Monday, February 28, 2011

Longing for Heaven - February 28, 2011

2 Corinthians 12:2-4 (New Living Translation)
2 I[Greek-I know a man in Christ who] was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows. 3 Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know 4 that I was caught up[Greek-But I know such a man,that he was caught up.] to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell.
Philippians 1:21-24 (New King James Version)
21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.

As I go through this life, there are many times when I find myself longing for Heaven. I look forward to being in the presence of God, taking in all that He has prepared for me. I imagine what it will be like, and for me, nothing fits my imagination than a mountain scene. I imagine God's throne high atop a mountain surrounded by unspeakable beauty, and the whole place filled bright with His light. Some may think that I have gone "overboard", but I am comfortable and secure in knowing that He has great things in store for me beyond this life, and I am longing to be in Heaven with Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul had much the same thoughts because of an encounter he had when he was taken up into heaven. He encountered things indescribable in human terms and unspeakable for ordinary man, because of its holiness. I am sure his zeal for spreading the good news of Jesus Christ, the gospel, was in part due to his many experiences with God and the living Christ. Later in life he too longed to be with Christ in heaven, and as he was nearing the end of his life, he tried to share as much as he could before his departure.

You too can live with the same longing and assurance that I have. You too can long for Heaven. All you need is to fully and totally surrender yourself to God. He has already made it possible for you; He reaches out to you and offers the hope and redemption He has already prepared for you, through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Jesus has stepped out of the grave to show you the way. Are you ready to follow Him?

Photo "Singing Pass, looking east. Whistler,BC" from

Sunday, February 27, 2011

God's Academy Awards - February 27, 2011

2 Timothy 4:8 (New International Version, ©2010)
8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Tonight many are watching what I feel is one of the biggest festivals of self-aggrandizement and self-worship man could ever invent. Every year we watch as actors, directors, producers, and the rest of the Hollywood who's who crowd get together to enhance and exaggerate their own importance, power, and reputation.

Yes, it is the night of the Acedemy Awards, Oscar night, the night when all of Hollywood comes together to recognize each other. They give each other awards voted on by themselves, their peers. Sad thing is that millions of people in this country and around the world waste a night of their time watching this spectacle on television. It is no wonder that so many of this crowd are having so many problems in their lives.

Pesonally I am looking forward to God's Academy Awards. He has promised us that if we follow Jesus Christ and live for Him, there will be a time when we will be recognized for our efforts on of behalf of God's kingdom. Not that we should be motivated by the awards, but it is nice to know that everything we do for Him will be recognized by Him. He awards those characteristics such selflessness, sacrifice, giving, charity, long-suffering, and many other things we do for those around us in His name.

If you are thrilled by worldy accolades and awards, you really should do a personal checkup of your priorities. Instead of being mesmerized by all this false glitz and glamour, make every effort to make God's values your first priority.

Photo from

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Utopia - February 26, 2011

Acts 2:42-47 (New International Reader's Version)
42 The believers studied what the apostles taught. They shared life together. They broke bread and ate together. And they prayed. 43 Everyone felt that God was near. The apostles did many wonders and miraculous signs.

44 All the believers were together. They shared everything they had. 45 They sold what they owned. They gave each other everything they needed. 46 Every day they met together in the temple courtyard. In their homes they broke bread and ate together. Their hearts were glad and honest and true.

47 They praised God. They were respected by all the people. Every day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.

People are always looking for the perfect place, free of want, strife, hunger, pain, that can fulfill all the needs of the human spirit. To many that place, that state of society is called Utopia. This title was derived from Utopia by Sir Thomas More, written in 1516, about an imaginery island representing the perfect society. In the book More describes the ideals in this land pertaining to all manner of society, life and religion.

Today, there are many political ideologues that think they can create the perfect utopian society, based on a socialist governmental system. Unfortunately, the perfect society requires perfect individuals to live perfectly, before all of the ideals of can be met. This is totally unrealistic, because mankind can never be perfect. Inside all of us exists selfishness, greed, contempt, malice, and many sorts of characteristics that would make a perfect co-existence with other impossible.

There is one way tha we can almost get there. A way that we can live in peace and harmony, caring for each other and sharing everything to the mutual benefit of each other. The only way is if we all believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and base that society on living the way He would expect us to, by always following His example. It would only be possible if we fully surrender ourselves to His leadeship.

This was how the early church existed as recorded in the New Testament book of Acts. We read that "they shared life together, broke bread and ate together, they prayed, and everyone felt that God was near. They shared everything they had, sold what they owned, and gave each other everything they needed. Their hearts were glad and honest and true".

Someday soon God will restore everything to the way he originally intended, but until then we need to live out our Christian faith and strive to live like the early church. Not only with our fellow believers, but with everyone we come in contact with. By our example, we can hope to add to our group of fellow believers, and help many to come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, while we wait for His return.

Photo from Living Word Fellowship, Ilhas, Goa, India, where they live out their faith in fellowship with other believers in Christ. It is lead by Michael & Shvetha Fernandes, and you can read their story in their "About Us" section of the website.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Daily Dependence - February 25, 2011

Luke 11:2-3 (New International Reader's Version)
2 Jesus said to them, "When you pray, this is what you should say.

"Father, may your name be honored. May your kingdom come.

3 Give us each day our daily bread."

When you get up in the morning, what are your first thoughts? Do you thank God for giving you another day here in earth? Do you ask Him to bless the day? Do you ask Him to guide you throughout the day, and to protect your family? Asking for your "daily bread" is probably way down on the list of firsts to pray for in the morning, yet to Jesus, as recorded here in the New Testament book of Luke, this request comes first after praising the Father's holiness and praying for the coming kingdom of God.

I believe that the point that Jesus was trying to make to His disciples is that their first focus of prayer after worship should be one of total dependence. This simple statement says alot. It proclaims that they are dependent on God to provide them everything. It is a statement of surrender. For us it might be, "God please make sure that there is food on our table". It acknowledges your daily dependence on Him for everything we have and everything we do.

In the Western world, we are fairly independent. From an early age, we think that what we obtain comes from our own efforts. We forget that God was the One who gave us life and the ability to achieve and attain whatever we have. This is true for all of us. Rarely do we recognize that He gives us all things. Rarely are we totally dependent on God for all of our material needs. Spiritual maybe, but not for how we "make a living" and provide for our families. This is probably more true for men than women, but when was the last time you thanked God for your haircut or manicure?

Usually the only time we truly depend on God for the material is when we lose our job in some way. Then, and sometimes only then, do we lift up prayers to heaven and plea for His deliverance from that situation. I want to get like Paul, who while being chained to Roman guards in prison could still say this:

12 "I know what it's like not to have what I need. I also know what it's like to have more than I need. I have learned the secret of being content no matter what happens. I am content whether I am well fed or hungry. I am content whether I have more than enough or not enough. 13 I can do everything by the power of Christ. He gives me strength." Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV)

I would pray that all of us would be totally dependent on God for everything. I pray that we don't have to learn the lesson the hard way by having to do without. I pray that we would all acknowledge where all that we have comes from, and I pray that we may pass this knowledge of our daily dependence on God, to those who come after us.

About the photo: In 1918 in the town of Bovey, Minnesota Eric Enstorm took a photo of Charles Wilden sitting at a small table in prayer. As soon as the negative was developed, Enstrom was sure he had something special... a picture that seemed to say, This man doesn't have much of earthly goods, but he has more than most people because he has a thankful heart. Today Enstrom's picture GRACE, is known and loved throughout the world. Also known as Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread and as The Old Man Praying At The Dinner Table. ...Information and art can be obtained from

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Send Me! - February 24, 2011

Isaiah 6:1-8 (New International Reader's Version)
1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord. He was seated on his throne. His long robe filled the temple. He was highly honored.

2 Above him were seraphs. Each of them had six wings. With two wings they covered their faces. With two wings they covered their feet. And with two wings they were flying. 3 They were calling out to one another. They were saying,

"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord who rules over all.
The whole earth is full of his glory."

4 The sound of their voices caused the stone doorframe to shake. The temple was filled with smoke.

5 "How terrible it is for me!" I cried out. "I'm about to be destroyed! My mouth speaks sinful words. And I live among people who speak sinful words. Now I have seen the King with my own eyes. He is the Lord who rules over all."

6 A seraph flew over to me. He was holding a hot coal. He had used tongs to take it from the altar. 7 He touched my mouth with the coal. He said, "This has touched your lips. Your guilt has been taken away. Your sin has been paid for."

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord. He said, "Who will I send? Who will go for us?"

I said, "Here I am. Send me!"

This is probably one of my favorite passages of Scripture in the Bible. Often when I am preparing to worship, or when I am sitting quietly in Church, or ene when I feel like connecting with God, I will read these verse in Old Testament Book of Isaiah. I imagine myself in Isaiah's place, standing before the throne of God; I picture His robe flowing through the Holy Temple, and filling it with His glory. I think of the majesty and glory of God, surrounded by the angels, gving Him praise and honor.

If I were in Isaiah shoes, would I be as fearful of God as he was? Isaiah was awstruck and at the same time he was struck with fear, because in an instant he realized his wickedness and sin against the purity and holiness of God. He realized that in his own efforts, he would never be worthy enough to stand before God. Yet God thought enough of His prophet to ask Him if he would be God's voice to the people. Isaiah volunteered to serve the Holy Trinity, the "us" of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. He would go for God to speak to God's people.

I often long to hear God's clear and audible voice ask me to do something. Walking in faith would be "piece of cake", if God just talked to us. It would be so much easier to know exactly what God wanted me to do; I would have loved to have volunteered and say, "Send me!" I would have loved to be of service to the King of Glory.

If you are "walking" under the grace and mercy of God, you are called to be His servant. There should be no Christian who doesn't know in His heart and mind that God is the one leading Him. We should not need to hear God's audible voice, because within us the Holy Spirit confirms His presence each and everyday, each and every time we call on Him.

Our job is to "listen" and go where God guides us. It is up to us to freely surrender oursleves to His service and say, "Send me!"

Photo by "Sun Breaker" by pixelstar, 2-1-2006, from stock.xchng

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

On That Day! - February 23, 2011

Isaiah 2:2-5 (New International Reader's Version)

2 In the last days
the mountain where the Lord's temple is located will be famous.
It will be the most important mountain of all.
It will stand out above the hills.
All of the nations will go to it.

3 People from many nations will go there. They will say,

"Come. Let us go up to the Lord's mountain.
Let's go to the house of Jacob's God.
He will teach us how we should live.
Then we will live the way he wants us to."
The law of the Lord will be taught at Zion.
His message will go out from Jerusalem.

4 He will judge between the nations.
He'll settle problems among many of them.
They will hammer their swords into plows.
They'll hammer their spears into pruning tools.
Nations will not go to war against one another.
They won't even train to fight anymore.

5 People of Jacob, come.
Let us live the way the Lord has taught us to.

The world is a very troubled place these days. Although we hear mainly about the unrest in the Middle East, and the rumblings of trouble in our own country, there is much more going on than we even know.

Earthquakes, plagues, hunger, murder, war, all of these things go on somewhere on the arth every minute of the day on our planet. It is difficult to know how we fit into the scheme of things. Each day we wake up to one more overwhelming incident after another, and it is enough to cause fear for oursleves and those we love around us.

That said, God expects us to be His "light among the nations", to be that representative of His hope in this very troubled world. Not that we are expected to do something global for the Kingdom of God, but in our own little world that God has given us stewardship over, we must do our part.
We must fearlessly and boldy move forward towards the goal He has set before us.

It is not mere coincidence that you are doing what you do, in the place in which you are, at the time in which you find yourself. It is not by your own efforts that you are a believer in Jesus Christ, and if you are not, it is not by chance that He is drawing you to Him this very minute.

There will be a day when God will make all things right again. On that day, He will bring about justice and peace, and those who chose to turn their backs on Him will be dealt with. As for now, we are to "live the way he wants us to".

Photo "Up in the Mountains" by rolve, 7-8-2009, from stock.xchng

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

His Good Will - February 22, 2011

Philippians 2:12-13 (New International Version, ©2010)
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Philippians 2:12-13 (The Message)
12-13What I'm getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you've done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I'm separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God's energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.

So, what is God's will? It is a question I know I will be searching for the rest of my life. God has led me to this point in my life. He chose the time and place, the occupation and circumstances, my past and my future. Eeverything that is "me" is under His control. His will is what I will prayerfully pursue forever. He has gifted me with a seat at His table, a place of rest at His feet. It took a long, round about way to get me here, but now I am here.

I have tried to answer what is meant by God's will, but I believe only each person can discover and answer that question. None of us is the same, and His will for each of us is different. What ties us together is our pursuit to find His will for each one of us, to pursue it, and in the end to be found acceptable for doing so. I would want nothing else but to have served at God's good pleasure, and like Paul the apostle before me, be acknowledged as a good and faithful servant.

Then again, since God is ultimately in control, He will help me complete the assignment He has laid out for me! Comforting isn't it? In the end, if we call on Him to be our Lord and Savior, He will make sure we do what He wants us to do! He will help us to do His good and perfect will.

Photo "Bible Reading" by ProLife, 9-2-2004, from stock.xchng

Monday, February 21, 2011

Our Free Will - February 21, 2011

Ezekiel 18:32; Ezekiel 33:11 (New International Version, ©2010)
18:32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!
33:11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’

Matthew 18:14 (New King James Version)
14 Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

1 Timothy 2:3-4 (New International Reader's Version)
3 That is good. It pleases God our Savior. 4 He wants everyone to be saved. He wants them to come to know the truth.

I have often wondered and about the billions of people on this planet that are "lost". By lost I mean that they either don't know or have rejected that the only way of salvation is through Jesus Christ. Many in this world would dispute that, but fact is that once you have studied the Bible, and every other religious text, only Jesus claimed to be the full represenation and only way to God.

Once I fully grasp what He was offering, what Jesus did on the cross in sacrificing himself for our sins became very clear to me. The more I studied the Bible and the Old Testament sacrificial system, the more I read how God's people would wander from Him despite His provision and love, the more it became obvious that mankind needed a permanent solution to his sinfulness and waywardness.

God, through His love, grace, mercy and soveriegn will, determined that He would have to be the One to redeem His people. Just like a good parent would rather take the punishment or pain inflicted on their children, God decided that He needed to take it upon Himself to resolve man's problem of sin by taking on the just punishment that sin would require. No other religious teaching has God doing the work to bring man to Himself. The sole requirement is for us to freely believe and accept it.

If you are still not a Christian, God has given you the free will to choose His way of rescue. He has known you from the beginning and He knows when your life will end. For all of us, our time on this earth is short. He will not let you or anyone get away from His holiness and justice. Someday we will all have to reconcile our account with Him. Better to do it in this life, by accepting His free gift of salvation, than have to stand judgement in the after life.

If you were called to stand before Him without Jesus Christ, would your good outweigh your bad on the scales of justice? When the gavel comes down at your judgement, where you will spend eternity?

2 Peter 3:9 (New Century Version)
9 The Lord is not slow in doing what he promised—the way some people understand slowness. But God is being patient with you. He does not want anyone to be lost, but he wants all people to change their hearts and lives.

Photo "Hammer to Fall" by gmarcelo, 12-4-2006, from stock.xchng

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A New Song - February 20, 2011

Psalm 40:3 (New International Version, ©2010)
3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.

Psalm 98:1 (New Living Translation)
1 Sing a new song to the Lord, for he has done wonderful deeds. His right hand has won a mighty victory; his holy arm has shown his saving power!

Some time ago, I heard a great message about praise and worship. In it I heard that when you study the Scriptures, its hard to find where praise and worship as singing is done by anyone other than mankind. If you read carefully, most of the time when we think that the angels are singing in praise and worship, they are actually speaking the words. Only in Job 38:6-7 is there a vague reference to the angels singing.

The message went further to explain that God has put the "song" in the hearts of those that He has redeemed. They then express their love and thankfulness to God through lifting up His praises in songs of thanksgiving. Singing praises and worship to our God has become such a part of the faith experience, that one can't imagine what it would be like without it.

If you are a committed Christian, its hard not to be joyful and to lift up praises in song to our God and Savior Jesus Christ for what He has done for us. Some day soon though, God will put a new song in our mouths, no longer about the suffering Servant who laid down His life for our sins, but a new song for our worthy and conquering King who will bring us with Him into His kingdom.

Revelation 5:9-10 (New International Version, ©2010)
9 And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”

Photo "Praises 5" by Martin, 7-30-2007, from stock.xchng

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A psalm. A song. For the Sabbath day. - February 19, 2011

Psalm 92 (New International Version, ©2010)

1 It is good to praise the LORD
and make music to your name, O Most High,
2 proclaiming your love in the morning
and your faithfulness at night,
3 to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
and the melody of the harp.

4 For you make me glad by your deeds, LORD;
I sing for joy at what your hands have done.
5 How great are your works, LORD,
how profound your thoughts!
6 Senseless people do not know,
fools do not understand,
7 that though the wicked spring up like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they will be destroyed forever.

8 But you, LORD, are forever exalted.

9 For surely your enemies, LORD,
surely your enemies will perish;
all evildoers will be scattered.
10 You have exalted my horn[b] like that of a wild ox;
fine oils have been poured on me.
11 My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries;
my ears have heard the rout of my wicked foes.

12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
13 planted in the house of the LORD,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green,
15 proclaiming, “The LORD is upright;
he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”

Photo "Playing Harp" by Gerrit, 10-27-2005 from stock.xchng

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pre-Determined Will - February 18, 2011

Ephesians 1:4-6 (New International Version, ©2010)
4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

Ephesians 1:4-6 (The Message)
3-6How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He's the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

Have you ever thought about why you are here? I am sure you have, because we all have. Many of us spend our entire lives wandering around fairly aimlessly, without a clue of what we are destined for. I would venture to say that, although many of us know what we would like to do in life and work and other things, we really don't know what tomorrow will bring us. We don't even know if we will have a tomorrow, and for some, that can be pretty scary.

Do you realize that when you woke up this morning and headed off to work or school, when you had lunch or a break, or when you drove home to see your family, that it was all part of God's plan? Seems pretty incredible doesn't it, but nothing that you do, or that happens to you is a suprise to God. He knew your beginning and He absolutely knows when this all will end for you. Personally, I wouldn't want that kind of knowledge, but for our all-knowing God, it is all part of His plan.

What's so amazing about all of this is that before the earth and everything in it was created, God knew you! He made you and knew when you would be conceived (Psalm 139:13-16;Jeremiah 1:5). He knew when you would be born, and first walk, and go to school, when you would rebel and turn away, and when you would come back to Him. He pre-determined, because He wanted to, that you would exist today! He purposed in His heart to create you, to rescue you from the world of sin and all of your junk, and to lift you up by His grace to be redeemed by Him.

If you know that you are a Christian, you need to continually praise Him for allowing you to be "in His will", and for rescuing you to serve Him.

Photo "Determination" by thadz,11-10-2006 from stock.xchng

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Copycat - February 17, 2011

Romans 12:2 (New Living Translation)
2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

All of our lives we strive to be like other people and to be liked by other people. Especially as teens, we were very sensitive to being like everybody else. We would copy people's clothes and the hair, the way they did things or how they acted. We did everything we could to be acceptable to those around us. As we become adults, nothing much changes, because we want to be accepted by the world!

In God's economy, what drives His opinion of us is what we do with what unique gifts and talents He has given us. He doesn't want us to copy everybody else; He wants us to take what He has given us and do something in service to Him, which is going and making disciples. What we need to do is to understand and know our gifts and talents, then seek God in finding His purpose for what He has given us.

As long as we reflect the world's purposes, our image of what God wants is blurred and we can't distinguish what is what. When we begin to reflect God in our lives, by being obedient to what He tells us to do in His word, then it is much easier to see His direction for our lives. He begins to open up opportunities in the very thing He has made us to do. Then it is our obligation to go out and do it.

Bottom line is this: Don't try and copy what the world places in front of us(don't get trapped into seeking to be like those in the world). Instead follow what we are told in the Bible pleases God, and seek to use our God given abilities to be more like His example for us, Jesus Christ. In doing so, we will know and do His will for our lives.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Will Power - February 16, 2011

1 John 5:14-15 (New International Version, ©2010)
14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

You might be thinking, "why do I need to know God's will?", or you might be a new Christian and not understand what is available to the Christian when we seek His will in all we do. There was a time, as I mentioned yesterday, when I lived my new Christian life on "autopilot", thinking God would just lead me here or there. True, God does ultimately direct our lives, but our lives become much richer and fruitful if we are synchronized with God.

When we are living "in the will of God", things seem to go along much more smoothly. We don't find ourselves running into dead ends and powerless in our Christian lives, when we are focused on doing what He has made us to do. Each of us is unique, and just because your friend is good at being a street evangelist doesn't mean that God wants you to be. His will for you might be to evangelize others by doing your work faithfully at your place of employment. Or you might be gifted and in God's will serving backstage in your church, rather than taking a leadership role.

Sooner or later as you walk with Jesus Christ, you will need to know God's will for your life and for your service to Him. That is the best way to avoid frustration and to be effective in what you do. It will also make your prayer life much more powerful and effective, because you will know what you need to ask for from God to equip you for the task you should be doing. The best part of being in God's will comes as the prayers and requests you make to God are answered.

Photo "Say Your Prayers" by criswatk, 10-27-2006 from stock.xchng

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

God's Will - February 15, 2011

Matthew 6:8-10 (New International Version, ©2010)
8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven."

In my many years of following Jesus Christ, and living as I believe God would want me to, it has always been hard for me to always know if what I was doing was what God wanted me to do. Soon after I became a Christian, I sort of allowed myself to be on "autopilot" thinking that God would direct me here or there.

Probably the most difficult question that a believer in Jesus Christ has is what is God's will for their life. It was the same for me. I wanted to know what God's will was for me, and what He wanted me to do while I was here to serve Him. For some, God is really clear and gives them specific direction, but for me it wasn't that easy.

For a time I felt that if I only believed, God would guide me here or there. I soon learned that I was abdicating my responsibility in this. I was not some mindless puppet with God pulling the strings. He had already left me alot of information to follow, and if I was going to know what I was supposed to do, I had to live by the instruction manual He had made available to me, and not just "wing-it". If I was to really know what He had in store for me, I would have to spend time in His word.

Understanding God's will can be difficult, so over the next few days I will look at what His will is, how He reveals His will, and how you can know what His will is for your life.

Photo "Shine Sky" by Flaivoloka, 7-6-2008 from stock.xchng

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Author of Love - February 14, 2011

1 Corinthians 13 (New International Version, ©2010)

1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Happy Valentine's Day from the Author and Creator of Love. We will not be able to grasp this side of Heaven "how wide and long and high and deep is the Love of Christ". God first loved us, and in turn we are able to Love each other. Deeper yet, God has created the more intimate Love relationship that we enjoy with our spouses that is a picture of the unity of God. I pray that on this day, all will know the Love of God and extend that Love to our spouses, our families, and each other.

Photo "Hearts" by Irum, 4-5-2007, from stock.xchng

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday Praise! - February 13, 2011

Psalm 135:1-7; Psalm 135:13-18 (New Living Translation)

1 Praise the Lord!

Praise the name of the Lord!
Praise him, you who serve the Lord,
2 you who serve in the house of the Lord,
in the courts of the house of our God.

3 Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good;
celebrate his lovely name with music.
4 For the Lord has chosen Jacob for himself,
Israel for his own special treasure.

5 I know the greatness of the Lord—
that our Lord is greater than any other god.
6 The Lord does whatever pleases him
throughout all heaven and earth,
and on the seas and in their depths.
7 He causes the clouds to rise over the whole earth.
He sends the lightning with the rain
and releases the wind from his storehouses.
13 Your name, O Lord, endures forever;
your fame, O Lord, is known to every generation.
14 For the Lord will give justice to his people
and have compassion on his servants.

15 The idols of the nations are merely things of silver and gold,
shaped by human hands.
16 They have mouths but cannot speak,
and eyes but cannot see.
17 They have ears but cannot hear,
and noses but cannot smell.
18 And those who make idols are just like them,
as are all who trust in them.

Those who don't take the time to regularly attend a good Bible believing and teaching church are really missing out. My most enjoyable times are spent in worship, lifting hands to God in thanksgiving and praise. It is a time when I can truly get away from the world and share in the presence of the Holy Spirit with others of like mind. Let's be mindful of what we have because of Jesus Christ, and savor the good fellowship He so generously gives us.

Photo "Worship Hands" by ischutt, 1-23-2005 from stock.xchng

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Weekend Wisdom - February 12, 2011

Proverbs 2:1-15 (The Message)
1-5 Good friend, take to heart what I'm telling you; collect my counsels and guard them with your life. Tune your ears to the world of Wisdom; set your heart on a life of Understanding. That's right—if you make Insight your priority, and won't take no for an answer, searching for it like a prospector panning for gold, like an adventurer on a treasure hunt, believe me, before you know it Fear-of-God will be yours; you'll have come upon the Knowledge of God.

6-8 And here's why: God gives out Wisdom free, is plainspoken in Knowledge and Understanding. He's a rich mine of Common Sense for those who live well, a personal bodyguard to the candid and sincere. He keeps his eye on all who live honestly, and pays special attention to his loyally committed ones.

9-15 So now you can pick out what's true and fair, find all the good trails! Lady Wisdom will be your close friend, and Brother Knowledge your pleasant companion. Good Sense will scout ahead for danger, insight will keep an eye out for you. They'll keep you from making wrong turns, or following the bad directions of those who are lost themselves and can't tell a trail from a tumbleweed, these losers who make a game of evil and throw parties to celebrate perversity, traveling paths that go nowhere, wandering in a maze of detours and dead ends.

The best thing you can do for your children, especially the young men, is to give them their own Bible that is easy for them to read and understand, and to have them read the first chapters in the Book of Proverbs. It is rich in the wisdom of God, giving it a personality to allow the reader to better relate to the instruction.

If I would have had a parent or mentor encouraging me to read the Bible and especially the Proverbs, I would have been far more grounded, I would have come to faith in Jesus Christ much earlier. On top of that, I would have lived a far better and more disciplined life, and I would have avoided many of the pitfalls that the world and I myself threw me into.

I thank God though that I have been able to pass on God's word to my family, which has been evident in the life led by my children. There is no greater blessing that to see your children walk with Jesus and know God's plan for their lives from an early age. I praise Him the restoration that He has given me, and the nercy and grace He has shown me by the salvation of my children.

Isn't it time that you sat down with your children and opened up God's word with them? Believe me, they will be far more well-adjusted and able to face the world by you doing so.

Photo "Study Kids 3" by eurostilet, 9-19-2004 from stock.xchng

Friday, February 11, 2011

Good Fruit: Self-Control - February 11, 2011

Romans 6:1-7 (New Living Translation)
1 Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? 3 Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? 4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

5 Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.

1 John 5:18 (New International Version, ©2010)
18 We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them.

Was there a time in your life when you were living in a lifestyle where "resistance was futile"? Have you been in a situation where it was almost unbearable to not give into temptation? I know many people trapped in the bondage of an addiction or sin where they simply can't give it up. It is an urge that is often very powerful, and the fear of giving up the addiction is sometimes stronger than the fear of death.

When you come to Jesus Christ and surrender yourself to Him, often the Holy Spirit takes away that urge and frees people from the bondage of sin, but sometimes it takes more than that. All who truly accept Christ's gift of salvation are filled with the Holy Spirit. He is our Comforter, our ever present presence that helps us on our daily walk with God. He gives us the good fruit of self-control.

Sometimes though, people are so trapped in their sin that they are resistant to gaining control over it through Jesus. They often become depressed and sometimes even disenchanted with God because their bondage doesn't leave them. Why is this? I say it is because they have not made a true decision to turn their back on the past. They hold on to it and embrace it because it seems more comfortable than the freedom of letting go.

If you truly desire the freedom gained by truly surrendering to God, and truly allowing the Holy Spirit to fill you with His presence and gifts, especially self-control, ask God for the strength to. He hears your prayers and He will answer you, but you need to first have a change of mind an allow Him to do His will with you. He will give you the self-control you need to conquer your sin, your addiction, and the bondage that has you trapped.

Photo "Praise the Lord" by ronibro, 11-16-2006 from stock.xchng

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Good Fruit: Gentleness - February 10, 2011

Matthew 18:1-5 (New International Version, ©2010)
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

It is interesting these days that when religions are compared, they are all are given a moral equivalence in today's society. Unfortunately, those opinions stem from the fact that many so-called followers of Christ were very far from Him. Many remember atrocities that were carried out in His name and have associated that behavior with all Christians. If you have really walked with our Lord for very long, you know that those opinions are false. Whenever you hear someone associating those things with Christians, you probably think to yourself that true followers of Jesus are far from those things.

Fact is that Jesus Christ made it very clear how we should approach the kingdom of God, with a contrite and gentle heart. He likened the attitude that we should have with the attitude of little children; gentle of spirit and character, yet wide open with possibilities, and eager to embrace the simple truth of God's love message to His people. True believers filled with the Holy Spirit exhibit the good fruit of gentleness in all things, especially those of Christ. This is true in how we treat those around us, and how we deal even with those who would chose to harm us.

The true Christians will bear all and approach all with the spirit and fruit of gentleness; in doing so, they will reflect the strength of God and will win many to Jesus Christ.

Photo "Bunny Girl" by familylife, 9-9-2007, from stock.xchng

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Good Fruit: Faithfulness - February 9, 2011

1 Corinthians 15:58 (New International Version, ©2010)
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Are you stong in your convictions? Do you stick with what you believe when you are under pressure to give it up? Do you continue to do things for God when there seems to be no earthly benefit? Are you obedient to following God's rules when no one is looking, or are do you stand up for Jesus Christ when everyone is looking?

As I have said many times, our Christian walk is not easy. It calls us to doing things and not doing things that seem bizarre to those in our society and the world. If we follow Jesus as we should, we will stand out, and we will encounter difficulty. Jesus said, 11"Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me."(Matthew 5:11)If we are a true follower of Jesus Christ and the things of God, we will experience persecution.

On our own efforts, we probably cannot stand up to that kind of testing. Many have fallen away from the Christian faith when they were subjected to all kinds of pressure, whether it is social or physical. Then how are true Christians able to endure? It is because the Holy Spirit indwells the believer which shows up in the good fruit of faithfulness.

If you are having difficulty because you stand out for Jesus and people make fun of you or give you a hard time, great! You are being faithful, steadfast, and you will be blessed by God. Stand up for Jesus and He will stand up for you, both in this life and the next.

Photo "Gospel Reading" by abcdz2000, 3-3-2008,from stock.xchng

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Good Fruit: Goodness - February 8, 2011

Luke 6:45 (New International Version, ©2010)
45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

3 John 1:11 (New International Version, ©2010)
11 Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.

It is something that we are taught from the time we can understand our parents. After learning about the word "no", the first real rule we hear taught to us is to be "good". No one is naturally good no matter how hard we may try, and the older we get the harder it is. Jesus even made commented to one who called him good, 19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone." (Luke 18-19)Being good is not something we are able to be on our own.

Thank God that when He gave us the Holy Spirit to inhabit our lives, He gave us the ability to produce fruit, and goodness is one of those. But being good is more than reigning in our own behavior. It goes much deeper than that. Goodness is best shown when in the purity of heart we "do good" to all those we come across. We cannot be good without God, and we cannot do good without God.

Be good and excercise goodness to all, and you will truly reflect the goodness of God, who above all us was good to us.

Photo "Helping Hand" from je1196,10-19-2004 from stock.xchng

Monday, February 7, 2011

Good Fruit: Kindness - February 7, 2011

Colossians 3:12-13 (New International Version, ©2010)
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32 (New International Version, ©2010)
32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

What has become of people treating one another with kindness? Daily you hear stories of bullying, abuse, jealousy, anger, treachery, cruelty and down right meanness that goes on around us all. The perpetrators are young and old, of all ethnic group, back ground and upbringing. The only common denominator is that there is a vicious attempt of hurting another, and this extends to other creatures as much as it is with people.

And hanging around fellow Christians doesn't mean that one is immune from being treated in this way. There are many of the same attempts to hurt people in churches and among Christians as there are in the world. What is at the root of this? Why do we behave this way? The answer is that if God is at the root of the good fruit of kindness, Satan is at the root of meanness.

If you are called by Jesus Christ and are ruled by the Holy Spirit, you are to be about demonstrating kindness to all people and all things. Your obligation to God is to treat every part of His creation with the kindness and love He has extended to you. It doesn't stop there; you need to be about being an advocate and defender of that same kindness in all that surrounds you.

That means teaching your children and young people as well as the adults around you how to treat one another. Never allow someone to be unkind to you without rebuking them in love. Let them know that to treat others with cruelty and meanness is never acceptable, and at the same time extend the hand of reconciliation, peace and kindness. Now here is a good fruit of the Holy Spirit that the world needs a lot more of.

Photo from Nursing Home Article from 5-2-2009

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Good Fruit: Patience - February 6, 2011

Ephesians 4:2-3 (New International Version, ©2010)
2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4:2-3 (King James Version)
2With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

The Christian work requires alot of patience, forbearance and longsuffering. If you are filled with the Holy Spirit, the focus of your life is no longer on you. It is one where the needs of everyone else needs to come befor ourselves. Because of this, you might find out that you will receive alot of abuse and persecution. But you need to always be able to bear it, whether it is given by those who hate and despise you, or by fellow believers.

Our example is Jesus Christ, who took the abuse of those around him and the weight of our sins, and bore them on the cross. We need to identify with Him and know that our good fruit of patience will reap a crown of eternal life with God.

Photo "Winter" by just4you, 3-1-2006 from stock.xchng

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Good Fruit: Peace - February 5, 2011

Psalm 119:165 (New International Version, ©2010)165 Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.

John 14:27 (New International Version, ©2010)27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 16:33 (New International Version, ©2010) 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.”

James 3:17-18 (New International Version, ©2010)
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

A true sign of those who are filled with the Holy Spirit of God, and following after Jesus is peace. The good fruit of peace means that you are calm and confident in the Lord, and you seek to be free from quarrels and disagreement. Your life reflects the desire to live harmoniously with all. You do not stir up strife for the sake of your own purposes, and you "bend over backwards" to restore peace in any situation that might be difficult.

Bottom line is that you see everyone as God's children and every situation as one in which you can bless others for the sake of Jesus Christ. Jesus brought us peace in our souls by restoring our place with God; in turn we need to pass on the peace that we have been given to those around us.

Photo "Sunrays" by MajaFoto, 11-25-2009 from stock.xchng

Friday, February 4, 2011

Good Fruit: Joy - February 4, 2011

James 1:2-4 (New Living Translation)
2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

When times get rough, do you remain confident in the ability of God to get you thorugh it? Or do you worry and become anxious and wonder what God is doing to you? These two reactions are probably very common for believers in Jesus and non-believers. All of us have become concerned and worried when times get difficult, but the true test of whether you have surrendered yourself fully to God is in the fruit we produce.

When we study the fruit of the Spirit exhibited by a Christian as found in Galatians 5:22-23, we find that our lives become a reflection of our new life in Christ. The next good fruit mentioned in these verses is joy. What is joy? It is a calm in the eye of the storm. It is that excitement that you know that God is doing something good in your life. It might not be pleasant at the time, but you have that quiet confidence that everything will work out for good. It is a promise that God has made to us and we need not be concerned because God keeps His promises.

I am learning to be controlled by spiritual joy, to not give up and focus rather on what God wants me to learn in the difficult situation. I know that Jesus Christ is alongside me, helping me with my burdens in life. It gives me that calm and confidence to work through my problems. Not that I don't become anxious, because I do at times, but I know the end of my life's story. I know that tomorrow will be a better day.

Photo "Summer Joy" by porah, 5-1-2008, from stock.xchng

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Good Fruit: Love - February 3, 2011

Luke 10:25-28 (New International Version, ©2010)
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[Deuteronomy 6:5]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[Leviticus 19:18]”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

When you look at the good fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23 that reflect those who are Christians, the most important is love. Nothing is more important to God, than to have those who follow Him, reflect the love that He has has so richly given us. There is no greater love, than what Jesus did for us by dying on the cross, so that we might be saved from our sins.

In turn, Christians need to be known for their love that they give to others unconditionally. We need to be the first to step into the scene to help when other are in trouble and hurting. We need to take the lead in serving others who are less fortunate. Our compassion needs to extend to all, even those who would rather harm us.

Does your love reflect the love that Jesus Christ has given you? Does it extend from your being as the first priority in all of your actions? Do you love your neighbor, including the ones you don't like? Do you take the actions that show that you love others as you have been called to? If you do, you are filled with the Holy Spirit and are truly trying to live your faith reflecting Jesus.

If not, you need to do a gut check, confess your shortcomings, and ask God to help you love others as you love yourself.

Photo "Indigenous People" by jonathan n, 4-4-2007, from stock.xchng

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Good Fruit - February 2, 2011

Galatians 5:22-25 (New International Version, ©2010)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Since the "fruit" that is produced from living as part of the world is readily seen as living against God, how can you tell those who are walking and living under the guidance of God? What are the actions and characteristics that a Christian that is influenced through the Holy Spirit exhibit? How do you know that you are truly walking with God?

Just as this 5th chapter of Galations clearly points out the "fruit" produced by those against God, it describes the "fruit of the Spirit". If we are the children of God, and if we are truly Christians, our lives will reflect these good characteristics of Christ. Not that we are perfect, and not that we don't show some of the characteristics of the world from time to time, but if we are truly saved through Jesus Christ, our lives will be governed by Jesus and exhibit these spiritual fruits.

Over the next few days, I will dig deeper into this basket of good fruit, and look into how we might best exhibit each of these as we live out our lives for God.

Photo "Green Apples" by Robby M, 12-7-2009 from stock.xchng

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Rotten Fruit - February 1, 2011

Galatians 5:19-21 (New International Reader's Version)
19 What the sinful nature does is clear. It enjoys sexual sins, impure acts and wild living. 20 It worships statues of gods. It also worships evil powers. It is full of hatred and fighting. It is full of jealousy and fits of anger. It is interested only in getting ahead. It stirs up trouble. It separates people into their own little groups. 21 It wants what others have. It gets drunk and takes part in wild parties. It does many things of that kind. I warn you now as I did before. People who live like that will not receive God's kingdom.

One thing about our lives and our characters is sure, we all produce "fruit". What I mean is this, our daily acts, the things we do, reflect what is at the root of our existence, and as we go about our lives we will show what we are made of. If we grow in the things of the world, the fruit we produce will be reflective of that worldly life-style. To the world, these fruits are seemingly okay; besides, "why not do whatever you want to do as long as your not hurting anybody", but to God these are in direct opposition to Him. Living in this way shows that you would rather turn your back on Him.

Reading this list of the "sinful nature" gives us a good picture of how to live a life in total opposition to being a Christian, but even for Christians, the bad fruit can sometimes be found in the bushel basket of our lives. It is hard to always produce good fruit, but if we fully and completely surrender our lives to Jesus Christ, it will be much easier. Our aim should be to sink our roots deep into the Word of God, and allow ourselves to be governed by the Holy Spirit. If we do so, we will produce good fruit.

Photo "Adam's Apple; temptation was great" by Dimitri C from stock.xchng