lived lives of faith and inherited the promises of God. In my own life, I have many generations of faithful men and women to look back on and to imitate: their faithful testimony still has an impact on my life even though they are now in heaven.

Even if you are the first generation of your earthly family to have come to faith in Christ Jesus, you still have a rich legacy of faithful fathers, starting with the patriarch Abraham. In Genesis 15:6 we see Abraham come to faith in God:

Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.

And what faith that was! Faith that God would provide him not only a genealogical son, but a whole nation! Faith so secure that he would take his long-awaited son and be willing to offer him as a sacrifice to God. James tells us that through this act, Abraham’s faith was perfected.

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS," and he was called the friend of God. James 2:21-32

There are many other fathers who lived by faith – for a quick overview, check out the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11. The many people listed and written about in that chapter lived out their faith in God, and serve as an example to us. The first verse in that chapter reminds us what faith is – and describes the way these faithful fathers and mothers lived.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

Faith is a result of hearing God’s word and believing.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Romans 10:17

God, in His grace, saves us when we believe.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8

How should we respond to this gift? Live by faith.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20

I am so grateful for the many examples of faithful and faith-filled people in my life who are certainly worthy of emulation. My own father is at the top of the list. He has done an exemplary job, as the hymnwriter describes, of reaching others through the “preaching” of living a faithful life.

And preach Thee, too, as love knows how
by kindly words and virtuous life

Thank you, Dad, for the significant impact your faith has had on my life. Happy Birthday. I love you.

Faith of Our Fathers
Words by Frederick W. Faber

Faith of our fathers, living still,
In spite of dungeon, fire and sword;
O how our hearts beat high with joy
Whenever we hear that glorious Word!

Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death.

Faith of our fathers, we will strive
To win all nations unto Thee;
And through the truth that comes from God,
We all shall then be truly free.

Faith of our fathers, we will love
Both friend and foe in all our strife;
And preach Thee, too, as love knows how
By kindly words and virtuous life.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Standing on the Promises

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful… Hebrews 10:23

So often in our lives we stand on our own – instead of confidently standing on the promises of God! There is so much in His word that He has promised – and we can be assured that He makes good on His promises. As Paul says in II Cor. 1:20

For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.

All God’s promises are true, and as this hymnwriter so aptly says, they are promises that cannot fail; by the living Word of God we shall prevail! There is certainly not enough room in this post to go back through the scriptures and point out all the promises that God made and kept for His people. I would encourage you to read through Genesis, just the beginning of the story! – and see for yourself – promises such as providing a child for Sarah in her old age, a nation for Abraham, Canaan (the promised land) for Israel, etc.

Not one of the good promises which the LORD had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass. Joshua 21:45

Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised; not one word has failed of all His good promise, which He promised through Moses His servant.
1 Kings 8:56

Of course, the greatest promise of all was realized when God sent Jesus to earth to become sin on our behalf, to redeem our fallen race and secure our home in heaven. God gives us a glimpse of this promise in Genesis 3:15 when He tells Satan the consequences of His deception:

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.

In many different passages in the Old Testament we see the promise of a Redeemer. Isaiah 9 foretells the birth and reign of our Prince of Peace and Isaiah 53 fortells His death for our transgressions. In Acts 13, Paul preaches a sermon demonstrating how God kept His promises to the Israelites in leading them to Canaan, and ultimately providing Jesus, the Savior.

From the descendants of this man [David], according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus (v. 23)… Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses. (v 38-39)

This is what the hymnwriter is echoing in his words: perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me; standing in the liberty where Christ makes free. Christ has set us free from sin, free from the law which could never make us perfect. Hallelujah! We can stand on that promise! And when we do, we cannot fall. As children of God, we are forever His. As Peter and John remind us, He has gone before us to prepare an eternal home for us – what a promise!

But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:13

This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.
1 John 2:25

What promises are you standing on today? I hope you will choose to stand on God’s promises – promises that cannot fail, that stand the test of time, that will hold you up and bring you into fellowship with God.

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 2 Corinthians 7:1

Standing on the Promises
Words and Music by R. Kelso Carter

Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
Through eternal ages let His praises ring,
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing, standing,
Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
Standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises I now can see
Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me;
Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord,
Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call
Resting in my Savior as my all in all,
Standing on the promises of God.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Thanks to God for My Redeemer!

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; who pardons all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases; who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion. Psalm 103:2-4

This old Swedish hymn is a good reminder of all we have to be thankful for. And although it has a lilting, sweet melody, the message isn’t about thanking God for the good life. It’s about thanking Him for tears, for storms, and for pain, in addition to the peace, comfort, grace and love that He provides. Even in the midst of the most discouraging situation, we can choose to be thankful.

We choose to be thankful for warm homes, afghans and hot chocolate in the middle of this cold winter. We choose to be thankful for a job that God has provided, even when we have a bad day. We choose to be thankful for the trials and suffering in our lives because we are being made more like Jesus as a result.

In this hymn, there is a lot we can be happy to be thankful for – but what about the hard things? Again, we choose. We can be thankful for what prayers God denies, as the hymn writer states in verse 2. We probably won’t see the reason immediately for God’s answer of “no,” but we can be assured that He has the plan for our life, and that His “no” is part of His plan for our growth and His glory.

The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all. Psalm 103:19

One of the promises in this hymn is beyond comprehension, at least to me: grace that none can measure. As children of God, His grace is available to us, and it abounds! We can’t measure it, and as Paul says, He lavishes it on us!

He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. Ephesians 1:5-8

In addition to the immeasurable grace, there is incomparable love!

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

But it doesn’t stop there! There’s also peace, and hope!

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:17-20

Christ in you, the hope of glory… Colossians 1:27

We certainly have so much to be thankful for, as the writer says here, through all eternity.

I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. Psalm 34:1

Lord, help me to be a grateful person, to continually praise you, and to choose to be thankful. You have given us so much: love, grace, peace, hope, and most importantly, a Redeemer who walks by our side. I pray that my thankfulness in all of life’s circumstances would point others to You.

Thanks to God for My Redeemer
Words by August L. Storm

Thanks to God for my Redeemer,
Thanks for all Thou dost provide!
Thanks for times now but a memory,
Thanks for Jesus by my side!
Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime,
Thanks for dark and stormy fall!
Thanks for tears by now forgotten,
Thanks for peace within my soul!

Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,
Thanks for what Thou dost deny!
Thanks for storms that I have weathered,
Thanks for all Thou dost supply!
Thanks for pain, and thanks for pleasure,
Thanks for comfort in despair!
Thanks for grace that none can measure,
Thanks for love beyond compare!

Thanks for roses by the wayside,
Thanks for thorns their stems contain!
Thanks for home and thanks for fireside,
Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain!
Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow,
Thanks for heav’nly peace with Thee!
Thanks for hope in the tomorrow,
Thanks through all eternity!

Friday, February 2, 2007

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…
Hebrews 12:2

As I’ve been studying Hebrews, I’ve been thinking about and meditating on Jesus: His deity, His humanity, His suffering, His death and resurrection, His ascension, His second coming, His seat in Heaven. I’ve found myself singing different hymns that remind me to “Consider Jesus” as the author of Hebrews exhorts his readers. This is another perfect example.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
Words by Helen Lemmel

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

"…I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."
John 10:10

Think about the word abundant. What does it mean to you? I think of having more than enough, an excess, like a cup running over. That’s the kind of life we can have with Jesus! Fix your eyes on Him, and you will experience that abundant life.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are!

Hebrews 9 tells us that Jesus, through His own blood, entered the more perfect tabernacle, heaven, to appear in the presence of God for us. He passed from death into life everlasting, and we will follow Him one day. Hebrews 2:14-15 tells us that Jesus, through His death, rendered powerless him who had the power of death (the devil), and freed those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. As Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans (Ch. 8), through all these things, we are “more than conquerors!” Christ has conquered death for us, and sin and death can’t rule over us anymore once we have come to faith in Jesus Christ.

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and returns not there, but waters the earth, and makes it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11

His Word won’t fail you! He says so in this passage – His word shall not return to Him void, it will accomplish what He pleases. We can claim His promises, because they are all true.

So what’s your response? The writer of this hymn urges us to take this good news to the dying world around us, as Jesus directed.

"Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”
Mark 16:15

Lord, help me to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, that others will see Him through me.