Monthly Archives: January 2023

Ready To Give An Answer

Genesis 50; Exodus 1-2

Our church is conducting an Apologetics class Wednesday evenings, led by our Youth Pastor, a young man gifted by God with insight into God’s Word beyond his years. I am loving this study.

What DO I believe? Why do I believe it? How do I know what I believe is true? And can I share what I know in love to someone whose beliefs are void of God?

I love the Bible. My whole life is grounded in God’s revealed Word. But what does that mean to someone who doesn’t believe the Bible is even true? For me to say I believe because it’s in the Bible would mean as much to them as their telling me they believe what they believe because Santa Claus said it’s true.

Can I, grounded in God’s Word, share what is in there without chapter and verse? I thought of that when I read Exodus 3:14. God reveals His Name as I AM THAT I AM. In other words, God is self-existent, self-sustaining, stable, unchanging. He is who He is and always has been, always will be. He is the supreme authority.

Last night we briefly touched on something called the Ontological Argument which starts with the premise that there is a higher power, a highest, greatest conceivable being. An honest look at nature, at science would lead you to that conclusion. There is order, there is purpose, there is design. And it fits together to become life as we know it. That didn’t happen without a greatest conceivable being.

The beauty of this orderly universe is that this greatest conceivable being invites us to know Him, intellectually, and relationally. He is the Great I Am.

Now, I am in no way ready to sit with an atheist, walk them through what I believe, and lovingly point them to the Truth. But I want to be ready to do that because I have people close to me who need to hear it and believe it. I imagine the same is true for you.

So, what DO you believe? Why do you believe it to be true? On what authority do you stand? Are you ready to give an answer for the hope you have in I AM?

Open Arms

Genesis 42-45

I love this part of Joseph’s story. He is finally reunited with his brothers. It’s a beautiful reunion. But it could have ended quite differently.

Joseph was looking at the ten men who had wanted him dead, who had thrown him into a pit then sat down to dinner like it was the most normal thing in the world. They sold their brother to evil men, probably hoping Joseph would die at their hands instead of the brothers’. It a heartless betrayal.

Yet when Joseph meets them after thirteen years a slave, he embraces his brothers. There is no mention of the sins they had committed against him. He eventually welcomed them with open arms.

Most of us wouldn’t have blamed him if he had acquired ten slaves that day. Tit for tat. An eye for an eye. Karma, baby! That’s not what happened. And some people scratch their heads and wonder why.

The answer is in the life Joseph had lived those thirteen years in captivity. He walked with God. He trusted God, depended on God, submitted to the will of God. You can’t hold a grudge if you’re holding onto God.

Which got me thinking about the term, “open arms.” When you stretch out your arms to someone you leave your heart unprotected. It’s a gesture of openness, acceptance, trust. vulnerability. You take a chance when you open your arms to someone who has wronged you.

But isn’t that what Jesus did? The ultimate open arms occurred when they stretched His arms out and nailed Him to the cross. Talk about vulnerable! And He opened Himself up like that for those of us who betrayed Him, disrespected Him, hurt Him.

He did that for you.

We know that Joseph is a type of Christ, a picture of who Jesus is. I think it’s a beautiful picture.

What I see in these chapters I read today is an example of how I want my walk with the Lord to look. No grudges. No revenge-seeking. No holding onto hurt or painful memories.

Is there someone who needs your open arms today?

Me

Genesis 35-38

Reuben discovered his brother Joseph was missing. Joseph, the Golden Child, Dad’s favorite son wasn’t in the pit Reuben and the other brothers had dumped him in. Now, the boy was gone!

Had he somehow escaped and gone back to Dad to tell on them? It’s not like he hadn’t done that in the past. Had a wild beast gotten to him, dragged him away and killed him? Was he kidnapped by evil men who would abuse him? Reuben didn’t know. And he was visibly upset at the realization Joseph was gone.

I think we may have all experienced imagining the worse when something unknown happened. It’s understandable Reuben would be upset and worried, thinking about the “what if’s.”

But heres’ the kicker: Old Reuben wasn’t worried about Joseph! “What’s going to happen to ME?” he cried.”

Wow. Heartless!

Hold on before we get too judgmental here.

Someone is diagnosed with cancer. What am I going to do without her?

Friends are getting a divorce. Who are we going to hang out with now?

Oh, you might pity them for a second. But then your thoughts go to Me! Me! Me! Where’s the compassion?

This past Sunday, our SS class talked about the difference between pity and compassion. Pity is a feeling. Compassion is an action. I think God would have us save our pity if it isn’t followed with compassion.

The “I” is one of Satan’s favorite arrows to shoot at us. But I’m reminded God has told us to die to self every day. Crucify the “I.”

Let’s remember the world doesn’t revolve around “me.” Look around. Someone needs your compassion today. Make a call. Go to lunch. Write a note. Be a taxi or just sit and listen.

People are hurting. And it’s not about you! Be God’s hands, feet, and ears to someone who needs Him today.

A New Identity

Genesis 31-34

Why did the angel ask Jacob his name before blessing him? He was an angel so I imagine he knew who he’d been wrestling with all night. I believe there is a lesson in the question.

Fast forward a few thousand years. Jesus is in the middle of His short ministry as a human on Earth. He healed thousands. He forgave sins.

Take Bartimaeus for example. He was obviously blind, yet Jesus asked him to state his request. To the paralytic at the pool Jesus asked, “Do you want to get well?” When a woman touched the hem of his garment, Jesus demanded she identify herself.

Do you see the pattern? Very often in Scripture, we see Jesus requiring people to state their need. Say the words. We see the necessity of confession. It’s not so God is informed of our need. It’s so we know exactly what we need, admit it, and go to the only one who can meet it.

Here in Genesis we see Jacob wrestling with God. Who hasn’t, right? We know what is right, but we want to have our own way instead. A battle ensues. It’s a tug-of-war until we do what? Admit our sin and allow God to change our wants to His.

In my experience – and in Jacob’s – God won’t bless until I confess. When the angel asked Jacob his name, he had to reply: “I’m the deceiver, the holder of the heel, the supplanter.” That’s what his name meant. And we know Jacob had lived up to his name.

Jacob had to admit who he had been before God could give him a new name: Israel. According to the Abarim Publications, Israel means “He retains God,” or “God is upright.” Jacob’s new name reflected God. His new identity honored God.

Jacob received a new beginning, as do all of us who confess our sins and allow God to forgive us and give us new life. Jacob had lived for himself and had committed sins to fulfill his own desires. God was giving him a chance to turn that all around, to live for God and make choices that fulfilled God’s desires for him. That’s awesome!

May that be true in all of us. Some people think they are Christians because they go to church and live good lives. That’s not true. Being a Christian involves a change of heart, saying the words, admitting guilt. And receiving God’s amazing grace.

If God has laid a finger on any sin, if you (or I) are wrestling with that sin, hear God ask “What is your name? What do you want me to do for you?” Then confess. Repent. Be forgiven, and receive a new beginning!

Not Too Late

Genesis 25-27

I see me in Esau. He wanted his father’s blessing. He just wanted to live life on his own terms, too. He hadn’t really taken his father all that seriously, until it was too late.

So often I want God to bless me. But I also want to live life on my own terms, like Esau did. I read God’s demands in Scripture, but I don’t always take them seriously. I think both Esau and I are counting on our Father’s love to overlook our selfish choices.

The thing is, no matter how much He loves us, God CAN’T overlook our choices that go against His rules. He is holy. He demands holiness of us. He won’t let the guilty go unpunished. He wouldn’t be holy if He did.

Esau missed out on the best his father could offer. He was given a blessing of sorts in the end, but oh, what he’d given up because of disobedience.

I am blessed much more than I deserve. I thank God that when I confess and repent of my sin, He gives me the greatest blessing of all – HIMSELF! It doesn’t get better than that.

Esau reminds me that in order to receive all the benefits from that precious blessing, I need to obey. I need to humble myself, let go of the reins, and let God have His way in my life. My Father wants to bless me beyond what I can ask or think. He only asks me to follow His rules.

It was too late for Esau to receive the blessing he was hoping for. It’s not too late for me. My gracious Heavenly Father is eager to shower me with the blessings of His presence and care, His joy and salvation. May I be ready to receive all He has to offer, as I submit to His will, and let go of mine.

Rash Decisions

Genesis 12-16

Have you ever reacted in the moment, then lived to regret it? I sure have. And so too, I think, did Abram. More than once.

First, when famine hit Canaan, Abram packed up and moved to Egypt. I don’t see him consulting God about that. It appears to be a blatant act of disobedience. But, the grass is greener on the other side of the Nile.

Entering Egypt placed him and his family smack dab in the middle of enemy territory. Abram wasn’t ready for that. Which leads us to rash decision #2.

Abram told his beautiful wife, Sarai, to lie to the King of Egypt. Dangerous move, there, Abe. Again, I don’t see Abram calling on God about the situation. Maybe, like Adam, Abram thought he could hide from God. Maybe he knew he shouldn’t be in Egypt in the first place and thought he’d gotten himself into this mess, he’d get himself out. (been there, done that myself a few times).

Both of these decisions indicate Abram’s lack of faith in God. Hold onto that thought. Because bad choice #3 tells the same tale.

God had promised Abram children. Lots of children. But at this point, Abram hadn’t fathered even one. So when Sarai came up with an idea, Abram went with it. Do you see either of them going to God first? I mean, God was the one who had made the promise. Maybe He would have had a better idea than having Abram sleep with a slave girl. Just saying.

Anyway, Abram went ahead without God, and the world has been paying for it ever since.

Have you found that reacting in the moment turns out to smack you in the face? That has been my experience more often than I care to admit. I would venture to say every life choice I’ve made without including God has ended badly. Some of those choices have minor consequences. Some of those choices have resulted in consequences I still experience decades later. Some choices effected only me. Other choices have caused others to experience pain.

But all is not lost. With all the mistakes Abram made, look at 15:6. And he believed the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

When we believe the Lord, when we obey Him, when we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Which makes us righteous, too, just like Abram! Aren’t you glad God doesn’t write us off when we make those rash decisions? I am. There may be consequences, but there is forgiveness when we ask Him.

In Good News Club this week I was talking to the children about peer pressure. When faced with a hard decision, I encouraged the kids to think first. Is what they are considering right or wrong? If they do that thing, would it please God? That advice isn’t just for kids.

May we all think before we react in the moment. May we ask ourselves if our reaction is right or wrong according to God’s Word. And, maybe most importantly, would my reaction please God?

I think if Abram had thought about what he was doing, if He had prayed first, the world might look a bit differently today. If I had done the same, thought, prayed first, my life might look differently today, too.

I’m thankful for the life of Abram, a flawed individual who loved God, and whom God used in spite of his failures. I’m thankful for the cross, for forgiveness, and for prayer to a God who wants to help me make the right choices, ones that will be the best for me, and will glorify Him.

Name Your Source

Job 21-28

The Life Application Bible I am using this year to read through the Bible does a comparison of the wisdom expressed by Job and his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Eliphaz seems to believe he’s figured God out by observing how God works in lives and in Creation. Bildad says he just needs to learn from those who have lived before us. Job’s observation is that God’s revelation of Himself to man is directly related to the humility of man and the trust man puts in God.

But it’s Zophar who got my attention this morning. He seems to have the idea that he is one of a very few who have an ‘in’ on wisdom. His wisdom has no other source than himself.

Yep. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? I’m pretty sure we are living among a bunch of Zophars: people who claim to be the sole authority of their own wisdom. “If I say my truth, you are obliged to accept it as truth.”

We have a society that accepts the rantings of internet influencers as truth, people whose main objective is to get noticed, liked and followed by millions, people who sit in their cars and act like they are authorities, then go home to their bedrooms in their parents’ homes. These are people with opinions, passing them off as truth. So I decided to scroll through Instagram (and believe me I couldn’t scroll fast enough).

There was a girl with rainbow colored hair and face piercings explaining why I should use her made-up pronouns when addressing her. I watched long enough to see her work up some tears as she talked about how threatened she is by people who wanted to call her “she.”

A bearded young man dressed up like a girl started to name all the different genders I am supposed to embrace. I scrolled pretty quickly past him.

A woman who looked like she was in her fifties used some pretty foul language as she told me how phobia-filled I am because I refuse to accept the fact she identifies as a cat. She had a pretty good vocabulary for a feline.

I guess all you have to do these days is turn on a camera and download nonsense in order to be an influencer or authority on just about any subject. Speak the lie, and it’s out there in cyber-space forever. Oh, someone might “fact-check” you and determine what you said is not true. But it’s impossible to pull in the reins of a lie already on the net. One “share” and it’s off and running again.

Sadly, as I was scrolling through some of these posts I paused and read comments that seem to support the sinful choices these people are making. Many of them have hundreds if not thousands of “likes.” Are people actually swallowing this garbage? Evidently.

Once again, I am reminded that all of us need to hold to the Truth that God inspired in His Word. It is the only Truth. And Job will tell us the first step toward wisdom is a healthy fear of Almighty God.

I have been tempted to throw up my hands and say, “Come back Lord!!! End this insanity once and for all.” But as I was scrolling through Instagram a simple phrase passed by:

What Satan intends for evil, God can use for good.

That was taken from something Joseph said to his brothers after they had sold him into slavery. I believe the same can be true today.

The voice of evil is getting louder. Maybe this is just what the Church has needed to happen in order for us to use our voices once again. We’ve been silent way too long, and look what’s happened as a result. Maybe God wants to use this to get us motivated. Let’s start to speak up. Deny the lies. Speak Truth in such a way as to be heard.

Many have been praying for a revival in our country and in the world. I think we are on the verge, forced into repentance by the breaking down of truth. But it might be our last chance at redemption. If we don’t get on our knees right now, then stand together for Truth, we might be looking toward a time when we have no voice.

What is the source of your wisdom, of your truth? All I can say is, it better be the Bible. If it isn’t, you have no more wisdom than that chair you are sitting on. Your truth is a lie if it doesn’t align with Scripture… no matter how loudly or how often you say it.

So tell me what you believe. Name your source. Then I’ll check your source with mine before I believe what you are saying. Satan might think he’s got the Church backed into a corner. But God can turn the tables, if we are faithful.

Let’s be faithful!

Please Join Us

Genesis 1-5

I am so excited! If this isn’t your first time reading my blog, you know I have been reading through the Bible every year for a while now. And you will probably know that my favorite way to read it is chronologically. So imagine my excitement when yesterday morning the pastor invited our church family to read the Bible TOGETHER this year… chronologically! We are using the reading plan from the YourVersion Bible app. What can I say? I’m in!

So to start the year out in Genesis, something occurred to me about Adam and Eve’s original sin. It seems contrary to Paul’s teaching that we ought to strive to be like Christ. Paul even tells us to have the mind of Christ (Romans 12:2, Philippians 2:5-11). So why, then, was Satan so wrong to tell Eve she could achieve the goal of being like God by eating the fruit? Why is it ok for Paul to tell us to be like God, and wrong for Satan to suggest the same thing?

The obvious answer is: Eve was told not to eat the fruit. That bite was blatant disobedience, and that is NOT being like God.

The lesson for us is that becoming godly men and women, having the mind of Christ is not easy. There are no shortcuts. Saying certain words, working up an emotional worship experience, attending church or reading a quick devotional in the morning doesn’t necessarily translate into becoming more like Jesus.

Sometimes there are growing pains. Sometimes there are surgeries, pruning, the cutting away of sin in our lives. And it hurts! We call it sanctification, and it doesn’t happen any other way than walking with God… one step at a time. It takes falling down and allowing God to pick us up and set us on the right path again. It takes confronting sin and humbling ourselves in order to receive God’s grace.

It takes an intentional effort on our part – like reading God’s Word every day, meditating on it, questioning it, talking about it, memorizing it, using it… every day. I can’t think of a more valuable New Year’s Resolution!

So, dear one, I hope you will join the Frederica Baptist Church family and read through the Bible in 2023. Then let’s talk about it. Let’s let God grow us into people who are more and more like Jesus every day. I’m excited about the prospect of doing this with you!