True Source

I recently celebrated my birthday and discovered something remarkable. In the past, I have been blessed to have people remember my special day. Please note that I am not very materialistic, but like most Americans I have fallen into the routine of placing a heavy emphasis on other people’s acceptance of me. And, I also have to admit that I was “programmed” to view such celebrations as a sort of gauge on how much value I possess. So, if someone forgot my birthday then I felt unloved or less valuable.

But this year was different. The difference stems from a fairly recent spiritual “growth spurt.” You see, I have finally realized that my value does not come from anything I do or from how others view me. My value is found simply in that fact that I am made in God’s image. In other words, I am valuable because God loves me. I know most of you have heard this before, and so have I.

However, although my head knew this, my heart did not truly grasp the meaning or significance. There was a disconnect between the two, and every year my head ruled on this particular day. In fact, I almost dreaded my birthday because of an irrational fear that others would forget about me which meant that I was no longer of any importance. Indeed, there were years that many people, including those closest to me, would “drop the ball” and forget. And I would struggle with the emotion of rejection for months afterward.

But this year my heart took charge, and I can honestly say this was the best birthday ever. I did not dread the day nor did I keep a mental record of who forgot. In fact, I went into the day with an overwhelming sense of calm. Every aspect of my being knew without a doubt that God loves me and celebrates my existence. How absolutely mind boggling and amazing is that?

Isaiah 49:16 (NIV) states, “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.” The terminology used in this verse is closely related to tattooing. And not just writing a name, but rather a permanent portrait tattooed on His hands. This means that He can not act (open His hands) without being reminded of the one He loves. Although the historical context of this verse is describing the city of Jerusalem, the spiritual context is an expression of love for all of God’s children. Which means that this verse can be rewritten to say, “Look my precious one, I have tattooed your portrait on the palms of My hands so that ever time I do anything, I will think of you.” That knowledge is the best birthday gift I have ever received.

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There is a Storm Brewing!

Dennis and I recently toured the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky. It was truly an amazing experience. Throughout the tour, I found myself imagining what life may have been like for Noah and his family during the great flood. I suspect this happens to everyone who visits the Ark. But one of the most profound experiences we had during our visit involved getting to the Ark. On the day of our arrival, the remnants of hurricane Irma also arrived. As we left the safety of the shuttle, we were greeted with a downpour accompanied by wind gusts and dark, ominous clouds. This, of course, sparked a mad rush to the Ark. We and all the people around us frantically sought out refuge in the huge ship. As we made the journey, I realized that this was a truly fitting picture of the day the floodgates of heaven opened thousands of years ago upon the original Noah’s ark.

Undoubtedly on that day, another group of people also rushed toward the ship hoping to find safe-haven only to find a closed door. For nearly a century, they knew Noah was building a life boat but refused to believe his dire warnings. In other words, they had been given the opportunity to enter into safety but had instead chosen to stay outside. While I was guaranteed entrance due to a purchased ticket, those ancient people had perished because they had rejected God. This is a sobering thought, especially in light of our current world climate.

The story of Noah and the ark is a warning to us today because there is a time when another great “storm” will be unleashed and the door will be closed. Matthew 24:37-39 states, “As the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” In other words, the biblical narrative of the Great Flood is a foreshadowing of a future day of judgment, and Noah’s ark symbolizes Jesus. John recorded Jesus saying, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved…” (John 10:9) which clearly indicates that salvation from the terrible storm of wrath can only be accessed through Christ’s work on the cross.

Indeed, this is the time to run to safety. The same sense of urgency I felt at the Ark Encounter exhibit should determine our priorities. Instead of chasing things of this world, which will perish, we should live in a way that screams we believe in the necessity of seeking shelter. Perhaps if we live like Noah, who consistently prepared for a day of destruction while urging others to join him, we can have a greater impact on those around us. While we cannot force anyone to enter the “ark”, we can at least warn them that it is going to rain.

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Avoiding Pitfalls

The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’” (1 Corinthians 15:33). This past week, the Pathfinders studied the judge Samson and discovered that this certainly proved to be true in his life. Time after time, Samson chose poorly when it came to who and what he allowed to hold influence over him. The emphasis is on “allowed.” However, he not only allowed it but actually sought out the company of his enemies. As most may already know, Samson’s life ended tragically as a direct result of his bad choices. It is easy for us to look at Samson and wonder at his arrogance and, dare I say it, his foolishness, but if we are completely honest with ourselves we may find that we are more like him than we care to admit. While we have not been called as a “one-man army” fighting against Philistines, we have been called to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and not to conform to the world (Romans 12:2). Perhaps we should take a closer look at our own lives to see what we allow to have influence over us.

The youth in the Pathfinders’ group discussed how their friends often exert a lot of influence over how they act and think. Some described examples they have personally witnessed such as someone beginning to drink or use drugs because their friends were substance abusers. The main point in all their stories is that instead of the person maintaining their level of integrity, he or she eventually begins to exhibit signs of degeneration which is defined as “a lowering of effective power, vitality, or essential quality to an enfeebled and worsened kind or state.”1 All of us have been hardwired to crave acceptance, regardless of age. This desire to be accepted is the driving force behind peer pressure. In my own life, I have often felt the tug to “fit in” by behaving in ways I knew were not pleasing to God, and I suspect most reading this blog have also. Additionally, in past youth group Bible studies, we addressed how certain forms of entertainment also influences us in negative ways.

So, how do we avoid the negative influence of the world without becoming a hermit? Perhaps we can start by a bit of introspection. We all have weaknesses. Some of us may gravitate toward hedonism, pride, greed, or even idolatry as we place more value on what some celebrity thinks than on what the Lord thinks. Basically, anything that causes us to act or think differently than how God would have us act or think becomes a snare to us. In Exodus 23:33, God told Moses, “…they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you.” The word used for snare in Hebrew is mowqesh and is defined as bait, lure, barb, or trap.2 Scripture is warning us that anything that steals our worship from God is a noose around our necks! And any relationship, hobby, television show, or activity that means more to us than our walk with the Lord is a stumbling block that causes us to fall. Therefore, we should strive to identify our weaknesses and be vigilant to avoid anything that could potentially ensnare us—even if it means turning off the television.

 

  1Miriam-Webster Dictionary. “Definition of Degeneration.” Miriam-webster.com. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/degeneration (accessed September 5, 2017).
      2Bible Study Tools. “Mowqesh-Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon-New American Standard.” Biblestudytools.com. http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/hebrew/nas/mowqesh.html (accessed September 5, 2017).

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The Great Eclipse of 2017

As all eyes turned upward yesterday, I wonder how many gave thought to the origin of the sun and moon. The Bible tells us that God created the greater light and the lesser light to give light the the earth and to act as signs. Perhaps we should take the eclipse as a reminder that the One who made the heavens is all powerful.

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Welcome to our Blog

As our Youth learn more about Gods word you will find blog discussions from our Director Of Family Ministries, Julie Wiles.

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