Monday, September 24, 2012

Did they say your child was a punishment for sin?

Hello, thank you for joining me in A Good Bible Study! It has been quite a few months since we got together to share God's Word. Getting to know the passion and zeal God has for us was wonderful, wasn't it?! And learning that He put passion and zeal for Him, and for life, in our DNA package was very cool, as well. 

Photo by Sura Nualpradid, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
I'm reading the book of John now, chapter 9. Jesus addresses whether or not a parent's sin caused a baby to be born with birth defects. How is this relevant to you and me? Because this ignorant, self-righteous attitude is still prevalent today, even in western "civilized" countries.

More than once I've heard grief stricken parents share a story of a "well-meaning" acquaintance who suggested their child's affliction was somehow their fault. When our doctor told us that our unborn son, Matthew, had multiple birth defects, one of the first things I considered was had I unknowingly done something to cause our pain? The medical answer was that Matthew was just that 1 in 10,000 babies that do not form correctly and for some reason did not miscarry.

Believe it or not, a pastor (not ours) told us that yes, my husband and I caused Matthew's illness because we were not happy about being pregnant again so soon after our daughter was born. If we sincerely repented, he said, Matthew would be healed. OK, on the off chance it could help, we did just that but, really? If being initially unhappy about a pregnancy, caused miscarriage and birth defects, I shudder to think of how many children would not be alive today!

And yes, we were sincere about regretting our initial reaction to Matthew's arrival, and no, he was not healed. However, Matthew did far more than any doctor predicted. He touched hundreds of hearts while he was with us, and his life was meaningful and full, in that short time. And like all of our children will do, he died.

It saddens me to hear self-righteous individuals tell parents that their child's misfortune was caused by their sinful past decisions. I especially hate it when they quote limited passages from the bible, out of context, as "support." I hate to tell you Bub, but if it were the case that our sins cause birth defects in our children, then every single child alive would be born severely challenged!

Read with me briefly John 8: 1-11; New International Version 1984

1But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and He sat down to teach them. 3The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing Him.
 But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning Him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.
10Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11“No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.
His point? Not one of us is without sin in our lives, even if only in our hearts. Even those of us who might say, "I follow all of God's laws every day," cannot say they have never thought something hurtful or judgmental.  
"Who can say I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin?" Proverbs 20:9
" Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don't have eternal life within them."    1 John 3:15
So, who are these people who have never even had a hateful thought, who have never held onto a grudge, who have never carried a bit of prejudice in their hearts? According to God, they don't exist. So, by the logic that our negative choices have the consequence of emotionally, or physically, or intellectually challenged children, there should be not one healthy child in existence.

Now does Jesus say, "Hey everyone's doing it, so I'm not going to single you out for punishment?" Come on.  Re-read verse 11.  “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.

So, just so we are on the same page: we are all sinners, and we can all be forgiven, and if we truly want forgiveness, we are going to stop doing the same things over and over that lead us into trouble. Makes sense.

Ever going to not be a sinner, even for a moment? Doubtful - just because it's difficult to maintain anything near perfect control over our thoughts. Did He ever ask us to be perfect in order to be forgiven? No, Jesus has got that covered. He simply asks us to be sincere. Not perfect, just sincere.

Look, we can certainly do things that affect our unborn children. Taking drugs, alcohol, being physically abused, falling, sure, of course, there are things we or others can do that will harm our children. That's not what I am talking about, and that's not what these verses refer to ( I know it should be, to what they refer, but that proper English sounds weird in a conversation, and that's what you and I are having.)

Our children are not directly punished for our sins. They might be affected by our behavior, but God is not tapping babies on the head and assigning a genetic abnormality because you told a lie in the third grade, or even did something far worse. I will let God himself explain:

Jesus answered the question very clearly in John 9:1-3
"As He went along, He saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked Him, 'Rabbi (teacher), who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' 'Neither this man nor his parents sinned,' said Jesus, 'but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.'" 
 After this, Jesus healed the man. He did not say God made the child blind, necessarily, either. He did say God's work would be displayed in this man's life because of his affliction. God wanted to show Himself to this man and for some reason, it was through his blindness, and healing, that was the most effective. Back to the point at hand:

During this time, people believed that a baby could sin in the womb, and bring calamity on herself. Either that, or the affliction was a finger pointing at the parents' sin. Can you imagine living with a birth defect or illness and being treated like someone who either was so bad they had sinned in the womb, or that their parents had done something so sinful their child would live in torment the rest of his life? Unfortunately, children live this way all over the world to this day; the victims of ignorant and murderous societies. Sometimes they live right here in America.

So for all those who bring up specific instances in the Old Testament in which entire peoples were eradicated, including children, because of the rampant sin in the culture, who then use that situation as justification to blame you for your child's illness, I have to say that person needs to spend a little more time with God and get to know His views on children a wee bit more before speaking again.

Mark 10:13-16, New International Version (NIV) 
13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him. Psalm 127:3
While my Matthew was allowed by God to be born with problems, and to live only a short while, just like the blind man, God's love was displayed in Matthew's brief time with us in a way that might only have been possible through his illness. We all get sick, we all die. God did not punish me through my son's illness, He blessed me through it.

I am in no way happy or glad he was born with so many challenges - don't mistake me! I am happy I was not alone in dealing with it, and I am happy so much good came out of it. For whatever reason, that was Matthew's life.

He was a blessing, not a curse.

Lord, help us to look with compassion on those who think serving you means pointing a finger of blame instead of a hand of compassion and help. Help us to know how to love someone we see as sinning. Help us to temper our criticism with remembering that there are ways we are sinning every day, that are just as hurtful to You, as what we see our neighbor doing. Help us to be sincere, to love you, and to show love to one another. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Love, Karen






Friday, December 9, 2011

A Good Bible Study: Stop trying to earn my love and just call on me


Photo by David Castillo Dominici, courtesy
of www.freedigitalphotos.net
Hello, thank you for sharing A Good Bible Study with me! We are discussing the passionate love of God, and our passionate response.

Read with me from one of my favorite books in the Bible, Romans. I love the way it just spells it all out, holding nothing back, telling it like it is. Some times we need that in our lives. We need someone to be honest, and set us straight, while never letting us forget how much we are loved.

Romans 10:2-4
"2 I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. 3 For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. 4 For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given.[a] As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God."

Remember that word "zeal?" It means passion! We can be passionate about all the wrong things, can't we. It’s possible to even be passionate for God, but still be off the mark. Remember Apollos? Go back and read that post for a quick refresher, then come back here. I'll wait.

We can think we are showing passion for someone or something, but we might be barking up the wrong tree altogether. You know how those good intentions go.

For example, my husband and I love each other very much, but if I do not learn what makes him feel loved, and do everything I see as loving except those things, am I really taking the action to love him? Remember, the passionate love God desires is a verb, it is volitional, it is not just an emotion, it is what you do with that emotion.

The Israelites thought they were loving God by following the law. After all, Moses was God's friend, and that's who gave them the law. So, the law must be good, right? The problem arose when the Israelites refused to accept that the law was fulfilled, or completed, by the coming of the Messiah, Jesus.

Now, this wasn't hidden information. It was all plainly given in Scripture. There was no secret about the Messiah and the signs that would precede Him, as well as prove His identity. Jesus fulfilled every one of the more than 300 indicators, yet many of the Jews refused to accept the Truth. They continued to seek God through the law and through animal sacrifice, because they could not accept Jesus’ sacrifice.

I used to struggle with accepting forgiveness, too. I thought if I didn't work for it, it must not be real. Just accept Him? It goes against the grain for some of us.

May be it was that way for the religious Jews. Then again, there are people who would rather miss out on their blessing if to receive it they must admit they were wrong. It's kind of like being married: you can either be stubborn, or you can be happy, but you can't be both.

It takes a change in heart to join up with someone you're determined to hate and mistrust. Many Jews had believed Jesus was a false prophet, accusing Him of receiving power from Satan to perform His miracles. If they'd only obeyed the law in this instance, testing the spirits against Scripture, it would have been abundantly clear Whose Son Jesus was.

As it was, they were zealous for the law when it suited their own opinions, but were not zealous at all for the God who gave them the law.

It's easy to get off track, isn't it. We start to forget why we started something in the first place and find ourselves feeling trapped by the very activities that we meant to improve our relationships with our spouses, kids, friends, family, even God. We become slaves to the schedule, the rules, the timeline and forget about what was the purpose of it all in the first place!

“For I bear them witness, that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for everyone who believes.” Romans 10: 2-4

Do you want to passionate about something? Do you want something to get excited about? Then read on to verses 9-13:

“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart  that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Whoever - that's you and me, by the way - calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Period. End of story. No ifs, ands or buts. Call on Him now. His name is Jesus. Be saved now. You will figure out the rest later. Call on Him. It's enough. It's all you need. It's that simple. Do it now.

"Lord Jesus, I want to be saved. I want You to save me. I want You to be in my heart from today onward. I don't ever want to be alone again. I am sorry for everything I have done to push You away until now. I don't know what happens after this, but I believe You do. I am calling on You and want You to open my eyes and my heart to You from now on. Thank You."

Amen and love, Karen

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Good Bible Study: God's Passionate Love for you


Photo by Dan, courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net

Good to see you again - In A Good Bible Study we are continually blessed by the discovery of God's passionate love for you, and for me.

We think of passion as a human emotion, focused on pleasure and success, but for God, passion is just one of many descriptions of His incredible love for you, His pure desire to be in relationship with you, and Hiis intense kindness and grace towards you. But is this a flowerly, meek and mild sort of love? Hardly.

Look at Jesus. Jesus is God-with-us. Everything that God is, Jesus is. Some of us think Jesus was mild mannered and passive, spreading peace, love and flowers, to all the world. Get ready for a wake up, ladies and gentlemen. Jesus, our God, was  no pushover. Not when it came to insulting His Father's name or bringing shame to His house. 

During the Passover, Jesus went to the temple in Jerusalem. He found the merchants were selling sacrificial animals right in the temple grounds! Jesus was filled with righteous anger and turned over their tables saying, "Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!”

If you were a Jew, and if you were in the temple then you were, you knew Jesus was fulfilling the words in Psalm 69:9 “Zeal for Your  house has eaten Me up.”

His disciples immediately remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: "Passion for God's house will consume me."

Passion, righteous anger, spiritual indignation, had risen up in our Lord because of the disrespectful manner in which the religious folk were treating the earthly house of God.

God is passionate, and Jesus is His Father's Son. He was passionate about respect for His Father in this instance, but He did not sin in His anger. He did not allow His passion for reverence of His Father’s house to move Him to sin.

I love this example for those of us who believe we should always back down, even when we know what is happening around us, to us, or to those for whom we are responsible to and for, is wrong. Standing up for what is right is not sinful. It's all in the delivery. Hear that ladies?

Jesus had the right and responsibility to stand up because He is who He is, and Who He is responsible to, and who he is responsible for. For the first time, those in power were getting hit at home with the message.

According to the Nelson Study Bible, NKJV, 1997 this was Jesus' first public presentation of Himself as Messiah.

"The Messiah's ministry began in the Temple. He came to purify. The expression 'My Father's house' was a distinct claim to messiahship. At the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11) Jesus demonstrated His deity and power; here He showed His authority."

Oh yes, the Jewish leaders got what Jesus was saying by, "My Father's house."So, how did the Jewish merchants and religious leaders respond? After all, Jesus was accusing them of a misuse of their positions for financial gain, of taking advantage of the people coming to worship, and of reducing the very House of God to a pawn brokerage.

They pushed out their chests and challenged, "Oh, yeah? Prove it."

They wanted a sign. What they got was a prophesy of what was coming up in the very near future, but they didn't get it. They didn't want to get it.

Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” 

He wasn't referring to the building, He was referring to Himself. He would be killed and on the third day resurrect Himself.

Shortly after, some of the religious leaders had Jesus arrested, just as predicted, and pressured the Roman leader, Pontius Pilate, to have Jesus publicly humiliated, beaten, and crucified on a cross to die. It was verified unmistakeably that Jesus did die on that cross, and believe me, those in power were taking no chances. Dead is dead. Now, that was Fri., the first day (per Jewish tradition.)

On Sunday (the third day), the heavily guarded and sealed tomb was empty.

On that very day, Jesus resumed His ministry on earth for another 40 days, teaching to thousands of people, preparing His apostles for their continuing ministry, and fulfilling every single prophecy ever written about the Messiah, the Son of God, your Savior, and thankfully, mine.
Jesus Taken Up Into Heaven
1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.”
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Thank you Father for sending Your Son, Jesus. Thank you Jesus, for coming. Thank you for sending Your Holy Spirit to love us, guide us, listen to us, help us, and comfort us. Amen.

Love, Karen

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Good Bible Study: A Passionate Love - encouragement, and hope for your future

Photo by Shock. Courtesy
of www.photoxpress.com
Hello again! I am so glad to see you back in A Good Bible Study! We've been talking for weeks now about A Passionate Love: The Relationship Between God and You, and I will tell you - I am just about head over heels in love with God by now!

How about you? Are you getting the reality of God's zealous, fervent, passionate desire for your heart?

We are discovering just such a love in the book of Zechariah today. In fact, the whole theme of Zechariah is the passion of God, as well as His expectation, and offer of hope, for the future of His people.

Now, Zechariah picks up the story after the Israelites have come out of 70 years of Babylonian captivity. They were free, but for what?

Although they had their physical freedom, these brokenhearted people returned to a homeland ravaged by war. Everything they had built was destroyed. Their temple was in ruins; homes a pile of rubble; and hope a distant dream. These people needed serious encouragement and hope; and a little bit of a wake-up call.

See, even though the Israelites knew their captivity came about as a result of their stubbornness and rebellion against God, and true to His word, He provided for their freedom on the very day He had promised He would 70 years previously, they weren't exactly singing His praises as they plodded out the gates of Babylon and across the desert. Did I tell you the Israelites were known for their stubbornness?

I've got a little boy just like that. Thankfully he is learning what the People needed to know: to stop fighting for the sake of fighting, and come and get some loving!

The Israelites weren't there yet. In fact, as far as they were concerned, things might have just gone from bad to worse. They saw how much work it would take to rebuild their lives, and knew on their own, they just couldn't do it. So they did what all of us do at some time or other: gave up.

For 16 years afterwards the people lived physically free, but spiritually in bondage, as they refused to rebuild the temple, and their lives. Their chains were gone, but they remained impotent captives in their hearts. Blaming God for the consequences they brought on themselves, they wouldn't accept God's blessing, His help, or His love, and as a result, lived passionless lives in which the barren land reflected their barren hearts.

Can you relate? Have you accepted Jesus as your own Savior but still are living like you are under a curse? Have you accepted freedom from death and hell, but continued to live like a prisoner of your past?

We are not so different today.

Here's my tough love take on humanity, myself included:

We want to run our own lives no matter the consequences, then call on God to save our skins. Even after we are brought out of what pit we dug for ourselves, we still want to live our own way, even if it means living half a life. At least we are in charge, right? And when things don't work out, we can still plead for help from God, or . . . blame Him . . .

If I was God, I think I'd reach a point of saying, "Have a good life, see ya." And to some point, God does let us have our way if that's what we really want. You can't help someone who doesn't want it, won't accept it, doesn't value it. You can't "throw pearls after swine."

But for some reason, no matter how long we turn our backs on Him, God is always there, ready for us to be sick and tired, of being sick and tired. Ready to do things His way, and reap His love, His blessing.

The truth of it is, as much as I want my own way, sometimes I think I don't even know what I want, or what's good for me. Or, I know what I want, but I only want to get it on my terms. In other words, with no pain or sacrifice involved. Know what I mean?

I kick and struggle as God drags me into His blessing, insisting all the while that I know best, I know how the story should go, I know who are the bad guys and which way the story ends. Yet, 99 times out of 100 I let the dust settle and realize God was bringing me into something better, just as soon as He could rip my clutching hands off what I thought was shiny and good.

Most times I realize getting what I wanted without going through what I went through to get it, would have given me an empty victory. Because, God knows He needs to work some things out of my heart, before I can even enjoy His blessings, or recognize what is really, truly good, as compared to what only looks shiny on the surface. Ya feel me?

Do you know what's it like to love someone so much, to want to give them so much, and have them not even get it, at all? Have them not appreciate what you offer, not understand the value of what you have suffered for them, not care that all they really want in their heart of hearts is just waiting for them to get over themselves and accept it?

Yeah, you know what I mean.

Read Zechariah 8:2
2“This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: My love for Mount Zion is passionate and strong; I am consumed with passion for Jerusalem!

The book of Zechariah is a passionate plea for the people of God to return to Him, just as they were returning to Israel after their long captivity. God was setting them free physically, and now wanted to set them free spiritually: to be cleansed of their sins and be blessed. He wanted them to get over themselves and get on with the business of living!

They might have forgotten who they were, but God hadn't. They were His.

Do you know what the name Zechariah means? "Yahweh remembers."

God gave Zechariah two prophesies for Israel (Zion.) The first was a promise that as they returned to Him, God would again bless their lives, comforting their hearts, and restoring their zeal for living. He made them a second promise as well. He promised to come and live among them.

"Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,' declares the LORD. 'Many nations will join themselves to the LORD in that day and will become My people. Then I will dwell in your midst, and you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you.'" Zechariah 2:10-11;

"This is what the LORD says: 'I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain.'" Zechariah 8:3;

and "This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, 'Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.'" Zechariah 8:23.

God fulfilled the first prophecy in this people's lifetime. He fulfilled the second prophecy for all our lifetimes, in Jesus Christ.

"Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means 'God is with us.'" Matthew 1:23.

 Immanuel was not Jesus' name, it was a description: God, with us.

God set aside Israel as an example for all of us. As a beacon of light to show us the way to God. Not because the Jews were perfect, or even extra good. In fact, they were chosen just because of how stubborn and willful these people could be (sound like anyone you know?)

Through the Jewish nation, God showed us that He doesn't just love those of us who know how to do everything right, look good, keep things pretty. He loves us at our worst. He always has a plan no matter how many times we screw it up. He is always waiting for us to stop holding onto chains that He has already broken, and stop living it our way, and pretending that's how we like it.

We claim God is holding scales and rewarding us or punishing us with every slight raise or lowering of the balance. That gives us permission to turn our backs and decide since we can't be perfect, we won't even try. Now who is judging whom?

I want good things in my life, but I want to be the judge of what is good, what is right, as well as who should be blessed (me) and who should suffer (them.) God let me have it my way for years, and you know what I found out? I didn't know squat.

Look, I realize it takes time to learn to trust anyone, even God. That's the point. Give it time. Time to go through a few tough spots and to make a decision to say, "This doesn't look good for me, but I am going to do things to honor God, to respect myself and others, and I'm going to believe God is working this out for my good, even if it doesn't look like I am getting what I want." You know what that's called? Faith building.

Give God a chance. Trust Him with a few small things, then let Him bring you through something a little tougher. He is not creating situations to test you - that is Satan's job and honestly, we do so much of Satan's work he doesn't have much to keep him occupied, I often suspect.

He will bring you through it, not necessarily around it, but through it and stronger for the process. You are right, you might not always get what you want, when you want it, but who does? And honestly, if you are like me, you might have to go through the consequences of what you got yourself into before you invited God to intervene, but you won't be alone. Not anymore.

Keep on trusting, and you will start to notice that you are not sweating the small stuff anymore, and that's right, you find out 9 times out of 10 that it's all small stuff in the big scheme of things.

Build your faith, because I can tell you from experience, there is going to come a day when you are going to need it. Life is going to dish you out something that is going to rock you to the core, and if you have spent time trusting God with the little things, it just might enable you to trust Him when what is going on makes no sense in this world what so ever.

What am I talking about? When you lose a child. When you lose a parent. When you lose a spouse. When someone who doesn't even care about God and all you are doing to change your life and serve Him, decides to try and destroy everything in life that you care about. When people are so unfair and cruel it makes you wonder how God can even bear to watch it and seem to do nothing at all.

When you have been in captivity in Babylon.

Let's pray:

Lord, I want to see who You are, and who I am in Your eyes. I want to appreciate Your blessings and good gifts in my life. Help me to see that what You offer is so good, so precious, so much better than anything I could have planned. I am going to trust You will bring me through anything this life can throw at me, and ultimately, you will bring me into a world in which the word "unfair" does not exist! In Jesus' name, amen.

Love, Karen

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Calling, compromising, chastening - where are you in the cycle?

Photo by Hunta1, courtesy
of www.photoxpress.com
Hello dear friend, welcome back to A Good Bible Study where we are discovering A Passionate Love: the Relationship Between God and You.

Sometimes the synonyms we find for passion, like zeal, fervor, fervent, enthusiastic, etc. refer to God's desire for our hearts, His excitement with our lives, or His heartbreak over our childish behavior. Other times, it refers to his determination not to let us go on forever in willful sin, throwing away our future, and our hope.

Let me illustrate: We spent a recent Sunday at Calvary Memorial Church, in Gering, NE and the Pastor said something that really tied up some loose ends for me. He said the history of Israel can be summed up in a cycle of three words: calling, compromising, and chastening.

Israel was meant to be a light for the rest of the world; set apart to point others to God. They were the first called. Unfortunately, the people struggled with being in, but not of, the world around them. Sound familiar?

They always started out loving God, being grateful for the last time He got them out of hot water; but sure enough over time, the Israelites slowly lost their passion for God and began sinking into the culture around them, to the point of taking on their evil practices of idol worship and human sacrifice.

They began to compromise, just a little at first, just leaving up one or two idols, just small acts of disobedience, (look, nothing happened, see, God doesn't even know what we are doing) then more and more, until the Israelite was unrecognizable from the people around him.

God gave them some rope, often for centuries, giving the people prophets to first plead with their hearts to return to God, then to offer dire warnings of what was coming down the pike if the Israelites didn't repent. Finally, to announce the consequences, the chastening, of refusing to obey.

It's tough love at its, toughest. You're a parent, right? Or a child. Think of it as a monumental count of "1 . . . . 2 . . .  don't let me get to three young man . . . OK, have it your way, 3."

Read Ezekiel 5:13-15.

13 “Then my anger will cease and my wrath against them will subside, and I will be avenged. And when I have spent my wrath on them, they will know that I the LORD have spoken in my zeal.
14 “I will make you a ruin and a reproach among the nations around you, in the sight of all who pass by. 15 You will be a reproach and a taunt, a warning and an object of horror to the nations around you when I inflict punishment on you in anger and in wrath and with stinging rebuke. I the LORD have spoken. NIV

This is one of those "3" moments when no matter what God did or said, the Israelites just weren't going to listen. They were depraved, doing vile and disgusting things inside the very temple of God, from sexual acts to child sacrifice. Hard to believe, isn't it? It's hard to believe anyone could fall so far. Yet, they did.

God had warned them and warned them, and the Israelites, chosen or not, were so mired in their evil desires that a major shake up was the only thing going to get them out of their own mess. They were in love with their own depravity.

Sometimes my husband and I read parts of the Old Testament and just want to scratch our heads at the stubbornness of this people. I mean, we're thinking, if God led me out of captivity with a pillar of fire at night, and a pillar of cloud during the day, fed me with manna, then meat, and made water come out of the rocks, I wouldn't need a sign every five minutes to follow him! Nor would I need to be told more than once that I was getting off track, right?

Or would I?

How often do I question God's attention to the details of my life when things are not turning out my way? How often do you?

Now, think about this: How much pleasure do you think Satan gets out of leading the called, the chosen ones, the light of the world, into compromise, even depravity?

Nearly every year some story breaks (substantiated or not) about a Protestant or Catholic leader involved in sexual impropriety on church property. Now in relation to the rest of the world, it's likely an extremely small percentage of the population, but it sure gets headlines, doesn't it? And why? Because these are some of the called.

If Satan can convince you that no one, no one, is sincere about their faith, then how easy do you think it will be to get you to start crossing your own line? Not a big line. Just a tiny, inconsequential one . . . at first.

Do you think the Israelites, or Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker, or countless Catholic priests, do you think they woke up one day and said, "today I will defile God's temple, or today I will take advantage of the trust of a child?" . . . or do you think a series of small compromises led to a completely distorted sense of right and wrong?

Understanding the cycle of calling, compromising, and chastening might clear up a few things in our lives, what do you think?

So, where are you in your faith right now? Ask yourself honestly. Are you being called? Are you compromising? Are you being chastened?

If you are being called, what is your response?

If you are compromising, this is your chance to re-evaluate on your knees, asking God to help you before things go all to pot.

If you are being chastened, are you going to thumb your nose, or welcome a wake up call? We don't waste our time chastening people we don't care about. It's the ones we love that we don't give up on, no matter what. It's those we invest our energy in, calling, and even chastening when needed.

God loves you. He will call you, and after giving you enough time to have it your own way and really get yourself turned in a knot if that's what you insist on doing, He will finally chasten you.

Where are you? What's your response?

Let's pray.

Lord, thank you for loving me. Thank you for refusing to let me stay in depravity! Help me to listen to your voice and see the beginning of compromise before it's too late. Help me to see Satan's plan to undermine my joy, my light, my calling and instead give me ears to hear Your call, and a spirit to obey. In Your name, amen.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Raise the battle cry and triumph over the enemy!

Photo by Lauren Thamels, courtesy
of www.photoxpress.com
Welcome back to A Good Bible Study! Don't you love discovering A Passionate Love: the Relationship Between God and You? I do and I am so blessed to be sharing this time with you.

We are searching for synonyms of "passion" in the Word of God. We've seen so many examples of His passion for us, and His desire for our passionate response, that there can be no doubt of God's incredible love for each of us. Can you deny it any longer?

God is a poet and his language is love, pure, passionate love.

The Book of Isaiah is rich with prophetic Hebrew poetry. "The Hebrews used parallelism in poetry and prophecy as a literary technique to emphasize a particular thought. . . Prophetic poetry uses colorful images that point to further meanings . . .with the use of evocative language." Nelson Study Bible

Read Isaiah 42:13 and you will see what I mean:

"The Lord will march out like a mighty man,
like a warrior he will stir up his zeal;
with a shout he will raise the battle cry
and will triumph over his enemies." NIV

Think about any great war movie you've seen. Braveheart comes to mind for me. Who is the hero every time? Someone self-sacrificing. Someone brave. Someone so passionate about his people that he will suffer anything and everything for them. Someone who is able to stir up the passion of all those around him with his eloquence and zeal for their freedom!

That's what this verse is describing. Can you see it?

Is there anything going on in your life leading you to need a hero? A mighty man of valor? Someone to stir up your zeal? Do you need a champion?

Pray. He is fighting for you. Sometimes the victory is right in front of us, sometimes it's hard for us to see where the battle has been won. But we can trust we are not alone and we can call on His nature as the One who is passionate about us and our needs!

Father, be a mighty man for me. Stir up your zeal on my behalf and triumph over those who try to destroy your work in me! I am so grateful that I am not alone in the trials of life. That I have a champion in You. Help me to recognize Your hand in my life and see Your triumphs, instead of looking only for my own will to be done. Help me to follow You, my victor, my champion, my Mighty Man of Zeal and celebrate in Your victories! Amen

Love, Karen

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Life is unfair but God is not

Photo by Silo Nos, courtesy of
www.freephotoxpress.com
Hello! I am so glad you've come to A Good Bible Study. We are thick in the process of discovering A Passionate Love: The Relationship between God and You!

There are so many examples of God's passion for you and I in the bible, and just as many encouragements for each of us to delight just as passionately in the Lord. Today we are looking at
Psalm 119:139.

Let me ask you: have you ever felt like you have been unfairly punished?
Have you ever felt like you are trying to do the right thing, your heart is right, but someone only wants to misunderstand your intentions?
Have  you ever been ostracized, left-out, ridiculed or criticized because you want to do what's right, or even because you love God and are following what you believe He wants for your life?

If so, then the Psalms are right up your alley.

David had been chosen as the next King of Israel. This didn't go over very well with the current King, unfortunately. Formerly like a son to King Saul, David was now hunted like an animal across the land. He survived in caves, and from the kindness of those in the kingdom who knew David had only tried to serve Saul well. But Saul only saw David as a threat, even though God first chose Saul as King, too.

The problem was that Saul got a taste of power and decided he didn't need God anymore. Saul was going to do things Saul's way. He figured if he got rid of God's next in line, all of his problems would be solved.

Have you ever noticed that when you are trying to live your life to serve God, even if you don't put any expectations on anyone else, there is always someone who tries to tear you down? Part of the reason is that when we change our behavior, it makes others around us uncomfortable. This can be due to a natural human desire to resist change, or it might be because seeking a higher level of behavior just highlights the negativity in someone else. In their eyes, you're making them look bad.

It's hard to continue to pretend your living a life of integrity, when faced with someone who actually is, you know what I mean?

Saul was only pretending to serve God but David was all in. The people were chanting David's name in the streets because David was out there defending the kingdom, while Saul was sitting at home in a terminal bad mood. David sang and played music praising God, and Saul was sneaking off to visit mediums and witches, pretending God didn't know what he was about. As you can expect, Saul didn't much appreciate David highlighting his own sinfulness. He wanted to get rid of David, so he didn't have to face himself, or God.

Read Psalm 119:139 "My zeal has consumed me, because my enemies have forgotten your words." KJV

 David sings of his zeal (passion) having consumed him because of his anguish at the lack of love his enemies have for God. He wants God to renew his spirit and give him fresh hope in spite of the actions of his enemies meant to discourage and dishearten him.

Barnes Notes say, "My zeal hath consumed me - Margin, "cut me off." The word which is here translated "consumed" is rendered "cut off" "vanish," "destroyed." It means here, that he pined away; that his strength was exhausted; that he was sinking under the efforts which he had put forth as expressive of his deep interest in the cause of God and of truth"

It was breaking David's heart that Saul was trying to kill him, and David hadn't done anything wrong to Saul. David was perfectly willing to serve Saul, love him as a son-in-law and best friend to Saul's son, until God saw fit to remove Saul from the throne. David didn't want any part of hurting Saul, but Saul couldn't see past his own jealousy and envy.

Can you relate? Who can you turn to when even the people you thought loved you the most, praised you the highest, claimed to always be your friend, are the very ones talking behind your back and trying to ruin your life?

David turned to God. David reminded himself of God's love for him, God's strength when David had none left, and God's promise to bring good out of everything terrible going on. Let's follow his example:

Lord, there are things happening to people all over this world that are unfair, that don't make sense. How can it be when we are doing our best to serve you, obey you, and love you, that others don't see our hearts are sincere? Help us to remember that when no one else sees, You see. When no one else is my friend, You are. When I think I am alone, I am not for You are there. In His name, Amen.

Love, Karen

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A passionate love: the relationship between God and you - The zeal of the Lord


Photo by JS Creatonzs.
Courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net
Welcome back to A Good Bible Study. We are passionate here - passionate about a passionate God!

This God of ours loves us with a love like no other. It never ends, it never dissipates, God never tells us "It's not you, it's me," is never too tired, too stressed, too angry to spend time with us, comfort us, listen to us, or advise us. He's passionate for us!

But, sometimes it seems like God is not listening to our prayers, not answering our prayers, not acting on our prayers. Sometimes we believe we are on our own and that we aren't even on God's radar.

This isn't some new phenomenon. People have been looking for the next sign since the beginning of time. Remember Adam and Eve? They had a unique relationship with God. God spent time with them physically in the Garden, walking, talking, and exchanging ideas. Can you imagine hanging out with God and having no doubt He is real? You would think that would make it easier to obey God, right?

God was cool. God was a lot of fun. Adam and God were good friends. In fact, God gave Adam only one rule, just one. Don't eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He didn't say take a little bite. He didn't say eat it if you think you've got a better plan. He didn't say check with the serpent for permission to eat it. He didn't say let your wife get confused about what God said and go along with it. He said, "Don't eat it. Don't. Eat. It. Don't touch it, don't smell it, don't hang around under it's branches, DON'T EAT IT."

Pretty clear, right? So how come it took about 5 minutes for Satan to convince Adam and Eve that God really didn't have their back and they should just go ahead and do whatever seemed right in their eyes? Of anyone in history, Adam and Eve should have been the ones to say, "Uh, I don't think so." Or how about, "I'm gonna double check with God because I know He said don't eat that." Now, I guess it is possible that Adam and Eve had never been exposed to a liar (kind of like that movie The Invention of Lying) so may be they were kind of gullible.

I'd like to let them off the hook like that and say that God sure is harsh. After all, He made them. . . So it's really His fault, right?

God did make them and He doesn't make stupid. So sorry, no dice. Consider this: Adam and Eve were created with the original DNA, uncontaminated and unmutated by chemical damage, environmental pollution, and poor diets. They were the most intelligent beings in the universe second to God. A far second, but still, they rocked.

Let's be honest. They wanted that fruit.

Satan only shows us what is in our own hearts. He dangles the bait, it's called temptation, and we either run to God, or we start trying to justify why we should go ahead and do what we know in our hearts is wrong.

Adam and Eve started playing the justification game. They deserved that fruit. After all, they did all the work in the Garden, Adam named all the animals and he and Eve tended the plants and oversaw the animals. God obviously didn't want what was best for them or He would share His precious Knowledge, right?

They were on their own and they needed to take what they wanted because God was never going to share the good stuff anyway! Besides, God hadn't even been to the Garden that day to talk with them so He probably wasn't even coming back. What happens in Eden stays in Eden . . . wrong.

Like most of our mistakes, the minute that fruit touched their lips, Adam and Eve got a whole lot of knowledge they wish they hadn't. Ever done that? Wished you had minded your own business and found out something you wish you hadn't? Ever wanted to turn back time and take it back? You and me and Adam and Eve and all the rest of us.

So, let's not kid ourselves that we are the first ones to feel like God is ignoring us. Let's not pretend we can take a time out from God and like a little one year-old child say, "If I can't see You, You can't see me." Let's get honest. Let's be real.

Now, about now you might be thinking that since Adam and Eve couldn't cut it, we are all doomed to fail. Let me tell you a story with a different ending.

In the time of Isaiah the prophet of God, there was a King of Assyria, named Sennacherib, who had conquered much of the land around Israel and was after the Israelites next. "The Assyrian Empire extended from Ur of Chaldes, up the Tigress-Euphrates valley toward Baghdad then across to the Mediterranean, taking in modern day Syria. So Assyria in the Bible included modern day Iraq and Syria" (Pat Robertson)

This guy had a lot of reason to be confident. He sent word to the King of Israel, Hezekiah, that he was coming down there to take care of business. Read 2 Kings 18 for the whole speech.

Reading this I had an image of this King's emissary doing a rap before the King of Israel, bragging about his King and talking smack against the God of Israel. Then he goes out and starts rapping to the people outside the palace, telling them in other words, "Who's your daddy?"

This emissary tells the Israelites not to believe their God will save them, because no one else's gods have saved any of the people King Sennacherib has conquered. He literally starts mocking God, saying what is a real insult in that time, "haven't you gotten the news", or "did you not hear", basically meaning, what, you didn't know I'm the biggest stick in the land? He was boasting that he, the King of Assyria was the only one with any power and they better get in line or be destroyed.

As you can imagine, the people of Israel were pretty concerned. I mean, they hadn't had a word from God for a while. May be God was out of the office.

So, King Hezekiah sent for word from Isaiah, the prophet of God.

God says through Isaiah, "Don't be afraid." I got this, God says. Don't you wish we had a prophet nowadays?

King Hezekiah is pretty relieved, and begins praising God. 

15
And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: “LORD, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, LORD, and hear; open your eyes, LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.


17 “It is true, LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. 19 Now, LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, LORD, are God.”


God answers the King's prayer with a promise, first to King Sennacherib, then to King Hezekiah.

To Sennacherib he says, and I am paraphrasing here, "Who do you think you are talking to? Let me tell you a little bit about the Holy One of Israel, son."

God reminds Sennacherib of all the ways he "reproached the Lord," bragging about how he was going to cut down all the trees and dry up all the waters of defense. Then God uses Sennacherib's own words against him, saying (paraphrase) "Did you not hear that I made this world, and that I allowed you to conquer these lands and made the people defenseless against you?"

God is in Sennacherib's face now, and God tells him He knows alllll about the smack he has been talking.

In fact, God uses Sennacherib's own methods of dealing with prisoner's of war against him, saying in 2 Kings 19:28, "I will put My hook into your nose and My bridle into your lips, and I will turn you back by the way which you came." Oh yeah, Sennacherib knew exactly what God was talking about. I love it. Nothin can set you down like a word from the Lord!

See, sometimes we read the Old Testament without any cultural references and we think, jeepers, God was harsh! We've got to look deeper, search out a study bible (I use the Nelson Study Bible, NKJV) and get the "whys" behind the "whats."

After this, God gives a promise to the Israelites. He says you are going to be fine. You are going to have plenty to eat and drink. You are going to rebuild and it's going to be good. I am going to make sure of this because "the zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this."

Zeal, a synonym of passion.

See, the way in which Adam and Eve responded to temptation and the way in which King Hezekiah responded made all the difference. Adam and Eve assumed God wasn't looking and that God was keeping back something good from them. They went out on their own and we have been feeling alone ever since.

King Hezekiah was tempted to be afraid, to give in to the demands and the promises of the Assyrian King, but instead he went to the Lord. He prayed. He asked God to guide his decisions and believed God wanted the best for him. He waited for God's insight in the face of the taunting, demanding, ridiculing King.

What will you do today in the face of temptation? Will you seek God and believe He loves you passionately? Or will you hide your face and pretend He can't see you?

When I was at probably my lowest point in life, holding my son in my arms as he breathed out his last breath, I knew I had to make a decision. I was on the brink of temptation. My husband and I decided for our household, we would still serve the Lord.

I decided this in spite of the temptation to let my heart grow cold because He didn't answer my prayer to save my baby. I chose to believe God is good, even when my life seemed so bad; to believe in who He is, instead of what I could understand.

Soon after, I discovered I was pregnant again. I couldn't believe God would put me through this when I had just lost my boy. I prayed for a girl. I had a son. What was God thinking?

I will tell you. God is thinking about His zeal for you and me when we are only thinking about what we think we want and need. We are thinking about pain and He is thinking about restoration.

We named our son Joshua. I thank God for him every day. 

Joshua 24:15

New International Version (NIV)
15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

God, help me keep straight who is God and who is not. Amen

Love, Karen









What is the zeal of the Lord?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Good news: the end of the world is just the beginning

Photo by Karsten Fischbach,
courtesy of www.photoxpress.com
Hello again fellow God-lovers (and those who are still a bit unsure!) Are you feeling a little more passionate these days? That's what we are talking about in A Good Bible Study today! It's A Passionate Love: The Relationship Between God and You.

We've talked about many words in scripture that mean "passion." Most of the time the terms have referred to God's love for us, or our emotions or actions; but in 2 Peter 3, Peter describes the Day of the Lord and yes, it's a day reflecting great passion!

"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up." 2 Peter 3:10 NKJV

Can you imagine the level of heat required to literally burn up and destroy the earth? Yikes. God says it's a fervent heat, a heat of passion.

What then? The earth is gone. Are you and I gone, as well? The answer for some of us is yes. But, if you are interested in sticking around for what follows, read what Peter says in verses 11-18:

"11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?"

Good question! I know most of us think we have all the answers. Be more good than bad, right? How's that working for you based on God's definition of good (perfect) and bad (see the 10 commandments, and remember it refers to thoughts as well as actions) Still confident?

Peter continues:

 "You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.[b] That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells."

Peter says there will be a new heaven and a new earth for each of us who love God and accept His forgiveness offered by His Son, Jesus Christ! What a deal!

However, Peter continues to remind us that forewarned is forearmed. We can either plan for this day, or we are planning for our own destruction. Like Benjamin Franklin said: a failure to plan, is a plan to fail.

In other words, you can keep on pretending that everything is going to continue on, business as usual, or you can accept that God has an ultimate plan for your life, and for this earth and all it's imperfections.

Peter agrees, saying, "14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." NIV

So there you have it : grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Peter isn't suggesting that on our own power and strength we somehow make ourselves perfect, blameless or spotless in God's eyes. It's the sacrifice that Jesus made, that purifies our self-centered hearts.

It comes down to this: do you believe in God, the real God, not one made up for your own convenience? Do you believe God is the ultimate authority on right and wrong?  Do you believe you can ever be good enough, all the time, every day, to earn the badge of perfection?

In that case, do you accept that you need a Savior to pay the price of your imperfection? Do you accept that Jesus in all His perfection paid the price for your lack? Do you gratefully accept His gift?

Yes? Then will you spend the rest of your life loving Him for it? Following His example as best as you can? Seeking a new relationship with God who loves you so much, He sent His willing Son to clean up your sin so you can enjoy an eternity of peace, love, and joy in a new earth and heaven?

The only answers to these questions are Yes, or NO. There is no kind-of. Do you want a passionate love?

Here's how the Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines "fervent" or passion:

Synonyms: ardent, blazing, burning, charged, demonstrative, emotional, fervid, feverish, fiery, flaming, glowing, hot-blooded, impassioned, incandescent, intense, passional, passionate, perfervid, red-hot, religious, superheated, torrid, vehement, warm, warm-blooded, on fire!

Or . . . you can keep living as you have been:

Antonyms: cold, cool, dispassionate, emotionless, impassive, unemotional

You choose.

Let's pray: God I want to be spiritually on fire! There is no middle ground that interests me. Fill me with Your passionate, incandescent, torrid excitement for living a life with You! A servant of Jesus, amen.
Love, Karen

Friday, October 14, 2011

Passion: The greatest commandment

Photo by Arvind Balarman, www.fotoexpress.com
Hello again my friends! Welcome to A Good Bible Study - our current topic is A Passionate Love: the relationship between God and you.

There are so many ways God expresses His passion for us! I love the incredibly expressive and eloquent words used to say "passion." Let's find more synonyms for this wonderful term so we can walk our walk instead of just talking our talk!

Let's read 1 Peter 4:8
New King James Version (NKJV)
8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”[a]
Fervent, zealous, enthusiastic, with-all-that-you-have kind of love. This is a passionate love we are talking about here. Not a romantic passion, but a sincere, active, God-centered love that encompasses your whole heart.

Do you remember what is the greatest commandment? Read Matthew 22:36-40.

The greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, and the second is to love others as you do yourself. Here Peter reiterates that message, encouraging each of us to have fervent love for one another. A whole heart love. And why? Because it enables us to see the best in others, to assume the best of them, and to overlook one another's less than perfect personalities. Am I talking to anyone out there?

 This specific love word is the Greek "agape." Interestingly, this word was rarely used in Greek literature prior to the New Testament. It refers to showing kindness to strangers without complaining about it, extending hospitality (putting traveling believers up) and being charitable to others. In this verse, it takes on a more special meaning, specifying volitional love versus emotional love. It's active. It's participatory. It's sacrificial.

Peter gets even more specific with the concept of passionate agape love: He says each of us are given gifts from the Holy Spirit. Contrary to popular belief, these gifts are not for our benefit, not for our pleasure or profit, but a tool by which to minister to one another as believers, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. As stewards, we are trustees of the gifts, not owners. We are managers of God’s gifts, entrusted to use our gifts to honor and glorify God. That’s powerful news because it goes against a lot of today's motivational teaching and even some preaching!

That means we are not blessed with talents and abilities so we can prosper financially, although there is nothing wrong in prospering in and of itself.

We tend to think that gifts and passions are given to us for us alone, to please us and to prosper us, to benefit our lives primarily and others secondarily. We consider our gifts to be our own personal property, meant to gain financial reward and prestige, the “wealth” of our age.

It's a lie. The same lie Satan told Adam and Eve and like us, they bought it! “What’s in it for me? What is God trying to keep back from me? Why shouldn’t I have a share in the glory?”

We forget we are stewards. It wasn’t our sacrifice that brought the Holy Spirit to comfort and bless us, it wasn’t our pain that paid the price of forgiveness on the cross, it wasn’t our power that enables us to do more than we are able. And as managers, we will be held accountable for using our gifts and whether we used it in the best interest of the One who gave it. Think on that for a moment.

So, how do we use our gifts in God's best interest? Peter tells us to use the mindset of a representative of God. He says if we speak and teach others, we need to do it as an oracle of God, with reverence for God’s Word, so our listeners will also respect it. He reminds us that we get into trouble when we start believing our strength comes from the gift itself, instead of the giver.

I know when I get caught up in all I can do, I lose strength and stamina. I lose heart. Paul asserts that by relying on God’s strength and power to minister your gift to others, not only are we honoring God, but we can be sure that when we need a powerful presentation or manifestation of talent, we are connected to the unending Source!

Let's pray:

Father, thank you for all the good gifts you've given me. Help me to remember they are a blessing, not a self-endowed right. Let me honor you with my attitude, as well as my gifts. In your name, amen.