Saturday, August 30, 2014

Jesus Built A Bridge




And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the
mount before the LORD. And, behold, the
LORD passed by, and a great and strong
wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces
the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was
not in the wind: and after the wind an
earthquake; but the LORD was not in the
earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire;
but the LORD was not in the fire: and after
the fire a still small voice.
                       1 Kings 19:11-12 KJV



 
Barraged daily by television images of hate, evil, and death, our enemy, satan, would like to discourage and intimidate God's Children. But do not be deceived. God is alive and well and in control of this world.
    
Elijah saw the mountains shake from a mighty wind, the earth quake at the bidding of God, and a fire burn. But God did not speak to Elijah through the mighty, the loud, or the ferocious.
Instead, He spoke in a still small voice.
 
Today, in our world of constant noise, God continues to speak to His Children in a still small voice. He whispers peace in the midst of chaos. He whispers courage in the face of fear. He whispers joy in the face of sorrow and strength in the face of weakness.
 
Through His One and Only Son Jesus, God built a bridge that stretches from earth to heaven. It is there, In Christ, we find refuge and peace as we hear the still small voice speaking peace to our souls. Take refuge in Christ today. Do not fear. Do not be troubled. And, do not forget-God is always in control.

 
© Joyce Powell
 
 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Grace and the Law - Part V


     By Genesis six we read that sin had so infiltrated the earth that “The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. God saw the extensiveness of man’s sin. Once outside the garden, life quickly degenerated into immorality, depravity, wickedness and perversion. But one man, Noah, Genesis 6:8 explains “found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” Genesis 6:9 reveals that Noah was righteous and blameless.

     And as God set His plan to wipe mankind from the face of the earth into motion, grace saved a remnant…one man, and his family.

     After cleansing the earth with the flood waters, rescuing Noah and his family and opening the door of the ark to begin repopulating the earth, one problem remained. The human heart had not been regenerated. There had been no heart surgery performed on Noah, his wife, his sons or his son’s wives. The flood waters had not cleansed the hearts of those saved inside the ark. Human nature remained intact.

     So once again, for century after century as man repopulated the earth, sin abounded. By Genesis chapter eleven we begin reading the account of man’s desire to build a tower to the heavens and make a name for himself. “To be like God” we might say.  But God came down, confused the language and from “There the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.” Gen 11:9. 

     Abram’s father Terah left the Ur of the Chaldeans on the way to Canaan but settled instead in Haran. By this time, sin  like the swine flu virus was infecting people everywhere. But once again, God chose to grace a sinner to further His plan of redemption.  The sinner’s name was Abram.  He was not a likely candidate with whom to begin a nation. He came from an idol worshipping pagan society, He was old, and had no children. Yet God promised that his descendants would be like the stars in the sky and the sands in the sea.

     Abram believed God. Oh, he wasn’t perfect. He lied about his wife being his sister. He tried to help God along in his plan for a son by sleeping with his wife’s handmaid, Yet God chose Abram, changed his name to Abraham and began nation building with one child—a son named Isaac and one man, Abraham who believed God.

     I equate God’s nation building plan with the difference between making a dress from scratch and remaking a dress from one that already exists. In order to remake an existing dress, you have to rip out seams…being careful not to damage the garment, take the sleeves off, move the buttons over or remove the zipper. Then you have to reassemble all the pieces into a perfect new garment. And, it is possible to complete the project and find that the old dress had a slight tear in the fabric. Now you are in a pickle. You have a new garment, but it is already scarred with a tear from the old garment.

     But to make a new garment, you lay down the new fabric, pin on the pattern, cut it out and sew—a much cleaner project.

     If God had chosen an already existing nation from which to build a nation of His own, he would have had much to undo before he could start over. But by choosing Abram, he got to start from scratch and build the way he wanted it. And by the time we get to Jacob and his twelve sons, we are standing just about 400 years away from what will be known as the nation of Israel and eventually the Judahites or the Jews.    

     Years later Isaac would become the father of Esau and Jacob, God would once again chose a sinner, Jacob, to continue the lineage which began with Noah, his son Seth, and passed through generations down to Abram, Isaac, and  then Jacob. Finally Jacob had twelve sons, the last two, Joseph and Benjamin, born to Jacob’s favorite wife Rachel.

     Eventually through a series of revealed dreams, Joseph’s brothers began to hate him and after throwing him into a pit, they sold him to a caravan of traders and he ended up in the house of the pharaoh in Egypt. God’s plan to exchange the law for grace unfolded in unexpected ways and today remains available in unexpected places.  

Thank you Father for your Indescribable Grace
God can do all things.
             Mark 10:27

     Scriptures abound that show God’s grace at work through the ages. The New Testament contains picture after picture of the grace of God at work. The Old Testament’s portrait of God’s grace is mesmerizing. God’s grace so abundantly chases after us that we cannot outrun it, outlast it or outlive it. It is forever.

     Thinking about all of that, I began making a list of words that describe the grace of my God. I am sure the list is incomplete and that you can add your own words to mine. Perfect!

        God’s Grace is:

        Redeeming
        Saving
        Cleansing
        Serving
        Abounding
        Rescuing
        Overflowing
        Securing
        Purging
        Healing
        Comforting
        Strengthening
        Praying
        Trusting
        Supplying
        Sustaining
        Confessing
        Plentiful
        Limitless
        Stubborn
        Tireless
        Precious
        Persistent
        Fearless

     God’s grace gives courage to the fearful. Peace in the midst of turmoil. Joy in the midst of sorrow. Calm in the midst of anger. Hope in the midst of hopelessness. Freedom to those who are bound by sin. It is never too late and never just enough. It is abundantly overflowing and never ending.

     No amount of paper and ink can adequately describe God’s grace. Money cannot buy it and thieves cannot steal it. It is a gift and it is yours and mine for the asking.

     It is life giving, life altering and life abundant. More precious than gold yet readily available to all who ask.
 
©Joyce Powell
 
 

Friday, August 22, 2014

What Good is Prayer


Devote yourselves to prayer, being
watchful and thankful.
        Colossians 4:2  NIV 

I urge, then, first of all, that requests,
prayers, intercession and thanksgiving
be made for everyone.
         1 Timothy 2:1  NIV 

     E.M. Bounds said, “Prayer should not be regarded as a duty which must be performed, but rather as a privilege to be enjoyed, a rare delight that is always revealing some new beauty.”

     In his letter to the church at Colosse, Paul admonished his brothers and sisters in Christ to devote themselves to prayer. The Greek word for devote conveys the meaning to join, to give attention to, be faithful to, to spend much time together.

     Prayer is not a solitary action. Although we often talk about being alone in prayer, it is always alone with God, the two of us spending time together discussing faith, friends, family, life… As we worship, we can feel His presence. As we confess our sin, we can realize His forgiveness. As we bring our requests to God, we recognize our dependence upon God and become thankful for His goodness, mercy, love and grace. As we wait and listen for Him to speak, He teaches us and pulls us into relationship with Him.

     Prayer draws us close to God. Prayer is our place of power as God hears and answers. Often the change most wrought by prayer is in me as God carefully shapes and forms me into the likeness of Christ.

     Prayer is a delight. It is like wiggling your toes in an icy spring on a hot summer day. It is like a drink of fresh cool water after an extended walk on a dusty trail. It is like the first glimpse of spring flowers after a long gray winter, or first sight of a loved one not seen in years.

     Prayer humbles my heart before God and energizes me for the day’s journey. Time spent with God reassures me that I can make it through the trials of life, joyfully. Through prayer I find the peace that passes all understanding. Through prayer my disappointments become an assurance from God that He is working all things out for my good.

     Prayer allows me the privilege of a glimpse through that heavenly portal into the throne room of God—into the place where God’s glory shines too bright for my human eyes—“a rare delight that is always revealing some new beauty.”

     What good is prayer?

 

© Joyce Powell

Monday, August 18, 2014

Grace and the Law - Part IV


     As we continue our study of grace and the law, remember the purpose of the law:
1.   Revelation of Sin
2.   Preparation for the Savior
Was the law to blame for man’s sin?
     In Romans 7:7, Paul explains:  “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! I would not have known what sin was except through the law.” The law reveals sin…it does not cause someone to sin.
     Outside the garden Adam, Eve and their offspring (the human race) would be forced to live with the curse of sin. Even that was grace as God extended physical life. But He disciplined their disobedience. They were His. They belonged to Him. Therefore, He disciplined them—much like we do our own children. When our children misbehave, break the rules, do something dangerous, we discipline them for their own safety; to teach them right from wrong and what is good from what is not good and what can harm them versus what becomes a blessing. We do not discipline the children of others because they do not belong to us.
     I remember a story our young pastor told when we were members of a church north of Dallas. His dad demanded obedience. Steve had learned his lessons well over the years and knew that when his father told him to do something, he would be wise to obey. One day they were preparing to cross the street. Steve was, like most children, rushing ahead and ready to cross before his father and brother. Just as he stepped off the curb, He heard his father yell, “Steve, STOP!” Without even taking the time to think about whether or not he would obey, he stopped. Just as he did, a huge truck sped by barely missing him. One more step and he would have been lying in the street! He stopped because he knew what the consequences would be if he disobeyed. But his father’s obedience training was not mean-spirited or hateful. It was meant to teach his sons that there can be dire consequences to disobedience. 
     In the same way, we can consider God’s law as obedience training.  It is for our protection and given because of God’s favor or grace towards us.
     So when Eve, beguiled by the serpent, ate of the forbidden fruit then shared it with Adam, God’s grace interrupted the law and rather than immediate, death became a future event. He granted them time.
 
     Rather than unmold Adam and Eve and begin again, in an act of grace, He chose to put them out of the Garden. Adam blamed God for Eve's disobedience, but God continued to supply their needs and multiply their family through childbirth. In Adam’s refusal to accept responsibility for his sin in the Garden, he provided God with one more opportunity to display His grace!

      Although God displayed His grace to Adam and Eve, he also placed a curse on the ground and on child bearing. God’s law, his instructions had been violated and the penalty had to be paid. However, justice was mitigated by grace.

     But God would use the law to infiltrate the understanding of the Israelites and reveal the impossibility of keeping the law for it required an “all in” approach. If you broke one law, you were guilty of all. The law revealed the darkness of sin.
     Remember—the law was given to God’s people…the Israelites! And the first five books of the Old Testament, the books of the law, were inspired by God and written down by Moses to introduce to some and re-introduce to others this God Jehovah Yahweh I AM!
     God’s heart is a place of grace. Like He did for Adam and Eve, God continues to shower love and mercy rather than wrath on His disobedient children.

© Joyce Powell

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Rescued by Grace


"Because he loves me," says the LORD
“I will rescue him…”
                       Psalm 91:14 NIV

“Because he holds fast to me in love,
I will deliver him; I will protect him,
because he knows my name.”
                       Psalm 91:14  ESV 

     Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God displays His grace—His unmerited favor and undeserved mercy. We see it in Daniel, Jonah, Esther, Ruth… Over and over those who love Him—who know His Name—are rescued by God’s grace.

     In Job 19:25-26 we read Job’s affirmation of his confidence in God’s grace. “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.” (NIV)

     In the midst of life’s complete devastation Job knows that he knows that he knows that there is a Redeemer whose grace will rescue him. I love that! God has all authority. He is all powerful. He is the keeper of all knowledge, and yet he continues to extend His grace to fallen man; to me!

     As a child living on the shores of Lake Erie, it was not unusual to find my mother, brother and me playing in the water along the lake’s edge. One day I caught my leg in an inner tube and found myself bobbing up and down in the water—head first. Each time my face reappeared from under the sea of green I would yell “Help!” After the third scream, my mother and brother turned to find me hopelessly stuck, and they came to my rescue. I belonged to them; they recognized my voice and the sound of trouble.

     Just like Daniel and Jonah and Job and many others throughout the Word of God, our Heavenly Father continues to rescue His children. He brings us into security and safety. Once we belong to Him, He will never fail to recognize our voice.

     There is no way to repay the Lord. I cannot give enough, do enough or be enough. I did not earn His grace. I do not merit His favor. I do not deserve His care. But one day, God reached down His Holy Hand and through His Son Jesus Christ the Anointed One, Messiah—He rescued me!

     You may have experienced God’s rescue. If you have not, He is waiting—arms outstretched—calling your name. All you have to do is run into His arms and accept the free gift of salvation offered through His Son Jesus and you too can be rescued by grace. A great songwriter, Kyla Rowland, put it well when she wrote:

He rescues me when my ship is tossed at sea
He rescues me when my mountain’s too high to see
And when my valley is hot and dry, and I can’t find a place to hide
Jesus comes and He rescues me
 
 
© Joyce Powell
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Grace and the Law - Part III

     God’s grace was revealed in the act of creation. “In the beginning, God created…” (Gen. 1:1) Since God is the creator of all things, He has the right and authority to expect that His creation revere and respect his established laws and instructions.
 
     God planted a beautiful garden sanctuary in which He placed Adam and Eve. He walked in the garden with them. He spoke with them. His grace overflowed as He provided for every need. However, He gave them one restriction, one instruction or rule—one law—one DO NOT.
 
     Genesis 2:16 “And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when (not if) you eat of it you will surely die.”’ The law and the consequence.
  
     Adam, not Eve, received the first law directly from God.  What does Genesis 2:16 say again? “And the LORD God commanded the man…” What did God say the consequence for disobedience would be—you will surely die. Genesis 3 recounts the now familiar story. The serpent tempted Eve. Adam was with her, but did not stop her from eating. Then when she offered Adam a bite of that beautiful shiny red crunchy delicious sweet apple, he ate; the deed was done. Through one act of disobedience sin entered the world. One law, one rule, one do not given by God…ignored as they succumbed to the temptation of the serpent.
 
     What was the revelation gained? What knowledge did they now have that they did not have before. What wisdom came with that costly bite…Genesis 3:7—“they realized they were naked…” They traded the perfection of the garden and intimacy with God for the immediate knowledge that they were naked.  
 
 
     That doesn’t even make sense to you and me, does it? But let me ask you, how many times in your life has God cautioned or warned or instructed you to DO NOT and yet you did it anyhow? Think back over your lifespan, remember after receiving Christ as Savior and Lord the times the Holy Spirit nudged you and said stop, wait, don’t…danger-danger-danger…and you chose to ignore. Remember the consequences. Looking back it doesn’t make sense that you would ignore God, but at the time….
 
      Adam and Eve gained the knowledge to determine between good and evil. Like us, they paid the consequences of disobedience to God. 
        
     In Genesis 3:22 we read, And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”  Grace in action!
 
So Adam and Eve were put outside the garden, and Genesis 3:21-24 recounts the story:
1.   God made garments of skin for Adam and Eve and clothed them (blood sacrifice) Grace.
2.  He spoke with the holy US (verse 22) about not allowing them to eat from the tree of life      Grace.
3.  He banished him from the garden to work the ground from which he had been taken—consequences of breaking the law, the one DO NOT – still Grace…they did not instantly die…God did not unmold them….
4.  He placed on the East side of the Garden of Eden; cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the Tree of Life.
 
     Although they would never be allowed to return to the Garden of Eden, God put them out on the east side of the garden—not pushing them away from God but toward the East—toward God (Matthew 24:27)
 
     When the Tabernacle was built, the only gate in faced east and the Tribe of Judah from which Christ would be a descendent camped outside the eastern gate.  Nothing God does is random or coincidental. When we break His law there are consequences, however, Grace abounds even then.

     Next time, we will continue our look at grace and the law.

 
©Joyce Powell