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Moving on! This is Week 3 of our Bible study, “Beyond Belief: Jesus Saved You, Now What?”
How on earth is it good that Jesus is not with us in person today? How is He a constant influence in our lives now?
I hereby designate C.S. Lewis “My Favorite Author”. But then, maybe by simply reading Predatory Lies, you figured that out before I did.
This morning, I got an email called, CS Lewis Daily. Never one to disappoint:
Teachers will tell you that the laziest boy in the class is the one who works hardest in the end. They mean this. If you give two boys, say, a proposition in geometry to do, the one who is prepared to take trouble will try to understand it. The lazy boy will try to learn it by heart because, for the moment, that needs less effort. But six months later, when they are preparing for an exam, that lazy boy is doing hours and hours of miserable drudgery over things the other boy understands, and positively enjoys, in a few minutes. Laziness means more work in the long run. Or look at it this way. In a battle, or in mountain climbing, there is often one thing which it takes a lot of pluck to do; but it is also, in the long run, the safest thing to do. If you funk it, you will find yourself, hours later, in far worse danger. The cowardly thing is also the most dangerous thing.
It is like that here. The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self—all your wishes and precautions—to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves’, to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ‘good’. We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way — centred on money or pleasure or ambition—and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do. As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs. If I am a field that contains nothing but grass-seed, I cannot produce wheat. Cutting the grass may keep it short: but I shall still produce grass and no wheat. If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be ploughed up and re-sown.
When I was fighting for freedom from my eating disorder, I ran up against this conundrum.
Could I not retain “myself” or the habits I had established that afforded me some imaginary modicum of control?
Could I give up counting calories but continue obsessively exercising?
What if I was willing to get treatment, as long as I could weigh myself everyday?
Could I continue to pursue the self-centered desires of my heart and keep personal “happiness” as the great goal of my life and at the same time surrender my will, my life, my eternal salvation to a God that I claim to love and trust?
And this is what I found: Just like cutting the grass can keep it short, but will not produce real, nutritious wheat; managing aspects of my eating disorder might keep me alive but would never result in freedom.
To mature and blossom in freedom, I must necessarily uproot the grass and allow Christ to remake me–to make all things new. The change must be complete, a destruction of the old to allow the new to take root and flourish.
We are continuing in our study of spiritual maturity using my newly published Bible study, “Beyond Belief: Jesus Saved You, Now What?” Pick up yours and join us here each Monday!
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1
God has had me in Leviticus lately; a place Beth Moore affectionately calls “the graveyard of anyone who commits to read the Bible in a year.” However, I’m powering through it, not for the first time, but discovering all kinds of ponderable things this time through.
This time, I’m mesmerized by the specificity with which God describes each type of sacrifice and offering.
The sacrifices and offerings described in Leviticus never truly did away with sin. The animals were merely a portrayal of the ultimate sacrifice to come—Jesus Christ. That is why the offerings for sin, guilt and purity always required an animal without spot or blemish.
Have you ever wondered about Paul’s meaning in Romans 12:1 of, “ … present your bodies a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God … “ .
Those who believe in Christ as savior understand that Christ paid our debt. He was the final sacrifice. There is no more blood to be shed, work to be done or sacrifice to be offered. And even if there were, we are painfully aware that our imperfections would exclude us from being an acceptable sacrifice. What kind of offering could we possibly be, that Paul would urge us to … oh …
Present. That’s an important word. It implies to bring something to someone or surrender it to them for their purposes. In other words, it’s a willingly given offering. It is not an offering demanded for payment. It is not required by law, but Paul urges us—“by the mercy of God” to do this. It’s only reasonable he says.
The freewill offering is the only offering in the Old Testament in which God said the Israelites could present a blemished animal. That’s you and me. It is only in this capacity, freely presented, that our blemished, broken bodies are of any use or value to a holy God. (Leviticus 22:21-23)
You see, Christ did pay the ultimate sacrifice. His sacrifice for sin was required. Without it, all of humanity is damned. But now, we are overflowing with gratitude. We are stunned speechless by undeserved mercy. Now, it is that mercy, the mercy of God, that compels us to bring forward our damaged bodies and present them to our Father. And the beauty of it is, because of Jesus, they are acceptable.
We are continuing with the follow-along videos for my newly published Bible study, “Beyond Belief”. Grab a copy on Amazon and join us!
It is Well With My Soul
Do you know the song, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart … ”? Kind of makes you feel like smiling, right?
We often sing because we’re happy. Psalm 100:1 tells us, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord.” Singing is one of the primary ways we worship God. When we’re happy we just feel like singing!
But have you ever not felt like singing? When we’re sad, hurt or angry, it can be really hard to “make a joyful noise”. There’s a story in the Bible about Paul and his friend Silas in prison. That’s obviously not a very happy place, and I doubt they felt like singing. All the same, Acts 16 says they began to sing out loud in their jail cells. Guess what? God did a miracle, broke their chains, set them free and even gave them an opportunity to tell the jailer about Jesus!
Horatio Spafford was the author of a well-known hymn. His life is an example of finding hope and peace in Jesus even when everything is going wrong—he even found the courage to sing.
Mr. Spafford was a successful lawyer in Chicago in the late 1800’s. He and his wife had four children. But their only son died of scarlet fever at the age of four. The very next year, a terrible fire in Chicago destroyed many of Mr. Spafford’s investments. Then, only two years later, the Spafford family planned a holiday to England where they hoped to hear one of Mr. Spafford’s friends preach. A business issue arose last minute, so Mr. Spafford sent his wife and three daughters ahead, planning to join them later.
On November 22, 1873, while crossing the Atlantic on the steamship Ville du Havre, their ship was struck by an iron sailing vessel. Two-hundred and twenty-six people died, including all three of the Spafford’s daughters. Only Horatio’s wife, Anna, was saved. As soon as she could, she sent a message to her husband that simply said, “Saved alone.”
Horatio Spafford left for England to join his wife. As his own ship passed over the area where his daughters had lost their lives, his heart must have ached. I wonder if he thought of Paul and Silas in prison. I wonder if he struggled to find words to pray. With great sadness, he pulled out a pen and wrote the words to a hymn we still sing today, “It is Well With My Soul”.
Sometimes, it’s really hard to believe that God is good. Sometimes we simply don’t feel like praising God. How do you think Horatio Spafford or Paul and Silas found the courage to sing praises even when they were suffering?
Psalm 117:1-2 says, “Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!” (emphasis added)
These men could sing because they understood that even when we hurt and things don’t make sense, God is trustworthy and He will always love us. Because of that, He is worthy of praise.
The next time you’re sad, and singing is the last thing you want to do, try singing Mr. Spafford’s hymn. It will remind you that no matter what, when you trust in Jesus, it is well with your soul.
Check out this article by my friend, Billie Jo, about praying for others in the midst of pain and when it feels like God isn’t listening.
We are continuing a series of videos designed to accompany my newly published Bible study on spiritual maturity. You can find that here and Join Us!
Things weren’t looking too good. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stared into the fire as the flames leaped higher and higher.
“You have one more chance,” the Babylonian King told them. “You must bow down and worship the statue of me, or I will have you thrown into the fire.”
I wonder what raced through their minds. They had been faithful to God; they had not worshipped the idol. Surely God would rescue them! Surely, God wouldn’t allow them to be killed!
Their words teach us something amazing about faith, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.’” (Daniel 3:16-18)
The three men believed that God could save them! But even if He didn’t …
How do you have faith when the things you believe for aren’t happening? How do you have faith that God is good when bad things happen?
Hebrews 11 is often called the Faith Chapter. It lists many heroes of the faith, men and women who believed God against all odds, who had faith in God even when it looked like God wasn’t faithful.
Verse 39 says this, “And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised…”.
Have you ever felt like that? Have you had faith that God would do something, and then He didn’t? Maybe you prayed that a sick person would live, but God took them to heaven anyway. Maybe you prayed that you wouldn’t have to move away from your school and friends, but you did anyway. Maybe you prayed that God would help you do well on a test and then you failed. Maybe you don’t understand what’s going on, or why God allows some things to happen.
When I feel this way, I am comforted by 2 Timothy 1:12, “That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.” (emphasis added)
One weekend, my husband and I were driving through downtown Washington D.C. We were supposed to meet some friends for a baseball game, but as we wound through construction and down one-way streets, we got hopelessly lost—at least I did. I had no idea where we were going and I could see the lights of the stadium behind us. But I know my husband. He’s an incredible navigator. I knew he would get me there safely even if it looked for all the world like he was going the wrong direction. And sure enough, he got us to the baseball game on time!
You see, the secret is not what we believe. The power of our faith is not that we simply have faith, or even that we have hope. There will always be things we don’t understand and things that don’t seem to match up with what we believe about God. We may not understand what God is doing, but we have faith in who God is.
There’s a wonderful hymn called, “It is Well With My Soul”, written by a man who learned that what mattered most was who he trusted, not what he believed God would do. In our next conversation about sacred songs, I will tell you his story. Until then, go read the rest of Daniel 3!
Are rules and laws obsolete for mature Christians? If so, what takes the place of the rules and boundaries?