HEAVY LIFTERS

…which end will you lift on?

Archive for the month “January, 2011”

PROMISES, PROMISES

God is faithful, and He keeps his promises.

When God says, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5), He means it.  Psalm 34:19 promises, “A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all.”  God’s word is loaded with His promises, and they are all true.

But if you know me, you know that I’m going to look at this issue from another angle.

Jesus also promised some things when he was on earth.  He promised that “if they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20).   In Matthew 24:9 Jesus warns that “you will be hated by all nations because of me.”

I haven’t done a definitive study on all the promises of the Bible – maybe someone more diligent than me has – but I’m fairly sure that if we found all the promises in the Bible and put them in a big pile, the comforting promises would outnumber the not-so-pleasant promises.  However, we can’t just pick through the pile and select the ones that appeal to us.  Jesus said in John 16:2, “in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.”  It’s a fact; a promise.

Now, nobody wants nations to hate us, nor do we necessarily want to be killed by misguided radicals.  It’s not like we run to embrace this promise.

However, if we are truly following in Jesus’ footsteps, we will make enemies.  If we follow his command to “Go,” we could find ourselves in countries where people kill Christ-followers.  It’s not very pleasant to think about, but it’s a fact.  Remember, it was promised by Jesus.

Sometimes when I tell people that I’m going to North Africa with Pioneer Bible Translators, they raise their eyebrows and ask, “Isn’t it dangerous there?” Some have outright told me, “No – don’t go THERE!”  But at this point, it’s not really up to me.  Where I go is in God’s hands.  Of course, I’m not ignorant of the situation in the part of the world where I’m going.  Sure, I get nervous.  Yes, Satan puts doubts in my head.

I believe this is exactly why there are so, so many encouraging promises from God.  When we are hated because of Christ, when our lives are in peril because we are followers of Jesus, when we are persecuted, we will have promises like the one he told Joshua:  “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

And that’s a promise I can live – and die – with.

 

 

KILLING ZOMBIES

My student’s mom died last week.  The funeral was today.  Ever since I heard the news, I have been thinking frequently of this poor girl, and reflecting on the brutality of death.

It just so happened that this quote by Oswald Chambers crossed my path while I was mulling:  “Death means you stop being.”  Obvious, right?  But sometimes Chambers lulls you with obvious, simple truths before hitting you with a powerful insight.

See, Chambers was referring to the symbolic death that one undergoes when accepting Christ and His work on the cross:  the death of the “old man.”  Romans 6:6 says, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.”

However, death isn’t always easy.  Or fun.  Dying to self is usually painful; plus, it goes against our basest desires.  And, wouldn’t you know, the old man keeps trying to resurrect!

If life were a movie or a video game, the old man would be a zombie that just won’t die.  You kill it, but it gets back up and comes at you again.  Repeat sequence.  The zombie is happy to exist in a rotting, stinking corpse, and he relentlessly claws at you to drag you in with him.    But where is the zombie getting his power from?  He is powerless, according to Romans 6:6.   Oswald Chambers recognized this truth when he exhorted us to “stop being.”

So, why do we keep giving zombies their power?  Who knows.  Life is hard, and dying is even harder.

But remember, according to Romans 6:13, we have been “brought from death to life” (Lecrae fans are now singing the song in their heads), and can lay claim to a new, abundant life in Christ.  Peter painted a vivid picture of this hopeful new life in Acts 3:19 when he was preaching in Jerusalem.  He said, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”

Refreshing.  Ahhhhhhh.  Doesn’t that sound better than fighting to keep that zombie down?

– Melinda

WORD LOVE

I’m in love!  I can’t keep it to myself any longer.

Last Sunday, I re-discovered a great, great scripture that I have read many times before.  But this last time . . . last time was different.   I literally fell in love with this scripture.  I finally got it.   And actually, I haven’t even “gotten it.”  All week, I have been plumbing the depths of this verse and still, I’m sure, haven’t reached bottom.  But I’m still smitten.

Let me introduce you.  This is a scripture about scripture.  This wonder that I’m raving about is Isaiah 55:10-11:

10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:  It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Of course, as a huge proponent of missions, I have always focused on the bit about the Word going out.  But then I started to meditate on the “accomplishment” and “achieve” part of this scripture.  What, I asked myself, is the purpose for which God sent His word?  This is a question with quite a complex answer, which can’t be fully answered in a mere blog.  Truly, the only place where one can find a satisfactorily comprehensive answer is throughout the entire Bible.  That, you can read for yourself.

In the meantime, I have gleaned a few simple truths from my digging and reflection this week.  And, since I’m a “grouper,” I have noticed three main categories that most scriptures about God’s Word can be placed in.  (Please notice the use of most here!)  According to the following scriptures, God’s word has three purposes:

1.  Powerful Tool – The verse that comes to mind first is Hebrews 4:12, which describes the word of God as “sharper than any double-edged sword” that works on a person’s heart.  In the well-known listing of the armor of God in Ephesians 6, Paul calls it “the sword of the Spirit.” This definition is especially satisfying to me, because the sword is the only offensive weapon in this entire passage.  Last, this is no surprise coming from the prophet Jeremiah:  “‘Is not my word like fire,’ declares the Lord, ‘and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?'”  (Jer. 23:29)   God’s Word has the power to convict a heart, cleanse with a purifying fire, and smash falsehood to bits.  This is true power.

2.  Guide – Many key verses that describe the word of God as a guide are found in Psalm 119.  Verse 9 asks, “How can a young man keep his way pure?” and answers within the same verse, “By living according to your word.” Later, the psalmist reflects in verse 11, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”  Let those last two words sink in for a moment.  Read them again.  Often, we think about sin as something that is about us, but sin actually is directed toward God.   Psalm 119 is worth camping in for a while.  The author doesn’t see God’s precepts as a suffocating burden, but as a delightful joy.  I pray we all begin seeing scripture in this light.

3.  Sustenance – After fasting in the desert for 40 days, and then being tempted by the devil, Jesus quoted the Old Testament scripture, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).  Frequently, this verse is used to encourage people to use scripture to battle temptation.  I don’t disagree with that application at all, but I also believe that this passage packs even more punch.  It is about more than you or me trying to avoid sinning; it is about the supreme power of God’s Word against Satan.  Did you realize that you have such a powerful weapon right on your nightstand?

Bottom line, the Word is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”  (Romans 1:16 – a great memory verse!)  Isn’t that amazing?  Such a mighty thing is ultimately for the purpose of drawing us all to God Himself!

Friends, the more I read my Bible, the more I am in love with it, and with its Author.  After all, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1).  Get to know His Word.  Get to know Him.  Fall in love.

– Melinda

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