Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Shining Stars

Linking up with TGIF @ Bible Love Notes!

"You must shine among them like stars lighting up the sky,
as you offer them the message of life.”
Philippians. 2: 15b-16a (TEV)

It was one of those clear, crisp nights, when the sky is inky black and the stars are beautiful, bright pinpoints of light.  Spellbound by their clarity and beauty in the vast darkness of the night, deep appreciation welled up inside me and I thanked the Lord for His awesome handiwork.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Crowding out Jesus

By sioda on MorgueFile
Even when Jesus was “just passing through” crowds gathered, because his reputation went before him.  People heard about his teachings and his healings and other miracles and wanted to see for themselves.

In Luke 19:1-10 we learn that Zacchaeus was a “chief tax collector”, a motley lot known for their dishonesty, extortion, and violence. When he was told Jesus was coming, he ran outside to catch a glimpse of the man he had heard so much about.

However, Zacchaeus discovered a throng of others ahead of him. Crowds were an unfriendly place for tax collectors; people often pushed and shoved and poked these unpopular folks as they passed through.  Though Zacchaeus tried, he was too short and couldn’t see Jesus.

Sometimes we can’t see Jesus either—not because of a physical crowd of people blocking our way, but because something within us or around us keeps us from getting close to Him.

Many things can separate us from Jesus:

  • pride
  • friendships or other relationships
  • our need to be in control
  • possessions
  • sins we are still holding onto or have committed in the past
  • wrong priorities, wanting other things more than a relationship with Christ
  • lack of commitment
  • indifference
  • unforgiveness on our part
  • fear
  • pre-conceived ideas

Zacchaeus skirted the crowd, ran ahead, and climbed a tree so he could see—not a very dignified picture for a tax collector accustomed to having servants, nice possessions, and getting what he wanted. However, Zacchaeus did what he had to do in order to see Jesus.

Why was seeing Jesus so important to Zacchaeus? After all, he was rich. He had a job and a home.  But he obviously felt drawn to Jesus.  He must have still had some unfulfilled need that he felt Jesus could satisfy.

Jesus knew what was in Zacchaeus heart.  We don’t hear of Zacchaeus praying a certain prayer, but for a tax collector to offer to give away half his belongings reflected a changed heart.

Zacchaeus’ story raises a few thought-provoking questions:

  1. What keeps me from connecting with Jesus?
  2. How important is it to me to stay connected?
  3. Does my life reflect a changed heart?
  4. What is God calling me to give up for Him?

©2013 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Transformed by Scripture

Photo my Mimicry on Morguefile
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.”
2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV)

Isn’t that what we all want as followers of Jesus—to not just read God’s Word, but to be transformed by it? John Wesley, in his 1765 Preface to Explanatory Notes upon the Old Testament*, penned sound advice on how to approach Scripture: 
  1. To correctly interpret God’s Word we need God’s Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21). Wesley recommends that before we open our Bibles, we seek the Holy Spirit’s help to understand what we are reading, and conclude our time in God’s Word by asking Him to engrave God’s truths on our lives.
  2. Just as we need food every day, we need God’s Word daily. Reiterating God’s instructions in Joshua 1:8, Wesley suggests we read Scripture both in the morning and in the evening, choosing passages from both the Old and the New Testaments.
  3. Wesley encourages us to note the basic threads of our faith in the passages we read. We will see how God purposefully wove together His message from Genesis to Revelation. (John 5:39) As we read, we can keep these questions in mind:
    1. Which verses help me see my sinful nature?
    2. How does this scripture dovetail with Jesus’ sacrifice for my salvation?
    3. What aspects are mentioned of the new life Jesus offers me?
    4. How am I challenged to holier living?
  4. Wesley advocates meditating on truths we find in the Bible, allowing God’s living, active Word to judge the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts. (Hebrews 4:12) The all-exposing beam of Scripture will prompt both praise and repentance.
  5. Lastly, the Word of God is a lamp to guide us in our daily living. (Psalms 119:107) Wesley admonishes us to prayerfully search the Scriptures with the intention of learning God’s will for our lives, and then determine to follow it.

 As we respond to the Spirit’s gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) nudges, the Bible will become a powerful tool God uses to remold, refine, and redirect us.

 ©2013 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Training for a Race

Photo from Morguefile

I do all this for the sake of the gospel that I may share in its blessings.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run,
but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.
They do it to get a crown that will not last;
but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly;
I do not fight like a man beating the air.
No, I beat my body and make it my slave
so that after I have preached to others,
I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:23-27

Yesterday, as my husband and I attempted to pull out from our driveway, a group of runners suddenly crested the little hill that comes up from the YMCA. We waited patiently while nearly a hundred people jogged, ran, plodded, and puffed by our house. We have no idea how long the run was or what cause it supported. It was very obvious though that some were giving it their heart and soul while others were merely tagging along for moral support. A few runners were barely winded and a couple of them looked as though they were praying “Just let me survive!”

Paul compares the Christian life to a race. In a race are athletes who have spent much time, even most of their life, training for the race.  The goal of each one is to win and receive the prize.  They would not go into the race expecting to win if they hadn’t trained for it.

As Christians we are running in the race of obedience to Christ. Our goal is to please Him and spend eternity with Him.  We must train daily for the race. But how do we train for the spiritual race of our lives?

Reading God’s Word, talking with Him, trusting in Him, surrendering our wants and desires to Him, and obeying His commands all exercise our faith. Studying alongside other Christians and sharing our beliefs with those who ask also tune up our spiritual muscles.

In this race we will fail many times.  It will not be easy.  But we must keep on, like a runner who trips and falls but picks himself up and continues to run.  We must keep the goal in mind—the goal of living a life that pleases God.

 © 2013 Pamela D. Williams