Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall - January 31, 2012

Colossians 1:21-23 (New International Reader's Version)
21 At one time you were separated from God. You were enemies in your minds because of your evil ways. 22 But because Christ died, God has brought you back to himself. Christ's death has made you holy in God's sight. So now you don't have any flaw. You are free from blame.

23 But you must keep your faith steady and firm. Don't move away from the hope that the good news holds out to you. It is the good news that you heard. It has been preached to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, now serve the good news.

There was a time in my life when I didn't feel very good looking into the mirror. No, it's not because I am getting older. Before I surrendered to the gospel of Jesus Christ, I was lost and adrift in the world. It led me into many valleys and places I really didn't like being in. During this time in my life, God never gave up on me.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, He convicted me of what was wrong in my life, and set my heart on wanting to come back to Him. He made me aware of the "mirror" of His law, what's right and wrong, what's pleasing to God and not, that I would someday be held accountable to.

I love these verses from Paul's book to the church in the Colossians. I can see myself described so clearly in them, that it is like looking into that mirror. I really can see myself, through the bad and the good. Today, I continue to measure myself against God's word. As it says,through Christ's death I have been made holy in God's sight, and in His eyes I don't have any flaws, and I am free from blame. It has been a struggle everyday to keep my faith steady and firm, but through His Spirit I have been able to not "move away".

How about you? Can you see your reflection in the "mirror" of these words? If you can't, take hold of this fact, Jesus Christ died for you, God has forgiven you and brought you back to Himself. Christ's death has made you holy in God's sight. You can free yourself from the chains of your sin and shame, because God has freely provided the way for you. When you surrender yourself and accept His gift to you, you can be sure that Jesus has provided a place with God for you.

If you see yourself in this "mirror" as I do, "hold your faith steady and firm. Don't move away from the hope that the good news holds out to you". This is the mirror that the good news, the Gospel of Jesus Christ that has been given to you. So in turn, follow the way that Paul did long a go. Serve the good news, reaching out to all those that need to see their reflection too.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Stepping Out for Jesus - January 30, 2012

Romans 1:16-17 (New International Version)
16I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

Matthew 10:32(New Century Version)
32 "All those who stand before others and say they believe in me, I will say before my Father in heaven that they belong to me.

These days it is almost the "kiss of death" to call yourself a Christian. There are very few situations in today's world where you will not be ridiculed for being a Christian. If you haven't experienced it, then you have not stepped very far out from your sphere of Christian friends, or you have not been very bold with your faith. If you are not being bold, then you are in danger of finding yourself a bit irrelavent for the kingdom of God.

My heart was gladdened this past weekend, when I read my daughter's "bio" in the program for a high school musical that she is participating. In it she boldly stated that she wanted to thank Jesus for her talent and the abilities that God has given her. It really stood out, because none of the other bios specifically gave thanks to God. I thank God that He has chosen to be so visible in her life. It truly is the highest blessing to have your children following Jesus Christ.

Stepping out as a Christian is a statement to all those who notice that your are not ashamed of the goodness of the saving faith in Jesus Christ. It is great news to those hurting around you that God loves them, and that He loved them enough to send Jesus to die on the cross for their sins. It is also great news that Jesus stepped out of the grave and proved that He was God, and He has gone before us to prepare a better place for us.

God has provided us the way out of the troubles of this world. He has cleaned us up and made us right with Him. In turn we need to unashamedly step out and make sure that everyone we come in contact with knows it.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Why I Don't Believe in Evolution - January 29, 2012

Job 40:15-24 (New International Version)
15 "Look at the Behemoth, which I made along with you and which feeds on grass like an ox.

16 What strength he has in his loins, what power in the muscles of his belly!

17 His tail sways like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are close-knit.

18 His bones are tubes of bronze, his limbs like rods of iron.

19 He ranks first among the works of God, yet his Maker can approach him with his sword.

20 The hills bring him their produce, and all the wild animals play nearby.

21 Under the lotus plants he lies, hidden among the reeds in the marsh.

22 The lotuses conceal him in their shadow; the poplars by the stream surround him.

23 When the river rages, he is not alarmed; he is secure, though the Jordan should surge against his mouth.

24 Can anyone capture him by the eyes, or trap him and pierce his nose?

I don't know what you think about the whole Evolution versus Creationism debate, but I would like to offer my opinion. Like everyone that goes to school or college, I long studied the fundamentals of the "Theory of Evolution". In college I went further and got my degree in Biology, and in graduate school I even taught the subject, which included courses that heavily promoted Evolution.

We have long heard that the debate was over and today our children are indoctrinated with the "theory" as being fact. In fact many people use this "theory" to determine everything from environmental policy to social science. Yes, the way our society is currently shaped has do to with the Theory of Evolution. How human life is valued today, whether pre-born or elderly, has been determined because people have decided that Evolution is fact and not theory.

You see, if we are descendants of a single-celled organism that arose from the primordial soup, went through billions of years of evolution, passing through a short few million year stint in the trees as an ape, and somehow became a man, without any outside force such as God, as did every other animal on the planet, why should man be worth anymore than a fish, an ape or a whale?

This devaluing of human life has given rise to wacky ideas such as eugenics,the study and practice of selective breeding applied to humans, with the aim of improving the species. Many progressive intellectuals of the early twentieth century such as, President Woodrow Wilson, scientist Linus Pauling, author H.G. Wells, Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, and even Adolf Hitler embraced these ideas. Today many of these ideas are leading to un-restricted abortion and even to the adoption of euthanasia for the terminally ill and elderly.

The Book of Job is generally thought to have been written in the 6th to 5th century BCE, which has been supported with fragment findings from the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered from 1947 and 1956. If this was written over 2600 years ago, how did they know about the dinosaurs, and why was it stated that “Behemoth” described was made along with us? Check any translation of the Bible in any language and the translation is the same, even in the Jewish Bible, the Tanakh.

Type "Brachiosaurus" in any search engine, and you can see artist's renderings of what has been found in the fossil record, but you will also find waht is described in the verses above. What it tells me is that what scientists have assumed existed millions of years before man, actually existed alongside man. This not only confirms my belief in the biblical accounts of Creation, but it also confirms my belief in the Bible itself. Only God would describe something 2600 years earlier in His inspired word that would only be discovered in the modern era.

Where is all this going? My word to you is this; if you are a young person, parent or grandparent, quit believing blindly in what society and the public schools have tried to promote about Evolution. After all, it is just a "theory", and no, it has not been conclusively proven. In fact more and more scientists today are beginning to question the validity of the theory itself. Instead, do some research yourself and study with an open mind both Creationism and Evolution. And while you are at it, pick up God's word and explore the marvelous things it has to offer.

This is a repost of one of my previous posts. This one really received quite a bit of attention. If you have read it before, thanks for bearing with me for posting it again.

Photo from Dinopedia on Wikia

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday Worship! - January 28, 2012

Psalm 103 (New International Reader's Version)
A psalm of David.
1 I will praise the Lord. Deep down inside me, I will praise him. I will praise him, because his name is holy.
2 I will praise the Lord. I won't forget anything he does for me.
3 He forgives all my sins. He heals all my sicknesses.
4 He saves my life from going down into the grave. His faithful and tender love makes me feel like a king.
5 He satisfies me with the good things I long for. Then I feel young and strong again, just like an eagle.
6 The Lord does what is right and fair for all who are beaten down.
7 He told Moses all about his plans. He let the people of Israel see his mighty acts.
8 The Lord is tender and kind. He is gracious. He is slow to get angry. He is full of love.
9 He won't keep bringing charges against us. He won't stay angry with us forever.
10 He doesn't punish us for our sins as much as we should be punished. He doesn't pay us back in keeping with the evil things we've done.
11 His love for those who have respect for him is as high as the heavens are above the earth.
12 He has removed our lawless acts from us as far as the east is from the west.
13 A father is tender and kind to his children. In the same way, the Lord is tender and kind to those who have respect for him.
14 He knows what we are made of. He remembers that we are dust.
15 People's lives are like grass. People grow like the flowers in the field.
16 When the wind blows on them, they are gone. No one can tell that they had ever been there.
17 But the Lord's love for those who have respect for him lasts for ever and ever. Their children's children will know that he always does what is right.
18 He always loves those who keep his covenant. He always does what is right for those who remember to obey his commands.
19 The Lord has set up his throne in heaven. His kingdom rules over all.
20 Praise the Lord, you angels of his. Praise him, you mighty ones who carry out his orders and obey his word.
21 Praise the Lord, all you angels in heaven. Praise him, all you who serve him and do what he wants.
22 Let everything the Lord has made praise him everywhere in his kingdom.
I will praise the Lord.

This evening as we take the time to rest after a hard week of work, let's reflect on the goodness and mercy of God. Make it a point in your weekend to praise and worship Him for all He has done. Like Jesus, take time to seek Him privately and intimately. Everything we are we owe to Him. Take the time to rest in Him.

Photo from Samara's Blog, 9-03-2010

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Worthy Example of Jesus - January 27, 2012

Philippians 3:17-21 (New Century Version)
17 Brothers and sisters, all of you should try to follow my example and to copy those who live the way we showed you.

18 Many people live like enemies of the cross of Christ. I have often told you about them, and it makes me cry to tell you about them now.19 In the end, they will be destroyed. They do whatever their bodies want, they are proud of their shameful acts, and they think only about earthly things.

20 But our homeland is in heaven, and we are waiting for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, to come from heaven. 21 By his power to rule all things, he will change our humble bodies and make them like his own glorious body.

It is hard to find anyone whose life we can hold up as a good character example these days. Just ask any parent whose child follows sport heroes, or someone that follows golf. There was a time that we could hold up our politicians as that "selfless" individual that stepped up to serve their nation, as was portrayed by Jimmy Stewart in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington". Remember how we held up our President as someone that our children could aspire to imitate, like George Washington or Abraham Lincoln? Forget any television personality; we don't even want to go there. Where are we to go to find someone who is a worthy example for our children or us to imitate?

Paul the apostle wrote extensively on the character of Christ, and he often discussed how he struggled to be a worthy imitation of Jesus. The problem is that often we are trapped in trying to be accepted by the world, in order to be seen as one acceptable by the crowd. This is especially difficult for our young people who have to fight this battle daily in school. It is also tough on college students, who when they are away from Christian home and family often fall into the temptations of the world. For anyone that calls on the name of Jesus Christ, getting caught up in following after the world, can become a burden that is too difficult to carry.

The good news is that the only true character example for us to imitate is Jesus Christ. He is really the only example available that we can follow and please God. In our culture we see examples of believers following Christ, imitating him and reaching out intto the world around them. They are oftentimes humble people serving in our communities, churches and schools. They are the devoted servicemen and women who risk it all to follow a higher calling for their Nation. They are the lowly missionaries who step into the world to help the poor in spirit and sustenance. They are the leaders in every aspect of life that boldy profess their faith in Jesus to the culture and imitate him in everything they do.

In every corner of our world, those who imitate the character of Christ are loving and serving their fellowman in order to show a better way to live. They are our heroes and examples of godly character that we and our children can be encouraged to follow.

Photo from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - Directed by Frank Capra; Starring Jimmy Stewart

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Drinking from the Living Water - January 26, 2012

John 4:7-14 (New International Reader's Version)
7 A woman from Samaria came to get some water. Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?" 8 His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew. I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" She said this because Jews don't have anything to do with Samaritans.

10 Jesus answered her, "You do not know what God's gift is. And you do not know who is asking you for a drink. If you did, you would have asked him. He would have given you living water."

11 "Sir," the woman said, "you don't have anything to get water with. The well is deep. Where can you get this living water?

12 "Our father Jacob gave us the well. He drank from it himself. So did his sons and his flocks and herds. Are you more important than he is?"

13 Jesus answered, "All who drink this water will be thirsty again. 14 But anyone who drinks the water I give him will never be thirsty. In fact, the water I give him will become a spring of water in him. It will flow up into eternal life."

John 7:37-39 (New International Version)
37On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." 39By this he meant the [Holy]Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the [Holy]Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

According to sources at About.com, "Your body is estimated to be about 60 to 70 percent water. Blood is mostly water, and your muscles, lungs, and brain all contain a lot of water. Your body needs water to regulate body temperature and to provide the means for nutrients to travel to all your organs. Water also transports oxygen to your cells, removes waste, and protects your joints and organs."

Since water is so essential for healthy operation of the human body, we have built in mechanisms to regulate and insure that we take in enough water. All of us have experienced the primary symptom from lack of water, thirst. Once we become thirsty, we focus on nothing else but getting something to drink. Nothing is more refreshing than a glass of cold water when you are thirsty, and because we are always active and our bodies are always using up the water that we are taking in, we seemingly have an unquenchable thirst that is never satisfied.

Jesus was used this the example of our unquenchable thirst for his illustration of the spiritual condition. We are born with a thirst in need of satisfaction. This thirst is described in these verses from Solomon:
Ecclesiastes 3:10-11 (Amplified Bible)10I have seen the painful labor and exertion and miserable business which God has given to the sons of men with which to exercise and busy themselves. 11He has made everything beautiful in its time. He also has planted eternity in men's hearts and minds [a divinely implanted sense of a purpose working through the ages which nothing under the sun but God alone can satisfy], yet so that men cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

We are constantly looking for fulfillment in our lives, and to quench this "thirst" for something more. Many of us spend years lost in a pursuit of our own desires, only to find that the things of this world cannot satisfy. The more we pursue these things of the world, the deeper we fall into our sins, and the more desperate we are for relief. It is when we arrive at our time of deepest dispair and greatest "thirst" that we realize that we cannot be satisfied on our own. We have a need for something more and our true desire is to be ultimately loved by God.

Jesus offers us the "living water", the "living water" of the Holy Spirit that convicts us of our lost condition, and brings us ultimate satisfaction by revealing to us that God loves us. It is the spring of "living water" that constantly guides us through this life, showing us God's will and purpose. It leads us into a new and eternal life with God, and quenches our thirst for fulfillment and satisfaction.

But we cannot take the cup and drink from the "living water" until we first accept God's provision for our fallen spiritual condition. Jesus came to take away our sins by dying on the cross, and he rose again to prepare a place for us in eternity. Come and drink from the "living water" and satisfy the thirst in your soul.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Future Hope - January 25, 2012

Revelation 21:1-7 (New International Reader's Version)
1 I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth were completely gone. There was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem. It was coming down out of heaven from God. It was prepared like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

3 I heard a loud voice from the throne. It said, "Now God makes his home with people. He will live with them. They will be his people. And God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or sadness. There will be no more crying or pain. Things are no longer the way they used to be."

5 He who was sitting on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down. You can trust these words. They are true."

6 He said to me, "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last. I am the Beginning and the End. Anyone who is thirsty may drink from the spring of the water of life. It doesn't cost anything! 7 Anyone who overcomes will receive all this from me. I will be his God, and he will be my child.

Yeshayahu-Isaiah-Chapter 60:1;20( Tanakh-The Jewish Virtual Library)
1 Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of HaShem is risen upon thee.
20 Thy sun shall no more go down, Neither shall thy moon withdraw itself; for HaShem shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended.

Where do we really go when we die and what can we expect? What are we looking to accomplish in this life? What do we have to look forward to?There is not much in this life that can provide us answers to these bug questions. This world and our culture would tell us to eat, drink, and be merry, because we can't count on tomorrow. It would say that you have to do all you can here, because there is nothing after this.

The very foundational instruction coming from science and our scientists, teach us and our children the world over that we evolved from carbon goo and that is exactly how we will end up. If you believe in anything the world tells you, you might as well call it quits. It surely doesn't provide any hope.

On the other hand, I love how the Bible is very clear in what it tells us about the afterlife, and I also love how no matter what version of the texts that you read, the message and context remain the same. It offers hope and promise to those who believe in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.

The Bible tell us that God is longing to be with His children forever. That means us. He longs to exist among us and shine the light of His glory around us and in us. He promises us no more death or mourning or crying or pain. He will make everything new. Now that is hope! That is worth looking forward to!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Growing in Jesus - January 24, 2012

2 Peter 1:3-11 (New International Version)
3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

10Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

When you come to belief in Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, life takes on a whole new meaning. As new believers we are excited and have a hunger for God's word and anything that will continue your knowledge of Christian living. At the same time though, along with the joy of our new relationship with Jesus, we may find that there the more we try to do the right things, the Adversary will do all he can to trip us up.

You see, if your believe that there is a God, you have to believe that their is Satan. But Satan is no more than a fallen angel, created by God, that is always looking to torment those that are not following him and the ways of the world. It is his mission to lead as many as he can away from the love and grace of God as he can. Because of your new life in Christ, you may soon realize that many things you found desirable and appealing about your old life no longer are, and some of your old friends will no longer recognize you as one of them.

So how do you overcome these negative pressures and bad influences on your life? The answer is made very clear in the scripture verses from the Apostle Peter noted above. The step-by-step approach to "insulating" yourself is given starting in verse 5 where is states, "add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love." What's even better is that God gives you the divine power and ability to follow through on the steps.

So if your ready to grow deeper and stronger in your relationship with God, follow the step-by-step instruction from Peter, and you will soon see that you will have a new perspective on what happens to you, and you will experience the joyful life of following Jesus.

Monday, January 23, 2012

On Guard! - January 23, 2012

Ephesians 6:16(Common English Bible)
16 Above all, carry the shield of faith so that you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one.

Ephesians 6:16(Amplified Bible)
16Lift up over all the [covering] shield of saving faith, upon which you can quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked [one].

It has really been tough for many people over the last few years, and even if it has been okay, life for others just doesn't seem like it is getting them anywhere. Obstacles seem to always come up that either sidetrack our plans, or turn things completely around. After awhile, even the strongest Christian gets weary from the battle. Even those who feel closest to God wonder, "Why is God allowing so much difficulty in my lives?". After awhile, disappointment with God sets in and we call into question if He will ever make things better.

This is the time where we as believer's in Jesus Christ need to be especially on our guard. These are the times that we are easily susceptable to leaving ourselves vulnerable to the attacks from Satan. Nothing gives the "evil one" a bigger thrill than to get us side-tracked and focused on our circumstances and disappointment. He relishes in the fact that we feel letdown by God. Unfortanetly at these times we might find ourselves falling away from God, or at least not trusting Him for help in our daily struggles.

This verse is taken from the apostle Paul's letter to the Ephesians, where he warned us to put on the full armor of God. One of the elements of in our armory has to be the "shield of faith". I believe that when we feel letdown and away from God, that is the time when we need to pick up that shield. That is when our faith that has been built on God's past goodness, mercy and grace to us, needs to guard us against this attack from Satan.

We need to remember that God is good; He is good all of the time. Because of Jesus Christ, and because of His love for us, He identifies with our difficulty and He wants to help us. We need to be patient and wait on the solution that He will provide.

If this sounds like the situation you are in, go to your Father in prayer. Lay your hurt, pain, difficulty and disappointment at His feet. He will give you His peace, and sooner than later you will see Him work on your behalf.

Illustration from Wisdom Life Mimistries blogpost, "Taking the Sheild of Faith", 5-24-2010

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Refiner's Fire - January 22, 2012

Zechariah 13:9 (New International Version)
9 This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, 'They are my people,'and they will say, 'The LORD is our God.' "

Malachi 3:2-4 (New International Version)
2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, 4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.

1 Peter 1:6-9 (New International Version)
6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8Though 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, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Life has its difficulties, hardships and challenges, and many a new Christian has fallen back into their old way of living because of life's disappointments and problems. It is far easier to cover and minimize the problems by embracing the world, but in the long run God draws back to right living those he loves.

The process that we go through as Christians is likened to a silver or gold smith, refining the precious metal, by burning off the impurities in the fire. So too we are brought through the fire of difficulties, hardships and challenges, to help to us get rid of anything that hinders our relationship with God. Through all of it though, God makes His presence known by bringing us comfort through the Holy Spirit.

If you Christian are in the midst of the refining fire, hold on to Jesus and the promises of God. Strengthen your faith through prayer, the fellowship of other believers, and worshiping the Savior of your soul. Remember too that as you journey through, God will bring you to a place of joy. All you need to do is hold on to your faith.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Godly Character - January 21, 2012

Psalm 15 (New Living Translation)
A psalm of David.

1 Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord?

Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?

2 Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right,

speaking the truth from sincere hearts.

3 Those who refuse to gossip

or harm their neighbors

or speak evil of their friends.

4 Those who despise flagrant sinners,

and honor the faithful followers of the Lord,

and keep their promises even when it hurts.

5 Those who lend money without charging interest,

and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent.

Such people will stand firm forever.

In the verses above, David asked of God what kind of person could worship God and be in His presence? Here is the reflection of what God revealed to him. These are great character qualities with which to conduct our daily lives. From cover to cover this is the common theme in God's word, living good and righteous lives and treating others better than ourselves. This is right conduct and His pattern for how best to honor Him and bring Him glory.

But in the course of daily living it is not easy to always keep God's rules. I thank Him that He has provided us a way to always be right with Him; accept the truth of the gift of Jesus as the author of our forgiveness and hope. As we pattern our lives after Him, it will make it a lot easier.

Photo of the book The Quest for Character, by Charles Swindoll

Friday, January 20, 2012

Free Stuff - Jaunary 20, 2012

Romans 3:22-24 (New Century Version)
22 God makes people right with himself through their faith in Jesus Christ. This is true for all who believe in Christ, because all people are the same: 23 Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God's glorious standard, 24 and all need to be made right with God by his grace, which is a free gift. They need to be made free from sin through Jesus Christ.

How much simpler can this be, but yet it is very hard for many of us to admit. Admit what? Admit that we are not perfect human beings. In fact we are far from being perfect. Minute by minute, day by day, we do things that keep us far from God. Oh, we might think that we are "good" people, but God's standard is much higher than that, and no matter how hard we may try, we really can't make it on our own.

You see, no one is really "good". We might have our moments, but we are self-centered, greedy human beings that want everything. From our earliest utterances, what came out of our mouths was the word "mine", and as we have grown up we all continue to "reach for that brass ring", stepping on whoever gets in our way to make it to the top. The world has supported our indulgences, and if we had our way, we would find ourselves knee deep in trouble. What's to be done with us?

We really can't be reminded of that enough, because each and every day, we continue to mess things up. Paul, in his letter to the Roman believers, makes it very clear, that God has freely given us the solution; He has given us a way out. A free ticket to clean ourselves up and spend eternity with Him. That ticket, that solution is trust and belief in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Though many of you reading this may consider yourselves Christians, have you really surrendered yourself and claimed God's free gift of salvation through Jesus's work on the cross?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Vinedresser - January 19, 2012

John 15:1-4 (New Living Translation)1“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

Have you often wondered why life goes the way it does? You do all that you can to do good and live a humble and productive life, but things always seem to be difficult. Life is hard! You ask yourself, "Even though I try to do what is right for God, what do I need to do to get a break?"

Once again Jesus tries to comfort us and explain how God works in our lives. In ancient Israel cultivating grapes for wine was not only big business to provide a livelihood, but a necessity to provide a staple for living. The rugged hills and arid climate, were ideal for growing grapes, and vineyards and people working among the rows of grapevines was a common sight. Jesus often chose the example of the vineyard to instruct his followers.

In these verses Jesus tries to teach us a lesson through symbolism. In saying he is the true grapevine, he tells us he is the root of who we are, taking us back to the creation. This is what we are told in John 1:1-3 (New International Reader's Version)1 In the beginning, the Word(Jesus Christ) was already there. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 All things were made through him. Nothing that has been made was made without him.

God we are told is the gardener, the vinedresser in the New King James Version; He goes through the vineyard, which I believe is the world around us, and he cuts off, removes, judges, every branch of the vine, person, that does not produce fruit. Here the fruit is the spiritual product of our lives, love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are known as the "fruit of the Spirit".

Through pruning, defined as cutting back of what is unwanted for more fruitful growth, God helps us to be more fruitful. Meaning that through the difficult times and struggles that we go through, God desires a result that we will exhibit the characteristcs of a godly life. Jesus goes on to explain that by hearing his word, we already are undergoing life change and we are "cleaning up our act", because of what we have already learned from God's word.

He once again gives us the comforting message that if we will remain in him, stay close to him, seek to include Jesus in our daily lives, and follow his example and instruction as we live our lives, we will be productive for God and for those around us. Our lives will fulfill God's original intent for mankind, to bear the fruit of making this a better place to live.

This post is a re-post of one of my past blog posts. I believe it is very appropriate for today as it was when I first posted it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How Do You Spell Relief? - January 18, 2012

Psalm 55:1-2,16-17,22 (New International Reader's Version)1 God, listen to my prayer. Pay attention to my cry for help. 2 Hear me and answer me. My thoughts upset me. I'm very troubled. 16 But I call out to God. And the Lord saves me. 17 Evening, morning and noon I groan and cry out. And he hears my voice. 22 Turn your worries over to the Lord. He will keep you going. He will never let godly people fall.

How do you spell relief when you are having difficulties and having a difficult time? Yesterday we discussed how Jesus carries us and teaches us during these times. This is not something new to God. Since He created this planet and everything in it, He has cared for His creation. He especially has cared for us, whom He created in His own image.

I love how the Bible carries its message across 1400 years of writings from men that were inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. In these verses of Psalms, written by David several hundred years before Jesus walked the planet, David appeals to God for relief from the difficulties that he was experiencing from King Saul.

King Saul was the first king of Israel, but he had lost favor with God. Because of this God had appointed David to be the next ruler of His people, Israel. Although David respected God's King Saul greatly, Saul was jealous in losing the favor of God, and jealous that God and the people had begun to favor David. This Psalm was written as an appeal to God for help.

As you go through your day, reflect on these words from David. For relief of what may worry you today, turn them over to God in prayer.

This post is a re-post of one of my past blog posts. I believe it is very appropriate for today as it was when I first posted it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Stress Management - January 17, 2012

Matthew 11:28-29 (New International Reader's Version)28 "Come to me, all of you who are tired and are carrying heavy loads. I will give you rest. 29 Become my servants and learn from me. I am gentle and free of pride. You will find rest for your souls.

After the long struggles of life and work each week, we look forward to a time of rest and recuperation to get over the stress of what we have just been through. Unfortunately for the burdens and struggles of the heart and soul, even vacations and the weekends off from work, rarely supply the true rest that we might be seeking.

In this passage, Jesus reaches out to everyone of us who might be weighed down by the troubles of this life and this world. As God in the flesh, he steps into our world of troubles and struggles, our bad week at the office or school, the problems we encounter at home and in our finances, and he offers to give us rest and relief. We are hard pressed to find anything else out there that offers to carry the burdens we have to bear. This is great encouragement when life "just gets us down".

Just how does he do this? He instructs us to come to him and learn from him, and he will give us rest from heavy burdens of life. In the King James translation, Jesus says, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me". The illustration we are given is one of beasts of burden pulling a heavy wagon. The yoke distributes the weight across the shoulders of the beasts, making it easier to carry the load. It also keeps the animals close together and heading in the same direction.

Jesus presents us with the picture that he already is carrying our burdens and struggles, and he is asking us to carry them with him while he lightens the load and shows us the right way to go. He does not ask for anything but for us to learn by his example of gentleness and humility. He ends these words by giving us the promise that we will find rest for our souls if we do this; He offers us a way to truly manage our stress.

The important teaching that we need to learn from this passage are the actions we must take, to obtain the relief from the burdens and struggles he is promising. First we need to "come to him"(surrender our lives to him), then "become his follower" (take the step to trust in him), and finally "learn from his teaching", (live our lives out following his example). If you are burdened in your life right now, take time out to pray and accept Jesus's offer to lighten your load.

Monday, January 16, 2012

God's Employee - January 16, 2012

Colossians 3:23-24 (New Living Translation)23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 24 Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.

Isn't it hard to work willingly some of the time? Many of us have been "trapped" doing things that we really do not like doing, or working for bosses and around people we really didn't care for. What was the response to that situation? It probably was to complain and neglect our work, while doing all we could to find something or somewhere else to work.

The times we currently work in have probably required many of us to have to work at jobs that we do not really like, and the "daily grind" tends to do just that, grind on us. Maybe we should look at our entire response about the work that God gives us a little differently.

In Paul's letter to the 1st century church in Colosse, a leading city in Asia Minor(present day Turkey), he addresses how members of a Christian household should live out their daily lives. He specifically addressed this to the servants of a household, stressing that they should be obedient to their eartly masters, and later he turns the table telling the masters of the household to treat their servants justly and fairly. In both situations he reminds them that they are both working for a Master, in Heaven.

What we need to take away from this is that the same God we have faith in and count on for our daily needs, even for that job or work situation that we may not particularly care for, also requires certain things from us. As a follower of Christ, life takes on a whole new meaning. We are now His representatives to the world around us, and the example of how we react in all situations has a direct reflection on Christ.

Maybe work tomorrow morning might have a whole new outlook if we follow Paul's instruction. Remember the work that we do is to serve God and not only to serve the Company, and while we are at it, make every effort to keep God in mind in everything that we do.

This post is a re-post of one of my past blog posts. I believe it is very appropriate for today as it was when I first posted it.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Defeating Worry - January 15, 2012

Philippians 4:6-7(New Living Translation)6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
1 Peter 5:7 (New Living Translation)
7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

Several days ago we touched on worry as we talked about setting our priorities correctly. Worry is one of those things that tends to plague everyone from time to time. It is something that can hinder us from moving forward in our lives and accomplishing the plans and goals that have been set before us.

Paul wrote these words to encourage the church in Phillipi, which was a Roman colony in Macedon(Modern day Greece), and it is amazing that he wrote such words while he was in prison. That is hardly the place to be and not worry, but Paul's confidence in placing his faith in Jesus Christ was so great, that he was moved to encourages the reader to do the same. This was emphasized in his letter to the Romans, Romans 8:38-39 (New International Reader's Version)38 I am absolutely sure that not even death or life can separate us from God's love. Not even angels or demons, the present or the future, or any powers can do that. 39 Not even the highest places or the lowest, or anything else in all creation can do that. Nothing at all can ever separate us from God's love because of what Christ Jesus our Lord has done.

I have come to believe that worry is a faith issue. The more we understand God's great love for us, the less we will worry about the trivial things of this world. As Paul's contemporary the apostle Peter goes on to tell us in the verse above, we need to give all our worries to God. He will take care of the rest.

This post is a re-post of one of my past blog posts. I believe it is very appropriate for today as it was when I first posted it.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Faith From God's Little Motor - January 14, 2012

Hebrews 11:1-3(New International Version)1Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2This is what the ancients were commended for. 3By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Faith; it is the fundamental bedrock that someone needs to believe in God, in Jesus, in the Holy Spirit and in all that we know if we are to be Christians. It takes faith to believe that all that is around us was created by God. It takes faith to believe that God stepped into our world and became a man, to sacrifice Himself on the cross for our immorality, disobedience, and wickedness, also known as sin.

It takes faith to believe that God actually comes to live within us in the form of the Holy Spirit, to give us guidance, knowledge and comfort to live this earthly life. It takes faith to believe that God wrote the whole story down in the Bible, through the inspiration of ordinary men, and that the words come alive, and can speak to us today.

The dictionary defines faith as, "confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing","firm belief in something for which there is no proof or material evidence". People place their "faith" in many things, but can you concretely say that you have faith in God and His plan for salvation? I am of the opinion that it is easier to place my faith in Him, than it is to believe that everything is here by chance. Nothing times nothing still gives nothing, if I remember my math correctly.

No one can convince me that the complexity of everything around me came about by chance. We are also asked, and in fact now teach our children in public school, that a theory is a fact, but to me it takes more faith to believe that we are descendants of apes, than it does that God wonderously created it all. It's a wonder why the scientists have to keep adding billions of years to the age of things, trying to find "the missing link"!

The passage above is the introduction of a great faith chapter in the Bible, Hebrews 11. The writer gives us an overview of the Old Testament's people of faith, and gives us reason for the faith and hope that is within us as believers. He help us as readers understand that we do not have an empty faith, but one that has been built over the millenia.

To me my faith in God increases everytime I see a newborn baby, just as it was when I held my own child in my arms for the first time. My faith is increased everytime I see the wonders of creation in the coloration and migration of birds, and the complex wonder of the flagellum of a one-celled organism that looks like a mechanical motor(see image above). My faith is increased everytime I stand in awe of the beauty of forests and mountains, and everytime I see the sun set over the ocean.

To me my faith is increased everytime I see a person that was lost and forsaken by the world, turn around and change their life to one of value and tremendous joy, because of the faith they placed in the one who gave me hope, Jesus. If you are having questions about what you believe and your faith, place your trust in God and in His Son, and ask Him to confirm the faith that is within you.

This post is a re-post of one of my past blog posts. I believe it is very appropriate for today as it was when I first posted it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Making the Most Out of Your Bible - January 13, 2012

Hebrews 4:12-13 (New Living Translation)12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.

You cannot approach the use of the Bible as a text without a basic understanding of how to go about studying it. Yesterday we explored why the Bible is relevant for our study, and that is has been proven authoritative and valid due to its manuscript evidence, archaeology, fulfilled prophecy, and overall continuity of story. One need only commit to taking time to studying God's word, and they will be amazed how the words can reveal what is in a person's heart. Our text above, which has been attributed to Paul in his Letter to the Hebrews , describes how this takes place.

How should we go about studying God's word to achieve the greatest revelation and understanding? Here are a few tips on how to:

1. Select a Bible - There are many good translations of the Bible that are in use today. The one you use depends on your current level of understanding. A beginner will find that the New Living Translation or The Message are paraphrased and amplified in today's manner of speaking, and these will be fairly easy to understand. If you wish a more accurate translation that adheres more to the word for word meaning in the original Hebrew or Greek, The New International Version(NIV), American Standard Version(ASV) or New King James Version(NKJV) are good to use.

2. Select Study Tools - You will want to arm yourself with a few good tools that will help you make sense of what you are studying. These will include a Bible Dictionary for word clarification, Bible Study Guides that will help you plan your study, Commentaries that are interpretations of the textual meaning by scholars, a Concordance that allows you to find passages that you might be loooking for, and the Internet that allows you to find anything on the topic. You do need to be careful that what you use and read are from reliable and reputable authors that have extensive knowledge of the Bible.

3. Select a Location and Time - You will want to find a location and time that is most convenient for consistent study. Free yourself from distractions and obstacles that will keep you from meaningful time with the Bible for at least 15 minutes. You will be suprised how much will happen to distract and discourage you, but if you remain faithful and dilligent, you will get past this. You will find more time and desire to keep up your study program.

4. Pray - Before you get started reading, begin by praying and asking God to give you spiritual understanding. Seek God's direction through His Spirit asking Him to reveal His will and meaning of the words to you.

5. Select a Place to Start - This is really up to you. Some people start from the beginning in the Old Testament, while others start with the New Testament accounts of Jesus's life. Others will start with the books of the Bible that give a good synopsis of the message and reason behind the Gospel, such as John or Romans. You will want to limit yourself to reading chapter or book. Read it, then read it again. Meditate on what the words are trying to tell you. Use the study tools to help you dissect the the meaning. Be sure that you complete the chapter or book before moving on to the next. It is difficult to gain real understanding of context and purpose if you do otherwise.

6. Live it - After you have taken time to read and dissect the Bible, actively apply what you have learned. Living out what you have come to understand is God's direction and purpose for your life can be truly life changing. You will find opposition at times, but you will find that God's word will provide comfort and peace. Become a "doer of the word" and you will be blessed by the results.

This post is a re-post of one of my past blog posts. I believe it is very appropriate for today as it was when I first posted it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Trusting In The Bible - January 12, 2012

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (New International Reader's Version)16 God has breathed life into all of Scripture. It is useful for teaching us what is true. It is useful for correcting our mistakes. It is useful for making our lives whole again. It is useful for training us to do what is right. 17 By using Scripture, a man of God can be completely prepared to do every good thing.

Some of you may be asking, "Why the Bible?", and others might be thinking,"I have a pretty good handle on things,...why do I need I need the Bible for my daily life?". In our Nation and in the many of the countries in this world, the Bible has been ridiculed and banned from schools and public life, and relegated to the back corners of libraries. The Bible for many has just become another book of stories and myths that is no more valid than any other religious texts. I too have been guilty of placing my Bible on the shelf to gather dust way too many times, but in recent years I have discovered that it is useful and powerful as I make my way through life.

As we go through this year together, much of what I will talk about will come from the Bible, and it is important that we have confidence in what we are studying. How can we know that the Bible is relevent and accurate in what it telling us? Did you know that the Bible was written by 40 authors over a span of approximately 1600 years? Here are some evidences that I heard discussed not long ago:

Manuscript copies that were used for modern day translations have been found faithful to the original writings. For the Old Testament, over 18,000 complete and partial copies, dating from as early as 250 B.C. as late as 90 A.D., have been found to be the same. This was supported by the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls in Qumran between 1947 and 1956. For the New Testament 5000 complete or partial manuscripts containing over 20,000 lines of text, only found 40 discrepancies of punctuation, which did not change the meaning. No other ancient document has more accurate evidence for its authenticity.

Archaeology also supports the validity of biblical scripture. There has never been an archaeological discovery made that has ever contradicted the Bible. Any search of the internet will give you a list of these, some of these are the Qumran(Dead Sea)Scrolls, House of David Inscription, Ossuary of Caiaphas,and Pontius Pilate Inscription.

Prophecy found in the Bible has long been considered a validation for what is written. The Book of Daniel lists in detail the rise and fall of kingdoms several centuries ahead their time, and the historical record of kings and kingdoms for which Daniel served in ancient Persia are supported in our history books today; you may have heard of Nebuchadnezzar, Darius the Mede, Cyrus the Persian, all are found in the history of ancient Persia, the area now encompassing Iraq and Iran.

Finally the continuity of the story told in over 66 books of scripture, over 1600 years, in 3 distinct languages and different countries, lead us to the One who has all the answers and His book, the Bible.

I believe that the validity and authenticity of the Bible for someone is in direct correlation to the amount of time they take in reading and studying it. If you have never chosen to pick one up and read it, you owe it to yourself to make it a practice in your life this year.

This post is a re-post of one of my past blog posts. I believe it is very appropriate for today as it was when I first posted it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Success With God - January 11, 2012

Proverbs 16:3,9 (New International Reader's Version)3 Commit to the Lord everything you do. Then your plans will succeed. ...9 In your heart you plan your life. But the Lord decides where your steps will take you.

We have made it through the first few days of the new year, and to many of us the Christmas Holidays and New Year passed us by much too quickly. We are still faced with challenges we need to overcome and goals we need to accomplish for 2012. Many of the challenges and goals may seem insurmountable as we look forward, but we have been given much "wisdom" by God throughout the Bible that is at our fingertips.

Much of the wisdom literature in the Bible is attributed to King Solomon, son of David, who ruled Israel in the 10th century B.C. We are told in his narrative, 2Chronicles 1-9, that when he succeeded his father as ruler, God appeared to him and said, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you." Because he asked for wisdom and knowledge with which to govern God's people, God made him one of the wisest and richest rulers ever known. The Book of Proverbs contains many wise sayings for daily living, and most of the book has been accredited to Solomon.

In the verses above, we are instucted to commit to God everything we do, which means that we are to continually be focused on God, as we go about our daily lives. By doing so, we are told that our plans will succeed. It doesn't promise us glory and riches, because success God's way isn't always the same as the world's way.

The lesson to learn here is that win or lose, God is still in control. He can carry us to the highest mountaintop, but it is in the valley that we truly know that He is there with us. If you have not already done so, take a few minutes and write down your list of challenges and goals for 2012. Then spend time alone with God in prayer, committing each one to Him one-by-one. You and your year will be better for it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Overcoming With Thanks - January 10, 2012

Psalm 100 (New International Version)

1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.

2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.

3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.

5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

As those who are redeemed, we must always stop to give praise to God. We need to continually have his praises on our lips, because everything we have is from Him. Who we are and whatever we may become are because of Him. Look around you. Look at the blessings that have been showered on you and your family. These are all because God loves you.

But are you faced with an obstacle that seems too much to overcome? Give thanks. Is what you are going through so overwhelming that it seems as if it will overtake you? Give thanks. At times when things are at their most difficult, and you are at your wits end, give thanks. In each and every thing and in each and every situation, give thanks.

When you give thanks to God, who has given you life and breath, you will see and experience His goodness, mercy, and peace.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Working Together for Our Good - January 9, 2012

Romans 8:28;37-39 (New King James Version)28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. ...37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What great news for today; to know that when we chose to love God through Jesus Christ that He will work things out for our good! Yes, this is sometimes very difficult to understand, especially when things in our lives seem to go badly. Many times when we see the circumstances close up or we are right in the midst of the difficulty we find it hard to see how God is helping us through it.

Paul wrote this letter to the believers in Rome from Corinth, just after the middle of the 1st century. The purpose of Romans was to preach the "good news" of salvation in Christ and to impart to the reader a gift of encouragement and assurance in all that God has freely given them. The 8th Chapter of Romans specifically addresses the favor, benefits and protections offered through believing, and living lives led by the Spirit of God, as we have come to know as the Holy Spirit.

Just as they were for the Roman believers, these words offer us encouragement, hope and a promise that God will help us. He will be in the life's most difficult situations and work them out for our ultimate benefit. Even better is that the this text emphasizes ALL things, not just some things working together for good. If at those times in our own lives, when things seem most hopeless and depressing, we will shift our focus away from the situation and onto what God might be trying to do through it, we can find greater peace and comfort. We may not see or know the results for some time, but the outcome will give positive results.

The best promise is at the end of the highlighted verses for today. That is that no matter what the circumstance, or the situation, whether it is in this life or the next, nothing will ever seperate us from God's love once we place our belief in Jesus Christ. Now that is "good news"!

This post is a re-post of one of my past blog posts. I believe it is very appropriate for today as it was when I first posted it.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Prayer for Forgiveness - January 8, 2011

Psalm 51(New Century Version)

1 God, be merciful to me
because you are loving.
Because you are always ready to be merciful,
wipe out all my wrongs.
2 Wash away all my guilt
and make me clean again.

3 I know about my wrongs,
and I can't forget my sin.
4 You are the only one I have sinned against;
I have done what you say is wrong.
You are right when you speak
and fair when you judge.
5 I was brought into this world in sin.
In sin my mother gave birth to me.

6 You want me to be completely truthful,
so teach me wisdom.
7 Take away my sin, and I will be clean.
Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Make me hear sounds of joy and gladness;
let the bones you crushed be happy again.
9 Turn your face from my sins
and wipe out all my guilt.

10 Create in me a pure heart, God,
and make my spirit right again.
11 Do not send me away from you
or take your Holy Spirit away from me.
12 Give me back the joy of your salvation.
Keep me strong by giving me a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach your ways to those who do wrong,
and sinners will turn back to you.

14 God, save me from the guilt of murder,
God of my salvation,
and I will sing about your goodness.
15 Lord, let me speak
so I may praise you.
16 You are not pleased by sacrifices, or I would give them.
You don't want burnt offerings.
17 The sacrifice God wants is a broken spirit.
God, you will not reject a heart that is broken and sorry for sin.

18 Do whatever good you wish for Jerusalem.
Rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will be pleased with right sacrifices and whole burnt offerings,
and bulls will be offered on your altar.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Sweat the Small Stuff - January 7, 2012

Luke 16:10 (New Living Translation)10 "If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities".

Have you found yourself slacking and being complacent with what you are supposed to be doing? All of us have been guilty of that from time to time. It is always easiest to leave this undone or that, or to do this halfway or that half-heartedly. And who among us has not squandered what we have earned, and wasted it on things of little value? Really now,... we are only human!

In the Book of Luke, Jesus relays a number of parables meant to demonstrate God's love for lost people, and our responsibility to the lost as believers. He also goes on to teach about our realtionship with material wealth, and how at times we might need to be shrewed in our dealings to accomplish eternal goals.

I am of the opinion that what Jesus is really trying teach us in the chapters and verses surrounding the verse noted above is that whatever God gives us in life, whether it concerns people around us, or material possessions he entrusts to us, he expects us to value and treat them as He would. It all matters to Him. Everything and everyone is significant and important, and all things have the purpose of sharing His love and grace with the world around us.

At times the assignment He gives us may seem small and insignificant, and at other times what we do for the Kingdom may carry high importance with it. Our obligation is to accept His sacred trust in all things, and to always do our best with everything we are given.

This post is a re-post of one of my past blog posts. I believe it is very appropriate for today as it was when I first posted it.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Finding Identity - January 6, 2012

2 Corinthians 5:17 (New International Version)17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Romans 10:15 (New Living Translation)15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”(Isaiah 52:7)

Another question that we often ask ourselves is, "Who am I?" We spend alot of time working on ourselves,seeking to present just the right image for the world to see. As young people, we wanted to fit in and to be liked by those around us by wanting to be identical to everyone else, but at the same time we went to great lengths to create our own individual identity and personality. We longed for self-worth and acceptance, and as we grew up, I would venture to say that not much really changed.

In the book of Corinthians, Chapter 5, Paul is very clear to let the Corinthian church know their identities as believers in Christ. He contrasts the earthly from the heavenly; the temporary from the eternal. He further encourages followers in Christ that they are no longer the same, and as such they are Christ's representatives of what God has done for His people.

When we decide to take the step to follow Jesus Christ we finally have true identity. God's love changes who we are from the inside out. We no longer are our "old selves", but we are transformed into something new, a "new creation"! As such, we also accept an awesome responsibility to reflect Christ to those around us, and to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our daily lives.

This post is a re-post of one of my past blog posts. I believe it is very appropriate for today as it was when I first posted it.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Finding Value - January 5, 2012

Jeremiah 31:3 (New International Reader's Version)3 The Lord appeared to us in the past. He said,"I have loved you with a love that lasts forever.I have kept on loving you with faithful love."

John 3:16-17 (New International Version)16"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. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

As we journey into the New Year, it may be difficult for some to know how much they are truly vauled. It is difficult to move forward into a season of renewal, because the past may carry with it burdens of hurt and pain that hold them back from truly accomplishing what God has planned and designed for their lives. A first step in the direction of letting go of the past is to realize that we are intensely loved by God.

The Bible gives us many passages that tell us how deeply God loves us, the jewel of His creation. As you read in the passage to His chosen people Israel above, God loves us with an everlasting love. That means a love that is unending, eternal, lasts forever, endures for all time. He has known us since before we were born, and continues His love for us by providing a way for us to always be with Him. That way is highlighted above in the words of Jesus himself.

Do you realize how much you truly mean to God? Do you understand how truly valuable you are? When you come to realization of your value and worth, it will make a world of difference to everyone and everything else around you. As you move forward into the New Year, you cannot truly value and love others unless you first understand the intensity of God's love for you.

This post is a re-post of one of my past blog posts. I believe it is very appropriate for today as it was when I first posted it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Finding Purpose - January 4, 2012

Ephesians 2:10 (New Century Version)
10 God has made us what we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us to do good works, which God planned in advance for us to live our lives doing.

Why am I here? That is the biggest question we all ask of ourselves. It is probably the single most asked question that is common to everyone on the planet since time began, and it will be asked by everyone living after we are gone.

Tradition tells us that Paul wrote this verse in the 1st century, while in prison in Rome, as part of his letter to the Church in Ephesus in modern day Turkey. The church was very multicultural, and Paul sought to unify this diverse group of Jews and Gentiles, emphasizing the central theme that we all were created by God. He then reaffirmed who they were as believers and laid out guidance for spiritual living.

This verse of the Bible tells me that we are all created by God. He planned out our lives long long ago, and each one of us has a particular reason for living, and mission on this earth that is part of His overall plan. Every life has intrinsic worth, value and purpose, although some in society today would seek to tell us differently. As such we need to take time to discover what it is that we should be doing. We need to ask ourselves, "Now that I am unique and of great value to God, what it is it that He has made me to do? What is the good work, mission,or purpose that I should be doing?"

We can only answer this by first knowing Jesus Christ, and then spend time in prayer seeking God. When we take this step for ourselves, He will be anxious to reveal His plans in our hearts. Have you taken the time in this new year to discover God's purpose for your life?

This post is a re-post of one of my past blog posts. I believe it is very appropriate for today as it was when I first posted it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Setting Goals - January 3, 2012

James 4:13-15 (New International Version)13Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." 14Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."

By now many of us have made plans to go here or there this year, set goals to lose weight or accomplish this or that, planned calendar events such as vacations or weddings, committed to change jobs or find one, or set resolutions to bring about change. I am in the process of doing so and have done it in the past. In order to go anywhere in life, you need to have goals, and construct a plan on how you will accomplish them. Many fail in attaining their dreams and living a truly satisfying life, because of their failure to do so. Nothing is worse than a "ship without a rudder".

James, the brother of Jesus, was interested in vital Christianity, that results in consistant character and is lived out in serving those around us. In this passage, he encourages us to make our future plans with God in mind. As you sit down and take time to do the work of setting goals and making plans for the new year, meditate on what God might desire for your life. What can you accomplish in your life and for those around you with God's help? What are His purposes for you in 2010?

This life passes quickly by; we need to do the work of seeking God, placing Him first in our lives, and include His work in our plans. Commit yourself in the new year to seek Him in prayer before you go on the journey.

This post is a re-post of one of my past blog posts. I believe it is very appropriate for today as it was when I first posted it.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Clean Start to the Year - January 2, 2012

Psalm 51(New International Version)
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.

18 May it please you to prosper Zion,
to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

As you begin this New Year, it is appropriate to approach this year with a fresh start, a "clean heart", to give yourself the best opportunity to be blessed and be a blessing. We all have things that we probably would rather forget from last year, and we all have had moments that we would like to take back.

Now is the best time to seek God and ask for His forgiveness. Now is the time to turn it over to His provision for our sins, Jesus Christ. Because of His work on the cross, we can walk into the year with a renewed spirit and leave behind the junk of the past.

If you have not surrendered your heart to Jesus, do so now while the year is still new. Pour out your heart to Him and confess your sins; He will be faithful and forgive you and make you "clean" again.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The New Is Here - January 1, 2012

2 Corinthians 5:17(New International Version)
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

2 Corinthians 5:17(King James Version)
17Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Every New Year offers us an opportunity to start over. I am sure that each of us have a few things that we are going to commit to do differently from last year. For some, it may be a new weight loss program to shed a few unwanted pounds. For others it may be a renewed discipline of reading the Bible more. Some of us might just want to maintain what was started before, or a few may want to quit something they shouldn't have ever started. No matter what it is, this is the time in every New Year when the "new is here".

When I say the "new is here", it is an opportunity for a newness, a fresh start, a time to begin again. That is what we get when we become Christians. Jesus gives us the chance to throw off our old selves and become new again. He takes our old sinful beings, and because He paid for our sins on the cross, we are able to clothe ourselves in His righteousness. That means when God sees us, if we have trusted Christ for our salvation, He sees us as forgiven and all cleaned up. As Paul put it in his letter to the Corinthians, we are a new creation.

As you start out this New Year, if you haven't trusted Jesus Christ for your salvation, let today be the day when you start out new with God. Let 2012 be the year that you began life anew. If you already know Jesus as your Savior, it is still a great time to recommit yourself to something new. Seek Him and find a new and fresh way to serve Him. Be that reflection of Jesus to a lost and fallen world that you have always wanted to be. Make sure that this year is the year when the "new" is truly here in your life.