Saturday, July 30, 2011

Trusting in Chariots

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Trust in the Name of the LORD Our God
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
1May the LORD(A) answer you in the day of trouble!
May(B) the name of the God of Jacob(C) protect you!
2May he send you help from(D) the sanctuary
and give you support from(E) Zion!
3May he(F) remember all your offerings
and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices!
4May he(G) grant you your heart’s desire
and fulfill all your plans!
5May we shout for joy over(H) your salvation,
and in the name of our God set up our(I) banners!
May the LORD fulfill all your petitions!
6Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven
with(J) the saving might of his right hand.
7Some trust in(K) chariots and some in(L) horses,
(M) but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
8They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright.
9O LORD, save(N) the king!
May he answer us when we call.
Cross references:
A. Psalm 20:1 : Gen 35:3
B. Psalm 20:1 : Prov 18:10
C. Psalm 20:1 : Psalm 59:1; 69:29
D. Psalm 20:2 : Psalm 73:17; 2 Chr 20:8
E. Psalm 20:2 : Psalm 128:5
F. Psalm 20:3 : Acts 10:4
G. Psalm 20:4 : Psalm 21:2
H. Psalm 20:5 : Psalm 9:14
I. Psalm 20:5 : Psalm 60:4; Song 6:4, 10
J. Psalm 20:6 : Psalm 28:8
K. Psalm 20:7 : Isa 31:1; 36:9
L. Psalm 20:7 : Prov 21:31
M. Psalm 20:7 : 1 Sam 17:45; 2 Chr 32:8
N. Psalm 20:9 : Psalm 48:2 ESV

While driving in your car, you trust that your seatbelt will keep you from being ejected if an accident were to occur. While riding a bike, you wear a helmet trusting that it will protect your head if ever you were to fall off. While baking cookies, you trust that the oven mit you put on your hand will keep it from getting burned. These are all obvious, common sense things that we trust in every day right?

Well take it a step further and think about some emotional and psychological securities you may have: do you make sure you have plenty of money sitting your bank account just in case you need to buy something? What about your job? Do you work 50+ hours in your attempts to secure your position, pleasing people while paying an outrageous mortgage with three little ones and a loving wife at home? Do you spend endless amounts of time studying and preparing for exams that it sucks the joy and life out of every day? What about spending loads of money on cosmetics to make your face look younger, and a physical trainer to help you keep your body toned and sleek? What about transitioning your kids into adults? Do you have a tendency to put ridiculous amounts of rules and regulations on them, expectations so that they grow up and transition as easily as possible, without any challenge or conflict along the way? And lastly, when you lay your head down at night on your pillow, do you fall asleep with the mentality, “I am good enough, if I were to die tonight, I would go to heaven: I pray, go to church, help out the needy every once in a while….”

When trouble arises within your life? What is your “go-to?” In Psalm 20, David writes a series of almost prayer-like phrases to the reader, encouraging them to put their trust in the LORD. During his time, people put their trust in the power of the Egyptian army: these men rode on chariots and horses and were extremely powerful. I think of the movie, "The Prince of Egypt," or maybe the "Ten Commandments," when I read this text and envision this wall of soldiers racing to the Red Sea to try and stop the Isralites from crossing. What happened to these men on chariots and horses though? The Red Sea collapsed upon them and they all died. Their chariots did not save them in moments of battle. We have plenty of battles that go on everyday that we attempt to fight with our "Modern Day Chariots."

In times of hardship, rather than relying on your health and physical capabilities, your performance at work, your creativity in organization and your ability to persuade and communicate---putting your trust in God. Rather than relying on pleasurable things like sex, alcohol, pornography, sports, romantic novels and movies----putting your trust in God. Rather than relying on giving your kids everything they need, exhausting yourself in every activity known-to-man, studying harder ..putting your trusting in God. And rather than seeking out your daily quota of good deeds for the day to fulfill your requirement to earn your salvation, putting your life in the hands of Jesus Christ---and trusting that the LORD our God will save you.
Just stop and take a few minutes meditating on Psalm 20. Maybe explore those cross-references like “L” in verse 6 leads you to Isaiah and gives more insight on these “chariots” and “horses.” There are things in life that make sense to do –wearing a helmet, a seatbelt and using oven mits –I am not saying disregard these things and just rely on the LORD to save you  But what is it that you cling to if something were to happen to your loved ones? Your job? Your body? Do you ever imagine what life would be like without those things? If you cannot imagine seeing your life without them ---you need to take a step back and have a heart-check. I am not saying neglect your kids, your job, your body, your finances---but don’t also put all of your hope, joy and peace into those things—even a life is a temporary thing. Invest in things that will last by putting your trust in the LORD and believing that HE is big enough , strong enough, loving enough and forgiving enough to save you from whatever your facing!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Missing Out on Milk and Honey

In the Bible, the Promise Land was flowing with "milk and honey." As a nutritionist, I say "everything in moderation"; so my healthy promise land would consist of fruits and vegetables with that milk --skim. As an average woman, my promise land would have been flowing with milk and chocolate chip cookies or Oreo Blizzards from Dairy Queen. Ha, what about you? This is not really a deep theological question, I am just trying to get your little imagination working!

Why milk and honey? This promised combination was first introduced in Exodus 3:17-18ish when God promised the Israelites that he would, "to bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, a land, "flowing with milk and honey." And they will listen to your voice....." Ok so fast forward to Deuteronomy 1:25 where scripture cross references us, and it says, "And they (twelve men sent to the Valley of Eschol) took in their hands some of the fruit of the land and brought it down to us, and brought us word again and said, 'It is good land that the Lord our God is giving us." So it wasn't in a literal sense, Hehe, my imagination has these men coming up with their hands all stuck to milk bottles (BAH! Sorry, early morning, kinda loopy!) So basically, the milk and honey represents fruit, land that is prosperous and well....promising! Now you know the rest of the story, the Isralites refuse to enter into this promise land because they are fearful of the giants and fortified cities. The people "wept that night and grumbled against their leaders Moses and Aaron. They thought it would be better to go back into Egypt as slaves than to enter into this wonderful land. Now, I am not a huge risk-taker and coming from the outside in, but if God promises to deliver his people---he does. These people had just dusted off their sandals from walking through the Red Sea; they had a pillar of fire at night and a cloud in the day aka God's presence leading them through the desert; I just would expect a different reaction, wouldn't you? I mean, how would have you reacted? Put yourself in the place of an Israelite for a brief moment.

Now look at your track record? Just ponder this past year and recall challenges, frustrations and moments that you either trusted the Lord, or you coiled back and hung out in the wilderness for a while. Perhaps you're facing a promise land opportunity right now: an opportunity of a lifetime--a mission trip, a new church, career change, or even a relationship. There maybe a few reasons to coil back: fear for finances, fear of failure, fear of having to work too hard, fear of just not knowing what each would look like. You are at the highest point of potential with the choice to take a step forward or backward. The Israelites chose to take the step backward and they all died before they were able to enter into the Promise Land. Not only that, but God was ..well, really frustrated with them: ....." I have pardoned, according to your word (response to Moses' attempt to intercede for his people). But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and not obeyed my voice shall see the land that I swore I would give to their fathers. "

Ah. The frustration of a Father. I think that disappointment in God's voice within this passage alone would be such a heavy weight to bear. Can we be different than the Israelites, please? Can we approach the Promise Land God has set before you with confidence in our God? I am probably one of the weakest people when it comes to confidence and faithfullness in trusting the Lord's hand. But the scripture, God's Word records these stories and parables and love letters with the purpose of guiding us through this life. I am praying that we would not choose the desert over the "Dessert" if you will, of the Promises of our Loving Father. God is bigger than your fears of failures, fiances, even your health and safety. Let's trust Him!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Purity Plan

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We have this running joke in our family involving the world’s greatest dessert, “Better than ‘S-E-X’ Cake.” Yes, the hyphens in between the letters are to prompt you to spell the word out. I believe my Aunt Nancy first made the cake and told my mom about it. I think Nancy spelled it out as a joke because we were younger---and to this day, I still spell the word out! Or else I replace it with “Better than winning the Boston Marathon Cake!” All kidding aside, I am so very thankful for my parents in the way of educating my siblings and I on the importance of purity at an early age. Sure, I guess you could consider us a wee bit sheltered: I read the books, went to the Rebecca Saint James, “Wait for Me,” concerts and even have a cousin that taught abstinence in schools! You could say that I was set-up with a no-fail system in high school and college. What is crazy though, is that as I am only 40 days out from my wedding, and in all honesty, those things are not what are keeping me from falling into sexual temptation: it’s the Holy Spirit. Even though those things have helped remind me throughout my adolescent years to remain pure, it wasn’t until I hit the homestretch of my engagement that I realized that purity runs much deeper than wearing a ring, setting boundaries and having accountability. I think so often we rely on these forms of accountability within the Christian faith that we almost undermine the power of the Holy Spirit in moments of temptation. We also give credit to curriculum and perhaps even an example rather than seeing the inner-probings of the heart as the most crucial aspect and plan in it all.

Scripture tells us that when Jesus ascended into heaven that he told his disciples that it was better for him to go so that “The Helper” could come. That ‘helper’ is the Holy Spirit. Now I think, in that moment as a disciple, I would have said, “WAIT A SECOND! You’re Jesus---someone better? Huh?”

John 16:7
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for(A) if I do not go away,(B) the Helper will not come to you. But(C) if(D) I go,(E) I will send him to you.
Cross references:
A. John 16:7 : John 7:39
B. John 16:7 : John 15:26; John 14:16
C. John 16:7 : Acts 2:33
D. John 16:7 : John 14:2
E. John 16:7 : John 14:26

John 14:16
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another(A) Helper,[a] to be with you forever,
a. John 14:16 Or Advocate, or Counselor; also 14:26; 15:26; 16:7
Cross references:
A. John 14:16 : John 14:26; John 15:26; 16:7
Why would it be better to have the Holy Spirit instead of Christ? We can flip back a few pages to John 14 and read this!

John 14:26
26But the(A) Helper, the Holy Spirit,(B) whom the Father will send in my name,(C) he will teach you all things and(D) bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
Cross references:
A. John 14:26 : John 14:16
B. John 14:26 : Luke 24:49; Acts 2:33, with John 15:26; 16:7
C. John 14:26 : John 16:13; 1 Cor 2:10; 1 John 2:20, 27
D. John 14:26 : John 2:22

Now you may say, “Joni, I am so happy that all you need is the Holy Spirit to keep you pure, but I need something a little more tangible in order to keep myself from falling into temptation.” Which is totally understandable, and I am not in any means discounting the importance of supplementing your relationship with Christ with tangible things such as setting boundaries, having accountability or reminders of pursuing purity—but , (a big but!) we as Christ-followers cannot disregard the power of the Holy Spirit and need to be intentional about approaching purity by asking the One who defines Purity. If we claim that the only reason why we are remaining pure is due to books on purity, or because Rebecca Saint James wrote a song about waiting, we miss the boat completely on God’s original plan for us.

A couple of months ago, I sensed a shift of temptation in the physical component of my relationship with my fiancĂ© and I was frustrated. I was reading in a women’s devotional book (that I cannot recall right now) that dealt with the topic of “Sanctification.” It touched on a passage found in Exodus 31 that describes God as ‘Jehovah-mekoddishkem’ which means, “The Lord Sanctifies You.” And in this passage, specifically in verses 12-18 we read:

The Sabbath
12And the LORD said to Moses, 13"You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, 'Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you. 14You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death.(A) Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. 15(B) Six days shall work be done, but(C) the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD.(D) Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. 16Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. 17(E) It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that(F) in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and(G) on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.'"
18And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the(H) two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with(I) the finger of God.
Cross references:
A. Exodus 31:14 : Exodus 35:2; Jer 17:27; Num 15:32-36
B. Exodus 31:15 : Exodus 20:9
C. Exodus 31:15 : Exodus 16:23; 20:10; Gen 2:2
D. Exodus 31:15 : Exodus 31:14
E. Exodus 31:17 : Exodus 31:13
F. Exodus 31:17 : Gen 1:31
G. Exodus 31:17 : Gen 2:2; Heb 4:4, 10
H. Exodus 31:18 : Exodus 24:12; 32:15, 16; Deut 4:13; 5:22; 9:10, 11; 2 Cor 3:3
I. Exodus 31:18 : Exodus 8:19

So from this passage, I gathered that true sanctification can only come from God. How does this relate to earthly relationships: in its entirity! God did not create purity for relationships, he created relationship for purity. To sanctify means to set apart, to be holy and/or saint-like. We must understand that we have to be sanctified to be near God because He is so incredibly holy. This can only come from God ---even though the passage also tells the Israelites to keep the Sabbath as a form of worship to God. Verses 12-13 proves this point “I the LORD, sanctify you.”
So although relationships are wonderful and beautiful---they are not what defines you, God specifically uses all areas of our vapor-length lives to shape and mold us; redeem and transform us so that we can ultimately be with Him for all eternity.

This is concept is threaded throughout the Old Testament and into the New Testament with verses. Probably one of the most beautiful love letters related to the concept of sanctification is found in John 17 of Christ praying—I encourage you to read the entire passage, but the key piece for this topic is found in John 17:19
“And(A) for their sake(B) I consecrate myself,[a] that they also(C) may be sanctified[b] in truth.”
a. John 17:19 Or I sanctify myself; or I set myself apart (for holy service to God)
b. John 17:19 Greek may be set apart (for holy service to God)

Other scripture: Acts 20:32, Acts 26:18, Romans 15:16, 1 Corinthians 1:2, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Hebrews 2:11, Hebrews 10:10, Hebrews 10:14, and Hebrews 10:29.

Scripture from ESV

Whew. Ok, let’s bring this “Purity Plane” to a landing. So what I felt when I read all the scripture on sanctification is that we should pursue holiness in all areas of life. “Be Holy for I AM Holy.” So even though we are made holy by the blood of Christ---there’s an element of us continuing to pursue holiness. That last passage in the list above, Hebrews 10:29 has some strong words to set some fire under the importance of pursuing holiness, “How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?” So as you can see, it is CRUCIAL for us to not just “Save Ourselves” because of what our parents taught us, Rebecca Saint James sang about, or we don’t want to get pregnant etc…our ultimate purity plan is to the FEAR GOD and to recognize that HE DIED so that we could be made Holy and blameless before the Father. The Holy Spirit bears witness to this truth and therefore, should act as the key to our “Purity plan.” Do I say, disregard boundaries to your relationship? NO WAY HOSEA! In fact, Kory and I are constantly finding we have to, even as much as on a per-day basis, to set some boundaries on how we spend our time together.

Ok, what if you made a mistake? What if you pushed the Holy Spirit aside and indulged a little? Or perhaps you totally ignored Him and fell into the temptation. You will be forgiven--Praise the Lord. God is such a gracious and merciful God and will redeem your waywardness ---but just like the passage in Hebrews says, we do not want to “spurn the Son of God,” and “profane the blood of the covenant by which we were sanctified with.”

So, continue to remind your lovely future spouse of what the Word says. Sexual temptation itself is not wrong—it’s if you fall into it and give way OUTSIDE of marriage. If you sense probing’s of the Holy Spirit in simply sitting next to each on the couch days before you are married, talk about it, pray about it and ask Him for direction. When my fiancĂ© and I find ourselves tempted, we often sit back and say, ‘Whoa, wait a second. Are you ok?’ and then pray about it and go our separate ways. Sometimes it’s easier than others to do this but I cannot stress enough for you to include the Holy Spirit in the time you spend together: He should be number one on your list of your purity plan. And I guess if this all fails (which it won't!) is try implementing “Better than S-E-X cake” into your daily time together and eat it whenever you’re tempted.....I guess, once you’re married, you can compare! :)