The Red Words #2 12/04/18

Welcome back to our study of the “RED WORDS” in the Gospel of Mark.  We are still in chapter 1 so let’s proceed.

1:16-18 And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ They immediately left their nets and followed Him.

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Simon and Andrew woke up that morning – like they did every other morning – expecting an ordinary day of fishing.  It was how they made their living.  They were skilled, most likely having begun to fish as young teenagers, probably trained by their father.  That was how young boys in that day were prepared for adulthood.  It would seem from the context of the Gospel at large that Simon and Andrew were well into adulthood so they’d probably been fishing for some years.  Peter had a mother-in-law, you will remember; which means he had a wife and historical records indicate he had at least one daughter.

Jesus was relatively unknown at the time.  He had very recently left Nazareth and moved to Capernaum.  There is no indication in the text that He had preached yet or worked any miracles along the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

Had Simon and Andrew met the newcomer to the area?  Had they heard about Him in any way?

If all we had was the Gospel of Mark, we might think that they hadn’t, but John’s Gospel fills in some details for us by recording an event from several months earlier.

Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked upon Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.   And Jesus turned, and beheld them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” And they said to Him, “Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” They came therefore and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.  He found first his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which translated means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter). John 1:35-42 (NASB)

So in fact, they had met Jesus earlier.  Andrew had been a follower of John the Baptist and after John testified about Jesus, Andrew and another unnamed disciple of John’s had spend a day with Jesus.  Andrew was clearly moved and on returning home to the Galilee went to his brother and told him about Jesus.  Not only that, but he ‘brought him to Jesus’.

Was that in Capernaum? Or elsewhere?  We don’t know, but from John’s Gospel we learn that clearly Simon and Andrew had met Jesus previously and had been sufficiently moved, touched, attracted that when He passed by them on the shores of the Galilee and called them, their response was immediate.

Mark adds in the next verses that the same day, shortly after calling Simon and Andrew, Jesus passed by another boat where three more fishermen, Jacob (James) and John, along with their father, Zebedee, were mending nets.  Jesus called the two sons and again ‘immediately…they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and went after Him.’  vs. 20

So Peter and Andrew had already come to believe in Jesus as the promised Messiah for they had accepted John’s declaration that the Messiah had come. But after their early encounters with Him, they had apparently returned to their work in Galilee.

We have here an illustration of the difference between being a believer and a disciple.

Peter and Andrew believed John’s testimony – they were ‘believers’ but it had not changed their lives.  Some months had gone by since that early encounter and now instead of Simon and Peter going to where Jesus was, He came to where they were and called them to follow Him – to become ‘disciples’.

Many Christian teachers use the term “disciple” as synonymous with the word ‘Christian’. There is a difference.  How does a person become a Christian? The answer is simple – A person becomes a Christian by faith in the redemptive and atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ – His life, death and resurrection.

The Scriptures make it quite clear that salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, but the Scriptures also teach that discipleship is costly.  Let’s say it this way: salvation is our birth in the Christian life, and discipleship is our education and spiritual maturity in the Christian life.

Follow me – this is a command. Discipleship was a common feature in Palestine. The Rabbis had their disciples who came and learned from them and followed them. But they did so by choice, and they were not specifically called on to leave all.  Jesus’ call to follow Him was, however, all embracing and sacrificial. It was the call of One with sovereign authority.

Jesus did not issue an easy invitation.  There was no ‘sign-up’ bonus; no advance promises of provision.  (By the way, have you ever wondered what Peter’s wife said? Or his mother-in-law?)

Peter and Andrew  could not say, “I’ll catch men, but I don’t want it to upset my comfort zone.” They left their boats, their nets, their fish, and their families to follow Jesus. They were not deserting their father in such a way as to leave him helpless. The fishing business was apparently doing well. It was doing so well that they were able to hire extra help.

But notice something: These men were totally unqualified for the job to which they were called. They were fishermen by trade. They were just ordinary people. They were not trained as the Scribes or Levites or Priests. They were not Rabbis. As a matter of fact, they were not even Pharisees or Sadducees. They were just common country folk, ordinary fishermen, people like you and me.

But apart from all others whom Jesus could have called, He called these. It is as if Jesus wanted to make a statement that anyone could be used by Him for His purpose. Jesus wasn’t looking for the “cream of the crop” but for He ordinary people – four fishermen -and He called them.

Those first four disciples – Simon Peter, Andrew, Jacob (James) and John – had no idea where that calling would lead them. They did not know that they would face persecution, prison, and even death for the sake of the gospel of Christ. They did not realize that they would be the leaders of an infant church that would eventually span the globe. They did not realize that they would have a part in the revelation of Holy Scripture.

They just knew that Jesus called, so they obeyed.

He still calls….to you and to me.  Is our response as ‘immediate’ as theirs?

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The Red Words #1 11/27/18

Welcome to a new series on Coffee and Commentary – the “Red Words” – the very words of the Lord Jesus which in many Bibles are printed in red, making them easy to find. 

While all four gospels have a large number of verses which quote the words of Jesus, for our study, I’m going to focus on the Gospel of Mark as it is universally identified as the very first Gospel to be written.  Though Mark was not one of the apostles, he worked closely with Peter after the Ascension, heard Peter’s sermons, gathered all of Peter’s memories about the words and works of Jesus and sometime between 50-70 AD, wrote the scroll we now know as the Gospel of Mark. 

Before we delve into Mark’s Gospel, it’s worth our while in this first post in the series to address the reliability of the New Testament.  While I trust this is not an issue for any of my subscribers, you may well encounter people who question the validity of the Gospels and these few comments may help you in speaking with such people.

Just as the Hebrew Bible contains the history and prophecies that witness to the first covenants of God with Israel, so the early Christians gathered memories, experiences and texts that bore witness to the life and ministry of Jesus.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, the gospel writers then recorded for generations to come the person, the character and the life on earth of the Lord Jesus.

Abundant evidence supports the reliability of the New Testament.  First of all, the amazing unity of the entire Bible – Old and New Testaments – speaks powerfully of a divine authorship. The more of the Word that I learn, the more amazed I am at the incredible weaving of God’s Redemption plan throughout all of the Bible.  Literally hundreds of prophecies contained in the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) are fulfilled in the New Testament.  Considering that the varying ‘authors’ span centuries, only the Spirit of God could have orchestrated such a perfectly unified and revelatory book.

Secondly, the early church acknowledged the divinity of Jesus from the very start because that is what the apostles taught, as recorded in the New Testament. Written by ordinary men, not literary geniuses, the authenticity of the gospels stems from the fact that those who wrote were eyewitnesses, or, as in the case of Mark, gathered their facts from eyewitnessesALL of the New Testament writers placed great value on eyewitness testimony.  Consider these verses:

For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard…’  Luke writes in Acts 4:20

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.’ Peter records in 2 Peter 1:16

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life…I John 1:1

Thirdly, as reported in the book of Acts, thousands of people accepted the Lordship of Christ and His redemptive atonement before a single word of the New Testament was committed to parchment. Christianity is founded on historical events – the life, death resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.  It is not the figment of someone’s imagination, nor a cleverly devised religious system from the minds of man.  It’s – simply put – all about Jesus.

Fourth, there are some 25,000 New Testament manuscripts or fragments of manuscripts in existence, most of which are carefully housed in temperature and humidity controlled locations to preserve them.  By contrast, there are only about 1800 fragments and manuscripts of Homer’s Iliad, less than 10% of the New Testament texts. 

The New Testament writers reported what they actually saw, heard, experienced and witnessed during the three and a half year ministry of Jesus.  Their testimony is true, reliable and deserves our total acceptance.

In short, the Gospels declare to us that the Christ of prophecy in the Old Testament is the Christ of fulfillment in the New. The Messiah hoped for in the Old Testament is the clearly presented realization in the New. The expectancy of the Jews in the Old Testament is transformed into experience in the New in which the long-predicted Messiah is revealed in all of His fullness.

With that background, let’s turn to Mark’s Gospel. 

Mark skips over the birth and early life of Jesus which Matthew and Luke recorded.  As already stated, by asking Peter questions and gathering Peter’s memories, Mark was able to write a clear and persuasive gospel which generations since then have enjoyed, studied and absorbed.

In Mark 1:14-15 we read: Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’

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The Jews had been waiting for centuries, looking and hoping for a Messiah whom they anticipated would be a military, political hero.

Instead, the first instructions they hear are: ‘Repent and Believe…’  This was shocking.  Can’t you hear the reaction?

‘What do You mean, Jesus, telling us to repent? ‘  they may well have cried out.What about those Romans? Why don’t you tell them to repent? They treat us harshly and besides that, they shouldn’t even be here.  This is our land.’

But REPENT was the first commandment.  It still is.

REPENT and BELIEVE.

True repentance is an expression of humility; that is, an acknowledgment that we are not perfect, superior or righteous.  We have sinned.

Why didn’t Jesus say BELIEVE first and then REPENT?  (Bible study tip: When you study the Word, not only the actual words but the order in which Jesus spoke them is important.)

I suggest there are two reasons why REPENT comes first and BELIEVE comes afterward.

Before we can have any relationship with Jesus, we must acknowledge our own  sinfulness.  We fail miserably at being our own sufficiency.  We make a mess of our lives quite easily. Until we REPENT of our selfishness, our egoism and our inclination towards sin, we fail to BELIEVE that we even need a Savior. 

Repentance expresses our need of a Savior; Believing enables us to receive the salvation we so desperately need. 

REPENT is more than a word; it’s a behavior.  The word means ‘to turn around’, ‘to change’. 

BELIEVE is also more than a word; it’s a surrender to the only Person who can save me from myself – the Lord Jesus Christ.

From Mark’s perspective this was the Lord’s first message, the foundation on which to build a relationship with Him.

Mark, of course, was right. 

 

 

Snippets from My Journal # 17 November 20, 2018

Thanksgiving 1999         [the first Thanksgiving after the death of my late husband, Mike]

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Lord, You know this is the hardest Thanksgiving of my life. It’s only been three months and sometimes I still feel like I can’t even breathe.  Will it get any easier?  How do I go on without him?  I always assumed we would grow old together, play with our grandchildren together and just enjoy life together, teasing each other about things that older people tease each other about.

But he’s gone – I know he’s with You, rejoicing in Your presence, but if you don’t mind my saying so, Lord, that doesn’t do a lot to soothe the ache in my soul. I miss him so much.

Selah….

Yes, Lord, I hear You.  It’s Thanksgiving.  What do I have to be grateful for this year?

Oh so much, despite the grief.

Thank You, Lord, for Your sustaining grace.  Thank You for Your presence when I come to You each day.  Thank You that You give me inner joy even when tears roll down my face.

Thank You, Lord for the gift that Mike was in my life and in our children’s lives.  Thank You for how You used him in the pulpit and out of the pulpit.  Thank You for the messages he preached in words and by his example – messages I will never forget.

Thank You for the privilege of being his wife, standing beside him as he fulfilled his calling as a pastor.  Thank You for his humor that made us laugh; for His compassion that comforted us and for his exemplary prayer life.  The memory of seeing him on his knees morning after morning, seeking Your face propels me to do the same.  Thank You for the hundreds of precious memories that nothing can take from me.

Selah….

You’re right, Jesus.  You’re always right.  Though Mike is not here with us, I still DO have so, so much to be thankful for.

More than anything I want to thank You for You, Lord.  Thank You for coming to this earth for our Redemption.  Thank You that You conquered death and the grave; thank You for the eternal hope You plant in our souls when we give our lives to You.  Thank You that we can look forward to an eternity with You and our loved ones.

Jesus, there’s SO much I am thankful for – I could write a book, but it’s not a book You want, it’s my unconditional surrender to You and Your purpose for my life.

Have Your way, Lord, have Your way with me.  Grant me grace to carry on the legacy Mike left us – passionate love for You, for Your Word, for prayer and for servanthood.

I love you, Jesus – I’m so thankful for YOU in my life. I praise You and I worship You for Who you are and for granting me the grace to know You.

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And Lord, if it’s possible, would You just tell my beloved Mike ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ for me?

 

 

Snippets from My Journal #16 November 13, 2018

November 13, 2007   (exactly eleven years ago today)

Lord Jesus, it was written of you in the book of Hebrews that You are ‘the radiance of the Father’s glory, the exact representation of His nature’.  Heb. 1:3  So I guess I could say that you are the mirror image of the Father.  How incredibly awesome is that!

But You say that You want us to be a mirror image of You.  I feel so inadequate! I want to and yet how often I stumble.  Will I ever be able to be a reflection of You, Jesus?

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I heard the Lord reply, ‘No, you won’t; you’re not able but I am.  It is My life within you that will make you a reflection of Who I am. Do not take on a responsibility you are incapable of fulfilling.  Just take Me and let Me do it in you.’

Lord, I’ve given myself to You a hundred times – maybe a thousand times over the years – and I still get frustrated when I want to be like You and I fail.

Jesus: ‘Did you listen to yourself? Did you hear what you just said? It is not by your effort; it’s by your surrender that you become like MeSurrender means to stop resisting, to yield, to give in, to cave in, to back down.  To surrender to Me is a moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day habit of yielding to what My Spirit says to you and what My Word teaches you. It’s actually simple on the one hand and extremely demanding on the other.  The principle is simple; but to live it consistently is where the challenge lies.

I realized as I pondered what the Lord said that the key to living a surrendered life is learning to hear the voice of the Spirit within.  I can’t submit if I don’t hear the instruction.  I can’t yield if I don’t hear the warning.

Lord, I cry out to You for the ear of a disciple. My mind talks too much; it never stops.  It’s as if I have this ‘radio’ on within me, always ‘broadcasting’ thoughts, ideas, feelings, opinions.  How do I turn it off so I can be quiet in Your presence and hear what You say to me?

Yes, Lord.  I heard that. The more I spend time in Your Word, the more my mind will come under discipline.  Thank you, Jesus.  Grant me grace to be faithful.

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Snippets from My Journal #15 November 6, 2018

February 28, 2017

And looking at them, Jesus said to them, ‘With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’  Matthew 19:26

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Lord, forgive me for all the times in my life when I thought that the solution to a situation or circumstance was ‘impossible’.  Forgive me for small thinking!

This present circumstance is only impossible when I measure it by my limited thinking and my limited understanding.  But Your Word says that I ‘have the mind of Christ.’  In Your mind, Jesus, there’s NOTHING impossible about this present situation – absolutely nothing!

You have unlimited ability and creativity to resolve situations and turn circumstances around to Your purposes for my life.  My frame of reference is so limited; yours is limitless.  When I think something is ‘impossible’ it’s only because I’m using limited human measurement or perspective.  Forgive me, Lord, for my limited thinking.

You are outrageously GOOD! You are unlimited and unstoppable, and You delight to do what is beyond our imagination, what exceeds our dreams, and what overwhelms our small thinking.  When You act according to Your infinite wisdom and love towards us, we fall on our faces in awe and wonder at Your greatness and Your glory.

Lord, I love it when You surprise me! I love it when Your answers to my cries are so ‘out of the box’ of my thinking that I am reminded again of how great, how awesome, how loving, how compassionate, how merciful and how utterly amazing You are!

Jesus, I don’t want to live by my human understanding.  Nor do I want to live by the so-called wisdom of this world. I want to live by Your wisdom, Your understanding and Your perfect timing for I know that ‘impossible’ is not in Your heavenly dictionary!

Lord, You know my deep desire – You know the burden of my heart at this time. Lord Jesus, please surprise me again. I cast down every imagination of how You will answer my prayer; I choose to wait on You with full expectation of another heavenly and delightful surprise, for You act according to Your holiness, Your righteousness and Your boundless love.

I love you, Lord. By Your Holy Spirit, grant me grace to fulfill what the Father wrote in my book.

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Note to my readers:  Whatever is happening in your life right now that seems impossible to you, I challenge you to move out of the ‘impossible’ mindset and lock on to God’s limitless possibility and creativity.  There is NOTHING too hard for God; NOTHING impossible with Him.  And His ways are far beyond anything we can imagine, so trust Him and He WILL make the impossible, POSSIBLE!

And He’ll do it in such a way that only HE gets all the glory!

Snippets from My Journal #14 October 31, 2018

January 24, 1992

Wow, Lord! How can I ever thank You?  I receive Your promise and by Your grace I will hold tight to it.  Your faithfulness is beyond my understanding.  I just thank You for Who You are and that You have loved me and shown me such mercy.

The Lord quickened this scripture to me this morning as I was praying for my children:

“As for Me, this is My covenant with them, says the Lord. My Spirit Who is upon you and My Words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants forever from this time on and forever,” says the Lord.  Isaiah 59: 21

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Lord, I thank You for my children and for the uniqueness of each one.  I know Your hand is upon them and Your grace covers them.  You know, Lord, that Mike and I desire more than anything that they would serve You with all their hearts, walk in Your ways and fulfill the calling You have on their lives.

To receive this scripture today as Your promise to me is such an amazing gift.  We will stand on Your Word and trust You with our children.  Let Your perfect will be accomplished in each of their lives.

Thank you, Lord, thank you! Grant me grace to love you passionately and unconditionally.

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Note to my readers:  As I share this personal word with you today, I am convinced that, as the Scriptures are for all of us, this promise is for you as well.  To parents who have concerns about their children, young children or adult children, take this word and make it your own. The Lord is no respecter of persons and His heart is toward praying parents.  No matter where your children are today, your prayers and your unconditional love are the most powerful gifts you give them.  The Lord’s promise will not fail.

If you are reading this and you don’t have children, I would suggest to you that if you’ve been walking with the Lord for any length of time, then you have spiritual children; or you have relatives who have children.  In either case, take hold of this promise for your spiritual children, especially those who may be causing you concern at present; or for your nieces, nephews, ‘spiritually adopted children’, etc.  You can be a parent in the Spirit whether of not you literally gave birth to a child.

Let’s believe God with bold faith for the younger generation – for children, for grandchildren, even great-grandchildren – of the flesh and of the Spirit!

Snippets from My Journal #13 October 23, 2018

February 22, 2013

The Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions [mercies] never fail.  They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness!  Lamentations 3:22-23

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As many times as I’ve read and heard these two verses, this morning something new came alive for me when the two words ‘every morning’ jumped off the page.

Every morning – loving kindnesses (plural).

Every morning – compassions or mercies (plural).

Lord, You alone know what is written on every page of my book in heaven (Psalm 139).  Before the earth was ever created, You wrote that book, planning out my days before I was ever conceived in my mother’s womb.

Your plan for me was perfect and designed to lead me to fulfill the purpose for which You chose to create me.  And knowing my human weakness, You included in Your plan that every morning of my life, You would make available loving kindnesses and mercies. 

You did not just create a magnificent plan for my life; You also provided the means for me to fulfill it, all the while knowing that there would be many days of my life when I was completely ignorant of what You wanted and oblivious to the amazing empowerment available if I would just trust You, listen to You and follow You.  Lord, You love is beyond amazing; it is mind-blowing!

Your Word also says,  …man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.  Deuteronomy 8:3b

I never put this together before, Lord.  I see it! Thank you!

That word ‘proceed’ is in the present tense which means continually proceeding – as in every morning.

So, every morning you have fresh compassions and loving kindnesses that You make available to us for each specific day.  Of course You do, because You know what we don’t know!

You know what we will face this day, who we’ll see, how we will need to respond to whatever happens.  And because You know what we don’t, You dispense ahead of time – every morning – the loving kindnesses and the fresh compassions or mercies that we will need to walk to navigate this day in holiness and righteousness.

And to help us grasp what You are giving us, You told us that we do not live by bread alone but our life is dependent on every word that proceeds from Your mouth.  ‘Give us this day our daily bread…’ has just taken on another depth of meaning.  Jesus, You are the Bread of Life.  It’s You – bread for my soul – that I need every morning, every moment.

So we wake up every morning to a fresh outpouring of kindness and compassion from You and to food for our soul from Your Word – all of it specific to that day!

Lord, You are so AMAZING!

No wonder it’s so vital to reach for Your Word first thing in the morning! You ALWAYS have something to say to us if we will just look to You at the start of each new day; if we will just open Your Word.

Forgive me, Lord Jesus, for taking Your daily outpouring of grace and revelation for granted.  Lord, I want to start each day differently than I have in the past and I begin this morning.

Lord Jesus, thank You for the loving kindnesses You have for me today; thank You for the mercies You have for me today; thank You for the word or words You will quicken to my heart today as I open Your Word today.  Equip me for each day according to the Father’s design for my life.  Give me eyes to see and ears to hear the ‘proceeding word’ that comes from Your mouth to my heart today.

Holy Spirit, please remind me to start each day according to what You have shown me this morning.

 

 

Snippets from My Journal #12 October 16, 2018

July 4, 2011

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  Paul wrote in I Cor. 3:16.

And do I truly realize that the Spirit of God that dwells in me is the SAME Spirit that raised Christ from the dead?  Romans 8:11

I know it…but I don’t know it.  Not really.  I don’t live like it day in and day out. I know I don’t because I too easily allow my circumstances to define my behavior, rather than the indwelling Presence of your Holy Spirit.

I even have plaque on the wall that says God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.  2 Timothy 1:7  Yet when I walk through a shopping mall and see someone from my city who is a known witch walking in my direction, I more than likely run the other way or at the very least slip into the nearest store lest I get anywhere near her, as if her walking by me could ‘pollute’ me.

Lord, forgive me – that’s such wrong thinking!

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Since the Spirit of the Living God dwells in us, why am I not saying to myself in a situation like that, “Whoever walks by me is going to get hit with a ray from the Son because the Light of the World dwells in me” ?

Was it something like that, Lord, that happened when you walked by Matthew at his tax collectors’ desk? All you said, was ‘Follow Me,’ and he just got up and followed!

Darkness will NEVER be more powerful than light; the devil and his minions will NEVER be more powerful than Your authority, Lord Jesus.  A created being cannot overpower THE Creator.  Why would I ever cave to fear or anxiety in the presence of workers of iniquity? How foolish of me!  Lord I need to change the way I think!  He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world. I John 4:4

Since the dawn of creation, thousands of generations have come and gone.  I could have been born at any time in history, but you determined that I would live in THIS season, at THIS time in history.  That means You called me from my mother’s womb and You appointed me to carry Your Presence everywhere I go – to be LIGHT in a dark society.

When the temple of Solomon stood in Jerusalem, everybody knew the Presence of God was there.  Its very existence said so.

Your Word says that now, we are the ‘temple of God’. Your desire was never for a building but for living temples.  Your desire from before Creation has been for a people, a family, so filled with Your presence, so in love with You that just because we show up, the atmosphere changes.

Lord, I repent…forgive me for every time I shrank back instead of pressing forward.  I was thinking more about me than You, Jesus.  Help me to learn how to forget about myself and just be preoccupied with You and the reason I’m alive right now. It’s all about YOU!

I sure don’t need to think more of myself and I don’t need to think less of myself; I just need to think of myself less.

 

 

Snippets from My Journal #11 October 9, 2018

October 21, 2016

I’ve been reading a book entitled LIVING WATER by Brother Yun, a Chinese pastor.  What he has suffered for the Gospel is staggering.  I was particularly struck this morning with what he wrote about discipleship.

In China new believers are immediately taught five things which all disciples must be ready to do at any time.

Disciples must always be ready to pray, regardless of the circumstances around them or happening to them.  Prayer is the foundational practice because it is in our private times of prayer, alone with the Lord, that we get to know Him, to hear from Him and to adopt His ways.

Disciples must always be ready to share the Gospel.  The words of Paul to Timothy are the mandate that Chinese leaders teach to the new believers: Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.  (2Tim. 2:4)  In China, this is not just a lesson in a classroom; new disciples are promptly sent out to put into practice what they are learning.  Is it any wonder that millions in China have given their lives to Christ?  It’s amazing what can happen when we love God more than we fear the face of man.

Disciples must always be ready to suffer for the name of Jesus.  It is convicting to read testimony after testimony of arrest, torture and imprisonment of Chinese disciples which results in hardened criminals in the same prisons hearing the Gospel and coming to faith.  Those testimonies are dramatic but the ones that touch me even more is when I read of Chinese disciples who have been disowned by their families, spat upon by friends, even beaten by parents because of their faith. And they, like the early Christians, rejoice that they are worthy to suffer for His Name’s sake.

Disciples in China are taught to live each day as though it could be their last. They are taught to be ready to be martyred because of their love for Jesus.  Heaven is real to them; they lay aside the seductions of this world and look ‘for the city whose builder and maker is God.’

Disciples in China are also taught that they should be ready to escape for the Gospel’s sake if an opportunity presents itself, for Jesus said: ‘When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.’ (Matt. 10:23)

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Brother Yun comments that there is great power in suffering for the gospel. While thousands of Chinese Christians have been brutally tortured, imprisoned and even killed for the gospel, the Church in China has grown exponentially.

The early Christians in the book of Acts were also empowered and emboldened through what they suffered.  After some of the Apostles were thrown in jail, the Lord delivered them supernaturally and they prayed ‘for more boldness’ to preach the Gospel (Acts 5:41-42)

How little most of us in America can relate but is that day coming? There are hints in our day that persecution of Christians could be coming in the near future.

Lord, I’m a coward by nature.  I don’t like pain – physical or emotional. I know that right at this moment I don’t have the grace to be a martyr but at this moment I’m not facing that challenge.  I put all my trust in You that if that day ever comes, You, Yourself, will be with me and carry me by your grace through whatever I may face.

I love you, Lord. You know I do, but I am reluctant to say “I’ll never fail You”.  What I do know is that YOU will never fail me!  And that’s all I need to know, isn’t it, Jesus?

Thank You for Your faithfulness!

Snippets from My Journal #10 October 2, 2018

March 12, 2016

The Lord has been speaking to me about the Beatitudes and this morning I’ve been meditating on Matthew 5:5, ‘Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.‘ NASB

I looked it up in the New Living Translation: ‘God blesses those who are humble for they will inherit the earth.‘  Hmm – that’s quite a promise.

The Message Bible provokes me to think of this Beatitude in a different way: ‘You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more and no less.  That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.’

selfaccept

Sometimes we have funny ideas about what humility looks like.  I was thinking this morning that there are only two people in the entire Bible that are identified as humble or meek.  Moses was the first and Jesus is the second.  Both of them show incredible patience and compassion towards other people but both of them also had no reluctance to boldly confront unrighteousness, rebellion and hypocrisy.  These are the two the Bible lifts up as ‘humble’.  No weakness there….

I’m intrigued by the way the Message Bible rendered this verse: ‘You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more and no less.’  Never thought about it just that way but the wisdom of that statement really strikes me this morning. Humility starts with believing that the God Who loves us created us just the way we are for His purposes.  Accepting ourselves then is an act of gratitude and a recognition that He knows better than we do what we needed to be in order to fulfill our destiny.  It is also an act of faith in an all loving, all wise and all knowing Heavenly Father.

That being true, I need to repent for every time I have complained to myself or anybody else about my appearance, my height, my body type, etc., etc. How foolish of me and how ungrateful.  You, Lord, are the Potter, I am the clay.  It’s the Potter’s right to make me however He wants to and it’s grossly unrighteous for me to complain about the creation of my Heavenly Father.

So, Lord, I repent – I really repent. Please forgive me and I choose this morning to agree with You.  I confess my fleshly opinions – how wrong they were.  What an arrogant thing to do!!!  Forgive me for the hundreds of times I wished I was tall and slender instead of short and chubby.  Lord, I’m so sorry.  Please forgive me.  I choose You this morning and I accept exactly how You created me.  Your ways towards us are perfect – always. I choose to be ‘content with who I am’, Lord.

It never occurred to me before that this is truly the foundation of humility but it makes so much sense to me this morning.  The very essence of pride is considering one’s own opinions and attitudes superior to everyone else’s, including the Lord’s!  What a horrifying thought!

I repent of pride, of arrogance, of thinking You could have done a better job of fashioning me in my mother’s womb!  I am appalled, Lord, at my attitude.  Cleanse me, cleanse my heart of any and every opinion or attitude I have that is rooted in pride and train me in the humility of Your Beloved Son, Jesus.  It’s not my outward appearance that really matters, it’s my heart.  All  I ask is that You conform me into the image and likeness of Your Beloved Son.

Pause

Oh Lord, You are so amazing.  Thank you for speaking to me. Seal Your words in my heart.

The Lord just showed me that He created me with a need for discipline in eating in order to train me to be just as disciplined about feeding my soul with His Word.  I’ve never thought of that before, never made that connection.  Thank you, Holy Spirit, thank you.