Sunday, July 22, 2018

Rest in the Lord ...by Guest-writer Jim Ehrhard





Jim Ehrhard is a missionary who is currently serving in the Ukraine with his wife and two young daughters.  He is a former pastor at Bible Church of Cabot and Cornerstone Bible Fellowship.  He is a professor at the Kyiv Theological Seminary and teaching others in the way of the Lord.  He is a blessing to many.

The following is from his latest update and I wanted to share it because I know it is applicable to my life and probably to yours as well.  Thanks Jim!





Probably nothing is more difficult for me than learning to rest. Even when I take a vacation,
it takes me a few days to slow down and stop thinking about the things I need to get done!
This is doubly true spiritually. If you ask me, “What is the hardest thing for you spiritually?”
I would answer, “Learning to rest in the Lord.” I think most other believers would say the
same. While the Bible is full of admonitions to rest in the Lord, it is the one area we struggle
the most with. So, I’m learning to rest – but it is the hardest thing for me to do!
Rest in the Lord! …
Well, how can we rest in the Lord?
First, rest comes when we have done all that the Lord asks of us. Rest is not merely passive;
it comes when we know we have done all the Father asks. Jesus had this perfect rest
(John 8:29). We must first do all He has commanded us to do and then we can enter into
His rest. Psalm 37:3 reminds us, “Rest in the Lord and do good.” Not merely rest – but do
good. This is true even for spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:13 says, “after you have done
everything, stand.” In other words, we can only truly rest in the Lord, standing against the
enemy, when we have done all He asks of us. A disobedient spirit keeps us from rest as well
as from spiritual protection. Proverbs 19:23 says, “The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one
rests content, untouched by trouble.” True rest begins when we have done all the Lord
commands. There is no peace or rest for the disobedient soul!
Second, “cast your cares on Him, for He cares for you!” (1 Peter 5:7). Also, Psalm 46:10 tells
us to “cease striving and know that I am God.” Rest comes when we do all He has called us to
do, and then we put everything in His hands and trust Him for the outcome. We cease
striving.
Third, to rest, we must trust the sovereignty of God. On the Sabbath day, the Israelites were
told not to gather any manna. They were to gather a double portion on Friday and to trust
that God’s provision would be enough. We cannot rest unless we learn the secret of
contentment (Philippians 4:12). We learn to be contented with what a sovereign God has
provided for us.
But God’s desire for us in not only spiritual rest, but physical rest. Jesus told His disciples,
“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:30-32).
Even in creation, God rested on the seventh day as a pattern for man (Genesis 2:2-3;
Exodus 20:8-11). Jesus corrected the Pharisees when he reminded them, “The Sabbath was
made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Rest refreshes us so that we are able
to be ready to serve the Lord another day.
Resting in the Lord is definitely the hardest part of the Christian life! It is far easier to be
active in ministry than to take time to rest. I’m learning, and I’m trying to learn to rest in the
Lord, not just for my physical health, but for everything in life. It’s a lesson easier to teach
than to live! I’m learning ….

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

God is THE Chainbreaker



     What do you think of as a 'prison'?  Is it the physical facility that holds convicted criminals?  Or is it the strongholds in our lives that keep us from being who we may want to be or that God wants us to be?  The strongholds in our lives can be physical limitations, emotional hurts, addictions to different vices, spiritual setbacks, or a many variety of chains that bind us down.
       God is the 'chainbreaker' that is available to all of us.  "Life’s circumstances change and sometimes we are humbled. Yet we can be hopeful and content knowing that there is One who has promised to never leave or forsake us. We can trust Him fully." [odb.org]
       We must turn our eyes and hearts upon Jesus, rather than relying on our own strength.  "I am prone to take action, in other words, not because I am a confident man of God, but because too often I have no confidence in God. I’m worse than someone who thinks “God helps those who help themselves” is an actual Bible verse. Part of my worry, of course, is not that God will abandon me, but that His purposes are different from my own.  It seems that quite often what God expects from us is not bold speech or decisive action, but the very opposite: waiting, quiet endurance, and a persevering love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7)."  [intouch.org]
     We all need the Lord’s courage. A courage that relies on Him to guide us where He would have us go, to give us words to speak and silence when our words aren’t needed. A courage that loses this life in order that He would save it.  While we may experience physical or other kinds of limitations, what really matters is that we continue doing what we can for the Lord until He calls us Home.
       "In our society, we tend to make choices based on what will bring us the most happiness. But in the Bible, God’s concept of happiness is much better defined by the word contentment. Remember Paul saying, in essence, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11)?"  [intouch.org]

 Two weapons for being content when circumstances make us feel miserable:

 1] Remember God is in control; keep your eyes on heaven and the things of this world will go strangely dim

2] Turn our obsession to satisfy ourselves into a love for others; God doesn’t tell us to live for our own convenience. 


      I wrote this blog over the past two weeks through my thoughts and devotionals I've read.  It may sound selfish, but I have needed this blog as an encouragement to myself to get through this month of trials.  I'll share one of my fears that acted as a stronghold against me and made me doubt God's plan for me.  When I was in the hospital for 4 days, my IV was in my good arm-the left one.  During those 4 long days, I could not move my arm on my own at all.  The what-if's of fear set in.  I prayed between my moments of fear to trust in God's will no matter what the outcome.  God had mercy and I was able to move my arm as soon as the IV was removed.  God freed me from that simple, yet powerful chain.

     If you put your trust in God, He can free you too from whatever is holding you back from being the child of God that He created you to be.  May God have the strongest hold on you!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Doing Your Part In Your Relationships




''We are truly rich when we know just a few people in a way in which we know no others.''

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).

“Better is open rebuke than hidden love.  Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy…  Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel” (Proverbs 27:5-6, 9).

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”


     Luke 10:30-37  "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, `Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.' Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands? " And he said, The one who showed mercy toward him." Then Jesus said to him, Go and do the same.""



        Godly friendships are such an important part of life.  They encourage us, confront us, strengthen us, love us, pray for us, convict us, serve us, bear patience with us, humble us, spur us on to good deeds, sympathize with us, show compassion towards us and share the truth with us--even when it hurts.  I thank God for all the people He has put in my life to do all these things listed and for me to return the love, as best I can.

        How can we show Samaritan-like love in our relationships with others? [intouch.org]

See with eyes of compassion. If we’re busy and preoccupied with our own schedules and plans, we probably won’t see the needs around us. There could be a coworker who’s discouraged, a struggling neighbor, or even a family member who needs our help.

Have compassion and seize the opportunity to help. It wasn’t simply a matter of feeling bad for another person; the wounded man’s helpless condition moved the Samaritan to action. This is the point at which we often retreat, because stopping to help someone costs us time and effort.

      Let us also remember that, no matter how consistent, honest, and sensitive a friend we may be, we are all still sinful humans who may eventually hurt, disappoint, or even change. Christ is our ultimate Friend, the greatest Lover of our soul!


Saturday, June 23, 2018

Forgiveness





Acts 15:39-40  " They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord."

Colossians 4:10   "My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark,the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.)"


      If you've been reading my blog the past few weeks, you know I've been doing an online bible study on Colossians.  Well I ended my last session today and it ended with 'final greetings' from Paul.  Like the verse Colossians 4:10 above, as an example, it is one I quickly skim by without further study.  We must remember "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

     So what can we learn from Colossians 4:10?  "Paul had a quarrel with Barnabas upon the account of this Mark, who was his nephew, and thought not good to take him with them, because he departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work, Acts 15:38. He would not take Mark with him, but took Silas, because Mark had deserted them; and yet Paul is not only reconciled to him himself, but recommends him to the respect of the churches, and gives a great example of a truly Christian forgiving spirit." [M. Henry]

      Mark was a quitter and Paul held a grudge for some time, but with the help of the Holy Spirit he forgave him.  Have you ever felt like that?  I know I have and I needed the Holy Spirit to not only convict me but to guide me into repentance for that unforgiving grudge.  The Holy Spirit guides me into seeing another perspective other than my own and to remind me of all the times I've failed and been forgiven.  "If men have been guilty of a fault, it must not be always remembered against them. We must forget as well as forgive. If a man be overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, Gal. 6:1." [M. Henry]

       Today, I watched the movie, "I Can Only Imagine."  It's the true story of the lead singer of Mercy Me and what led him to writing this #1 Christian song.   I don't want to spoil the movie plot for anyone, but there are 3 God-truths to gain from it... 1] No one is beyond God's transforming reach and love, 2] Forgiveness is possible with the help of the Holy Spirit, and 3] Don't wait for a terminal illness to make amends with God and each other.

      "Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith, with our Savior extending forgiveness even when He was dying on the cross. Jesus loved those who had nailed Him there, uttering a prayer asking His Father to forgive them. He didn’t hang on to bitterness or anger, but showed grace and love to those who had wronged Him." [odb.org]


The Bible is very specific on the cost of anger. The Bible says:
  • It causes arguments (Proverbs 15:18--A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict,
        but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.).
  • It causes mistakes (Proverbs 14:29--Whoever is patient has great understanding,
        but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.).
  • It causes foolish things (Proverbs 14:17--Whoever is patient has great understanding,
        but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.).

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Just In Case?


Freedom From Human Rules--Colossians 2:16-23

"Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.  These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.  Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind.  They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules:  “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?  These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings.  Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence."

        We often live our lives with a 'just in case' forethought.  God does provide for all of our needs and wisdom is included in that.  We know it is wise to include extra clothes on a trip or to pack some food and supplies 'just in case' there is possible car trouble.  We may always say 'I love you' with our goodbyes, 'just in case' it's the last time.  These are all wise 'just in case' decisions.
     What is not wise is to have a 'just in case' checklist, thinking it will improve your chances  with God.  That checklist might include-- going to church on Easter and Christmas, doing a good deed for someone, saying a prayer in your desperate hour of need, or giving your spare change to a needy cause.  That 'just in case' frame of mind is false thinking in religious terms.  Religion says 'do' in order to make things right with God, faith in Christ says 'done' by Christ on the cross.
     Our faith leads us to do acts of good... because of Christ's love in and for us, not.. so that Christ will love us.  Jesus loves us, as much on our worst day as He does on our best day.  God doesn't have a list of requirements, but just one--to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior of our lives over sin.  We are free from the old system of law and requirements, there is no 'just in case' duties to fulfill.  "The gospel isn't about the exterior changing the interior, but it's about the interior being made new and that working it's way out into the external dimensions of our lives."  
      God wants us to live a life with a 'it is finished' mentality.  Regarding your sin, your forgiveness, your standing with God, your guilt,  shame and regrets... it is finished when you have a relationship with Christ Jesus.  There is peace with God because of His work in us and not of anything we've done to boast about.

  "God loved you before you loved God, God freed you before you even knew you needed to be freed.  God accepted you fully, the moment you put your faith in Christ."

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Christ 'IN" Me




Colossians 1:27-29  " To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.  To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me."
Colossians 2:6-7 "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."

     I am currently doing an online Bible study on Colossians.  With each session, I am feeling the urge to share with you a little of what I am learning.  Spreading the gospel is 'The Great Commission' and we are called to action by whatever means enables us to do so.
     My online Bible study is led by Louie Giglio.  He points out, in verse 27, that the mystery of the gospel is 'Christ in you.'  It is not Christ 'and' you, but rather Christ living in and through you.  I think that's a profound truth we so often miss.  We have the power of Jesus inside of us to do what He calls us to.  We often think that we are still 'working' our way to heaven... that's not so.  If that we're true, heaven would be empty.  No one can get eternal life without the acceptance of Jesus, as their Lord and Savior.  We all fall short of the glory of God and that's why we need Christ 'in' us.  If it was Christ 'and' us, our salvation would never be secure.
    Louie referred to the rope of self-reliance that we all cling to, but must let go of.  "When you let go of the rope you'll realize that Jesus not only did all the work to bring you to God, Jesus is living in you to supply the power to allow you to walk in God."  God will give you the grace you need to fulfill His purposes for your life.
    As for myself, I have clung to the rope of self-reliance with fear of the unknown that was guided by a lack of trust that God would not provide for all my needs.  When I worked in Springfield, I was so tired after work that I had panic attacks driving home.  A 20 minute drive home took up to 2 hours.  My dilemma was my hidden secret covered by lies because of the fear of not being able to drive any longer.  Finally, one day I literally froze at a stoplight and couldn't move.  A stranger was God-sent to help me within 2 minutes.  After my secret came into light, I was taught how to use my hand controls.  They were there all along, I just needed to ask for help.  God provided for me ahead of my fears and provided a few more years of driving for me.  His provisions for us are always for our good, whether its give or take.
      If your faith is counting on you... remember Jesus is asking you to count on Him alone, not on anything you can do.  Our faith is secured by Jesus' clutch on us as His child, not our wavering hold on Him.
     Therefore, as a believer with Christ 'in' you, you walk alongside God.  As verse 2:7 above says, "continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."  We are commanded to make Jesus, the center and foundation of our lives.  We are commanded to put our faith in Jesus Christ alone.  We are commanded to give praise, honor, and acknowledgement for all Jesus is, was, and is to come in our lives.
     What did we contribute to our salvation?  The 100% sin nature within us that made our salvation necessary.  "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." [Ephesians 2:8-9]

Christ in me is my irreplaceable power source.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Why and What For??






Colossians 1:15-17  "The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."


         Sometimes, we get a little too self-focused in our lives.  Maybe we are frustrated with our circumstances, our failings or feel lost without direction in our lives.  God knew our mind struggles would come, so He gave us an answer in Colossians 1 to our common questions of... 'Why am I here?' and 'What am I here for?'  Today's blog will focus on these two questions.
      "Christ is the eternal wisdom of the Father, and the world was made in wisdom. He is the eternal Word, and the world was made by the word of God. He is the arm of the Lord, and the world was made by that arm."  [M. Henry]

      Why am I here?

       Someone once said, 'I didn't ask to be born!'  That's right, but God thought of you before the world began and loved you into creation. His thoughts and ways are far greater than our own.  Psalm 139: 13-16  "For you created my inmost being; 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.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."   "I am your Creator. You were in my care even before you were born." ISAIAH 44: 2A (CEV)  "God’s motive for creating you was his love. The Bible says, 'Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love.'  "You were created as a special treasure of God’s love! God made you so he could love you. This is a truth to build your life on." [R. Warren]
       "Our heavenly Father’s desire is for us to develop Christlike character and grow in intimacy with Him. He wants us to experience the richness of His love and wholeheartedly show Him devotion. He will use trials and difficulties to accomplish His good purposes for us." [intouch.org]


      What am I here for?

       As the verse above states, 'all things have been created through him and FOR him.'  We are here to fulfill God's will here on Earth.  "It is only in God that we discover our origin, our identity, our meaning, our purpose, our significance, and our destiny. Every other path leads to a dead end." [R. Warren]  The best way to discover your purpose in life is to look to and ask your Creator, God Almighty.  Turn to God's Word, not the world.  "The Bible says, “It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.”

       "God created us to live in heaven with him for eternity. Heaven is our home, not Earth. That’s why we sometimes experience discontentment and dissatisfaction in life. We’re not completely happy here because we’re not supposed to be! Otherwise, we might think we can live without God. He created us to long for something much better — a home is heaven with him.You will never feel completely satisfied on Earth, because you were made for more. You will have happy moments here, but nothing compared with what God has planned for you. This is also why some of God’s promises seem unfulfilled, some prayers seem unanswered, and some circumstances seem unfair. But this is not the end of the story. Realizing that life on Earth is just temporary should radically alter your values."  [R. Warren]

May your mind be focused on your Creator and His purposes as you start each God-given day of your life.  You are no accident, but a part of God's purposeful plan.

Monday, May 28, 2018

True Freedom



        Memorial Day is a day of remembrance to the brave and heroic military persons that gave it all for us.  Today, we honor those who have served and sacrificed their lives, so that we may live freely and enjoy the freedom that America offers in our every day lives. 
        As great as our freedom is here in America, many are still bound by the chains of sin.  They do not know the freedom that is gained by knowing and accepting Jesus Christ, as their sin redeemer.  "The greatest freedom we can experience is the forgiveness of our sins, liberation from the strongholds that have held us captive, and the restoration of our relationship with our Maker and His creation."
        According to the Bible, men and women are either slaves of God or slaves to sin.  Rom. 6:16-18  " Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed,and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness."  There is no middle ground. The latter serve Satan by feeding their own selfish impulses. Meanwhile, the “slaves of God” enjoy true freedom. They honor the Lord by keeping away from those things that imprison the body, emotions, or thoughts.  [intouch.org]
        "Awake, awake, Zion, clothe yourself with strength! Put on your garments of splendor, Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again. Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck, Daughter Zion, now a captive." Isaiah 52:1-2
        When I read the verse above, it encourages me to fully rely on God's love and words of encouragement.  It frees me from the hurtful words from the world.  Jesus leads my life, not people or their opinions.  Do you know how liberating that is?  It's a confirming feeling that I am on the right path in my life.  Psalm 56:11  "In God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?"
        "Ch
rist came to set us free from the prisons we have lived in for far too long. When we clothe ourselves in the strength and splendor of our great God, no weapon forged against us will prosper. When we envelop our souls with his brilliance and power, we put on the armor of God–and his gleaming garments of light will push back the darkness of defeat. Instead of wallowing in the dust, we rise up as a royal priesthood, seated with Christ in the heavenly realms."
        The truth of God’s Word can set you free from the prison of shame, fear and defeat. Whenever you sense those lies creeping back in, remind yourself that you are covered, clothed, and surrounded by the strength and splendor of your Father.  



The Word of God holds many promises of freedom for those who put their trust in Jesus. For example, we have freedom: [intouch.org]
In Christ (John 8:36; Rom. 8:2; 2 Cor. 3:17; Gal. 5:1).
From sin (Acts 10:43; Rom. 6:6-7; 1 Cor. 10:13).
From fear (Rom. 8:15; Phil. 4:6-7; 2 Tim. 1:7 ).