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Joel Osteen and the Right Question

7 Oct

This article from Charisma magazine caught my attention. The headline reads “Osteen Willing to Vote for Candidate of Different Faith.”

A summary of Joel’s recent television interview with Piers Morgan brings up many controversial ideas. Would he vote for someone of a different faith? A Mormon? A Jew? A Muslim? 

As if that wasn’t enough to stir the pot (or perhaps get high TV ratings), the conversation went on to discuss homosexual marriage. Would Osteen perform one? Would he attend one?

These may be attention grabbing questions, but they are the wrong questions. The wrong focus. And, they’re asking answers of the wrong person.

I’m reminded of Israel’s desire for an earthly king, like all the other nations around them. You can read these accounts in 1 Samuel 8. God said to his prophet, Samuel, in response to the people’s demands for a king. “…they have rejected me as their king” 1 Samuel 8:7b  (NIV). 

God had chosen Israel as his own people, yet they wanted to conform to what the other nations had, a man to serve as their leader. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles” 1 Samuel 8:19b-20 (NIV). 

A long line of kings followed which you can read about in 1st and 2nd Kings. Some did good, some did evil.

What about us? As Christians, do we still want to be like other people? Are we still looking to other leaders to tell us what to think and do instead of to our holy God, and his Word which stands forever?

God provided us with Jesus as our forever King. Our forever High Priest. Our forever Redeemer. The most important question was asked by Jesus himself:  “Who do you say I am?” Matthew 16:15 (NIV).

Our standing with the Lord our God is individual. Jesus died to make us the reconciled children of God. (See Galations 1: 3 – 5.)  Yet, we live in a world with many other examples around us. We choose who influences us. Do you choose the world or the WORD? (See Romans 12:2.) 

Once you choose God, he creates growth.  God uses his word in a willing heart to create a transformation. 

Back to the Old Testament kings as an example, Josiah’s father did not do right by the LORD. He did evil. However, Josiah honored the LORD in his heart and in his actions as king of Judah. In Josiah’s command, the Lord’s temple was being repaired. The book of law from Moses’s time was discovered and Josiah had it read aloud to him.

Josiah did two major things in response to what was read.

  1. He tore his clothes (to show grief and repentence of the wrong God’s people had commited)
  2. He inquired of God for direction. (See these events in 2 Kings 22 (particularly v11 – 13; 18 – 20) and Ch 23 (particularly 1 – 3; 21 – 25.) )

God still uses his word to bring willing hearts back to him. The earthly kings of Isreal and Judah all passed away. Current earthly influences will all pass away one day.

Read 1 Peter 1: 13 – 25.  Pray and stand fast in God’s word. The only imperishable life, the only imperishable kingdom. The only thing that stands forever.

Who is king in your heart?


Is Believing Really Enough?

11 Feb

Sickness. Finances. Divorce. Death. 

Is believing really enough to deal?

In an online study of Hebrews through Kathy Howard’s website, we recently read about Moses and the Isrealites; specifically, the people’s disobedience stemming from unbelief. (Remember, that generation was forced to wander the desert, never entering the promised land, save Caleb and Joshua.) Read Hebrews 3: 12 – 4:2.

As Kathy points out, the Isrealites believed in God’s existence, but they failed to believe in His nature and character in the face of their circumstances (circumstances being well fortified walls around the promised land and giant people living there.)

Circumstances are powerful, aren’t they? We must combine faith with belief to stand against them.

Today we get to talk to Kathy about her new Bible study!  And, congratulations to Liz Miller, who will receive a free copy of Unshakeable Faith, an 8-session Bible study for women by Kathy Howard, just  released by New Hope Publishers.

Kathy, what prompted you to write on this particular topic?

Over the last few years, many Christian women I love and admire have endured difficult circumstances such as life-threatening illness, divorce, death of a child, and financial hardship. The quality of their faith significantly affected how they endured these trials and how God worked in them for His glory. God strengthened and guided them through their close relationship with Jesus.

Their experiences made me wonder how I would do in the same circumstances. Like most women, I manage to juggle the everyday things of life – work, family, ministry, and home life – without too much difficulty. But sometimes, even in just a small crisis, my self-sufficiency is shaken. Would I stand firm in really hard times or would these trials knock me flat? I began to ask God to show me how my faith could be prepared.

So why Peter? Why is he a good example for us to study?

Peter was just an ordinary man, a fisherman. He worked hard. He had a family and friends. Peter was passionate and a natural leader, but he was also headstrong and impetuous. Peter had sworn to follow Jesus unconditionally, no matter the circumstances. Yet on the night Jesus was betrayed, his faith wavered and he denied His Lord. But then several decades later Peter willingly faced martyrdom rather than deny Him again. This study is about what made the difference in Peter’s faith. Unshakeable Faith looks closely at Peter’s life and teachings to discover some of the key characteristics God built into his faith that helped him stand firm in the face of death. That’s the kind of faith I want to have.

What’s unique about this study?

I love to study God’s Word. Learning about God, His ways, and what He desires for us is wonderful. But if we don’t apply what He teaches us, let it shape our lives, then we fall short of the full purpose of study. Unshakeable Faith not only leads readers into learning God’s Word, but it also purposefully helps readers apply it. In addition to each week’s application section, there is a “Faith Shaker” story that helps us see how that faith trait works in real life. These stories are about real women who have faced a life trial with which many readers will relate. Readers get to see how their faith keeps them standing firm. A strong faith in Jesus Christ does work in real life!

Where can readers get a copy of Unshakeable Faith?

The study is available at most online bookstores and many Christian bookstores. If your local bookstore does not carry it more than likely they can order it for you. Here are a few links to online stores.


New Hope/WMU Bookstore:

Barnes & Noble:

Christian Book Distributors:

Invite or Surrender: Heart Condition

31 Dec

Well my first time reading through the entire Bible has come to completion.  I’m so excited, so thankful.

If pressed to use one word to remind myself of this journey, it’d have to be HEART.

Why? Because it reminds me of what my relationship with Jesus Christ is all about. It reminds me of what God desires from me.

The old and new testaments are so cohesive.  God’s word tells us over and over again, he desires our hearts.

In the second chapter of Malachi, the priests are disciplined for not honoring God in their hearts.  “You have not set your heart to honor me” (from verse 2).

The priests are performing duties and blessing people, but it all means nothing to God because of their heart condition. In fact, he says it’d be better if,  “You would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar. I am not pleased with you” (from 1:10).

What does please God?  Faith.

Only faith counts as righteousness. It’s been true since Genesis, see Gen 15:6 where Abraham is found righteous based on his faith in God. Look at Romans Ch 4 and all of Hebrews Ch 11. Again and again, we see righteousness comes only by faith in God and specifically, faith in Jesus Christ – who is our righteousness.

So back to our priests in Malachi, they felt confident in their positions, their routines, their performances. That’s a good description of myself a few years ago, and who I have to guard against being every day.

By earnestly asking God to help me seek him and know him, I have grown. By not being satisfied in what I knew and beleived, but confessing I needed to pursue him. That’s how I am moving from devout to devoted. From obedient to honoring. From a believer to a personal follower.

I need a pure heart from God EVERY DAY. Then, I can do things to honor him out of love for him, not out of a sense of duty nor out of  seeking security that I did “the right thing.” Nope, only out of love for my Jesus, my righteousness.

James 2:22 explains that Abraham’s faith led to his actions (actions that did not make any sense in Abraham’s human way of thinking nor in his understanding of the promises God had made to him. But, Abraham’s faith was so true that his actions followed beyond his understanding.)  “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.”

Jesus tells us in Revelation that he will search our hearts and repay us for our deeds (see Rev 2:23b).  Yet, Jesus has given us everything that is needed – HIS BLOOD. 

In Revelation, John sees a multitude in white robes in the presence of angels and before the throne of God. John asks who they are, and an angel answers: “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”  Rev 7:14.

Surrender your heart to him. Don’t just invite him into your heart – surrender yours to him. Then, you are invited to life, true and eternal.

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.” Rev. 22:14

Jonah – Heart Lessons Bigger than a Whale

17 Dec

Jonah, he’s famous for surviving in a fish for three days.  But, what else do you remember?  The story is full of lessons that have nothing to do with a whale.

Let’s look at three traits exhibited by Jonah.

1. Disobedience. Jonah is in the fish because he attempted to run from God’s instructions to go to Nineveh and preach.

2. Self-centeredness. Once his circumstances are unpleasant (in the smelly belly of a fish), Jonah cries out to God. Once on dry land again, Jonah does head for Nineveh to preach as instructed. But, when the people there repent, turning from evil, Jonah only gets mad. He’s irritated that God sent him to preach a wrath that God mercifully decided not to bring as a result of the people’s humbling response to what Jonah preached. Jonah didn’t seem to rejoice in being part of God’s mercy on Nineveh, only upset that he was inconvenienced.

 3. A lack of compassion.  Jonah doesn’t care about the people of Nineveh. God brings a vine to grow over grumbly Jonah, and then causes it to wither. Jonah complains again, to the point he’d just rather die than live this way. He has no care for the people of Nineveh, and God demonstrates this to Jonah with the vine. Jonah cares more about the vine because it offered him a benefit; the vine meant more to Jonah than the people in Nineveh.

My question, to myself and to you:  How are you like Jonah?

I’m afraid there’s a lot of Jonah in all of us if we are not continually offering our hearts to the Lord for searching and cleaning.

And least you think Jonah is a metaphorical tale, take a look at Matthew 12:38 – 41. Jesus acknowledges the peaching done by Jonah in Nineveh. Jesus acknowledges that the people of Nineveh repented.

Isn’t it reassuring that God can use us even when we have so far to go in our own lives? Even when we are disobedient, selfish and uncaring. He still has plans and his plans will still prevail. Let’s be sure to stop and offer our hearts to God every day so we can be joyfully involved in what he is doing – instead of whining about ourselves.

Bible Reading Completed to Date:

Old Testament: Completed through Nahum.

New Testament: Completed through Revelation Ch 8.

Oil and Water; Pride and ……

18 Nov

Remember on the SAT exam, how you’d be given a set of words, followed by only the first word in a second set?

By deciphering the relationship of the first set of words,  then applying the same tactic to the provided word,  the correct answer could be found.

Today, as I’m reading Ezekiel, I’m reading about God’s judgements on Tyre and Sidon. The judgements were foretold in prophecy through Ezekiel.

Specifically, God points to the corruption of heart through pride.

“Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.” EZ 28:17a NIV

Tyre had become so influential and successful, so pleased with itself, that pride swelled. The ruler (and I’m sure his followers) began to see his thoughts as wise, as wise as a god.

Pride swells and brings forth a false sense of wisdom. False, because it sees self as the source of that wisdom.

We can be wise, but only from God. He alone is wise and grants wisdom. See Proverbs 2:6  “For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”

So, in our SATish approach. What’s the right answer?

Oil:Water;  Pride: _______

a) Beauty

b) Success

c) Wisdom

Well, oil and water DON’T MIX!  So, I answer, “C, wisdom.” Because true Wisdom is of God and when we humble ourselves to God as the source of any wisdom, we squash pride.

“Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him. ”  Proverbs 26:12 

Bible Reading Update:

Old Testament Completed thru Ezekiel Ch 30

 New Testament: Completed thru Hebrews

Do you only hear what you want to hear? – Truth

18 Oct

In Jeremiah 29, there is a commonly quoted scripture. It is beautiful, and the scripture itself is true. However, I believe we often see it out of context, in support of a message that makes us feel good without encouraging examination of our hearts.  It’s Jeremiah 29:11:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Bet you’ve heard this wonderful verse, right? Well who is God speaking to? Is he speaking to everybody, no matter what they’ve done or how they’ve lived? Does it mean nothing ‘bad’ ever comes from God?

Read the entire chapter of Jeremiah 29. You’ll find this is a message from God to Jews already held in captivity in Babylon. You’ll see that God himself had them carried away to be captives and that they’ll remain captive for 70 years! He also warns them not to listen to false prophets who are just telling them things they want to hear. 

Yes, in verse 11 God tells the people he has great plans for them; he is encouraging them during a time of consequences. His people, Isreal, are currently in a season of discipline that directly relates to how they’ve handled their relationship with God, and ignored messages to repent and turn back to God. Yet, God will restore them after this season of discipline (captivity).

Christ said over and over in Matthew, “He who has ears, let him hear.”

Yes, Lord, give us a radar guided by your Holy Spirit and tested by your word. May we hear what you want us to hear and act upon it, willingly. May we want truth from you more than we want blind, ignorant bliss for our temporary lives.

Bible Reading Update:

Old Testament:  Completed through Jeremiah 33

New Testament: Completed through 1 Timothy 3

Big Words: Providence, Sovereignty

20 Aug

I’ve been thinking about some “big words” this week. Words that may be familiar, but the meaning not well understood. Or words that are weighty in meaning and difficult in subject matter.

This week’s Bible reading journey took me through the entire book of Esther. Just above the beginning verses of Esther, my Bible points out that the name of God is never mentioned in the entire book. Yet, it also says “…in no other portion of the Bible is God’s providential care of his people more evident.”  (NIV New Scofield Study System)

Providence can be defined as “God’s care.”

If you’re not familiar with the story, you must read Esther to understand why someone would consider it the ultimate demonstration of God’s care for his people. How else do you explain a young, orphaned girl of foreign decent, held captive in a conquering country becoming Queen and a pagan King finding repeated favor for her and her requests?

Consider the detail of providence in the King being sleepless one night and “happening” to have someone read the chronicles of his kingship, from a very section that brought recognition to the secret uncle of Queen Esther, both Jews marked for annihilation.  (There’s a reason Hollywood made a movie of this story!)

One of the most quoted verses from Esther is 4:14. It’s a secret message to Queen Esther from her Uncle Mordecai.

For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?  

God’s care included cooperation from Esther. It included encouragement and faith from Mordecai. God could have done it any way he pleased, but Esther and Mordecai’s actions show they recognized God’s care and power, and they responded.

I also read about spiritual gifts this week in 1 Corinthians 12. That’s what lead me to consider the topic of soverienty. Just as Esther and Mordecai cooperated and were used with God in his providential protection of the Jews, we have been given spiritual gifts in which we should cooperate with God. He has soveriengly given them to us. That means He is supreme and has chosen in his wisdom for his purpose what gift to give each believer. (See 1 Cor. 12:11 and 18.)

So what did Esther do to cooperate with God? How’d she prepare? Read Esther 4:6 – 17. If you are not sure what gift God has given you to use for his providential care of believers (his people, both Jew and Gentiles through Christ), then perhaps Esther’s response can serve as a model of how to begin to cooperate with God so you can be included in his work.

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