Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Drawing Near: "Try some new venture with God..."

Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Do you want more of God? Would you like to re-kindle your relationship?

James 4:8 (NKJV) says:
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
If we draw near to God, then just like any other relationship, our relationship with God will be strengthened by our efforts.  But unlike our other relationships, God is holy!  We cannot make peace with sin in our lives and expect to be on good terms with God!

Matthew 6:24 (NKJV):
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
You cannot draw near to God while giving your heart away to sin.  This is idolatry, and it is considered spiritual adultery in the eyes of God.  It is important to note that we will never be completely without sin this side of Heaven (though Jesus sets us free, we still make mistakes), but what God is looking for is our attitude towards it.  He looks for the struggle.  Are we at peace with sin or are we fighting it?  Are we making sin our master?  Or do we hate our sin and seek its eradication in our lives?

That being said, if you truly desire to draw closer to God, then why not start right away?  As John Piper says, "Try some new venture with God."

So, decide right now: What am I going to do this week to draw closer to God?

I would love to hear your ideas and their results.  Comment below or email me: sadiemegdan@gmail.com

Let us take time this very day to rethink our priorities and how prayer fits in. Make some new resolve. Try some new venture with God. Set a time. Set a place. Choose a portion of Scripture to guide you. Don’t be tyrannized by the press of busy days. We all need midcourse corrections. Make this a day of turning to prayer—for the glory of God and for the fullness of your joy. - John Piper

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Purchased Possession: When the Lord calls for what is His own

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24, ESV)

As Christians, when we receive a command from God in Scripture, it is our job to obey it without question.  We do whatever God tells us to do.  We make our lives available to Him because He purchased them on the cross.  Whatever He wants from us, we give unreservedly.  This is what it means to lay down your life and deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Christ--you die so that Christ can live through the one He purchased.

So our response to any request He makes is: Yes, Lord.  Whatever You say.  That, I will do.

That's our first response.  It comes before any thought of reward.  Do it.

After we have determined and willed to do what God has said, then a second consideration must be made: God is a rewarder of those who seek Him.  Those who seek Him love Him and keep His commandments.  Therefore, the one who keeps His commandments will be rewarded.

Are we motivated by the reward?  Yes and no.

We gauge our motivation by asking the question: Would I still obey if there was no reward?

The Christian who knows she has been bought with the blood of Jesus and she is not her own says: Yes.  Even if there was no reward, I would still obey.  For He is worthy of my obedience.

Yet, our God is SUPER-gracious!  There is a reward!  And it is a GREAT reward!

It says of Jesus in Hebrews 12 that: For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross...

We can know the same joy as Jesus!  He wants to give it to us!  Therefore, we do God honour by believing Him when He says we will be rewarded, and by striving for the reward that He gives and not for the rewards of men.

We obey God from the heart, because He is worthy; but we are also commanded to look to the reward and treasure that.

When you truly treasure the favour of God, you will be set free from the desperate need to have the approval of men.  People can overlook your work, take credit for it, belittle and abuse you, and it will not matter to you--you will be free--because your reward is with God.

Also, never forget love.  Remember that Paul says that we can have all things, yet lack love, and thus have nothing.  But what is love?  It is the very nature of the Lord Jesus Christ indwelling us.  Therefore, if we have the heart and mind of Jesus, then we will love as He loved, we will work as He worked, we will obey as He obeyed, and we will please the Father as He did.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Learning Surrender: a poem

It seemed like I had planned out my way
I knew every step; no need to pray
For hadn't God planted the thoughts of my heart?
Did I not just have to do my part?

But I'm learning

That dreams don't come true
Unless they first die
Nothing can live
That's not sacrificed
So I lay it all down
And take up my knife
Kill it so God
Can raise it to life

Not my will, but God's will be done
I submit myself as did Jesus, God's Son
I'm dead to myself--now, as I live
Yes, I've surrendered, but there's still more to give

I'm learning

Because I've surrendered
My plans and my will
Now it's my pleasure
My cup to fill
With all of God's bountiful
Mercy and grace
To pour out on others
Let none go to waste

For I'm dead to myself--now, as I live
Yes, I've surrendered, so there's plenty to give

Sadie Daniels, 2012

God is God: Need He say more?

First Samuel 15 verse 3 states: "Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them.  But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey."

God is speaking through the prophet Samuel to King Saul, telling him to utterly destroy the Amalekites because they wickedly pursued the weakest of the Israelites as they were coming up from Egypt.  But He offers no further explanation.  Though we'd really like one.

Why kill the children, too?  Seems a bit extreme...

But God offers no explanation.  Even though it means that His actions and intentions will be misunderstood and misrepresented.  He says nothing more than needs to be said.  The expectation is that King Saul will obey the voice of God.  King Saul, however, fears the people more than he fears God, and so he does not fully obey God--but that's another story.

The long and short of it is that God doesn't owe us an explanation for His actions.

You will notice in the Scriptures He rarely gives one.  Especially where we'd most like one.  I think He does that intentionally, because we can often forget who is God--He is; not us.  Explanations belong to Him, and we as creatures are really on a need-to-know basis.  There are things that will always be hidden to our knowledge, and we need to accept that and believe in faith that God is good, He is much wiser than we are, and we are bound to follow and obey Him; whether He gives us any explanation or not is His business.

However, a truly beautiful reality is that God does care about us!  He does not give us explanations often because it's our human pride that wants one.  But He often gives us explanations as a loving Father to a beloved child.  He is a merciful God.  And He promises not to break the one who is already bruised.  If you are humbled by affliction and trial and pain, turn to God and not away from Him, and He will comfort you.  But He will not give explanations to satisfy the proud and intellectually curious.  He opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sanctified by the Word: The importance of daily Bible reading

[Jesus prayed,] "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth." (John 17:17, NKJV)

If you were to ask me what one discipline has been most instrumental in bringing me to where I am now in my walk in Christ, I would have to say it is daily Bible reading.

I cannot stress enough how important it is for believers to be always reading the Word of God AND doing what it says (remember James says that he who hears the Word and does not do it deceives himself).

Why is it so important to read my Bible daily? you ask.

Well, it's how you are sanctified--that is, it's how God makes you more like Jesus.  Jesus Christ Himself prayed to the Father the night He was betrayed that the Father would sanctify His disciples by His truth--by His Word.

But the Bible wasn't written when Jesus prayed that prayer, was it?

In Jesus' day, He would have been referring to what we call the Old Testament--often referred to by Jesus as "Moses and the prophets".  These chronicled divinely inspired historical events--as well as prophecies--that all taught about Jesus Christ, as Jesus Himself demonstrated to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.

So, does that mean the Old Testament has power to sanctify me?

Yes; that's exactly what it means.

What about the New Testament?

The New Testament seems tricky only because it wasn't around when Jesus was walking the earth; it was written after His death, resurrection, and ascension, so we wonder sometimes what makes it valid--or we wonder how we can be sure that it is valid.

But Jesus promised to His disciples to send the Helper to them who would remind them of everything that He taught them.  And Jesus only ever taught what the Father told Him.  Therefore, if we trust Jesus that He was telling the truth, then the New Testament is also the Word of the Father.  Therefore, it also has the same sanctifying power.

Well, I probably should read my Bible, then.  Are there any good Bible reading plans out there?

There sure are!  Something I am very grateful to Compass Bible Church for is that during my time there, they impressed upon me the importance of daily Bible reading.  They have an easy daily reading plan to get you started.  It's all online, too, which is very handy.  Just visit this link for today's reading: Daily Bible Reading.

If you want a different reading plan better suited to your personal needs, check out the reading plans available at YouVersion.com (Reading Plans).

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Response of Faith

God is good!

We don't often have trouble saying that God is good when good things happen to us; it's when bad things happen that we often struggle to say, "God is good."

We wonder how a good God could let such bad things happen.  Can God really be "good" if He'd allow this...  He could have stopped it... Why didn't He...

These are not uncommon questions to ask in bad situations.

Years ago, when I read the Book of Job for the first time, I was puzzled by Job's declaration, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." (Job 13:35)

I thought, "That's a rather odd thing to say about God.  I've never known anyone to say that.  Why would Job say, 'Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him'?"

It didn't make sense to me.  I thought we trusted in God because He brought good things into our lives. I had no idea that Job's response was actually the response of faith.

It was the response of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, when He prayed that the cup of His suffering be taken from Him and the Father said, "No," and Jesus yielded Himself to the Father's will; even though it meant that the Father really would slay Him.  [For it was the Father's will to crush Him - Isaiah 53:10]

It's the response of countless martyrs throughout the ages who went to their deaths praising God--convinced of His goodness.

It's the response of faith.  We hold on to the conviction that God is good--because we know He is--no matter what happens to us; because the fact that God is good is unaffected by our circumstances; it is fact and like God, does not change.

Hold on to the goodness of God!  And even though He slay you, trust in Him!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The privilege of being a Levite: No burden

Jesus said: [My] commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3).

But we don't believe Him.  They sure sound like a burden to us.  You mean I have to love God and love people?  That's hard!  You mean I have to pray and read my Bible to cultivate a relationship with God?  That's hard!  I'd much rather play a game, watch a movie, make money, phone a friend, read a book... etc.  I've gotta have my "me" time!  God doesn't want me to neglect myself, does He?

Actually, He does, in a sense.  He wants us to forget about ourselves and be lost in Him.  He wants us to deny ourselves and take up our crosses and follow Christ (Matthew 16:24).  He wants us to put sin and self to death so that the Spirit of Christ might live in us (Colossians 3:5)!

Sounds scary, doesn't it?  But it's so good!

Because you know what else God wants?  He wants to give us the Kingdom (Luke 12:32)!  He wants to give us the Son (John 3:16)!  He wants to give us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3)!  He wants to freely give us all things (Romans 8:32)!  He wants to give us treasures that won't rust or decay (Matthew 6:19)!  He wants to give us everlasting life!  He wants to give us Himself!

And still, we say it's not enough.  It seems poor and paltry.  We want the world.  We want to be free.  We don't want to be bound to Christ.  We want to do what we want to do.

Do you know that the Levites--the priests who ministered before God in His holy tabernacle in ancient Israel--did not receive an inheritance like the other tribes?  Instead, God said that He would be their inheritance (Deuteronomy 18:2).  And with that word, God made the Levites the richest among His people, because the one who has God for an inheritance has all things!

God is our inheritance if we follow Him--Paul said he counted all things rubbish that he may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8).  If we then, by keeping the commandments of Christ, get more of Him in return, His commandments are not a burden but a joy!  They are an avenue of immense blessing to God's people!

Of course, it is not as the world gives that Christ gives to His people (John 14:27).  So if we look on it with worldly eyes, then it won't look like much.  We need the heart and mind of Christ!  Christ made it His food to do the Father's will, it was so satisfying to Him!  I have bread you know not of, He said (John 4:32).  And as He was sent by the Father, He sends us also!  As the Father sent Me, so send I you, He said (John 20:21).  His food can be our food!

Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).  Nor, dare I say, does a man live on the pleasures of this world.  They only kill and destroy in the end.  Our real pleasure, our real joy, our real happiness and peace are in Christ!  We must believe this!

His commandments are not a burden!  They are our great deliverance!

A man or woman enslaved to sin (Romans 6:20) has a cruel master--Satan--but those enslaved to righteousness (Romans 6:18) have the perfect Master--Jesus!  And the freest person in all the world is the one who makes himself a slave to the perfect Master!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The heart of the matter...

I have a question for you, Christian sister: Do you look on the outward appearance or do you look at the heart?

In 1 Samuel 16:7 (ESV) it says...

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

If we are to be like Christ, we are to have the eyes of God.  We are not to look on people as the world does.

God is not partial as men are:

For God shows no partiality. (Romans 2:11, ESV)

God calls rich men poor and poor men rich.  He turns our prejudices on their heads and tells us that the royalty are the oppressed and forgotten--the poor, the weak, the frail--those who have no advocate.

Sister, do you have the eyes of Christ?  If you're like me, you struggle to treat the least as if they were something.  You struggle to see beauty in brokenness.  You struggle to be content in squalor when there are riches to be enjoyed.

It is so important, then, to have the mind of Christ and to go low as He did, making Himself of no reputation but becoming the slave of all.  Can you imagine it?  He was and is God, and yet He came as a child in a manger--He slept His first sleep in a stable; imagine the smell!!

He went low in love.  He calls us to do the same.

We are nothing.  He is everything.  Let us give ourselves for others as He gave Himself for us!

Today I went to Forever 21 with friends.  We wanted to teach some younger girls about modest dress, but I have to admit it was a struggle for me.  So many pretty things.  Shopping malls are such a temptation to worldliness.  And they're designed that way.  They can be a snare, so I caution my sisters to be careful and aware.  Cherish Christ and walk closely with Him, denying the flesh and living in the Spirit.  Remember the body is more than clothes, and our Father in heaven knows all we need!  Be blessed!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Goliath was small...

"Goliath isn't even big."  That's what one of my Sunday School students said today.  We weren't even reading the story of how the little shepherd boy David slew the mighty giant Goliath.  In fact, we hadn't started the lesson yet.  The children were still playing when D said this:

Goliath isn't even big.  He's biggish.  He doesn't even know that he's small.  God is HUMUNGOUS!

With that simple childlike observation, I was reminded of the immensity of God.  D was absolutely correct!  Goliath wasn't big at all, at least not if you matched him against God.  If you matched him against an average man, then he was a giant; but if you matched him against God, he was an insignificant ant.

Yet the armies of Israel trembled before him.  Why?

Because they weren't matching him against God.  They weren't expecting God to fight for them.  They had forgotten God--not only how BIG He is, but also that He is ready to fight for His people!

But David did not tremble before the giant.  Why?

Though David was smaller than other men--just a youth--he had boldness where others had fear because he trusted in the living God.  David did not match Goliath against himself or any other man, but against God, and God came out on top!  David knew God--that He is much BIGGER and He would fight for David and deliver His people!

And David won.  Not because he was great, but because God is great!

We will be able to meet our Goliaths with the same bold confidence when we match them against God instead of people!