Feeling a Little Blurry Around the Edges?

June 11, 2019 Leave a comment

Out of FocusOne of the great things about the cell phone cameras we use today is the automatic focusing feature. I’m old enough to remember using an actual camera that required fiddling with a bunch of dials before snapping the picture. Most of the time, those waiting to be photographed weren’t very patient about this process, and, oftentimes, after all that effort, the photo turned out to be out of focus after all.

As children of God, it would be nice to have this automatic focusing mechanism built into our daily lives, so that the moment our lives became blurry around the edges—from taking part in all the world has to offer, from neglecting Bible study, from participating in non-glorifying activities—then our focus would automatically be returned to our Father and to living out Christ in us, “the hope of Glory” (Colossians 1:27).

However,  none of us have an automatic focusing mechanism. What we have is something even better—the Word of God.

While having a device to automatically redirect one’s  focus towards God sounds good, in reality, such a device would ultimately lead to taking God for granted, and it wouldn’t adhere to the command to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).

God’s Word directs us to focus on Him in numerous passages of Scripture throughout the Old and New Testament.

One of my favorites is 2 Thessalonians 3:5: “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.”

Have you lost your focus? Direct your heart today to the love of God“The love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).

Direct your heart to the steadfastness of Christ. “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

Spending time  with the Lord in daily Bible study brings clarity to our lives and sharpens an otherwise blurry picture.

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What Story Will You Tell?

May 22, 2019 Leave a comment

Everyone Has a StoryAll of us have a story. It may be  your parenting story, your pregnancy story, your career story or the story of your life. A story I’ve always enjoyed hearing is the story of someone’s salvation—all the details surrounding how a person came to faith in Christ.

When we lived in Indiana back in the late 1980’s, the editor of our denomination’s weekly state paper, The Indiana Baptist, asked me to do a weekly column on a different individual each week and emphasize the details of their conversion experience. I decided to call the column “A Story To Tell.”

My husband’s job at that time was in Baptist missions, and we traveled to a different church in Indiana every week. We usually arrived at the church at least an hour before he was to preach, so I had time to seek out a friendly man or woman, get their permission to record our conversation, and then ask them to tell me their salvation experience. After the interview, I would write down our conversation in a story format.

While all the stories culminated when the person became a born-again Christian, each convert’s circumstances were unique. However, after several months of writing salvation stories,  the common thread I saw in each person’s experience was the way God used a friend, a neighbor, a relative, or even a stranger to draw the unsaved person to Christ.

An example of this was the young man who had not been brought up in the church, knew nothing of the Lord and was planning on becoming  a professional golfer. One evening, when he was about to enter a nightclub to enjoy several hours of partying, he noticed a group of people carrying picket signs. They were protesting what was going on inside the establishment.  One of the signs read “The wages of sin is death.”

For weeks the young man was haunted by these words, but he had no idea what they meant. However,  after he followed his girlfriend’s suggestion to talk to a pastor, he was led to the Lord, and his life was forever transformed.

I’m sure the man who had picketed the nightclub that night carrying a sign with the words from Romans 6:23 written on it, never realized his small gesture eventually made an eternal difference in someone’s life.

What difference will you make in someone’s salvation story?

What’s Your Name?

April 22, 2019 Leave a comment

Hello my name isDeciding what to name a child can be challenging. While I’ve passed the stage of naming babies, today, I’m faced with what to name a character in a book. That too can prove challenging.

When a character enters a scene, the person’s name usually pops in my head at the same time. However, before accepting this moniker as the appropriate tag for the person, I do a little research just to make sure it isn’t the name of a celebrity or a politician or some other famous person.

I also want a villain’s name  to sound . . . well . . . villainous, and a strong character to have a strong sounding name. Think “Rocky” and you get the picture.

The Bible is full of great names for both babies  and characters. These are names that have been around for thousands of years, and have quite literally stood the test of time. But, there are many “one time use” names in the Bible as well.

For instance, in the book of Hosea, God instructs a prophet to name his daughter “No Mercy” (Hosea 1:6). The son who came later was named “Not My People” (Hosea 1:9). Their Hebrew names Lo-ruhama and Lo-ammi never quite caught on as popular names for offspring, but those names portrayed the message God was endeavoring to send His people at that time.

In the book of Ruth, a widow named Naomi, who had lost two sons, decided she wanted to be called Bitter. She wanted this name change because she said, “the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20).

If you wanted a name to reflect how God has dealt with you, what would you call yourself?

I would call myself Blessed. I pray it would be your name as well. We are all Blessed.

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.”
Psalm 146:5

By His Stripes We Are Healed

April 15, 2019 1 comment

Jesus Christ in the holy cross

of black and blue and red
of gashes and slashes and stripes
of hits and harm and hurt

He stumbles and bows and falls
He crumbles and bends and kneels
He gasps and cries and moans

for healing and helping and teaching
for blessing and loving and keeping
for hoping and holding and saving

Isaiah 54:4-5
A Devotional Poem by Luana Ehrlich

This Might Work!

February 26, 2019 Leave a comment

puzzleAs I continually seek to be a student and teacher of God’s Word, I encounter many different methods, programs, and suggestions about how I should memorize, use, remember, and put into practice what I’ve studied and taught, and it usually doesn’t take me very long  to recognize if something will work for me or not.

More often than not, I find myself thinking, “I will never do this” or “I can’t even begin to understand how this would work.”  However, here are three helpful suggestions I’ve come across that made me say, “This might work!”

How To Talk To God:  In this blog, Lisa gives some pointers about using God’s Word to talk to Him.  What happens when you speak God’s own words back to Him?  Find out here.

How To Walk By The Spirit:  In this sermon from John Piper on 1 Thessalonians 3, you’ll find a wonderful acronym called APTAT, which you can use to remember what to do when asked to do something you don’t believe you can do. Piper ‘s message is entitled “The Word Of God Is At Work In You,” and the application of this (which is about 30 minutes into the video if you want to watch it) is outlined in the written sermon called Applying The Text To Your Life.  Watch the video or read the sermon here.

How To View The Bible:  Along with many of you, I am reading the Bible through again this year.  In my plan I’m about to finish up Genesis, and I’ve seen the grace of God at every turn, from the moment of creation to God’s dealings with Joseph.  But this will not be the end of God’s grace.  In fact, the grace of God can be found in every book of the Bible.  Dane Ortlund outlines how every book of the Bible shows God’s grace.  You can read it here.

Maybe these suggestions will make you say, “This might work!”

2 Timothy 2:15: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

Being Afraid of God

January 22, 2019 Leave a comment

fear lordBe afraid. Be very afraid. Being afraid of God seems foreign to those of us who view God as the Lover of our Soul, who sing of His blessings, and who trust Him with our eternal soul.

Yet, one can’t read the Bible without encountering the oft-repeated admonition to “fear the Lord.” Throughout the Old Testament, there are numerous examples of God’s children receiving a blessing because they fear God. Also, because of fearing God, they do what He commands them to do. (Genesis 42:18; Exodus 1:17; Exodus 18:21)

Fear of God  is not just an Old Testament concept, though. Jesus said in Matthew 10:28, “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Nevertheless, there are times in my life when I’ve struggled with the concept of what it means to fear God. That’s why, when I recently came across a definition of fearing God in Drew Dyck’s book, Yawning At Tigers: You Can’t Tame God, So Stop Trying, I spent time meditating on it.

Dyck says, “To fear the Lord is to be grounded in reality, to have an accurate view of God’s holy nature and his awesome power.”

Fearing God doesn’t mean we cower in His presence—like a dog who knows he’s displeased his master—nor does it mean we run and hide instead of joyfully approaching Him. Instead, we embrace the fear of God because we recognize His to-be-feared characteristics, such as His all-powerful wrath toward sin, His unending sovereignty, and His unapproachable holiness, are an accurate understanding of who God really is.

The  fearfulness of God is a reality, even if we don’t like it very much.

Having a true picture of God is the beginning of wisdom. Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”

We should fear God. We should  be in awe of His wrath and His judgment. Yet, at the same time, we should have peace, knowing He is shielding us from wrath, sheltering us in His arms forever.

A Day of Hope

January 1, 2019 Leave a comment

Goodbye, 2018. Hello, 2019.

January 1st is a day of promise. To many, it holds the enticing thought of a brand new start, a day to wipe the slate clean, to begin anew.

January 1st could rightly be renamed The Day of Hope.

  • We hope to lose weight, get more sleep, eat healthy.
  • We hope to be more productive, not procrastinate, get organized.
  • We hope to get a better job, earn more money, buy a new house.

But, so much of what we hope for tomorrow will just be wishful thinking.

There’s a different kind of hope that’s not just wishful thinking. It’s a hope centered on Christ, a confidence that what God has promised He’ll bring to pass.

I like to think of hope as the future tense of faith.

How can we have this hope that’s not just wishful thinking?

Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” It’s the Word of God that makes faith and hope possible.

All of your days in 2019 can be A Day of Hope by reading God’s Word.

Check out these Daily Bible Reading Plans for hope-filled days in 2019.

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