"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."
2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Closer Look at Philippians 3

I couldn’t get to my computer yesterday (my usual blog day). I had a wonderful guest staying in the room housing my computer. (I didn’t think he’d appreciate the sound of clicking keys late into the night.)

On Monday, I implied the difficulty of living out Paul’s words from our memory verse this week. I promised to blog about it and I fully intend to.

But first I wanted to give you Monday’s memory verse in context.

I love how it comes across in The Message.

And that's about it, friends. Be glad in God! I don't mind repeating what I have written in earlier letters, and I hope you don't mind hearing it again. Better safe than sorry—so here goes.

Steer clear of the barking dogs, those religious busybodies, all bark and no bite. All they're interested in is appearances—knife-happy circumcisers, I call them. The real believers are the ones the Spirit of God leads to work away at this ministry, filling the air with Christ's praise as we do it. We couldn't carry this off by our own efforts, and we know it—even though we can list what many might think are impressive credentials. You know my pedigree: a legitimate birth, circumcised on the eighth day; an Israelite from the elite tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devout adherent to God's law; a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting the church; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God's law Book.

The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I'm tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I've dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn't want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God's righteousness.

I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.

I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back. Philippians 3:1-14 The Message

I’ll be back a little later with my thoughts on how to live this out.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Memory Verse Monday

The three dots on either side of today’s memory verse suggest that it comes out of a greater context. I’d love to make the verses on either side part of your memory work this week, but since it won’t all fit on one slide, I had to trim it.

Paul opens the third chapter of his letter to the Philippians by pointing out all the reasons he has for putting confidence in himself.

His motivation for self-confidence could stem from who he was (“a Hebrew of Hebrews”) and also what he had done (“legalistic righteousness”).

It’s one thing to recite Paul’s words and testimony from memory.

It’s quite another to live it out.

This week I plan to blog about what it looks like to live it out.

Today’s Memory Verse:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Dreams that Speak

In my dream I was standing on the bow of a tiny cruise ship. (I’d call it a yacht, but I’ve never been on one, so I can’t be sure that’s what it was.)

The crew had prepared the boat for departure. Everyone should have been onboard, but I saw a man I knew from church standing on the dock. He looked confused and borderline desperate.

I assumed he wanted to board, and hurried to help him. I couldn’t find a single crewmember, so I looked for a door to open for him. I searched and searched for a way to help the man climb onboard, but the boat was sealed up tight. 

I felt urgency and a profound sense of responsibility for his wellbeing.

The little ship started moving and I knew I had failed. I peeked through a porthole and watched the man from my church grow smaller and smaller. I hated leaving him behind.

When I turned from the porthole, I discovered I’d wandered into the engine room.

I stood in the heart of the ship and somehow I knew I was blessed to be onboard.

But the dear man had missed the boat.

And the blessing.

Suddenly I heard loud, rushing water and the ship began to lurch. I wondered what I’d gotten myself into.

I struggled to make my way back to the deck, and soon found a door. It led me to the bridge. The captain and crew looked grave. Fear crept into my throat.

Would I survive this frightening ride?

The force of water threw me forward, but I held on. The ship plunged over a waterfall, but I still held on.

I remember thinking the man on the shore was better off.

I cried out to God and immediately everything stood still. The sound of rushing water and the lurching of the boat stopped.

I looked out over the bow and saw that not one drop of water remained. The boat sat on dry ground.

The captain issued orders to engineering, to other members of his crew, and even to all the passengers. He told us someone had to figure out how to get the ship sailing again.

All kinds of theories came forth.

1.    Send for a large truck and trailer.
2.    Put engineers to work building wheels.
3.    Trace the source of the drainage and dam it.

The captain considered each idea and rejected all.

I prayed, “God, how are we supposed to get out of this mess?”

“They’re trying to solve the problem with things they can do,” God replied. “They haven’t considered the miraculous. All they have to do is ask me, and I will send the water they need.”

Everyone was scrambling, trying to fix the situation. But no one asked God to intervene. No one expected a miracle.

I awoke convicted. When I try to fix impossibilities on my own, my efforts look as silly as putting wheels on a boat.

But what did the man from my church have to do with it?

Her explanation floored me. She said that I couldn’t do a single thing to guarantee someone’s salvation.

I could try and try to show the way, but ultimately God has to open the eyes of the blind. God has to reveal Himself.

If a man from my church wants to stand on the dock, attend Sunday morning services, and read the Bible but not get onboard, I’m powerless to keep him from being left behind.  

But I can expect a miracle. I can ask God to offer living water to that person. Who could refuse that? 

Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a sping of water welling up to eternal life. John 4:14 NIV

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why Worry?

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Matthew 6:27 NIV

After Jesus asked this question no one stepped forward and said, “I can.” I guess that means no one has a good enough reason to worry.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life. Matthew 6:25a NIV

Jesus told us not to worry about any of the circumstances that come into our lives, but his lesson on worry in Matthew 6 applies to one particular part of life.

Our finances.

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Matthew 6:24-25 NIV

I’m pretty sure that means when I worry about my financial security, I become a servant to money.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21 NIV

When I fret about making ends meet, I place a little less of my heart in God’s hands.

So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:31-33 NIV

I can’t add a single hour to my life—or dollar to my wallet—by worrying.

But when I spend my energy serving God instead of money, I can rest securely in His promise to give me all the things I need.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Memory Verse Monday

Last Monday our memory verse from the Gospel of John taught us “the flesh counts for nothing.”

I took a little hiatus from blogging because I was wrestling with God over that concept. Don’t get me wrong. I believe that the Word of God is spirit and life, just as Jesus said in our memory verse last week.

In fact, the gift of a perfectly timed Bible verse has breathed life into me more times than I can count.

What I meant is that, for a few weeks now, God has been asking me to set aside the things that “count for nothing.”

The things I’m struggling to let go of aren’t sinful. All I want is a little financial security for a change.

But God wants me to find ALL my security in Him. Only Him.

I recited last Monday’s verse like a mantra all week, until the one I’ve chosen for today popped into my head.

Perhaps Jesus was thinking of it when He said the words I quoted last week.

Today’s Memory Verse:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Memory Verse Monday

Jesus had a way of telling it like it is. He’s repeatedly quoted in all four gospels as saying, “I tell you the truth.”

Jesus knew the power of His words.

By checking in with Oil from the Jar for Memory Verse Monday, you demonstrate that you also believe in the power of His words.

While all Scripture is “God-breathed” (see 2 Timothy 3:16) our memory verse for today came directly from Jesus’ mouth.

He does not mince words.

Today’s Memory Verse:

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Apple of His Eye

It probably won’t come as a surprise if I tell you I don’t make a living writing blog posts.

For longer than I care to admit (only because I’m far too young to have been at this since 1985) I’ve written advertising copy for a living.

Since my husband and I have our own production company, Bryant Digital Media, we can be selective about the types of businesses we work with.

For example, we don’t do casino commercials.

Yesterday I struggled more than I could’ve imagined writing copy for a brand new luxury medispa.

The “medi” part of the word means they offer more than facials and massages. It’s almost, but not quite, plastic surgery.

I wrote the “spa ambiance” commercial first. Then I sat at my computer looking at the list of medical services on the medispa’s website.

Is that what the baby boomer movie stars do to look so good?

I’d write a sentence. Then delete it. Then re-word it. And delete it again.

All I could think of was the Jonny Diaz song “A More Beautiful You.”

The prophet Zechariah proclaimed that God insists whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye. See Zechariah 2:8.

You are the apple of God’s eye.

This truth applies to both men and women. 
Did you know that God is enthralled by your beauty?
As a woman, I especially love this verse:

Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear… The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord. Psalms 45:10-11 NIV

I muddled my way through writing the second script. (And began to covet having a flawless face and figure.)

Within an hour of emailing the advertising copy to my client, I received this response:

I really like the Spa spot, but I think we need something stronger for the audio of the Medical side. We need to really hit on the points about…

I read the email on my iPhone and planned to respond as soon as I returned to my office, but by the time I got there, another email from her awaited me:

We're working on the medical one now—needs to have a little more "meat" in it but will take a stab at it and send it back over.

A reprieve! Thank you, Jesus.

I don't have a problem with people undergoing procedures to appear younger or more shapely. I also don’t have a problem with people who don’t undergo those procedures.

But I did have a problem with my covetousness.

So I took a good look at myself, confessed my discontent, and praised God for being such an awesome Creator!

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalms 139:13-14 NIV 

Try this the next time you look in the mirror:

Say, "Your works are wonderful, God. I know that full well! 
I am the apple of Your eye."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Benefits of Belonging

Last weekend marked the second anniversary of my family’s regular attendance at our new church. (I guess I can’t call it my “new” church anymore.)

I love my church because even though it’s a really big body, it’s a Romans 12:5 body.

…in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

The people at my church belong to me and I belong to them.

God never created us to live on our own. He wants us to experience the benefits of belonging.

At the genesis of man’s existence He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18 NIV

The wisest man who ever lived concurred. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 4:9, “Two are better than one.”

Even Jesus sought friendship. The Bible says of his final hours, “He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’” Matthew 26:37-38 NIV

From our first Sunday at our new church, my family knew we belonged. Just last night we went to the home of a family we met that Sunday two years ago. They'd invited a handful of people from our church—including a brand new couple who just moved to town—to come over for homemade salsa and deep fried ice cream.

My heart swelled hearing the new couple express their appreciation for the way we had reached out to them. I grinned at hearing my brand new friend say, “It’s one thing to shake visitors’ hands and welcome them to church. It’s another to invite them over to your house!”

I knew how she felt. It sure feels good to belong.

If you’re lonely, I pray you find a Romans 12:5 body.

If you’re blessed with a sense of belonging, I challenge you to reach out. God just might treat you to a new friend. 

And an even greater sense of belonging.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Memory Verse Monday

Happy Labor Day!

In light of the holiday we observe today—and every first Monday in September—I thought you would enjoy the promise God gives us in our memory verse this week.

Today’s Memory Verse:

Friday, September 3, 2010

Would I Really Rather Have Jesus?

Giving Tuesday’s blog the title of a favorite hymn reminded me of something that happened when I was a young bride.

God speaks to me in a variety of ways, but rarely has He spoken in the manner He chose this particular day.

I stood at the kitchen window of our humble first home looking out on my street thinking about nothing of consequence.

Then I saw my neighbor pull into her driveway in a brand new Mercedes.

She and her husband had listed their house for sale just days before, and she had taken me to look at an amazing house she was thinking of buying.

We were about the same age, but her husband—who had joined the family business upon receiving his degree—was moving up the corporate ladder at break neck speed.

And now she had a brand new Mercedes.

Standing with my hands in dish soap, I broke the tenth commandment.

My run-on thoughts sounded something like this:
My husband and I both work hard
while she goes shopping.
Her last car was newer than the one I’m driving now.
Little Miss Perfect, she was homecoming queen, winter formal queen and prom queen and now she’s the Mercedes queen.

My mind was so noisy with negativity that I didn’t hear the positive sound coming from my lips.

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold.
I’d rather be His than have riches untold.
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands.
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hands…

I didn’t even notice the music I sang until I burst into the refrain with a loud, “Than to be the king…”  

I fell silent.

I felt convicted. And I confessed.

My thoughts suggested I would rather have a Mercedes and a big new house.

But my voice sang out a different tune.

I realized God was speaking to me through me and I laughed out loud.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21 NIV

I belted out the rest of that dear hymn and I meant it with every fiber of my being.

Steve and I had tried to share our love for Jesus with our neighbors one evening over a backyard barbeque.

Far from showing interest, they slammed the door on that conversation.

I dried my hands and quieted my spirit. I no longer wished I had what she had. I prayed that she might have what I have.

I’d rather have Jesus than anything 
This world affords today.
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