Should You Do What You Think Is Right?

“Always let your conscience be your guide.”

“Follow your heart.”

“Trust yourself.”

Those are the kinds of self-affirming advice we often hear. The basic argument is that most of us are pretty good people and if we listen really closely to our inner guiding light, then we’ll make good decisions.

But as Christians, we’re not supposed to do what’s right in our own minds. We’re supposed to do what God thinks is right. To some, this might just seem like a subtle shift in semantics. Of course what I think is right and God thinks is right are the same thing. Aren’t they?’

Not necessarily. While the holy spirit is transforming us to “have the mind of Christ,” we’re not all the way there yet. That’s one reason why it’s so important to spend time studying scripture — to make sure we know how God thinks and line-up with Him.Should You Do What You Think Is Right? | marissabaker.wordpress.com

What God Has To Say About Your Heart

When God made the choice to destroy everyone but Noah and his family in a flood, He did so after seeing “that every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was continually only evil” (Gen. 6:5, WEB). Even though we are made in God’s image, every single person has sinned and we’re corrupted by the fallen world we live in. And yet even in this state, human’s tend to trust that they know what’s right. But we’re often very wrong.

Yahweh says: Cursed is the man who trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm, and whose heart departs from Yahweh. … The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it? I, Yahweh, search the mind, I try the heart, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings. (Jer. 17:5, 9-10, WEB)

Human being can’t trust their hearts. You might get some things right, but you can’t even really know yourself unless you ask God to share His perspective on you. But that verse in Jeremiah is addressed to the person who’s heart departs from the Lord. What about once you are in relationship with God and making Him the one your trust? What does that do to your heart? Continue reading

Advertisements

What Sort Of Relationship Does God Want Us To Have With His Bible?

When we’re trying to become more like God there are typically four scriptural tools people talk about using: prayer, study, meditation, and fasting. Today, let’s take a closer look at studying. Even though I do study my Bible (as these blog posts will attest), I don’t think I’ve ever studied the topic of studying.

So I ran a search for the word “study” in the New Testament and it didn’t show up in the WEB translation at all. The two uses in the KJV are both translated from different Greek words and neither means what we associate with the English word “study.” But just becasue that English word isn’t used much doesn’t mean the concept behind saying we should study God’s word isn’t correct. Miriam-Webster’s dictionary for students defines “study” as “the act of making an effort to learn by reading, practicing, or memorizing.”  So I guess our question for today become whether or not that’s the sort of relationship God wants us to have with His word.

What Sort Of Relationship Does God Want Us To Have With His Bible? | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Photo credit: Anggie via Lightstock

Scripture Tied To Salvation

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul tells him what knowing God’s holy writings can do in a person’s life. That seems a good place to start our study:

From infancy, you have known the holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith, which is in Christ Jesus. Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:15-17, WEB)

We could pretty much end this blog post right here. If you want to become “wise for salvation through faith” and be “complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” then you need to get to know God’s word. Paul makes it very clear that a person who is committed to following God needs to make themselves familiar with the Scriptures that we now call the Bible.

This passage also establishes that scriptures comes straight from God, not human beings (see also 2 Pet. 1:19-21). As such, it’s profitable for us. These writings teach, reprove, correct, and instruct us in righteousness. And we need righteousness, becasue “the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 cor. 6:9, WEB). Clearly, effort put toward learning, practicing, and memorizing God’s word is going to pay-off. And this isn’t the only scripture that says so. Continue reading

The Incredible Reasons God Gives Us For Not Being Afraid

It’s all well and good to say, “God doesn’t want you to be afraid,” like we did in last week’s post. But that doesn’t actually help much with getting rid of our fear. Even knowing He’s patient with our fearfulness doesn’t take the fear away.

Thankfully, God’s doesn’t just order, “Fear not,” and leave it at that. He offers specific promises that give us tangible reasons not to be afraid. And when we are fearful, those promises can help us overcome to act in faith despite our fears. This past week, I went through the Bible looking for all the reasons God gives for us not being afraid. There are many, but I’ve sorted them into four main categories:

God Is With You

Before Moses’s death, God inspired Him to share these words with Israel:

Be strong and courageous. Don’t be afraid or scared of them; for Yahweh your God himself is who goes with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you. (Deut. 31:6, WEB)

The number one reason we have for living without fear is that God Himself is with us. And not just as a church or a group of people. Individuals can also receive this promise, as did Isaac (Gen. 26:24), Joshua (Josh. 1:9), David (Ps. 23:4), Solomon (1 Chr. 28:20), and Jeremiah (Jer. 1:8).

Don’t you be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. Yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness. (Is. 41:10, WEB)

God promises not to let us down or leave us alone. That means the most powerful being in existence is at your side through everything. He doesn’t leave us to figure things out on our own nor abandon us in our struggles. Continue reading

What Does God Have To Say About Fear?

Is being afraid a sin? I think most of us, me included, would say it isn’t sinful in and of itself. Fear is often a natural gut reaction to things happening around us, and it serves a self-preservation role. It only becomes an issue if we act on it wrongly or let it paralyze us and prevent right action. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m letting my own fears cloud my perspective on this issue. Because it seems God takes our fearfulness more seriously.

He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. (Rev. 21:7-8, KJV)

Some translations say “cowardly” instead of “fearful,” but the Greek deilos really does mean timid or afraid. Strong’s dictionary adds that it implies faithlessness. Hence Jesus’ question, “Why are you so afraid? How is it that you have no faith?” to the disciples in a storm (Mark 4:37-40, WEB). Is it really the case that God sees our fears and timidity as lack of faith?

The Right Kinds of Fear

The Bible talks about fear in both positive and negative ways. The kind of fear that is connected with reverence and respect for God and His authority is good. In fact, it’s essential.

This is the end of the matter. All has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, with every hidden thing, whether it is good, or whether it is evil. (Ecc. 12:13-14, WEB)

Fear of God has long been a commanded part of following Him (Deut. 5:29; 6:2; 10:12). And in the New Testament, the apostles tell us to perfect “holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1, WEB), to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12, WEB), and to live our lives on earth “in reverent fear” (1 Pet. 1:17, WEB). Continue reading

Approaching The King: Keys To Entering God’s Presence

Suppose you’ve been invited to meet the Queen of England. You don’t just walk in, wave, and say, “Hey there Elizabeth.” There are rules, protocol, and etiquette. You should bring a gift, remember to use the right form of address (“Your Majesty” first, then “ma’am”), and not turn reach out and touch her. These days, you won’t get in too much trouble for a slip in convention. But there have been many countries and many times throughout history that approaching royalty in the wrong way could get you killed.

Traditionally, people have recognized something special about royalty. Part of this was religious — rulers were seen as gods, or representatives of the gods, or appointed by God. It’s also a matter of recognizing and respecting an authority role.  Even in countries without a monarchy, we’ll still tend to recognize that some social positions command a certain amount of respect (i.e. you won’t talk with your boss the same way as a close friend and you’d probably show the President even more respect).

Approaching The King: Keys To Entering God's Presence | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Photo Credit: “Romania-1603,” by Dennis Jarvis, CC BY-SA via Flickr

A Question From God

The Bible applies several titles to God that demand respect, including Father, Master, Lord, and King. But do we take them seriously? Historically, God’s people have fallen short in this regard.

A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, then where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is the respect due me? Says Yahweh of Armies to you, priests, who despise my name. (Mal. 1:6, WEB)

Yes, God loves you and He wants to be your friend. But we’re not to forget who He is and the respect due Him. “‘For I am a great King,’ says Yahweh of Armies, ‘and my name is awesome among the nations’.” (Mal. 1″14, WEB). God deserves more respect than worldly authority figures, but do we even give Him that much? Continue reading

I Am Chosen

I don’t have a regular blog post for you today. I just want to get real with you all for a moment. God spoke to me earlier this week. Not in the “I have a divine revelation to share with you all” way, but in the sense that He used someone to tell me something I really needed to hear.

This other person and I were talking one night and they told me they felt God’s presence as a near-constant thing. And I felt sad, as well as a bit envious, that I didn’t have that. It’s not that I’ve never felt God is there. I feel that He hugged me once when I was singing in church. I often feel Him when I dance. He drew me into deeper relationship with Him and led me to baptism when, at age 18, He showed me that He wants me as well as loves me. But I also feel myself slipping into a pattern of having more head-faith than heart-faith even though I write all the time about connecting with God at a heart level.

On top of that, I’ve recently realized that for all the work I did years ago on learning to love myself and accept God’s perspective on me that I’ve lost hold of that as well (if I ever really had it). I know that God loves me and values me and I’m precious in his sight. But dating my boyfriend has brought to light there was still a voice in my mind saying I’m not actually all those things. Or more accurately it’s saying that even though God sees me like that no one else ever will or should. Which simply isn’t true. But it feels true and I’m so grateful I’m in a relationship with a guy who thinks it’s important that I come to believe I’m truly precious and thinks everyone else should see that, too.

So getting back to the night God spoke to me. I really can’t put it any other way. Someone else was speaking the words but they were coming from God. And He said, “I choose you. I love you. And I’ve loved you for so very long. Why won’t you accept my love? I chose you all the time. All of you — writer, blogger, cook, girl who chose to follow Me even when she can’t feel Me, lover of people. And I accept you.” And more than I’ll share here. It was incredible. Can you blame me for breaking down in tears, crumpled at Jesus’ feet?

I’m not sure how most of you see me. I’ve had some people mention that it seems like I have a strong faith, or that I’m “spiritual,” or that it’s obvious God is working in me. I suppose we could say those are true. But I felt broken and lonely and terrified I would be rejected. Parts of me still feel like that, but not nearly so much. In fact, the person I was talking with might be right when they said they felt like I really accepted God into my heart for the first time that evening. Not that I hadn’t committed to God before, but that this was the first time I really believed deep in my heart that His love and acceptance is, and should be, for me.

At the very least, I realized I had “left my first love,” to borrow a phrase from the letter to Ephesus. I honestly don’t remember feeling anything like what I do now since I was 14 years old and realized I wanted to be baptized and spent a summer singing to God every morning. I don’t do that any more. And I suspect reading things like Captivating moved me to tears not because I really believed God loved me like that but becasue I wanted to believe it. Similarly, I loved songs like “Someone Worth Dying For” not because I believed that’s something I am but because the longing found the chorus’ questions was in my own heart as well.

I feel rather dense, to be honest. If you look back at the blog posts I’ve been writing it’s obvious that God has been trying to tell me this for years. But I just wrote the posts, thanked Him for His goodness and love, then shared them with others without really, truly internalizing it. I’m grateful that He has used my hurt to help other people — that because I’ve felt these things I know how much other people who are going through the same doubts need encouragement. But it took God having another person put their hands on my shoulders and insist I really listen this time to realize how much those studies were meant for me as well. Posts like the reminder to love yourself because God loves you so much. Or the one from two years ago about taking down barriers you’ve built between you and God. Or the series I’ve been doing on really believing God’s promises, including the one that He’ll never let you down.

I want to share with you the verses I went to the morning after this conversation. I think the most consistent way God communicates with us is through Bible study (though He’ll use other methods as well especially, as I just learned, if we’re not getting it otherwise). Many of these passages were already among my favorite verses and I even quoted most of them in my ebook God’s Love Story. Now they hold even more meaning than before.

But now Yahweh who created you, Jacob, and he who formed you, Israel says: “Don’t be afraid, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by your name. You are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, and flame will not scorch you. For I am Yahweh your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I have given Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in your place. Since you have been precious and honored in my sight, and I have loved you; therefore I will give people in your place, and nations instead of your life. (Is. 43:1-4, WEB)

 

Now when I passed by you, and looked at you, behold, your time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over you, and covered your nakedness: yes, I swore to you, and entered into a covenant with you, says the Lord Yahweh, and you became mine. (Ezk. 16:8, WEB)

 

Therefore behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. I will give her vineyards from there, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope; and she will respond there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt. It will be in that day,” says Yahweh, “that you will call me ‘my husband,’ and no longer call me ‘my master.’ For I will take away the names of the Baals out of her mouth, and they will no longer be mentioned by name.
In that day I will make a covenant for them with the animals of the field, and with the birds of the sky, and with the creeping things of the ground. I will break the bow, the sword, and the battle out of the land, and will make them lie down safely. I will betroth you to me forever. Yes, I will betroth you to me in righteousness, in justice, in loving kindness, and in compassion. I will even betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know Yahweh.
It will happen in that day, I will respond,” says Yahweh, “I will respond to the heavens, and they will respond to the earth; and the earth will respond to the grain, and the new wine, and the oil; and they will respond to Jezreel. I will sow her to me in the earth; and I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; and I will tell those who were not my people, ‘You are my people;’ and they will say, ‘My God!’” (Hos. 2:14-23, WEB)

 

My beloved spoke, and said to me, “Rise up, my love, my beautiful one, and come away. For, behold, the winter is past. The rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth. The time of the singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree ripens her green figs. The vines are in blossom. They give out their fragrance. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away.” (Song 2:10-13, WEB)

 

Only Yahweh had a delight in your fathers to love them, and he chose their offspring after them, even you above all peoples, as it is today. (Deut. 10:15, WEB)

 

For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning lamp. The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory, and you will be called by a new name, which Yahweh‘s mouth will name. You will also be a crown of beauty in Yahweh‘s hand, and a royal diadem in your God‘s hand. You will not be called Forsaken any more; nor will your land be called Desolate any more: but you will be called Hephzibah [“I delight in her”],  and your land Beulah [“married”]; for Yahweh delights in you, and your land will be married. For as a young man marries a virgin, so your sons will marry you. As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so your God will rejoice over you. (Is. 62:1–5, WEB)

I Am Chosen | marissabaker.wordpress.com

But God wasn’t yet done with confirming His message for me. This past week I was at an evening service for Yom Teruah and we read some confessions/prayers together as a congregation that spoke directly to this subject as well. We had a printed out program for some congregational readings, but only used about 1/4 of them in our service. I’m assuming the chosen readings weren’t a coincidence and God knew I needed this confirmation. The very first one we read together included these lines:

Abba Father, we come before You today to receive Your love anew, a love that never fails, and to experience the wonderful truth that we are “accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6). We come in faith to You, desiring freedom in our lives from past hurts and disappointments. … I receive your unconditional love. I declare that the enemy’s power of rejection over me is broken. Bless me, enlarge my territory, and keep me from evil. Give me fresh vision, heal my heart, and fill it with your love, joy, and peace.

Wow. Could that get any more relevant to what He’s been telling me? The language is so similar to what God was saying a few days earlier through my friend that I was getting choked-up reading it. I’m getting choked up typing it now.

And you know what’s more? God’s saying the same things to you, dear readers. I know many of you have the same doubts, fears, and feeling I had that you lack value. But God chooses you. He wants you. He loves you and has loved you for so very long. You are accepted in the beloved. And because of Jesus’ triumph on the cross the enemy’s power of rejection over you is broken. The Lord will bless you indeed and always be there with you.