Week 13 – One Plus One

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Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

You just never know where a verse will lead you. Whoever says the Bible isn’t the living word of God has never read it! Most will agree that having a companion to do things with makes it a bit more fun or less scary. Goodness, as women, it’s even better when we have a friend to go to the restroom with. Everything from travel to getting bad news from the doctor is better when we aren’t alone. These verses from Ecclesiastes remind us of that, but we are going to dig a little deeper than just these two verses today.

Ecclesiastes is a very interesting book in the Bible. Solomon, known as one of the wisest men to ever live, wrote this book along with the Song of Solomon and the Book of Proverbs. Unlike Proverbs, where Solomon shares all of his wisdom for living, the book of Ecclesiastes shares his “foolishness” while living apart from God. If we look closely, I’m sure we can all relate to Solomon in many ways.

Like any book of the Bible, it’s important to understand the background and reason it was written. Although we are just looking at two verses in Ecclesiastes today, it’s important to know that when you read this book of the Bible, there are many things Solomon says that go against other scripture because it was written about the time in his life he stepped away from God. Think about a time in your life that you stepped away from God and imagine you had kept a journal of all that was going on in your heart at that time. What would it say? I shudder to think of my own. The unfortunate part of this is that many non-believers misuse scripture from this book of the Bible by taking it out of context and using it to support their own selfish and Godless lives. Thus, proving the importance of understanding context and background when reading scripture.

If atheists understood this book, they would see that Ecclesiastes is the story of a man (Solomon), who decided he was smarter than God and could figure everything out on his own. Solomon decided to try and live apart from God and see if that would be enough. He lived as if he had the right to enjoy every pleasure of the flesh regardless of the consequences and did whatever pleased him. However, after his journey of selfish and self-righteous living, Solomon discovers quite the opposite. After trying it all, having it all and living it up, Solomon concludes that true satisfaction and joy can only come from the gracious love of God and by living in His ways.

Solomon learned the hard way that it much easier to live life with God as a companion than without Him. Two really are better than one. And even when we feel alone, we can trust God is always with us. He will love, lead, guide, conquer and bless us if we allow Him to.

Companion: a person or animal with whom one spends a lot of time or with whom one travels. “his traveling companion”, one of a pair of things intended to complement or match each other.

 

Week 12 – The Only Way

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Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6

Truth be told, I struggled with this verse for much of my Christian life. Until I actually opened up the Bible and began to read and study it for myself. It was then that the truths and concepts I had always heard about in church came into focus and the lines no longer blurred together. With knowledge of God’s word comes clarity, strength, and courage about His ways.  I was no longer willing and vulnerable to the watered down version of living that the world was trying to pour into me.

I know this verse can be controversial, even among Christians, and can seem exclusive, but I think these eighteen words Jesus spoke so long ago are the axis on which everything else spins. In the Greek, the article “the” in “I am the way” is an adjective, showing that Jesus isn’t just the person who shows us to God, but that is He personally is the way to God. So, if we follow this Greek definition we understand that Jesus doesn’t just tell the truth. He is truth. Jesus wasn’t just alive, but He is life.  In John 14:5, when Jesus was with his disciples in the Upper Room,  Thomas said,  Lord, we don’t know where You’re going. How can we know the way?”

John 14:6 is the answer to that question. Thank goodness we have it. If we open our eyes to the love, not the exclusivity, that Jesus is showing in His words, it blows your mind. Unlike other “ism’s” and “spiritual” ideas, with Jesus,  you don’t have to complete a checklist, wonder if you have accomplished enough good deeds, given enough money to charity or reached the highest level of awareness. With Jesus, the only thing you have to do for an eternal life and a relationship with the Creator of Heaven and Earth is to believe in Him. Believe in God’s son who He sent to die for each of us. I wonder if people reject it more because it seems to good to be true than for any other reason? Or, maybe they just don’t like the idea of following God’s commands and being accountable to someone other than themselves.  I’m not sure, but I do know that when we believe in Jesus, the love He lavishes on us can spread to others as long as we keep our eyes on what the love of Jesus looks like.

One of my biggest frustrations with the world right now is the lie they are spreading about love. The world says, “If you don’t agree with me, then you hate me.” NOTHING could be further from the truth. You can love someone and not agree with them. You can love someone and not follow their destructive ways. You can love someone who has chosen a path you can’t (and may never) understand. You don’t have to agree with someone to love them.

When your child does something wrong and makes a terrible decision that you don’t agree with, do you all of a sudden hate them? I have never met a parent that does that and I hope I never do. Different opinions, cultures, values can reside in love if we have Christ in the center. Jesus said, “This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12

Thank goodness Jesus doesn’t choose to love or to hate. He chooses to love even when we fall from His ways and stray from His path. Does your love look more like Jesus or the world? I pray He guides each of us as we tackle the truth of love.

 

 

Join me for a 6-week Bible Study

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Thursdays, April 20 – May 25  from 7-8:30 p.m at Hope Community Church, Apex, NC

REGISTER NOW at http://gethope.net/22commandments/

Overwhelmed and wondering how to live life as a Christian? Paul gives us some great insight in his letter to the Thessalonians. Join us as we dig deeper into 1 Thessalonians 5:11-26 by skills I introduce in my Bible study, In the Mi[God]dle, with reflections from The Whisper of God devotional. My prayer is that, through these combined resources, your devotional time will launch you into a deeper relationship with our Father in Heaven and give you a solid foundation in His word.

Being a bit Type A, my heart can struggle without a clear list from God about how to live the life He has called me too. Let me say, I’m grateful He didn’t give us a list and I understand why He didn’t. We would become just like the Pharisees and grow cold from following a list and crossing things off in our relationship with God instead of seeking Him on a personal level.

That said, the scriptures can be daunting and my desire to live as Christ has called me, strong, so imagine how awesome it was for this Type A girl to find in 1 Thessalonians a set of 22 commandments (laws, edicts, orders, precepts, or rule – whatever you want to call it) for Christians from the apostle Paul. Not commandments from God’s mouth like the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20 because if you are a Christian those are just the beginning. I remember the mindset I had in my prayers as an ill-equipped young Christian. At night when I was supposed to confess my sins, I would think, I didn’t cuss, kill, steal or commit adultery so I think I’m ok in that department. How wrong, how terribly wrong.

I love how Paul takes it one step further, giving some wonderful, clear and intentional instructions on what it should look like after we say, “God, I believe in your son, Jesus. I believe He came, walked this earth, died, was buried and rose again. I understand and praise you that He suffered and died for me on that cross. He has covered all my sins.” Seriously, how do we live after accepting a gift like that? Paul gives us some great insight in his letter to the Thessalonians. I’m so grateful for this answer to a prayer I’ve had so long. Join us as we dig deeper into 1 Thessalonians 5:11-26.

Something struck me as I looked at the verses running together with these loving, direct and clear instructions from Paul. It’s a list! A beautiful list and it’s an answer to prayer for me and for all of us. Clear instructions on how to live like we believe Christ died for us.

REGISTER NOW at http://gethope.net/22commandments/

Week 11 -Fear Equals Wisdom

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  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10

This isn’t the only verse that speaks of fear equaling wisdom. We also see it in Job 28:28, Psalm 111:10 and in Proverbs 1:7.

As a child, I always wondered why I was supposed to be afraid of this man [God] who loved me no matter what and sent His son to die on the cross for me. It was a little confusing.  Now, I understand that there are two sides to fear (healthy and unhealthy).  Fear can either be “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, or pain” or it can be a “profound reverence and awe especially toward God”.  Fear doesn’t always mean run and hide because you did something wrong or something bad is going to happen. Truly, it’s only those who don’t know God who will fear the most.

As my relationship with God has grown, I have come to understand the other side of fear. The healthy side. It’s like when we buy insurance for our healthcare, lives, homes and our cars. Hopefully, we don’t walk around waiting for everything to go wrong, but we understand bad things can happen. So, we buy insurance, we don’t leave Christmas tree lights plugged in unattended, we lock our doors and follow the laws put in place to protect us. We do what we can to prevent and be prepared if the worst should happen.

A healthy fear keeps you alert and motivated. When we know God by reading His word and trusting in Him, our fear isn’t one of cowering, but of confidence. It enables us to praise Him (Psalm 22:23), to rest in His peace and security (Psalm 112:7-8), and to have His many great blessings and benefits (Psalms 103: 13-17).

When I reflect on my fear of God, this is what comes to mind.

It’s not fear of Him, but fear of living life without Him that grows knowledge and wisdom. It’s the fear of not following His ways because that leads to chaos and destruction. It’s the fear of choosing a direction or making a decision, without seeking God’s wisdom, that can lead to delayed blessings and answers to prayer.

Let’s be honest, this world is cRaZy! I don’t want to be a fool and try to live without God in this world. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline. Proverbs 1:7 

How about you?

Week 10 – Hallelujuh!

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JESUS Acrostic Printable with Bible Verses

Light shines in the darkness for the upright.
He is gracious, compassionate, and righteous.
Good will come to a man who lends generously
and conducts his business fairly. He will never be shaken.
The righteous man will be remembered forever. Psalm 112:4-6

I was excited to pull out another set of verses from the Psalms this week. It’s so full of vivid imagery, profound wisdom, and truth. If you are ever feeling stuck in your prayer life, just open it up to the book of Psalms and start reading. It always ignites a fire in my heart. But that’s not all. The Psalms hold a lot of unique and interesting secrets that you can only find if you look at the original Hebrew text.

This particular Psalm is one of the Hallelujah Psalms and, although we can’t tell in the English language, it’s written in the form of an acrostic poem using all twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. I always enjoyed the challenge of writing an acrostic poem in grade school. Remember those days?

I felt it was important to include the prior verses this week, Psalm 112:1-3.

Hallelujah! Happy is the man who fears the Lordtaking great delight in His commands. His descendants will be powerful in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever.

Verse 1 really hit home for me. It reminds us to praise God for His commandments. So often we look at God’s commands and laws as a restriction instead of a lifeline or safety jacket. My husband and I were driving the other day and passed a lot that we had looked at years ago to build a house on. Due to some unsavory business practices by the seller’s agents, we didn’t get the lot. We were angry at the time. Not just because of the deception, but also the disappointment of losing something we wanted at the time. As we passed by this property, I said to my husband, “I’m so glad we didn’t get that lot. It wouldn’t have been the right move for us at all. We ended with something so much better. God really knew what He was doing.” Shocker, right! Of course, God knows what’s best! How do I get so caught up in daily life that I lose sight of that sometimes? I quickly followed up my last statement to my husband with, “Well, God ALWAYS knows what He’s doing.”

His commandments offer us the ability to look at ourselves without deception, to see where our weaknesses and sins lie within us. It’s then that we realize how much we need a Savior. We cling to the Father for guidance and assistance in moving beyond what holds us back from being the child of God He desires for us to become.

As verse 4 tells us, the God we serve is gracious, compassionate and righteous. As we close today, I hope you will reflect on the definitions of these three attributes (see below). When we believe and trust that God is who He says He is, the grace and forgiveness He offers us are so much easier to accept and our desire to live Godly lives follows suit.

Gracious: marked by kindness, courtesy, tact and delicacy. characterized by good taste, good breeding and a generosity of spirit.

Compassionate: sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress with a strong desire to alleviate it, warm-hearted and tender

Righteous: acting in accord with divine or moral law; free from guilt or sin