Monday, January 31, 2011

From Junk to Joy

The other day, I was listening to a program called Woman to Woman.  The guest on the program was Debbie Holley, who has developed a class called Peace of Mind or a Mind in Pieces?  She talked about how, as women, we tend to keep a mental junk drawer of all kinds of negative things we've heard about ourselves or told ourselves.  While this does happen more with women, I do think some men do this as well.

I admit that I keep a junk drawer.  I've emptied it out from time to time because I recognize the damage it inflicts.  But inevitably, it gets filled up again, and before I realize it, I've gotten into a slump.  This junk definitely steals my joy.  What makes it worse is that I'm responsible.  I'm not responsible for what other people say to me, but I am responsible for hoarding those things, responsible for what I say to myself.  That means that cleaning out that drawer is up to me.  While acknowledging this doesn't necessarily make the clean-up easier, it signifies that this doesn't have to be a permanent condition.  I can go from a drawer full of junk to a heart full of joy.  What junk do you need to throw out?

Remember that God doesn't think negative thoughts about you, so that rubbish piling up inside comes from the enemy of souls.  "For I know the thoughts I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end" Jeremiah 29:11. Our God wants to restore our joy.  It comes with peace of mind.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thoughts on Acts 13

The texts used to support the belief that God's Sabbath was changed from the 7th day to the 1st day of the week (John 20:19, Acts 20:6-11, and 1 Cor 16:1-3) cannot stand up to the truth that God never changed the day. Here in Acts 13, it is clear that the disciples continued to worship on the 7th day Sabbath. They did not change God's day of worship to Sunday to celebrate Christ's resurrection. I think it's fair to say they celebrated it by proclaiming the gospel to the ends of the world.

The Catholic Church has stated on more than one occasion that she changed the day to Sunday under the authority that she believes God has given her to replace Him here on earth. A huge part of the reason for the change came at a time when the church wanted to gain control; as such, the pagan day to worship the sun was embraced, within a melding of church and pagan traditions. This way everyone could be happy--or so they thought.

And let me just say that the whole notion of the Mark of the Beast dividing the masses today is an inaccurate notion. The Mark of the Beast and the Seal of God do not come into play until persons must make a decision to follow God or follow the world. That won't happen until the Sunday worship laws are being enforced. This will be the period of time foreshadowed by Stephen's sermon and subsequent stoning, the last chance to get it right before your decision seals your fate for eternity.

Thoughts on Acts 12

The juxtaposition of horror and humor in chapter 12 is almost palpable. Also juxtaposed is the true prosperity of God's people versus the pseudo-prosperity of the "worldians".

Horror: Herod kills James with the sword then locks up Peter with intention to snuff him out too (because the Jews were pleased about James's murder). He commands the keepers be executed because Peter disappears. He gets eaten by worms and dies.

Humor: (As Rohan mentioned earlier) The angel has to strike Peter to get him to wake up, and even then, Peter's not sure he's awake. Then he wakes up, but Rhoda leaves him on the doorstep. So he stands out there knocking, knocking, knocking. Those inside tell the girl she's crazy, but she keeps saying it's true, till finally they settle on accepting that it's Peter's angel outside. However, the constant knocking inevitably draws them out, and they see the truth for themselves.

Herod seems to be prospering, what with his riches, capturing Peter, the Jews' approval and that of the Tyre and Sidon citizens. He even is hailed as a god--right before being cut down by the only God.

Things seem a bit dismal for the believers, but they're quick and constant in prayer, and God is pleased to answer. He sends an angel on a recon mission for Peter and eliminates their "big" enemy. Right after that the Bible says, "But the word of God grew and multiplied" (Acts 12:24). Herod's death is insignificant compared to the growth of the gospel.

Today, as we look around, we can recognize that juxtaposition of God's remnant people with those indulging in worldly traditions, the "unseen" war between God and Satan. So often, it seems that God's people are losing the battle, that we're being snuffed out. The world on the other hand is rife with attractive pursuits and material wealth. Who, however, will be asking the rocks to fall on them when Jesus returns (Revelation 6:16)?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Thoughts up to Acts 11

The trend I noticed from chapters 7-11 is that certain events happen to certain people to accomplish a bigger picture. In other words, what happened to one person may not have been about that person at all, but for the sake of someone else entirely. Let's have a look:

1. Stephen's sermon was not just to tell the Jewish leaders what they already knew or show up his prowess as a Bible scholar, but it was the last window of opportunity for the nation to accept that the Messiah had indeed come.
2. Stephen's stoning was not simply that last test of his faith, it also planted seeds that we know germinated in Saul.
3. God instructed Philip to go down to the road to Gaza just so he could cross paths with the Ethiopian eunuch and explain the scriptures to him. After that "the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip".
4. Saul's conversion and name change improved his life, sure, but it allowed him to do a greater work for God than he could have ever imagined, thereby guiding millions into a deeper understanding of truth.
5. AEneas's palsy served a higher purpose, when, after eight years of sickness, his healing led people to God.
6. Tabitha's death and resurrection also led many to the Lord.
7. Cornelius's need for Peter actually worked for Peter's good: he was able to let go of his prejudice against the Gentiles.
8. Those that left Jerusalem to escape imprisonment and death ended up being able to do a great work in the territories in which they found refuge.

These instances reminded me that sometimes our crucibles are not (just) about us. Sometimes they serve to edify someone else.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Something interesting that my husband pointed out is that choosing one word to focus on for the year does not instigate an onslaught of events/situations related to that word.  Instead, choosing that one word installs a filter in our lives.  All of a sudden, anything dealing with the word gets trapped via that filter, and we start to focus on these lessons God has for us.

So, it's not that I've suddenly infused joy into my life by choosing the word joy, but I can now recognize what God wants to teach me about the whole concept of joy.  What it is and what it isn't.  What the "joy of the Lord" is, and how it is my strength.

You may not be participating in a one word resolution this year, but you can still establish a filter in your life.  "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." Philippians 4:8  That, my friends, is a pretty good way to sift through all the dross that can pile up day to day.  Choose to be aware.

Thoughts on Acts 8

The interesting points I noted from chapter 8:

After verse 3 describes how Saul goes on a persecution rampage, Luke writes, "Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word." It's as if those early believers said, "well, if we're getting thrown into prison left, right, and center, we need to hurry up and get this work finished before we're silenced too." Love the commitment and enthusiasm.

Notice that Simon's followers are converted before he is. Sometimes the body of believers must take a stand before a leader can really see where he's wrong. Curiously (or not), verse 13 says that Simon himself believed also, and this text is cross-referenced with James 2:19, which says, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." On the one hand, we could read this as a commendation. Even God's enemies believe in Him, so one would be foolish not to, hence you are wise to believe. But perhaps, there's also a note of caution. As in, don't feel that by simply believing there is one God, you're suddenly beyond the devil's realm, above being tempted or used by him.

So, coming back to Acts, there is almost an implication that Simon was not truly converted. And later on, in verse 23, Peter says, "For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity." Hebrews 12:15 expounds on this "gall of bitterness": "Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled." I think Simon was like those seeds that the sower threw on the rocks that didn't take root. But worse than that, his heart seemed to be of the meandering, wayward sort that would rot the body of believers from the inside, much like what Lucifer (now known as Satan) did with the angels in heaven. Simon's response to Peter seems more concerned about the consequences of his actions than the actions themselves. As in, if I didn't get caught, I wouldn't see anything wrong.

Lastly, I found it interesting that believers were baptized, but didn't receive the Holy Ghost (aka Holy Spirit) until Peter and John laid their hands on them (verse 14-17). It struck me that baptism does not equal receipt of the Holy Spirit, does not mean you're suddenly moving in accordance with the Spirit. Baptism is a public expression of your commitment to Christ, and a way for you to be held accountable. Being ready for baptism is based on whether, as Philip stated, "thou believest with all thine heart" (verse 37). When the eunuch responded, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God", they stopped and he was baptized. I love how the eunuch said, "See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" Let us be careful what hoops we want people to jump through before WE think they're ready to be baptized. Let us recognize that baptism is at the start of a journey, just as Jesus was baptized before beginning His ministry.

Thoughts on Acts 7

Some time ago, I watched a sermon by David Asscherick where he highlighted the four major elements from Stephen's sermon. Those elements are:

1. He delivered the sermon to the Sanhedrin, which was the highest religious body in the land.
2. The sermon was modeled as a covenant lawsuit (like what the old prophets would do); he gave them their last chance to accept Christ.
3. Looking up and seeing Christ in heaven confirms Stephen's message.
4. Paul's conversion has its roots in Stephen's stoning, and marks the gospel's transition from Israel only to include the gentiles.

Are there implications for the Adventist church as a type of Israel today? How must we be careful not to become the ones stoning a type of Stephen?

On a wider scale, the gospel has reached out to the gentiles (non-Israel rest of the world) for centuries, but it's fair to say that Stephen's indictment in Acts 7:51-53 can be applied to the world today. How are we, like Stephen, holding up scripture, God's law, His covenant to a captive audience of the world? They're thirsting for truth, and they'll listen until/if they don't quench the Spirit. I know part of my purpose is to write these truths in novel ways. Do you know yours?

Thoughts on Acts 5-6

It just gets better and better every day. Things get more intense as we read. What stood out to me this morning was 5:12, the part that mentions Solomon's porch. This came up in chapter 3:11, and before that, we see the porch mentioned in John 10:23. Some time after telling the parable of the Good Shepherd, Jesus walks in Solomon's porch at the temple. The Jews surround him and asks him to plainly state that He's the Christ if He be so. He points out that He already told them but they didn't believe because they are not His sheep; His sheep hear his voice and follow Him. I'm not sure if it's still done today, but back then, shepherds had a special whistle or sound they would make, and their sheep recognized that sound. So, even when herds were mixed, all the shepherds had to do was make that sound, and the sheep would organize themselves behind their shepherd.

Jesus also speaks to His unity with His Father, and the fact that His sheep have eternal life through Him, that no man can pluck them out of His hand or His Father's hand.

Now, in Acts, we see once again, the gathering of believers and unbelievers--mixed sheep. The apostles were the shepherds, sounding the true signal of God, but for fear, many believing chose to hide their beliefs, "For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God" John 12:43. But as Peter and the other apostles stated, "We ought to obey God rather than men" Acts 5:29.

Boldness was what characterized those early believers. Boldness in the Lord. Not fear. How much do we allow fear of what others will say or do to control what we believe? As Jesus stated while in Solomon's porch, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand" John 10:27-29. If God promises this, what are we afraid of?

I pray that (myself included), we'll overcome our fears, and the things that hold us back, so we can be bold for God.

Thoughts on Acts 3-4

Look at the powerful prayer in 4:24-30. And then look what happens right after in verse 31. They rejoiced in being persecuted. Once the council started in on them, they stood firm in their beliefs because it was truth. Then they went to their brethren and rejoiced about it, praising God and asking for boldness to go forth for Him. And after, my favorite verse (31): "And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness." The rest of the chapter, they're just on fire for the Lord.
And can I just point out that being filled with the Holy Spirit and being on fire for God is not the same as "getting in the Spirit". If you take note in chapter 2, when they were filled with the Spirit and spoke in tongues, it was for the edification of those who were present. The languages they spoke conveyed the truth to the many people visiting Jerusalem from different regions. This needed to be done to jumpstart the work of the church. In chapter 4, we see again where they're filled with the Holy Ghost again. They didn't speak in tongues, but again, spoke God's word with boldness. If we are to be like that early church, we need to stand on the Bible and the Bible only. Not hearsay or opinion.

Thoughts on Acts 1-2

Wow, can I say that I think a key text from today's reading is, "Save yourselves from this untoward generation" (Acts 2:40). In committing ourselves to this Bible Semester, I think we can put Peter's words into action. These early Christians were really a force to be reckoned with, weren't they. Let's examine the elements that characterized this body that was on fire for the Lord:

(1) They prayed without ceasing
(2) They waited on the Lord to deliver the promise of the Holy Spirit (instead of trying to conjure an answer to this promise themselves)
(3) They sought God when making a decision, then followed His direction
(4) They were all ready when the promise of the Spirit was delivered and allowed Him to take control
(5) They spoke the wonderful works of God, knew scripture better than the backs of their hands
(6) They baptized and added many each day to their ranks
(7) They were not ecumenical
(8) They fellowshipped
(9) They shared their food and possessions
(10) They did many wonders and signs
(11) They were of one accord, constantly together
(12) They were always praising God

Where are we lacking as a body of God's people? Let's pray that the Lord will help us to rectify these things, so that as God pours out His Spirit once again in these last days, we will be the embodiment of prophecy being fulfilled.

The Bible Semester

My friends and I, and our friends, and our friends' friends have embarked on something called Bible Semester.  From January to April, we're reading from the books of Acts to Revelation.  We have pretty lively discussion each day about what we're reading in the Facebook group.  We started in Acts on Monday.  I'll repost here my thoughts on this week's readings, and thoughts hereafter.  Join in the discussion!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

My Strength

As I mentioned in a previous post, my "resolution" for this year is just one word: joy.  You can read about this whole resolution revolution by visiting  When I thought about a word initially, joy jumped to mind.  My instinct said "yes", but my humanness said "hold on there just one minute".  I was afraid.  I believed God wanted me to choose this word, but I was afraid.  My experience has taught me that often when we choose to work on one flaw or the other, or when we decide to take on some sort of challenge that will bring improvement to/in us, the dam breaks, and suddenly, we're overwhelmed.  But experience has also taught me that if you just hang on, things do level out.  Then you start to notice growth.

So, why didn't I remember this experience?  Well, I've struggled with tears and darkness and negativity enough to fear confronting my valleys.  And confronting them with joy?  How do I do that?  I can't.  But the Lord kept popping that verse into my head, "The joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10).  How can I beat that.  My next question, though?  How is Your joy my strength?  How does that work?  His answer?  "Come let us reason together" (Isaiah 1:18).  You want me to figure this out, Lord?  But how?  When?  Then came the peace of knowing that I didn't need to figure it out overnight, and that the God of the universe wants to spend quality time with me, teaching me to be stronger, teaching me His ways.  Wow.

The dam did break after I officially chose joy, but the good thing is that I have hope.  Watch my Facebook status for the things in which I find joy from day to day.  And check back here for a chronicle of my growth this year.  By the end, we should know how the joy of the Lord is our strength.


Lately, my husband and I have embraced the whole notion of simplicity.  I wouldn't say we were severely complicated or materialistic before, but we've become more aware of the need to simplify.  So, when we heard about My One Word while listening to K-LOVE, we decided to pray about it.  My word is joy.  Hence, I'll be writing Joy Chronicles all year.  At least once per week, I'll let you know how it's going, what I'm learning, and so on.  You'll find them under the labels Devotionals and Joy Chronicles.

Commonwealth Scribbles

For those of you who write and are Commonwealth citizens, you should definitely check out the Commonwealth Foundation.  They have two prizes for fiction writers: The Commonwealth Writers' Prize and the Commonwealth Short Story Competition.  As an aside, a Commonwealth Connections competition is in place for artists.  Anyway, the short story competition runs from January 15 to March 1. Feel free to let me know if you enter!