A God Above All Other gods

I read through 1 Samuel 5 & 6 this morning in order to stay on track. Together they tell the story of the Philistines taking Ark of the Covenant into their land, its effect upon their people and land, and their ultimate return of it to Israel.

I didn’t really understand the part about Dagon in the beginning of chapter 5, so I did a little research. Dagon was a god of the Philistines and in bringing the Ark back to their land they brought it to a temple of Dagon’s where they left it by a statue of the god. This makes more sense as then the next day they find the statue of Dagon face down in front of the ark and they “put him back in his place (v 3).”

I cannot imagine what they thought upon seeing this scene; a statue of a god they worshipped looking as if it was worshipping a symbol of a God from another land. Perhaps, at first, they thought it an accident, for they just picked the statue up and put it back. But the next day it had fallen again, this time its head and hands cut off. Not broken off from having fallen, but cut off, intentionally so. This shook them up more as so they began to move the Ark around their land to different cities. In each place its effects were felt; tumors, death, mice infesting the land.

The Philistines had heard about what happened in Egypt, they knew all about the plagues and the hardening of the Pharaoh’s heart. They also attributed this to the God of the Israelites, and so they learned from those mistakes and sent the Ark back to Israel, not on its own, but with guilt offerings to this God as well.

I find it so interesting that the Philistines were aware of God, they had heard of what He had done in Egypt and yet they waged war against Israel. God allowed them to win, perhaps to the purpose of showing the Philistines His power directly. In sending the Ark back, they watched the cows pulling it in a cart go right back to the land of Israel; a sure sign that it was this God who worked these things against them. And while many Israelites died in the battle with the Philistines, God ultimately won that battle, by no help, really, from them.

It doesn’t say that the Philistines then came to worship Israel’s God, though they had evidence that He was higher than one of their own. They paid Him tribute, offering sacrifices, in the hope that He would cure them of the ailments He inflicted upon them. But they did not then follow Him, though they had come to see the truth.

How many people see evidence of God’s existence and still refuse to acknowledge Him for who He is? How many times do we, half-heartedly, pray or do things that we think will “placate” God without really trusting in who His is and what He is capable of?

When the Ark makes it back to Israel, there are people there, even, who die (God’s own people) because they looked upon the Ark and were not worthy to do so. Those around said,”Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God?” (6:20a). A holy God cannot abide sin. No one can stand before Him, be they other “gods”, or even His own people. That was true then. It is true now, as God doesn’t change. He still cannot abide sin.

BUT…

God, Himself, took on sin. Jesus Christ came to earth. He lived a perfect life that we could not. Being fully God and fully man, He was able to stand before the Father, the perfect sacrifice for our sin. Because of Him, we are able to stand before the Father and not be struck down, for He sees Christ’s righteousness upon us.

Now, whether I think we’ll actually be able to stand on our feet before God Almighty, that’s another conversation altogether. I, myself, think I’ll be on my knees or, more likely, on my face, before Him; knowing the great gift I’ve been given but such a loving and unobligated giver. Knowing I’ve been saved, by no merit of my own.

I pray you know of the great gift God has given us, through faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ alone. And not only that you know of it, but that you are living it out daily. Because of it, we are able to stand before Him justified, Non-guilty. And while we will all bow before Him one day, those who find themselves in Christ will not perish.

If you’re unsure about all of this, I highly encourage you to do some investigating. Pick up a Bible and read the book of John. Talk to someone you know and trust who is a believer. Visit churches near you to learn more about it all. I pray the LORD will reveal Himself to you so that you may see Him, truly see Him, all He has done for you, and your great need of Him.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

 

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That Girl

I never wanted to be that girl. The one who thought she wasn’t good enough, or pretty enough, for any guy, much less one with admirable qualities. I didn’t want to be that girl who thought she didn’t deserve to be in a relationship. I read all of the Twilight books (a mistake, I know), and wanted to smack Bella every time she mentioned or thought about how undeserving of Edward she was. I vowed never to be that girl…until I realized, I am.

In this season of preparing for a wedding & marriage there have been many well wishes and congratulations. When I talk with people, many have expressed their happiness for my fiance and I, and many have said, “You deserve this.” It has always rubbed me a little funny, that phrase. And I have finally figured out why. I don’t. I don’t deserve any of this.

Hear me out, now, and let me explain. In this life, I deserve nothing. Wait, that’s not quite right. In this life, I deserve death. For the wages of sin is death ~Romans 6:23a. I have sinned against a righteous and holy God. More times than I could ever count. Death is all I deserve. But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~Romans 6:23b

I deserve death, but have been granted life. and not just any life, but eternal life! You know that means forever, right? Because Jesus paid the price for my sin (and for yours), I can accept the free gift of life eternal (and so can you). That is an amazing thing all on it’s own. And now here is the rest of my point – it is all I’ll ever need. 3His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. ~2 Peter 1:3 & 4

Because of my salvation in Jesus Christ, I should want for nothing. In not getting what I deserve (death) and getting what I don’t deserve (eternal life) I should be forever grateful. I am forever grateful. Any other blessing that God chooses to bestow upon me is icing on the cake. My job that I love, my comfortable home, a car that still runs, and, yes, even a wedding at the end of the month and a future with a man I adore. All of those are bonuses on top of the most precious gift I could ever be given. Especially considering I had all but given up that that last one would ever happen.

God never promised we would find a soul mate, but He promised rest for our souls (Matthew 11:28-30)

God never promised us a spouse, but He promised to work things out for our good (Romans 8:28).

God never promised us each a wedding on earth, but He has prepared a marriage supper for those who belong to Him (Revelation 6-9).

If you are single and struggling, I pray this gives you hope, knowing that all you will ever need will never be found in a relationship here on earth. I have been in your shoes and it is a hard pill to swallow, but as long as you are in Christ, He will sustain you.

If you are married and struggling, I also pray this gives you hope, knowing that your spouse can never be your savior, but Jesus Christ can. With Him in the center of your marriage, you and your spouse can focus on how your relationship is working to glorify Him.

And if you find yourself with a that girl mentality, know that it’s ok, but also remember my most favorite two words; but God. You may feel undeserving, but God knows you are worth the greatest sacrifice, and He gave it all so He could be in relationship with you.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

 

My Two Favorite Words

There are so many words in the English language, how could someone possible have just two favorite words? Maybe, you think, three is a better number and those words could be, “I love you.” Or narrow it down further and have only one and it could be your name. As long as i’m not in trouble, I do like the sound of it. But just two? It might be akin to asking a librarian her two favorite books (it’s hard enough to narrow that down to ten!). Lately though, there are two words that keep making their rounds. Ones that come up and change everything.

You’re having a horrible day when you hear these words, and your day gets better. Perhaps you are full of anxiety; these words will bring you peace. You feel worn out and weary of all this life may hold; in these words you can find rest. So what could they possibly be? Just two short and simple words:

BUT GOD

You might think I’m joking. What could those two words possible mean? “But God” what?

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-7

We are lost in darkness, but God has sent a Light so we can see.

We are dead, but God has given us a way to new life.

We are sinners, but God made a way for us to have a relationship with Him.

We owe a debt we can never repay, but God sent His Son to redeem us.

Goodness, perfection, love, gentleness, truth, humbleness; none of these are things we can really attain on our own, but God is all of these things and with Him we can strive to be the same.

God loves us so, that even while we were sinners He sent Jesus to take on all of our sin, so that we could spend eternity with Him. In the above verse from Ephesians it says we were “dead in our trespasses.” I don’t remember the first time I heard it explained this way, but I will think of it this way forevermore: What is it a dead man can do? Can he walk & talk? Of course not! He’s dead! We, while dead in our sin, because we are separated from God, can do nothing to save ourselves. BUT GOD! God can do these things! He can save us! He had sent the rescue plan in motion before we even needed it. Jesus came to live a sinless life, to take on our sin, to die. But He did not stay dead; He was resurrected. And through Him, we can live again as well.

So, you see, these two, seemingly simple, and small words hold a very big meaning. They can change your life. I’m so thankful for the day they changed mine.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

The Greatest Story Ever Told

If you have known me for any length of time it has probably come out that Cinderella is my favorite Disney princess. She is kind & loving and not a wimp, by any means. More than that, though, the story of Cinderella in general has always been my favorite story. When I was teaching, I did a whole unit on Cinderella stories from around the world (my favorite is The Way Meat Loves Salt by Nina Jaffe – you should check it out!). On a whole, it just seems to be a most romantic story and, well, I’m a hopeless romantic, so we fit together nicely.

This past weekend, a bunch of girlfriends and I went to go see the new Cinderella movie. It was pretty amazing! The visuals were lovely, from the gowns to the special effects, and the casting was pretty spot on. It had the basic Disney story as its basis and worked other details in. I enjoyed that they kept the magical element (though one of my favorite Cinderella movies is still Ever After). The end was really the most beautiful part, though. *Spoiler Alert* Cinderella ends up with the prince (who is actually given a name – hooray! It’s Kit). What? You already knew that? Well, then, let me tell you what was so beautiful about it.

They finally find out that Cinderella was the mysterious girl at the ball (who Kit thought was a princess). She is in her dress with dirt & ash clinging to it as she walks toward Kit. Once he sees her, he asks who she is, really. She gives the name Cinderella, though that was the cruel name given her by her stepsisters, it is who she is. The rest of it goes something like this (quoted only because she’s speaking, not the actual quote from the movie).

“I am not a princess. I’m just a poor country girl. I have no parents. I have no dowry. Will you still take me as I am?”

It would take a lot for me to believe any girl or woman who says that does not touch a part of her, deep down inside. A longing to be loved for who she is, so completely. Even despite a telling name. Even despite shortcomings that may or may not be in her control. This is an experience I want…and then I realize, it’s one I’ve already had.

You may think it a stretch, but to me, this so clearly puts in my mind the image of my Savior. Jesus takes us as we are; dirty rags and all.

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8

There is nothing we can do to earn His acceptance; no amount of riches we could give as a dowry. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills! What would we, honestly, be able to give Him that isn’t His already? And still, He loves us. He loves us so much that He died for us, taking all of our sin, and all of God’s wrath for that sin, upon Himself. Not only that, but He conquered that sin when He rose from the dead. Though sin is still present in the world, and we battle it every day, Jesus has won the war. In knowing & accepting that; in knowing and accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior, you, too, can have your very own rags to riches story. And this one ends even better than Cinderella. No, you won’t get to marry a prince. *Spoiler Alert* But you will be joint heirs with the King.

And, truly, that is the greatest story I know. I pray there’s a place in your heart for it as well.

Love & Blessings,

KJ