Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Will Power Living - April 30, 2013

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

Monday, April 29, 2013

God's Will - April 29, 2013

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 trying to live as I believe God would want me to, it has always been hard for me to always know if what I was doing 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 a lot 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

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sunday Praise! - April 28, 2013

Psalm 16(New International Version)
1 Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.

2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”

3 I say of the holy people who are in the land, “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”

4 Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more. I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods or take up their names on my lips.

5 LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.

6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.

7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.

8 I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, 10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay (prophecy about Jesus Christ*).

11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

* Italics mine

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Overcoming Praise - April 27, 2013

Acts 16:23-34 (GOD’S WORD Translation)
23After they had hit Paul and Silas many times, they threw them in jail and ordered the jailer to keep them under tight security. 24So the jailer followed these orders and put Paul and Silas into solitary confinement with their feet in leg irons.

25Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God. The other prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly, a violent earthquake shook the foundations of the jail. All the doors immediately flew open, and all the prisoners’ chains came loose.

27The jailer woke up and saw the prison doors open. Thinking the prisoners had escaped, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28But Paul shouted as loudly as he could, “Don’t hurt yourself! We’re all here!”

29The jailer asked for torches and rushed into the jail. He was trembling as he knelt in front of Paul and Silas. 30Then he took Paul and Silas outside and asked, “Sirs, what do I have to do to be saved?”

31They answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you and your family will be saved.” 32They spoke the Lord’s word to the jailer and everyone in his home.

33At that hour of the night, the jailer washed Paul and Silas’ wounds. The jailer and his entire family were baptized immediately. 34He took Paul and Silas upstairs into his home and gave them something to eat. He and his family were thrilled to be believers in God.

We have committed the situation we are facing to the Lord and we acknowledge in prayer that we are stepping out in faith, giving Him the glory. So how does overcoming our difficulty look like? How do we ultimately give Him all the glory He is due, as we accomplish His will and are rescued through the situation by Him?

The story above about Paul and Silas is a great example for us. These two great leaders of the early Church were beaten and thrown into a seemingly hopeless situation because they were bringing others to salvation and belief in Jesus Christ. Confined in the deepest part of the prison, they were left in chains and their feet were even placed in stocks. Not a very good picture of those who are obedient to the Christian life. I am not sure many of us would hold up to that or any kind of persecution.

What did these guys do? They started "praying and singing hymns of praise"! They were praying and singing loud enough so that all of the other prisoners were listening to them. Imagine the joy that was filling that place, by the witness and "leading out in praise" of these two men of God! I am sure that many were thinking about the faith that these two had, and that their hearts were burning with the desire to know their secret.

If that weren't enough, we read that the miraculous happened. The chains were broken and the prison gates were opened by the hand of God. Even so, Paul and Silas stayed in that place to accomplish an even greater miracle of God. Again, because of their witness and faith, they brought salvation in Jesus to the jailer and His entire household. Many came to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, by a horrible situation that resulted in a miraculous rescue, both physically and spiritually. This difficult situation brought God the glory He was due.

How often in our lives are faced with the prison of a very difficult situation? Read and meditate on this story in Acts. Follow the examples given by Paul and Silas as they sought to be obedient to God, were persecuted for it, and ultimately rescued by their Savior. Overcome the chains and bondage that you are in by prayerfully seeking Him and giving Him praise. Lead out in praise, and be a joyful witness and godly example to others, and point them to the Savior.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Hannah's Prayer - April 26, 2013

1 Samuel 2:1-10 (New International Version)
1 Then Hannah prayed and said:
"My heart rejoices in the LORD;
in the LORD my horn(strength) is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
for I delight in your deliverance.
2 "There is no one holy like the LORD;
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.

3 "Do not keep talking so proudly
or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
for the LORD is a God who knows,
and by him deeds are weighed.

4 "The bows of the warriors are broken,
but those who stumbled are armed with strength.

5 Those who were full hire themselves out for food,
but those who were hungry hunger no more.
She who was barren has borne seven children,
but she who has had many sons pines away.

6 "The LORD brings death and makes alive;
he brings down to the grave and raises up.

7 The LORD sends poverty and wealth;
he humbles and he exalts.

8 He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
and has them inherit a throne of honor.
"For the foundations of the earth are the LORD's;
upon them he has set the world.

9 He will guard the feet of his saints,
but the wicked will be silenced in darkness.
"It is not by strength that one prevails;

10 those who oppose the LORD will be shattered.
He will thunder against them from heaven;
the LORD will judge the ends of the earth.
"He will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn(strength)of his anointed."

Have you ever been in a difficult situation that day after day, month after month, continued on without a favorable outcome? You may have sought God in prayer and cried out to Him for relief, but the situation continued without God's help. After awhile, you grew so tired of your trouble that you raised your voice in anguish, wondering why the Lord had forgotten you. You began to doubt that God would ever help, and you may have resigned yourself to the fact that maybe God had closed His ears to your plea, and that nothing would ever change.

In the Book of 1Samuel in the Bible, Hannah found herself in that same situation. She was the favored second wife of her husband, but for some reason she was unable to bear any children. In those days, a woman's value in society many times determined by her ability to bear her husband sons. In Hannah's case, she had to stand by in shame while year after year the other wife had child after child for her husband.

Instead of giving up, Hannah appealed to a higher authority. She poured her heart out to God and He remembered her plea:

10 In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD. 11 And she made a vow, saying, "O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head."
20 So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, "Because I asked the LORD for him."- 1 Samuel 1:10-11;20(New International Version)

In thanksgiving for God remembering her plea, Hannah lifted up the prayer posted above. She gives God all of the glory for remembering His humble servant, and she characterizes the goodness of God as she prays.

If you have been troubled for along time with a difficult situation, don't give up hope, learn a lesson from Hannah. Lift your heart to the Lord. God hears and loves you, and in His perfect timing He will bring you relief from your trouble. He knows the beginning from the end and He will remember your plea. Be patient and always lift Him up in praise, and when your difficulty comes to an end, be sure to give Him the glory, praise and thanks that He is due.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Are You Bless - able? - April 25, 2013

Psalm 119:1-8(New International Version)
1 Blessed are those whose ways are blameless,
who walk according to the law of the LORD.

2 Blessed are those who keep his statutes
and seek him with all their heart—
3 they do no wrong
but follow his ways.

4 You have laid down precepts
that are to be fully obeyed.
5 Oh, that my ways were steadfast
in obeying your decrees!
6 Then I would not be put to shame
when I consider all your commands.

7 I will praise you with an upright heart
as I learn your righteous laws.
8 I will obey your decrees;
do not utterly forsake me.

There is a word that gets thrown around a lot among Christians, and that is the word "blessed". It is used for almost everything that someone gets, but sometimes it people get a little cavalier about it. What does it mean to be "blessed"? It is the tangible favor of God; as the Bible tells us in James 1:17(NIV)"Every good and perfect gift is from above". He is the One who gives us whatever "blessings" we receive. It really isn't something we truly do on our own.

Then the question comes up, "What is a blessing?" To many people in the world it is something material, or a lucky break, or something earned. Yes, that can be a "blessing" too, but what ultimately matters is whether or not we are living in God's will when we receive it. I believe that true "blessings" are long lasting; it's the gift that keeps on giving.

It's God's favor being "poured out" when we are within in His will, and you can feel it in your spirit. For instance, how do you feel when you do something good for other people, and you make it known that you are doing it because of your relationship with Jesus? I know that you feel really good, because that is what I have experienced. To top it off, you not only receive the "blessing" from your actions here and know, but you store them up for the future with God as well. That to me is a true blessing.

Yes, God can give you things, things that are tangible, and yes, you can call those "blessings", but usually those do not last very long. I don't think that God will be checking our checking accounts when we get to heaven. So what must we do to receive such "blessings"?

- First, we must be "bless-able", able to receive what God desires to give us by being aligned with His will for our lives. That means throwing off any barrier to God's goodness, such as sin in our lives or ill-will towards another, and making ourselves available to His leading.

- Next, we must listen to God and obey His instruction, follow those leadings of the Holy Spirit that move us to doing things for others.

- Then we need to be open to receiving God's blessing, and be sure to offer Him praise and thanksgiving for what we receive.

God loves to bless those He loves; all we need to do is to be sure that we are "Bless-able"!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Righteous vs. The Wicked - April 24, 2013

Psalm 37 (New Living Translation)
1 Don’t worry about the wicked
or envy those who do wrong.
2 For like grass, they soon fade away.
Like spring flowers, they soon wither.
3 Trust in the Lord and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
4 Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.

5 Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.
6 He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.

7 Be still in the presence of the Lord,
and wait patiently for him to act.
Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
or fret about their wicked schemes.

8 Stop being angry!
Turn from your rage!
Do not lose your temper—
it only leads to harm.
9 For the wicked will be destroyed,
but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land.

10 Soon the wicked will disappear.
Though you look for them, they will be gone.
11 The lowly will possess the land
and will live in peace and prosperity.

12 The wicked plot against the godly;
they snarl at them in defiance.
13 But the Lord just laughs,
for he sees their day of judgment coming.

14 The wicked draw their swords
and string their bows
to kill the poor and the oppressed,
to slaughter those who do right.
15 But their swords will stab their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.

16 It is better to be godly and have little
than to be evil and rich.
17 For the strength of the wicked will be shattered,
but the Lord takes care of the godly.

18 Day by day the Lord takes care of the innocent,
and they will receive an inheritance that lasts forever.
19 They will not be disgraced in hard times;
even in famine they will have more than enough.

20 But the wicked will die.
The Lord’s enemies are like flowers in a field—
they will disappear like smoke.

21 The wicked borrow and never repay,
but the godly are generous givers.
22 Those the Lord blesses will possess the land,
but those he curses will die.

23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
24 Though they stumble, they will never fall,
for the Lord holds them by the hand.

25 Once I was young, and now I am old.
Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned
or their children begging for bread.
26 The godly always give generous loans to others,
and their children are a blessing.

27 Turn from evil and do good,
and you will live in the land forever.
28 For the Lord loves justice,
and he will never abandon the godly.

He will keep them safe forever,
but the children of the wicked will die.
29 The godly will possess the land
and will live there forever.

30 The godly offer good counsel;
they teach right from wrong.
31 They have made God’s law their own,
so they will never slip from his path.

32 The wicked wait in ambush for the godly,
looking for an excuse to kill them.
33 But the Lord will not let the wicked succeed
or let the godly be condemned when they are put on trial.

34 Put your hope in the Lord.
Travel steadily along his path.
He will honor you by giving you the land.
You will see the wicked destroyed.

35 I have seen wicked and ruthless people
flourishing like a tree in its native soil.
36 But when I looked again, they were gone!
Though I searched for them, I could not find them!

37 Look at those who are honest and good,
for a wonderful future awaits those who love peace.
38 But the rebellious will be destroyed;
they have no future.

39 The Lord rescues the godly;
he is their fortress in times of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them,
rescuing them from the wicked.
He saves them,
and they find shelter in him.

As I was reading through this psalm of David, I tried to find a way to abbreviate it and post only a few of the verses, but the more I read about the godly versus the ungodly, the righteous versus the wicked, the more each verse stood out as one I should post in this evening's devotion. God makes it very clear to us what He will do for those who love Him and are focused on Him, versus those who don't.

Frustration abounds with what I see is going on in the world around us these days. Sometimes things seem rather hopeless, other times things make my blood boil, and in others I wish things could just be like they used to be. We need to always be encouraged, and we must remain hopeful, because what God says is true. If we will pick the path of the godly, He will truly saves us and ultimately shelter us from everything that comes against us.

Photo "Dawn Over New Zealand" from CityPictures.org

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Overcoming Bitterness - April 23, 2013

Psalm 73:12-28(GOD’S WORD Translation)
12Look how wicked they are!
They never have a worry.
They grow more and more wealthy.

13I’ve received no reward for keeping my life pure
and washing my hands of any blame.
14I’m plagued with problems all day long,
and every morning my punishment begins again.
15If I had said, “I will continue to talk like that,”
I would have betrayed God’s people.

16But when I tried to understand this,
it was too difficult for me.
17Only when I came into God’s holy place
did I finally understand what would happen to them.

18You put them in slippery places
and make them fall into ruin.
19They are suddenly destroyed.
They are completely swept away by terror!
20As someone gets rid of a dream when he wakes up,
so you, O Lord, get rid of the thought of them
when you wake up.

21When my heart was filled with bitterness
and my mind was seized with envy,
22I was stupid, and I did not understand.
I was like a dumb animal in your presence.

23Yet, I am always with you.
You hold on to my right hand.
24With your advice you guide me,
and in the end you will take me to glory.

25As long as I have you,
I don’t need anyone else in heaven or on earth.
26My body and mind may waste away,
but God remains the foundation of my life
and my inheritance forever.
27Without a doubt, those who are far from you will die.
You destroy all who are unfaithful to you.

28Being united with God is my highest good.
I have made the Almighty Lord my refuge
so that I may report everything that he has done.

There are many good people out there that are doing the best to follow Jesus Christ, yet it seems that they can't catch a break during these tough times. When things are tough it is hard not to get bitter. We tend to get angry with God in that bitterness, when we see those that do evil prosper. After asking God, "why me?", we wonder why He let's those who are against Him get all the breaks in this world.

If you are doing your best, trying to follow Jesus and it just hasn't gotten any easier for you, remember that God does want you to prosper. He is just working out His plan in your life. Fine gold or silver are at their finest when the impurities have been driven out. Steel is only at its strongest when it endures the hottest of temperatures. The trials you are going through have a purpose, and those who seemingly laugh at your faithfulness to God will receive their just reward.

Don't lose heart! He will carry you through this, and at the end of your struggle, you will see His plan and experience His joy.

Photo from "OVERCOMING THE OBSTACLES TO YOUR VISION", by Coach Dan Foster, posted 3-9-2011

Monday, April 22, 2013

Silver Linings - April 22, 2013

2 Corinthians 1:3-5(New International Version)
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

We have been talking a lot about going through tough times in my postings. The way things are in the world these days, it seems that there are many people out there that are going through some kind of trouble. Almost on a daily basis I hear about difficulties, whether it's a job layoff or illness, or financial distress, many people out there are going through a something. Following Jesus we aren't immune to be difficulties, they come into our lives as well.

What is important for us to learn is what we do with what we are going through; the lessons that we learn while going through trouble. Many times the trouble and difficulty we go through as a Christ follower are for a purpose. God takes us through "stuff" to demonstrate His mercy, grace and power in our circumstances. He is in our deepest valleys with us, and when we climb out we have a story to tell of His goodness. He identifies with us through Christ's sufferings, and we can be assured that He will be there if we stay close to Jesus.

What we need to remember is that every difficulty we will go through will have a "silver lining". God will bring us through it; it is up to us to help others that are going through what we have just been through, and to share the comfort that a relationship with Jesus Christ can bring. We all are surrounded by friends and others that are having problems. Be sure that you are there to help.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Praise! - April 21, 2013

Psalm 145 (New International Version)
A psalm of praise. Of David.

1 I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.

2 Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.

3 Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.

4 One generation will commend your works to another;
they will tell of your mighty acts.

5 They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.

6 They will tell of the power of your awesome works,
and I will proclaim your great deeds.

7 They will celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

8 The LORD is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.

9 The LORD is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.

10 All you have made will praise you, O LORD;
your saints will extol you.

11 They will tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might,

12 so that all men may know of your mighty acts
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
The LORD is faithful to all his promises
and loving toward all he has made.

14 The LORD upholds all those who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.

15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time.

16 You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and loving toward all he has made.

18 The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.

19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.

20 The LORD watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.

21 My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD.
Let every creature praise his holy name
for ever and ever.

We really neglect God sometimes. Although we may attend church, study the Bible, and spend a few minutes in prayer, we often find ourselves spending very little time in thanksgiving and praise. God has created us to love, and in turn He enjoys our praises. As a parent enjoys a thank you and demonstration of love from their children, our God desires the unexpected adoration of those created in His image.

As we prepare for a new week, let us begin it with praise for our God who supplies all we need. During the week, try to begin each one worshiping and praising Him. The entire week might just turn out a bit better. God bless you and yours in the upcoming days.

Sifted! - April 20, 2013

Luke 22:31-32(New Century Version)
31 "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to test all of you as a farmer sifts his wheat. 32 I have prayed that you will not lose your faith! Help your brothers be stronger when you come back to me."

If you are the baker in the family you are very familiar with sifting flour. Sifting is defined as "To put (flour, for example) through a sieve or other straining device in order to separate the fine from the coarse particles"*. It is a way to remove impurities from what your mixing so that whatever you are baking has the perfect texture. If you love baked goods like me, you really like the outcome of this step in the process.

Jesus used the example of sifting wheat when the disciples were gathered in the upper room just before Christ's crucifixion. He had just completed sharing the Passover meal and using it to establish His new covenant that we call "Holy Communion". The disciples were arguing about who would be the greatest in God's kingdom, and Jesus was growing very weary of the argument. Even though Jesus had tried to tell them numerous times, none of them really had a clue what was about to happen.

Peter being the leader among them, and probably the one with the largest ego in the group, was about to have his ego leveled and his true character tested, and Jesus was giving this very arrogant man a warning. God was about to allow Satan to put him through his most important testing of his life, and Jesus was praying that he would withstand that test. Peter was about to under go "sifting" that would remove the coarseness and shallowness within him, and purify him in a manner that would develop him for future leadership of the new Christian church. If he made it through this testing, then he would be able to handle the opposition after the departure of Jesus Christ.

Here lately, I have often felt that I have been going through a lot of sifting, and the way things are in the world, I am sure that there are many of you going through the same thing. I hate to let everyone know, but this is a time that God is developing our characters, preparing us for tougher times in the years ahead. The great thing about trials and difficulties is that after you go through enough of it, you resign yourself to not thinking that you can do it all; you learn that the only way to make it is with God's help.

If life has you being pressed through the sifter right now, make sure that you are staying close to Jesus. If you aren't, don't worry, your time will come. Remember though, Jesus will be with you to comfort you, and He will strengthen you through the process.

* Definition from the Free Online Dictionary/sift

Photo from "Mule Team on the Move", Muhlestein Family adventures and travels, posted 6-10-2011

Friday, April 19, 2013

Salvation "Cliff Notes" - April 19, 2013

Ephesians 2:1-10(New Living Translation)
1 Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. 2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. 3 All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.

4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) 6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. 7 So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Okay, here it is. No mumbo jumbo, no colorful rhetoric, just the facts. Here in a few verses is the entirety of salvation; the "Cliff Notes" of what happened that saved you from eternal damnation. It is a truth that is so simple that even the illustration of it is simple. The fact is that there is nothing that mankind can do to be saved; only God could have done it for us. Then why is it so hard for people to believe?

Here we are living in a world, that would rather deny the truth of Jesus Christ than to accept a simple message and simple path to being saved from our sinful selves. Why is it easier for us to hide or deny our sin than it is to accept God's message? There are even faiths that call themselves "Christian" that still cannot accept the truth of the message above? They would rather teach that you can be accepted by God for stuff you do, than to accept the truth that He did it for us.

I know that there are those who read my postings that feel that I have "gone off the deep-end" sometimes, but above my post is a "Once Upon a Time..." story with a happy ending. Isn't it time you believed the message that God is trying to give you as a free gift?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Future Hope - April 18, 2013

Micah 4:1-4(New International Version)
1 In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and peoples will stream to it.

2 Many nations will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”

The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

3 He will judge between many peoples
and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.

4 Everyone will sit under their own vine
and under their own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid,
for the LORD Almighty has spoken.

Life has its challenges; let's face it, it is hard to live this life, and it is especially hard to be good in doing it. In fact, without the Spirit of God it is impossible. Each and every day things happen in our lives that test us, and we experience things that hurt us deeply.

We lose loved ones, we lose our jobs, we encounter difficult relationships, or rebellious children; these are the things of life, and they make us long for a better future. We grow tired in the difficulty and we cry out for relief from the hurt and the pain. We may wonder where God is in all of this.

Although at times we may want to give up, and we are so weary that we can't take it anymore, we need to look to God as our hope of something better. He sent us His Son Jesus to walk among us and to pay for our shortcomings, so that one day we could be with Him. He walked in our shoes to show us that there is something better to look forward to.

Believe me my friends, I know it is hard, and I know you can't stand anymore, but never lose your hope in the One who loves you. He has promised you a hope and a future, though for a little while you must go through difficulty in this world. Jesus Christ will set things right, and if we call on Him as Savior and Lord, we will find relief for our grief and pain.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Breaking Old Habits - April 17, 2013

Romans 7:21-25 (New International Reader's Version)
21 Here is the law I find working in me. When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 Deep inside me I find joy in God's law. 23 But I see another law working in the parts of my body. It fights against the law of my mind. It makes me a prisoner of the law of sin. That law controls the parts of my body.

24 What a terrible failure I am! Who will save me from this sin that brings death to my body? 25 I give thanks to God. He will do it through Jesus Christ our Lord.

So in my mind I am a slave to God's law. But in my sinful nature I am a slave to the law of sin.

Romans 7:21-25 (GOD’S WORD Translation)
21So I’ve discovered this truth: Evil is present with me even when I want to do what God’s standards say is good. 22I take pleasure in God’s standards in my inner being. 23However, I see a different standard at work throughout my body. It is at war with the standards my mind sets and tries to take me captive to sin’s standards which still exist throughout my body. 24What a miserable person I am! Who will rescue me from my dying body?

25I thank God that our Lord Jesus Christ rescues me! So I am obedient to God’s standards with my mind, but I am obedient to sin’s standards with my corrupt nature.

We are truly creatures of habit. There are things we have picked up as we live our lives that are with us everyday. We have all heard the term that "old habits are hard to break", and we all can count those silly things we do day in and day out, that no matter what we do, we continue to do.

This can be especially true with sin. Many of us did particular things we got into the habit of doing before we knew God, before we knew about Jesus Christ. Now as we try to live a life worthy of Jesus has done for us, those habitual sins still hang on to us. It seems that no matter what we do, we can't seem to shake them.

What is that particular sin for you? What is that habit that you can't break? Is it something that you keep secret and are ashamed and embarrassed to reveal to anyone? Don't feel alone! Paul spoke about this very thing in his letter to the Roman believers in the 1st Century. He wanted to show them that all of us are in bondage, slaves, to the very same things. We are all slaves to our sinful selves.

But we shouldn't lose hope. In Jesus Christ, because He has given Himself as a payment for ALL of our sins, we can have hope. We can defeat the shackles of sin, and live in freedom because of Jesus. All we need to do is surrender ourselves to Him. In making ourselves slaves to God, we truly become free to live a life free from those petty sins, those old habits. It takes vigilance, but the more we focus on the things of God, the less our sins hold us captive.

Do yourself a huge favor. Whatever it is that has you enslaved, turn it over to Jesus Christ; raise your shackles to Him. He will break the chains and truly make you free, and soon you will break those "old habits".

Shackles used to capture people to be sold into slavery in Africa in the 18th century. Photograph: Nic Bothma/EPA

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Walk by Faith - April 16, 2013

2 Corinthians 5:7(New King James Version)
7 For we walk by faith, not by sight.

Romans 8:24(New American Standard Bible)
24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?

Hebrews 11:1(New International Version)
1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

These days its really difficult to know what is going on. Every day we are reminded by one thing or another that these are tough times, and it seems as if they will never end. You wonder at times if God is paying attention to your difficulty, and you wonder what you may have done wrong. Why does it have to be so hard? What can you do to overcome what your going through?

If you are a Christian, it's times like these that you can really get close to Jesus, because He has walked through some of the same things we have. What can give us confidence that things will be better is that He has gone through every type of emotion that we have. He knows how we feel.

It's at times like these that you need to understand that blessing comes from having faith, total trust, that although you cannot see what will happen, God will take care of you. Yes, you don't know how what your going through will end, but God does. He has given you His promise that He will never leave or forsake you(Hebrews 13:5), and that everything that you go through will be for your own good(Romans 8:28).

Because of His promises you can have confidence, that although you cannot see where you are going, He is leading you where you are supposed to go. He knows what you need, and He is into the details. So what should you do? Totally trust God. Seek Him continually in prayer and ask Him to help you in leaving the results to Him. It is only in total faith and trust that you can truly be at peace in all that happens around you.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Finding Out - April 15, 2013

1 Timothy 5:24-25(New Living Translation)
24 Remember, the sins of some people are obvious, leading them to certain judgment. But there are others whose sins will not be revealed until later. 25 In the same way, the good deeds of some people are obvious. And the good deeds done in secret will someday come to light.

There is a natural law that exists in life, and that is that when you do wrong, whether blantant or in secret, it will always be found out. The best example of this was when our kids are young. No matter what they did wrong, and especially if they tried to hide it, we as parents always found out. After awhile, they soon learned that it was better to behave, or quickly confess when they did something wrong, rather than to be discovered later.

Unfortunately the lessons don't always carry over to adulthood, and yet the consequences are much more severe. It's easy to see when people are doing wrong, but even though others may do their wrongdoing in secret, they will eventually be found out. That is just the way it is in this life that God has given us; our sins will always be found out, and they will always require justice.

There is a contrast to that when many who do good things out in the open get recognized for their good efforts, but even those good things we do for others in secret, God will eventually reward us. Just as the sinful receive justice, the good works done for God will receive reward.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sunday Praise! - April 14, 2013

Psalm 75 (New International Reader's Version)
1 God, we give thanks to you.
We give thanks because your Name is near.
People talk about the wonderful things you have done.
2 You say, "I choose the appointed time to judge people.
And I judge them fairly.
3 When the earth and all of its people tremble,
I keep everything from falling to pieces.


4 To the proud I say, 'Don't brag anymore.'
To sinners I say, 'Don't show off your power.
5 Don't show it off against me.
Don't speak with your noses in the air.' "
6 No one from east or west or north or south
can act as judge.
7 God is the One who judges.
He says to one person, "You are guilty."
To another he says, "You are not guilty."
8 In the hand of the Lord is a cup.
It is full of wine mixed with spices.
It is the wine of his anger.
He pours it out. All of the evil people on earth
drink it down to the very last drop.
9 I will speak about this forever.
I will sing praise to the God of Jacob.
10 God will destroy the power of all sinful people.
But he will make godly people more powerful.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Purpose Driven Work - April 13, 2013

Ecclesiastes 2:22-25(GOD’S WORD Translation)
22What do people get from all of their hard work and struggles under the sun? 23Their entire life is filled with pain, and their work is unbearable. Even at night their minds don’t rest. Even this is pointless.

24There is nothing better for people to do than to eat, drink, and find satisfaction in their work. I saw that even this comes from the hand of God. 25Who can eat or enjoy themselves without God?

For most of us, the weekend is a time for rest from the busy work week. We have spent forty or more hours working; to what end? For what purpose? Work for the sake of working really has no purpose at all, so our work has to mean something.

The richest man on the planet in his day, King Solomon, asked this question. He wondered why he was doing his work. It frustrated him to think that he would do all this work, only to have someone else to come after him and reap all the reward. After his death, the one who inherited the benefit of Solomon's labor would not appreciate what it took to get there.

What Solomon soon realized was that without God as the focus of our work, the work would have little meaning; it would serve no purpose. God is the one that first enables us to work, He is the One who gives us something to work for, whether it be our families or another, and He is the One who tells us to work as if we are doing it for Him. Our ultimate purpose in our work is to serve our God, and in doing so we serve our families, others and ourselves as well.

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24(NIV)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday Night Light - April 12, 2013

John 8:12(New Living Translation)
12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

In our world many are trapped in a life of sin and death. Almost every place you turn, there is an undercurrent of evil that pervades daily life. Many times this remains hidden behind the scenes, but every so often it comes to the surface. Yes, we read and watch daily as bad things are shown happening in the media, but occasionally it boils over and is revealed in a big way. Those who live surrounded by evil will eventually reveal themselves out in the open.

Counter to this is exhibited daily by those who follow Jesus Christ. Because He has freed believers from sin and death, and defeated evil, they are free to "walk in the light". That means that the good thing they do can be done freely in the open, bringing God glory, and revealing to others what is available as a follower of Jesus. Life in the light of God brings joy and peace, and this fact brings "light" to every dark corner of this world.

How do we see this? It is seen in the face of those who have been suppressed and abused in places like Somalia, where the only real good is brought to them by the followers of Christ. It is seen in the faces of those who come in from the street, to feel the warmth and caring of those who love Jesus and are willing to give them food for their bellies and their soul. It is also seen in the persistent prayers and smiling kindness of those who bring comfort in hospitals and hospice.

No matter where you turn, the darkness of tragedy and evil can be illuminated through the love of Jesus. Be sure that His love shining in your heart is shared with all of those who come in contact with you.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Demonstrating Your Love - April 11, 2013

2 John 1:6 (New International Version)
6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

We often talk about the greatness of God, about how mighty He is, and how He has redeemed us by His love through Jesus Christ. We learn that God is love, and that everything He does is out of love for mankind. God's love is the only reason for the Creation.

All that surrounds us was made for us; God in His love created everything for us to enjoy. The truth is though, we often abuse the love God shows for us. We are the cause of all kinds of turmoil and strife, and we have been very bad stewards of what He has made for us. So why does He continue to let us exist?

God is yearning for us to love Him back. His desire is that we will return the love he continuously shows us. You may say to yourself that you want to love God, but how do you do so? How do you show our God that you love Him back? Is it through saying it? Is it through praying? Is it through your praise and worship? Yes, those are some of the things that show your love, but you can show God your love simply by being obedient to what He tells you to do in his Word.

Our obedience tells God that we care about what He has done and who He is. It demonstrates that Jesus Christ's sacrifice was worth it. Consider this: How do your children demonstrate their love for you? Yes, when they tell you, you love to hear it, but when they do the things that you ask of them, without your telling them or nagging them about it, then they truly show you that they love you.

The same is true is of us. God loves to see our obedience, because when we do so, it demonstrates that we truly love Him back.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Yield Ahead - April 10, 2013

Isaiah 1:18-20(New Century Version)
18 The Lord says,

"Come, let us talk about these things.
Though your sins are like scarlet,
they can be as white as snow.
Though your sins are deep red,
they can be white like wool.

19 If you become willing and obey me,
you will eat good crops from the land.
20 But if you refuse to obey and if you turn against me,
you will be destroyed by your enemies' swords."

The Lord himself said these things.

By God's grace, we in this country are in a time and place where we have very little to worry about. Yes, there may be personal struggles, difficulties, and stresses that we encounter, but the outcomes will in most cases be okay. That is not the case in other parts of the world; there are many that exist day today with the prospect that it will be their last day, and there are others that each and every day suffer unspeakable troubles.

Few of us think that anything really bad will ever happen to us. Because of this, we as a Nation have become arrogant and foolish. We have forgotten and in some cases forsaken our Creator, in favor of a god of material wealth and quick pleasure. We have lost our deep reverence and "fear" of God, who has made it all possible for us, and has expected that because of our great blessing, we should be responsible to those who are the less fortunate among us.

The nation of Israel found themselves in this very place during the time of the prophet Isaiah; God could not allow their sin to go unpunished, and Israel would soon be overrun by its enemies and conquered. Even though they had fallen to deep and had run away so far from God, He carried them through their troubles, and would later bring restoration of all mankind through them. All He ever expected from them was their love and obedience, but like many of us, and us as a Nation, a different path of indifference and disobedience led them to their destruction.

We stand at a crossroads, both as people and as a Nation. We have a choice that we need to make, and we have been given fair warning. We need to choose to go God's way, or we need to choose to turn our backs on Him and suffer the consequences. You need only to watch television and surf the internet, and you see the troubles already brewing. He wants to restore us and all He asks is for our obedience. What will be your choice, yield to Him, or choose the way of the world?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Before Sundown - April 9, 2013

Ephesians 4:26-27(New International Reader's Version)
26 Scripture says, "When you are angry, do not sin."—(Psalm 4:4) Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry. 27 Don't give the devil a chance.

There is a lesson that I learned long ago that is a sure remedy for anything that ailes a relationship. Yes, it would be great if we always got along in our marriages, with our children and other friends and family, but truth is that in every relationship there will be conflict.

After all, we are all selfish human beings that have a hard time with unconditional love. From time to time, all of us take people for granted, or we do things that make other people mad. This is especially true in the home. So, when that occurs how should we handle it?

The Bible is clear how we are to deal with one another. First and foremost we need to treat each other with love, even when at times the other person seems unlovable (it always turns around). Love is an action verb, so it requires that we take action, meaning that we do things and make choices on behalf of the other person. We might not like it all the time, but in the long run, our taking the initiative of the action first will utlimately resolve the situation.

Next, if you do get mad, make sure you handle the problem right away, or at least on the same day that it occurs. Any issue that does not get handled and "festers" overnight or over several days usually is a lot harder to resolve. Take the advice that is given in these verses of Ephesians; take care of the problem as soon as possible, and that means both of you. You might even have to corner that other person, persistently encouraging them to work through the disagreement.

Take on the blame even when it isn't your fault. Oh, and don't forget to apologize, because in the long run it will pay significant dividends. After all, don't you think that is how Jesus would handle it?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Watch Out! - April 8, 2013

Micah 2:1-3(New Century Version)
1 How terrible it will be for people who plan wickedness, who lie on their beds and make evil plans. When the morning light comes, they do what they planned, because they have the power to do so.

2 They want fields, so they take them; they want houses, so they take them away. They cheat people to get their houses; they rob them even of their property.

3 That is why the Lord says:

"Look, I am planning trouble against such people, and you won't be able to save yourselves. You will no longer walk proudly, because it will be a terrible time.

Many of us have encountered people who get their thrills from taking advantage of other people. I am sure that just talking about this brings someone's name to each one of our memories. Even today, there are many examples on a daily basis of the kind of people that are described above(It almost sounds like the government, doesn't it!). Problem is though that those who engage in that kind of activity had better watch out!

Although evil has been allowed to run amok in this world, there will always be a time of reckoning. Because of the holiness of God who created it all, justice has to be served, whether in this life or the next. If this type of behavior sounds like you, it's time you make some changes. You will be glad you did!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sunday Praise! - April 7, 2013

Psalm 145 (New International Version)
A psalm of praise. Of David.

1 I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.

2 Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.

3 Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.

4 One generation will commend your works to another;
they will tell of your mighty acts.

5 They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.

6 They will tell of the power of your awesome works,
and I will proclaim your great deeds.

7 They will celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

8 The LORD is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.

9 The LORD is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.

10 All you have made will praise you, O LORD;
your saints will extol you.

11 They will tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might,

12 so that all men may know of your mighty acts
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
The LORD is faithful to all his promises
and loving toward all he has made.

14 The LORD upholds all those who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.

15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time.

16 You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and loving toward all he has made.

18 The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.

19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.

20 The LORD watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.

21 My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD.
Let every creature praise his holy name
for ever and ever.

We really neglect God sometimes. Although we may attend church, study the Bible, and spend a few minutes in prayer, we often find ourselves spending very little time in thanksgiving and praise. God has created us to love, and in turn He enjoys our praises. As a parent enjoys a thank you and demonstration of love from their children, our God desires the unexpected adoration of those created in His image.

As we prepare for a new week, let us begin it with praise for our God who supplies all we need. During the week, try to begin each day, worshipping and praising Him. The entire week might just turn out a bit better. God bless you and yours in the upcoming days.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Simple Life - April 6, 2013

Psalm 131(GOD’S WORD Translation)
1O Lord, my heart is not conceited.
My eyes do not look down on others.

I am not involved in things too big or too difficult for me.

2Instead, I have kept my soul calm and quiet.
My soul is content as a weaned child is content in its mother’s arms.

3Israel, put your hope in the Lord now and forever.

How would you like to wake up and not have to stress about what you had to do for the day? How would you like to do it before your in a retirement home? Lord knows that we would all live longer and healthier if we had a childlike, simple faith, leaving everything up to God.

There is much to be said about living the simple life; just take each day and living it to the full, content with what you have been given. Living that way takes total trust in God, and placing all of your hopes on what Jesus Christ has done.

Are you ready to live that way? Give it all to Him and you can start today!

Photo "Beach Hammock at Sunset" by Royce Bair, 1-21-2010, from "Stock Solution"

Friday, April 5, 2013

On That Day - April 5, 2013

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 earth 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 ourselves 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 boldly 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

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Lasting Benefits - April 4, 2013

1 John 3:21-24 (New King James Version)
21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. 22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. 23 And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.

For years I have heard from non-believers that they won't become Christians because there are too many do's and don'ts. Many see the "religion" of Christianity through the lens of what they have heard, not what they have learned. How many times have you heard the excuse for not believing is that the Bible is full of contradictions, and if you ask them if they have ever read it they just stare?

We do not chase after a "religion" to believe in, but a relationship to have. The next time you are confronted with this situation with a non- believer, why not share the "lasting benefits" that you have received through believing? Let them know that you follow the do's and don'ts not because you have to, but in gratitude because you want to. Share the fact that the love of God is easy to obtain; they just need to call on the name of Jesus. He will help them do the rest through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Right living assures us that God will bless us, and when we follow His commands, He lays the world before us. What else gives you anything you ask for just for believing?

Photo "Happy" by Godoflite, 7-10-2009, from stock.xchng

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Why You? - April 3, 2013

Psalm 144 (New Century Version)

1 Praise the Lord, my Rock,
who trains me for war,
who trains me for battle.
2 He protects me like a strong, walled city, and he loves me.
He is my defender and my Savior,
my shield and my protection.
He helps me keep my people under control.

3 Lord, why are people important to you?
Why do you even think about human beings?
4 People are like a breath;
their lives are like passing shadows.

5 Lord, tear open the sky and come down.
Touch the mountains so they will smoke.
6 Send the lightning and scatter my enemies.
Shoot your arrows and force them away.
7 Reach down from above.
Save me and rescue me out of this sea of enemies,
from these foreigners.
8 They are liars;
they are dishonest.

9 God, I will sing a new song to you;
I will play to you on the ten-stringed harp.
10 You give victory to kings.
You save your servant David from cruel swords.
11 Save me, rescue me from these foreigners.
They are liars; they are dishonest.

12 Let our sons in their youth
grow like plants.
Let our daughters be
like the decorated stones in the Temple.
13 Let our barns be filled
with crops of all kinds.
Let our sheep in the fields have
thousands and tens of thousands of lambs.
14 Let our cattle be strong.
Let no one break in.
Let there be no war,
no screams in our streets.

15 Happy are those who are like this;
happy are the people whose God is the Lord.

King David wrote many of the psalms that are given to us in the Bible. From early on in his life, he was connected to God. The psalm above was a prayer that he wrote for victory over his enemies. It could also be said that it was a prayer of praise and thanksgiving for what God had done in his life.

Because of his closeness to God, he was picked to become king of God's people, and he went on with God's help to take Israel to it's greatest days. It was said of him that he was "a man after God's own heart", meaning that he was so close to God in his daily life, that he sought God at all times, and his aim was to live a life fully dedicated to His service.

No he wasn't perfect, and yes, even David was tempted to sin, and he suffered from the consequences that his sin brought to his family. The important thing was that he recognized his sinfulness, confessed his wrongdoing, and sought God's forgiveness. God redeemed him, and from the lineage of David our Savior Jesus would be born.

When you think about it, you may wonder why God cares about us? Why does He give us a second thought? We are a stubborn and selfish creature that is self-centered and ungrateful, yet our God cares for us. He loves us so much, that He stepped out of His position in Heaven, to walk among us and take upon Himself the worst that we could ever be. In doing so, He broke the bondage that sin had on mankind, and rescued for all time every man and woman that would ever live.

All we need to do is reach up, accept what He has done on our behalf, and as David did, give ourselves to His service.

Photo from "Colorado Road Trip Album" by me, 2009.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Perserverance - April 2, 2013

Romans 5:1-5 (New International Version, ©2011)
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

One of my favorite paintings is one that was painted by Thomas Kinkade, "The Painter of Light". He had a talent for capturing the truths of life as inspiration for many of his paintings. In this painting, he captured his thoughts about perseverance, noted here in his own words:

"I've never set out to create a painting that explicitly illustrates a foundational life value. Until now. Perseverance, first in my Life Values Collection, is a homily in print and canvas, inspired by a real moment of doubt and determination.

We see that the clouds are about to break. The seas will calm; the sailor's perseverance will soon be rewarded by a return to God's safe haven. Like the dove that flew to Noah as a sign of God's provision, seagulls circle above the boat in my painting as a reminder that safety lay just over the horizon.

Perhaps this painting can assure each of us that if we can simply persevere, God's hand of love will soon disperse each storm we face."

Paul touches on this sentiment when he writes about our persevering through God producing character and hope. All of us have faced difficult times, but as Christians they seem easier to endure. God purposely allows us to go through "stuff", trials and difficulties, to help us build our character. He also helps us go through the "stuff", and because He does, we have the hope that He is always with us through the storms of life..

Have you noticed how anxious non-believers get when they go through trouble? And, have you noticed how quickly God proves Himself as our hope when we turn over our "stuff" to Him? It just seems much easier to take. These days things are tough out there, yet we can be sure that God will work it all out for good. Through the Holy Spirit, we will definitely know that we will make it through.

For many, this Easter Season just passed has been very difficult. For some, loved ones have recently died; some have recently lost their jobs, and they don't know where the next dollar will come from; and others are facing a difficult illness or disease without prospect of a cure. These things and many others are the storms of life. If we only look at the waves around us, we may feel that our lives will soon capsize in the midst of the storm.

But if we will turn over everything to the God that loves us, and seek the comfort only Jesus Christ can give, we will soon see that the clouds will break, the seas will calm, and the sailor's perseverance, our perseverance, will soon be rewarded by a return to God's safe haven.

Painting "Perseverance" by Thomas Kinkade, 2000, from kinkadecentral.com

Monday, April 1, 2013

Jesus Christ: Resurrection Doubts? - April 1, 2013

John 20:19-29 (New International Reader's Version)
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were together. They had locked the doors because they were afraid of the Jews.

Jesus came in and stood among them. He said, "May peace be with you!" 20 Then he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were very happy when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, "May peace be with you! The Father has sent me. So now I am sending you." 22 He then breathed on them. He said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone's sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."

24 Thomas was one of the Twelve. He was called Didymus. He was not with the other disciples when Jesus came. 25 So they told him, "We have seen the Lord!"

But he said to them, "First I must see the nail marks in his hands. I must put my finger where the nails were. I must put my hand into his side. Only then will I believe what you say."

26 A week later, Jesus' disciples were in the house again. Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came in and stood among them.

He said, "May peace be with you!" 27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here. See my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."

28 Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"

29 Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen me but still have believed."

Doubts. We all have had them. Especially about the story of Jesus. It is hard to believe that God came as a man and died for our sins on the surface. It seems inplausable that someone would do that for us. Let's face it, believing in Jesus Christ and placing your eternal faith in Him is difficult to do. It just doesn't make sense, that the God of the universe would thing so highly of us, as to sacrifice His Son for us.

For the disciples, no matter how many times Jesus told them, not one of them had the faith to believe that Jesus would do what He said He would do; die and come back in three days. The events from the arrest to the crucifixion all happened so fast, that they didn't have time to think. Instead it was easier to run away and hide. Only John had the nerve to even be there when He died. For their doubts to become belief they would have to see the risen Jesus Christ, but for Thomas, he had to take it a step further and touch him.

Doubts? It's only natural, because without doubts you can't have faith. What secures my faith and quells all doubts has been the supernatural change God has done in my life, through Jesus Christ. For me it all made sense and by God's grace, I grow every day. Yes, still faced with a few doubts, but now they are just opportunities to grow in my faith.

If you have doubts, it's normal. It means you too are growing in your faith. But, if you have unbelief, and would rather just deny it all happened, then it's time you study the facts for yourself. Your eternity will depend on it.

Painting Incredulity of St. Thomas, by CARAVAGGIO, 1602-03, Oil on canvas, Sanssouci, Potsdam, Germany