Psalm 26:7--That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.

Monday, April 30, 2012

All Hooves on Deck!

Exodus 10:26--Our cattle also shall go with us; there shall not an hoof be left behind; for thereof must we take to serve the Lord our God; and we know not with what we must serve the Lord, until we come thither.

The above verse is part of one of the responses Moses gave to Pharaoh during the plagues of Egypt. Three days of tangible darkness had just occurred, and Pharaoh had told Moses that the Hebrews could go into the wilderness to worship God--they just had to leave all their livestock in Egypt. However, Moses said that wasn't going to work; they needed to take everything. And that's what we're looking at today.

In Exodus 10:26 there is a literary device called synecdoche. When Moses says "there shall not an hoof be left behind", he is explaining that they will take every animal in their herd with them. The hoof is representative of the whole cow, and that's what synecdoche is, using a part to represent a whole, such as the sailing phrase "All hands on deck!" Hands represent the sailors.

Synecdoche is an interesting device, and it is used to creatively and eloquently express an otherwise mundane statement. It can also be used to focus on the part of the whole that you want to bring attention to. Here, it shows us that we need to take everything with us into our service for God. We need to surrender every area of our lives to Him, not just part. The Hebrews weren't about to leave Egypt unless they had everything they needed with them, and that was somewhat of a problem since, as Moses said above, they didn't exactly know what they needed to serve God with.

We should be the same way. Take everything into your service to the Lord. Hold nothing back. Don't leave part of your life behind in Egypt, because that may be the very thing God wants to use in your life. Not only does God want it, He deserves it. He's the One who died for your sins when He didn't have to. He's the One who saved you from an eternity if Hell. (If you're not saved, see the Salvation tab above.) And if you leave part of your life not surrendered to God, it will hinder the areas you are serving God in.

Also, you don't know the exact way God's going to work in your life, so you need to be prepared for anything. Moses and the Hebrews didn't know what they would have to do, but they wanted to take everything with them so they'd be ready for whatever God required of them. We need to give everything in our lives to God too, because we don't know exactly what God will require of us. When you give God your entire life, that's when He can use you to the fullest potential. That's when He can do the greatest things through you.

Like the popular hymn says, surrender all. Give everything to God, and let Him take care of it. Let Him control it. That's the only way to have it worked toward your best interest. Living a life of surrender is the way to live life to the fullest. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." Truthfully and objectively examine your life. Read God's Word, and pray for the Spirit to reveal these things to you: Are there things in your life you've not surrendered to God? Are there areas where you're not glorifying God? Are there hooves in Egypt you've left behind?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Christmas List

Isaiah 9:6--For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Merry Christmas, everybody! I hope you have a wonderful--oh, wait; it's only April....

If you know me at all, you know I'm Christmas-crazy, and it's probably not a surprise that I'm posting about Christmas in April. Above is a very popular verse we use a lot around Christmastime, but that's not the only time we can use it. Christmas can be celebrated year-round, not just on December 25th. Jesus is an eternal gift, and He is worthy to be celebrated, praised, and worshiped every day of the year.

Now, on to the literary part of this post. It's easy to see that part of Isaiah 9:6 is in the format of a list that states some of the magnificent names of Jesus Christ, which relates to last week's post. So what would be the point of a list? Lists seem very mundane, very everyday. We use them all the time: grocery lists, to-do lists, Christmas lists, lists of different types of lists....

Well, here, the purpose is to build excitement about the coming Messiah, the Savior of the world! As these titles are listed, they build upon each other, culminating at the last to a grand display of Jesus' majesty.

It's easier to see, or hear, if you read it out loud. As you state each name, the excitement grows, the anticipation builds, until at last you're praising God for all the wonderful things He is! There are no conjunctions between the titles either, so the pace only grows faster as you read, serving to escalate the excitement even more. Also, since there is no conjunction before the last item in the list, it ends the verse on a high note and gives it an unfinished sense, as if it could go on and on. And it could. The Great King has hundreds of blessed names and titles He can be called.

This was the world's Christmas list 2000 years ago. It may not have known that's what it wanted, but that's what it needed: a Savior. Christmas was the day Jesus began His ministry on earth, to seek and save the lost. It was an immense show of His love that He would leave Heaven--perfection, paradise, the presence of the Father--and be born into this corrupt world that is cursed by sin--the very thing God hates--as a baby boy, confined to the physical restraints of a human, and humbled so that he had to be fed, washed, and cared for by someone He had created. What love the simple birth of a child reveals. That is why Christmas, the birth of Christ, should be celebrated every day. That is why our Christmas lists should read "Jesus, Jesus, and more Jesus." He is our all in all. He is all we need and what we should want the most of. And if you don't know this wonderful Savior, if you haven't received the greatest gift of all, it's so simple. See the Salvation tab at the top of the website for directions on how to be saved.

So, I know it's only April, but merry Christmas!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Numerous Names

Psalm 8:1--O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.

Psalm 8 is one of my favorite passages in the whole Bible. I love how it exalts and glorifies God and shows that, even though He is mighty and holy and we are insignificant sinners, He loves us. Today, though, I want to focus on the first part of the first verse, wherein apposition is found. Apposition is the renaming of a noun by another noun adjacent to it. A good example is found in verse three of this Psalm: When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained. "Thy heavens" is renamed as "the work of thy fingers" and "the moon and the stars". The last two phrases are appositives of the first. It could also be something like "My uncle Ben." Ben would be the appositive of uncle.

With the first four words of this passage, David takes the subject "Lord" and renames it as "our Lord". What a blessing it is not only to know that God is supreme Lord of this universe, ruling and reigning in perfect sovereignty, but that He is our Lord! He loves us, and we are His people. He is our King and Magistrate who reigns over us in love and holiness. What better Ruler to have?

However, if you've never been saved, then you cannot claim God as your Lord. Yes, He rules over everything, but you have never accepted Him as your King. You are rebellious against the One who created you and sustains you every day, who holds all of existence in the palm of His hand, who has all power in Heaven and earth. What a terrible, frightening thing. Also, He loves you. He does not want you to rebel against Him and go to Hell. He wants for you a life full of joy and blessing, led by the Holy Spirit. He wants to restore a broken relationship between Himself and you. He wants to grace your life with His Spirit every day. He wants to give you an eternal hope in an eternal home in Heaven built by an eternal Savior. If you haven't accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, humble yourself before Him and do so. All it takes is belief in His death, burial, and resurrection for your sins and asking God for forgiveness.

If you have been saved and can claim God as Lord, then rejoice! There is no greater gift and joy you can possibly have. And go tell the world about Jesus, the only Way to Heaven. Spread the Gospel. The King has commanded it, and we should obey Him, but, more importantly, we should do it out of love for Him and the lost we hope to see saved.

Lastly, there are multitudes of other appositives that could have been used in this Psalm. Throughout the Bible are scattered hundreds of names for God, and even more have been put down in hymns, poems, or other works to God. Some of my favorites: Father, Fairest of ten thousand to my soul, my all in all, the strength of my life and the joy of my salvation, Alpha and Omega, the Father of mercies, author of eternal salvation, my dearest Friend, my first Love. And there are many more. Through these names, God displays His variety and ability to overcome any problem and fulfill any need. When you need something, call on God by whatever name will help you most, and He will be just that. Need wisdom or guidance? Consult the omniscient Counselor. Need peace? Call on the Prince of Peace. Need rest or protection? Run to your strong Tower. Need food, or shelter, or money? Ask the great Provider.

Now here's a challenge: Let's try and fill up the comments section with as many names as we can think of for God, or our favorite names for Him. I've given you mine above. Now it's your turn.

Rejoice in the names of the Lord!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter! He is Risen!


Alive again
Son of God
Third day
Everlasting life
Risen Savior!

Risen Remembrance

 It feels like spring,
and that morning rings
within my mind
of when behind
me all my troubles, worries, woes
were banished when the Savior rose.
Three days before
I’d seen the war
between my Lord
and Satan’s hoard,
though then it made no sense to me,
for in the flesh my eyes did see.
The Messiah I knew Him to be,
until the place Gethsemane,
where by His own disciple’s lips
our Master fell to staves and whips.
I tried to fight, to save my Lord,
but Jesus bade me sheathe my sword.
And then we fled our dearest Friend,
left Him there to meet His end.
We fast forsook Him there that night.
O how we ran at terror’s sight!
Shame’s weight was tripled next on me,
as denied Him I ere cock’s decree.
Then with bitter tears I wept,
as to Golgotha’s hill I crept,
there to see my Lord on high—
hanging on a cross to die.
We watched as hands that healed the soul
by nails were pierced with rugged holes.
Glory’s face of He who reigns
was crowned with thorns, by blood was stained.
Then with cry and utter gasp,
Life itself had breathed its last.
The crowd just mocked and raged and railed,
while we all thought our Lord had failed.
He was the King, the prophesied.
How possibly could He have died?
We placed His body in a tomb
and hung our heads in bleakest gloom,
then slunk our way back to our homes
while faith and hope laid with His bones.
Then came that morning, third day bright,
a knocking at the day’s first light,
and there stood Mary Magdalene,
who told us of a wondrous scene,
but while the others scoffed and mocked
John and I ran to the rock
and found it lightly rolled aside,
so bending down we looked inside.
There was no body to be found,
just the wrappings that had bound
Him while in graveyard cold He lay,
until that greatest of all days.
Then when He to us appeared
our joy outran our deepest fears.
Behold despair turned to delight!
Behold our darkness turned to light!
Do not doubt; He lives today,
the Risen King, salvation’s way!
And now for Him my life I live,
until in death to me He gives
the gift of my eternal home,
a place to praise around His throne.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Potter and the Clay

Isaiah 64:8--But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.

The above verse gives a wonderful insight into how God views us. It contains a metaphor comparing humans to clay and God to a potter, and there are several key things about our relationship with God that we can learn from this simple analogy.

Firstly, God is our Creator. God is the One who gave us existence, who breathed life into us. Without Him, we would be nothing. We wouldn't even be alive. He is the reason anything exists at all. As such, He is worthy of all our praise, glory, honor, worship, adoration, love, etc. We should put our lives into His hands simply because of who He is: our Creator.

Secondly, God knows what He's doing. He is not some guy who picked up a handful of mud and started trying to form it into something. God is a master craftsman, a skilled potter--the best in fact. We can trust God with our lives and everything in them. He knows what's best, and He is the only One who can provide it for us. When we realize this, it should be easy for us to leave our lives in God's trustworthy, capable hands. Surrender all to Him.

Thirdly, God has a plan for us; He knows what He wants us to be. Nobody would start working on a piece of pottery without first having an idea of what they wanted it to be. It would end up a disaster. God has a will for your life, but the only way to achieve that is through complete surrender to Him. This starts with salvation, and if you are not saved, it is so easy. The One who created you also loves you, enough that He died for you, and all you have to do is ask God for forgiveness of your sins and believe in the sacrifice He made on the cross and His resurrection from the dead (Romans 10:9, 10). As stated above, God knows what's best for us, so whatever plan He has for your life is the absolute best--not what you or your parents or your friends or whoever has planned, but what God has planned.

Fourthly, God will keep working until we become what He wants us to be. Philippians 1:6 says "he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ". Some people begin work on a project and leave it half-finished. Not God. Once God starts something, He carries it through to completion. You can rely on Him to work on you until He takes you home to Heaven and you are complete and perfect. He will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). You will never be left alone to figure things out on your own.

Fifthly, God has an interest in us and what we will be. He is intensely focused on us. He knows every detail about you and your life and, as mentioned above, has every part of your future mapped out. When I think of the potter and the clay, it is an intimate example to me. It is not like someone chipping away at stone with a chisel. I see the potter's careful, caring hands caressing the supple clay that is obedient to his will. This is exactly how our relationship with God should be. We should lovingly and humbly submit to His will, be like soft clay in His hands. God will not harm us. He loves us and cares for us more than anyone or anything else. (However, if you desire to be hardheaded, God knows how to use a hammer and chisel as well.)

Sixthly, in order to become the product, we'll probably have to be broken down and remade, and we will definitely have to go through the fire. As a potter makes a pot, or bowl, or whatever he's trying to make, he often has to mash it back down and start over again. This will happen in our lives. When we fall to sin, it ruins God's process, and He has to rework us into a usable piece again. It's not that God has made a mistake, but that we have messed ourselves up. And we will definitely have to go through the fire. Clay always goes through kindling, where it is hardened by fire, in order to become the final product. We will have to also. God has placed trials and tests in our lives to strengthen us. Don't get mad at God for putting them in your life; thank Him for them. If you go through them the right way, you will always come out stronger, more beautiful in God's eyes, and closer to what He wants you to be. And don't worry about the fire being too hot. God knows what we can handle: He will never turn the flames up so high that we crack.

So, are you ready to surrender to God, your Creator? Are you ready to become the beautiful piece of pottery God has designed you to be? Then put your life in His care. Be like clay: soft and tender in God's loving hands, obedient to His will. And remember, God knows what He's doing, so don't worry if spinning around on that pottery wheel makes you a little dizzy. Just enjoy the ride.