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Could I Have Your Attention, Please?

October 18, 2018 Leave a comment

Voices! We hear voices each and every day. They tell us to order this, pay attention to that, go there, come here.

Other voices post on our Facebook page, our Twitter feed, our social media sites, wanting us to sign this, like that, watch that, play this.

Who merits our attention? Whose voice is the worthy voice?

A crippled old man appears in the gospel of John to answer these questions. (John 5:1-17).

He doesn’t have a name in the gospel, but everyone at the pool of Bethesda knew him. He’d been lying there for thirty-eight years, unable to take advantage of the pool’s healing properties. Then, Jesus stopped by one day, and, in one instantaneous moment, He took care of the crippled man’s lifelong problem.

Following Jesus’ instructions, the Man Made Whole gathered up his bedroll and walked away. Later, when asked by the religious leaders what he thought he was doing carrying around his bed on a Sabbath, he told them he was doing what he’d been instructed to do by the man who’d healed him, by the man who had enough authority to make him whole again.

The Man Made Whole was carrying his bed—in defiance of the religious authorities—because he recognized  someone who was able to give life to his withered limbs was someone with authority, someone worthy of his attention.

This same man, this Jesus of Nazareth, healed me one day. He healed me of a lifelong sin problem, a sickness so severe I was doomed for eternal destruction. He did so by taking sin’s disease on Himself and paying the price for it Himself. Now, he commands me to take up my life and live it for Him.

His  voice is a voice worth hearing.

Listen to His words from the rest of John 5,Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” (25-26)

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Don’t Miss A Blessing

August 22, 2018 Leave a comment

Blessing

I was running late when I arrived at our church for the worship service last Sunday, so I quietly slipped in the back door and chose the first seat available.

It was on the other side of the auditorium from where my husband and I usually sit. This location on the “outer fringes” would not have suited him, but since I was alone and trying not to disturb others with my late arrival, I scooted into an empty row of seats just as the worship leader began leading the congregation in a praise song.

Within seconds, though, a middle-aged couple in front of me caught my attention. I wasn’t acquainted with them, but I could tell, by the way they sang the praise choruses with familiarity and enthusiasm, they were probably regular churchgoers. At one point during the singing, the husband looked over, smiled at his wife, slipping his arm around her waist. She, in turn, patted his hand. Their loving gestures seemed to demonstrate a worshipful delight at sharing this experience together.

As I observed their obvious love for the Lord and for each other, it made me smile, and I felt blessed.

At the beginning of the second song, the couple’s son and daughter-in-law joined the couple, appearing to apologize for their late arrival. Although I was just guessing at their relationship, the “son” was the exact height and spitting image of his “dad,” so I felt safe in making this assumption. As soon as the younger couple unashamedly greeted the older couple with hugs and kisses, they too joined in singing the worship songs.

As I observed their outward affection toward one another, it made me smile, and I felt blessed.

As soon as the pastor began his sermon, all four individuals opened their well-worn Bibles and followed along as he read the Scriptures. Each one wrote down in the worship folder the different points the pastor was emphasizing in his message. When the pastor made a humorous remark about families in his talk, the four of them looked at each other and laughed, whispering back and forth for a moment as they enjoyed the joke together.

As I observed their attentiveness and serious approach to the hearing of God’s word, it made me smile, and I felt blessed.

On my way home from church, I thought about how four ordinary people had been a blessing to me. They were not Hollywood glamorous or especially attractive from a physical standpoint. Their clothes were not expensive or fashionable. None of them spoke any words of wisdom to me or gave me any spiritual insight.

Yet, they blessed me because they were expressing their love for each other and their love for God in a worship service.

“Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!” Psalm 34:3

Who I Am NOT

July 23, 2018 Leave a comment

Who are youDuring an interview about Titus Ray, the main character in my Christian fiction series, I was asked to describe some of his personality traits. Instead, I explained what Titus is NOT.

He is NOT an extrovert. He is NOT a gun guy. He is NOT a family man.

By pinpointing what a person is NOT, a picture emerges about what a person is.

The apostle John does this in the Gospel of John. He says, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.” John 1:6-8.

Perhaps the most important attribute about John the Baptist was what he was NOT. He wasn’t the Messiah; He wasn’t the Light; He wasn’t our Savior. He had to reiterate this several times during his ministry. Every time he did so, he was able to tell people who he really was. He was a witness sent to point people to the real Savior, Jesus Christ.

There are other examples in Scripture of what people were NOT: Joseph was NOT an adulterous slave boy. David was NOT an intimidated shepherd. Daniel was NOT a cowered exile. Paul was NOT a timid follower of Christ.

How would you describe who you are NOT?

How you answer that question will enable you to see who you really are.

The NOT realization enabled John to know his role. He wasn’t the Light, but he was to tell about the Light.

Perhaps you are NOT a Sunday School teacher, but you can be a Sunday School member. Perhaps you are NOT a teacher of the Bible, but you can read the Bible. Perhaps you are NOT a prayer warrior, but you can pray.

“There was a man sent from God.” John 1:6. John was sent by God to be who he was;  not someone he was NOT.

Discover who you are NOT, and you’ll discover who you are.

Is it possible to know God?

May 21, 2018 Leave a comment

Know GodI was talking with a young lady who’d been a believer for several years, but who’d recently signed up for a weekly Bible study. She said, “I want to know God. I know that won’t happen if I don’t study my Bible.”

Without realizing it, this young lady had made a profound statement. There’s no way anyone can know God except through the study of Scriptures, the revelation He’s given us about Himself. The best way to learn about God is to read, study, and meditate on the love letter He’s written to us.

Although I met my husband-to-be when I was sixteen years old, we lived a thousand miles away from each other and never had the opportunity to spend any time together. I understood why my friends and family were surprised when I announced that James and I were getting married only a couple of months after my eighteenth birthday. What they failed to grasp was that James and I had been corresponding with each other regularly for almost two years, and because of those letters, we’d come to know each other as well as many couples who’d been dating for several years.

While this illustrates the concept of getting to know God through reading His Word, it fails to portray the real picture of how intimacy with God is possible through the study of His Word.

This truth can only be experienced when a believer spends time in the Word every day. This is the way God has chosen to build a relationship with His children. This is the way God speaks to His children, and this is the way His children learn to recognize the voice of the Father.

Jesus said His followers are able to discern His voice. John 10:27, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  

If you truly “want to know God,” become familiar with the sound of His voice through His Word.

Afraid of God?

October 13, 2017 Leave a comment

Fear God 1The notion of 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.”

I live in Norman,  Oklahoma. That means I know what’s it’s like to watch a mile-wide tornado approaching my city. It’s a fearful thing. However, if I’m hunkered down inside an indestructible storm shelter, I’m able to be in awe of the storm’s fierceness without fearing for my life.

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.

Lost Your Way?

August 21, 2017 3 comments

Finding Your WayIt’s easy to lose your way in the world. Our modern world has a myriad of paths from which to choose, and we can explore them all, saturating ourselves with philosophies, practices, and beliefs.

However, like hikers exploring a new trail, there are some precautions we should take before we head off into the unknown. Otherwise, we’re sure to lose our way. These practices should serve us well, whether we’re looking at a belief system, a career choice, a new set of friends, or anything requiring our time, money, and effort.

First, FIND a way to have a Daily Quiet Time
Spend at least thirty minutes every day in Bible study and prayer. It doesn’t matter how you do this. There’s a Bible reading plan out there that will match up with anyone’s learning style and preferences. The important thing is to put yourself in a position where your Father in heaven can communicate His love, His plan, and His desires for you, and you can catch a glimpse of His Glory.

Second, FIND a way to meet with others to worship God
Praising, loving, and serving God with other people will strengthen and enhance your faith. However, being with others in a faith-based group isn’t just about your needs. It’s about gathering with like-minded people who desire to give glory, honor, and praise to an Almighty Creator who sacrificed His only son to make such a relationship possible.

Third, FIND a way to express your faith
Our belief in God requires an outlet. Otherwise, stagnation sets in. This expression can take many forms, and it may be different according to personality types. For some, it may mean singing, speaking, teaching, or preaching. For others, it may mean journaling, writing, serving, or counseling.

Hear the words of the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 6:16: Thus says the Lord: Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.”

Life Out of Focus?

October 17, 2016 Leave a comment

Out of FocusOne of the great things about most cameras today is the automatic focusing feature. I’m old enough to remember using a 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-glorying 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 has 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 would not 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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