Friday, February 28, 2014

Resting in His Peace - February 28, 2014

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

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.

We have been searching for God's remedy for our troubles and distress over the last few days. We have been asking what we need to do in the face of the difficulties, especially when it seems that God is not doing anything about resolving it. We have been crying out asking God how long we must go through this. We ask what will break us free from our troubles and distress?

Working through our troubles is always a process, and when things are most difficult our approach to God needs to reflect that. We spoke of seeking our loving God in prayer, making sure we are walking in obedience to His word, continually having faith in the promises He has made to us, and always remembering the times He has been faithful to us in the past.

At the end of the day we need to embrace the peace that He offers. When we give our lives to Jesus Christ, He provides for us the comfort and companionship of the Holy Spirit. We need to rest in the comfort and peace that the Spirit gives us, rather than fighting it in our anxiety of the moment. We need to have faith that God is in control, and He will not let us fall. We may not always like what we are going through, but at the end of our struggles, He will be there with us.

Photo from "If you live to be 100",5-27-2011, source: cosmicallybeautiful

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Relief from Despair - February 27, 2014

Psalm 13 (New International Version)
1 How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the LORD’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

For many these days remain very difficult. If it is not something financial because of the economy, then it is either some personal struggle, an illness, a passing of a loved one, or a crisis in the family. We lift up our voices in prayer, wanting to have God give us an answer, but it doesn't seem to come. What do you do when you are desperate, down and out, struggling, and wanting relief from your troubles and distress?

Remember His faithfulness. Remember what He has done for you in the past. Remember that He has never taken you through something that did not turn out better in the end. Count the times He has carried you through; write them down and pray a prayer of remembrance saying, "Lord, I remember when you brought me through ..." Lift up you current struggle to Him and ask Him to do as He has in the past. He longs to hear your prayers.

God has a reason for your trouble and distress. He will not let it be in vain. His purpose is greater than what we can see. It will all be for good. Remember Him, and how He has demonstrated His love for you.

Photo from "This Thing Called Cancer", 10-3-2010,Daynas-Journey Blogspot

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Simplify Your Life - February 26, 2014

Psalm 1:1-2(New Living Translation)
1 Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.

2 But they delight in the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night.

How great it would be if everyone would just follow the ways of God. Our world would be much more peaceful of we left it all to Him. He gives us the instructions, if we would just take them in and live by them. Then things would really be much simpler. Unfortunately, we are a stubborn and self-centered people, and the Word of God is contrary to our nature. We choose to go the opposite way, so our struggle is one of overcoming the consequence of our behavior.

Why not simplify your life? Why not choose to read and live by God's Word instead of our own nature? Why not keep the good company of He who made you, and leave it all to Him? Let Jesus Christ be your guide and your life will be much simpler.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Faith On Your Sleeve - February 25, 2014

Revelation 3:19 (The Message)
19"The people I love, I call to account—prod and correct and guide so that they'll live at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God!

Revelation 3:19 (Amplified Bible)
19Those whom I [dearly and tenderly] love, I tell their faults and convict and convince and reprove and chasten [I discipline and instruct them]. So be enthusiastic and in earnest and burning with zeal and repent [changing your mind and attitude].

How do people know that you are a Christian? Has it changed your behavior? Do you have a Christian face and a worldly face? Do you walk your talk? Do you "run" your talk? Are you charging ahead in faith knowing that God loves you and is in control? Are you enthusiastic about being a follower of Jesus Christ? Do you "wear your faith on your sleeve"? Is your faith contagious, spreading to all who come in contact with you? Do those most close to you reflect your behavior and faith?

You need to continually be asking yourself these questions and many more. God keeps a check on your obedience, but the best way to walk in obedience is by being continually zealous for God. The more you exhibit your faith in public, the less you will be tempted to doing wrong. As Christ's ambassador you are less likely to fall into sin, because you know that in doing so you minimize His sacrifice on the cross on your behalf.

So, the best recipe for staying straight and disciplined for God is to go all out in zeal, joy and enthusiasm, demonstrating for all those around you in whom you have placed your faith.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Contentment - February 24, 2014

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 having 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"

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Day of Holy Rest - February 23, 2014

Psalm 62:1-2(New International Version)
1 Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
2 Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

Sunday marks the time of the week when we rest from a week of work, and complete a couple of days of rest and relaxation. God set aside a day of rest after His work of Creation, and He made the day of rest holy. We need to take that time not only rest physically, but to also rest spiritually by placing everything in His hands.

He is the One in whom we can place all that has distressed us, and all that has tired us our during the week. By setting aside a time with Him, we will find that we will be refreshed. He is the One who will always be there for us, and we can count on His loving care and have comfort in His peace.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Soaring Over Difficulties - February 22, 2014

Isaiah 40:28-31(GOD’S WORD Translation)
28Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard?
The eternal God, the Lord,
the Creator of the ends of the earth,
doesn’t grow tired or become weary.
His understanding is beyond reach.

29He gives strength to those who grow tired
and increases the strength of those who are weak.
30Even young people grow tired and become weary,
and young men will stumble and fall.

31Yet, the strength of those who wait
with hope in the Lord will be renewed.
They will soar on wings like eagles.
They will run and won’t become weary.
They will walk and won’t grow tired.

Watch an eagle in flight as it soars upon the thermals and it looks effortless. The eagle just soars and glides and rarely flaps its wings except to lift itself onto another thermal. It can do this for long periods of time without growing tired. It is a beautiful thing to watch.

The prophet Isaiah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, likened walking with the Lord as "soaring on wings like eagles". When we choose to follow Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of our lives, our living in this present age can become somewhat effortless as well. Not that we do not encounter difficulty, but God gives us the strength to rise above our circumstances.

We need to place our hope in the Lord in all that we do, and wait on Him to take care of all our difficulties. When we do, we will obtain the endurance to weather whatever we are confronted with, and truly "soar like an eagle".

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Wealth in Being Poor - Fenruary 21, 2014

James 1:9-11(New Century Version)
9 Believers who are poor should take pride that God has made them spiritually rich. 10 Those who are rich should take pride that God has shown them that they are spiritually poor.

The rich will die like a wild flower in the grass. 11 The sun rises with burning heat and dries up the plants. The flower falls off, and its beauty is gone. In the same way the rich will die while they are still taking care of business.

There is a huge place in God's heart for the poor. Many times in the New Testament, whether in the Gospels or in the following books of letters, we are confronted with the fact that those who may be poor in material wealth are usually rich in God's kingdom. In contrast, the opposite is said for those who are rich in material goods.

In the Western world, and especially in the United States, most of us have been so blessed in possessions, that our pursuit of just keeping up with each other materially has made us spiritually poor. When I read these verses, I think that it is speaking to us. For most of us, our spiritual experience with God is relegated to a few short prayers and maybe an hour of church on Sundays.

In the Third World, believers in Christ are consumed in their desire to be close to God. I saw a great example of this on a mission trip I took to Mexico. We were visiting the poor in a shanty town of tin and cardboard homes on barren slopes and surrounded by trash. The pastor that was our guide introduced us to a poor man that was "on fire" for the Lord. The man greeted us with a beaming smile on his face.

He eagerly invited us into his ramshackle home to show us around; his little cardboard shack was decorated with bible verses and images of Jesus, and you could easily tell that the dirt floor would turn to mud whenever it rained. He pointed out his meager possessions, and then expressed to us how blessed he was to have been given such a wonderful home. In his joy, he began to sing songs of praise in a beautiful baritone voice; I can still remember his joyful songs and gracious smile to this day.

We are super wealthy as compared to this man, and yet we have a very hard time being joyful about our circumstances, and the things that we have. Each and every thing that we have has been given to us by God, yet we rarely give Him praise for doing so; we have a hard time giving Him the little praise that we do. Because of this we are spiritually very poor, and if we are not careful, our richness can lead us away from doing the things of God.

If your focus is on material pursuits, rather than on becoming a follower of Christ, it is time that you gained the wealth that can only be found in Jesus. If you are already a Christ follower, but you are so pre-occupied with worldly pursuits that you have strayed away from Him, its time you came back. There will be a day when we all will be judged for how we have done with what we have been given by God. I know that the joyful poor man in Mexico will be richly rewarded and happy on that day. Be sure that on that day you are too.

Photo from "Mighty Men Are Going to Zambia!", 9-12-2010,

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Hunting True Treasure - February 20, 2014

 Matthew 13:44(NIV)
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

Philippians 4:12-13 (GOD’S WORD Translation)
12I know how to live in poverty or prosperity. No matter what the situation, I’ve learned the secret of how to live when I’m full or when I’m hungry, when I have too much or when I have too little. 13I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me.

We live our entire lives hunting for treasure, that secret stash that will relieve us from every burden. When we were young, I am sure all of us day dreamed of being pirates searching for buried riches, and as we grew older, we thought long and hard about how we could grab that "brass ring" and become wealthy and successful. When you ask teenagers what their goal is for going to school and college, most say it is to make a lot of money, and sadly that has become the goal for most of us as we have grown up.

Treasure, riches, wealth, money, none of these things are bad, as a matter a fact, very little could be done in this world without having them. I would venture to say that many good things for God's kingdom have been done by those who have possessed these things. But the truly great treasure of life does not have much value if you were to ask those in the world. In God's currency though, it is a valuable treasure.

God' great treasure, His secret to true wealth and extraordinary living is Jesus Christ. He is that "pearl of great price" that if we have him in our life, we will have everything we will ever need. You see, through the acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, our eternal future is set. We really need nothing further from because living in and for Jesus is truly the way for us to live.

If your are in need of true treasure, if you want to learn how to live no matter your circumstances, surrender yourself to Jesus and He will take care of the rest of our needs.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

He Is In Control - February 19, 2014

Proverbs 19:20-21(New Century Version)
20 Listen to advice and accept correction,
and in the end you will be wise.
21 People can make all kinds of plans,
but only the Lord's plan will happen.

If for a moment you think that you are in control of your life, you are wrong. Yes, you do have a choice and a will to decide what you will do, but ultimately God has a plan and He will make sure what happens is as it should.

Sometimes this is hard to understand, especially when we face hardship or the death of someone we love, but often in His word God tells us that He make things happen; God is in control. We might as well focus on trying to do as we should, because the God will make sure we return to the plan He has for us. That is why many of us sometimes experience difficulty; if we are out of His will, He creates the way back into it.

Bottom line is this: listen as you study His word, listen to those God places in your life, and then commit your desire and plans to Him. Make sure that you seek Him, and pray that what you plan to do is within His plan for you and what He desires. You will be better off for doing it His way.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Someday - February 18, 2014

Isaiah 65:17-25 (New International Version)
17 "Behold, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.

18 But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
and its people a joy.

19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying
will be heard in it no more.

20 "Never again will there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not live out his years;
he who dies at a hundred
will be thought a mere youth;
he who fails to reach a hundred
will be considered accursed.

21 They will build houses and dwell in them;
they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

22 No longer will they build houses and others live in them,
or plant and others eat.
For as the days of a tree,
so will be the days of my people;
my chosen ones will long enjoy
the works of their hands.

23 They will not toil in vain
or bear children doomed to misfortune;
for they will be a people blessed by the LORD,
they and their descendants with them.

24 Before they call I will answer;
while they are still speaking I will hear.

25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
but dust will be the serpent's food.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,"
says the LORD.

When you consider what the future time will be like, you need only study references in the bible to how things will be. As much as we want to believe that we are in control of our own destiny, we really have no clue how things will really be in the future.

Someday everything will be made new, and as the Bible says, the old things will be remembered no more. God will remake the earth to be the paradise he originally intended. Before the fall of man, God created a perfect world and populated it with every creature imaginable. He then place mankind in the garden to tend it and dwell with God.

We will one day join our God in the new paradise, spending our time in worship and praise to the One who made it possible for us to be with Him once again and forevermore. Painting Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, by Wenzel Peter, c 1800

Monday, February 17, 2014

Breaking Free Troubles - February 17, 2014

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

John 16:33 New International Version (NIV)
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Are you restless in your spirit these days? Are you scared about what is happening around you? Does it seem that nothing is getting any better in your life? You read the papers, or posts online, or watch television and it seems that there are nothing but troubles in the world.

When it gets close to home, you really start to question what is going on with you and God. What did you do? Is there some hidden sin in your life that you don't know about? Is it something you should have done but didn't? All these questions flood your mind and spirit, and you ask God, "Why is this happening God? Why can't I get any relief? Things only seem to be getting worse and I don't know what to do about it."

For every believer the answers are different, and all you know is that you long for the embrace of Jesus and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. You long for God to tell you the answers and let you know that everything is, and will be okay between you. He has promised you that everything will work out for good, but you want to see the "good" come much more quickly.

You wait to hear that voice from Heaven tell you that "I hear you my child, and I am watching out for you!" What can you do? What will break you free from your troubles and distress? We will look at the answers over the next few days.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Watch Your Nose! - February 16, 2014

Matthew 5:33-37 (New International Reader's Version)
33 "Again, you have heard what was said to your people long ago. They were told, 'Do not break the promises you make to the Lord. Keep the oaths you have made to him.'

34 But here is what I tell you. Do not make any promises like that at all. Do not make them in the name of heaven. That is God's throne. 35 Do not make them in the name of the earth. That is the stool for God's feet. Do not make them in the name of Jerusalem. That is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not take an oath in the name of your head. You can't make even one hair white or black.

37 "Just let your 'Yes' mean 'Yes.' Let your 'No' mean 'No.' Anything more than this comes from the evil one.

James 5:12 (GOD’S WORD Translation)
12Above all things, my brothers and sisters, do not take an oath on anything in heaven or on earth. Do not take any oath. If you mean yes, say yes. If you mean no, say no. Do this so that you won’t be condemned.

As we all remember, Pinocchio was the puppet whose nose grew every time he told a lie. If you listen to many current politicians running for political office, there are plenty of "Pinocchios" to be passed around. Telling the truth and keeping promises have been in very short supply, in our political system, and in our world in general, but God has placed a very high value on being truthful and making promises. Jesus even brought up the topic during his Sermon on the Mount.

As noted above, he cautioned all to not make oaths or promises. Later in the Book of James we learned that breaking them could lead to our being condemned by God, but it sure seems that many people in our world are very unfamiliar with these passages in the Bible. If they were, they would be far more careful in what they say and what they promise.

God has made it simple for us to be truthful at all times and in all things, and it would be wise if we would pass this on to our children and all those we have influence over. It is simply this, "Let your YES be YES, and your NO be NO". In other words, if you say something, mean it. If you say you will do something, do it. Make it a habit, a character trait or yours, to always be truthful in anything you do.

We all need to be men and women of honesty and integrity by building the foundation of our lives on the truth. God is truth, and our world would be far better if we all followed His lead.

Image "Frightened Pinocchio watches his nose grow" from Walt Disney's, Pinocchio, 1940

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Saturday Praise! - February 15, 2014

Psalm 145 (New International Reader's Version)
1 I will honor you, my God the King. I will praise your name for ever and ever.

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

3 Lord, you are great. You are really worthy of praise. No one can completely understand how great you are.

4 Parents will praise your works to their children. They will tell about your mighty acts.

5 They will speak about your glorious majesty. I will spend time thinking about your miracles.

6 They will speak about the powerful and wonderful things you do. I will talk about the great things you have done.

7 They will celebrate your great goodness. They will sing with joy about your holy acts.

8 The Lord is gracious. He is kind and tender. He is slow to get angry. He is full of love.

9 The Lord is good to all. He shows deep concern for everything he has made.

10 Lord, every living thing you have made will praise you. Your faithful people will praise you.

11 They will tell about your glorious kingdom. They will speak about your power.

12 Then all people will know about the mighty things you have done. They will know about the glorious majesty of your kingdom.

13 Your kingdom is a kingdom that will last forever. Your rule will continue for all time to come. The Lord is faithful and will keep all of his promises. He is loving toward everything he has made.

14 The Lord takes good care of all those who fall. He lifts up all those who feel helpless.

15 Every living thing looks to you for food. You give it to them exactly when they need it.

16 You open your hand and satisfy the needs of every living creature.

17 The Lord is right in everything he does. He is loving toward everything he has made.

18 The Lord is ready to help all those who call out to him. He helps those who really mean it when they call out to him.

19 He satisfies the needs of those who have respect for him. He hears their cry and saves them.

20 The Lord watches over all those who love him. But he will destroy all sinful people.

21 I will praise the Lord with my mouth. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.

Photo "Enlightened Praise" by lumix2004, 7-26-2005, from stock.xchng

Friday, February 14, 2014

True Love - February 14, 2014

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.

1 Corinthians 13 (New International Version)
1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

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

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

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

As we celebrate this Valentines Day, we need to first remember the ultimate gift of true love that God has given us. we need to also remember that love is a word of action; love requires that it be given before it can ever be returned. It is the greatest gift, and the surest discipline. Let's pass on what God has given us and love one another.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Good and Faithful Servant - February 13, 2014

Matthew 25:23(New International Version)
23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Sometimes when I meditate on what I should be writing about, I will take a phrase that comes to mind and look up the definition of the words. In hearing about Billy Graham's birthday, I often heard the phrase of "good and faithful servant" as stated in the verse above. It made and impression on my mind that I should meditate on what that means.

The word "faithful" means:

1. strict or thorough in the performance of duty; a faithful worker
2. true to one's word, promises, vows, etc.
3. steady in allegiance or affection; loyal; constant: faithful friends
4. reliable, trusted, believed
5. adhering or true to fact, a standard, or an original; accurate: a faithful account; a faithful copy

The word "servant" means:

1. a person employed by another
2. a person in the service of another

In reading these, what comes to mind is the character and the actions necessary to serve God and others. It is the example given us by Jesus Christ, who was the living example of these definitions to those around Him. It is the attitude God has and means for us to have as we demonstrate God's love to one another.

We are to be thorough in our duty, true to our word and promises, steady in our allegiance to Christ, loyal and constant to the good news of salvation, reliable in our walk for Him, adhering to the truth of the gospel message, and a living example of our Lord to others. We are to be God's "employees" in service to Him.

What is a "faithful servant"? Yes, it is the men and woman that profess the message of salvation in Jesus Christ to the world, such as Billy Graham, and countless numbers of ministers of the gospel, Christian musicians, authors and others, but more importantly, it is the daily example of Christ of the individual that is devoted to sharing with others the love, mercy and grace of God.

It is the person that confesses their sins, and accepts the forgiveness of God, and His payment for those sins through Jesus Christ, and steps out in joy to tell others that their chains have been broken, and their burdens have been lifted, and that God's gift is available to them as well. It is you who accept Jesus as Lord, and who will walk in faith to be His enduring servant to the world around you.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Not Giving Up - February 12, 2014

Galatians 6:9(New King James Version)
9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

Galatians 6:9(New Century Version)
9 We must not become tired of doing good. We will receive our harvest of eternal life at the right time if we do not give up.

There are times in this life when we feel like quitting; times when the burdens and difficulties become so large that we don't think we have it in us anymore to survive. We thought that as Christians that somehow this would all be easier, that we would be insulated from the "bad" things. But we were never promised that life would be nothing but "smooth sailing", and Jesus warned us that by following Him, we would even have more trouble. Many in this world face constant persecution and some even death because of their love and service for Jesus.

Everyone goes through times of trouble, and if you aren't going through it now, you will very soon in the future. The great thing about following Jesus Christ is that in the trouble, He promises to be with us. God's plan is not that we won't have trouble, but that we will be refined and stronger for it, and that in facing our difficulties, we will be better prepared when future difficulties come. And if our trouble is because of service to Him, then He will have a place for us in eternity.

Whatever you are going through right now, don't give up. God has a plan for your life, and He will help you as you go through it.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Salvation 101 - February 11, 2014

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?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Like Wood in the Carver's Hands - February 10, 2014

Psalm 138:8 (English Standard Version)
8The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Psalm 138:8 (New International Reader's Version)
8 Lord, you will do everything you have planned for me.
Lord, your faithful love continues forever.
You have done so much for us. Don't stop now.

When a wood carver looks to carve a piece of art, he goes through a number of steps to create a piece of art that can be enjoyed. First he visualizes in his imagination what he wants to carve. Then he usually will draw our what he has in mind. He selects a piece of wood that will fit the project, and then he begins. During the carving, he will often look at his drawing, but along the way, he will usually count on his mental image as he guides the chisel.

Sooner or later he will just let his mind and hands take over, and allows the inspiration within carve out what he has envisioned. Many times he will move around the object, taking off the rough pieces of wood, bit by bit. Only when he is finished can he stand back and admire what he has done, and have the satisfaction that he has created a thing of beauty.

In speaking to the prophet Jeremiah, God said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”Jeremiah 1:5(NIV)God had a place and a time that he would be born, and a specific task that Jeremiah would do. He was made to fulfill God's purposes, and the words penned by prophet still speak to God's people over 2600 years later, testifying to the reason why every unborn life is precious.

Like wood in the carver's hands, God had a vision for what he wanted you to be and what He wanted you to do. He has envisioned that all He has created would fulfill His divine will, and accomplish God's purposes. Just as a wood carver first envisions his work, God knew the beautiful work of art that you would be. The Bible also tells us in Philippians 1:6, "...he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus". God has a plan to finish the work that He has started in you.

Perhaps something you will do, or write, or a child that you will have or inspire, will have an amazing spiritual impact for God many centuries from now. The only way is if you are obedient to His call, and you listen to His direction, and one day you will stand before Him, and He will admire that He has truly created a person of beauty.

Photo from Popular Mechanics Instructables website "Wood Chiseling"

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Overcoming Obstacles and Distractions - February 9, 2014

Job 1:6-7 (Amplified Bible)
6Now there was a day when the sons (the angels) of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan (the adversary and accuser) also came among them.

7And the Lord said to Satan, From where did you come? Then Satan answered the Lord, From going to and fro on the earth and from walking up and down on it.

Luke 22:31-32 (New King James Version)
31 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

1 Peter 5:7-9 (New Living Translation)
7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.

If you ask many Christians, they would probably say that they have a pretty good handle on overcoming Satan. In fact, once they are "saved", accepting Jesus' work on the cross for salvation, many probably rarely think about the work of Satan and his fellow demons. But the fact is that Satan is alive and well, working overtime trying to defeat us. Yes, we are saved and will spend eternity with Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, but it is at this time when the devil works overtime.

It really isn't important to him to focus on those who are already on his "team"; those unfortunate souls that have rejected Christ and have decided to go another way that is apart from the One true God. God loves us all intensely; we are the "jewels" of His creation, and Satan hates that. He desires for us to worship him and not God; so his entire mission is to snatch everyone away from God that he can. That is why those who are saved, true followers of Christ, are so very important to God. We become God's walking billboards, living testaments, ambassadors, witnesses to the grace and mercy only found through Jesus Christ.

As the god of this world, that is doomed to destruction at the end of time, Satan spends his time as we read about in the passages above. He is looking for those he can "sift like wheat"; "devour". He wants to keep us distracted by occupying the time we should be working on behalf of Jesus Christ and God's kingdom. How does he do that? He uses the obstacles in our lives that will slow us down and will distract us the most. They are different for each one of us, because we have all been created, and been saved for a specific purpose in God's plan.

Think about it. When you are fearful about things are you a strong witness for Christ? When you are angry with someone at work or home are you a Christ like example to others? When you worry about personal finances and money are you totally dependent on God? When you are focused on your own difficulties, do you have time for others that need to know Jesus? We fail in our responsibility to tell a dying world about the salvation found in Jesus Christ when we are occupied with the "cares" of this world.

Does this sound like your life? The solution is found in the verses below:
James 4:7-8 (New Living Translation)
7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Saturday Praise! - February 8, 2014

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, February 7, 2014

Blinded By The Light - February 7, 2014

Isaiah 26:9-13(New Century Version)
9 My soul wants to be with you at night, and my spirit wants to be with you at the dawn of every day. When your way of justice comes to the land, people of the world will learn the right way of living.

10 Evil people will not learn to do good even if you show them kindness. They will continue doing evil, even if they live in a good world; they never see the Lord's greatness.

11 Lord, you are ready to punish those people, but they do not see that. Show them your strong love for your people. Then those who are evil will be ashamed. Burn them in the fire you have prepared for your enemies.

12 Lord, all our success is because of what you have done, so give us peace.

13 Lord, our God, other masters besides you have ruled us, but we honor only you.

John 3:19(GOD’S WORD Translation)
19This is why people are condemned: The Light came into the world. Yet, people loved the dark rather than the light because their actions were evil.

Have you ever been up very early in the morning, just before the sun comes up? Especially on a moonless night, it can be pitch black, and just before dawn a faint sliver of light begins to illuminate the darkness. You realize how little light is needed to begin to light up the darkness. It starts out very faintly, but as the minutes pass, the sliver soon begins to fill the sky. The sun hasn't risen yet, but the sky begins to warm up in beautiful hews of purple and red, then orange, and soon yellows. It is a beautiful and amazing, and each day is different from the last.

So it was when Christ came into the dark world, and so too it is in many parts of the world today. The love of Christ begins ever so faintly, in the life of a believer or two, but soon it is illuminating many hearts as the light of Jesus begins to light up the dark souls of many it encounters. Even so, there will be those who choose to stay in the darkness, those who are blinded by the light, and would rather hide where it's dark. If only they allowed a little light to shine in, they would soon feel the warmth of Christ's love.

Many of us may have been in that same situation at one time in our lives, and some reading this might still be there. Although they know of the light of Jesus Christ, they choose to run away from it, and go hide where it's dark. They are so deep in the darkness of their sinful lives, that when Christ's light begins to shine, they would rather not face it. They are happier in the darkness than they are in the light. Darkness hides their true selves, and they fear what the light of day will show.

The Light of God, Jesus Christ, has come into the world. We need to embrace it and allow it to warm our souls. Otherwise we may be trapped in the darkness forever, and find out that we don't want to end up there.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Living Through "Job's Life" Part 10 - February 6, 2014

Job 11:1-6(New Living Translation)
1 Then Zophar the Naamathite replied to Job:
2 “Shouldn’t someone answer this torrent of words?
Is a person proved innocent just by a lot of talking?
3 Should I remain silent while you babble on?
When you mock God, shouldn’t someone make you ashamed?

4 You claim, ‘My beliefs are pure,’
and ‘I am clean in the sight of God.’

5 If only God would speak;
if only he would tell you what he thinks!
6 If only he would tell you the secrets of wisdom,
for true wisdom is not a simple matter.
Listen! God is doubtless punishing you
far less than you deserve!

Talking about piling on! Once again Job's friend rebukes him, instead of being encouraging during a difficult time. To take it a step further, Zophar so believes that Job is guilty before God, that he believes that Job needs to repent for his actions. Repentance means to turn from your sinful ways and walking the way of righteousness. But this was not the reason for Job's difficulty. He had every write to complain to God for what was being done to him.

The lesson that we all can learn from this is that a true friend needs to be there to bring comfort and a listening ear, but any judgments and solutions need to be measured against the situation. Many times people suffer through no fault of their own; a true friend offers a loving touch, not a judgmental beat down. In those circumstances it is best to offer prayer and an offer of assistance. Believe me, your friend will remember when you stood with them and helped carry their burden. That is the way Jesus Christ does it, and His love will show through in your doing the same.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Living Though "Job's Life" Part 9 - February 5, 2014

Job 8:1-7; Job 8:20-22 (The Message)
1-7 Bildad from Shuhah was next to speak:
"How can you keep on talking like this?
You're talking nonsense, and noisy nonsense at that.
Does God mess up?

Does God Almighty ever get things backward?
It's plain that your children sinned against him—
otherwise, why would God have punished them?

Here's what you must do—and don't put it off any longer:
Get down on your knees before God Almighty.

If you're as innocent and upright as you say,
it's not too late—he'll come running;
he'll set everything right again, reestablish your fortunes.
Even though you're not much right now,
you'll end up better than ever.
20-22 "There's no way that God will reject a good person,
and there is no way he'll help a bad one.
God will let you laugh again;
you'll raise the roof with shouts of joy,
With your enemies thoroughly discredited,
their house of cards collapsed."

To add to Job's grief, another friend speaks up and begins accusing Job of being "self-righteous", mainly that God would not do something to his family if they wouldn't have sinned. Once again someone that is supposed to be a friend chides and accuses Job without just cause. It's like rubbing salt in his wounds, accusing a man that had been known for walking with God of being disrespectful towards Him.

It is interesting that when you read this account of Job that you recognize that much of this same "talk" often occurs around us. I would bet that all of us can identify a person or two in our lives, that behave similarly to Job's friends. Little hurts worse than to have our friends heap us with accusations and criticism when we are down. You can probably hear the words of those people in Bildad's cutting statement, "Here's what you must do—and don't put it off any longer: Get down on your knees before God Almighty."

What I take from this is that there is only One that you can depend on during times like these, and that is God.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Living Through "Job's Life" Part 8 - February 4, 2014

Job 4:1-8,17;5:17(New Living Translation)
1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied to Job:
2 “Will you be patient and let me say a word?
For who could keep from speaking out?

3 “In the past you have encouraged many people;
you have strengthened those who were weak.
4 Your words have supported those who were falling;
you encouraged those with shaky knees.
5 But now when trouble strikes, you lose heart.
You are terrified when it touches you.
6 Doesn’t your reverence for God give you confidence?
Doesn’t your life of integrity give you hope?

7 “Stop and think! Do the innocent die?
When have the upright been destroyed?
8 My experience shows that those who plant trouble
and cultivate evil will harvest the same
17 ‘Can a mortal be innocent before God?
Can anyone be pure before the Creator?’
Job 5:17

17 “But consider the joy of those corrected by God!
Do not despise the discipline of the Almighty when you sin.

If things couldn't get much worse for Job, along came his friends. At first they were quite and sat with him for seven days while he grieved, but after he began complaining and hoped for death, then they really showed their "true colors". In this passage we read the first of comments from his friend Eliphaz, and in them we read an accusation that is all to familiar when a Christian goes through difficulty.

The notion here is that one is guilty before he can be proven innocent. Eliphaz was making the point that in God's world(as the Old Testament writers saw it), "righteousness leads to blessing, but wickedness results in punishment"*. Therefore Job must have done something bad to have received such wrath from God, and by the looks of it was really bad. Does that sound familiar? How often when you are going through difficult times do the people closest to you wonder what you may have done wrong?

Unfortunately this has been a prevailing opinion in many Christian households, and many Christian churches in the past and today as well. If you have been around church circles for any time, you know what I am talking about. Truth is though, that just because a follower of Christ is having a difficult time doesn't mean that they are hiding a secret sin. As we have learned from the Book of Job, sometimes the innocent are tested and have trouble for reasons only known by God.

As we read further, we will see how Job's friends begin to "pile on", making Job's situation much worse. There is nothing more discouraging while you are having a hard time, than to have your friends think it is all your own fault. Stick with me as we see how God ultimately helps Job through this.

(*)Handbook on the Wisdom Books and Psalms, By Daniel J. Estes

Monday, February 3, 2014

Living Through "Job's Life" Part 7 - February 3, 2014

Job 3:1-4;20-26 (New Living Translation)
1 At last Job spoke, and he cursed the day of his birth.
2 He said:
3 “Let the day of my birth be erased,
and the night I was conceived.
4 Let that day be turned to darkness.
Let it be lost even to God on high,
and let no light shine on it.
20 “Oh, why give light to those in misery,
and life to those who are bitter?
21 They long for death, and it won’t come.
They search for death more eagerly than for hidden treasure.
22 They’re filled with joy when they finally die,
and rejoice when they find the grave.
23 Why is life given to those with no future,
those God has surrounded with difficulties?
24 I cannot eat for sighing;
my groans pour out like water.
25 What I always feared has happened to me.
What I dreaded has come true.
26 I have no peace, no quietness.
I have no rest; only trouble comes.”

Job finds himself accompanied by his three best friends, and for a week they could not speak. I suspect that Job was consumed by his grief and pain and really couldn't speak, but when he does, his message is one of woe. You can almost hear him wailing as you read through his words. Can you imagine his heartfelt grief over the loss of his children and everything he once had? Can you imagine the pain he was suffering from his body covered in boils that could only be relieved by scratching his sores with broken pieces of pottery?

There are times when we find ourselves in the same utter despair and desperation; times when we are so depressed about our circumstances, that all we feel is hopelessness. This is a time that all of us can relate to, because all of us have been there at one time or another. If we haven't been through such a time, there will be a time like this sometime in our lives. To really get a sense of the state of Job, imagine his situation; imagine the pitiful circumstances he was surrounded by.

You may be in this situation right now. This might be describing your life and what you are going through. Now might be the time you are in your Job experience. How do you overcome this? What can you do? As you read further through Job, you will read how others will try to help and give words of advice, but only with God can Job truly recover. Stay with me as we read further about a "Job's Life".

Canvas of Job, Leon Bonnat(1833-1922),Musee Bonnat, Bayonne, France

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Living Through "Job's Life" Part 6 - February 2, 2014

Job 2:11-13(New Living Translation)

11 When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him. Their names were Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.

12 When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him. Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief. 13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words.

The telephone rings, and its a friend on the other line. Their voice is very serious, as they relay that another good friend has suffered a heavy loss. The two of you call another and decide that the best course of action is to hop into the SUV and travel the 2 hours to see how you can help in this time of distress. How would you react when you hear of a dear friend that has encountered difficulty? Do you imagine yourself responding as Job's three friends did?

We are often called to comfort those who are hurting. I think it was commendable that Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar sat with Job and said nothing for a week; I am sure that just their presence showed Job that at least he was loved by his friends. We too need to learn a lesson form these guys, because many times the best course of action is to be there to listen.
Often our silence can encourage another better than trying to solve a problem or handout advice.

Is there someone you can bring comfort to, that could use you just being there? Remember that in some circumstances your silence can be more encouraging than anything else you could do. In those moments, be the hands and feet of Jesus, and the witness of His love and grace.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Living Through "Job's Life" Part 5 - February 1, 2014

Job 2:7-10(New Living Translation)

7 So Satan left the Lord’s presence, and he struck Job with terrible boils from head to foot.

8 Job scraped his skin with a piece of broken pottery as he sat among the ashes. 9 His wife said to him, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.”

10 But Job replied, “You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” So in all this, Job said nothing wrong.

Have you ever gone through difficulties, only to have those closest to you offer you the least amount of encouragement. No one knows when you personally go through problems better than you; only you know what affect it has on your innermost being. That is why it is so important that you know your relationship with Jesus Christ. He identifies with each of us on a very personal level, and He longs to have us come closer to Him when we experience difficulty.

I am sure that Job's wife was having her own struggles, because she too was a participant in Job's trials. She too lost everything, including her children, and she probably held Job somewhat responsible for what they both were experiencing. I am sure that her first response was to be angry with God, and her anger spilled over in her response to her husband's situation. At that moment she wanted nothing but her husband to be angry with her, and to have nothing to do with the God he followed.

You have to really appreciate Job's reaction, because although he was at his worst, his character before God was at its best. We too need to learn that in our deepest trouble, God is the only One who can help us through, and like Job we have to understand that His will for us is the ultimate authority, if we are to follow Him.