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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Praying Psalm 42: The Dry Disciple

Key Verses:

“As the deer pants for water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God.” (Verse 1 NASB)

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed with in me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.” (Verse 5)

“The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, A prayer to the God of my life.” (Verse 8)

“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” (Verse 11)

Dear Lord, I am so thirsty for you! Even in a crowd of believers worshipping you, I find myself longing for a closer, more intimate, relationship with You. For some reason I feel the gap between You and me has widened, yet I know that it is I that has moved away. You are always there for me. 

I remember times of sensing your power and presence all around me in the natural world, and in the human whirl of inner temptation to do wrong, and outer opposition to lose faith. Keep me singing your praises in spite of my feelings. Keep me conversing with You for my relationship with You alone is my living hope and help in this world and beyond. Only you can quench my thirst! Amen.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Praying Psalm 41: The Sick Servant

“…You uphold me in my integrity, and You set me in Your presence forever. Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, From everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen.” (Ps. 41:12-13 NASB)

Lord, I am blessed to know You and to have served You, God, but I feel awful today, inside and out. Physically, I am trusting that You will sustain me and heal me from this sickness, whatever it might be. (1-3)

Because I feel so terrible, I find myself thinking about my sin and the sins of others against me. Yes, I need healing of my soul, as well as my body. I know that I need your continual forgiveness for my own failures, but I also know that if I were to die, my enemies would not care, and might even celebrate my departure. Even close friends, ignore me and turn their backs on my needs. Yes, I am feeling rejected and neglected. (4-9)

Oh, Lord, give me grace to deal with this illness and these ill feelings. Raise my body in health and my soul to wholeness. Please take my focus off of myself and onto knowing and walking with You whether I am sick or well, now and in the future. Indeed, only You are worthy of all praise and honor forever! (10-13)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Dancing Disciple

The following was written by a 15-year-old Christian. Grace Jaqueline has a marvelous talent as a dancer and she has performed in numerous ballets and musicals.

I believe that God has a divine plan for everything. I believe that He works in our lives to accomplish incredible things before we even know what He has in store for us. However, I also believe that God works most through struggles and hardships. Unfortunately, I think that most frequently we must first be broken for his light to shine in on us, but there is nothing better than when God steps in and takes control.

When I was in the sixth grade my life felt like it was on a road that didn’t go anywhere. I felt like I was never going to be happy, never succeed, and never get to follow my dreams. But to look back on my life since then, I realize that that was one of the most crucial times in my life and that I could never be in the place I am today without that time. And I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. If I had not been through that extremely hard time in my life I would not have been prepared to realize that I couldn’t fight the troubles of this world on my own. In that season, God showed his power of provision to me by providing a better school environment for the second semester of that year. But everything changed when I went on my first service youth retreat in June 2013 and I realize that I wasn’t capable of fighting the fight on my own. Although I was fighting for myself, I was never alone. God was there in every hour of tears, every moment when I felt worthless and unwanted and in every moment that Satan told me that I wasn’t good at any of the things I loved. God was there protecting, providing and waiting for me to realize that I am nothing without my purpose. My purpose was and is to follow God with everything I have in me even when I fail. On June 13, 2013, I finally decided to stop just letting God run alongside me and to instead run hand-in-hand with Him through the rest of my life. Now I realize that God had been trying to show me what I needed, and that was simply that I had to accept his grace and love for me so that He could show me how He saw me; beautiful and chosen, exactly as he had designed me to be.

That is my story and it has taken me a long time to realize what God has been trying to teach me through that time. Now I am finally starting to see tiny glimpses into Gods character and plan for my life. He has taught me that even my passion for dance, though I may never be the best in my class or the lead character, can be used in further His kingdom. He has been teaching me that all the parts of His spiritual body are important though some are unseen. I believe we must except that we were created to worship Him and that He has equipped us with unique spiritual gifts for just that purpose.

God has given me a heart to dance for his glory, to be a missionary to my community, other cities and other countries, and He has given me a heart for teaching dance. I may not become a dancer but at least for this time in my life I am called to this ministry. God hasn’t left me feeling completely helpless to follow the great commission to, “Go and make disciples of all men” (Matthew 28:19). He has given me a tool and I intend to use it until He instructs me otherwise. I believe God has a plan for my life, and if being broken is what it takes to see His light, then so be it.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Praying Psalm 40: The Sustained Servant

Key Verses: 

“I waited patiently for the LORD and He inclined to me and hear my cry” (Verse 1 NASB).
“How blessed is the man who has made the LORD his trust, and has not turned to the proud, more to those who lapse into falsehood” (Verse 4).

“I delight to do your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart” (Verse 8).

“I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation; Behold, I will not restrain my lips, O LORD, you know” (Verse 9).

“You, LORD will not withhold your compassion from me; your lovingkindness and your truth will continually preserve me” (Verses 11).

“Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; Let those who love your salvation say continually, “’The LORD be magnified!”’ (Verse 16).

Lord, I am stuck in the limits of time, unlike you who are the boundless Creator of time, so I cannot put you on a schedule; instead I wait knowing you have met my needs in the past and you hear me in this present. What joy I have felt when I have trusted your guidance instead of those who think they know better than you, or who have drifted away from faith in your revealed words and wisdom found in the scriptures.

Even more, it has been an exciting privilege to share with others, how you show lovingkindness and truth to those who seek you! Yet, you are not finished. I know that you have more planned for me; I can expect to continue seeing you protect and guide me throughout my life in spite of my sometimes wavering faith and disobedience. Such an undeserved relationship with You is what motivates me to give You honor. Oh, that all disciples would enjoy You and shout, “The LORD be magnified!”

Friday, January 22, 2016

Bible Blurb: "Mini Bible"

God made, Adam bit,

Noah embarked, Abraham split,

Joseph ruled, Jacob fooled,

Bush talked, Moses balked,

Pharaoh plagued, people walked,

Sea divided, tablets guided, promise landed.

Saul freaked, David peeked,

Prophets warned, Jesus born,

God walked, love talked,

Anger crucified, hope died,

Love rose, Spirit flamed,

Word spread, God remained.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Praying Psalm 39: The Discouraged Disciple

Key Verses: “I was mute and silent, I refrained even from good, and my sorrow grew worse” (Verse 2 ESV).

“And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You. Deliver me from all my transgressions;

Make me not the reproach of the foolish” (Verses 7-8 ESV).

“Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry. Do not be silent at my tears: For I am a stranger with You, a sojourner like all my fathers” (Verse 12 ESV).

Lord, I have kept silent in the face of the wickedness that surrounds me and I have allowed myself to become so discouraged that I even have stopped doing what I know is good. Forgive me, Lord: I cannot go on like this. I feel like I am wasting this life you have given me. I know that extent of my days here are limited, and I find myself asking, “Why am I here, Lord?” (Verses 1-6)

I know that my only hope is in your unlimited and unconditional love because I have fallen short of honoring you and your ways. I have not responded either in words and actions when you have tried to train me in the difficulties and temptations that challenge me in this world; I know they come so that I will seek you more intensely and lean on you more intimately. (Verses 7-11)

Forgive me, Lord for not seeking and maintaining my relationship with you. Renew and restore to me the favor of your presence here in this life. Let me experience a glimpse in my short lifetime, the joy of walking with you in eternity. (Verses 12-13)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Praying Psalm 38: The Suffering Sinner

Key Verses: “For I am ready to fall, and my sorrow is continually before me, for I confess my iniquity; I am full of anxiety because of my sin” (Verses 17-18 ESV).

“For I hope in You, O LORD; You will answer, O Lord my God” (Verse 15 ESV).

“Do not forsake me, O LORD; O my God, do not be far from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation! “(Verses 21-22 ESV).

Lord, I deserve to be judged guilty of all and every sin. Even though I desire to know you and learn of you and follow your will and ways, I find myself fumbling and bumbling and falling short. My mind, will, emotions, and, yes, even my body responds to the consequences of my many faults, bad decisions, and actions that hurt others, as well as myself (v. 1-8) like a cancer that secretly grows until it brings death and sorrow.

You know me, Lord. You know my weaknesses and you know my enemies, those that come from within me and those that come from outside of myself. I lack the wisdom to recognize between them, and the strength to resist either of them. Hear my confession, Lord. I truly desire to turn my back on the pain and anxiety it brings, but only you can heal my heart and bring peace into my soul. I trust in the sacrifice of Christ to save from the sufferings my sin brings to me and those around me in the now and into all eternity. Indeed, “Make haste to help me, O Lord!” for only you are the only true Source of Salvation (vs. 13-22).

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Christian and Emotions

Learning From the Emotional Life of Jesus
by Bruce Narramore, Ph.D.

Feelings aren't important." "Emotions get in the way." "Don't trust your feelings." "Don't feel sad." "Just trust God."

Have you ever heard advice like this? I suspect you have because many Christians have a serious misunderstanding about the Christian life. They think Christians should live stoic-like existences, especially as far as strong emotions are concerned.

But did you know the Bible describes more than 20 different emotions that Jesus felt? And they weren't all happy feelings either! Among others, Jesus felt affection, anguish, anger, compassion, distress, grief, gladness, indignation, joy, love, peace, sadness, sympathy, troubled and weary. If Christ is our model of perfect spiritual and emotional maturity, perhaps we can learn by taking a look at a few of Jesus' emotions!

If we asked Jesus' disciples for the one word that best described His feelings for the multitudes of people He encountered throughout His public ministry, they would reply, "compassion." It is the emotion most frequently attributed to Jesus. Matthew 9:36, for example, tells us, "When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." Jesus fed the four thousand because they hadn't eaten for three days and He had "compassion on these people" (Matthew 15:32). He also healed the two blind men beside the roadside out of compassion (Matthew 20:34). As a compassionate person, Jesus was profoundly moved by the sufferings and troubles of those He encountered.

If compassion characterizes Jesus' feelings toward the multitudes, love epitomizes His relationships with those closest to Him. John the hot tempered, impulsive follower who eventually became known as the Apostle of Love, tells us that as Lazarus lay dying, his sisters, Martha and Mary, sent this word to Jesus: "Lord, the one you love is sick." Then John records, "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus" (John 11:3-5).
Jesus didn't try to be less than human by shielding Himself from grief and pain. He allowed Himself to suffer these normal human emotions.

On two occasions Jesus described himself as joyful. Both are recorded by John. The first instance follows Jesus predicting His betrayal. Jesus said, "If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete" (John 15:9-11).

Jesus connects His joy (which He wants His disciples to share) with remaining in the Father's love and obeying His command-ments. Jesus' joy, in other words, comes from a loving relationship—specifically, His relationship with His Father— regardless of His temporary circumstances.

Grief and Sorrow
Jesus was pained when He saw others suffering or missing out on all that was available for them. In one of the most poignant moments of His public life, John tells us that when Jesus saw Mary weeping over Lazarus' death, "He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled." Then, as Mary and Martha were taking Jesus to the body of Lazarus, "Jesus wept." He didn't try, as we sometimes do in times of sorrow, to be outwardly "strong" and hide or deny His feelings. His strength showed through His tears. He had the strength to care enough to weep.

Jesus also wept over Jerusalem as though His heart was breaking. And when He healed the man with a shriveled hand on the Sabbath and the Pharisees disapproved, He was "deeply distressed (grieved) at their stubborn hearts (John 3:5).

Jesus didn't try to be less than human by shielding Himself from grief and pain. He allowed Himself to suffer these normal human emotions.

Just as Jesus' compassionate nature at times led Him to grieve and sorrow, it also led Him to be angry. Perhaps the best known expression of His anger was when He drove the money changers out of the temple in Jerusalem at the Passover. John describes it this way: "So He made a whip out of cords and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves He said, 'Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!' " (John 2:15-16).

Think, too, of Jesus' interactions with the religious leaders of His day. They were periodically punctuated by assertive conflicts and sometimes angry confrontations. Jesus was angered by the callous legalism that led the Pharisees to be more committed to fulfilling the letter of the law than to lovingly doing good by healing or helping others on the Sabbath.

Like Christ, mature Christians will experience angry feelings, but those feelings will be stimulated by a love and concern for others and for righteousness rather than by the frustration of our own desires.

Along with love and compassion, one other emotion of Jesus seemed to have a unifying effect upon His entire personality. That is the emotion of peace. As Jesus prepared to leave His disciples in death He told them, "But a time is coming and has come, when you will be scattered, each to His own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:32-33).

Dr. Bruce Narramore, Ph.D. is president of the Narramore Christian Foundation, a well-known author, and founding dean of the Rosemead School of Psychology.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Praying Hebrews 2:14-17

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.  For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” Hebrews 2:14-17

From Hebrews 2:14-17, I offer the following praise and thanksgiving for the greatness of Christ’s propitiation for sinners (1 John 2:1, 2).

Father, this is another of those things about Christ Jesus that are beyond words to the greatness of power to convey. But yet they exist according to Your Word. But as I meditate, as I am still, I am taught by Your Spirit that I begin to see this grandeur of Christ’s propitiation. It all begins with Your person.

For since You are infinite, sin against You is an infinite offense. Therefore, only You, as the great Three in One is capable of rectifying such sin. Oh, what a love debt I owe to Jesus when He left Heaven and took on human nature to be able to die as man’s substitute. Because He is both divine and human, His death as a sinless man was of infinite quality to pay for man’s debt of infinite demand.

And above just cleansing man’s sin debt, He gives the believer His righteousness (2 Cor 5:21). This was necessary because if man is just washed clean, he is not good enough to enter Heaven and its blessedness. But as we are joined to Christ as His Bride and His body, His righteousness also becomes ours. How great it is to exercise believing trust in Him according to His promises! As faith unites us with Him, both Jesus and the Father are glorified and their celestial union is made evident, as Jesus prayed in His Highly Priestly Prayer. On the night before He died, Jesus prayed, "All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them." (John 17:10)

For in this Satan’s brag and power are broken and in Christ the reconciled sinner finds much more than deceived Adam and Eve lost in the Garden of Eden! This is the greatness of the propitiation Christ gives to God’s glory.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Story of 3 Trees

Dear Readers,

I don't know where I first read this article. I didn't write it, but this has an encouraging thought for those who are walking with the Lord and don't yet know what the Lord is doing with their lives. Trust the Lord for He is good, always!  Keep doing what you are doing and trust the Lord to work out His purpose through it.

Waiting upon Him, Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up. The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: "I want to hold treasure. I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I'll be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!" The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on its way to the ocean. "I want to be traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings. I'll be the strongest ship in the world!" The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. "I don't want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me, they'll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world."

Years passed and the little trees grew tall. One day three woodcutters climbed the mountain. The first woodcutter looked at the first tree and said, "This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me." With a swoop of his shining ax, the first tree fell. "Now I shall be made into a beautiful chest, I shall hold wonderful treasure!" the first tree said. The second woodcutter looked at the second tree and said, "This tree is strong. It is perfect for me." With a swoop of his shining ax, the second tree fell. "Now I shall sail mighty waters!" thought the second tree. "I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!" The third tree felt her heart sink when the last woodcutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven. But the woodcutter never even looked up. "Any kind of tree will do for me." He muttered. With a swoop of his shining ax the third tree fell.

The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought her to a carpenter's shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a feed box for animals. The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold, nor with treasure. She was coated with sawdust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals. The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty ship was made that day. Instead, the once strong tree was hammered and sawed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail to an ocean, or even a river. Instead she was taken to a little lake. The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard. "What happened?" The once tall tree wondered. "All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God..."

Many, many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams. But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feed box. "I wish I could make a cradle for him," her husband whispered. The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and the sturdy wood. "This manger is beautiful," she said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.

One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through the wind and the rain. The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out his hand and said, "Peace." The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the King of heaven and earth.

One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten woodpile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man's hands to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel. But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God's love had changed everything. It had made the third tree strong. And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God.

That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.

So the next time you feel down because you didn't get what you want, just sit tight and be happy because God is thinking of something better to give you.