Sunday, June 27, 2010

Waiting Rooms

Waiting Rooms
June 28, 2010
Luke 12:6 "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God."

I was flying across the country by myself a few years back and I had an experience most of you might be familiar with. I was stuck on the airplane with no place to go. We had boarded the plane, all 100 passengers, and the crew prepared for flight, closing the door and pushing off from the gate. And then we sat. And sat. And sat. Something had caused a delay and we were in line on the tarmac, waiting to take off, for hours, and hours, and hours. Literally. We probably sat in the queue for three-and-a-half hours. It was miserable; there was no place to go and no one to listen to my complaint. There was nothing any of us could do; we were at the mercy of those in control. I was helpless and stuck, only slightly hopeful that I would reach my destination on time. Most of you know what I'm talking about. I didn't like waiting that day, and I don't like waiting now. None of us seems to like waiting, not when we know what we want and how we want it.

Unfortunately, we are not in control and we don't have charge over the universe. Only God has that kind of power. Whether we like it or not, we have to submit to Him in everything, especially if it seems like He has us in a waiting room. You are waiting for something; I know it. It might be different for each of you, but you are waiting and waiting. It seems you are stuck in a holding pattern, hoping to take off, but you are grounded in your ability to affect the change you'd like to see. You might be waiting on an answer to prayer, a spouse, a healing, a job, a wayward child, a baby, something, but you are not able to have it today. You are frustrated and there is nothing you can do but pace the floor and wring your hands. I have spoken to many people about this and there is a common thread in everyone's feelings. Everyone seems to feel that God has forgotten about them during their wait. We think that if God has not brought us through by now, then He must have forgotten about us and our situation.

Being forgotten could not be further from the truth. God's Word says that He has the hairs on your head numbered. If He knows how many hairs are on your head, He knows where you are right now in your situation. God knows every little sparrow on this earth, where they are and whether they fall to the ground or not. If He knows this, then He knows who you are and what your situation is right now. God has not forgotten you. While I don't know why He is making you wait, He, in His sovereignty, has a bigger plan than you can understand.

I'm reminded of the Israelites who were enslaved by the Egyptians. You know the story, when the Lord brought about the plagues in Egypt, through Moses. Eventually, Pharaoh let the Israelites go, but not after severe plagues. Preceding that story, though, was a huge waiting room. The Bible says they were enslaved for 430 years as a people group. It seemed God had forgotten them, left them there to die. But He didn't. God had a bigger plan, far bigger than you and I can understand through reading the story in Exodus. The point at the end of that story (when they were free to go in a miracle ending) was God's demonstration of His power, might, and plan for His children. It wouldn't have been a miracle ending if ten people had escaped in the night. It wouldn't have been a miracle ending if all the Israelites had picked up an ax and fought against their oppressors for freedom. It wouldn't have been a miracle ending if a neighboring nation came to their rescue. No, it was a miracle because God freed more than a million people from slavery without the lifting of a sword and He made them rich while doing it.

Your waiting room might be for the same reason, to bring about a miracle ending to your story, to display God's power, might, and plan for you. Know this, no matter how long you wait, God has not forgotten you.

1. What are you waiting for?
2. How can you deal with the feeling of being forgotten?
3. How can you wait patiently for God and His miracle?

Add. Scriptures for Study: Ex 1 & 12, Matt 10:28-32, Lk 12:6-8

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Healing Without Stripes

Healing Without Stripes
June 21, 2010
Isaiah 53:5 "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed."

If you have been a Christian for any length of time, undoubtedly you have heard the phrase, "by His stripes we are healed." "His stripes" refers to the shedding of Jesus Christ's blood, through the torture that He received before and during His execution on the cross. This is the same "stripes" referred to in the book of Isaiah where it is often translated, "by his wounds we are healed." If you simply quote the scripture like this, "by His stripes we are healed," it is easy to get the wrong impression of the scripture and even apply it incorrectly. Saying those six little words, "by His stripes we are healed," it is easy to interpret that as meaning a medical healing in the physical body through the blood of Jesus Christ. But that is not necessarily what that particular scripture means.

It is important to interpret scripture correctly, in order that we have the true understanding of God, His ways, and what He has for us. While saying that our physical ailments are medically healed through Jesus' blood sounds well and good, it is out of context and an inappropriate use of scripture. (I have used this verse incorrectly, too, don't feel bad.) When we read the words, "by His stripes we are healed," it actually means the healing of our sinful predicament. It is making right what was severed or broken when Adam and Eve first sinned, a healing of our separation from God because of our sins. You can get more clarity on this if you read the other words surrounding this particular scripture, as well as through reading 1 Peter 2:24. When Jesus shed His blood on the cross, it healed our relationship with the Heavenly Father by washing away our sins once and for all, forever.

When we interpret this scripture correctly, it leaves a gap in our understanding as we need to cling to something, something to give us hope regarding medical healing that is often needed for each and every one of us. I have seen many medical miracles in my lifetime and know that healing is still for today. So, how does it happen, then, if not necessarily for the blood of Jesus Christ? Well, medical healing happened in the Old Testament, BEFORE Jesus walked the earth. Medical healing happened in the New Testament BEFORE Jesus shed His blood for us. Medical healing happened many times in the Bible based completely on the power of God alone, without any shedding of blood. Medical healing happens today, through the power of God, when we ask Him to heal us. The Lord heals us according to His sovereignty and His plan. He did back in the Bible, and He does so today.

It takes prayer, faith, and God's will to have a medical healing miracle. In the Old Testament, the individual was required to offer a sacrifice (most often it was a guilt offering), present himself to the priest, have the priest perform a ceremonial cleansing, and through these acts of faith, the person could be healed. Oftentimes, in the Old Testament, a prophet was given the power to perform a medical healing miracle. During Jesus' time on the earth, most anyone who begged Jesus and had faith in Him and His ability to heal, was healed. Since Jesus' ascension into Heaven, it takes prayer and faith to be healed, in the medical sense. An example of this is found in Acts 3:16, "By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see." It was Peter who spoke these words and he was speaking about faith in the deity of the Jesus, not faith in the blood of Jesus. Peter said it again in Acts 4:10. You can read further about the prayer of faith for healing in James 5.

But not everyone is healed in the physical sense. I've seen many great men and women of God, with tremendous faith, die of illness at a young age. I've seen many young children, who deserved a medical healing more than most, still die of illness. Not everyone who prayerfully and faithfully serves the Lord is healed of physical disease in this lifetime. This might not sit right with some Christians, but we all must submit to the sovereignty of God and His greater plan for us and mankind.

So, to blanket the scripture, "by His stripes we ARE healed," and declare that you are already healed of your physical illnesses is incorrect. But to cry out to God, have faith that He CAN and WILL heal you, is to position yourself for receiving your medical miracle should HE so choose, based on His sovereignty and plan.

1. How have you applied this scripture correctly or incorrectly to your life?
2. How can you ensure you are using scripture appropriately?
3. How can you petition God for a medical healing today?

Add. Scriptures for Study: Deut 32:39, Job 5:18, Ps 103:3, Lk 7:7, Lk 9:2, Lk 18:42, Acts 3:16, Acts 4:10, James 5:15-16, 1 Peter 2

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Sign for Today

A Sign for Today
Luke 21:11 "There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven." June 14, 2010

The current massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is very frightening and clearly very devastating. But we should not be surprised by it, not one bit. Some would argue it was a direct result of misconduct and greed leading to this disaster that could have been avoided. Some would argue it was just a freak accident. I've heard one respectable Christian call it an act of Judgment by God, specifically directed at Americans. Still others suggest it is a prophetic warning of Revelatory proportions. While I will not pretend to carry the definitive answer from God, I want to offer a perspective that we all should have on the situation: consider it all of the above.

Certainly, there are many things we could infer from this incident, one being the necessary infrastructure for the future, to avoid this type of event again. Chalk it up to a freak accident and allow mankind to all pull together. We must also consider it could be a judgment from God. The Oil Disaster happens to be at the same epicenter of Hurricane Katrina from a few years ago, hitting the same coastline, directly affecting almost the same people group. Coincidence? Maybe. God does bring judgments on specific people groups for the whole lot of their sins, a type of punishment unless they repent. Is God doing this through the Oil Disaster? Did God CAUSE it? It is possible and we should ponder it. If it is indeed from God, then no one learned the lesson after Katrina hit; the appropriate repentance did not occur.

If anything, it is at least a warning of what is to come, a glimpse into the future; consider it birthing pangs. The End is coming and God has given us many, many signs to look for in our lifetime. This Oil Disaster or "fearful event" is one of those. When the End is here, after Jesus comes again, there will be seven angels unleashing seven "woes" on the earth. One of the "woes" will be that a third of the ocean will turn to "blood" killing a third of the living creatures in all the seas. Depending upon your interpretation of Scripture, this will not happen while there are Christians on the earth. The current Oil Disaster in the Gulf maybe a precursor to that event, a foreshadowing of things to come. There is a reason God allows such Warning Signs. These Warning Signs are meant to prepare us, even scare us a little into what we should all want to avoid. The only way to avoid it is to ensure you are going to Heaven when that trumpet sounds, by accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.

This Oil Disaster, be it Judgment or Warning Sign of things to come, should cause all of us to take action. That action is to seek God. The action should not simply be to ask God to correct the current situation because it is so horrible. The action should be to make sure that each and every one of us is in a right relationship with Him and that we are all repentant of our sins (we ALL have sins worthy of Hell). It is an opportunity to check your own self. If it is Judgment, God will relent when people repent. If it is a Warning Sign, consider it of grave proportions and thank Him for the opportunity to get yourself right before the End does come. Either way, we all need to turn to God regardless of who might be at fault.

God does not spare anyone discomfort if it means getting his or her attention. He wants everyone in Heaven with Him, and if you are currently one of those blessed to have already accepted Salvation, let "fearful events" motivate you to warn others of things to come. I don't want to be in the water off the Gulf in the midst of that oil, and I certainly don't want to be in the water when a third of it turns to blood.

1. How can you get perspective on the current Oil Disaster?
2. How can you repent of your sins and make sure you are ready for the future?
3. How can you warn others of the future?

Add. Scriptures for Study: Jonah 1, Luke 21, Acts 2:18-20, Rev 8

Monday, June 7, 2010

God's New Thing

God's New Thing
June 7, 2010
Isaiah 43:19 "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."

The book of Isaiah is filled with prophecy, so much so, that it is difficult to make a distinction between what God said to the Israelites in their present situation versus what He wants to do in the future. This particular verse is no exception. God says He is doing a new thing. But what is that new thing? Is it really a pathway in the desert or a stream in a wasted land? The answer is both "Yes" and "No." What about applying this scripture to our lives today? Can you take this verse and just quote it over your life right here and now? If you read this verse, does this mean that God is talking directly to you and your situation at this exact moment? Is God still doing a new thing or was it over with when those specific Israelites were no more? The answer is also, "Yes" and "No." Let me explain.

When God said these words through the prophet Isaiah, He was talking specifically to the Children of Israel. It was during a rough period of time in their lives, when the nation of Babylon was overpowering them and their enemies were prospering. The Israelites were dismayed and frustrated. So God stepped in to encourage them with what was to come. He spoke directly about their personal redemption from Babylon and then God intertwined pictures of their full future. God was telling them, that in the present, He would redeem their situation, and He offered them glimpses of hope for their future, for everyone's future. That future was the full redemption of the Israelites through the sacrificial work of Christ for their sins (and our sins, today).

The verse preceding this one says, "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past." The "former things" God was referring to was the offering of an animal in payment for sins, as Jesus would be the final sacrificial lamb. But the "past" that God wanted them to forget was all the turmoil they had experienced. The Israelites had suffered and were still suffering; they assumed their future would be more of the same. God was encouraging them, saying that their future would not be full of strife forever. He was speaking directly toward their immediate future in the midst of talking about their Heavenly future (as Jesus didn't walk the earth for hundreds of years later).

There are many things we can understand from these scriptures in Isaiah, one of them also being how it applies to your life today. Yes, the "New Thing" God actually already did for the Israelites in removing their oppression. Yes, the "Former Things" God already took care of through Jesus Christ and His work on the cross. This, at first glance, leaves little left for application to our lives today. But this is not so. When God said these words, He was talking about the situation in its entirety, all the way to completion. That completion only happens when we are in Heaven with God, at the End of Ages, which is not here yet. Until that happens, He is always doing a new thing, even in the present. Until the end of the world comes, and it will, God always wants you to forget the former things and not dwell on the past. His work is always new. These scriptures still apply today because God isn't done yet.

As to your specific situation right now, I do not know if God would say to you He is doing a new thing or not. But here is some advice for you to consider as you ponder your own unique circumstances. It is found in the verses following Isaiah 43:18-19. When God spoke these verses specifically to the Israelites, they didn't perceive the "New Thing." He had to spell it out for them and tell them why they couldn't see it. In verse 22 He says, "Yet you have not called upon me, O Jacob, you have not wearied yourselves for me, O Israel." Despite God willing to go forward with them and complete His "New Thing," they could not see it and it would not be revealed to them unless they were on their knees in prayer, seeking the face of God for His will and plan. This is what applies to you and me right now. God might be doing a new thing and He might want you to perceive it, but you never will unless you weary yourself for Him, wearing out the fabric on the front your pants from spending time prostrate before Him in prayer.

God is always doing a new thing, and it is up to you and me to perceive it. When we do finally understand it through prayer, we are not to dwell on the past.

1. How can you interpret this scripture correctly, in light of your own life?
2. How can understand this scripture in light of the future things to come?
3. How can you pray about your current situation, for God to reveal what He is at work doing?

Add. Scriptures for Study: Is 42 & 43, Is 65:17, Ps 78:2, 2 Cor 5:17, Phil 2:13, Rev 21:4