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Archive | God’s Word for Today

My Favorite Bible Story

My favorite Bible story Mark 5I love all of God’s Word. Even the hard parts. But I do like some parts more than others. And like many of you, I have a favorite Bible story. In fact, one particular miracle of Jesus captivates my attention. Every time I read it I get goose bumps. Literally. Although action and edge-of-your-seat suspense pack the story, what it teaches me about Jesus enthralls me.

The event occurs right on the heels of a full day of teaching and what the disciples considered a near-death experience during a furious squall on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41). While the storm terrified them, it was Jesus’ demonstrated authority over nature that left the disciples shaking in their sandals.

Jesus versus Legion

Still reeling from that experience, Jesus and the twelve were greeted on the opposite shore by a character straight out of a horror flick. Possessed by demons, no one was strong enough to subdue or control him. People had tried, but he tore chains and broke apart the iron bonds.

Now he lived among the tombs in the hills, crying out day and night and cutting himself with stones. He was helpless and hopeless. Tortured and tragic. Then he encountered Jesus and everything changed.

The demons within the man immediately acknowledged the power and authority of Jesus. Based on the fact they called themselves “Legion,” there could have been 6,000 plus demons in residence, but they knew they were no match for the Son of God. (See Mark 5:1-20 for the full story.)

Jesus freed the man with a word. In an instant everything changed. This prisoner of evil had been released by the Holy One. This man who had been feared and shunned by his community could now return to his family. Everyone had given this man up for lost. Everyone but Jesus.

This story demonstrates not only the power and authority of Jesus but also His grace and compassion. Jesus doesn’t merely have the ability to work in our lives, He also desires to work in our lives because He cares for us.

What Jesus did in this man’s life, He can do in our lives. Our Savior is loving and kind, but He is not wimpy. He is able to accomplish what He desires to do in your life.

Is there a stronghold or problem in your life you’ve given up on? How can reflecting on Jesus’ compassion and power renew your hope?

 

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Do You Ever Try to Take Charge of Jesus?

Take Charge of JesusWe know that Jesus’ mother Mary and His half-brother James became believers. But Jesus wasn’t always their Lord. There was a time when they tried to “take charge” of Jesus, to control Him.

Last week, while preparing to teach a Bible study class, I came across the evidence. I’ve read the passage many times before, but this time God gave me some fresh application. Very personal application.

It was early in Jesus’ ministry. He had just called the Twelve. The crowds were growing and clamoring for His attention. They wanted more miracles. The Jewish leaders’ antagonism toward Jesus grew in correlation to His popularity with the common folk. And it all got back to Jesus’ family in Nazareth.

The scene opens with Jesus and His disciples in a house, probably tired and weary from travel and ministry. But the crowds found Him again, packing the dwelling and the immediate area. The demands of the people were so great, Jesus and the disciples could not even take time to eat.

That’s when we read this:

When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”  Mark 3:21, NIV

Jesus’ family attempted an intervention. But why? The Scripture doesn’t give us details, just that they thought Jesus had lost His mind. Maybe they thought – like the Jewish leaders claimed – that Jesus was possessed by a demon. Maybe they thought He was the head of some outlandish cult. Maybe they were concerned about His safety or worried about their own reputation.

Whatever the exact reason, they decided to put a stop to it. To take charge. To make Jesus listen to reason and come home to Nazareth. They probably even thought they had Jesus’ best interests at heart.

If you think about it, it really is a funny scene. The little family entourage planned to seize Jesus and take Him against His will. That’s what “take charge” in this passage means. They planned to impose their will on the One who had been casting out demons and restoring sight to the blind.

Ridiculous, right?! But don’t we sometimes try to do the same? I do, anyway. See if you might fall into one of the following.

3 Ways We Try to Take Charge of Jesus

  1. Ask Jesus to bless your plans – Oh boy! I’ve done this more times than I can count. I get carried away with all these great ideas for ministry and jump in. Then I take them to Jesus and ask for His blessing.
  2. Attempt to manipulate Jesus – Have you ever asked God to trade favors? “Lord, if you will just do …, then I will do …” God doesn’t cut deals or make bargains.
  3. Give God your wish list – I’m as guilty of this as anybody. I put my “prayer list” before God and expect Him to spit out the right answers like a divine vending machine.

These three things are just a sampling of some of the ways we Christians sometimes attempt to “take charge” of Jesus. We want to bend Jesus to our will instead of allow Him to bend us to His. I admit it. It’s a daily battle for me. That’s why the Holy Spirit so often reminds me of Galatians 2:20:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

In what ways have you tried to “take charge” of Jesus? How can the spiritual truth found in Galatians 2:20 help us to give Jesus charge of us instead?

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Are You Content with Your Stuff?

contentOur family calls it the flood of 2003. One Saturday morning I stepped into ankle-deep water in the hallway outside our bedroom. I could hear water gushing somewhere close by and hurried to find the source. In the guest bathroom, water from the toilet supply line was shooting across the room. I turned off the water and began to survey the damage.

Carpets and other flooring upstairs were ruined. But the bigger mess was downstairs. The ceiling directly under the bathroom had fallen and paint slid down the walls. Water saturated everything in that half of the bottom floor of our house. We spent the rest of the summer repairing, replacing, and renovating.

The accident and the resulting damage to our home hit me hard. The physical challenge of the cleanup overwhelmed me, but I also grieved the loss of our stuff. Later on – when I was ready to hear it – God showed me my reaction to this material loss revealed much about what I treasured most.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed this very issue (Matthew 6:19-21). He knows we humans tend to value the wrong things. We seek satisfaction, joy, and security in the fleeting things of this world. But jobs, possessions, money, and people cannot meet our deepest needs. They may temporarily mask our real need, but eventually discontentment rises to the surface again.

Stuffing lots of stuff isn’t the answer

We’ve been taught by the world that “stuff” is the answer. So we stuff all we can into the empty hole, but it never fills up. Only God can fully and permanently satisfy our spiritual need. When He becomes what we value most, then we will find true contentment.

During short-term mission trips, I’ve seen firsthand that Christians can be joyful and content without all the stuff we have in America. Believers in mud huts with dirt floors and thatched roofs ooze the joy of Christ. Brothers and sisters living in tiny Soviet block apartments experience the full life Christ gives.

Only Jesus can make us truly content

In fact, I believe our material “abundance” can foster discontent. Since we are used to having so much, we have convinced ourselves we need it all. We trade in perfectly good cars on ones that are newer, brighter, or faster and we up-size our homes even when we can’t afford it.

The apostle Paul learned contentment in material need or plenty because he did not base his attitude on his physical circumstances (Philippians 4:10-13). Paul looked to Christ for strength in every situation, including physical need. The only thing Paul could not do without was Christ.

I wonder, can we say the same?

If we are completely honest with ourselves, what would be on our list of things we can not do without?

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4 Things to Remember No Matter Who Wins the Election

Presidential ElectionTomorrow is the Big Day. THE election. In less than 48 hours the American people will have a new President Elect. Some of us may celebrate, some may mourn, and some may not care very much.

But the outcome will affect all of us.

A new president will bring new policies. New influences on Congress. A new agenda for his or her administration. We may agree with the changes or we may not. But the changes will impact the direction of our country, the economy, our nation’s security, our lifestyle, our bank accounts, and more. Some effects may be positive. Some may be negative.

These potential changes can easily create concern, worry, and maybe even fear in many of us. What’s going to happen? What will the country and the world be like for my children and grandchildren? Maybe I should just move to Canada…

But, oh believer! We don’t have to allow the circumstances of this world to dictate how we feel. We don’t have to be consumed by anxiety even over potentially very real, negative affects caused by a change in the White House. Our God is bigger than all that! We sometimes simply lose sight of this marvelous truth.

4 Things to Always Remember to Never Forget

No matter what happens tomorrow, we can stand firm on God and His glorious truth. Review the 4 truths below and hold them close. When worry threatens to overtake you, remind yourself of what is true.

  1. God is still – and always – in control – The Bible tells us again and again that our sovereign God is the One who raises up leaders and takes them down again. He alone decides who, when, and for how long. No one takes a worldly position of power without God’s approval. No one. (See Daniel 2:21, Daniel 4:17, Acts 17:26, and Romans 13:1.)
  2. God works through all world leaders to accomplish His purposes – Chaos, greed, and even violence may seem to reign supreme across our planet. But our all-powerful God can and does work through and in all that to bring about His will and ultimate plan for the world. (See Isaiah 45:1-5, Romans 13:1-5, and Acts 17:24-28.)
  3. God’s character – Sometimes we forget just who our great God really is. He is good and just and faithful and loving and trustworthy and powerful and kind. We can rely on Him, His character, and His ways no matter what the circumstances of the world look like to us.
  4. God’s Kingdom is not of this world – The kingdoms of the world are nothing compared to the Kingdom of God. His Kingdom reigns supreme and eternal. And if you have been born again through a saving relationship with Jesus, you are citizen of His Kingdom. His Kingdom trumps all other kingdoms (Did you see what I did there? Pun intended). When all other nations and countries have passed away, God’s Kingdom will remain! (See John 18:36.)

Let’s be honest. There’s a lot at stake tomorrow for the United States of America. I’ve caught myself wringing my hands over what lies ahead. I wrote this post as much for me as for you. I am choosing to stake my future on God and His truth. Not on the oval office. What about you?

 

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Are Christians Obligated to Vote on November 8th?

Christians voteThe upcoming Presidential election creates a major dilemma for many Christians. Here’s the basis for our dilemma: Neither major party candidate exemplifies even the most basic Christian ethics and standards. Neither is worthy of the office of the President of the United States of America.

Some Christians believe the best course of action is to abstain from voting on November 8. Others feel they should cast their vote for the “lesser of two evils.” (Check out this helpful article by Russell Moore, “Should Christians Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils?“) Which action is the right response? Could there perhaps be another option?

Let’s take a step back and briefly lay a biblical foundation for government and our responsibility as citizens.

First, God holds complete sovereignty in establishing, upholding, and removing all nations, rulers, and authorities (Daniel 2:21, Daniel 4:17, Acts 17:26, Romans 13:1). He established government for our good, to suppress evil, and to prevent chaos. Government at all levels provides structure for the country and service to the people (Romans 13:1-7).

The Bible also establishes principles for a believer’s relationship to government:

  1. Intercede Faithfully – God commands us to support the government and our leaders with our prayers. In fact, regular intercession for everyone pleases God (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
  2. Submit Respectfully – Christians should obey the laws of our land and submit ourselves to the authority of our leaders. Paul goes as far as saying that rebelling against our government authorities is the same as rebelling against God. The Bible even says we should submit with a good attitude! (See Romans 13:1-2, Titus 3:1-3, 1 Peter 2:13-17.)
  3. Fulfill Responsibilities – Believers are now and eternally citizens of the Kingdom of God. But while we still live in this world, we are also citizens of an earthly kingdom. As citizens, we have rights to enjoy and responsibilities to fulfill. More than once, Paul exercised his rights as a Roman citizen (Acts 21:25-29, Acts 25:10-12). Jesus not only taught we should fulfill all our obligations to the government, He set the example (Matthew 17:24-26, Matthew 22:15-22). Note: Yes, government is subject to corruption because it is comprised of sinful men. And when forced to choose, we must always obey God rather than man (Acts 4:19, Acts 5:29). However this election doesn’t take us there.

How should these biblical principles impact my vote?

So, how do these principles apply to the upcoming presidential election? The United States of America is a republic. Citizens have the right and responsibility to elect the government officials who will represent us.

But this go around, that responsibility seems much heavier. I am struggling with this myself. I am praying and thinking about the right thing to do. I understand why many have decided to simply not vote at all. Yet, that won’t prevent a new president from being inaugurated in January. That won’t fulfill my responsibility as a citizen of the United States.

There is another option. One I am contemplating. We can fulfill our responsibility as citizens and not vote for either of “them.” There will be other candidates on the ballot. Or we could cast a write-in vote. Yes, we can exercise our right and vote our conscious.

Without bashing or endorsing any candidate, how are you dealing with this weighty responsibility?

Find out who is else will be on the ballot:

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Do you Trust Your Emotions or God’s Truth?

Emotions or truthGod tricked me. He made me believe He had fixed things. Then He pulled the rug out from under me. He didn’t see. He didn’t care. He couldn’t – or wouldn’t – intervene.

At least that was the way I felt. 

But, then out of the dark, He whispered. I see you. I care. I am working.

I had to make a choice. Would I trust my feelings or God’s truth? Would I believe my temporary physical circumstances or believe the One who even raises up nations to carry out His purposes?

Eventually, I chose to trust and believe God and His truth. But not before I spent some time wallowing in the lies of my emotions.

What about you? Have your emotions ever lied to you? Difficulties, trials, struggles, and grief can foster emotions that deceive us and lead us away from God’s truth. They tell us things like:

  • God can’t do anything with this.
  • God doesn’t see your struggle.
  • God doesn’t care that you’re hurting.
  • God is too busy to do anything for you.

Any of those things sound familiar? We cannot trust our emotions. Our feelings will mislead us, but God never will. I learned I can choose to stand on God’s truth even when my emotions are trying to drag me under. When the world is shaking around me, I can run to our unshakeable God and stand firm on His truth.

Is your life shaking right now? Choose to stand on God’s truth no matter what your circumstances or your emotions may say. The following truths rebut some of the major lies our feelings tell.

5 Truths to Stand on for an Unshakeable Faith

  1. God Can – Our all-powerful, sovereign God is always in control and always working in every situation. Even when we can’t see Him. (Jeremiah 32:17)
  2. God Sees – God sees and knows about every aspect of our lives and the world condition. (Psalm 139:1-4)
  3. God Cares – God doesn’t simply see your struggles, He cares about every aspect of your life. He knows your needs and He wants to meet them. (Matthew 6:25-34)
  4. God is Present – God is always with His children. He never leaves us. Even when we don’t sense His presence He is there. (Isaiah 43:2)
  5. God is Working – Even when we can’t see Him, God is constantly working out His eternal purposes through events, nations, and powers to accomplish His purposes in the world. And He is constantly working through the circumstances of our lives to bring about His perfect good. (Romans 8:28)

5 truthsLast weekend at a conference, I shared these truths with about 250 women. Even though these truths are clear and simple, they are hard to remember when life starts to shake. So, we connected these five truths to something that’s with us all the time. Then we created a visual to keep and put somewhere we will see it often.

We stood and claimed the five truths, counting them off on each finger of our right hand. Then they traced their hands on a large index card and wrote one truth on each finger. One of the young women turned hers into a work of art! So I asked if I could snap a photo.

Perhaps your life is shaking right now. The world will never provide us with firm footing, but we can stand unshakeable when we choose to stand on God and His truth.

“Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.” Isaiah 26:4

Which of these 5 truths most speaks to your situation today? Will you choose to trust the LORD, the Rock eternal?

 

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5 Things I Wish Christians Would Stop Saying

5 Things Stop SayingJust because we hear something – or say something – over and over again doesn’t make it true. For instance, my 3-year-old grandson refers to Hulu as “WeeHoo.” Whenever my daughter carefully pronounces it correctly for him. He says, “No, Mom. It’s ‘WeeHoo.'” Yes, the illiterate toddler thinks he knows better than the grownup.

As silly as that sounds, we sometimes do that with God and His Word. We have allowed things out of line with Scripture to become so embedded in our brains, we now accept them as fact. Or we take a truth out of context and misapply it. And unfortunately we repeat these things to others.

Although not an exhaustive list, I hear Christians make the following five statements over and over again:

1. “We are all God’s children” – All people are definitely God’s “creatures,” created by God and for God. But only those who have been spiritually born again through a saving relationship with Jesus are God’s “children.” Here’s what God’s Word says:

  • Through Christ, we can be “adopted” as God’s sons and daughters. (Ephesians 1:5).
  • Only those with the indwelling Holy Spirit are children of God (Romans 8:15-17).
  • Only those redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ are children of God (Galatians 4:4-7).

At its best, this phrase is incorrect. At its worst, it gives people without a saving relationship with Jesus, a false sense of eternal security.

2. “Judge not” – We too often quote these words of Jesus as an excuse to ignore sin in others’ lives or as a reason for others to leave us to our own detrimental behavior. The passages we whip out are Matthew 7:1 and James 4:12. Unfortunately, we regularly fail to consider the context of the greater passage and the whole counsel of God’s Word.

Yes, both Jesus and James condemned a harsh, critical “judging” of people’s motives. This kind of “judging” is motivated by a self-righteous, hypocritical attitude. But in the whole of Scripture – including words of Jesus and James – God clearly commands Christians to lovingly point out sin and exhort each other to holiness. It is not our place to determine their motives, but it is our responsibility as a member of the body of Christ to gently identify behavior that God has already judged to be “sin.” The goal is to reconcile that person with others and with God and to keep the sin from spreading to others (Matthew 18:15-17, 1 Corinthians 5:5-7, Hebrews 12:15, James 5:19-20). For more about “judging” read this post.

3. “God will never give us more than we can handle” – There is just one problem with saying this: It’s simply not what the Bible teaches. Many well-meaning people quote 1 Corinthians 10:13 to back up this understandable desire. But the context of this passage is about temptation. Here’s the good news: God does promise that He will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear; He will always show us a way to stand firm.

So what does God teach about the amount of trials and difficulties He will allow into our lives? In a nutshell: He will allow far more than we can handle. Paul wrote that he had suffered extreme hardship in Asia, “far beyond his ability to endure so that he despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8-11). God allowed this so Paul and his companions “might not rely on themselves but on God.” For more on this topic, read this post.

4. “God is love” – Yes, I believe that God is love! Scripture says it over and over (1 John 4:8-10). God defines real love. He is loving by nature. He expresses this divine love in all that He does. But unfortunately, some Christians try to stand on this truth – “God is love” – to rationalize sin or to dismiss hell.

“A loving God wouldn’t send people to hell.”

“God loves me, He would want me to be happy.”

But our loving, holy God does not sweep sin under the rug. Instead His love moved Him to provide a way of salvation for all people by sending Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:11). And Christ’s love compels us to repent of our sins, accept His sacrificial death, and be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). God’s love provides a way of salvation, not a license to sin.

5. “All sin is the same” – Most assuredly, any and all sin separates us from God and brings eternal spiritual death (Romans 6:23). In that way, all sin is the same. But Scripture does show that some kinds of sins cause far greater harm to ourselves and other people or bring far greater consequences than other sins. (For more on this see this article at BillyGraham.org.)Here are a few examples:

  • Sexual Immorality – Due to the intimate nature of sex, sexual immorality has unique consequences, such as tearing apart families and even directly impacting our relationship with God (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).
  • Pride – Scripture condemns the sin of pride over and over. In fact, the Bible says that God “opposes the proud” (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6). Pride is an underlying attitude that manifests itself in a host of other “sinful” ways.
  • Hypocrisy – Jesus sternly warned the Pharisees about their hypocrisy (Matthew 23:13-36). This kind of self-righteousness blinds us to our own sin and our need for God. “Woe!”
  • Leading others into sin – Jesus’ language was harsh for those who would dare lead a “little one” into sin. It would be better for them to have a millstone tied around their neck and be thrown into the sea. Sounds serious! (See Matthew 18:1-9.)

You may not agree with me on all these, and that’s okay. What I hope we will all do is go to God’s Word to find His truth. But, let’s not ever settle for a “truth” we’ve grown accustomed to.

Have you ever said any of these 5 things? How do you feel about it now? What are some other things you hear often from Christians that don’t line up with God’s Word? Be sure to share what God’s Word says about it!

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Does God Need an Update?

Last week, Pope Francis visited the United States. Thousands came out to see and hear him at every stop. But his visit raised a question in the media that troubles me. Several times during news stories I heard journalists pose questions similar to:

Will the Pope address ways the Church can be more relevant in our culture?

God UpdateDon’t get me wrong. I believe Christians must show how our faith is relevant to people today. But what the media suggested went beyond strategies for reaching and engaging individuals where they are with the Gospel message. They wanted to know how the Church would “update and change” to better reflect our current secular culture. To bring Christianity into the 21st century.

This question doesn’t begin and end with journalists. People from every country and generation seem to want to change or update Christianity to suit their lifestyle. People want our culture to speak to God’s Word instead of allowing God’s Word to speak to the culture.

Consider with me for a moment just how ridiculous this idea really is. We humans – who are beings created by God from a handful of dust and live but for a moment in time – think we have the right to tell the Creator how things should be, what is right and what is wrong, and how we should be able to “get to heaven.”

Job tried this. Here is God’s response:

“Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?… Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?… Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him?” Job 38:2,4; 40:2

Jesus and Christ and His saving work on the cross is relevant to every person in every culture in every century. All have sinned and are separated from God. All need a Savior. Christ died for all. God doesn’t want any to perish, but all to be saved.

That never changes. It is always relevant.

And yes, I know that’s not really what those journalists are talking about. They are thinking of ethics, and lifestyles, and the things people consider to be important. Those things change constantly.

But God does not change like shifting shadows. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

The one, true Creator God is perfect holiness. He is Life. He is Light. In Him there is no darkness at all. He is the Almighty, Sovereign One. He has no beginning and no end. He is all powerful and all knowing. He created life and established its boundaries.

And this is the God to Whom we say: “Hey, why don’t you step into the 21st century? Aren’t you a little behind the times?”

Really? Think about how ridiculous this really is. If our culture doesn’t agree with God’s standards, then who needs to change?

Have you ever thought that God or the Christian faith needed an “update?” If so, in what way?

Note: I totally agree that Christians and the Christian faith is and should be relevant to the culture. I believe Paul expresses this in his declaration that he tried to be “all things to all people in order to win some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). But Paul meant in ways that did not contradict God’s moral standards or teach doctrine differently than God has revealed in His Word.

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Whose Handiwork are You?

It’s really hard not to be self-focused. For starters we live in such a self-absorbed culture. Everything we hear and see encourages us to put ourselves first. Then there are the day-to-day necessities involved in keeping ourselves alive and properly presentable.

So too often when we sit down with God’s Word, we bring the same self-focused attitude. See if any of these thoughts sound familiar:

  • How can God’s Word help me in this situation?
  • How can God’s Word encourage me today?
  • How can God’s Word make me feel better about myself?
  • What guidance can God’s Word give me today?

Ephesians 2:10Lately, God has been showing me that I far too often approach the Bible with selfishness and even pride.

I’ve been reading “Women of the Word” by Jen Wilkin. In the first chapter, she writes about several ways we wrongly approach Bible study. Here’s a collection of quotes from her first section “Let the Bible Speak of God:”

“From beginning to end, the Bible is a book about God… We must read and study the Bible with our ears trained on hearing God’s declaration of Himself… The Bible does tell us who we are and what we should do, but it does so through the lens of who God is… If our reading of the Bible focuses our eyes on anyone other than God, we have gotten backwards the transformation process. Any study of the Bible that seeks to establish our identity without first proclaiming God’s identity will render partial and limited help.”

Did this hit you like it hit me? While intellectually I know that the Bible is about God – and not me – I still had to admit that I often think about me first when I go to God’s Word.

I’ve been working to purposefully think of God first and foremost when I open the Bible. So, when I read I familiar passage the other day, I saw it in a different light:

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10, NIV

In the past, when I read this verse, I focused on the idea that I am God’s poem, His beautiful handiwork. And while that’s true, God should be the primary focus.

To emphasize this point, let’s take a step back and read this verse in its larger context:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

God has miraculously saved us by His grace. Our salvation is His work from beginning to end. Since we cannot do anything to save ourselves, there is no room for pride. We cannot boast about our accomplishments. God is the One who has done it.

Yet, we get to verse 10, and we make it about us.

Read verse 10 again, out loud this time. Once with the emphasis on the word “handiwork” and once again, with the emphasis where it should be:

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

We are saved only because of His gracious work on our behalf. We are who we are only because God has created us anew.

No room for pride. No cause for boasting. Only praise and thanksgiving.

Did your out loud reading give you a new perspective on Ephesians 2:10? If so, how?

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Do You have Vision?

VisionDoes your church have a “vision” statement? Maybe you even have a personal vision statement, purpose statement, or mission statement for your own life. There’s nothing wrong with this as long as it directly reflects God’s vision and purpose for your church or your life.

Unfortunately, some of us have developed these “vision” statements to communicate our own hopes, dreams, and goals. And sadly, sometimes we recite Proverbs 29:18 to back up this practice. You’ve probably heard the KJV version of Proverbs 29:18.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish; but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” Proverbs 29:18, KJV

Sadly, Proverbs 29:18 falls near the top of almost every list of Bible verses that are misunderstood, abused, or taken out of context. As we humans so often do, we look at it from our perspective instead of God’s perspective. We want to be the one with “vision.” We want to pursue our big hopes and dreams.

So, let’s take a look at the original meaning of Proverbs 29:18 to discover how we should understand and apply it. Considering the meaning of a few of the Hebrew words from this verse will help:

  • Vision (English word used in the King James Version) – means “to see with the eyes, either physically or spiritually.” Here, given the context, the spiritual is obviously meant. Therefore, “vision” in Proverbs 29:18 refers to a “revelation, oracle, or prophecy.” In other words, “divine communication.” It originates with God and is given to mankind through His prophets or the Bible. We “see” it and “understand.” This “vision” does not originate with us.
  • People – Refers to “people or nation.” This verse does not necessarily speak to individuals but groups of people joined in some kind of relationship like a nation.
  • Perish – Means “undisciplined, let go of all restraint, run wild.”
  • Keepeth – Means to “observe” or “give heed.”
  • Law – Generally “teaching, doctrine, direction, or instruction.” It can also refer specifically to the Law of Moses (Torah).
  • Happy – Means “happiness, blessedness.”

Properly understood, Proverbs 29:18 gives us very wise advice indeed. Those who don’t observe God’s revelation live undisciplined, unrestrained lives and suffer the consequences. But those who live by God’s Word will experience His blessing.

The New Living Translation reflects the correct meaning in modern language:

“When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is happy.” Proverbs 29:18, NLT

Is His vision our vision? Or are we operating under a vision of our own making? Our spiritual and eternal well being – as individuals yes, but certainly as communities and nations – depends on our obedience to God’s Word. When we scoff at or turn away from His divine law we suffer the results of our unrestrained living. But when we keep and observe His Word, our obedience will be “blessed.” (Side note: that doesn’t necessarily mean physical prosperity. God’s presence and His spiritual, eternal blessings are far greater!)

So, what is your “vision?” What is the “vision” of your family, community, nation? What results of that “vision” do you see around you?

 

 

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