Thursday, August 31, 2017

Awe-inspiring grace, conclusion

Yesterday we mentioned that our salvation is awe-inspiring because of God's grace to us, and because millennia ago, prophets foretold it. Let's jump right into our study for today!

Another reason our salvation is "great" (in the way Paul meant that, in Hebrews) and awe-inspiring, is that it's revealed by God to mankind. (And if anyone has an issue with my using that word, just get over means both men and women!!)
The prophets didn't just dream up their "thus saith the Lord" prophecies. They didn't invent those. And neither did the folks who wrote the gospels and the letters that are in our present-day Bible. They were all inspired by the Holy Spirit. Peter mentions later, after our focus passage that:
For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (II Peter 1:21)
Nor did Peter or the other apostles invent things, as he says in I Peter 1:12, they preached "by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven." Even though they were totally different people with different viewpoints and personalities, they recorded God's message and they did it without errors. Yes, the Bible is the Word of God, inspired by Him.
And I realize that some people get really hung up on the compilation of the Bible, as well. How the gospels and letters were chosen....which ones "made it in" and which ones didn't. So much room for much of the human there. How can we be certain? Sure, there's this verse (and others):
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (II Timothy 3:16-17)

..........but our critics might say that we are using faulty reasoning. Arguing in a circle, they'd say. But if we study the Bible, we find that in so many cases, it's a self-authenticating book; we also see archaeologists who "discover" things that prove it's truth; Jesus told us several times to revere scripture because it came from God; and here's the proof of the pudding...... we know that we know that it's God's Word because His Spirit speaks to us there. We claim His promises and He works in our lives. Our faith is strengthened as He teaches us from the Bible.
That's all the proof I need, how about you? (Grin) I'm so glad that God planned and revealed this awe-inspiring salvation!
Lastly, our salvation is awe-inspiring because it involves the sufferings and the past, present, and future glories of our Lord. Many people have different opinions about history: some want to ignore it, some want to revere it, and some want to argue endlessly about the significance of a variety of events. But we believers know the truth -- Jesus Christ's coming to the earth as a wee babe, His death on the cross, His resurrection and ascension to heaven, and His return are the most important facts in history! Our Savior spoke to the travelers on the road to Emmaus:
Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27)

Our salvation is awe-inspiring because God assumed the form of a human, and was crucified even though He was sinless -- and rose again....all for a pack of sinful, wretched human beings.....all the human beings that ever were, and ever will be.
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; (I Corinthians 15:3)
Christ suffered so much at the hands of sinners, and then He was and is glorified -- His resurrection, ascension, and His place at the right hand of the Father are the glories of Christ. In the future, He will be glorified continually, as He reigns after His second coming to this earth. In our focus verses in I Peter, he is arguing that our salvation is so amazing that anything we endure now for Jesus' sake is nothing compared to the joys and glories that are in store for us.  As long as we personally grab hold of God's promises and accept His salvation, the glories promised will be ours.

Earlier this week, we mentioned a question -- what makes you smile? What brings you joy in your life here on earth? Was your answer, "Jesus my Lord, and the salvation He has given to me"?
We may be church members, or even church leaders, but if we have never responded personally to Jesus, we are lost.
If we don't know the wonderful joy of salvation, perhaps we need to search our own hearts, and then search the scriptures.... there is a tab on this blog that will give us the pathway to salvation; I hope that if you are searching, you will click there.
As my grandma used to tell me, "there's no time like the present!" Don't put it off. Make sure today. We can all experience the joy of this great, awe-inspiring salvation!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Awe-inspiring grace

Remember that verse in Hebrews? Such a "great" salvation? And remember that "great" didn't mean back then what we think of today.....
It's a great sandwich, a great harvest from our garden, a great kick our kiddo did in a soccer game.... yes, the words "great" and "awesome" are over-used today, but they truly describe the importance and significance, and even the awe-inspiring-ness (I know, I just manufactured a word, but stick with me here) of our salvation.


Our salvation is definitely awe-inspiring. First, because of God's grace. Peter mentions that in verse 10 (and again in verse 13):
Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care,11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. (I Peter 1:10-13)
Peter is using salvation and grace interchangeably; I believe that in Peter's mind, they were synonymous. That salvation that covers past, present, and future. But do believers today have a more casual acquaintance with grace? Do we take it for granted? I'm wondering if in some churches, and in some believers' minds, if we are kinda "laid back" about our faith and our salvation? Are we pretty mellow? Casual?  We don't want to be too judgmental of others, do we? Perhaps be called intolerant?  And maybe we aren't even too tough on ourselves....are we tolerating sins that the Word talks about plainly?
Oy vey. Maybe part of the problem is the culture we are living in -- how many self-help books have you seen, that talk about building up self esteem? Think positively about yourself. You are worthy. You are good. Don't think poorly of yourself.....on and on and on.
And I'm sorry to say, that's not Biblical.
We know in our minds that the preachers tell us, "Grace is un-deserved favor." We truly are sinners, saved by grace. I don't think we can really appreciate His grace until we understand it in our minds and also feel it in our hearts, and feel emotionally how unworthy we are.
Maybe we were raised in a Christian home. Maybe we went to church every single time the doors were open. Maybe we were saved at an early age. We probably think we lived a pretty clean life, but we believed the verses that said we were actually sinners.

I hope you don't mind my getting personal here....
You know, the more I grow in Christ, the more my heart is hurt by just how much of a sinner I am. The closer I grow to Him, the more I see the wickedness of my natural self, and the more I cling to Him and to His cross, crying out for His grace. I've learned that grace isn't just God giving a step ladder to a fairly decent person; grace is His mercy to me, a sinner that deserves to be permanently parted from Him, in hell. He has forgiven so much! That is the wonder of His grace. And that is one reason why our salvation is "great" and awe-inspiring.....there is hope for every sinner, if we will let go of our pride and confess our sins.

Another reason our salvation is awe-inspiring is that it was predicted long, long ago by the prophets. The prophets in our Old Testament sought God's wisdom and the knowledge of when and how His Messiah would come. Peter mentions that the salvation we have received is just what they were searching for -- now, that doesn't mean they were not saved -- it just means they didn't fully understand. They couldn't. They couldn't comprehend it as we do, for they lived before Christ came.

Isaiah prophesied and Jesus preached on his prophecy in Nazareth. Look at this:

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,    because he has anointed me    to proclaim good news to the poor.He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners    and recovery of sight for the blind,to set the oppressed free,19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21)
Did you know that He stopped in the middle of a verse in Isaiah's prophesy? The rest of it says, "And the day of vengeance of our God."  The part He read aloud referred to Him, on earth, right then....the second part refers to when He comes the second time in judgment! No wonder the prophets and those who tried to understand them, missed the mark!
In Daniel 9, Daniel is praying and fasting, seeking wisdom as he studies the words of Jeremiah many years earlier. God gave Daniel a prophecy in the second half of that chapter, but in chapter 12, Daniel himself admits that he couldn't understand what the angel was telling him about the future. Those things were concealed, he was told, for the end time.

If the prophets themselves had trouble understanding, it's no wonder that Satan can grab us when we are suffering, and introduce thoughts like, "What if Christianity isn't real?" or "What if I'm believing in myths, or just fables from ancient Hebrew times?"  Peter said that our salvation is rooted, grounded firmly in prophecies made hundreds of years before Jesus walked our earth. Their prophecies were fulfilled by His heritage, His birth, His life and death, and His resurrection. Our salvation is awe-inspiring because it was predicted many, many years ago.

I know this was a lengthy study today; I hope it blessed and perhaps helped someone. We'll continue in these verses tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

What are we listening to?

This song has been stuck in my head lately; I wonder if the Spirit is nudging me to be more engaged with others, more desiring to show His love to all?

Are we "on fire" to tell others about Him? Do we look eagerly for opportunities?

I pray that we ARE on fire to share Him with everyone!

What are you listening to, today? Share with us, won't you?

Monday, August 28, 2017

I Peter 1:10-12 The center of the spokes

Are you like me, and when you were younger, you watched some television shows that were called "westerns"? Sometimes these shows featured cow punchers and cattle, and others featured wagon trains ponderously moving across the plains and through mountain passes.  On the shows with wagon trains, often there would be some time spent focused on the wheels of the wagon. Sometimes that meant that the wheel was about to come off!

If that wheel came off, the wagon couldn't go anywhere. Usually it was because of what is called the hub, or center of the wheel. The place where all the spokes fit in. Couldn't have a wagon wheel without it! Often the show would then have a character come and repair the wooden wheel, pack grease into the hub where the axle fit in, etc.

This week we are going to talk about what should be the center of our lives..... and how it is so important to the spokes of the wheel - the other parts of our lives.
Already know where I'm going?
Cool - let's dive in!

Take a moment and be thoughtful, here. Let's all be brutally honest, OK?
If you sit back and look at your daily life, what would you say brings you the most in and day out? What makes you smile each day?
Some folks may say, "My family."
Some may say, "My spouse."
I guess some may say, "My job, the career I've chosen."
Others may say, "My hobby," "my new boat," or maybe "my vacation plans."
And yes, some folks may say, "Joy? Seriously? Not much joy in my life."

For believers, the answer really should be, "The most joy in my life is my relationship with the Lord, and the salvation He has given me."
That should be the hub of the wheel.
The others are the spokes of the wheel, fitting into the hub and spreading outward. And if we take away the hub, all the rest would be ruined; we wouldn't be going anywhere, just like that wagon with a broken wheel.
What scares me is the number of Christians who have allowed their lives to revolve around other things. Salvation is not essential; it's not the hub that is essential to them. I don't get the feeling that they think life would fall apart without it. It's nice; it's not mandatory.

So what is so very special about our salvation? Maybe that is another reason why God allows us to endure trials.....when we are in the midst of trials, we really buckle down and focus on what is truly important. What are we living for? What gives life meaning?
The believers that Peter wrote to were enduring affliction. Peter knew this, and that is why in the first few verses he has reminded them (and us) of our inheritance. In the next verses, he told us about having joy in the midst of trials. Now, in our next verses, he goes back to the prophecies about salvation, and shows how "unsearchable" it is (neither prophets nor angels fully understood) and just how privileged we are to receive it.
I believe he was trying to encourage them, and we can be encouraged, too:
Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care,11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. (I Peter 1:10-12)
This week we will study what makes this the "hub" of a believer's life. In the history of our language, there have been words that have become over-used, don'tcha think?  Words like terrific, and cool, and.....awesome. Awesome used to mean a great deal more than it does today: today a good cup of coffee or a soccer score can be awesome. A new hairstyle can look awesome. What did it used to mean?
Awesome meant awe-inspiring.....listen to this definition of "awe:"

          An emotion variously combining dread, honor, and wonder that is inspired by
          authority or by the sacred.

Likewise, the word "great." It used to mean a lot more than it does today, and look how Paul used it:
how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. (Hebrews 2:3)

I think that Paul mean "great" as in hugely important, significant, and yes, awe-inspiring. This week we will focus on the three verses above, from I Peter, and learn more!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Friday slowdown

I found this group by chance, and what a blessing! I hope you enjoy it too!

There's a promised land untouched by man
Prepared for the saved and the blessed
A city built four square far away somewhere
As a home for the saints to rest
So many have tried but they couldn't describe
All the beauties on that bright shore
For it's never entered in to the hearts of men
What the Father has in store

I could sing about Heaven for a million years and never get the story told
Of the jasper walls and the gates of pearl and the streets made of pure gold
Even John the Revelator in a heavenly vision could never really say what he saw
I could sing about heaven for a million years and still I could never tell it all

From the throne there springs a glimmering stream of waters pure and sweet
And it flows by the tree of life on its way to the crystal sea
And the precious stones that the walls rest on are of twelve different kind
And the night will cease for the Prince of Peace is the light that forever shines

I could sing about Heaven for a million years and never get the story told
Of the jasper walls and the gates of pearl and the streets made of pure gold
Even John the Revelator in a heavenly vision could never really say what he saw
I could sing about heaven for a million years and still I could never tell it all

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Guided thoughts no. 20

Recently, a particularly fierce storm came through our area....our "neck of the woods," as grandma used to say.
The rain came in sheets; it was a real downpour, and with the wind blowing hard, it sometimes came in sideways, drenching porches and patio. A mix of sheet and streak lightning battered the darkened sky, and the rolls of thunder were loud enough to rattle the oil lamps that I had lit in preparation for the storm.
We could hear crashes in the woods near the house, as huge, old-growth trees twisted in the wind and tumbled to the forest floor. We prayed that none would hit our home.

To make a long story short, what the weather peeps call a "micro burst" blew through the woods, not sixty feet from our house. Several trees succumbed, but our house was undamaged, and we praise the Lord for that!

The incredible amounts of rain and the ferocious winds gave way to a brightening sky and a lovely rainbow. My thoughts went to how Noah and his little family must have rejoiced in their safety, too.
And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” (Genesis 9:12-16)
The rainbow has been a sign since that day, both to humans and to God, that He will never again destroy the world with a flood. Verse sixteen says that God will see the rainbow and remember His it's not just a sign for us to see. Not that God would forget -- that isn't going to happen. But the rainbow is something that should make us remember that promise, just as it will mean that God is contemplating it, too.

God has made so many promises -- do we take them for granted?
but whoever listens to me will live in safety    and be at ease, without fear of harm. (Proverbs 1:33)
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)
And this one from one of my favorite passages:
So do not fear, for I am with you;    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.I will strengthen you and help you;    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
Perhaps it will help us in our walk if we write down one of His promises each day. There are so many! So many evidences of His great love for us!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Guided thoughts no. 19

When an elderly person passes away, it is left to the living to gather up all the things left behind. Decisions must be made: What will be kept and treasured? What will be donated? What will be given to children and grandchildren?  Hopefully, the wants and desires of the deceased will be honored, but even then, there are some things that are just puzzles.

Perhaps no one wants the item. Perhaps more than one wants it.
Sometimes the value of an item is hard to see.
An old, faded out mirror. Sliding it out from behind a trunk, the edges are battered. The face of it is cracked. The "silver" is coming through in places.

Oh, the happy times that this mirror reflected years ago! A joyous couple -- the groom carrying the bride across the threshold. The first baby brought home. Many wonderful memories.

But now, as we look in the mirror, it doesn't reflect clearly. The crack distorts our faces and the silvered places leave gaps in what we want to see.
Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. (I Corinthians 13:12)
That mirror made me think of this verse....and you know, it is OK that we don't understand everything.
Just because we don't have answers for every question, it's still alright. If we can't satisfy an unbeliever's loaded question, it's OK. If we wonder silently about things that aren't laid out for us in the Word, that's OK, too.
The Spirit can use our questions to teach us, to guide us to look and study the Bible, and to pray for God to illuminate our way. All of this can grow our faith.

You see, we don't know all there is to know about God, about the Son and the Spirit, or about His plan for us. But here's the beautiful part: He created us to love Him, He loves us devotedly, and He forgives us continuously!

All the rest can be "puzzling." But a time is coming when we will know everything completely....just as He knows us completely.

Even so, come quickly, Lord!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Verses that inspire us

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:7-10)
Such familiar verses!
I was blessed by these in my studies....

I'm sure that we have all heard the descriptions of this passage. Jesus was referring to the usual practice of shepherds, who used "corrals" made of piled up rocks to guard their sheep in the night. Thorns and briers were laid on top of the rock walls, to discourage wild animals' thoughts of lamb suppers. (Grin) Then the shepherd would lie down in the opening in the rock wall.

Any threat to the sheep would have to pass by him first.
In this way, Jesus is saying that He is protection for His sheep.
But in verse nine, He also says He is the entrance -- the sheep must go through Him. Those who enter through Him will be saved.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish;no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:27-28)
And those sheep will be able to come in and to go out. What a picture of our lives in Christ! We are free to come and go, and still be in the presence and protection of our Lord!
Moses said to the Lord, 16 “May the Lord, the God who gives breath to all living things, appoint someone over this community 17 to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” (Numbers 27:15-17)
Jesus totally and completely fulfills this passage, as He leads us each day; we can go out and come in to the safety of the corral, all the while being in His care.

I hope these verses bless your heart as they did mine....if a verse has inspired, comforted, or convicted you recently, won't you share it with us, please?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Guided thoughts no. 18

I enjoy being outdoors. I love helping out. So it stands to reason that I should help with the abundance of chores around here. Especially mowing!

Slather on the sunscreen, plop a hat on my head, and give me some ear protection, and I'm off to the races! Well, not really.

Mowing is actually something that you need to focus on. You want to get as close as safely possible around things, so that there isn't much trimming left over. Since you need to come back afterwards and trim, right?

Also, there are things sometimes hidden in the tall grass that can be problems..... actually, I'm usually warned about those. My resident expert knows these pastures like the back of his hand, and can tell me about holes, rocks, and critter dens.

But sometimes I get distracted. I lose focus. I'm sitting on the tractor and I look up at the edge of the pasture, where the tall trees are swaying in the breeze. The wind turns some of their leaves wrong-side out, so they look a silvery green, and I can see the creek is glistening on the other side. I duck to avoid the occasional branch, and then turn the tractor (carefully, so the front end loader doesn't hit a tree or a fence-post) and go back across the pasture. Seconds later......BAM!!!!

The tractor stops.

My heart stops and I start looking at the tractor to see if anything is broken, or if all is well. I know that in the other pasture, my resident expert has probably heard the small explosion and is listening, hands on post-hole diggers, waiting to see if the tractor starts again.

Luckily, this time, the rock shattered into 4,392 pieces and scared several snakes, but didn't harm the tractor.
But the problem was caused by my lack of focus. I wasn't paying close attention to my job, nor to where I was in the pasture.

This happens in the lives of believers, too!

Are we easily distracted in our prayer and study time? How about in our worship? The book of Proverbs tells us that what is in our mind controls our's a quote that talks about it, too:
The more you focus on yourself, the more distracted you will be from the proper path. The more you know Him and commune with Him, the more the Spirit will make you like Him. The more you are like Him, the better you will understand His utter sufficiency for all of life’s difficulties. And that is the only way to know real satisfaction. John MacArthur
When we pray, are we truly focused on God? Are our minds on other things? We need to be thinking about Him, not our finances, not our grocery list, not our family....we need to be desperate to know His presence; we need to treasure the time that we can focus on Him.
“‘These people honor me with their lips,    but their hearts are far from me." (Matthew 15:8)
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)
When we focus on Him, He is able to protect us. He can guide us over, around, or through the hidden obstacles that will harm us (like that rock in the grass!).
Remember these verses in Proverbs 4 ....listen, pay attention, accept -- all these are synonyms for staying "focused."
Listen, my son, accept what I say,    and the years of your life will be many. I instruct you in the way of wisdom    and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered;    when you run, you will not stumble. (v 10-12)

My son, pay attention to what I say;    turn your ear to my words. (v 20)
Let your eyes look straight ahead;    fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the[c] paths for your feet    and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left;    keep your foot from evil. (v 25-27)
Lord, I want to know You, really know and treasure You. Please help me to stay focused on You!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday slowdown

Praise be to God the Father, and to Jesus His Son!

Let us sing in the midst of our trials..... sing because of His great salvation!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Getting out of the miry clay!

I don't know about you, but I want to make sure that I have joy. I want to be able to sing in spite of the fact that I'm mired down in trials.
If we will "look up" out of the pit, and look at our Savior, we will have joy. Peter reminded us of our salvation first for a reason, I think.
He wants us to know the reason for our rejoicing in the suffering. He says that our inexpressible joy is from realizing that we have that salvation -- even though we have not seen Him, as the apostles did. They saw Him. They walked with Him. They listened to Him. In the flesh. In person.
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (I Peter 1:8-9)
Remember we said that God is in control? He never leaves us for a vacation or a sick day... Grab those promises from His Word:
God has said,“Never will I leave you;    never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
Our love for Jesus, in response to His love on the cross, is our highest motivation. But sometimes do we drift a bit? Like a married couple that has been together for many years, do we need to rekindle our love for our Savior? It may be the same in our relationship with the Lord...
We can rekindle that love by spending time with Him. Make time to read His Word. Don't be rushed in our prayer time, but listen for His leading.
Once we know His leading, we need to obey. Jesus told us:
If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. (John 15:10)
Then, remember His sacrifice for us. If you are a member of a local congregation, join in the remembrance of His last supper with the disciples. He told us to do this in "remembrance" of Him. It's a tangible way to take the time to receive the blessing of His love, and tell Him of our love for Him.

Surely, if we do these things, we will sing in the mire, and have joy in our trials!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Singing - not in the bathtub, but in the mire

That title got ya, huh? (Grin)
Do you ever sing in the tub? Or the shower? Kinda fun, isn't it? And it's hard to be sad when you're singing....
When we left our studies last time, Paul and Silas were in prison -- they'd been beaten for witnessing about Jesus, and then left in a musty, filthy prison for the night.....and they were singing!

David sang, too, to the Lord, and not just when he was rejoicing. He sang when he was blue; I kinda think that with the Lord helping him, and the songs too, that soon he was singing and rejoicing. Even in the muck and the mire.

And those are good examples for all of us. Are we in the midst of trials? Are we suffering with stress? Are we distressed because we are being ridiculed or reviled for our faith? Here is our focus passage again:
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (I Peter 1:6-9)
We're examining this concept of rejoicing in our trials.... let's look at the "why" because sometimes even veteran believers look around and whisper, "Why me, Lord?"

Stop the presses.
The Savior takes everyone that He loves through trials.
Wait, if He loves me, why does He do that?
That's our human side talking, no?
Let's look at some verses that should be very precious to us....
Remember this one about our Lord?
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. (Hebrews 5:8-9)
Later in Hebrews, it talks about us:
"because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? (Hebrews 12:6-7)
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (I Peter 4:12)
No one is exempt....while we are here as travelers, there are going to be trials, and even persecution for the sake of our Lord. But there are untold blessings, as well. Remember what Jesus told us in John 10? He gives us a truly abundant life. Many times, instead of stacks of gold coins, the abundance is the deep, peaceful joy that we feel, even in the miry clay -- the joy of our salvation.

But we haven't fully answered that plaintive question -- "why?"
In verse seven, Paul says that it's so our faith can be tested and refined; all the impurities will be removed, so that the final product (like the refined gold) is stronger. We can't be saved without faith. We can't buy it with gold. That is why Peter says faith is more precious than gold. Only our faith in Jesus will make the difference when we stand before God the Father.
God doesn't test our faith in order to make us fail. He does it in order for us to succeed. When we go through trials, we have to trust Him in ways that we never would, if all were sunshine and rainbows!

Peter gives us another clue about trials and the testing of our faith: it's temporary! He says "for a little while." And even though we may have been stressed about an issue for years, in the comparison with eternity, those years are just "a little while."
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (II Corinthians 4:17)
So, if in the midst of our pain (which we don't cover up or deny) we can keep our focus on two facts, we can have joy -- these trials strengthen our faith, and they are just temporary; salvation is for eternity!
One more thing can help us sing while in the miry clay: all of these trials are under God's control. He hasn't forgotten us. He hasn't gone on vacation. He hasn't even drowsed off to sleep. He knows what we are dealing with, and He has a plan to help us through.
...according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,  (Ephesians 1:11b)
We'll finish up this study tomorrow -- hope you will join us!