Wednesday, October 31, 2012

One Glorious Day

This week has been tough.  One of the members at East Hill passed away after a long battle with brain cancer. Let me tell you, this wonderful woman was a fighter. She battled cancer with a smile and a joke every single time you talked to her. She was always upbeat, always sincere, and always interested in others--even when she wasn't feeling well at all.

Though I've only been a member at East Hill for a little over a year, this lady was so special to me. From the start, she was one of the regular people that stopped and talked to me and asked how things were going--even though she was the one going through so much. I will forever treasure the Bible bookmark she gave me that her mother had made and the hat she gave me last year around Christmas that matches my scarf so perfectly. She was so, so generous, and you couldn't help but love her.

While sitting at the funeral yesterday--in the back with the singers...a place she occupied for so long--I couldn't help but smile as I listened to thoughts about her life. She was so full of life and she made everyone around her so happy. But while those thoughts were nice, it was the fact that she had been so faithful to our Lord that made me smile the most.

I know that she is free from her suffering and the trials that plagued her. I know that she is rejoicing, and I can rejoice in that, too.

God is so faithful to us. His promises are true always, and that gives me such hope and assurance. And, though funerals are never fun, don't you just love the ones when you know the other person had been faithful to God? It makes it a much happier occasion.

Concerning death, Paul told the Corinthians:
"Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed--in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory'. "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?" The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" 1 Corinthians 15:50-57
I am so thankful to our God that He has given us the victory! Janet is experiencing that victory over death--and one day she'll be raised to meet our Savior in the air. When I'm sad that I won't get to hear her voice or see her smile, I remember where she is, and I wouldn't call her back for a moment.

It is my prayer that all of you who read this are faithful to our Lord. I know that it isn't probable, but it is my prayer nonetheless. And, if you aren't faithful to your Lord, think of the way your funeral would be. Would your children, grandchildren, and friends be comforted to be there, or would they be mourning your loss because they would never be reunited with you again? If you aren't being faithful to your Lord, change! He gives us victory over death! We must accept the victory, though, on His terms.

Paul urged the Corinthians to be "steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord" (1. Cor. 15:58). Let us all be that way so that God will give us the victory when our earthly life is over.

I'm so thankful to have known Janet. She was such a bright spot in my life, and she will be missed--until that glorious day when we are reunited.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Are You in a Denomination?

Let me tell you a little hypothetical story:

Robert and I have decided that we want to buy a house. But wait! There aren't a lot of houses around us that are in our price range, and the ones that are don't fit the criteria we need. So, we're going to build our house. Since we will be the ones building it, we will decide what goes into it. We will decide the dimensions and layout and organization.

Now, Robert and I just bought a house and therefore this story is absolutely fabricated. We won't be moving any time soon! BUT, let me ask you a question: based on that hypothetical story, how many houses do you think Robert and I are building?

You may say, well Emily, that's fairly obvious. You said you would build your house, singular.

Why then, friends, do we think that Jesus built multiple churches? He said clearly in Matt. 16:18,
"And I say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it."
Church-singular. It-singular. The Holy Spirit guided the writers of the New Testament, and even the verb tenses matter! Even the plurality of words matter! Surely we all believe that the Holy Spirit (which is a distinctive member of the GOD-head) could clearly and concisely say what needed to be said, thus He could have recorded the words 'churches' and 'them'. Or, do we believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, minced His words? We have full confidence in the perfect nature of Jesus Christ, and in the truth of His words. Why, then, do we wrestle with denominationalism?

I recently attended a campaign in Talledega, AL in which Cliff Goodwin preached a series of lessons combating the false doctrine from the Baptist Manual. Here are a few quotes from him that I believe are worthy of meditation:
"There are so many who are so calm and so quick to say, 'Just join the church of your choice.' No. Go to the church of Christ's choice. He died for one. He died for His church." 
"Jesus has never been one among many (denominations). He has been King of kings and Lord of lords, and His church has been one."
While the singularity of the words may not be enough for some, think about what Paul wrote to the Corinthians who were struggling with a similar issue:
"For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are many contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, 'I am of Paul' or 'I am of Apollos' or 'I am of Cephas' or 'I am of Christ'. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?"            1 Cor. 1:11-13
Cliff said the following in response to these verses:
"If it were a sin 2000 years ago (and it was) for believers to align themselves under the name of an inspired apostle (Paul), how are we to believe that is it less than sinful today for people to align themselves under uninspired men such as John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Wesley (etc.)." 
Please, friends, let us all consider the church that we are a part of. Only one offers salvation. The Lord only adds us to one (Acts 2:47). And that one? It isn't the one I choose and it isn't the one you choose. It is the one that Christ died for; the one He established. Let us search the scriptures daily and make sure that we are members of the church that belongs to Christ.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Leading Ladies: The Woman with the Flow of Blood

Mark's account (5:25-34) of the woman with the flow of blood and Luke's, the physician, account (8:42-48), offer us two very unique vantage points on this story. I'd like to start by making a list of the things we learn about this woman from the texts:

  • She'd had a flow of blood for 12 years.
  • She'd spent all of her livelihood on doctors' bills. 
  • She wasn't getting better; she was actually getting worse!
  • She knew that even Jesus' clothes could heal her.
  • She came forward, even though she was afraid. 
  • She was healed. 
Now, let's think back to all we know about the old law. Leviticus 15:25 tells us this:
"If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, other that at the time of her customary impurity, or if it runs beyond her usual time of impurity, all the days of her unclean discharge shall be as the days of her customary impurity. She shall be unclean."
 Think about the words that this woman has heard every single day for twelve years: you are unclean. Not only was she unclean, but everything she sat on or slept on or touched became unclean (v. 26-27). How many friends do you think she had? Probably not many devout Jews. None of them would want to be close enough to be touched by her and thus rendered unclean.

What a lonely life this woman must have had! How desperate she must have been! The text says that she went to many doctors and spent all of her livelihood trying to find a cure--and nothing had worked! So now she's unclean and poor....and a woman. How highly was she favored in society?

Then one day, she hears about a Man who may be the Messiah. Instead of sitting at home alone like she probably did most days, she sought Him out. And not only did she seek Him out, but she believed with her whole heart that even the hem of His robe could cleanse her and change her entire life.

Jesus praises her faith, and when Jesus praises something, it's probably something we should try to apply to our own lives. So what exactly can we learn from this desperate woman?

1: She wanted to be clean. This woman could have stood back, away from the crowds, and watched Jesus pass by. Sure, she had an interest in what He could do for her, but she wasn't really interested in getting close enough to be healed. Thankfully she wasn't like this! She sought Him out and in return was healed because of her faith! We cannot be people who stand on the sidelines, interested in what Jesus has to say but only if we can keep Him (and His commands) at arms length. Instead, we must be people who seek to be spiritually clean. We must flee from sin, and involve ourselves only in those things which promote purity. Had this woman not had the interest in becoming clean, she wouldn't have been made well. Unless we seek spiritual cleanliness, our Savior's blood will not wash us.

2: She went after Jesus. This woman didn't wait for Jesus to knock on her door; she went out into a multitude--no doubt the same group of people who often teased her and made her feel like less than a person for being unclean all the time--and found the One who could heal her. There are going to be times when serving Jesus means we have to get out of our comfort zones and come face to face with the people who have teased us and made us feel bad. Like this woman, though, we must be willing to follow Jesus in every circumstance.

3: She didn't let her condition get her down. If this plagued woman had let her situation keep her down, she never would have met the Savior and she never would have been healed. Likewise, if we allow our less-than-ideal situations keep us from being active in the Lord's work, we're keeping ourselves from the Savior--from the Great Physician. Instead of letting the broken pieces of our lives keep Jesus at a distance, we should be taking those pieces to Him so that He can make us whole.

Dan Winkler once said "Those who have been broken the most by life are the ones God has used to accomplish some of His greatest feats." It is only when we are broken that God can mold us into the person we were meant to become.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Omission and Commission

I recently heard a man pray that we would be forgiven of our sins, and that we know we sin more often out of omission than commission. As soon as he'd uttered the words, my heart was pricked. How often do we get up on our high horses because we don't struggle with certain things?

I know that this world is full of sin, and that there are so many who struggle to abstain from sexual immorality, lying, drinking, cheating, murdering, stealing, etc. However, I find myself--more often than not--free from such temptations. To be honest, if I'm not careful I can find myself in a place of complacency.

James warned in his epistle that "to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin." I feel I can fit right into this category if I'm not watchful.

So that I don't fall into this category (and that you don't either!), I want to put before our minds a few things that the Word of God has told us are good to do. Perhaps if we can keep them at the forefront of our minds, we can abstain from this sneaky type of sin.

1: Visit orphans and widows in their trouble (James 1:27)

2: Give to the Lord's Work (1 Cor. 16:1-2)

3: Teach others about Christ (Matthew 28:19-20)

4: Fill yourself with the teachings of Jesus (Eph. 5:18, Col. 3:16, 2 Tim. 2:15)

5: Seek out erring members (James 5:19-20)

6: Pray for the church and for opportunities to serve (1 Thess. 5:17)

7: Feed the hungry, be hospitable to strangers, clothe the naked (Matt.25:35-39)

May God enable us all to do great works for Him, and to keep them ever before us so that we can sin less by way of omission.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Leading Ladies: Mary, Jesus' Mother

I believe one of the most beautiful descriptions written about a person in the Bible is the one of Mary. Luke 1:30 says, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God." How amazing to be told that, or have that said of you? Isn't that all we want out of this life, to have God's favor? And that is exactly what we see in Mary.

If Mary found favor with God, then certainly examining her characteristics would be beneficial to all of us who would also like to be found in favor with God.

Let's examine the text of Luke 1 verses 27-48 and notice four characteristics that hopefully we can implement into our lives.

1: Mary was pure (v.27) - The Bible tells us that Mary was a virgin, which was a crucial characteristic for the mother of Jesus. Had Mary not chosen to live a pure life, she would have never been chosen to be Jesus' mother.  Clearly purity = favorable to God. For those who are not married, abstaining from sexual sins is a must. The only sexual intimacy that God condones is that which is found inside of a God-approved marriage. Any other sexual promiscuity is simply unacceptable/unfavored in God's sight. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus told His hearers that the pure in heart shall see God (Matt. 5:8). If we want heaven to be our eternal home, we must remain pure while on this earth. This isn't limited to those who are unmarried, though. Our world is saturated with sexual sin. Many who are married struggle with pornography addictions, extra-marital affairs, and a host of other things. We must all pray for the strength to keep ourselves unspotted from the world (James 1:27).

2: Mary trusted God (v.38) - When the Angel came and told Mary that she was pregnant, despite having never been with a man, her response was this:
"Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word."
Had it been me, I might have fainted, or done as Sarah did in the Old Testament and laughed. At the very least, I may have had a mild emotional breakdown. Not Mary, though. Mary seems excited, and if not, she is at least compliant and accepting. She had no way of knowing how people would react to her. In that day, women who were unfaithful or adulterous could be killed. What would those around her think? She wasn't married, yet she was having a child! Still, Mary had faith. She knew that God had brought this upon her and that He would lead her through it.

In the same way, the Bible tells us that God will not put more on us than we can handle (1 Cor. 10:13). Situations may arise in our lives that will cause others to make fun of us or stop being friends with us or perhaps even persecute us. We must trust that God will get us through it, and say with all confidence "The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" (Psalm 118:6).

3: Mary knew her place (46-48a) - After learning she would be the Savior of Earth's mother, Mary sang a song to God. These are her beautiful words:
"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant. For behold, henceforth, all generations will call me blessed."
Mary said that her soul magnified God. Generally, when something is magnified, something else is minimized. Mary goes on to say "the lowly state of His maidservant". Ah yes, the LORD was magnified and Mary was minimized in her own sight. Truly this a concept we must all implement into our lives. James told us that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble (4:6). Surely we all want grace! In order to attain that grace, we must minimize self and magnify God. Mary could have been tempted to think that she was something. After all, the Creator of Heaven and Earth had chosen HER to be the mother of the Christ. That wasn't the way Mary reacted, and that says a lot about her heart--the heart that God found favorable. Our all-knowing Heavenly Father knows every mans heart (Prov. 21:2), and He chose a heart that was meek to be the mother of His Son. To be favorable to God, our hearts must be meek like Mary's.

4: Mary saw the bigger picture (48b) - Mary's song said that all generations would call her blessed. I do not believe this was any kind of prideful statement, but one that indicates her foresight. As previously mentioned, surely Mary would go through some rough moments because of her situation. She could have been mocked by those who knew she wasn't married, or laughed at when she told others that Jesus was the Son of God, not the son of Joseph. We don't know if Mary could fully grasp all that would happen to her son while He was on the earth, but Mary endured a lot--watching Him die, watching Him suffer. Still, she could see the bigger picture. The road that was set before her would be tough, but it was worth it in the long run.

No matter what we go through in this life, it will be worth it in the long run so long as we remain faithful (Rev. 2:10). There is no reason for us to be consumed by the fires this earth sets before us. God sees the bigger picture. Bigger than my short little lifespan. Bigger than ten thousand of my little lifespans. My reward in heaven will be great if I will simply get past all of the "momentary, light affliction" this temporary world has to offer.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Leave All and Follow

Sometimes I forget the circumstances surrounding the calling of the disciples to follow after Jesus. In Luke's account (Luke 5:1-11), we are told that Jesus got into Peter's boat and taught the multitudes. Once He had done that, He told Peter to cast down his net into the water. Even through the experienced fishermen had attempted to catch fish by themselves, they had failed. Surely Peter was exhausted and exasperated by Jesus' plea to let down the net, after all those nets weren't light. Still, he let down the net, and we all know the miraculous story that follows. The net was filled so full that it almost broke, and James and John had to bring over their boat to help. There were so many fish that both boats were filled to the point that they almost sank.

The part of the story that we always remember is Jesus asking the fishermen to follow Him, but we rarely think about the first part of the story.

Do you realize how many fish were in not one, but two boats? Do you realize how much money they are walking away from at this very moment? Two boats full of fish would be quite the pretty penny, yet the text tells us that they "forsook all and followed Him."

Do you think it was easy? In my mind, I can see them looking at Jesus and then looking at the boat, then back to Jesus. We know that Jesus didn't even have a place to lay His head (Matt. 8:20), and perhaps the disciples had the temptation to keep the fish that He had given them and tell Him they just couldn't go with Him. Maybe they could have asked valid questions: where will we sleep, what about my family, will we even have food?

The disciples could have focused on the blessings that Jesus had put before them, but instead they focused on the good part: a life of dedicated service to the Savior. In our lives, how many times are we tempted to forsake God because we're caught up in the gifts He's given us? I know that I have been blessed beyond measure, as have any of you who are reading this on a laptop or iPhone or computer in some air conditioned environment protected from the elements. Still, sometimes we get too focused on the blessings we have been given and stop focusing on the Giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17).

We haven't been commissioned in the exact way that the disciples were, yet we have been commanded to take up our cross daily and follow Christ (Luke 9:23). We have been told to deny ourselves and follow Jesus. And what does deny self mean? It means that it's not about you; it's about Him. It's not about all of the blessings and talents and possessions you have, it's about serving the One who gave them to you.

We must be willing, as the disciples were, to forsake everything that is earthly and temporary and follow after our Eternal Savior. Make it a priority today to put your desire to serve Christ above everything else in your life, because we must be willing to forsake all and follow Him.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Triumphal Entry

In Luke 19 we read about the triumphal entry of Jesus in Jerusalem. I'm sure that, like I, you have known this story from a young age: Jesus tells the disciples to go and loose a colt that has never had a rider. They then spread clothing on the colt and on the ground, and Jesus rides in.

That's the end of the story, right?

Verses 37-40 tells us this:
"Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying: 
"Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"
And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples." But He answered and said to them, "I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out."
I love that final phrase: If these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out. I have a question for you (and me) today: Who is making the noise in your life, you or the stones?

We should be giving daily, constant praise to our Lord and Savior, yet often times we're silent. We're spectators. Or sometimes, maybe we're even like the Pharisees, quieting efforts that other followers of Jesus are making. This cannot be! We must constantly and consistently point others to Jesus with our words. We cannot rely on the stones to cry out that God is our Creator!

My prayer for us all today is that we will be like Jeremiah, who said:
"Then I said, 'I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.' But His word was in my heart like a burning fire, shut up in my bones; I was wearing of holding it back, and I could not." (Jer. 20:9)
The apostles are great examples for us, too. When commanded not to spread the name of Jesus, they answered "we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20).

Who is forbidding you from speaking out about Jesus? Who is forbidding you from telling the world about His great love? We must be like Jeremiah and the apostles, where we cannot but speak the love that we know and have experienced.

One day it may be the case that people will try to silence Christians. The fact that they will try shouldn't be what scares us, though. We should be scared that it would be so easy to do, because so few Christians are speaking out about their faith and hope.

We must change. God has created us for a purpose, and that purpose isn't a silent one. We must speak out about Jesus, today and every day that we exist on this earth.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

How to Live in Peace

Sometimes the simplest passages can be the most profound. Romans 12 has proved to be such a text for me. Whenever I am struggling to getting along with a person or group of people, I look to Romans 12 as a guide to living in peace. Perhaps these observations taken directly from the text can help you today, too.

  • Love without hypocrisy (v.9)
  • Cling to the good things in people (v.9)
  • Be affectionate to everyone (v.10)
  • Think of others above yourself (v.10)
  • Rejoice in hope (v.12)
  • Be patient in trying times (v.12)
  • Always, always pray (v.12)
  • Give liberally to your brothers and sisters (v.13)
  • Show hospitality to everyone you encounter (v.13)
  • Shower blessings on those who don't like you--even those who make your life harder (v.14)
  • Be genuinely happy for people who are happy, and be sad with those who are sad (v.15)
  • Don't be arrogant (v.16)
  • Don't treat others badly, regardless of how they treat you (v.17)
  • Do as much as you can to get along with everyone (v.18)
Remember, God has extended every kindness and grace to us; the very least we can do is extend kindness and grace to others. And God didn't start showing us love after we'd chosen to follow Him, He sent His Son to die while we were sinners. Even while people are your enemies, extend love and graciousness and friendship. "As much as depends on you", live a life of peace.

Friday, October 5, 2012

God Means What He Says: Adam and Eve

The story of Adam and Eve may be the most familiar in all of the Bible. For time's sake (and not to insult your intelligence), I will quickly recap one of the most famous stories ever told.

  • Adam is placed in the Garden of Eden, and after seeing that everything else had a mate, God gave Adam a wife--Eve. 
  • God tells Adam and Eve to eat of any tree in the Garden sans one: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
  • Satan tempts/deceives/lies to Eve, and she ends up eating the fruit, then taking it to her husband, Adam, who also eats it. 

Let's pick up there, shall we? Now, in our feeble minds, we may try to rationalize things. After all, it was one mistake. Should one mistake cost them everything they have? God seems to say yes. Hadn't He warned them? Hadn't He told them that they weren't supposed to eat of the tree--just that one--yet they decided they wanted to anyway? But still--it was just once. Surely one little teeny-tiny mistake wouldn't upset all that they had known.


God speaks to Adam and Eve, even though they're trying to hide, and asks them why they're hiding from Him. They say they're naked. God asks who told them they were naked, and then directly asks if they ate from the tree. Then the blame game starts. "This woman whom YOU gave me..." then "The serpent...". No accountability. No responsibility.

God commands them that they must leave the garden. Now, do you think that God was happy to do this? I don't. After all, He first made them adequate garments to wear before sending them out--an act of love.  I don't think God was happy that they had eaten the fruit, and I don't think He was happy that they had to leave the garden. Don't you think He was enjoying walking with them in the cool of the day? Yet it was necessary to send them out--it was justice. God couldn't be a liar. If they ate of the tree, they had to be banished, simple as that.

Does God still mean what He says?

Our society tends to be very permissive. So long as you want to do it or you think it's ok, it's fine. There will be no repercussions, and no other group who may disagree has any right to tell you otherwise. We aren't the first society like this. Moses said in Deuteronomy 12:8, "You shall not at all do as we are doing here today--every man whatever is right in his own eyes...". In the times of the Judges things were the same:
"In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes" - Judges 17:6, 21:25
Even the wise man spoke of this kind of society:
"Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts." Prov. 21:2
Was this ever ok? Just because the majority felt this way, did that mean that God accepted it? No. God has always meant what He said. Throughout this study we will look at different instances wherein God stated His will, it wasn't done, and the consequences surrounding it. Hopefully, we can all come to the understanding the God does mean what He says and we will all answer for any deviation we take from His will. Just because our society or the religious world around us accept things does not mean that it is ok, or that God will overlook it. We will be accountable, just like Adam and Eve.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Leading Ladies: Miriam

Chances are you're familiar with the birth of Moses. During those days, the Pharaoh had ordered that all  of the male children be thrown into the river (killed) while all of the female children could be saved. You see, Pharaoh was afraid that the nation of Israel was becoming increasingly too large and powerful, and would soon overthrow his nation.

Moses's mother, after giving birth, decided that she would hide him instead of casting him into the river. For three months she hid Moses, no doubt growing only more attached as the months went on. Finally, she felt she could hide him no more, so she made a basket for him and she placed him in the river. It is at this point that we are introduced to our leading lady of the day: Miriam.

There are only three verses that directly deal with Miriam in this context (Ex. 2:4, 7-8), but the lessons we can learn are innumerable.

The story tells us that Miriam stood at a distance to see what would happen to Moses. When Pharoah's daughter goes down to the river and finds the baby, Miriam immediately and somewhat impressively makes her presence known and even manages to go get Moses's own mother to be the nurse for him, even though he will now be known as the princess's son.

So what can we learn from Miriam?

First, she was obedient. Do you think that it was Miriam's own notion to go and follow baby Moses as he floated along in the river, or could it have been her parents' request? Miriam ran the risk of being killed, put into slavery, or a number of other punishments as a result of protecting this male child. Still, she obeyed. The Bible tells us that "all who desire to live godly will suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3:12). Regardless of what physical consequence we could suffer for being obedient to the will of God, we must submit to Him. Times are changing, and in our lifetime it may very well be that Christians will be severely persecuted, even to the point of death (as is already the case in some countries). Should it come to that (and God forbid it does), Christians must be willing to suffer, even to die, in order to keep being obedient to our Father.

The second lesson we can glean from Miriam is that we, as children of God, have a responsibility to our siblings. As a young girl, Miriam took care of her family. Her boldness helped to save one of the greatest leaders of all time. Without her, Moses may have been brought up entirely Egyptian, and the nation of Israel may have been in bondage for years and years. While we must take care of our physical families, we also have a responsibility to our spiritual family. As Christian women, we have an opportunity to look out for our brothers in Christ. Miriam looked after Moses to ensure that he did not fall into physical harm, and we can do the same for our brothers in a spiritual way. We can wear modest clothing, keeping them from the temptation of lust. We can keep ourselves from impure situations, guarding them from the schemes of the devil.

Third, we must be clever. Had the Pharaoh's daughter looked over at me, I may have been tongue-tied or scared or simply run away. Not Miriam. She thought on her feet, and told the princess that she would find her a Hebrew nurse, then cunningly went back to her own mother, never giving away what was happening. We know from scripture that Satan is a master deceiver (Eph. 6:11, 1 Pet. 5:8, Rev. 20:10). We must always be on guard, ready at any moment to side-step his schemes.

A final lesson we can learn from Miriam is that we cannot let our age hinder our service. As a young girl, Miriam made a great impact on the nation of Israel. As younger people (I mean, I'm only 24!), we have the same opportunity. We can use our talents and energies to impact our nation. America is turning, so rapidly, away from her Creator, and we must use any way we can to try to turn this nation back and save it from destruction. Had Miriam decided to do nothing, Moses may have perished, or at the very least, never have known his Hebrew heritage. Instead, Miriam was obedient, brave, and cunning, and we need to be the same way today.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Upcoming Series

I have decided to embark on a couple of different series for my blog in the next few weeks. One will be called "God Means What He Says", adapted from a lesson series I heard from David Sain of the West Fayetteville congregation in Fayetteville, TN. The other will be entitled "Leading Ladies" and will deal with different women of the Bible from whom we can learn some timely and valuable lessons.

Like my tough stuff Tuesday series, these lessons are meant to challenge and uplift us, as well as encourage us to dig a little deeper into what the Word of God says.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know and I will do my best to cover those topics as thoroughly as I possibly can. Also, please excuse the slight irregularity in blogging in the next couple of weeks, as I will be traveling for some other projects.

Thanks and God bless!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Don't Get Too Attached

Yesterday morning I had the honor of teaching the teenage girls at our congregation. We are in a study on topics that are pertinent to teenagers: gossip, modesty, entertainment choices, how we use our tongues, friendship, dating, and a host of other things. Friendship was our topic of choice yesterday, and we talked a lot about our responsibility to our friends, the purpose of friendships, and why it's important to have Christian friends. While studying for the lesson, and while listening to the girls' comments in class, I was re-awakened to something that I think is so valuable for all of us: the topic of worldliness.

When you think of the story of Sodom and Gommorah, you probably think of a couple of things: homosexuality and Lot. You may think of a few other details, but the main character we think of is Lot, and the main problem we address is homosexuality. If we stop there, though, I think we are missing some key lessons.

Yesterday in class, we talked specifically about Lot's wife (Gen. 19:26) and Lot's sons-in-law (19:14). The Bible tells us that all of the aforementioned people were destroyed with Sodom. Why do you think that was?

When we think about worldliness, we tend to think of materialistic things: money, clothing, toys, houses, cars, retirement funds, etc. We think of tangible things that this earth has to offer. I believe that Lot's wife and sons-in-law were struggling with worldliness, too, but I don't think it had a lot to do with the stuff that was in Sodom.

It is possible for us to become too attached to people. God has beautifully designed marriage and families and friendships, and aren't we all thankful for those blessings? But Jesus said in Luke 14:26 that we cannot place even those God-designed relationships above our relationship with God.

Relationships are important to us. We need them to survive. Robert recently used an illustration in one of his sermons about a study that was conducted on newborns to try to find out their natural language. These infants were placed in a room that was isolated, and the nurses had to promise not to speak to the children, that way the words that the children used first would be a 'natural language', and the world could finally find out what that was. Guess what happened? In three months, all of these infants had died. Why? Because we need relationships to survive. We need intimacy and friendship and love.

What happens when we love the wrong thing, or we love the right thing too much? I believe it's a form of worldliness. Lot's wife and his sons-in-law didn't seem to be caught up necessarily in the sins of Sodom, they just seemed to be too attached to their lives there: their friends, their neighbors, their day-to-day routines. Perhaps if Lot had chosen (when Abraham gave him the opportunity) to go a different direction other than Sodom, all of this could have been avoided; Lot could have saved his family. But, when we choose to surround ourselves with people who are worldly, our relationships turn into a form of worldliness.

We must be careful who we associate with, and who we choose to get close to. In class, I asked the girls if this meant that we couldn't have any friends who weren't Christians. They said no. I asked why, and they said, 'How would we spread the gospel?" and that's exactly right. But then one of the girls piped up with this: "But we have to have boundaries in our relationships with people who aren't Christians".

We must set boundaries in our relationships. We cannot ever let a person get so close to us that they pull us away from God. That could be someone who isn't a Christian, or that could be your spouse, your kids, your parents, your preacher, or any other relationship in your life. We cannot let our lives be so wrapped up in a person that we neglect our relationship with God.

Think about your life: are you letting a relationship with someone on earth get in the way of your relationship with your Heavenly Father? Maybe that relationship is taking up all your time, thus leaving you with no time to study or pray. Maybe that relationship is one that God deems unacceptable (it involves adultery, fornication, sexual immorality), and thus you aren't close to Him because your sin separates you. Maybe the relationship tempts you be involved with things that are sinful (drinking, gossiping, cursing, using crude humor, skipping worship services) and thus your relationship with God has suffered because you're no longer interested in pursuing godliness.

Take an inventory of your relationships, and don't let anyone get you so attached to this world that you forget that your citizenship isn't here, it's in heaven (Philippians 3:20). If you are involved in a relationship/friendship with someone who is pulling you away from God or forcing you away from Him because the relationship is sinful, please get out of it. When we think of Lot's wife and sons-in-law, it's easy to wonder--why would you choose to be utterly destroyed when you could have life? You had been given a way of escape! Why didn't you use it?

You have been given a way of escape. You have been given a choice. Choose to follow after God, lest your worldly relationships lead you down a path that destroys you. No relationship is worth that. No relationship on this earth is worth compromising your eternal soul.