Monday, April 23, 2007

What's In You?

What’s In You?

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV)

One of my favorite Bible teachers is Pastor Bob Coy. He has a wonderful example he often uses in teaching that I’m going to borrow for today’s message.

Picture a Ziploc container. You know the type. Somewhat disposable, yet still re-usable. You can buy them in the grocery store by the plastic baggies. They are durable, functional and handy. You can store food in them, candy, snacks, leftovers, crayons, screws and nails….whatever you would like to store if it fits in there.

So, let’s say you make some tuna salad. You have a nice sandwich, but you have leftover tuna salad. So you put it in your Ziploc container, and save it in the fridge for later. Once you’ve eaten all the tuna salad over the next few days, you place the Ziploc bowl in the dishwasher. It’s now clean, and you go to put it away, and…. sniff… sniff… sniff… What’s that smell? It’s clean, but it still has that faint little smell of tuna. Fishy. Hmmm. It’s clean, but there still is that little bit of odor that lingers. That tuna fish got into the plastic, seeped in, and no matter how hard you wash it, how many times, there will always be that slight, faint smell of tuna fish.

That’s what a Christian is like. Once Christ enters in, He is always there. So as we interact in the world, where ever we may go, someone is watching us as a Christian, to see how we act. So now my question: What’s in you?

Are you leaving a fragrant aroma of offering as Christ did? Or does that person smell a whole bunch of you, and very little of Christ? Do you give the impression that Christians are something desirable, or do you give the impression that Christians are phony and fake?

As a Christian, the world is looking to us for so many things, but most especially they watch us in relationships. The common wisdom in society is that Christians are nothing but a bunch of whitewashed hypocrites, certainly not practicing what they preach. “Holier than thou.” And when you look at things like sins within the church, especially those impacting others around us, we certainly have earned the reputation. And yes, the church is the hospital for sinners, not the haven for the saints. But God is calling you and me to a higher standard of behavior. He is asking us to be His light, shining into a dark world, as it comes to marriage and divorce.

The church as a whole divorces just as much, or even more, than the world does. God has called us to be the ones standing for marriage and saying that there is a higher way – a better way – one man and one woman for a lifetime. He has called us to trust in Him to restore our marriages for His glory. Yes, many of us are called to raise a marriage from the dead. Remember the story of Lazarus? Dead in the tomb for 4 days. Did you know that the ancient Hebrew rabbis and teachers taught that a person’s spirit remained with their body for 3 days before passing on to eternity? That 4th day meant that Lazarus was gone. Dead as could be. And Christ came, on that 4th day. Why did He wait? It says in the Scripture that Christ loved them – Mary, Martha and Lazarus. And He waited…because He loved them. But it was so much more than that. He waited for His glory, that He might be glorified through this situation.

As He came to the tomb, we see Christ and He cries. I can’t help but think that those tears were more than just tears of the situation. I think that Christ was crying for what He knew shouldn’t be. Sin, death, the fallen condition of this world. I think His tears were for far more than the Scripture conveys. But then, He reveals His glory.

He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” (John 11: 43b NKJV)

The verse that always strikes me deeply in the story of Lazarus comes but a mere few verses before Christ calls dead Lazarus from the grave.

Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40 NKJV)

Did I not say to you that if you would believe… If you would believe, God can and will do anything for you. As dead as things may seem, God can turn it around. He set the universe into motion. He created absolutely everything we can see. Therefore, in His time, in His way, He will call our marriage out of the dead to be restored for His glory. In the meantime, He is asking us to be faithful. He is asking us to be leaving His aroma everywhere that we go. He’s asking us that when the world sees us, they see Him in us.

You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.

All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;
from palaces adorned with ivory
the music of the strings makes you glad.
(Psalm 45:7-8 NIV)

Passages marked “NIV” are Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Passages marked “NKJV” are Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Who Am I, O Lord God?

Who Am I, O Lord God?

How often have you ever asked God that question – Who am I? Well how about turning that question around for a minute…How does God see you? Are you His faithful servant, believing and trusting in Him? Or are you trusting in something else?

"But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.

He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit."
(Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV)

One day, I counted the number of times the word “trust” appeared in the Psalms. It was 69 times in the New King James version. We know the majority of the Psalms were written by David, and we also know of David being the “man after God’s own heart.” How much of that had to do with the fact David trusted the Lord, no matter how dark it got in his life, no matter how many enemies came after him? David trusted God to deliver him, and each time, God came through for him when he trusted the Lord.

Faith is a large part of trust. In Hebrews 11, we see the many people of the Bible, and how they had faith in God. And in many of those verses, you can even replace the word “faith” with “trust” and find the meaning is similar. Faith makes trust, and trust makes faith.

God says to us in His Word that we are more valuable than the sparrows, and He cares for each and every one of them. He tells us in His Word He knew us before we were born. He came through for so many men and women in the Bible who trusted in Him. Will He not come through for you and me if we trust Him? Of course He will!

So who is God telling you who you are? He’s telling you that you are valuable:

But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:30-31 NKJV)

He tells you He knew you – and your spouse – before you were born:

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:13-16 NIV)

He loves us with an everlasting love:

I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with loving-kindness.
(Jeremiah 31:3b NIV)

And most of all, He rejoices over us:

He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.
(Zephaniah 3:17b NKJV)

I often wonder why He chose me, and why He gave me the gifts He did. Most certainly, I wonder why He allowed what is happening with me and my beloved, and what He will do to redeem it for His glory. But I know this: He is faithful. He does not forget His promises to His children. I see it as I study His Word, and read it each day. I see the many ways He brings me encouragement at just the right time, and how He has given me gifts of some incredible people along the journey. I know that there will be a day when, my marriage is restored for His glory, for He has shown me in His Word. Like David, I will be praying to him in thankfulness as recorded in 2 Samuel 7:

Then King David went in and sat before the LORD; and he said: “Who am I, O Lord GOD? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far? And yet this was a small thing in Your sight, O Lord GOD; and You have also spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come. Is this the manner of man, O Lord GOD? Now what more can David say to You? For You, Lord GOD, know Your servant. For Your word’s sake, and according to Your own heart, You have done all these great things, to make Your servant know them. Therefore You are great, O Lord GOD. For there is none like You, nor is there any God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears. And who is like Your people, like Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people, to make for Himself a name—and to do for Yourself great and awesome deeds for Your land—before Your people whom You redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, the nations, and their gods? For You have made Your people Israel Your very own people forever; and You, LORD, have become their God.

“Now, O LORD God, the word which You have spoken concerning Your servant and concerning his house, establish it forever and do as You have said. So let Your name be magnified forever, saying, ‘The LORD of hosts is the God over Israel.’ And let the house of Your servant David be established before You. For You, O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, have revealed this to Your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house.’ Therefore Your servant has found it in his heart to pray this prayer to You.

“And now, O Lord GOD, You are God, and Your words are true, and You have promised this goodness to Your servant. Now therefore, let it please You to bless the house of Your servant, that it may continue before You forever; for You, O Lord GOD, have spoken it, and with Your blessing let the house of Your servant be blessed forever.” (2 Samuel 7:18-29 NKJV)

We are His Israel, for we believe and trust in Him. He longs to bless us. Make David’s prayer here your own. Trust God, see yourself as He sees you. Nothing is impossible with Him!

Passages marked “NIV” are Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Passages marked “NKJV” are Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 9, 2007

The Stones Of Our Lives

The Stones Of Our Lives

(originally published by me in Hope4Marriages ministry newsletter, 4/9/07, sent on 4/8/07 at 9:16 pm)

I'm writing this on Good Friday night, knowing that I am sending it out after Easter Sunday. I wanted to share with you what the church where I serve does traditionally on Good Friday.

As one enters the sanctuary, each is given a small stone, pulled from one of the local rivers here, smoothed by the rushing waters of that river. If one were to break that stone open, you would have the rough hard jagged edge of rock. But that stone has been washed smooth.

That stone is quite a bit like sin. On the outside, it is smooth, polished, even attractive. But if you were to break it, inside the stone, it is rough, jagged, hard and cold.

The stone given to each person is a representation - A representation of our sins, our burdens. And as each person comes forward to the Lord'
s Table on Good Friday, they lay that stone they were given at the foot of the rough wooden cross on the communion table, and the table is draped in black. They place their sins, their burdens at the foot of the cross, and then take on Christ's yoke, as each person after laying down the stone takes the bread and grape juice, the symbols of Christ's body and blood, given for us, for our forgiveness, for the washing of our sins.

For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26 NIV)

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 NIV)

It is the blood of Christ that smoothes out the rough edges of our life, washing the rough edges of our sin away. But unlike the stone with rough edges when it is broken, when we are broken, our light shines through. Our brokenness and our broken marriages are a part of God's light in a dark world. In a world where marriage is disposable, we are the ones saying it is a love for a lifetime, as God designed.

For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. (2 Corinthians 4:6-11 NIV)

After the services on Friday, the sanctuary is made ready for Easter Sunday. Those same stones placed at the foot of the cross become part of the Sunday morning celebration as well, as they are placed throughout the display of all the potted lilies, tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. They are a reminder to us that the story doesn't t end on Good Friday, that Christ rolled away the stone from the grave, so that we could see He was no longer there, but had raised from the dead, conquering sin, death and hell on our behalf.

They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.' " Then they remembered his words. (Luke 24:2-8, NIV)

Place your marriage at the foot of the cross, along with your spouse. You know that by doing so, it is not the end of the story. Then take up Him, and still more of Him, daily. Your light will grow and increase, shining brightly for the world to see. In God's
timing, your faithfulness to your spouse and your marriage will be rewarded.

Be blessed, and be a blessing this week. He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Love in Christ,
Ruth Anne

Scripture marked "NIV"
taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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