Sunday, August 20, 2017

Strength Comes From God

"This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord."
Psalm 18:32
"It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure."

         How would you define strength?  Is it mere muscle ability? Is it the power to resist a force against you?  Is strength a level of confidence?  Is strength a product of man or God?  When we think about our own strength for today, I think we should consider these questions.

       Where does your true strength come from, the gym or God's Word?  Don't we all rely on ourselves or others too much and find disappointment?  It is a sin to place our trusted confidence in the wisdom, power, kindness and faithfulness of man because those attributes are trusted wholly to God alone.  "It is making flesh the arm we stay upon, the arm we work with and with which we hope to work our point, the arm under which we shelter ourselves and on which we depend for protection. God is his people’s arm, Isa. 32:2."  [M. Henry]

        As the poem above states, we need strength in many different ways.  We need strength just to survive the day.  We need strength to live without fear, for whatever we face.  We need strength to endure the troubles of life.  We need strength to not be overwhelmed by our duties for the Lord.  We need strength to not be consumed by sorrows.  We need strength physically, emotionally and spiritually because Satan attacks at every angle.

        Those that trust in man and not God, "can neither produce the fruits of acceptable services to God nor reap the fruits of saving blessings from him." [M.Henry]

3 Characteristics of Those Who Get Their Strength God  [M.Henry]

1] They live by faith in God's providence and promises

2] They seek God's guidance at ALL times

3] They seek God and His love in the most difficult and unquiet times

       As for myself, strength is going down in some aspects of my life and soaring like an eagle in other areas.  My strength from God sustains me through the daily battles and gives me hope for my tomorrows.

      My prayer for you is that you find your strength in God as you build a life of faith trusting in God alone.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Thinking Through the Trials

James 1:2-4  "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

             Life is a series of trials, don't you agree?   As the verse above tells us, it is not all for nought.  It is a faith strengthening process that hopefully will transform us into who God intended us to be.  It's no quick fix either, but completion awaits us at heaven's door after a lifetime of learning God's truth and ways.  
           As Christians, we must not think we can escape the troubles of this world.  God may use our responses to afflictions as a way to reach this broken world.  "By suffering in the ways of righteousness, we are serving the interests of our Lord’s kingdom among men, and edifying the body of Christ; and our trials will brighten our graces now and our crown at last."   The devil uses our troubles to tempt us to sin, but God intends our trials to better ourselves.  " The gold is put into the furnace, that it may be purified."  Our trials vary person to person, so we don't know how the devil will try to deceive and attack us.  Therefore, we need to put on the full armor of God.  " We must be armed on every side, because temptations lie on all sides."  Our trials should lead us to look beyond ourselves.  We should look to the One who is in control of all things, provides strength for each day, comforts the weak and weary, and never leaves our side.
           "We must not sink into a sad and disconsolate frame of mind, which would make us faint under our trials; but must endeavor to keep our spirits dilated and enlarged, the better to take in a true sense of our case, and with greater advantage to set ourselves to make the best of it." [M. Henry]
I've copied some truths from to help you deal with the trials you face and how to respond.  

1. God is in full control of the timing and intensity of your trial and will not allow it to go beyond His boundaries.
2. He has a specific purpose for your suffering which you may not understand until it is over.
3. This trial will prove to be profitable if you submit to God and trust Him through it.
4. Trying situations are opportunities for faith to prove genuine and grow stronger.
5. When you endure extreme pressure with unexplainable peace and joy, the Lord will demonstrate His sustaining power to a watching world.
6. Your difficulties are used by the Father to produce Christ-like character.
7. God will walk with you through all trials.
8. The Holy Spirit will enable you not only to survive but also to come out a conqueror.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Loved by God

Malachi 1:2
“I have loved you,” says the Lord.
“But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’

       Have you ever felt unrecognized and unappreciated for your efforts toward someone?  We have all felt ingratitude at some point in our lives and it's not a good feeling.  We put our hearts, thoughts and actions for that person first but no acknowledgement.  I think God feels this everyday and yet holds back His anger with mercy.
      The verse above from Malachi displays the arrogance and ingratitude of Israel towards God's love to and for them.  God's love had shown them great kindness, even when He rebuked them.    Jeremiah 31:3  "“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness."   M. Henry states, God’s people need to be often reminded of his love to them.  I have loved you, but you have not loved me, nor made any suitable returns for my love.” 
        Can we not look 'everywhere' and see God's love surrounding us.  In creation, in protection, in giving us what we don't deserve, and in withholding the wrath that we do deserve, in strength for today, for the hope and promise of everlasting life for those who believe and for the greatest gift of all, His Son who became flesh to pay with his life our sin debt.  Romans 1:20 "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."
         God loves us through all the suffering and trials of this life.  "The sufferings of the righteous will have an end and will end well; all their grievances will be redressed, and their sorrow turned into joy; but the sufferings of the wicked will be endless and remediless." [M. Henry]  1 Peter 1:6-9  "In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,  for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls."
        God, who created us in His own image, does not want us to be separated from Him by sin.  He cannot justly overlook sin either.  Therefore John 3:16-17 explains, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."   There is and never will be a greater act of love than God becoming flesh, enduring a life of ridicule and pain without sinning, giving up His life for ours so that we might be saved, and declaring victory over death with His Resurrection.  "Amazing love, how can it be, that my King would die for me?"
      As for us, I hope that rather than be like Israel in questioning how God has loved us, that we would ask ourselves "How have I thanked God for all the ways He has shown me His love?"  Is my prayer life thankful?  Are my life choices righteous ones? Is my life God-honoring?  Do I put God first, above all else?  Actions speak louder than words, so let your Light shine to all, as a testimony of His love to you.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Appearance Judging


1 Samuel 16:7
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

        I just love this verse and I find great comfort in it, especially when the world assumes so much and yet knows so little.   God sees our authentic self, which is our heart and mind, without any pretenses.  He knows our naked, rock bottom, true soul and will judge us accordingly.  So many times, we act like the Pharisees by trying to speak, dress or act to impress others, but God knows the 'fake it till ya make it' performance and is never fooled by it.  Isaiah 11:3-4 "He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,  or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth."
      "The good disposition of the heart, the holiness or goodness of that, recommends us to God, not the majesty of the look, or the strength and stature of the body."  Whew, can we all be thankful for that?  We are not defined by our bodies but by the condition of our hearts toward God.  People will see your life as a reflection of your heart, whatever that may be, with time.  
        Our problem is that we are quick to judge based on external factors.  What if we were judged everyday by how we looked before we 'got ready' for the day?  What if we had no control over our hair, smell, breath, etc.?  Well, people are judged all the time over things out of their control and it's wrong to assume.  Take a minute to think about that... what are you judging others on?  Thankfully, God isn't as narrow-minded as we are.  He sees what's important in each of us... our heart as for or against Him.
         As for myself, I've been humbled many times by people's assumptions because of my small frame.  I've learned it's better to give grace than try to defend yourself.  Your response is a witness in itself.  I'm passed the stage of trying to impress others, but my goal is to keep my heart right and pleasing with God.  I am trying to be my authentic self.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Who's Looking Out For You?

1 Peter 5:7  "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."

Psalm 121:1-2, 7-8
 "I lift up my eyes to the mountains—    where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord,  the Maker of heaven and earth."  

"The Lord will keep you from all harm  he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going  both now and forevermore."

        Everyday, we face new situations that cause us to fear.  Do we trust God fully for His care, His protection, and His provisions for us?  I do trust God but prayer is not always my first line of defense against anxiety.  It should be tho, because prayer is my direct talk with God, who controls everything in life.
        In my Bible reading this past week, I was encouraged by the Book of Esther in that "God’s protective hand is always present, even though it is not always seen. Nowhere in the book of Esther is God’s name mentioned, but His providential hand is evident in Esther’s every move. God is at work in your life too, whether you realize it or not. "  Most of us can see in hindsight, the all-sufficient grace and mercy of God's care over us in our past.  So why is our present and future times, so hard to hand over to Him?  We trust in ourselves much, too much!

7 Reasons to Trust God with Your Life and Eternity  [M. Henry commentary]

1] God himself is our protector.  It is His infinite power and wisdom that provides safety to those who put themselves under His protection.

2] " The shepherd of the flock is the shepherd of every sheep, and will take care that not one, even of the little ones, shall perish."

3] God is a watchful keeper, who neither sleeps nor slumbers.

4] "He is always near to his people for their protection and refreshment, and never at a distance; so that he is never far to seek. "

5] "God will provide that his people shall not be tempted above what they are able, shall not fall into sin, though they may be very near it, shall not fall into trouble."

6] " It is the spiritual life, especially, that God will take under his protection: He shall preserve thy soul."

7]  God's protection is for life and shall abide with us forever.

       As for myself, I still get the 'mom arm' of protection from most of my van drivers but as good as that is, I know God is watching and protecting me always.  I also realize the greatest danger to myself is me.  I see and acknowledge His fingerprints in all areas of my life. Honestly, sometimes it has taken His whole Hand-print to turn me around.  
       There is no better place to be than in God's hands.  Have you placed yourself there?  Do you turn to and rely on that mercy and grace of protection?

  "I need Thee, oh I need Thee, every hour I need Thee."

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Find Joy

Psalm 90:14-15  "Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.  Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,  for as many years as we have seen trouble."

        Do you truly believe "God is good all the time and that all the time God is good?"  I think only believers in Christ can have that deepest level of trust, but even believers have moments of doubt.  There is joy to be found in every day for everyone because of God's grace and mercy. Needless to say, our days are not promised to be without trouble or affliction.  I believe that a person's daily focus in life is in direct correlation to their faith in God and His promises.   Can you find joy in every day of your life?
       The verses above from Psalm 90 are about God's mercy and the eternal gain, and therefore to seek it at an early age.  Mercy is a blessing sought after, a blessing that satisfies the heart, and the sooner you experience the mercy of God, the sooner you will be truly filled with joy.

An early interest in God’s mercy is essential to a happy life  []

1. "That a man may live happily, that he may rejoice and be glad all his days, it is necessary that he should be early freed from all fears of death."  Jesus death and resurrection gave victory over death.
2. "That a man may rejoice and be glad all his days, it is necessary that he should be freed in early life from a guilty conscience, and from apprehensions of God’s displeasure.  He enjoys peace of conscience and peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
3. "To render a man happy during the whole progress of life, it is necessary that he should be early freed from care and anxiety, and especially from apprehensions of losing what he most loves. But it is impossible that an unpardoned sinner should feel perfectly safe, or that he should be free from care, anxiety, and apprehension."
4. "That a man may rejoice and be glad all his days, he must early learn, in whatsoever state he is, to be content."  Circumstances don't define a believer's joy.
5. "That a man may rejoice and be glad all his days, it is absolutely necessary that he should early obtain the mastery of his appetites and passions, and be secured against the evils into which they would lead him. And no young man can have any security that he shall not be left to form such habits, unless he obtains that security which is afforded by God’s sanctifying grace and pardoning mercy."

        As for myself, I was blessed early with God's gift of grace to be saved.  His mercy has carried me through some dark and difficult times.  I seek and find joy everyday because I know of God's great love and sacrifice for me.  Sometimes, the search is a little harder but joy lies beyond my circumstances.  Each day, I struggle with physical weakness but I can remember stronger days with less joy than now.  My focus now is more on God's will for my life than my own.  Whether that may be scheduling time with fellow believers, sharing God's truth with lost friends, making the most out of my time and strength left, reading God's word for comfort and direction, or just resting in God's provisions for me. 
 Trust in God=Joy!

"God who is great in justice when he chastens will not be little in mercy when he blesses, he will be great all through: let us appeal to him with unstaggering faith."

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Every Breath You Take

  Job 33:4  "The Spirit of God has made me;
    the breath of the Almighty gives me life."

Psalm 39:5  "You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
    the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
    even those who seem secure."

          Sometimes I stretch the limits on how long I can go without my air assistance.  I feel drained and weak until I get that air pressure back in me and then it feels like I'm revived with energy.  Our organs need oxygen to make them run correctly.  Without oxygen, they struggle to keep up and to meet the demands we put on our bodies.  How comparable is God to oxygen in our lives?  Without either, we are doomed.  We are nothing without His power, grace and mercy.
        We are souls that live within that God-created body and our souls need God.  We choose how close to or how far we are from God.  Without God, our souls struggle to find meaning, peace, and purpose.  With God's soul support... we find hope, everlasting love, peace that surpasses all understanding, victory over death's sting, and an eternal destiny.  We feed the soul by using God's provisions in the way He intended.  "All time is nothing to God’s eternity, much less our share of time."
        Our souls are not meant to be fed occasionally, but daily by God's resources.  We need our daily bread of God's Word, prayers without ceasing and daily encouragement by our brethren.  Hebrews 3;13  ''But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.''
       " With this consideration also we should quicken ourselves to do good in our places according to our capacity. God has made us, and given us life, and therefore we should study to use our life to some good purpose, to spend it in glorifying God and serving our generation according to his will, that we may answer the end of our creation and it may not be said that we were made in vain. "

You may be tempted to debate
To change another’s view,
But nothing speaks more powerfully
Than what Christ did in you
. —Sper

I pray that all those who are a witness to my life.. see, feel, and acknowledge how God is working on me and thru me for His purposes and glory.

Why do we need God: [M. Henry]

1]All the creatures, and mankind particularly, derive their being from him
2]We owe our being here, as His creation, to Him
3] We depend upon God for support in this life
4]We lie at His mercy
5] We are under his direction and dominion and entirely at his disposal
6] At His summons, every knee will bow to Him.  All souls are His.

        If your soul is feeling lost and depleted, then maybe you're starving it from Who it really needs... God.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

God Delivers

Ezekiel 18:30-32 "“Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall.  Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel?  For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!"

            This blog has been on my heart for some time now but I didn't know where to start.  I wanted to challenge the idea in a lot of churches that 'God is just Love'.  That is not the whole picture of God.  I would argue that 'God is Love and Just!'  John Piper's quote above, nails this true theology on the head.  God gives both love and wrath because He cannot ignore sin, but He gave us a way through love with His Son, Jesus, to avoid that wrath.  Deuteronomy 32:4  "All His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He."   God's love and justice intersect at the cross.
           "It’s true that life is often unfair. Some seem to be blessed with far more opportunities than others, but let’s not blame God. These injustices are here because mankind’s sin has invaded God’s creation. The Lord allows them, but He has not caused them. He grieves over them more than we do, loves us equally, has made eternal salvation available to all, and will judge everyone by the principle: “To whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48).  At the end of time, the Lord will right all the wrongs of the ages, and even the people most deprived and mistreated in this life will be satisfied with God’s justice. Ultimately, no one will have reason to accuse Him of being unfair."
           The verses above from Ezekiel are a call to each of us to repent and turn away from our own sins before our own destined judgement day, so that we may be pardoned and washed white as snow.  Then receive a new heart and life for God and His will in our life.

4 Points to Consider from Ezekiel 18:30-32 [M. Henry]

1] We must not only repent of our sins but turn away or run from them. Just as sins are specific to each of us, so is salvation.  Your relationship with Jesus is yours alone.

2] " If we repent not, we certainly perish, and our blood will be upon our own heads."  We are judged or forgiven according to our own hearts, not others.

3] God takes no pleasure in our demise but desires our welfare.  God's mercy shows how much He desires each of us to turn to Him.

4] "We are made for ever if we repent: Turn yourselves, and live. "  God has prepared an eternal place for those who surrender to His will and ways. 

        Elisabeth Elliot wrote "Heaven is not here, it's There. If we were given all we wanted here, our hearts would settle for this world rather than the next. God is forever luring us up and away from this one, wooing us to Himself and His still invisible Kingdom, where we will certainly find what we so keenly long for."

        Don't be fooled by Satan's lie that God's love ignores sin, instead believe in God's mercy and that His justice will prevail over sin, unless you repent.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Only Follow Jesus

John 8:12  " When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Psalm 1:1-2  "Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night."

        Have you ever considered how quickly culture has changed in your own lifetime?  Is your foundation of beliefs changing with the wind and the crowd or is it never changing with God as your true guide?  1 Peter 2:9 says, But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”   The crowd should never be our leader or decision maker, believers are called to be different from the world around them.
       Psalm 1 describes the character and ways of a godly person.  It tells of how seeking God through His Word directs his path in life.  The crowd is full of those who have no belief or wisdom in God and His plan for your life.

       Who makes up the crowd of the world: [M. Henry commentary]

1] The Ungodly-  Those who have no fear of the Lord and neglect their duty to the Lord.  They have no acknowledgement of God in their life.
2] Sinners- Those in open rebellion towards God and seek sin and the ways of Satan.  Hearts with no repentance.
3] Scorners- Those who openly defy all that is sacred, scoff at religion, and make a jest of sin

          We are to separate ourselves from evil, overcome peer pressure and not follow the 'norm' of society.  When we follow the crowd, we seek joy in the wrong places.  Joy is found in Christ alone.  The crowd will lead you to darkness and despair eventually, if not immediately.  Choose wisdom, the fear of the Lord and He will guide you as a lamp unto your feet.      
          One  of my favorite and most recommended books of mine is "Not a Fan" by Kyle Idleman.  It address the question, 'Are you a Jesus fan or a Jesus follower?'  Are we following His Truth's or the ways of man and culture?   I encourage everyone to read this book and decide which you are now and who you want to be...
Jesus fan or follower?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Grace and Mercy

Lamentations 3:22-23  "Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."

           We would be nothing without God's grace and mercy, but do we really understand their value and the difference between them.  In today's blog, I want to elaborate on these two gifts from God in a small, concise way so we can each appreciate them more.
          This past week we sang "God shed your grace on thee".  What are we asking for when we ask for His grace?  Grace is God's unmerited favor.. we can't earn this gift from God. Grace can also be defined as God giving us what we don't deserve.  "Jesus tenderly offers absolute grace. He forgave an adulteress, a thief on the cross, a disciple who had denied ever knowing Him, and a man named Saul, who had made his mark persecuting Christians. Grace is absolute and all-encompassing, extending even to those who nailed Jesus to the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” were among the last words He spoke on earth (Luke 23:34)."  This endless gift of grace reminds me of the lyrics.. 'Grace, grace, God's grace.. grace that is greater than all my sin.'
           So what is God's gift of mercy?  Mercy is God sparing or not giving us what we do deserve.  As in the Lamentations verse above... we are reminded that even if things are bad, we are not consumed by them, only because of His mercy.  2 Corinthians 4:9  "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."  M. Henry says, "Had we been dealt with according to our sins, we should have been consumed long ago; but we have been dealt with according to God’s mercies, and we are bound to acknowledge it to his praise."  When we talk with God about our struggles, we will more readily see the mercies He provides to us daily.  One of God's greatest mercies is time... time to turn back to Him.
          We may feel we are too sinful to have any hope of God's grace and mercy, but there is no one beyond God's reach.  His offer of grace to save is for all who chose to believe in Jesus' life, death and resurrection.  In 1 Timothy 1: 15-16, we are reassured by Paul that none of us are beyond hope..."Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.  But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life."

Hebrews 4:16

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."