Sunday, April 30, 2017

Worthy? That's Not The Question

"Love is not a matter of duty and bondage; rather, life in the Spirit is a life of care and concern for others, enabled by the Spirit."

         As you read the caption above, it is implied that we might think we ourselves are worthy of love but others might not be.  That's stinkin' thinkin'.  No one is good, no not one.. but God alone.  God is worthy of our praise and obedience.  Mark 10:18 "“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone." So when God's second commandment commands us to  'love one another', there is no prerequisite required of the other upon which we show love to. Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

"God, being good infinitely, originally, and eternally, is to be loved in the first place, and nothing loved beside him, but what is loved for him. Love is the first and great thing that God demands from us, and therefore the first and great thing that we should devote to him."

How can we love one another?

1] Have honor and respect for all.
2] Do not wrong or injure others by our words or actions.
3] Good will and thoughts for all.
4] Deny ourselves for the good of another.
5] Make ourselves a servant for the true benefit of others.

Love Fulfills the Law--Romans 13:8-10
" Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.  The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."

       We teach children 'The Golden Rule'.. Matthew 7:12  “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets."  "Jesus knew that people are naturally lovers of self, and the command uses that human flaw as a place to start in how to treat othersJesus’ Golden Rule is a positive command to show love proactively." We must not be hypocrites, but understand that 'but for the grace of God go I.'  So when you see hardship, despair or simple need... consider in what way you yourself might want a helping hand or kind gesture or loving word , if you were on the receiving end.  

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Sharing Your Testimony

 Romans 14: 10-12  "For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me;  every tongue will acknowledge God.’”  So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God."

      God works in a lot of ways through us to others.  We can be good or bad examples by how we live and respond to our daily encounters with joy and hardships. You may be the only 'bible' someone sees and reads.  I challenge you to write out and share your testimony, how God came in and changed your life for His eternal purposes.  I'm not saying it's easy, because this has been my toughest blog to write thus far.  It is rewarding though because you are reminded of His faithfulness, even if you don't put it all on paper to share everything.

My testimony…

          From the beginning, I was raised in the church.  As a child,  I faced the weakness of this body that my soul was in.  I found comfort in what I was being taught in children’s church and other youth activities.  I learned who Jesus Creator, my Redeemer,  my Healer, my Sustainer, and my Savior for my sin debt.  At the age of 9, I gave my life to the Lord and was baptized.  I wanted to feel secure in knowing where I’d spend eternity if my life were to end and to have my own relationship with Christ.

         At the age of 9, I had not really faced many temptations of the world, but I knew I was a sinner in need of His grace to save me.   As I grew older, I knew I did have the Spirit of peace within me as I dealt with life’s trials of surgeries, being different than my friends and just life as a young girl in a wicked world.  I found strength through prayer.  My downfall was the belief in myself, as much as the Spirit within me. 

Proverbs 22:6  “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

         Even when I was away from church, the desire to seek more of God remained in me.  I know God has been working on my sanctification in many ways and opportunities.  One example, a church student union at college allowed me to park my scooter in their building.  After making friends there, I ended up in a bible study and back in His Word.

          My life wasn’t a ‘total’ surrender to His will until the age of 30. I’m guilty of wanting what the world offered and ignoring the cost of it.  God allowed me to have all that I wanted from the world…a marriage, a home, a career…but I failed to put Him first and above all things.. therefore I reaped the consequences.  I’m thankful for that discipline.

Ephesians 2:1-3  "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath."

        My life was at a crossroad of choice.. will I hang on to my will or trust in His guiding?  My world was stripped away and what I thought was my end..was actually my new beginning.  I thank God for doing whatever it took..and yes it hurt a lot…to get my dependence centered on Him alone.  I thank God that since age 9, I've never felt truly alone.  I thank God that as much as I’ve failed Him and chosen the world, that He hasn’t given up on me and continues His good work in me.  I thank God that I am forgiven because of His sacrifice.  I thank God that I don’t fear death because of His resurrection and promises that He has prepared a place for me with Him.  I thank God for His continuing grace and mercy that provides for my daily needs, my desires according to His will and for my eternal salvation.

Ephesians 2:8-10  "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. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Where The Mind Can Drift To

Psalm 139:23  "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts."

Philippians 4:4-7  " Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

      Anxiety is the work of the the devil and can keep us from knowing the work of God, the Prince of Peace, in our lives. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, "God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, of love, and a sound mind." "Every time you feel fear in your life, it is a manifestation of the kingdom of darkness. Fear is one of the ruling spirits."  God goes before us in everything but it is our duty to ask God to prepare our hearts and minds for what lies ahead of us.  Giving into fear can make you miss out on God's blessings that were meant for you.
       Genesis 12:1 "The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you."  What a reason for anxious thoughts, right?  Would you just trust and obey, even with direct words from God back then?  Genesis 12:4 "So Abram went, as the Lord had told him."  Abram obeyed because he trusted in God's promises in verses 2 and 3.."“I will make you into a great nation,  and I will bless you; I will make your name great,  and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you,  and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth  will be blessed through you."
       As the caption illustrates, our anxious thoughts can take our minds down a whirlwind of possibilities.  The fear of the unknown can be debilitating.  What do we know in any and all situations.. 1]God is working for the good of all believers, 2] God is in control, 3] Our prayers are always heard, 4] God will sustain you, even if your worst fear comes to pass, and 5] Satan will tempt you to doubt God's plan for your life but God's word is our comfort and hope.
      As for myself... I've been scared at times, like everyone, but I try to keep my fear under control.  I've been in situations where I've been forced to wait on God to provide with no ability of my own to escape... like my scooter being stuck in the snow until neighbors came home, being laid out in the middle of the street face down with a broken nose from a fall until a driver stopped to help, or having to give up my life's path to the new one God had set before me.  My trust in God has never been a wrong decision, so why can't I be quicker to trust and obey?  Sanctification is a long road and sometimes my walk is slow with 3 steps forward and 2 steps back.
       May your anxious thoughts go first to our Wonderful Counselor, Comforter and Healer.  "We put down our burdens when we bring them to the Lord in prayer. The apostle Peter says, "Cast all your anxiety on [Jesus] because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7). Because He cares for us, we can rest and relax as we learn to trust Him. Instead of carrying the burdens that weigh us down and weary us, we can give them to the Lord and let Him carry them." []

Thursday, April 20, 2017

God Made Them All

"Maker of Heaven and Earth"

All things bright and beautiful, 
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours,
He made their tiny wings.

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them, high or lowly,
And ordered their estate.

The purple-headed mountain,
The river running by,
The sunset, and the morning,
That brightens up the sky;

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
We gather every day;--

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell,
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.
1] God is the Creator, Sustainer, Ruler of all.  
Isaiah 44:24  "“This is what the Lord says—   your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb:I am the Lord,    the Maker of all things,  who stretches out the heavens,  who spreads out the earth by myself"  
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you."

3] The order and beauty of the universe reflect and proclaim the existence, wisdom and power of God.

Proverbs 8:22-31
The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works,
    before his deeds of old;
23 I was formed long ages ago,
    at the very beginning, when the world came to be.
24 When there were no watery depths, I was given birth,
    when there were no springs overflowing with water;
25 before the mountains were settled in place,
    before the hills, I was given birth,
26 before he made the world or its fields
    or any of the dust of the earth.
27 I was there when he set the heavens in place,
    when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
28 when he established the clouds above
    and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
29 when he gave the sea its boundary
    so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
30     Then I was constantly at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
    rejoicing always in his presence,
31 rejoicing in his whole world
    and delighting in mankind."

        Have you not seen? Have you not heard?  Have you not felt the power of God in all that surrounds your own life?  We all have, so no one is excusable to not praise Him for everything.  All the earth will one day bow down before Him.  With the whales talking, the trees rustling, the oceans echoing and with all of nature's sounds.. when put together, it's an orchestra of praise.  Start right now and let God hear your praise and thankfulness from your excuses to wait.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Full Life

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12  "To make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody."

Psalm 39:4  “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is."

       Don't we want to make the most of our days?  A lot of people do busy-work, both with their minds and their hands, but get very little accomplished.  A life without peace is a life of chaos.  God is a god of order, not chaos.  When we have His peace within in us, we can rest in His assurance of doing what is right and bear much more fruit.  
       God never promised an easy life, but did say there WILL be tribulation.  John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  So this caption above isn't to ignore the problems we face but yet a prayer to overcome our trials and make the most of the time we are given.  Many of the gospel sermons preached today are about God helping man through this life but the true gospel is about how we can fulfill God's purposes through our lives.  
      This life is made up of but a few mere years and days left to glorify God in what we say and others watch us.  So Lord, let us consider that... 1]Death is coming and we don't know when, 2] We are frail and the body will decay, 3] Saving grace was given for all but it's you who will accept or decline His offer and sacrifice, and 4] The consequence of that decision is eternal.
      R.F. Becker writes, "Friend, I am writing to you today because time is short. The day of grace is fast slipping away. The great day of judgment is drawing nearer every hour. The thread of life is slowly but surely winding up. The sands of time for each of us will soon run down to rise no more. You and I are traveling far faster than we think through time towards eternity. Only a few more fleeting days and every soul of us will have gone forever to his own place of heaven or hell. Therefore I meet you in faithfulness and solemnness today and ask you only one question: Are you a forgiven soul?"


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Silent? Open His Word to Hear

"Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom 
or the strong man boast of his strength
or the rich man boast of his riches,
but let him who boasts boast about this:
that he understands and knows me,
that I am the Lord,
who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight," declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23,24)

       God is never silent.  His Word is the answer for everything.  When we guide ourselves with just intuitions or by the ways of the world, our lives turn onto a chaotic path of twists, turns and dead ends.  "If you were lost in the woods, you'd be very thankful to find a compass in your pocket. Chances are you would not ignore its guidance by following your own hunch about which direction was north.  Like a compass, Scripture provides sure guidance for the Christian life."
What we may depend on:
1] Our only comfort in times of trouble may be that we have done our duty, to know The Lord.   The more we study the Bible, the more we learn about the Author.  His Word never changes and will endure forever.  When we know God, we see through the Scripture that He is knowable, welcoming, forgiving, just, righteous, creative, mysterious, promising, honest, true and everything we should trust in.
2] Our only strength in times of trouble may be that we trust in God to be all sufficient for us.  Memorized Scripture is a balm to the anxious soul.  When we trust that God will never forsake us, it invigorates the weary mind to have courage.  Fear is crushed when you trust God with all your needs, rather than yourself.  Silver and gold can't buy you all you need, but His grace is sufficient for everything.
3] Our only confidence in times of trouble may be that we have done our duty, to follow Jesus as his children.  When we choose not to just be a fan of God, but to be a follower, we trust in His will for our lives above our own worldly desires.  "Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it." (Luke 9:23-24)  We follow Jesus by the choices we make that please Him, not the world.  Also, our decisions are easier to make when we choose to please God first, help others second and put ourselves last.
        A man's wisdom may fail him when he needs it most, a man's body will give out when it's exhausted all it's efforts, and a man's treasures may be stripped of him at any point in time so why do we boast of such unreliable things?  Let us look to the One who never fails, who is all powerful, and who is merciful with His abundant grace.  His guidance through His Word is not silent, but a treasure that's awaiting to reveal itself to you.  The Book of John is a good place to start.
       As for myself, my 'wise' choices have led me down rocky paths, my strength has withered away and my worldly possessions have been sold what do I have to boast about?  Much!  Much more now than when the world was my oyster!  I can boast about how God is my guide, He is my strength through His grace and daily bread and His provisions for me overwhelm me.  There is so much to praise Him for, I think it will take all of eternity!


Monday, April 10, 2017

He Gives!

        God gives us everything and this particular Psalm is a good account of our needs and gracious supply.  I can't think of anything missing... can you?  David lists here the benefits of the care bestowed upon us by the Good Shepherd to his beloved sheep.
        Matthew Henry says, "In this he had certainly an eye, not only to the blessings of God’s providence, which made his outward condition prosperous, but to the communications of God’s grace, received by a lively faith, and returned in a warm devotion, which filled his soul with joy unspeakable."
        From this Psalm, there are three conclusions for the believer:

1] The believer shall not want for anything that is good for them.
What does that mean?  It means God will supply for all your needs.  If your desires are not met, then it's either not the right time or it's not meant for your own good to have.  Isn't that a blessing!  Let my hands not be sticky, if it's meant to slip through my hands.  Let go of the desire for worldly pleasures and build your own storehouse of heavenly treasures.

2]The believer need not to be fearful of evil in the dangers around them.  
God's presence is always with the believer.  "We have the supports and comforts of this life from God’s good hand, our daily bread from him as our Father. The greatest abundance is but a dry pasture to a wicked man, who relishes that only in it which pleases the senses; but to a godly man, who tastes the goodness of God in all his enjoyments, and by faith relishes that, though he has but little of the world, it is a green pasture."   When we know and believe in God's care and watch over us, there is a peace that sustains us through the difficulties of this life.  It doesn't eliminate the dangers around us, but He gives us a calm sense of security when we call on Him in our anxious state of mind.
Even in death Jesus gives believers a peace with what is to come next.  Jesus, "That name therefore shall still be my strong tower, and shall assure me that he who has led me, and fed me, all my life long, will not leave me at last."

3]The believer is reminded of His continual mercy throughout one's life
David acknowledges that the provisions for his life were not just made for the necessities but that he was abundantly blessed and provided for.  "My cup runneth over."  We too are given mercy beyond measure..."pardoning mercy, protecting mercy, sustaining mercy, and supplying mercy."  David is confident in God's constant mercy, when he says 'Surely it will follow me all the days of my life.'  David goes even further to recognize God's goodness on into eternity for believers.  'Dwelling in His House, Forever'...there is no better place to be for eternity.  What a blessing that awaits us!

       I hope the 23rd Psalm fills your heart with a new light on how good God's care for us is overwhelmingly sufficient.  We need only to look to Him for all of our needs and desires.  He will not disappoint, like the world will.  Trust Him today, and forever more!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Let My Words Be Few

Ecclesiastes 5:2  "Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few."

James 1: 19-20  "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires."

       Hearing should be easy, but actual listening can be rather difficult at times.  We are easily distracted and are attention is snatched away in a flash.  Sometimes the world is so loud that the whispers of God go by unnoticed.  Yet sometimes God is shouting, but all we want to hear is the world.  Really hearing God, or anyone, requires patience, energy, focus and love.  " In our sin, we’d rather trust in ourselves than another, amass our own righteousness than receive another’s, speak our thoughts than listen to someone else."  
       Listening to God.   "Why are we so terrified for God to speak to us? It is because we know that when God speaks we must either do what He asks or tell Him we will not obey." Prayer is a two way conversation between you and God, not just a place to express ourselves and our needs.  Are you listening, as well as speaking, to God? Listening to God takes reverence and humility.  Going to a place to be alone with God means turning off the world and it's distractions that pry our attention away.  Romans 10:17, "Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ."  We have to remember that God's always at work so we must listen for the direction we seek and be patient while we wait.  God not only longs for us to hear His voice, but to listen and follow His will. 
       Listening to others.  “Poor listening diminishes another person, while good listening invites them to exist and matter.”  How often are we preparing our response in our minds, rather than listening to the full story?  "We need to hear the whole train of thought, all the way to the caboose, before starting across the tracks."  We must not get defensive but wait to express our opinions till it's our turn.  Proverbs 18:13.. "To answer before listening—that is folly and shame."  Sometimes, listening neither requires or wants a response of any kind, verbal or with body language.  It is a comfort just to know you've been heard, even if nothing changes right then.
       From Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, "He who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life. . . . Anyone who thinks that his time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God and his brother, but only for himself and for his own follies."
      As for myself, many of my friends think I'm a good listener.  I can't take all of the credit, because my mask keeps me quiet [verbally] until it's taken off.   Therefore, I do have a little extra time to consider what I'm going to say.  My mask has saved me from some foolish outbursts and I thank God right then and there for my mask.  Yes, my mask and diminished air endurance has taught me to listen more intently and let my words be fewer, but also to make my fewer words count more with a purpose in mind.  May my two ears do more work in my own life, than my one mouth, and may I follow what I hear from Him alone.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Depend, Trust and Provided For

Psalm 37:28  "For the Lord loves the just
    and will not forsake his faithful ones.
Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed;
    the offspring of the wicked will perish."

Isaiah 66:1-2 This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word”

       'Dependence' is often thought of as a weakness with negative aspects.  Whereas, 'Self reliance' is thought of in terms of strength and power.  These are both human ideas, but God thinks of them in just the opposite manner for us.  He wants us to depend on Him for all things and recognize that humbly before Him.  Tell me how much you depend on Him alone in your life, not yourself, and the strength of your faith will be revealed.
        If we don't recognize our dependence on God for everything, then we can come before Him not with a bold request, but in an arrogant manner.  "It is the certain knowledge that we may stand in the presence of God unafraid because we rest and rely on Jesus and His righteousness alone. God-pleasing boldness flows from absolute dependence on Christ."  "The Lord has a positive regard only for those who acknowledge their sin, seek forgiveness in humility, and depend on His grace alone and not anything in or from themselves."
       True dependence requires trust.  You have to believe whole-heartily that God has got 'whatever' you're needing covered.  We should all remember His record of faithfulness to each of  us and therefore trust Him more each day.  As Job recalled, "You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit."
        As for myself, I've been there and doubted God's provisions for me and that is a scary place to be.  It is so much easier to just let the fear of the unknown go and trust that He has already made a way for whatever is around the corner because He is already there.  He has worked things out so far ahead and thus there is the Book of Revelation...and it's a good endng.  So it's true in my own life, He has everything worked out for what lies ahead of me.  My reliance is on Him for everything and He provides it all, including my salvation...and one day... I've got a good ending too of glorification.