Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Are You Shining for Him?

Last week when reading in the devotional My King and His Service by Frances Ridley Havergal, this powerful and convicting poem really spoke to my heart. The questions it asks are poignant, probing, and really made me think.

I hope it will be an encouragement to you as well to shine our light for Jesus Christ brighter . . . to love Him and serve Him with all that we are . . . if we have stumbled and shone dimly, to begin now to shine bright for Him . . . to be bold in love in sharing about our Savior and His saving gospel with others . . . to serve with a joyful heart . . . and much more . . . .

(emphasis in original)

Are you shining for Jesus, dear one?
You have given your heart to Him;
But is the light strong within it,
Or is it but pale and dim?
Can everybody see it, - 
That Jesus is all to you?
That your love to Him is burning
With radiance warm and true?
Is the seal upon your forehead,
So that it must be known
That you are 'all for Jesus,' -
That your heart is all His own?

Are you shining for Jesus, dear one?
You remember the first sweet ray,
When the sun arose upon you
And brought the gladsome day;
When you heard the gospel message,
And Jesus Himself drew near,
And helped you to trust Him simply,
And took away your fear;
When the darkness and the shadows
Fled like a weary night,
And you felt that you could praise Him,
And everything seemed bright.

Are you shining for Jesus, dear one,
So that the holy light
May enter the hearts of others
And make them glad and bright?
Have you spoken a word for Jesus,
And told to some around,
Who do not care about Him
What a Saviour you have found?
Have you lifted the lamp for others,
That has guided your own glad feet?
Have you echoed the loving message,
That seemed to you so sweet?

Are you shining for Jesus, dear one, -
Shining for Him all day,
Letting the light burn always
Along the varied way?
Always, - when those beside you
Are walking in the dark?
Always, - when no one is helping,
Or heeding your tiny spark?
Not idly letting it flicker
In every passing breeze
Of pleasure or temptation,
Of trouble or of ease?

Are you shining for Jesus, dear one, - 
Shining just everywhere,
Not only in easy places,
Not only just here or there?
Shining in happy gatherings,
Where all are loved and known?
Shining where all are strangers?
Shining when quite alone?
Shining at home, and making
True sunshine all around?
Shining abroad, and faithful -
Perhaps among faithless - found?

Are you shining for Jesus, dear one,
Not for yourself at all?
Not because dear ones, watching,
Would grieve if your lamp should fall?
Shining because you are walking
In the Sun's unclouded rays,
And you cannot help reflecting
The light on which you gaze?
Shining because it shineth
So warm and bright above,
That you must let out the gladness,
And you must show forth the love?

Are you shining for Jesus, dear one?
Or is there a little sigh
That the lamp His love has lighted
Does not burn clear and high?
Is the heavenly crown that waits you,
Still, still without a star,
Because your light is hidden,
And sent no rays afar?
Do you feel you have not loved Him
With love right brave and loyal,
But have faintly fought and followed
His banner bright and royal?

Oh, come again to Jesus!
Come as you came at first,
And tell Him all that hinders,
And tell Him all the worst;
And take His sweet forgiveness
As you took it once before,
And hear His kind voice saying,
'Peace! go, and sin no more!'
Then ask for grace and courage
His name to glorify,
That never more His precious light
Your dimness may deny.

Then rise, and, 'watching daily,'
Ask Him your lamp to trim
With the fresh oil He giveth,
That it may not burn dim.
Yes, rise and shine for Jesus!
Be brave, and bright, and true
To the true and loving Saviour,
Who gave Himself for you.
Oh, shine for Jesus, dear one,
And henceforth be your way
Bright with the light that shineth
Unto the perfect day!

"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:16

"for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn [lit. 'proving'] what is pleasing to the Lord." Ephesians 5:8-10

- Posted by Sarah

Monday, August 15, 2016

Devoted to Prayer

When studying through the book of Acts with our church, there was one verse that particularly stood out to me when Acts 2 was taught on recently. It is a verse that gives quite a clear description of how the church, the body of believers in Christ, functions together when they gather as the church. It also presents a picture of how the heart of each of us should be . . .

They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42

Each one of these four things that they were “continually devoted” to are so important! And they are an integral part of our individual lives and of the church. Yet the one that my attention was immediately drawn to was the last. Devoted to prayer.

This past year has been a hard one for me to say the least, yet a blessing that came from going through something so very hard was a much deeper life of prayer. Prayer became and is a refuge for me . . . God was and is always faithfully there (even at times when He may not feel near.)

He listened as I poured out my heart to Him so many times. I cannot tell you how many times I went (and still do go) for walks out in His beautiful creation just to talk with Him! Through those times of prayer, my relationship with Him has deepened and become much more intimate. He was, and continues to be, near to me, and He has helped and is helping me in ways that I cannot put into words. And prayer has been such an integral part in that.

Yet I readily admit that I still struggle . . . and I still have much room for growth in this area of prayer. This was realized to even a greater extent when I studied further than I have before about what it is to truly be devoted to prayer.

Before looking at the definition of it, let's look a bit at what prayer is. It is simply communication with God either silently in our hearts or verbally spoken. Yet it encompasses so much . . . praising Him for who He is, thanking Him for His blessings, expressing our trust and faith in Him, asking for His help, bringing our requests to Him, lifting up others and their needs to Him, and more.

Sometimes I think we forget how very powerful prayer can be. As James teaches though: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16 KJV.) And it does! Prayer is powerful, and it is also beautiful communication with our Creator, our Father, our Lord.

Prayer is such an integral part of strengthening and deepening our relationship with our God and Savior. It is communicating with the One who bought us and redeemed us, the One whom we love and desire to serve and please. Through prayer, our heart becomes more in-tune with God, more open to His voice and leading, more softened to receive and follow His instruction.

Keeping in mind that prayer is also intimately linked with God's Word. It is through God's Word that we receive His guidance, and His Spirit speaks to us through it. And whatever answers we receive from God to our prayers, will always be in complete harmony with Scripture.

Prayer also communicates trust when we humbly bring our requests to Him – both for ourselves, our families, and others – it is placing all of these into His wise hands and into His control. It is a surrender to Him of those things, whatever they may be.

And to think that His ear is constantly attentive to our prayer! Whether it be praises, requests, or thanksgiving. There is a verse in 1 Peter, which is taken from the Old Testament, that speaks of this and I find it really encouraging:

For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer,” (1 Peter 3:12.)

And again in Psalm 116:1 . . . “He hears my voice and my supplications.”

Isn't it incredible to know that the God of the universe has such a great love and care for us as this? He hears our voice, He knows our innermost thoughts (Psalm 139:1-3), and He always, without fail, answers our prayers.

When considering all of this, how very much we should desire to pray to our Lord! Just think . . . He loves us more deeply than anyone else ever could. He gave His life and died in our place that we might be forgiven our sins and live eternally with Him if we believe in Him as our Savior. He cares for us in ways that our finite, short-sighted minds cannot begin to comprehend.

This is a well-spring to the example we find in Acts 2 (and also in Acts 1:14) . . . they were continually devoted to prayer. In Romans 12:12, we are also instructed to be “devoted to prayer.” Again in Colossians 4:2 we are commanded to: “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.”

Yet, what is it to be devoted? I am sure we all have an idea in our minds of what this would look like. I know I did! And I found my defining of it significantly paling in comparison to the rich fullness of what the Greek word means.

The word for devoted used in Acts 1 and 2, Romans 12, and Colossians 4 is proskartereo (Strongs 4342.) It is one Greek word that I love . . . how very, very deep and far reaching it is!

As you read through these definitions, remember, this is to be describing our heart and action in prayer.

Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible defines it as:

- to be earnest towards
- to persevere
- to be constantly diligent in
- to attend assiduously [“showing or characterized by persistent attention or untiring application”]
- to adhere closely to

Thayer's Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament defines it in part as: “to be steadfastly attentive unto, to give unremitting [“never slacking, persistent”] care to a thing . . . to continue all the time in a place . . . to be in constant readiness”

Just typing out these definitions brings such conviction to my heart! O to have a heart of prayer like this! As these definitions sink into my heart and mind, I can see how very beautiful such a relationship with Him can be.

It is a heart in constant and/or ready communication with the Lord . . . one that is instantly ready to thank Him for blessings (or trials) when they come . . . to praise Him all throughout the day for who He is (the Psalms give such clear examples of this!) . . . to immediately turn to Him and ask His help whenever a need arises, however large or small . . . to express our trust in Him when hard times come . . . to simply talk to Him . . . to pour out our hearts to Him.

It is a heart that instantly turns to Him in prayer when confronted with difficult situations. Or when we are asked “to give an account for the hope that is in [us]” (1 Peter 3:15), or when we defend our faith, share the gospel, or anything like that.

It is knowing and relying on the Holy Spirit's guidance in all situations as we ask God for His help, wisdom, strength, and discernment. And it is through prayer and preparation from God's Word that we can “be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2.)

It is as though prayer encompasses and surrounds our every moment of every day. It is such a part of our hearts that it is who we are . . . we are characterized by a deep heart of prayer.

A heart that has a growing love for and trust in the Lord . . . and the fruit of which is being “devoted to prayer.

- Posted by Sarah

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Thirsting for Him

One morning this week as I read in Matthew, a passage that is well familiar to me as it has been read and studied a great many times, caused me once again to pause: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Matthew 5:6.)

The two words that particularly caught my attention were "hunger" and "thirst." And the object of this hungering and thirsting is "righteousness" . . . firstly, being made right with God through believing in Jesus Christ as one's Lord and Savior and being born again, and secondly, it is growing in righteousness, living in such a way that is in keeping with being a child of God.

This "hunger" spoken of here in Matthew means to: "crave ardently, to seek with eager desire." 

"Thirst" is for "those who . . . painfully feel their want of, and eagerly long for, those things by which the soul is refreshed, supported and strengthened." (Definitions from Thayer's Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament.

How powerful and convicting these definitions are! This is to be our heart towards righteousness . . . and as we find elsewhere in Scripture, toward God Himself and His Word (Psalm 119 is an excellent example.)

As I thought about the verse from Matthew, two of my favorite Psalms quickly came to mind . . . .

"As the deer pants for the water brooks, 
so my soul pants [lit. longs] for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God . . . ."
Psalm 42:1-2a

"O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water."
Psalm 63:1

What beautiful declarations these are of such great desire and deep longing for the Lord! O to have such a hunger and love for Him as this! 

Just as the thirsty plant in a dry and parched land desperately thirsts and reaches towards the sky for the life-sustaining rain that falls, just as the deer longs for and searches for the water which alone can satisfy its thirst and sustain its life, so should our hearts earnestly long and eagerly thirst for our God, our loving Father, our Lord.

He alone can satisfy, He alone is the "bread of life" and the "living water" that not only is a "well of water springing up to eternal life" (John 4:14), but He and His Word alone are what can nourish, satisfy, and strengthen us "to walk in a manner worthy of [our] calling" (Ephesians 4:1) during our pilgrimage here on earth.

Psalm 63 in its entirety is a treasure of exhortation and examples for us. David penned this Psalm of great devotion, trust in, and longing for the Lord when he was fleeing from Saul, who wanted to take David's life (1 Samuel 22 [verse 5 specifically]) . . . .

"O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water . . . .

"Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,

My lips will praise You.
So I will bless You as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.
When I remember You on my bed, 
I meditate on You in the night watches,
For You have been my help,
And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me."
Psalm 63:1, 3-8

When David's life was at great risk and he was wandering and seeking protection and shelter, where did his thoughts turn? Where was his gaze and heart so strongly fixed? On his God. What a testimony this beautiful Psalm is of a heart so very close to the Lord!

Whenever I read through this passage, there is one thing that always particularly stands out to me . . . do you notice how many heart actions are in this Psalm? (They are bolded in the above passage.) 

David is earnestly seeking the Lord, praising Him, blessing Him, remembering Him when he retires at night; meditating upon Him during the nighttime hours; singing to Him; and he is thirsting, longing, and yearning for Him.

When studying Scripture, I love to look at the definitions of the Hebrew or Greek words as this often gives a deeper, or more thorough, understanding of what is written. The definitions of a couple of the above words that directly relate did that here . . . .

Seek . . . earnestly (one Hebrew word - 7836) - to seek early or earnestly, to look for diligently

Yearns - to pine after, to long; to faint with longing

Cling - to cling or adhere; figuratively to catch by pursuit; to stay close, cleave, follow closely

(Definitions taken from Strong's Exhaustive Concordance and Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Lexicon of the Old Testament.)

How well all of this describes what our own hearts should be toward the Lord! Remembering Him, praising and blessing Him, clinging to Him, pursuing Him and following Him closely, singing for joy in Him, yearning and thirsting for Him, earnestly seeking Him, meditating upon Him. 

It is a life all-encompassed by our love for Him and devotion to Him. A life and heart that greatly longs, seeks, and works to have our God and His Word be the guiding influence and direction in every single aspect of our lives - from the tiny details to the greatest.

And what a loving Father He is to us! As David declares here: His lovingkindness is better than life, He satisfies us as nothing else can, He is our help, He is our shelter as we can rest in the "shadow of His wings", and His right hand upholds us every step of this journey of life.

~ Posted by Sarah

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

His Word Our Lamp

Last evening I continued reading through Psalm 119 (one of my favorite Psalms!), and came to verse 105. This verse never ceases to fill my heart with thankfulness no matter how many times I read it:

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

No matter the circumstances, decisions, joys, sorrows, trials, struggles . . . God’s Word is indeed a true lamp and light that is applicable to all areas of life, showing us where and how the Lord desires us to walk and so much more. It is indeed a wealth of perfect wisdom directly from the Lord God to us!

As I sit here typing and contemplating this verse, the little word ‘is’ caught my eye. God’s Word is a lamp and a light, not may be, but is. Isn’t that a wonderful truth? There is nothing that comes to us that God through His Word cannot give us direction in how to respond. There is no circumstance so painful that His Word cannot touch. There is no darkness so great that His true lamp and light cannot illumine our path and guide our feet steadfastly on.

"Your ears will hear a word behind you, 'This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left." (Isaiah 30:21.)

As God's Word is this one true lamp for our feet, how vital it is that we not be neglectful of it! How can we see the lamp guiding if our eyes are closed to its light? How can we see and avoid the dangerous trails that diverge off of the true path if we do not know how to discern God's true light from the false light? How can we be sure that the steps we are taking are truly upon the path that God desires us to walk if we do not know His Word which is our only sure guide? (along with the Holy Spirit teaching us His Word and bringing it to our remembrance.)

The simple answer is . . . we cannot.

Psalm 119 (from which the verse is taken that began this post) is a Psalm filled with deep love, reverence, and commitment to God's Word. In it, the Psalmist expresses in beautiful language his intense longing and desire after the Scriptures and after the Author of those Scriptures . . .

"How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. With all my heart I have sought You; do not let me wander from Your commandments. Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You." vs. 9-11

"I shall delight in Your commandments, which I love. And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, which I love; and I will meditate on Your statutes." 47-48

"I considered my ways and turned my feet to Your testimonies. I hastened and did not delay to keep Your commandments." vs. 59

"Oh how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day." vs. 97

"Therefore I esteem right all Your precepts concerning everything, I hate every false way." vs. 128

"I hope for Your salvation, O LORD, and do Your commandments. My soul keeps Your testimonies, and I love them exceedingly. I keep Your precepts and Your testimonies, for all my ways are before You." vs. 166-168

These few verses shared here are but a taste of the fullness of this beautiful Psalm. May all that is shared in it be our heart's cry and earnest desire as well. May we truly love His perfect Word and let it be the lamp and light for our path and follow it wherever it leads. Thanking the Lord that in His great love, He provided such a sure and true light for us to follow and obey!

-Posted by Sarah

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Always Being Ready

During times when we are in town, it is not uncommon for someone to come up to us and either make a comment about our dress and/or demeanor or to ask questions about our faith, what church we go to, etc. This has been a learning and growing experience for me!

I love discussing Scripture with others and sharing about the Lord, but sometimes if I am not expecting it and if my mind is preoccupied with other things, it can be a little challenging to know how best to respond or to be able to switch my focus and thought processes to sharing about and/or defending the faith. So each time one of these opportunities arises, I try to learn from it and then prepare better for the next time!

Well last week, we had another of these opportunities . . . Leah and I were in town mailing packages and picking up some business supplies, when a man approached us in one of the stores and asked the question “What church do you go to?” That question opened the door for about a fifteen minute conversation with this gentleman.

Towards the beginning of the conversation, we explained the basics about what we believe, and he shared that he belonged to ‘The Church of Jesus Christ Apostolic’ (There was more to the name, but I can’t remember the rest of it. I looked up the denomination online afterwards, and found that they have some significant doctrinal error . . . in addition to what we had already realized from our conversation with him.)

He seemed really interested to hear what we believed, and a little debative too, which made it interesting! We shared about the gospel for a brief time, and then the conversation turned towards the Trinity and the deity of Christ. This gentleman believed that while Christ was the Son of God, He was not God, but was instead just a great prophet and the first apostle.

We talked together cordially about this for around ten to fifteen minutes asking questions, sharing Scriptures (including some of the ones where Christ Himself testified that He was God), and gently challenging him a bit, before he turned to go. As he left, it was our hope and prayer that something we said might encourage him to question his false belief and then turn in true faith to Jesus Christ.

Once the conversation was over, I began going over it in my mind . . . seeing what I could have said more clearly, thinking of other Scriptures that could have been brought up, what things that he mentioned that would have been good to address, etc. Basically, analyzing the conversation in order to learn and grow from it so that I will be better equipped for the next time as there is much room for improvement!

Since then, I have continued to give all of this a great deal of thought, prayer, as well as discussing it with my family, and have been evaluating my own heart. The Lord has called us as His children and as disciples of Christ, to “always [be] ready” (1 Peter 3:15.) Are we? Are we always ready to defend, teach, and share God’s truth with others? Are we prepared? How can we grow in this and become better prepared and equipped to effectively share God’s truth with others? For we should know what we believe, why we believe it, and then be able to articulate it in an understandable way and with “gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15.)

I came up with several ways to grow in this, and I would love to hear any advice or thoughts that any of you may share! Here is what I have so far . . .

--Read, study, and become very familiar with Scripture

This is one area that I am very thankful that my parents ingrained in me when I was young! How important it is to read the Bible from beginning to end over and over and over, and especially the New Testament. A good goal would be to read through the entire Bible every year and the New Testament twice. The more we read and become familiar with Scripture, the better our recall and ability will be in order to defend it and share it.

--Memorize key Scriptures that explain and teach the basic tenets of the gospel

I am seeing ever more how important this is! And then when the verses are memorized, to use them. To use not simply our own words (“I think . . .”, “I believe . . .”, etc.), but instead, “God has said in His Word . . .” or “Scripture teaches . . .”, etc. (and this doesn’t mean only using word-for-word quotations, but includes explaining what is taught in Scripture.) God’s Word is effective! It is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (1 Peter 4:12.)

--Seek counsel from others, and especially older men and women in the faith.

In Scripture, the older are to teach the younger, instructing them in the truths of God’s Word. There is so much to learn from the wisdom, knowledge, and experience of older men and women of God!

--Prepare our hearts and minds in advance for when situations do arise (I think this one is key for me!)

Before going to town or to places where situations such as this can come up, pray and prepare our hearts and expect something to happen. Then if/when it does, it doesn’t catch us off guard or unprepared, but we are equipped both mentally and spiritually for it.

--When situations arise, immediately turn to the Lord and ask for His wisdom and for the Holy Spirit to lead and guide. 

This is vital! For we need the Holy Spirit’s guidance, leading and wisdom, and He can bring to our remembrance His Word and Truth in order to know what and how to share.

--Do mock mental ‘run throughs’ of various conversations that could take place.

Such as, if someone asks about why we dress the way we do, what answer would we give? How could the conversation be turned to sharing the gospel? What about if the Trinity is brought up and challenged, what Scriptures could be used to defend that Jesus Christ was indeed God in the flesh? What if someone says they believe that physical works (baptism, obedience, etc.) are necessary for salvation? How would we use Scripture to accurately show the error in this belief? What questions could we ask to help lead them to see that what they are holding to is not true?

For me personally, there are some areas I am better prepared to discuss than others . . . the error of baptismal regeneration for example. The reason why, though, is from a great deal of study on this topic and writing about it extensively. What if I/we did the same with other, or even all, major tenets of the faith? How much better prepared we would be for when different circumstances and conversations would arise!

Just writing these thoughts down convicts my heart and makes me excited to pursue (and continue to pursue!) these different ideas. I am sure there are other ways to grow in this, too, and I would love to hear any ideas that you all may have!

-Posted by Sarah

Monday, October 28, 2013

Walk as Children of Light

For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:8-9

There is such joy as a child of God in knowing that what we were formerly, darkness, we are no longer . . . but we are Light in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! He has shed abroad His love and His light in our hearts, having redeemed our hearts and transformed us into blood-bought children of the Father. As His children, it but follows that we receive the exhortation that Paul gives not only to the Ephesians, but to us as well, to leave the works of the darkness behind and “walk as children of Light.” 

If we think of our physical lives . . . if we are a teacher, we teach, if we are a painter, we paint, if we are a construction worker, we build. We do those physical things associated with our position. How much more so in the spiritual with being children of God are we to do and be those things reflective of children of God!

To carry this thought further, as we look at the command given in Ephesians, we see that certain aspects of our lives are not singled out as areas that we are to “walk as children of Light” in, but the exhortation given is to encompass all of our life . . . every single aspect is to represent and reflect this Light of Christ. It is to be the characterization of, and foundation for, how we live, act, speak, and think. 

We also find in Ephesians that this walking in the Light is linked with “trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” Christ Himself testified that He always did “the things that are pleasing to Him [i.e. the Father]” (John 8:29.) So not only are we exhorted to walk in the Light and to “learn what is pleasing to the Lord”, we also have an example in our perfect Savior that we can follow!

Yet how do we know specifically what pleases our Father? Or in what ways Jesus Christ pleased Him? To find the answer to these questions, we must go to God’s Word which He has given to us. Scripture is the source for all that we need to know about what the Lord desires of us both in coming into a right relationship with Him through believing in Jesus Christ as one’s Savior, and then the consequent obedience and growth in Christ that follows.

As redeemed children of God, it should be our great delight, and not only that, but strong desire, to study out what pleases our heavenly Father and then to obey it. His Word is richly full with commands, exhortations, and wisdom for all areas of our lives. There is not an aspect of our life that cannot be touched, transformed, and influenced by His Word! And as we learn better what He desires of us, then comes the implementation and the striving to walk in obedience to His will, trusting in the Lord and His Holy Spirit to guide, direct and help us.

Pleasing the Lord can be summarized in but one word: obedience. Obedience to all of the commands that the Lord has given to us in Scripture. In 1 John, we are told: 

By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments . . . the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” 1 John 2:3, 6 

The word “keep” as used in verse 3, means "to watch over, preserve, keep", and basically, "to hold as one’s own." In essence, His commandments become the rule and standard that we hold our lives to and strive to pattern after. 

This “keeping” is in no way a legalistic or business-like endeavor, but this “keeping” of His commandments is a reflection and a fruit of our love for Him. For as Christ says . . . 

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” John 14:15 

Not may keep, but will keep. If we truly love Him, we will be striving to obey His Word in all areas of our lives. We will be seeking to walk in the Light as He is in the Light. Having a heart that has as its strong desire to please the Lord in everything and is then putting forth the effort and denial of self, while trusting in the Lord’s grace and strength, to walk in obedience, to truly “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which [we] have been called” (Ephesians 4:1)

As we seek to walk in this manner, the Light of Christ will be reflected and the fruits of that Light will be borne . . . as Ephesians states: “all goodness and righteousness and truth.” And what is the source of this goodness, righteousness and truth? They come from but one source, and that is God. It is through Him and through obeying Him, that we can grow in and produce these fruits of the Light that bring glory to Him. 

The summation of the passage in Ephesians is a beautiful one . . .

 “trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” 

As we walk in the Light and in obedience to the Lord’s Word, we are pleasing Him. Isn’t that a beautiful thought? He is pleased when we obey! I am sure many of us can remember the joy that came as children when we received the pleasure of our earthly parents when we obeyed or did those things that we knew that they wanted us to do or that we knew would make them happy. As children of God, we can experience a joy so many times more than this as we seek to please our heavenly Father! 

His eyes are always on us, His heart is desiring us to walk in obedience, He is always there to supply the strength and grace that we need. Let us trust Him . . . let us truly die to ourselves and live for Him . . . let us choose this day to, with our whole hearts, strive to walk in His Light and in His truth, reflecting Him and the fruits of the Spirit, pleasing Him moment by moment as we seek to live our lives in obedience to Him and for His glory.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” Ephesians 5:1-2 

-Posted by Sarah

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fear of the Lord

Have you ever noticed that no matter how many times we read and study God’s Word, there are always more truths to learn and discover? Always more ways to apply His Word to our lives and grow in Him? I find this especially true when studying individual words and phrases as well as how they are used elsewhere in Scripture. God’s Word is a treasure trove of wisdom and teaching from our heavenly Father to us, and it seems I have but barely scratched the surface of its depths! His word truly is “living and active” and “the lamp for [our] feet and the light for [our] path.

It was during one of these recent word studies that I was amazed and excited with what was found. Hence the writing of this post. :) I hope that the discovery will bless and encourage your heart as it did mine!

When recently going through and studying once again the passages of Scripture that are directed to women, one of the first phrases that came to mind to study further was ‘respectful behavior’ (found in 1 Peter 3:2.) This phrase, as well as a similar one in Titus 2:3, has always intrigued me and has been one that I wanted to refresh my mind on as well as to learn more about it . . . what does it look like? How is it expressed?

Before sharing the findings, here is 1 Peter 3:1-2 as it reads in the NASB . . .

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” 1 Peter 3:1-2

So often when studying specific verses or phrases, I turn to a Greek interlinear to learn what the text would read in the original language. When looking in the interlinear during this particular study, I found it to be quite different than what was in the NASB. It reads:

“. . . observing the pure conduct of you in fear.” 1 Peter 3:2

It surprised me to find that the literal translation is not “respectful”, but it is instead “fear”! The words had also been rearranged slightly. (The KJV has a more proper rendering as it reads “while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.”) This discovery provoked so much thought and further study!

It was found that the Greek word used in this passage is phobos which literally means ‘alarm’ or ‘fright.’ One way it is used in Scripture is to indicate a fear/terror of something, yet through what the Lord teaches in His Word, we know that this isn’t the type of fear that He desires us to have. So what is this fear that is being referred to in 1 Peter? What is found is that this same Greek word, phobos, is also the same word (and its derivatives) that is used in the New Testament for fearing the Lord. Isn’t that fascinating? In essence, as women, our “pure conduct” would be the direct fruit of our fear of the Lord! Our fear and reverence of Him is the foundation and support for how we conduct ourselves . . . and in the context of this passage in Peter, it is what can draw an unsaved husband to the Lord.

Looking in Vine’s Expository Dictionary lent even more insight and conviction to this verse . . .



a)    “fear, dread, terror”

b) “reverential fear” (1) of God as a controlling motive of the life, in matters spiritual and moral . . . a wholesome dread of displeasing Him . . . which influences the disposition and attitude of one whose circumstances are guided by trust in God, through the indwelling Spirit of God . . . the reverential ‘fear’ of God will inspire a constant carefulness in dealing with others in His ‘fear’.


How sobering and convicting this is! Our fear of God is what is to be the influence behind our conduct, our words, our thoughts, our actions, and yes, our behavior. In essence, our fear of God is to influence everything in our lives.

Yet even more than ‘influence’, as Vine's Expository Dictionary expresses so well, it is to be the controlling motive behind how we live our lives and is characterized by carefulness so that our conduct will always be pleasing to our Lord.

Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

-Posted by Sarah

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Living His Word

I have been reading through Deuteronomy as of late, and there is much in this book that has caused me to pause and ponder . . . while directed to Israel, I always find a great deal of personal application as well! One morning this week, these two verses especially spoke to my heart . . . .

You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.”  Deuteronomy 11:18-19

Some of my personal thoughts that I wrote down after reading this passage were . . . “God’s Word is to be so filling our hearts, so filling our minds, that it pervades our daily life . . . through our actions, our words, our thoughts it is present . . . His living Word in us and working through us.”

Oh, what an aim to strive for!

-Posted by Sarah

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sweet Surrender

There is much that has been on my heart the past few weeks as I have thought and prayed about my own spiritual life and have been examining different aspects of it, realizing ever more that I am not where I should be. I was seeing how I had become complacent in some areas, and how various things in my life that I was struggling with, while seemingly unrelated, stemmed from a similar root: self-focus. Self truly is an enemy to be continually fought and defended against! I find that it likes to rear its ugly head when the busyness of life creeps in or when I am tired or am struggling with my emotions.

The struggle to overcome it when tried in one’s own strength is wearisome and unfruitful at best. (speaking from experience here. :) Yet resting in Christ’s lovingkindess and in His strength and love brings such a change! Simply changing my focus from self and earthly things to my dear Savior, showers down the peace and the joy that were lacking. Through a heart and mind “set on things above” one’s outlook is so different! When looking at things through a heart of surrender to Christ with the desire to serve Him as opposed to a heart of self, how different is one’s love and service to others!

It is amazing how swiftly the change to resting in Christ can take place – yet it is through an effort . . . and a continual, conscious, and persevering effort. That seems a little contradictory doesn’t it? Effort and rest at the same time? But the two seem to go hand in hand. As we put forth the spiritual effort and make the choice to surrender ourselves and to rest in Christ, then He can fill our hearts with Himself and His rest . . . the Holy Spirit and the “impulse of His love” will be what moves our hearts, our hands, our feet, our words.

As I read in my Bible yesterday morning, so much was speaking to my heart. Yet one particular passage especially so as it held in it the beautiful example of the Lord Jesus. It is speaking of when Christ will return and when He has “put all His enemies under His feet” (1 Corinthians 15:25.) And then it goes on to say . . .

When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.” 1 Corinthians 15:28

Christ Himself, the Son of God, the Savior, Redeemer, the Lamb, the One who is holy and true, the Perfect One, the Alpha and Omega . . . subjecting Himself to the Father.

What an example . . . what a humbling example our Savior is to us. Can we do any less than to surrender our poor, sinful (yet redeemed!), weak beings to Him?

Sweet surrender . . . it is indeed that. Not always easy, but the fruit reaped is without a doubt, very sweet.

-Posted by Sarah

Friday, April 13, 2012

". . . for You will enlarge my heart . . ."

When reading in Psalm 119 recently, a particular verse caused me to pause . . . it is one I have read many times, yet it spoke to my heart in a way that it had not before. The verses preceding speak of the writer's love for God's word, choosing "the faithful way", clinging to the Lord's testimonies, and more. And then the last verse in this section (verses 25-32) reads . . .

"I shall run the way of Your commandments, for You will enlarge my heart." Psalm 119: 32

When reading this, the thought that immediately came to mind was in relation to the "running" and the "enlarging of the heart." Physically, when we run, the heart begins pumping faster and harder. If one continues to exercise by running on a regular basis, the arteries will expand, the heart will get stronger, and the body will be able to exercise longer and do more and more physically demanding things. It will become more fit, strong, and have more energy, and all as a result of the continued effort and perseverance.

How beautifully this relates to our spiritual life! As we run in the way of God's commandments which are found in His Word, as we persevere and practice them, read and study them, seek to apply them, and to "run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1b), the Lord will enlarge our heart! And as He enlarges our heart, we will have increasing strength and endurance to continue on in this race . . . which will then bear the fruit of a maturing, stronger, and more solidly grounded life in Christ.

Sometimes this "race" can be painful and difficult, and one may begin to think they cannot take one more step forward (things that those of us who have run for exercise can probably relate to! :), yet the Lord gives the grace and the strength to take that next step. And as we take it, He prepares us to take the next one. Yet it hinges on us taking those steps and continuing to run in the "way of [His] commandments." Then, through that continual perseverance and pressing on, we have the joy and comfort of resting in the knowledge that the Lord will "enlarge our heart" and be there with us every step of the way. What an encouragement this is!

-Posted by Sarah

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"One Another"

Our family has been studying various scriptural topics together, and one area that we looked at recently was the “one another” verses of Scripture and especially how they relate within the family unit, and then also to our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Having read the Bible many times (and some passages/books a great many times), I thought I was fairly familiar with the instruction given for how we are to specifically treat one another . . . love one another, encourage one another, and things along those lines.

I was amazed, though, to discover just how many specific commands are given! And how far reaching those commands are. As I looked through the long list that Dad had compiled and studied the verses therein, I found my heart humbled and convicted . . . how far short I was falling in so many areas of where the Lord has called me to be!

As our family then gathered together and discussed among ourselves the different things that we learned and which particular areas spoke to our hearts, the thought came to mind that these “one another” verses would be an excellent blog post. Perhaps you have already studied these, perhaps you have never even heard of them, or perhaps you are like me and had known in part, but had not fully realized the broad scope and the great depth that a true one another love encompasses. I do hope that whichever one you are, that what is shared here will be a blessing and encouragement to you . . . and remember, these are not simply suggestions, but are commands from God to those of us who are His children . . .

~ Love one another (John 13:34, 13:35, 15:12, 15:17; Romans 13:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 John 3:11, 3:23, 4:7, 4:11, 4:12; 2 John 1:5)

~ Increase and abound in love toward one another (1 Thessalonians 3:12)

~ Fervently love one another (1 Peter 1:22, 4:8)

~ Keep fervent in your love for one another (1 Peter 4:8)

~ Be devoted to one another in brotherly love (Romans 12:10)

~ Be of the same mind toward one another (Romans 12:16)

~ Give preference to one another in honor (Romans 12:10)

~ Build up one another (Romans 14:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:11)

~ Accept one another (Romans 15:7)

~ Admonish one another (Romans 15:14)

~ Care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25)

~ Serve one another (through love) (Galatians 5:13; 1 Peter 4:10)

~ Bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1-2)
~ Be kind to one another (Ephesians 4:23)

~ Be tender-hearted to one another (Ephesians 4:23)

~ Be forgiving of one another (Ephesians 4:23; Colossians 3:13)

~ Show tolerance for one another with humility, gentleness, and patience and in love (Ephesians 4:2)

~ Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ (Ephesians 5:21)

~ Teach and admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)

~ Regard one another as more important than yourselves (Philippians 2:3)

~ Bear with one another (Colossians 3:13)

~ Comfort one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18)

~ Encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 3:13; Hebrews 10:25)

~ Live in peace with one another (1 Thessalonians 5:13)

~ Seek after that which is good for one another (1 Thessalonians 5:15)

~ Confess sins to one another (James 5:16)

~ Pray for one another (James 5:16)

~ Be hospitable to one another without complaint (1 Peter 4:9)

~ Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another (1 Peter 5:5)

~ Stimulate one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24)

And then the “do nots”

~ Do not judge one another (Romans 14:13; though this does not negate the need for discernment and righteous judgment – context on this verse is important!)

~ Do not challenge one another (Galatians 5:26)

~ Do not envy one another (Galatians 5:26)

~ Do not lie to one another (Colossians 3:9)

~ Do not repay evil for evil to another (1 Thessalonians 5:15)

~ Do not hate one another (Titus 3:3)

~ Do not speak against one another (James 4:11)

~ Do not complain against one another (James 5:9)

How convicting this list is! And I found it especially interesting how many times “love one another” is mentioned (at least 16 times); and also how few “do nots” there are compared to the “dos”. It is much easier to simply refrain from doing something (though it still can be quite difficult!), but it takes much more effort, commitment, forethought, and perseverance to do those things that God has commanded us.

One particular “one another” especially convicted my heart, and it led to a bit further investigation on my part as to what it means . . . “give preference to one another in honor” (Romans 12:10.)

'Preference' as defined by Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language is

The act of preferring one thing before another; estimation of one thing above another.

While 'prefer' is:

To bear or carry in advance, in the mind, affections or choice; hence to regard more than another

These definitions really convicted and spoke to my heart . . . and they bring to mind another “one another” . . . “regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3.)

Since doing this study, all of this has really been on my heart, and I am striving to practice what was learned . . . to learn and grow in each of these “one anothers” . . . to my family . . . friends . . . brothers and sisters in the Lord. It is a journey that is for certain! But even the tiniest of baby steps bring one closer to the journey’s goal . . . would you care to join me?

-Posted by Sarah

Thursday, December 22, 2011

More Gathered Gems

Recently I was able to finish reading the book Kept for the Master's Use, and what a book! I found it to be so encouraging, convicting and uplifting. A book that I will definitely be recommending to others and one that I will be reading again and again. 

(And just as a little disclaimer . . . while there were a few things in it that I did not agree with [which seems to be pretty typical with most books other than the Bible :)] overall, it is an excellent book.)

When the last page of the last chapter was finished, I went back and read through all of the quotes that I had written down (and the large sections that I had written down page numbers for) . . . so many gems of wisdom that yet again, spoke to my heart. It is interesting to look back and see which chapters I gleaned the most from, and I wasn't surprised that "My Lips Kept for Him" was one of those!

Reading this chapter really spoke to my heart as being a person who is more of a 'talker' and who loves to visit with others, to have deep, thought provoking discussions, and more, and yet also one who has weaknesses in this area such as sometimes not thinking before I speak and times of being too passionate and/or not having my words be with grace, there was just so much encouragement and wisdom for me in these pages! Another aspect of it that was so applicable is with having a heart for evangelism and a desire to share about the Lord with others, there was much in this chapter that encouraged that.

Anyway, I hope that these selected portions from several of the chapters will be a blessing to you as they have been to me . . . .


"'How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of good things!' [Romans 10:15]. . . if we want to have these beautiful feet, we must have the tidings ready which they are to bear. Let us ask Him to keep our hearts so freshly full of His good news of salvation, that our mouths may speak out of their abundance." (pg. 63)


"And this is the way the Master keeps the lips of His servants, by so filling their hearts with His love that the outflow cannot be unloving, by so filling their thoughts that the utterance can not be un-Christlike. There must be filling before there can be pouring out; and if there is filling, there must be pouring out, for He hath said, 'Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.' (pg. 91-92; emphasis in the original)


"Not one sentence that passes these lips of ours but must be an invisibly prolonged influence, not dying away into silence, but living away into the words and deeds of others." (pg. 95)


"Literally, a consecrated life is and must be a life of denial of self. But all the effort and pain of it is changed into very delight. We love our Master; we know, surely and absolutely, that He is listening and watching our every word and way, and that He has called us to the privilege of walking 'worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing.' And in so far as this is a reality to us, the identical things which are still self-denial in one sense, become actual self-delight in another." (pg. 115-116; emphasis in the original)


"The love of Christ is not an absorbing, but a radiating, love. The more we love Him, the more we shall certainly love others." (pg. 154-155)


"'For Thee!' That is the beginning and the end of the whole matter of consecration." (pg. 159)


"For the Lord is our Keeper, and He is the Almighty and the Everlasting God, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. He will never change His mind about keeping us, and no man is able to pluck us out of His hand. Neither will Christ let us pluck us out of His hand . . . He that keepeth us will not slumber. Once having undertaken His vineyard, He will keep it night and day, till all the days and nights are over, and we know the full meaning of the salvation ready to be revealed in  the last time, unto which we are kept by His power.

And then, forever for Him! passing from the gracious keeping by faith for this little while to the glorious keeping in His presence for all eternity! . . . we showing forth His praise, and He showing the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us in the ages to come! He for us, and we for Him forever!"

(pg. 168-169; emphasis in the original)


" . . . . henceforth it must be, shall be, and by His grace will be our true-hearted, whole-hearted cry -

Take myself, and I will be
Ever, ONLY, ALL for Thee!"

(pg. 185; emphasis in the original.)

-Posted by Sarah

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How Do We Know the Bible is the Inspired Word of God?

Awhile back on a forum for homeschool graduates that I am a part of, there was a discussion about the inspiration of the Bible. It was a little surprising how many did not believe that the Bible was, in its entirety, the inspired, infallible word of God, believing instead that none of it was true, or, that only parts of it were true and others weren’t. There ended up being quite a discussion about it (of which I was a part), and my last post in the thread I thought I would share here as well in the hopes that it may be an encouragement/help to someone . . .

This thread has been a little disheartening to read through and see the various responses that have been given. Much evidence has been shared by others showing the support for the inerrancy of Scripture, yet the evidences given have for the most part, not been examined, but have instead, been overlooked and/or ignored.

If the serious, unbiased seeker of the Lord and of truth would examine the evidences and would truly examine the Bible without presuppositions, they would find that it IS in its entirety, God’s infallible Word.

The Bible itself claims to be the Word of God, but that in and of itself does not prove that it is (as many of you have pointed out.) The Koran and other religious works also make similar claims, and logically, all of these cannot be true.

How, then, is the Bible different from other religions’ books? Simply put, the Bible, and the historical, logical, and archaeological evidences, show clearly that the 66 books of the Bible are the inspired word of God (and what is shared below is just a tiny glimpse into these evidences, and is also not an examination of the canonization of Scripture, though that makes a very fascinating study as well) . . . .

To make a bit of a starting point, try finding ten people in your own town with similar backgrounds and walks of life and ask them to, without talking to one another, write a short paper on a controversial topic, such as: what is man’s purpose in life, and then see if they agree in perfect harmony. I would venture to guess that they would not. :) Consider that, then, in light of this . . .

--The Bible, even with its great length (1196 pages in my Bible), has perfect unity. It was written down by men (as in, the hand of God did not pen it like He did the ten commandments) over a period of 1,500 years by more than 40 different authors with very different education levels, backgrounds, cultures, ages, and more. They wrote in different places – city, wilderness, prison, island. The writings composing the Bible were written on three different continents (Asia, Africa and Europe) and in three different languages (Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic.)

--The Bible is composed of 66 books that deal with a wide variety of topics, many that are controversial, but the central theme that can be found throughout the entire Bible is God’s marvelous plan of salvation for mankind through Jesus Christ. And when considering the above points, that in and of itself is amazing.

--The Bible (and historical evidence) shows the perfect fulfillment of so many of the prophecies given in the Old Testament (Lamentations 2:17. And the prophecies that have not yet been fulfilled are still awaiting their fulfillment.)

--The Bible has no contradictions (and the supposed ‘contradictions’ that have been shared in this thread are not truly contradictions – a thorough examination of these ‘contradictions’ will bring that to light.) To clarify this just a bit, one of the foundational laws of logic is ‘non-contradiction’ - a thing cannot be both ‘a’ and ‘not-a’ at the same time. For example, if the Scriptures said that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and then in another place said that He was born in Jerusalem, we have a contradiction and this would be a provable error.

This is where discernment and an unbiased examination of the evidence must come into play, however. Just because two statements may differ, it does not mean that they contradict one another. For example (and a rather simple one), I could say that “I went to the store today.” By that statement, someone might infer that I only went to the store today. Whereas I simply did not give the full information by my statement. A later statement (or statements) could give more information without contradicting the first statement. “I went to the park today” or “I went to the store today and yesterday” or “I didn’t go to the store this morning.” These do not contradict the first statement, but they do give a fuller and more complete understanding to what actually took place.

One additional point I would like to make to this is that our translations are not perfectly exact to the original texts (as in, an exact word for word translation – this is understood through even the translation today of one language to another, say, French to Spanish.) This is where it is helpful to have things such as interlinear Bibles, a concordance, lexicons, etc. that help us to understand the original Greek and Hebrew words that were used. Even with this, though, again, the Bible has no contradictions in it.

It basically comes down to the fact that there is irrefutable evidence that the Bible is true (and there is SO much more than the tiny little bit that was shared in this post that is evidence that the Bible is true . . . including in areas that were not even touched on here such as the archaeological, historical, and scientific evidences. There have been whole books written on these evidences, and I’d rather not write another one in this thread :) so this is but a brief glimpse into a part of it.) It is up to each one of us, then, to believe the evidences given, or to disregard them and continue believing that the Bible is false (or that parts of the Bible are false.) Each man has this choice to make . . . and the choice we make will have eternal consequences.

I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book . . . if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.” Revelation 22:18-19

For myself, I choose to believe and trust the indisputable historical, logical, scientific, and archeological evidences that abound and to take God at His word. Trusting that what He promised and what He has said is true . . . .

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8

"So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but by men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” 2 Peter 1:19-21

-Posted by Sarah