Friday, September 26, 2008

The Nearness of God

"Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For, behold, those who are far from You will perish;
You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You.
But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
That I may tell of all Your works."

Psalm 73:25-28

-Posted by Leah

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wholly Devoted

Let your heart therefore be wholly devoted to the LORD our God, to walk in His statutes and to keep His commandments, as it is this day.” 1 Kings 8:61

As I was reading my Bible yesterday morning, this particular verse spoke to my heart . . . specifically the phrase “wholly devoted”. I pulled out our dictionary and looked at the definitions of these words and found that:

Devoted means to be: Solemnly set apart or dedicated; consecrated

Devote means: To give up wholly; to direct the attention wholly or chiefly

Wholly means: 1) Entirely; completely; perfectly 2) Totally; in all parts or kinds

How convicting the above verse and the definition of the words therein are! Our lives should have this one purpose: to be completely given to loving and obeying our great and holy God and through this, to bring glory and praise to His name . . . in all things having a life consecrated to Him for His use.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:58

*All definitions taken from Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language

*Upon further study, the phrase “wholly devoted” was found to be the NASB’s translation in this particular verse of the Hebrew word ‘shalem’ (Strongs 8003) which means full, complete, whole, perfect. This word in the KJV and ASV is translated as: “perfect” in 1 Kings 8:61. In essence, it is to be perfect and complete with the Lord, blameless. This defining serves to deepen and broaden the implications meant in “wholly devoted”.

-Posted by Sarah

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Love - Part 14: Endures All Things

Love . . . endures all things
1 Corinthians 13:7

Here is the last of the “all things” phrases. And this one focuses upon our response to outward circumstances. Endurance. 

The Greek word from which “endures” is translated is hupomeno, and as used here in 1 Corinthians 13, it means "to bear (trials), have fortitude, persevere" (taken from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance). Vines Expository Dictionary states that this “hupomeno” denotes “to abide under, to bear up courageously” (under suffering).

The majority of verses that use this word 'hupomeno', refer to endurance being the mark of a follower of Christ and endurance in response to sufferings. Such is seen in a verse in Hebrews where the believers had “endured a great conflict of sufferings” (Hebrews 10:32). 

In the letter to the Romans, Paul encouraged them to “Be . . . rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,” (Romans 12:10, 12).

But why is endurance important? Our human nature is to buckle and break under adversity and persecution; to give in so that the pressure against us will cease. Why would we want to endure? First of all, the Lord has instructed us to. For that reason alone, out of our love for our God, we should strive to endure whatever circumstances He allows into our lives. 

As we endure, this also finds favor with God . . . it is pleasing to Him: “For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God” (1 Peter 2:20).

The Lord has also promised that “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).

As believers in Christ, we are guaranteed persecution: “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12; see also John 15:20 and Acts 14:22). This persecution is something that we can know will come upon us as we walk in obedience to our Lord. Knowing this, we can decide even now how we will respond. Will we endure? Or compromise? Will the endurance be with joy and patience? Or will we grumble and complain?

In Scripture, we are given so many encouraging and convicting examples of those who persevered and endured under trial. Paul for example shares that he was:

 “beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:23b-27). 

Wow, that is quite a list of things to endure and to have weighing on ones’ mind! Yet what was Paul’s response to all of these? He counted all things as loss for Christ (Philippians 3:7-8) and stated that he was “well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake;” (2 Corinthians 12:10a). 

With this heart, Paul was able to declare: “. . . I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.” (2 Timothy 2:10)

Paul is an excellent example of one who endured much adversity. Another is found in the life of a man whom James makes mention of in his letter: “We count those blessed who have endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful” (James 5:11).

The list of things that Job endured is quite impressive:

--The loss of his livestock (Job 1:13-17)
--The loss of many of his servants (Job 1:13-17)
--The loss of his physical wealth (Job 1:13-17)
--The loss of his sons and daughters (Job 1:18-19)
--Rejection and derision by family, intimate friends, servants, strangers (Job 19:13-19)
--Sore boils over his entire body (Job 2:7)
--His flesh clothed with worms and a crust of dirt (Job 7:5)
--The anger and rejection of his wife (Job 2:9-10, 19:17) 
--The condemnation of his friends (Job 16:20 and seen throughout the book of Job)
--He was a taunt and a byword (Job 30:9)
--Spit at and abhorred (Job 30:10)
--Burned with fever (Job 30:30)

Job was rejected by all those whom he loved and held dear, had extreme physical pain and illness, had lost his physical wealth . . . yet, he endured.

The last phrase of verse 11 in James chapter 5 (quoted above) is the encouragement that can help us to likewise endure: “You . . . have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.” 

Through whatever circumstances the Lord allows into our lives, He is all-loving, all-compassionate, all-merciful, and He is right there with us (Matthew 28:20). He is upholding us in His righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10). He is our strength, our rock, our refuge (Psalm 62:6-8) . . . our ever present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

It is through Him and the strength that He alone provides, that we can love through enduring. That we can bear up under trials courageously, giving praise and glory to the Lord through the trials as we trust in Him.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)

-Posted by Sarah