Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Rock: Rejecting the truth to follow a lie

“Pay attention, heavens, and I will speak; listen, earth, to the words of my mouth.
“Let my teaching fall like rain and my word settle like dew, like gentle rain on new grass and showers on tender plants.
“For I will proclaim Yahweh’s name.

“Declare the greatness of our God!
“The Rock – His work is perfect; all His ways are entirely just. A faithful God, without prejudice, He is righteous and true” (Deuteronomy 32:4).
Gentleness and tenderness build to a dramatic proclamation as Moses declares to the people a new name for Holy God.
The chapter continues with powerful words to the people as they have allowed corruption and deceit to permeate their lives. They did so despite all that God had done for them. He created them as God but He also sustained them as would a Father (verse 6). He pulled them out of desolation to make them His chosen people (verses 9-10). He was God to them – Most High over all other gods (verse 12). He blessed them in abundance (verses 13-14).
And yet…, 
I shake my head as I see myself and our culture in their response.
Despite all God did for His people, they gorged themselves on the provision rather than the Provider. They became fat and bloated on it (verses 15). They ignored the God of their fathers as they followed after foreign gods and deceptive demons (verses 16-17).
“They ignored the Rock who gave them birth; they forgot the God who gave birth to them” (Deuteronomy 32:18 paraphrased).
They ignored the Rock – and the response didn’t go well for the people of Israel (verses 19-27). They never realized weak earthly attacks couldn’t come against them “unless their Rock had sold them, unless the Lord had given them up” (Deuteronomy 32:30).
They followed their little idols not realizing that “their ‘rock’ is not like our Rock” (Deuteronomy 32:31).
And yet, despite all their gorging selfishness and their love affair with the idols of Satan, “the Lord will indeed vindicate His people and have compassion on His servants” (Deuteronomy 32:36).

Why on earth would He do such a thing?

God’s mercy and grace pour out on His people because they are just that – His people. Their sin is ugly – horrifying, really – but Holy God cut covenant with them. If He went back on His word and didn’t provide for them, then He would be an untrustworthy liar. That’s not going to happen. Not only that, but if He doesn’t protect them, then those who brought down His people would take credit for their destruction. Or, in other words, Satan would get the glory for bringing the defeat of God’s people. Again, not going to happen. (See verses 26-27. Did you notice the italics on provide and protect? Remember those words because they’ll be important in the next part of this series.)
“See now that I alone am He; there is no God but Me. I bring death and I give life; I wound and I heal. No one can rescue anyone from My hand (Deuteronomy 32:39).

Why do we care?

We care because we see ourselves in the Israelite people. God didn’t only create them – He created us. He didn’t only sustain them as would a Father – He sustains us. He pulled us out of desolation and chose us as His people – adopted in as children of Abraham. He is our Most High God with abundant blessings.
And we said, “Screw it. I don’t care. I want my own way. I want to pour my passion into the ‘rocks’ because I know better than the Rock does.”
Even still, He has compassion on us. Even still, He provides with the Rock of living water in the desert. He protects us in the cleft of the Rock. This is going to get good…please come back for the rest next time.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Priorities: Figuring out what's real and worth it

Talked to Jimmy on the phone yesterday about some problems – the normal stuff like not enough money, not enough time, why won’t the kids behave, why so much stuff is falling apart. We wrapped up our conversation with our normal “good-bye” and “love you” but this time I also thought, “I’m so thankful he’s not part of the problems.” He’s what holds me up through the problems as he reminds me of important things like trust and faith. Hopefully I do the same for him when problems are firing at him.

I’ve also been acutely thankful for my girls over the last couple days – not for what they’ve done but because of who they are. They’re my daughters, my family. That’s enough to bind me to them forever.

I think that’s why this post by Glenn Beck on Facebook this morning struck something inside me.




What is real and worth it beside family?

You can see from my opening comments how important family is to me. Yes, it’s real and it’s so worth it but it’s not “the most important project of all.”

Here’s the rest of his list… Work, parenting, shopping, finances, outside activities, church work, spouse, friends, and extended family. And oh yeah, still find time to read Scripture and pray.

There it is – tacked on the end just in case we manage to find time – is the most important of all.

We may lose our job. Tragedy may strike our children, spouse, friends, or extended family; they may be gone in a heartbeat. The money may disappear completely. Outside activities and yes, even church work, can crumble away. Are we ready to say in those moments – when these horrors strike our own existence – that God is in control and that is enough?

Personal loss, natural disaster, economic failure, job markets, housing and community, and relationships will all come…and they will go. God doesn’t do that though.

He doesn’t “change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17 NIV).

He is “the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 21:6).

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).


How do I do it?

That’s the next big question, isn’t it? I’m first to admit that sometimes it’s hard.

Those hard times prompt the phone calls to my husband like I talked about at the beginning of this article. Or a friend. But they also prompt me to fall to my knees in prayer. Scripture promises, “Cast your burden on the
Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken” (Psalm 55:22).

My husband is a great man who can point me to Christ but he can’t solve all my problems. I have some incredibly wonderful friends who have been there for me often over the years. They also can’t sustain me, though. It’s got to be God.

“I called to the
Lord in my distress, and I cried to my God for help. From His temple He heard my voice and my cry to Him reached His ears. … He reached down from heaven and took hold of me; He pulled me out of deep waters. … The Lord was my support.” (Psalm 18:6, 16, 18; Hover here to read Psalm 18 to see the power of God’s deliverance when we cry for help.)


We can’t only cry to God when the problems hit, however. We endure the hard times because we walk in relationship with Him all the time. We read His Word… no, we study it. We know it. We allow it to transform us from the mess we used to be into the person He created us to be.

Seven Roles, One Woman talks about this quite a bit from a woman’s perspective. It’s hard to balance being a wife, mom, businesswoman, friend, servant, homemaker, and oh yeah, a child of God. We try to juggle all of them and keep everyone happy. In the end, though, balance starts to come when we realize that being a child of God isn’t an “oh yeah” that we tag on at the end.

It’s the foundation upon which all the others rest…

  • It’s the love needed to be the wife (or husband).
  • It’s the grace mandatory to being a mom (or dad).
  • It’s the wisdom desired to be a business person.
  • It’s the kindness essential to being a friend.
  • It’s the compassion required to be a servant.
  • It’s the sacrifice important to being a homemaker.
Being a child of God is the power to make it happen because “He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

And if Glenn happens to read this - or anyone else trying to figure it out with very real scars in their own life - please know I didn't ignore that part of the original Facebook post. That's some hard stuff as well and maybe something to save for another time.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Psalm 83 - Free download Bible study

Click on the picture to download the study.
God's promises of the past provide hope for our future. Attacks come; the enemies of Israel rise up against her just as our spiritual enemy does against us. God may seem silent. However, He spoke victory years ago and His word will not change. This five part series goes verse by verse through Psalm 83.

What do I do with them?

Several people have asked for copies of various blog series over the years. We're thrilled to make them available to you in a free downloadable, printable format. We've even added questions at the end for personal reflection or group discussion.

Click here to view the full selection of available Bible study downloads.

As hard as this is to believe, not everyone in the world has an internet connection. Not everyone has access to online study resources or neighborhood Christian book stores. Some of those who do have access don't know where to start when it comes to Bible study. So here are some suggestions on what you can do with these free downloads...
  • Use them as a guide for your own personal Bible study time on a daily or weekly basis.
  • Send them to a friend, relative, or missionary living in a remote location.
  • Start a short term study with friends at work, in your neighborhood, or in your church.
  • Be creative! Let us know in the comment section how you may utilize these resources!
Click on the above picture to open a .pdf file. From there, you may either download it to your computer or print the file.

May God bless your time in the study of His Word!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Boots on the Ground: Engaging the spiritual battle

My local church is known for its cross-generational outreach. Many churches may choose to focus on a particular age group but we have made an effort to maintain an extended family atmosphere with plenty of young children, teens, young adults, and those who aren’t quite so young anymore. That’s why my friends range from twenty years younger to forty years older than me.

Al and Carolyn West are a couple that fall into that older than me category. They don’t act like it but they have grandkids older than my own kids so they must be older than me.

Al had the privilege to participate in a Heartland Honor Flight in recognition for his past military service. He wrote the following regarding his experience. I asked for the privilege to pass his insights along to you…

What an amazing experience to join other local veterans for an unforgettable visit to our nation’s capitol to pay honor to all veterans who have (or are) sacrificing and defending our heritage of freedom. It was truly an awesome day and one I will always cherish. …

While in Washington DC, I was amazed that our nation’s capitol was filled with so many memorials to the defense of our liberty as a nation under God. We visited the memorials to the fallen of battle from WW2, the Korean War, Viet Nam War, Arlington National Cemetery, the Air Force Memorial, and the Flag Raising at Iwo Jima (Marine Memorial). As the only Coast Guard veteran in the group, I returned home with a greater appreciation for our heritage, our national patriotism, and courage.

Until Jesus returns, there will always be conflicts and attacks against our way of life as we live out what is called our American Dream of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” As long as there is sin and evil in this world, there will always be ideologies that will hate our individual freedoms and the fact that we are a “…nation under God with liberty and justice for all.” Visiting those memorials, I was reminded that they honor the physical conflict and sacrifice of a freedom loving people. But there is also a spiritual battle for the souls of men. All of us who name the name of Christ are soldiers, locked in that struggle to the death.



“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 NASB).

The forces of evil cannot be “contained.” There must be “boots on the ground!”

When duty called, Al stepped up and served his country as have thousands of men and women in the past and present. What I appreciate even more, however, is Al’s recognition that as followers of Christ we fight an even greater battle. I repeat what Al wrote that we are also in “a spiritual battle for the souls of men.” We are “locked in that struggle to the death” as we fight for their freedom. The spiritual battle isn’t fought with air strikes; the spiritual battle for the souls of men requires boots on the ground. 


We are those boots. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Kingdom Parables - Free download Bible study

Click on the picture to download the study.

John the Baptist and Jesus Christ both began their preaching ministries with the same words, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 3:2 and Matthew 4:17, respectively). Jesus also said in Matthew 13:11 that “the secrets of the kingdom of heaven have been given for you to know. What treasures of truth hide in their words? I want to know.


What do I do with them?

Several people have asked for copies of various blog series over the years. We're thrilled to make them available to you in a free downloadable, printable format. We've even added questions at the end for personal reflection or group discussion.

Click here to view the full selection of available Bible study downloads.

As hard as this is to believe, not everyone in the world has an internet connection. Not everyone has access to online study resources or neighborhood Christian book stores. Some of those who do have access don't know where to start when it comes to Bible study. So here are some suggestions on what you can do with these free downloads...
  • Use them as a guide for your own personal Bible study time on a daily or weekly basis.
  • Send them to a friend, relative, or missionary living in a remote location.
  • Start a short term study with friends at work, in your neighborhood, or in your church.
  • Be creative! Let us know in the comment section how you may utilize these resources!
Click on the picture above to open a .pdf file. From there, you may either download it to your computer or print the file.

May God bless your time in the study of His Word!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

El Elyon: Determine which God claims the throne of your heart

What goes up must come down.

You reap what you sow.

Every action requires an opposite reaction.

Most high means something else is most low.

Our focus this month on Grow Barefoot social media is different names of God found in the Old Testament. Each day on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, I post a little something about a different name for the one true God based on the first place Scripture uses that name.

I found a really cool one this week so, of course, I want to share a little more of it with you!




El Elyon

The Hebrew name El Elyon means God Most High. It’s first use probably won’t seem significant at first… “Then Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine; he was a priest to God Most High” (Genesis 14:18). Yawn, some king with a hard name, some bread, and some wine was a priest. Who cares?


Context is everything

Please hover your cursor here to read Genesis 14:17-23.

Abram (God later changed his name to Abraham) experienced a great military victory to rescue his nephew, Lot. After the victory, the king of Sodom and the king of Salem both came out to meet him.

Melchizedek, the king of Salem, brought bread, wine, and a blessing for Abram. Bera, the king of Sodom, brought nothing; however, he told Abram he could keep all the goods he had retrieved as long as he gave the people back to Bera. Melchizedek was not only king but also priest of the Most High God. Bera – well, he was the king of Sodom. We can guess the quality of his character.

Abram had two very different responses to the two men. He responded to Melchizedek by giving him a tenth of everything. In contrast, Abram declared to Bera that he wanted nothing from him and nothing to do with him. His reason? Abram had made an oath to God Most High. Allegiance to one necessitated total rejection of the other.

How does this fit with the name El Elyon?

Each new name for God reveals a new aspect of His character and our relationship with Him. The context helps us understand these new aspects.

I taught my daughters a few years ago about superlatives; for example, the best, the worst, or the hardest. We only use superlatives to compare three or more things. Again, as an example, the comment “That girl jumped the highest” indicates at least two other girls were jumping with her and she was the highest of the three.

The name God Most High indicates at least two other beings who would like to also be god. Yahweh God is most high over these other beings. And you know what? I can quickly think of two other beings who would rather be god instead of Yahweh – Satan and us. Yet, God is God Most High over both of them.

How does this fit with the story of Abram’s battle?

God, Satan, and Abram’s own ego fought for the throne of Abram’s heart. Any of them could have walked away with the victory.

Abram

Abram just completed an impressive military victory. He and his 318 men defeated an army that had terrorized the region for fourteen years. During that time, they had conquered and ruled over fourteen different people groups. Pride could have overcome Abram in the aftermath of his victory. He could have become the god of his own heart.

Bera, king of Sodom

Bera held claim to all the goods and people Abram received in his battle. Although Bera wanted to retain rights to the people, he freely offered Abram the goods of the whole city. This would have made Abram a very rich man.

Bera reminds me of Satan in this story. He’s the king of a city totally opposed to the message of God. The prophet Ezekiel wrote her sin was that she “had pride, plenty of food, and comfortable security, but didn’t support the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49). Also similar to Satan, Bera is willing to give Abram all of the riches but he wants to hold onto the lives of the people. Satan is after the people, not the riches.

Satan – working through Bera and his city of Sodom – could have claimed the throne of Abram’s heart. He could have lured Abram away with his promise of riches, security, and tempting indiscretions.

Melchizedek, king of Salem

Just as Bera reminds me of Satan, Melchizedek points us to the one true God, Yahweh. He came to Abram not wanting to take but to give. He brought Abram bread and wine – perhaps this foreshadows Jesus as King and Priest who gave His body and blood for us in a sacrifice we remember with the eating of bread and drinking of wine.

Melchizedek also gave Abram a blessing just as Jesus did us. “Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and told the good news ahead of time to Abraham, saying, All the nations will be blessed through you. So those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith. ... The purpose was that the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles by Christ Jesus, so that we could receive the promised Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:8-9, 14). Or more simply put, “Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens” (Ephesians 1:3).

God – working through His priest Melchizedek – could have claimed the throne of Abram’s heart with His gift of bread, wine, and blessing.


Which did Abram choose?

Abram emphatically declared to Bera, king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand in oath to Yahweh, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:22). He went on to tell Bera that he basically wanted nothing to do with him.


Abram didn’t let his own military might and power rule. He didn’t let the riches and security of empty promises rule. He chose the third option and submitted to the Most High God. He openly displayed his choice by willingly giving Melchizedek a tenth of all that he had in response to the bread, wine, and blessing.



Why do we care about the name used for God?

Our circumstances may look different but we all still face the same choice. Who will rule over the throne of our heart?

Will we take pride in our own power and conquests as we exalt our own ego?

Will we allow Satan to lure us away with empty promises of riches and security?

Or will we pick the third option – the superlative best – and allow God Most High to rule in our hearts? 

He comes to us with the gift of His body and blood sacrificed for us and the promise of unimaginable blessing. Will we, like Abram, recognize His claim to our heart and lovingly return to Him an offering from all that we have?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

By Faith: Surrounded by witnesses of God's promise

I graduated from a Christian high school a couple years – um, decades – ago. Since it was a Christian rather than public school, we had a class verse. I heard it many times throughout my four years of secondary education – many, many times.


You may also be familiar with this verse – it’s a fairly popular one. Sometimes constant exposure to a particular passage makes us think we know what it says. However, sometimes we hear the words over and over while the message never penetrates our lives. Or, we get part of the message but more awaits us right beneath the surface.

Last month I asked my friends to share their favorite verses with me. I then picked one each day to use on our Grow Barefoot social media. This one happened to be on my list.

I made my picture to post on social media that day while pondering the verse. As I did so, a new thought occurred to me, “Who are these witnesses and why are they surrounding me?” For all these years, those questions had never occurred to me.


Who are the witnesses?

Never casually skim over a “therefore” in the Bible. We tend to divide one chapter from another as if their two topics aren’t related but when we see the word “therefore” we should pay attention because what we’re about to read is a culmination of what's been said.

It turns out the previous chapter is one of the most powerful and inspirational in the entire Bible! Followers of Christ commonly refer to Hebrews 11 as the “Hall of Faith” or the “Faith Chapter.” It lists a group of people known for their faith; people who sacrificed all – reputations, homelands, friends, prosperity – even their very lives.


What did they witness?

The Old Testament (OT) is the best source to understand the New Testament. In the OT, a witness served one of two possible duties. They either testified of the wrongdoing of another person like a witness does today in a court of law. Or, they testified to an agreement between two other parties, much like a witness at a wedding. In fact, even inanimate objects such as stones often witnessed an agreement between two parties. Remember that.

Going back to our cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 12:1, no one has done anything wrong of which these OT heroes of the faith need to testify. So I don’t see that the first possibility fits our situation. The OT heroes of the faith are witness to an agreement made between us and God.

The book of Hebrews calls this agreement a “promise;” it begins describing the promise in chapter four…

Some may have fallen in the desert as they wandered for forty years (Hebrews 3:12-18) but “the promise to enter His rest remains” (Hebrews 4:1). The Israelites entered the Promised Land as they crossed the Jordan River but rest in a spiritual Promised Land still remains today.


  • A land promised to “those who inherit the promises through faith and perseverance” (Hebrews 6:12).
  • A promise confirmed with an oath by an unchangeable God (Hebrews 6:17).
  • A promise passed down through Abraham (Hebrews 7:6).
  • A promise on which Jesus Christ founded and mediated a new covenant (Hebrews 8:6).
  • A promised eternal inheritance made possible by Jesus’ spilled blood and sacrificial death (Hebrews 9:15).
  • A promise for those who persevere in doing the will of God until the end (Hebrews 10:36-37).
  • A promise passed down through Isaac and Jacob (Hebrews 11:9).
  • A promise of a city built by God, of a country in heaven (Hebrews 11:10, 13-16).
  • A promise of countless descendants through a sacrificed son (Hebrews 11:17).

We’ve been building through most of the book of Hebrews. We reach the final mention of the promise just a few words before our great cloud of witnesses. In Hebrews 11:39-40 we read, “These [the OT heroes of the faith] were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better…” (Click here to read what God had planned. It’s in an article I wrote a few months ago.)


Why do they surround us?

As I’ve studied through this, a single word keeps popping up in my mind. Gilgal. You may not be familiar with it; if you are, you may not see the connection. So here we go.

I mentioned earlier that the Israelites crossed the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land after wandering in the desert for forty years. “After the entire nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord spoke to Joshua: ‘Choose 12 men from the people, one man for each tribe, and command them: Take 12 stones from this place in the middle of the Jordan where the priests are standing, carry them with you, and set them down at the place where you spend the night’” (Joshua 4:1-3).


The men did as Joshua instructed. “Joshua set up in Gilgal the 12 stones they had taken from the Jordan” (Joshua 4:20). The name Gilgal means wheel or a large circle of stones. The stones served as a memorial, in short, “that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord’s hand is mighty, and so that you may always fear the Lord your God” (Joshua 4:24).

What does this have to do with Hebrews 12:1? The word for “surrounding” means to lay objects around something or to encircle it with those objects. Joshua laid the stones in a circle at Gilgal to remind the people that God is mighty and they were to fear Him as they entered the Promised Land. Likewise, God lays the witnesses around us to testify of His might and to remind us to fear Him – not our circumstances. In other words, to live by faith.

So…

God has made this incredible promise to us that we may enter the Promised Land – an eternal home in heaven with Him. The great heroes in chapter 11 witnessed that promise and, by faith, held out for the greater home of eternity.

Their stories encircle us as memorial stones. But God didn’t give us only twelve stones; He set up so many stones around us that He couldn’t even list all of them in the verses of chapter eleven (See Hebrews 11:32-38). He set up so many that together they form an indistinguishable and seemingly unlimited cloud around us.

They stand as a witness to the promise made between God and us that by our faith He will bring us into the Promised Land.

They stand as a witness to remind us of His power in our circumstances.

They stand as a witness to fear Him, not our situation.

They stand to remind us to live by faith.