Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Timeline of the Bible: Creation (Post 1)

Creation: Genesis Chapter 1
Photo courtesy:
The context of this first chapter of the Word we have been given to live by is ex nihilo, (Latin), which means: out of nothing. Nothing preceded this passage of Scripture in history, and God created everything (John 1:3). He knew that there would be sin in the world, He even created Satan so we would have a choice between Heaven and hell; He knows all things. There is NOTHING hidden from Him because He has created everything; nothing surprises Him.

In the beginning of the world, only God was present, and that would have been enough for Him to be sustained forever. God did not need us, because He is God and wants for nothing, but, out of His goodness, He created the Heavens and the earth. A place for us to start, and a place for us to reside after death.
·      God created the light first.
o   I really like the symbolism this provides, as God is light. He didn’t create the darkness, because darkness really is the absence of light, which God cannot be a part of because He is light.
o   Also, the first thing He created (even before separating the Heavens and Earth) was light, because He knew we would need it [His light, salvation] to guide us through this world.
·      God separated light and darkness to be day and night, Heaven, sea and dry land.
·      After all of this creation, He allowed the Earth to sprout vegetation.
·      Then, He knew that the vegetation (and animals and humans to come) would need both day and night to rest, grow and flourish, so He created the sun, moon and stars.
·      After the vegetation, He created sea creatures, birds and beasts of the earth.
o   God created living beings would need to sustain life on Earth before He created the animals and humans. But the most important thing that was created before humans is the first thing that was on the formless earth- the Spirit of God; it has been, is, and forever will be present (Genesis 1:2).
·      He created man in His own image and He blessed them. We had done nothing to deserve His blessing, yet as He formed us out of His own image, He blessed us.
o   We so often forget that we have been made from God’s perfect image. Within the first 6 days of the Earth, God thought of us and made us perfect.
-Society tells us that we must be different than we were created and hate who we are until we fit into the bubble that the world says we should be.
-This completely contradicts the way God created us. “He saw EVERYTHING He had made and behold it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).
·      Then, God knew the way He created humans that we would need something to do, so He gave us dominion over the whole earth.
o   He could have given us nothing to do, but He created us with the ability to work, and do work well.
What has always been crazy to me, is that God knew the number of hairs that are on my head today when He created the Earth (Luke 12:7; Jeremiah 1:5). We are so valuable to Him that He would have created this Earth for just one of us!
·      Luke 15:4 talks about the one lost sheep that God will search for. That is proof that, especially when we are far away from Him, we are precious to Him and worth searching for.
·      The next time you think you are worthless or have sinned one too many times, remember that God knew every sin you would commit before He created the Earth for you (Proverbs 5:21). Even with that knowledge, He created the Earth and created you for a purpose (Jeremiah 29:11).
My favorite part of studying Genesis is understanding that this is just the beginning! Our story of redemption is shown over and over throughout the different stories of the Bible, yet this shows the perfection that God created the world with and the Master of it all said that it was very good. At this point of the Earth’s story, God loved us enough to create us and everything we would need to be sustained while on this Earth. Everything that comes after this in Scripture is confirmation of His love for us.

Ultimately, the whole Bible is telling a story of love. God created the Earth, the we are shown how humanity sins over and over again, is redeemed, then crucifies the Savior of the world and are still welcomed to accept a free, loving gift of salvation to live eternally. The two major takeaways I have from this chapter are: we are perfectly created and need to live our lives showing the grace, love and mercy we have been shown.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Worship and Circumstances

I am currently in an interesting season of my life.

Most people my age are getting married, having children and pursuing their masters and doctorate degrees. I graduated college, then moved back home to save money while I applied for jobs.

I accepted a job two months after graduation, but it turned out to be quite a different opportunity than I expected. Adding to this frustration is over an hour commute each way in Austin traffic every day.

I have struggled with several things the devil has told me during this season of my life:
  • Why do you need a job? You don't have anything to save for anyways. 
  • Why are you trying so hard to be successful? You won't amount to anything anyways.
  • Why are you dreaming about having a relationship some day? It will never happen. You're going to be single forever.
Then as I was studying in preparation to lead my small group, God revealed to me the chains of faithlessness and lack of joy that had me bound. 

You see, Matthew 14:22-33 talks about Peter's faith:
  • He saw the Lord walking on water, and naturally thought something like that could never be possible and believed it was a ghost.
  • Once Jesus identified Himself, Peter still didn't believe and demanded Jesus allow him to walk on the water with Him. 
  • Jesus allowed Peter to walk alongside Him on the water.
  • Peter became fearful when the wind and waves started again and began to doubt God's sovereignty. 
  • Jesus asked why he doubted, but didn't punish Peter.; instead, He got into Peter's boat with him and the storm stopped. 
  • Then all of those in the boat believed that He was the Son of God after the storm stopped when Jesus got into the boat. 
If I really believe that God reigns over everything and everyone, why do I act like Peter?
  • Why do I believe the devil's lies that I am in a rotten place in my life and should have a bad attitude about it? 
Here are a few ways that God has shown me to strengthen my faith and help my unbelief.
  • God's ways are perfect (Psalm 18:30, 2 Samuel 22:31) and He had great plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11). 
    • Those plans cannot be fully understood in your life unless a) you trust in Him with ALL your heart and b) in all your ways acknowledge that Him and His place in your life (Proverbs 3:5-6).  
    • You see, God can be establishing your path for you, but you will never understand how He is using you until you fully relinquish your life and trust to Him. You will see stages in your life as a burden if you don't view them as the Lord shaping you and using you where you are.
    • We are all clay, being molded to Jesus' image (Jeremiah 18). Once we are molded, we must be refined by the fire that is God Almighty (1 Peter 1:7). This molding and refining cannot happen unless we are in His presence. 
  • When we look at the Bible, we do not see God taking people out of their struggles, we see Him helping them through it; we often forget this part of the stories.
    • He took the Israelites out of bondage, but didn't drop them into the Promised Land. They had to wander through the wilderness for forty years, but He provided for their every need: food, shelter, water, leadership and protection from the enemies. 
    • He allowed the devil to tempt Job by taking away all of his worldly possessions (can you even imagine that? Your wealth, family, and your job/animals). While Job mourned these losses and was not able to understand, he never wavered in his faithfulness to God. Through this book, we find out who God is- He is Godself and understands things we are never to understand. Suffering does not happen because of a sinful act, but rather because of God's good and perfect master plan.
Ultimately, if our joy comes from our circumstances, we will always be let down. 
  • I personally found that my joy came from being successful in college, having great friends and free time. 
  • Once I graduated and no longer had the security of knowing I could do well in classes, friends living in the same room as me and basically no free time, I became bitter.
  • God has begun to show me that my joy did not come from Him, but rather from the things around me. Think about this thought from Halim Suh at the Austin Stone: 
    • What you worship is the object of all your hopes and dreams.
      • He brought up a great point: If your family was suddenly taken from you, would you have joy? If you lost your job, would you still find joy? 
In conclusion, I am slowly realizing what I am worshipping alongside God. Spoiler: it is definitely security, success, and time to relax.
  • Worshipping God doesn't work that way. God demands your entire trust and hope to be in Him. That is ultimately what the first of the Ten Commandments says. 
  • With this realization, I am choosing to place my worship and trust in Him, rather than in earthly possessions that will fade. 
I am choosing joy in this season of my life rather than bitterness, because life is short and I will constantly be striving for things I can never achieve.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Finding Peace in the Norm

Something I have been struggling with recently is finding peace.

You see, when college students "rest", it is to watch a movie or scroll through Facebook for 10 minutes.

Projects, quizzes, homework, and tests all pile up causing constant anxiety and stimulation-and the thought of peace and rest is the furthest thing from my mind.

Especially reading my Bible or taking a break to just sit in God's presence and listen?

That's unheard of...I don't have time. Really? God had time to rest when creating the world. I can't find 5 minutes to sit in His presence?

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. -Colossians 3:15 (NASB)

Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but those who plan peace have joy. -Proverbs 12:20 (ESV).

So, when you take a minute and let Christ rule your heart, you become:
  • Part of His body (which he commands)
  • Thankful for Him
  • Joyful. Seriously, when does a break and sleep not rejuvenate you?
I challenge you, take a break from all of the stuff surrounding you, focus on God and give up your worries. He's got this.


Monday, November 10, 2014

New Mercies

While Jeremiah is recounting Israel's affliction and feeling that the Lord has forsaken them, he says this:

"This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
22 The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.”
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the person who seeks Him.
26 It is good that he waits silently
For the salvation of the Lord."

-Lamentations 3:21-26 (NASB)

No matter what we are going through, no matter how far away God seems or how crazy His plans seem, the Lord is good to those who wait for Him. How amazing and comforting is that? This semester, I have found comfort in the fact that the Lord's love constantly surrounds me and that His mercies are new every day, no matter what yesterday looked like.

In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart, for the Lord has overcome the world. -John 16:33


Monday, May 19, 2014

Open The Eyes Of Your Heart

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance of the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might, which He brought about in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at the right hand in the heavenly places.

While this was originally Paul's prayer to the Church at Ephesus (Ephesians 1:18-20), it is my prayer for myself and for anyone reading this. This passage is just one example of many in the New Testament that describe how we can pray for one another.

This morning, I was reminded of just how short life is when a young woman who started college with me finished her battle with Leukemia. So, through the hurt we face in this world, I urge you to allow God to open the eyes of your heart so that you can see Him. Life is too short to live in the now; we must focus on forever with Him. Forever starts when you accept Christ- allow your heart to be open to see the hope that God's calling provides. Once we see this hope, we are able to see the riches His love provides and His amazing power.

Let His love mold and shape you so that you are truly His handiwork and used for His glory. Life is too short to live otherwise.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

How To Treat Others

Our world today seems to teach us that if we are Christians, we must hate everyone who does not do as the Bible instructs.

This view is ironic, because Christians are to love their enemies (Matthew 5:44); our enemies would be anyone who we hate, right?

2 Thessalonians 3:14,15 (NASB): "If anyone does not obey our instruction in their letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him....Yet, do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother."

According to this passage, Christians are to not be best friends with those who are not Christ followers, but we are not to treat them as our enemies. That, I believe, is where the Christians are getting a negative reputation. We have accepted the world's view that if we do not agree with someone's choices, we must speak out negatively against them and then not associate with them at all.

We are to love everyone, especially our enemies and even more so those we do not agree with.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Doubting Peter, 2 Blind Guys, and Jesus' Passion Predictions

Today in New Testament Literature and Life, my professor had some great points about the text of Mark 8:22-10:52 and I wanted to share them, along with my thoughts. If you are not familiar with these passages, I will highlight them below.

Mark 8:22-26 -Jesus healing a blind man at Bethsaida.

Jesus found a blind man, spit on his eyes and asked "Do you see anything?"The man saw what he described as trees walking around, because he could not see clearly. Jesus then laid His hands on the man's eyes again and he began to see everything clearly.

Mark 8:27-31- Peter confesses Jesus as Christ.

Jesus and the disciples were on the way to Caesarea Phillippi (pictured below). On the way, He asked them who people say that He is. The disciples answered "John the Baptist; and others say Elijah, but others one of the prophets." Then Jesus asked, "But who do you say that I am". Peter then answered "You are the Christ".

Mark 8:31-33: First Passion Prediction.
Directly after this, Jesus began teaching about how he must suffer and die, then be raised after three days. Peter then began to rebuke Him for saying this (remember just a few short verses ago, he had proclaimed that Jesus was Christ, and thus knew what He was doing). Jesus responded to Peter saying, "Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind of God's interests, but man's."

Mark 9:30-32- Second Passion Prediction.
Jesus again began teaching his disciples that once again he would be killed and raised after three days; yet the disciples, of all people, still did not understand. 

Mark 10:32-45 Third Passion Prediction.
Jesus began to tell the disciples that they were going to Jerusalem so that Jesus could be condemned and handed over to the Gentiles to be killed and He would rise in three days. James and John responded to this by asking if they could be at Jesus' right and left hand in Heaven; Jesus answered by telling them first that they do not know that they are asking, then telling them that they must come as servants if they want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 

Mark 10:46-52: Bartimaeus Receives His Sight
Jesus and His disciples were leaving Jericho and found a blind man named Bartimaeus sitting by the road. The first thing I noticed is that Bartimaeus called Jesus "Son of David", meaning that He recognized that Jesus was fulfilling prophecy. Secondly, even though Bartimaeus was blind, he recognized Jesus. He begged Jesus to have mercy on Him, so the disciples called him to Jesus and Bartimaeus asked Jesus to grant him his sight. Jesus responded, "Your faith has made you well." Then, he immediately regained his sight and began following Jesus. 

Now that we have read the highlights of these passages, you can begin to understand how they fit together. My professor said that the blind man at Bethsaida did not see the full picture right away; in the same way, Peter confessed that Jesus was Lord, but still did not understand that Jesus was going to be crucified until after Jesus told him three times! Then, Bartimaeus represents Peter at the end of the passage, by proclaiming that he knows who Jesus is and has the faith to believe that Jesus can heal him, or raise Himself up in three days. 

I completely agree with my professor's view, but I also began to think about a different interpretation while studying this passage. The blind man at the beginning of the passage did not have the faith and trust necessary to believe that Jesus could heal him at first, and therefore he did not get to see the whole picture, or understand the truth of the Bible. Then, when Jesus begins to reveal Himself, if you have faith that Jesus is who He says He is, your faith will open your eyes to great things- both in the Bible and in your every day life.