New beginnings start with history

new beginnings start with history

Based on reliable information, I was destined to be a real hell-raiser. But before I could grow up to write a long, empty, broken history, God spared me and drew me to Himself. Like many others who began a relationship with Jesus as a child, I don’t have many sordid tales to convince you I was on the path of destruction. Maybe you have a testimony of early salvation and you’ve struggled with how to tell a story of life change and new beginnings that seems rather dull compared to those of dramatic transformation.

Look no further than your own family history for the answer to your dull dilemma.new beginnings start with history

With the ease of accessing information, there has been a resurgence of interest in genealogy and family history. God can use this to reach people! Online sources like Ancestry.com have taken away the barriers of discovering our ancestors. Author George Orwell spoke truth when he said,  “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”  Without looking at our history, both recent and far, we fail to shape a solid case for sin. As we uncover our lineage, we trace the pathway of the footsteps we were destined to follow.

Who were you on track to become before you began a new life in Christ?

Out of a love for history and a longing to connect with family, I began a search for my history, hoping to find something noble and redeeming.  What I found was evidence left to me by generations back to the late 1500′s. Instead of a long line of saints, I found a yearbook of lost, empty, broken, lives. I needed a new beginning.

I was not only born to “look” like them, but to LIVE like them.

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, emphasis mine)

I know we’re all born as sinners and destined to die because of it, but my family history proves I was born onto a trajectory that set me on a course for vices like alcohol, anger, and abuse. I had no hope of being a fine, upstanding citizen on my own. You?
When God intervened in the life of my parents and then in my life, He saved me from a future that was as sure as my history. He washed me, changed me, and declared me righteous because of what Jesus did. He is the God of new beginnings. Only Jesus can change the course of a life.

Praise God He can and does change the course of lives every day!

So, what’s in your story? Who were you destined to become?

New Beginnings Series - donotdepart.com

Bondage broken after 18 crippled years

crippled woman set free

If you’re bent over, all you can see is the dirty ground, the earth from which we came. It would be hard to lift your eyes and look up with hope if your view excludes the faces of people, the landscape, or the horizon. Even work would be mostly out of reach, not to mention community life and relationships, without the ability to look into the eyes of another person or reach forward with purpose.crippled woman set free That’s how we meet one unnamed woman in the Gospels.

Bent over for eighteen years, the crippled woman of Luke 13:10-17 had been “kept bound” by Satan himself. Unable to even straighten up, she waited at a house of worship, a synagogue. When Jesus came to her synagogue on a Sabbath day and saw the woman’s condition, he set her on a path to change the course of her life.

Freedom from bondage

On that day, the woman long bound by Satan was unbound.

The Devil is a supplier of sickness, a developer of diseases, and an ambassador of affliction. He loved taking a woman made in the image of God and twisting her with an infirmity as a trophy of his bondage. But then Jesus saw her, called her forward, and said, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Jesus laid his hands on her and right away her gnarled spirit-bound body straightened up. Right away, she praised God, because that’s what a genuinely unbound woman does.

Staying in bondage

On that day, a religious ruler long bound by tradition stayed bound.

The Devil has planted the sickness of legalism in the hearts of the religious ruler and his friends. Though not visibly bent in body, their hearts were gnarled by their regard for rules. As quickly as the freed woman stood to her full height in praise, the synagogue ruler was overcome with indignation, blurting out rebuke to the Healer for healing on the Sabbath day. Instead of a declaration of worship, he responded by defending the same hollow tradition that was unable to free the woman during any of her bent up, eyes down, infirmity ridden eighteen years. Jesus rebuked him in return, allowing the crowd to hear His heart for setting captives free. Instead of lifting up His opponents as He had the crippled woman, “all his opponents were humiliated” (v.17b).

The Devil despises the image bearers of God, but Jesus came to “free captives”(Isaiah 42:6-7) from the bondage of the Enemy. Has the supplier of sickness, the developer of disease, the ambassador of affliction bent you down physically, spiritually, or emotionally? Do you feel like all you can see is the dirt of the road you walk? Are you finding it hard to lift up your eyes and see a hope-filled future?

Jesus sees you, calls you, and wants to free you from what the Enemy is using to bind you. What do your shackles look like? He is the true Bondage Breaker who can take a gnarled heart or twisted relationships or a downcast life and raise them up for His glory. Ask God to unbind you and help you walk in newness of life. Let yours be the next voice to praise Him, because that’s what a genuinely unbound woman does.

Has God given you freedom from bondage in your life? Leave a comment and share a praise.

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Wisdom for today … still calling

Wisdom for Life

The Bible isn’t the only book of wisdom. Around the globe, men have reached for other books claiming to be the source of wisdom, also known as “skill in godly living.” When biblical wisdom literature was recorded, scribes of parallel cultures and kingdoms also penned their words and stories. But when we talk about biblical truth, All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work,” (2 Timothy 3:16).  God’s book self identifies its content as inspired by the one true God, and that makes its wisdom unique and essential.

When we refer to biblical Wisdom Literature we include five books:  Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon. The righteous, the wicked, and the true God play the main parts in these books, revealing the limits of mankind’s wisdom and the necessity of fearing of God to prosper and find peace. In the times their words were written, voices opposing God’s ways called out from ancient streets peppered with a plethora of gods, but today voices call out from media screens, digital highways, steel framed cities and hand held gadgets. The tug of war for how we live hasn’t changed, but in many ways, the appearance of “righteous” and “wicked” has. Some may assume, then, the Bible doesn’t speak to life today, but Wisdom Literature’s concrete teaching matters as much now as when Job scraped his oozing sores.

Keys to unlock the 5 Wisdom books:

  • Job – This book addresses the same questions asked today:  Can we trust God? Is He good? Where do we find real comfort? The relatable character’s story takes place outside of Israel. Ultimately, we can put our faith in the sovereign God.
  • Psalms – Not all of these songs written for public worship fit in the “wisdom” category. Divided into 5 books, the Book of Psalms likely began as personal expressions of emotion, adapted for congregations. This book gives shape to our intense feelings about life in pursuit of God. Basic Old Testament themes like the fall of man, the One God, and the covenant relationship come to life here.
  • Proverbs – This collection of wisdom makes it clear that to be skillful in godly living, we must fear God and walk His way in everyday life. Practical truths show what a restored life with God looks like in our behavior, producing a joyful, useful life. Wisdom is available to all, and we discover it by comparing the wise man, the foolish man, and the simple man.
  • Ecclesiastes – This is a book for our day; Ecclesiastes explores trusting in God while living in a messed up world. Poetic devices help organize these proverbs into clusters with a plot line about the unfolding of a  quest for a good and satisfying life. This could be written in our day.
  • Song of Solomon – Intimacy stirs up emotion, and this book of love poetry is no exception. With a variety of opinions on its interpretation, some treat it as an allegory of God’s love for Israel and others as a picture of Christ’s love for the church. Authorship is not certain, but we agree that it’s a love story. There’s no doubt this poetic book demonstrates how God’s ways are the pathway to delight.

In the New Testament the Book of James and some of Jesus’ own teaching also qualify as “Biblical Wisdom Literature,” but these five Old Testament books form the collection commonly known as Wisdom Literature.

Today, as in days of old, “fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7) but wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the market she raises her voice,” (Prov. 1:20).  Wisdom asks, “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?” (Prov. 1:22). It’s hard to hear the call of wisdom in today’s world, but our children, families, and world are desperate to understand and apply skill in godly living that leads to a relationship with God and His peace.

“Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prov. 1:22)

What evidence do you see that people desperately need biblical wisdom?

Click here for the printable Wisdom Bookmark to accompany our study of Wisdom Literature.

No use hiding ~ A weekend riddle

Do you remember the first time you hid your sin? Adam and Eve first tried in the garden, and we’ve been grasping for fig leaves ever since. Knowing I was born with instincts to hide, my mother chose Numbers 32:23b as the first verse I memorized, “… be sure your sin will find you out.” That truth prevented me from grabbing fig leaves out of my closet more often than I did.

Agur knew what my mom knew:   we all have a sin nature and the instinct to hide it.

In Proverbs 30:18-20 Agur presents truth for everyday life that makes sense to young and old. This man mines truth out of daily things like churning butter (v.33) and nose bleeds (v.33). A closer look out of our fig leaf coverings reveals a truth in his riddle not to be ignored.  He begins by admitting three things that are too wonderful, even “four I do not understand” (v.18).

“…the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a serpent on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a virgin” (v.19).

 

Like analogies on the SAT test, these four natural things share something in common. An eagle’s flight in the sky leaves no trace. A snake moving across a rock leaves no trace. A ship sailing on the sea leaves no trace. A man’s relationship with a woman leaves no visible trace. All four conceal evidence that they ever happened.

 

Like most riddles, a clue is found (verse 20): “This is the way of an adulteress: she eats and wipes her mouth and say, ‘I have done no wrong.’” We all have a sin nature and the instinct to hide it.

 

Sin may be easy to conceal when an adulteress cleans up, conceals evidence, and nonchalantly claims innocence, but it doesn’t change the truth. The eagle has flown. The snake has slithered. The ship has sailed. The man has loved. The adulterers have offended.  We may try to hide the evidence; we may try to hide our shame, but we can be sure our sin will find us out.

Adultery has many appearances. Perhaps Agur used the eagle, snake, ship, and man, so we wouldn’t fall into the trap of seeing only a beautiful seductress dressed in veils, inviting men to her lair. His riddle leaves me asking:

  • “How do I commit adultery against God by loving other things and keeping passions ‘secret’ while claiming to be a lover of God?
  • Does my public image reflect my private heart?
  • Am I committing spiritual adultery against my Love, then wiping my hands, covering my heart, and presenting false innocence to those around me?”

Lord,

Expose any wicked ways in me. Leave a trail behind me that leads me to confession and real cleansing. Thwart attempts I make at concealing my sin, and help me to be wholly Yours.

The Overflow of the Heart

I like to color-code when I study Scripture. Depending on what book I am studying, I pick a color scheme to make repeated topics and patterns stand out to me more vividly. A few years ago I was working my way through Proverbs, innocently highlighting, when some of the verses began to make their way off of the page and burn into my heart. {Amazing how God speaks to us when we dig into His Word!}

Page after page was brimming with that tell-tale pink highlighting.

The Proverbs have a lot to say about our speech.

The volume of our speech:

When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
  but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. – Proverbs 10:19

The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer,
   but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things. – Proverbs 15:28

The results of our speech:

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing
. – Proverbs 12:18

A soft answer turns away wrath,
   but a harsh word stirs up anger. – Proverbs 15:1

The destructiveness of gossip:

The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels;
   they go down in the inner parts of the body. – Proverbs 18:8

Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets;
   therefore do not associate with a simple babbler. – Proverbs 20:19

As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire,
   so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife. – Proverbs 26:21

As I read through the admonitions about our speech contained in the book of Proverbs, I hear the words of James in my heart:

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. – James 3:5b-6

Serious. Sobering. As a person who finds myself ensnared by my words more frequently than any other aspect of my life, these verses sting and cut. Sometimes I even begin to despair – nothing reveals my fallen humanity like my speech. Like the prophet of Isaiah long ago, my heart cries – “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips…” (Isaiah 6:5, NKJV)

What is a girl to do? As much as I read what the Proverbs have to say about my speech, why does my tongue trip me up time and time again?

Jesus gives a sobering answer to my question in Luke 6:45: “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Proverbs, an intensely practical book, describes for us the practical outcomes of our speech. But to control our speech takes more than just knowing what we shouldn’t do. I cannot will myself to be wise and holy. Only Christ can transform me from the inside out – and only being transformed from inside out can transform my speech. If I want the overflow of my heart to be uplifting, encouraging, and healing, my heart must be transformed in His presence.

As you dig into the book of Proverbs on your own, I highly recommend that you pull out your favorite Bible highlighters or colored pencils (I prefer crayola twist-up crayons!) and mark up those pages with the repeated themes that show up time and time again. And if you’re like me, those “speech and tongue” verses will jump right off the page and smack you in the face. But, friends, they are not a call to “try harder” or “bite your tongue.” They are like a mirror to us, revealing the sin lurking in our hearts when we are tempted to be enamored by our own self-righteousness. They call to us to humble ourselves before the throne room of God, asking Him to purify us from the inside out.

Sinful speech is a symptom of sin-sickness in our hearts – a sickness only God can cure.