Saturday, August 17, 2019

God’s Sovereignty Over Me

God directs and know each bird in flight (Matt 6:26-27). This is awesome to consider. But how about you or me? This study is all about God’s sovereignty over me.

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-16

1. What does it mean to have God search you (1)?
This verse says that God searches and knows. The word know is the same Hebrew word used for sexual intercourse – a very intimate knowledge of another person. So when God searches, it is intimate. Nothing escapes his notice. He not only sees but understands why I am the way I am. He knows why I think the way I think, whether correctly or not. He knows my desires, joys, regrets, every secret thing about me. He knows what makes me tick. David explained it to Solomon, “The Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever” (1 Chron 28:9.) Hebrews 4:13 and Revelation 2:23 echo this in the New Testament. The implication of his searching us is to reward us or in the case of the wicked, to punish them (Ps 11:4-5).

2. What is God able to know about you (2-4)
  • a. God is able to see what I am doing from the moment I wake up to the time I go to sleep at night. He doesn’t miss a single thing in our lives. He isn’t like a workaholic father who misses all the important times in his kids’ lives. God doesn’t miss the important or any moments in our lives. (Verse 2)
  • b. He knows my thoughts regardless of how far from him I may think I am. It is more than just knowing my thoughts he understands them. It is the difference between listening and hearing. He knows what they mean to me and whether I am processing them through his word or the ways of the world. (Verse 2)
  • c. Verse 3 tells me that God doesn’t just see what I do. He examines what I do. He discerns (NIV), scrutinizes (NAS) what I do and how I do it. He isn’t simply interested in what I’m doing but why I’m doing what I do. Am I doing this to glorify him or to glorify myself? He knows me so well, he is acquainted or familiar (NIV) with what I do and why I do it.
  • d. He knows me so well, he even knows what I will say before I say it. This goes beyond being able to predict what I will say. According to verse 16, he knows what I will say before I say it because he has known it even before I was born. He knows it because he has ordained it.

3. Does his knowledge of you change your behavior? Why or why not?
It has, and it should, but I admit that I don’t always keep this in mind. It helps me realize that everything I do, I do with Jesus living in me. What I see and do, he is there with me. I do not want to subject him to my sins. Also, since he knows me intimately, it means he is concerned for me and my wellbeing (Rom 8:28-29). He wants the best for me and that is to glorify him.

4. How does God guide you (5)?
We’ve been reading Ezra and one of the repeated themes is that God’s hand was on him. The good hand of the Lord as noted in two places (Ezra 7:9, 8:18). I also think of, “The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Prov 21:1). Somehow, by his sovereign will. God can guide me even when I’m not aware of it. However, the best way is for me to let him. “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps 119:9-11). He guides me through his word that I’ve memorize, not just read, though that is better than not. It means that I seek him, I want his way in my life, I look for it with eagerness so that I will not sin against him. His Spirit guides me also (John 16:13).

5. How does meditating on God’s abilities help you live a godly life (6)?
It puts me in perspective with him. He is infinite and so far beyond anything I am or can comprehend that I must live in a holy fear of him. Because his love is infinite, I am also reminded that Jesus died for me. If he died for me then I should be living for him out of gratitude and a responsive love for him. Because he is omnipresent, I know that he is always with me and will give the grace and strength through his Holy Spirit to walk in his way instead of the world’s way. He gives me the strength to go through “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities” (2 Cor 12:10) and bring glory to him.

6. Are there things about yourself – physical, mental, emotional being – that you don’t like (not sin – we shouldn’t like that)? What do verses 13-16 say about these things?
When I was a little kid, I thought I should be a girl because people commented on my long eyelashes. Later, I didn’t like my hair because other kids’ hair looked good and mine went all over the place. Now, I am bald and don’t even have to shampoo it. Currently, I’m glad to be the way God made me. That doesn’t mean I like all the warts and moles, but they are part of me.
  • a. God has formed everything about me from my internal organs to the warts and moles (vs. 13). If I were to question why I’m this way, I would be questioning God’s wisdom. He knows what is best for me and had me in mind long before I was conceived. Wondering why he made me this way is no problem but accusing him of making a mistake (questioning his wisdom) is nothing but a sin.
  • b. From the very moment of my conception, the correct DNA of my mother and father came together and started doing exactly what God wanted. He saw and even directed each atom, molecule, protein, enzyme, and whatever else it takes to make up the proteins in my DNA. How intricately he has made me (vs. 15) – it is beyond human comprehension. It brings me to the point of awe of God and who am I to question who I am?
  • c. Even before my conception, God was at work. I’ve been tracing my heritage over the past year and have found relatives that date back the 15th century. The amazing thing about his is that hundreds of thousands of people from Adam until now have contributed to my DNA. Some of it has been lost, but God took the exact right segments from the right people to make me. This is how he wote his book on me. It was already written before Adam. He has my name written in the Lamb’s book of life before the foundation of the earth (Rev 13:8, 17:8). Who am I to argue with God that he got the wrong DNA or a mutation happened that wasn’t in his plan?

7. What does verse 14 say about how you should respond to the way you are made?
This should only result in praise to God. I should know this in the depth of my soul that he has made me the way I am. I must look upon myself as one of his works and give him praise just as much as when I see the beauty of his creation. He has made the universe and named the stars (Ps 147:4). He upholds the universe by his powerful word (Col 1:17, Heb 1:3). All praise belongs to him who keeps each atom and subatomic particle in its place doing what it should so that I exist and am alive.

8. How do you reconcile verse 16 with bad things that have happened in your life including sins you have committed?
This is a paradox. It is something that a finite mind can’t truly comprehend. If I say that God created me and planned for me to sin, then I am maligning God’s holiness. For God doesn’t even tempt anyone (James 1:13). It is not his desire for anyone to sin. On the other hand, if God is sovereign, even to hardening hearts (Ex 4:21) and has every day planned, then it makes it look like God wanted me to sin. Paul answers the question: “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Rom 9:14-16). I can only reconcile this by acknowledging God’s sovereignty. I am not saying that I understand his sovereignty, but I accept it and let it give me assurance in his goodness, love, wisdom, omniscience, and all his other attribute. It is a matter of trust.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Finding Grace for Temptations

Sometimes finding grace is like looking for hope through the fog. Here are some questions to meditate on after reading  Hebrews 4:12-16:

1.      Why is the Word of God so important in affecting change?
It is living – meaning it is useful for everything going on in our lives (2 Tim 3:16-17). It penetrates or judges not only our actions but our thoughts. If we let it, it will reveal our motives. It is the way God searches our hearts (Jer 17:10).
2.      Why is it important to understand God’s omnipresence and omniscience when dealing with sin and temptations?
There isn’t anywhere we can hide (Jer 23:23-24). He will judge the things we do in secret and he holds us accountable (Ecc 12:14). He rewards or punishes based on what we do in secret (Rom 2:16).
3.      Why is it important to understand that Jesus is our high priest who is now in heaven?
As a high priest, Jesus is seated at the right hand of God and intercedes for us (Rom 8:34). In heaven, he is seated, he isn’t like the priest of old who wore bells and kept moving. Each stood before God as a sinful man and couldn’t stay in the holy of holies. Through Jesus, we can remain or abide in God every moment of every day. We don’t have to leave the Holy of Holies. Whether we are constantly aware of being in his presence or not, we are!
4.      How does Jesus’ empathy with you encourage you?
I know that he was tempted way beyond anything I could stand. But he did it as a man with the help of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. He isn’t going to turn away when we ask for help and I have the same resources available to me.
5.      How does Jesus’ sinlessness in the face of temptation encourage you in temptation?
Some people believe that because Jesus is God, it was impossible for him to sin. Others believe, as I do, that because he is also human, he could truly have succumbed to temptation but didn’t. Because he didn’t sin it reminds me that his grace and power working in me, I can face any temptation and not sin (1 Cor 10:13). I’m not claiming I don’t sin, only that I don’t have to sin (Rom 6:11).
6.      How do you picture God’s throne of grace?
I picture it like the river of living water that flows from his throne in heaven. Rev 22:1-4  Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. It is a never-ending source of mercy and grace to provide us with what we need to overcome sin in our lives.
7.      Can you draw close with confidence to receive mercy? Why or why not?
Yes, because I believe his promises to us. Based on the word of God and not on anything I have done or not done. If I couldn’t do this, then God’s promises are useless, however they are all fulfilled in Jesus and we who believe are able to agree with them (2 Cor 1:20).
8.      How does God’s grace help you when you are in trouble?
Titus 2:12-14 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. His grace works in us when we ask for it. It helps us to look forward to Jesus’ coming when we won’t be tempted anymore. It reminds me that I don’t need to give in to sin. It gives me the desire to do good. Grace isn’t just for salvation; it is a constant source of power from the Holy Spirit to enable us to live godly lives.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Finding Contentment

It has been over a year since my last post. Other writing responsibilities and life in general have kept me from posting. So here goes some things I'm learning from God's Word.

Contentment – Philippians 4:4-13.
1.      How does rejoicing in the Lord help bring contentment (vs 4)?
It puts the focus on good things instead of bad things. Rom 12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” As we’ve talked about before, focus on the hope we have. This leads to patience in affliction and we need for prayer to do it. In 1 Peter 1:6 we see where people were undergoing persecution actually rejoiced in their suffering. If you can rejoice in suffering, then you know that this isn’t all there is in life. You are content because you know that this brings glory to Jesus (2 Cor 12:10).
2.      How does reasonableness (gentleness) lead to contentment (vs 5)?
It means you don’t have to be in control of every situation. It is contrary to the way the world thinks. Jesus made it clear in Matt 5:38-39, “You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'  But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” When you are gentle and reasonable, you no longer need to get even. It is letting the Lord take care of those things where the world would tell you to be vengeful.
3.      What is the reason for reasonableness (vs 5)?
The Lord is at hand. He is in charge; we don’t need to be. 2 Thess 1:6-8 “since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.” We can be gentle because we know that the Lord will judge. If he judges those who have afflicted others, then we will be at content in our circumstances because we have been gentle.
4.      Why does anxiousness work against contentment (vs 6)?
Look at the definition of anxiousness, “1. experiencing worry, unease, or nervousness, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. 2. wanting something very much, typically with a feeling of unease” (OxfordDictionaries). We can only find true contentment in Jesus. Anxiety takes our eyes of him and puts it on ourselves or our circumstances. Matt 6:33-34 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” When we are seeking his kingdom, we will be content. Ultimately, we know that we are not in control even though we like to think we are. When we are seeking our own kingdom and we know we are not really in control of it, we will be anxious.
5.      What is the remedy for anxiousness (vs 6)?
Prayers of two types relieves anxiety, asking and thanking. Asking releases the anxiety to God (1 Peter 5:7) and thanking him honors him and gives him all the credit, glory. It acknowledges how he is in control and how he has helped us. Col 3:15 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”
6.      How does vs. 7 set the stage for contentment?
Without the peace of God, we will never be content. His peace guards our hearts and our minds. If we don’t follow through with the prayers and do the work described in the following verses, we will not have his peace. The battle is in two areas, our heart and our minds. Heart are the emotions and minds are our active thoughts. Prov 19:11 “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”
7.      What does vs 8 combat that leads to discontentment?
It combats bad thoughts or continuous loop thinking. It is practical and true. If you think about good things, you will become content. If you find yourself being negative or rehashing the same thing over and over you will not be content. Break the cycle with good thoughts. Praise the Lord for the good things you have. Praise him for all that he has done. Ps 77:11-12 “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.”
8.      What do you have to do personally to work toward contentment (vs 9)?
You must stop talking about these things and do them. James 1:23-25 “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” Putting God’s word into practice is simply doing what he commands. Of course, you can’t really do this in your own power or Jesus’ death on the cross would have been unnecessary. You have to do it in the power that Jesus gives us when we ask for it. He has sent his Holy Spirit to enable us to do these things. You must ask him for help (Heb 4:16).
9.      How do you help each other toward contentment (vs 10)?
You need to be concerned for each other. Your concern is for meeting the needs of each other and not focusing on you own needs. Contentment come from helping others and putting them before yourself. Just need to keep going back to Phil 2:3-11 and see how Jesus put us before himself. He is God, gave up everything to die for our sins, and then God exalted him. There will be no contentment when you only focus on satisfying yourself.
10.  In what situations should you be seeking contentment (vs 11)?
Seek contentment in every situation. This means looking at each situation as a place where God has you for the moment and doing what he wants. Ps 37:4-5 “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.” Keep reading in the Psalm. Wait for him, don’t fret, don’t become angry.
11.  How should circumstances affect your contentment (vs 12)?
Circumstances teach us how to be content. They are the testing that continue until we have learned the lesson. When troublesome circumstances come and you are content, you won’t even recognize them as being troubling. Matt 11:29-30 “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
12.  Where are you looking for your contentment (vs 13)?
It should be Jesus. John 15:4 “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”