Monday, March 31, 2014

The Lasting Benefits of Belief - March 31, 2014

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

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Staying Pure - March 30, 2014

2 Corinthians 7:1 (New International Reader's Version)
1 Dear friends, we have these promises from God. So let us make ourselves pure from everything that pollutes our bodies and spirits. Let us be completely holy. We want to honor God.

Much is being written these days about the number of young people leaving the church after they leave home. The author of one such book titled, Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Faith. ...and How to Bring Them Back, Drew Dyck, said in an interview, "I think there has been a lot of evidence that they are dropping religion at a greater rate than the younger adults of yesteryear."

In his book Dyck examines the reasons for this through interviews he conducts. Reasons can be varied, from those who leave because of a negative experience, to those who rebel, and those who just get bored and drift away. There has also been other research from everyone from Focus on the Family to Pew Research that seems to concur with this significant falling away of our young people.

I am concerned for the Christian youth of today, because today, there is more pressure from the world around them, than ever before in the past. Once they are out of our care and the safer surroundings of a church family or youth group, they are like "lambs thrown to the wolves". The god of this world will do all he can to trip up everyone of God's children he can. Many of us need only to look in the mirror to identify someone who has gone through this. So what do we do to help them from becoming another statistic?

First, our youth must know without a doubt what they believe. They need to be able to standup for it, and to defend it. As there parents, we need to know what they do believe, and if their is doubt, help to point them to someone that can help them work through those doubts (Of course we need to be sure of what we believe first). They can only be strong against opposition if they do this.

Next, once they leave the home, they have to have a lifeline back to their church and their family of believers. This may mean that your church or its youth group leaders need to be actively connecting with these youth on a regular basis, providing a resource upon which they can depend on. Nothing makes a young person more vulnerable than when they feel that they are alone.

Knowing what they will be held accountable to when they are in the world is the next step. The passage above makes it clear what God expects from them and us. There are many passages in the Bible that help support this. Find them yourself, then pass them on to your kids.

I believe many young people fall away, because their parents have in the way they live. Many times the "empty-nest" syndrome drives once church-going parents to themselves fall into leading lifestyles that result in break up and divorce. Our bad examples forces our young adults to question their own personal faith, and many times the results are catastrophic. Get you own "house of faith" in order before you expect your kids to.

Finally, before your young person leaves home, discuss what will happen when they do go away. Be very honest and clear that what the world offers is not what they have been accustomed to. They need to know how to face things such as relationships, drinking, drugs and sex. Don't be afraid to talk about it, and yes, its okay to be honest about your past mistakes. Nothing is more important than to know that God can restore broken people, just in case they do mess up.

Photo "Water 4" by NKZS, 8-21-2008, from stock.xchng

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Saturday Praise! - March 29, 2014

Psalm 95 (New International Version)

1 Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.

2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.

3 For the LORD is the great God,
the great King above all gods.

4 In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.

5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.

6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;

7 for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.
Today, if you hear his voice,

8 do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the desert,

9 where your fathers tested and tried me,
though they had seen what I did.

10 For forty years I was angry with that generation;
I said, "They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known my ways."

11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
"They shall never enter my rest."

It is good to remember our God in praise and thanksgiving, especially on this day that is set aside for worship every week. If you do take out a regular time of worship, you begin to lose intimacy that can you gain with your Heavenly Father in the company of other Christians.

I have heard many people say, " I worship God my own way. I don't need to go to church", but I have felt the Holy Spirit move more intensely when I have worshipped with others. Much is gained in the presence of other like-minded believers, sharing in a time of instruction from God's word, corporate praise, communal worship, and corporate prayer.

When we leave this life and go into the next, I believe we will be joined with countless others that are joined together in praise and worship of our God. Make a decision to weekly and consistently take a day and give your time to God. He will bless the rest of your time and the rest of your week for doing so.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Salvation "Cliff Notes" - March 28, 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.

This 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, March 27, 2014

Working For God - March 27, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Stop Wandering - March 26, 2014

Numbers 32:13 (New King James Version)
13 So the LORD’s anger was aroused against Israel, and He made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of the LORD was gone.

They were a complaining and often times contentious people, yet God had a special place for the Israelites. He had made a promise many generations before that He would give them a land that would be exclusively theirs, reserved for God' chosen people. Moses had led them out of bondage and slavery, and after they miraculously crossed the Red Sea, in to the Sinai Desert.

Normally the trip from Egypt to what is now Israel, would have only taken two or three months, at a slow pace with families and livestock, but because of the sin, unbelief and lack of trust of the people, they turned it into a 40 year experience. They fought the leadership of Moses at every turn, and no matter how God demonstrated His power to them, they still chose their own way instead of God's. The people were not ready to receive the gift of the land God had promised them, and they would not be able to "taste" God's goodness until those who sinned against God were purged from their midst.

Have you spent much time wandering in your personal desert? Has your life led you through many "desert" experiences, trials and troubles that seemingly never end? Has it been because of your sin, unbelief and lack of trust in God? Have you oftentimes chosen your own way even when God has demonstrated His power to you? God will let you wander through the "desert" of life until your heart has been changed and you are prepared to receive His free gift His of grace and mercy.

Thanks to Jesus Christ's work on the cross, you can leave the desert and "taste" God's goodness in the "promised land". What it will take is for you to admit and confess your sin, change the unbelieving and sinful attitude of your heart, and surrender yourself to His leadership in faith.

Photo compliments of

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Misplaced Trust - March 25, 2014

Jeremiah 17:5-6 (New Living Translation)

5 This is what the Lord says:

“Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord.

6 They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land."

There is a new "religion" of sorts that has been steadily gaining ground around us in our nation. You see it with the constant barrage against Christianity and other religions, and the attempt to wipe out every vestige of established religion. Practitioners of this "religion" use our own laws against us to assist in their efforts, and they have been winning, because those who do practice a mainstream religion seem to be apathetic to the problem.

What I am talking about is the religion of Secular Humanism. Wikepedia defines that it," alternatively known as Humanism, is a secular philosophy that espouses human reason, ethics, and justice, and the search for human fulfillment. It specifically rejects religious dogma, supernaturalism, pseudoscience or superstition as the basis of morality and decision-making."

In other words, it is a "religion" that trusts or has faith in the ability of human beings to determine how they should lead their lives apart from the belief in any supernatural, transcendent, being. It believes it can answer all of life's questions from the natural world and science, free of anything spiritual or sacred. And yes, if you are a believer in this, you are practicing a "religion"; the belief, faith or trust in humanity alone.

Through the prophet Jeremiah, God likened those who believe this way as "stunted shrubs in the desert with no hope of a future". If you have ever been in a desert, you know what this means. In the desert, many plants flourish for but a few short days when the Winter rains bring much needed water. Although they may green up and flower, they will soon succumb to the heat and lack of moisture, shrivel up and die. When you drive through the desert in the Summer, you will definitely come across many plants such as tumbleweeds, blowing across the barren land.

If we place our hope and trust in our own efforts, we may find ourselves in these same circumstances. In the beginning, it may seem like everything is great; we might be successful and having fun, doing whatever we like with our lives. Sooner or later though, when we are in an empty and troubled place, a dry and barren place, we will have nothing to turn to or depend on to help us make it through this difficult place.

We will wander about aimlessly, coming to the end of our lives without any hope of a future. Very few people that believe this way find true joy and contentment, when they come to the end of their lives. Most end up very much alone, depressed, and fearful of the unknown. Imagine only being able to count on the fact that when you die, you just decay and turn into dust? Can you believe in something, where that is all their is to life?

Photo "Wastelands" by Justino307, 4-4-2007, from stock.xchng

Monday, March 24, 2014

Nowhere to Hide - March 24, 2014

Jeremiah 23:23-24(New King James Version)
23 “ Am I a God near at hand,” says the LORD,

“ And not a God afar off?

24 Can anyone hide himself in secret places,
So I shall not see him?” says the LORD;

“ Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the LORD.

Jeremiah 23:23-24(GOD’S WORD Translation)
23“I am a God who is near. I am also a God who is far away,” declares the Lord.

24“No one can hide so that I can’t see him,” declares the Lord. “I fill heaven and earth!” declares the Lord.

There are many in our world, that think that they can live their lives as they'd like without any repercussions. They constantly comment that they have plenty of time left to think about their future, and that they will think about God when they need to. You also hear them comment on their personal behavior and have the false assumption that God can't really see them, or that He isn't paying attention to them. What they say that what they do in private is their own business, and what He doesn't see won't matter in the long run.

Truth is though, God sees everything! He is omnipresent, meaning that He is everywhere at the same time. We may not see or "feel" His presence, but He is there. When Jesus Christ stepped into the world, He made this fact known when He told his disciples, “And remember that I am always with you until the end of time.”(Matthew 28:20b)Once we accept Christ as Savior and Lord, the Holy Spirit takes up residence within us, to guide and impart godly wisdom upon us. Once He is within us, there is no place to hide. Everything we do is under His caring eye.

Since God already knows everything about you, why not bring it out in the open? He sees your secrets, so why not turn them over to Him? Why not surrender and confess all that has you in bondage? Through Jesus Christ, you have been redeemed and He has taken your punishment upon Himself. If you still are waiting to turn your life over to Him, there will be a day that everything about your life will be layed out before God and judged. On that day, there truly will be nowhere to hide.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Saturday Praise! - March 22, 2014

Psalm 96 (New International Version)

1 Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth.

2 Sing to the LORD, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.

3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

4 For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.

5 For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.

6 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

7 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come into his courts.

9 Worship the LORD in the splendor of his [a] holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.

10 Say among the nations, "The LORD reigns."
The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it;

12 let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy;

13 they will sing before the LORD, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in his truth.

Welcome to another weekend, when we take time out to rest and do those things our busy live don't allow us to do during our busy week. In today's society, regular church attendance takes a back seat to many other activities, from kid's sports, to spending time with family and friends, to fishing and hunting, or to just watching TV. In fact, many of us spend much more time worshiping athletes and games played with leather balls than we spend with God.

We need to remember to take time in worship and praise to our Creator, the One who alone is worthy of our praise. It is difficult to worship and praise our Lord at home by ourselves. Many people make the excuse that they don't like "organized religion", but I would challenge you that things have changed. Today's many non-denominational churches are very far from what we might have grown up with, and no longer are church services focused mainly on mundane liturgies and tired traditions.

The remembrance of some traditions are still important, but many churches are now focused more on praise and worship, and time to connect with God. Many of today's best church leaders teach us how we can apply God's truths to our daily lives, and how we can live out our relationship with Jesus through touching others around us.

If you find your life a bit empty of meaning and if you are seeking something else, try to encounter the love of Jesus through the love of His people. Take the time, pack the family in the car, and visit a good local church this Sunday.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Lighthouse of Hope - March 21, 2014

Hebrews 12:1-3 (New International Reader's Version)
1 A huge cloud of witnesses is all around us. So let us throw off everything that stands in our way. Let us throw off any sin that holds on to us so tightly. Let us keep on running the race marked out for us.

2 Let us keep looking to Jesus. He is the author of faith. He also makes it perfect. He paid no attention to the shame of the cross. He suffered there because of the joy he was looking forward to. Then he sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

3 He put up with attacks from sinners. So think about him. Then you won't get tired. You won't lose hope.

Jutting out into the Pacific Ocean from the spectacular Big Sur Coast, the Point Sur Lightstation stands as a silent sentinel to a by-gone era. Point Sur, a National Historic Landmark, is the only complete turn-of-the-century light station open to the public in California. From 1899 until 1974, families lived and worked in the buildings atop Point Sur. Today Point Sur is a ghost town. The unique stone lighthouse still guides ships with its light, though it is now totally automated.*

There are many out there searching for a beacon in the distance that they can focus their attention onto. We all need to be guided by something; for some it is the love of this world and the pleasures it has to offer; others look to fame and fortune in their talent, or work, or career; still some look to "religion" thinking that a certain manner of behavior or works will rescue them from the difficulties they face. Unfortunately, all of these will only make a shipwreck of the person's life.

Just as the lighthouse in the photo above has led many a ship's Captain to steer away from trouble and the hazards of the California coast, Jesus Christ is the beacon that leads us to a place of hope and trust. For the lost, He is the light shining in the distance that points to safe waters. For the believer, He is the faithful point that never moves, allowing us to always have a guiding light onto which we can focus our lives. With Him there are no shipwrecks, because He not only is the light, but also the Captain of our ship of life.

If you have become lost in the sea of trouble we call life, look to the shore for the lighthouse of hope. Look to Jesus who will guide you safely into the safe waters of God's love.

Photo of Point Sur taken by me on a trip to Carmel,CA in 2007.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Our Mediator - March 20, 2014

1 Timothy 2:5-6(New Living Translation)
5 For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. 6 He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.

In the world of business the resolution of contract disputes is a huge concern. In most contracts, in order to avoid lengthy court battles and the spending of huge attorney's fees, a provision is made that the first attempt at resolving any dispute will be through mediation. Agreeing to mediation provides protection for both parties in case a dispute arises, and it allows for the resolution of a conflict for the least amount of difficulty and cost.

Typically both parties will agree to allow a mediator, a neutral party who assists in negotiations and conflict resolution, to be the one to reconcile any dispute. In mediation, and if both have agreed to and accepted mediation as the resolution in any conflict, both parties must abide by the final decision of the mediator. The mediator's word is the final authority, and if payment is required of either party, it has to be paid.

If on the other hand, the parties fail to accept and agree to mediation in their initial contract agreement, they will subject themselves to resolving any dispute in a court of law. This may end up costing the offending party, a heavy price in the attempt to placate the injured party. It is a difficult place to be, if one has to stand on their own and suffer the consequences of any injury that may have been done. Many have had their reputations and lives ruined as a result of not agreeing to the protection of mediation.

Through God's grace, He has provided us with a Mediator to resolve our dispute with God. Our sin has separated us from God and has caused us to be in dispute, created conflict, with Him. Nothing that we do on our own can resolve the conflict, because we are a party to our dispute with God.
Jesus Christ has taken on the responsibility of mediating our conflict with our righteous God.

Our dispute, our conflict with God due to the offense of our sin, has been resolved by Christ's mediation. Through His death on the cross, the payment that is required for our sin against God has been made by the Mediator Himself! He has been given the final authority in the matter and His decision is final. Nothing can be done to alter the decision as long as we have accepted it, and agreed to Jesus Christ as our Mediator.

If you have not accepted God's offer of mediation, you will have to stand alone in God's court of judgment and suffer whatever decision is rendered. Why not accept Jesus Christ and assure that your will have a Mediator when you stand before God? Why not accept His payment in full for what you have done and will ever do as the offending party? Now is the right time for you to accept the decision and His provision as the resolution to your conflict with God.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Storm Warning - March 19, 2014

2 Peter 3:10-12 (New King James Version)
10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.[laid bare]

11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?

Have you heard that mariner's warning, "red sky in morning, sailors take warning"? It means that if the sky is red in the morning, the day will have bad weather. It's just one of the warnings that we are confronted with on a daily basis.

We have warning signs and warning labels, and warnings on our clothes. We have tornado warnings and ice-storm warnings, and warnings about all kinds of weather. We are warned about fats and warned about cholesterol, and we are warned about the fact we need to lose weight. We are warned about drugs and alcohol, and warnings about all kinds of dangerous living. It seems that everywhere we turn, there is a warning about something.

As we read the Bible, we come across warnings as well, as God tries to show us what we need to do to be right with Him. What we read in its verses either stands as a testament to right living, or a warning against one's sin. But everything we are warned about culminates in a warning about the coming of the end. In several books in both the Old and New Testaments, we are warned of a coming storm, and we are warned of one fateful day, called the Day of the Lord.

The Day of the Lord will be a time when God judges mankind, and His judgment will be either a time of blessing or terrible curse. That time will spell the end of things as we know them, and the Bible is very vivid and clear about those events. That coming day will be a time of great distress and anguish for those who have not accepted the provision God has made for people. As we are told in 2 Peter, all the works of man will be burned up and destroyed. This will truly be a terrible day for those who don't believe in Jesus Christ as God's provision of salvation.

Warnings are everywhere in our lives, just in case we come too close to something that we are being warned about. They are there to keep us safe from harm. So too are God's warnings in His word. God has given us time to be saved from the coming destruction, and we are truly arrogant if we ignore them. Since we do not know "the day or the hour", what changes will you make in your life to make sure you take part in His way of escape?

Photo "Sunrise 6-7-09" by cempey, from stock.xchng

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Living at Peace - March 18, 2014

Romans 12:17-18 (New International Version, ©2011)
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Romans 12:17-18 (GOD’S WORD Translation)
17Don’t pay people back with evil for the evil they do to you. Focus your thoughts on those things that are considered noble. 18As much as it is possible, live in peace with everyone.

As followers of Jesus we need to seek the good in every situation, even when it seems bad. This is especially true when it comes to relationships with others. Very often in life we are thrown into difficult situations where we are hurt by others. Our normal reaction would be to strike back, but it is best to "turn the other cheek" as we have learned from Jesus.

I have mentioned before about what was inflicted upon Jesus without Him striking back. We need to do the same by never repaying what evil that has been done to us. We also need to always live in harmony with those around us, seeking the best, and living in peace. Only then can we truly be mirror images of our Savior.

Photo "Hands" by Andy205, 7-7-2005 from stock.xchng

Monday, March 17, 2014

In Praise of Saint Patrick - March 17, 2014

Matthew 28:18-20 (New International Version)
18Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

St. Patrick is an excellent example of someone that was moved by the command of Jesus, as noted in the above verses, to make a difference with people in his time.

St. Patrick's Day is celebrated on March 17, his religious feast day and the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over a thousand years. On St. Patrick's Day, which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived and people would dance, drink and feast—on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.

St. Patrick of Ireland is one of the world's most popular saints. Apostle of Ireland, born at Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, in Scotland, in the year 387; died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland, 17 March, 461. His parents were Calpurnius and Conchessa, who were Romans living in Britian in charge of the colonies.

As a boy of fourteen or so, he was captured during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. Ireland at this time was a land of Druids and pagans. He learned the language and practices of the people who held him. During his captivity, he turned to God in prayer. He wrote: "The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same." "I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain."

Patrick's captivity lasted until he was twenty, when he escaped after having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. There he found some sailors who took him back to Britain, where he reunited with his family. He had another dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him "We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more."

He began his studies for the priesthood. He was ordained by St. Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre, whom he had studied under for years. Later, Patrick was ordained a bishop, and was sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. He arrived in Ireland March 25, 433, at Slane. Patrick began preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland, converting many. He and his disciples preached and converted thousands and began building churches all over the country. Kings, their families, and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity when hearing Patrick's message(Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Trinity, and it has been associated with him and the Irish since that time).

Patrick preached and converted all of Ireland for 40 years. He worked many miracles and wrote of his love for God in Confessions. After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering he died March 17, 461. He died at Saul, where he had built the first church.

Patrick was a humble, pious, gentle man, whose love and total devotion to and trust in God should be a shining example to each of us. He feared nothing, not even death, so complete was his trust in God, and of the importance of his mission.

[Excerpts and historical information on St. Patrick from and]

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Living in Harmony - March 16, 2014

Romans 12:16 (New International Version, ©2011)
16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[willing to do menial work
] Do not be conceited.

Romans 12:16 (New Living Translation)
16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

We have been given a great gift. Because we have been saved through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, we are set apart for God's purposes. This doesn't mean that we gather ourselves up into "holy huddles", waiting for our Lord's return though. It doesn't mean that we associate only with other Christians. And, it doesn't mean that we turn our backs on others, because they can't measure up to the rules we have setup for ourselves and others to meet.

God has only one condition for salvation, and that is that one believes in Jesus Christ as His Son, that gave His life for our sins in our place, and stepped out of the grave to take up His rightful place as God in Heaven. May seem to be a tall order to accept such a thing, but it is quit simple if you really think about it. It is a simple thing called faith. That is all that God has asked us to have.

Unfortunately, as is always the case, man has added other "works" to add to God's gift of salvation. Many Christians have done the same, laying down rules and regulations for membership to a particular church. This is called legalism and it has no place in God's kingdom. Jesus spoke against this same problem with the Jewish leaders of his day. He called them "whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity".

In his ongoing lesson about how to live out the Christian life, Paul admonishes us to first live peacefully with each other, and then to not mind getting our hands dirty with normal people. Many might read this and say that he meant this to be applied within the following of believers. In my humble opinion, God would want us to humble ourselves, to be like Jesus, and to work alongside anyone that is in need of His life saving message.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Importance of Sharing - March 15, 2014

Romans 12:13 (New International Version, ©2011)
13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

The key to receiving all the blessings from God this life has to offer is sharing. Nothing focuses your attention on the heart and Spirit of God better than when you give of yourself to others, especially others who believe in Jesus. In doing so you come very close to the nature and character of God.

If you find yourself lifeless in your faith, and just can't get it off dead center, if your interested in "going deeper" with God, then do something for someone else in the name of Jesus Christ. Give it your all, not begrudgingly or as if you had to do it, but do something without pretext or precondition. You will be the one most blessed for doing so.

Photo "For Us 2" by Spiz, 4-29-2006, from stock.xchng

Friday, March 14, 2014

Spiritual Fire - March 14, 2014

Romans 12:11 (New International Reader's Version)
11 Never let the fire in your heart go out. Keep it alive. Serve the Lord.

Romans 12:11 (New International Version, ©2011)
11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

Spiritual fire, a filling of God's Holy Spirit, the reception of Jesus promised "Comforter" is the mark of a follower of Jesus Christ. When you are "saved", surrender your life and accept the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross for your sins, and accept Him as Lord over your life, as the risen, living, Son of God, you are filled with a constant companion. He helps guide you through this Christian life, convicting you of wrong and lifting you up in times of righteousness and joy.

I believe that once you experience a true conversion, you can never lose it, but Paul encourages us to never lose our zeal for God; never get bored with serving Him. After a few years in our Christian lives, we may tire of waiting for our coming Savior, but keep in mind that it is all working out for His purposes. Be about His business, and He will be about yours!

Photo "Worship" by Everywhere, 12-30-2005, from stock.xchng

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Genuine Love - March 13, 2014

Romans 12:9-10 (New International Reader's Version)
9 Love must be honest and true. Hate what is evil. Hold on to what is good. 10 Love each other deeply. Honor others more than yourselves.

Romans 12:9-10 (English Standard Version)
9 Let love (agape) be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection (philadelphia). Outdo one another in showing honor.

When I was young there used to be a fairly popular folk song, which was a written in 1968 by then-Catholic priest Peter R. Scholtes. They will know we are Christians by our Love was sung around many campfires at church camp to the strum of guitar, but I wonder how many of the young people understood what they were singing about, and how many then turned around and exhibited it in their lives.

In recent culture, a few Christians have earned a reputation, not for their love in action, but for being judgmental and legalistic. Even today society at large feels that all Christians want to impose a certain set of rules on everyone else, rather than being a loving group of believers of Jesus Christ, who want to live as His example by serving others. Although we sing much about showing love to others, sometimes we really don't live it out.

Paul calls us to show two examples of Christian love to others; agape, the self-sacrificing, active, volitional, and thoughtful love, and philadelphia, the love for brothers and sisters. He points out that we are to love each other genuinely, and treat each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. As Christians, this is not always easy, but if we will try to see each other as God sees us, then it will make it much easier.

If we as followers of Christ will love each other and our fellow inhabitants of this planet in genuine love, treating them as a brother or sister, we would make a significant impact on the world around us. It is up to us to show fellow believers that the true message of Jesus and the apostles is that God loves us genuinely, and in turn we are to love those in the world the same way. Let us make it a point to change the world's opinion of Christians, from one of judges and legalists, to one of being loving, caring, followers of Christ.

Photo "Forward Together" by hotblack, 9-29-2007, from stock.xchng

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Keeping Faith Real - March 12, 2014

Romans 12:3 (New International Reader's Version)
3 God's grace has been given to me. So here is what I say to every one of you. Don't think of yourself more highly than you should. Be reasonable when you think about yourself. Keep in mind the amount of faith God has given you.

Unfortunately, many well meaning Christians have given our faith a bum rap. Many churches tried to drum into their congregants the "do's and don'ts" of the faith, without providing the "heart" of the message, which is the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. For many young people over the past few decades, church became a boring place that you had to attend, filled with hypocrites that were in church on Sunday's, but lived like the rest of the world every other day. To top it all off, those same people arrogantly professed the degree of their faith, and excluded those that didn't measure up to their image of a Christian.

Paul gives us warning that just because we have been saved through the mercy and grace of God, doesn't mean that we are any better than anyone else. The great thing about our faith is that God wants you to "come as you are". He sets no pre-conditions, and asks only that you accept Jesus as Savior and Lord. He has provided the means of redemption for everyone, in every area of society and in every corner of the world. No one is better than any another, or is excluded from the gift that He has given.

On the surface this might seem like an easy concept to accept, but if you really search your heart, do you accept that every one as capable of receiving Jesus Christ, regardless of condition? How about those who hate you and do evil against you? How about people from other faiths, that are determined to destroy yours? Is their anyone in your life that you just can't forgive enough to see them saved by God? If God can save you, then everyone is open to His forgiveness and plan of redemption.

We can thank God that He has given us the degree of faith that we have. Some have more and some have less; we are all in different places when it comes to where we are with Him. But one thing is for sure, God loves all of His creation and wants all people to come to Him. It is our humble duty to realize where we are, and to use whatever measure of faith we have in His service, helping others to come to Jesus.

Photo "Tux" by firehawk77, 4-14-2006, from stock.xchng

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sacrificial Living - March 11, 2014

Romans 12:1 (New International Version, ©2011)

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

Before I became a true Christian, meaning before I understood and accepted what I now believe about Jesus Christ, I used to think that the whole Christian thing was a bunch of "do's and don'ts". I also thought God was the "big guy upstairs" that would bash me with a hammer if I ever got out of line. I would venture to say that for most that outside the faith, that is exactly how they think. It wasn't until I really understood God's gift of sacrifice to me that I found reason to give back in gratitude to Him.

Paul, the writer of Romans, begins this chapter exhorting us to living the right way for God. We do this through understanding that how we live, now that we are followers and examples of Christ to others, really is an example of our praise and worship to God for what He has done for us. We are asked to be a "living sacrifice", a personal demonstration of our faith and obedience to God, by the manner in which we serve Him.

He then will go on to describe the practical tips for being "living sacrifices" before God and those around us. Over the next few days we will take a look at how we can daily live out our faith and study the instruction he lays out to accomplish this.

Photo "Passionate Prayer" by Kobos, 6-7-2006, from stock.xchng

Monday, March 10, 2014

Give God Praise - March 10, 2014

Jude 1:24-25 (New International Reader's Version)
24 Give praise to the One who is able to keep you from falling into sin. He will bring you into his heavenly glory without any fault. He will bring you there with great joy. 25 Give praise to the only God. He is our Savior. Glory, majesty, power and authority belong to him. Give praise to him through Jesus Christ our Lord. Give praise to the One who was before all time, who now is, and who will be forever. Amen.

Finally Jude tells us, in light of persecution, heresies, and all kinds of trouble that surrounds us, to praise God. Lift up our voices, lift our hands, lift our total beings, in praise to the One who has saved us to be with Him forever. Everything we are and do needs to be in praise and worship to our God and king.

Photo "Praise Dancer 2" by Anissant,11-8-2005, from stock.xchng

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Showing Mercy - March 9, 2014

Jude 1:22-23 (New International Reader's Version)
22 Show mercy to those who doubt. 23 Pull others out of the fire. Save them. To others, show mercy mixed with fear. Hate even the clothes that are stained by the sins of those who wear them.

Jude 1:22 (The Message)
22-23Go easy on those who hesitate in the faith. Go after those who take the wrong way. Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin. The sin itself stinks to high heaven.

When I was young in the faith, it was often difficult to find the answers. Although I knew that something new had happened to me, I didn't know what to do next. I also struggled to know if I had really been saved, and since changes in my life occurred slowly, I often had doubts about whether or not my conversion had been real. This often led to backsliding and delay in discovering the fantastic life God has in store for me.

I could have really used a Christian mentor that would pull alongside me and encourage me in my faith. I could have used a mentor that would help me be accountable for the things that I was and wasn't doing. It would have been great to know someone tender-hearted and merciful, that would accept me for who I was, and help me pick myself up and get back on track.

There are many around us that are new in the faith, that have doubts, or that may just be learning about this life called Christianity. There are many who need to be confronted as they make this life-change, to help them turn from the bondage that they have been living under. There are many that need to be shielded from the pressures now put on them by Satan, as they attempt to follow Jesus and be a reflection of His image.

Do you find yourself coming into contact with people like these? Do you have a yearning to tell others of your redemption and help them know about Jesus? Do you have a burden for those who are trapped in the garbage of this world and hopelessly lost? If you do, then the Holy Spirit of God is talking to you. It is you who needs to show mercy for those God is giving you a burden for.

It is you who needs to learn from Jude's teaching and be that encouraging image of Jesus Christ.

Photo "Urban Poverty 1" from ElRincon, 10-17-2005, from stock.xchng

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Remaining In Him - March 8, 2014

Jude 1:21 (New International Reader's Version)
21 The mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ will bring you eternal life. As you wait for his mercy, remain in God's love.

John 15:1-8 (New Living Translation)
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.

4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. 5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

As I have said before, the Christian life is not easy. In the 1st Century, this was especially true, with persecution coming from the Jewish elite, the Romans, and pagans. At the same time within the church, many heretical doctrines and teachings were springing up to confuse especially the new believers, into accepting a faith that at times was not authentic. Only by diligent study, and frequent help of the apostles and true believers, was the church able to grow and strengthen itself in the purity of the true message of Jesus Christ.

In Jude's teaching to those striving to strengthen and protect their walk in the faith, he encouraged Christians to "remain in God's love" while they waited for the return of Christ. I am sure Jude recollected the similar teaching of Jesus, who admonished his followers to "remain" in him. Doing so was the only way for them to grow more deeply in their faith and produce fruit.

He even likened this relationship to growing grapes in the vineyard. As believers we have been grafted into the vine, which is Jesus. By staying close to him, we will be able to produce fruit, the acts of a believer, filled with the Spirit, towards those around them. God as the gardener would provide pruning, the test of personal trial, to strengthen the believer and give them the ability to produce more fruit.

The only way we can withstand the trials and tribulations of this present life is to remain close to Jesus Christ. By remaining in Him we will be able to be the "hands and feet of Jesus" to those around us.

Photo "Grapes: in vino veritas" by Starfish75, 10-16-2005, from stock.xchng

Friday, March 7, 2014

Building Up Your Faith - March 7, 2014

Jude 1:20 (New International Reader's Version)
20 Dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith. Let the Holy Spirit guide and help you when you pray.

Every sound and stable structure first requires a solid foundation, then each block needs to be secured one on top of the other. Each block has to be placed and secured properly, so that the structure can withstand the many forces that will come against it in the years, and decades to come.

To combat the persecution and heresy that would come against followers of Jesus Christ, Jude encouraged the believers to build themselves up in the faith. For us that means that we must first have the secure foundation of Jesus, by accepting Him as Lord and Savior, and on top of this, we need to study the word of God through studying the Bible.

By intense study, the Holy Spirit will guide us and help us build up our faith. The more we learn about the nature, character and will of God, the more solid we build upon our belief in Him. and the more easily we can defend against anything that will come against us. In addition, we need to constantly seek God through prayer, and the Spirit will show us what we need to do.

With these building blocks of faith, study and prayer, we can develop a sound and stable faith, that can withstand the forces that will come against us in the years and decades ahead.

Photo "Block Dreams(3)" by Bosela, 8-22-2007, from stock.xchng

Thursday, March 6, 2014

All About Jude - March 6, 2014

Jude 1:17-24 (New International Reader's Version)

17 Dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ said was going to happen. 18 They told you, "In the last days, some people will make fun of the truth. They will follow their own ungodly longings." 19 They are the people who separate you from one another. They do only what comes naturally. They are not led by the Holy Spirit.

20 Dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith. Let the Holy Spirit guide and help you when you pray. 21 The mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ will bring you eternal life. As you wait for his mercy, remain in God's love.

22 Show mercy to those who doubt. 23 Pull others out of the fire. Save them. To others, show mercy mixed with fear. Hate even the clothes that are stained by the sins of those who wear them.

24 Give praise to the One who is able to keep you from falling into sin. He will bring you into his heavenly glory without any fault. He will bring you there with great joy.

There is a little obscure book in the Bible, just before the Revelation. I bet it often gets missed when people study God's word, yet it was written by the brother of Jesus to combat heresies that doubted salvation by grace.

The first part of the letter reviewed these heresies, but I haven't copied them here. Instead, I wanted to present the "nuggets" of wisdom about how we should conduct ourselves in the Christian walk during these very difficult times.

Take out your Bible, read and meditate on these few verses, and over the next couple of days, we will dig a little deeper into what Jude is telling us.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Seeing The Light - March 5, 2014

Matthew 13:15 (New International Version, ©2011)
15 "For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them."(Isaiah 6:9,10)

2 Corinthians 4:1-6 (New Living Translation)
1 Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up. 2 We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this.

3 If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. 4 Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

5 You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

I often wonder why it is so hard for so many people to not understand what Christ offers us. I wonder why God allowed me to finally "see the light" after living so long in darkness. I have often said, "it was as if a light bulb went on", when I realized and understood the good news of Jesus Christ. The transformation of my life started dimly at first, kind of like those old CFM bulbs that take a while to get bright, but nonetheless it illuminated the darkness I had lived in for many years, and changed me.

For many this is a difficult concept to grasp, how God can take someone who is lost and transform him into a new person. Jesus quoted Isaiah when he was describing the hardened hearts and closed mindedness of the Jewish leaders of his day, and Paul writing to the Corinthians, described this as a "veil" from Satan that "blinded the minds of those who don’t believe".

We see this today as we see a world around us doing all it can to ridicule, disparage and remove Christianity from the daily lives of people. It is easier for many to accept ridiculous New Age concepts or religions that behave contrary to civilized society, than to accept the grace and mercy of God providing mankind with a way to be redeemed from their sin. And the world does all it can to believe in anything but Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

It took awhile before the veil was lifted and God's bright and shining light revealed to me that I could be made clean, that I could be redeemed and start over again, because of the gift of Jesus. I am thankful for it, and I try to do my part in sharing Christ's love with others. As the world looks to an uncertain and dark future, I have the knowledge of the hope that gives me certainty. That knowledge is the light of the message of Jesus Christ.

My prayer is that we who call ourselves followers of Christ can shine that light of Jesus, and do our part in overcoming the darkness.

Photo "Creepy Basement Light" by Hortongrou,11-18-2005, from stock.xchng

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Time Is Now - March 4, 2014

2 Corinthians 6:1-2(New Living Translation)
1 As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. 2 For God says,

“At just the right time, I heard you.
On the day of salvation, I helped you.”[Isaiah 49:8]

Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.

Many have taken for granted that their lives will take them to a "ripe old age". For many if you ask them what will happen to them when they die they will answer that they don't need to worry about it, because its a long time from now. No one believes that the present day will be their last, and we have to be thankful to the grace of God that we have not all been "vaporized" for our arrogance. It's interesting that they also often state that "life is to short", but talk to them about spiritual matters and they will simply give you the "brush off".

In addition, many Christians take their salvation for granted is well. Many believe that just because the go to church and have been baptized that they are "okay" with God. They wrongly believe that because they know a few bible stories and they are part of the Christmas and Easter crowd that their place in heaven is set. Their are also those who "religiously" go to church services week after week, and they truly believe that their membership will "open the door to heaven" for them. Are there those who are truly saved among these groups? Sure, but whether or not you are "saved" should not be taken for granted.

You need to be sure today, right now, that you are truly "saved". Salvation means that you admit to God that you have sinned against Him, broken His rules. You accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, as the One who out of His love for you, willingly died on the cross as payment for your sins that you have committed and will always commit. It is also believing that He stepped out of the grave, being resurrected three days after He died, and appeared to many witnesses to prove that He was God. And that Jesus Christ then returned to heaven and is at the right hand of the Father, where He waits for you right now. This is a free gift that you cannot earn because of your "good works". God is the One that has redeemed you, made you right with Him solely out of His love for you.

If you are unsure of your salvation, or if you have been putting off embracing the love and redemption that God is offering you, today is the day to make sure. It is the "right time" to accept Jesus Christ and make yourself right with God. You do not know what tomorrow will bring. Make sure of your eternal destiny before it is too late.

If you want to make sure of your salvation or you want to learn how to be saved, just follow the link and you will find what you need.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Fortune Cookie - March 3, 2014

Psalm 128(New International Reader's Version)
1 Blessed are all those who have respect for the Lord.
They live as he wants them to live.

2 Your work will give you what you need.
Blessings and good things will come to you.

3 As a vine bears a lot of fruit,
so your wife will have many children by you.
They will sit around your table
like young olive trees.

4 Only a man who has respect for the Lord
will be blessed like that.

5 May the Lord bless you from Zion.
May you enjoy the good things that come to Jerusalem
all the days of your life.

6 May you live to see your grandchildren.
May Israel enjoy peace.

Don't you just love to go and eat Chinese food with your family? Even at a young age I remember going to our favorite Chinese restaurant and eating all of the wonderful foods "family style". Everyone would share their dishes, and we learned how to eat with those funny sticks with the rubber bands on them. The best part came at the end, when the server passed around the fortune cookies. Each one would take their turn and read their fortune out loud. Of course they never came true, but that still didn't stop the excitement and fun of the occasion.

The word of God is somewhat like a fortune cookie. Not to diminish God's word to something so frivolous, but each and every chapter and verse opens up words of wisdom and good fortune. If we will take the advice given, and do as we are told, and accept the promises offered, we will reap the blessings as they are written. Just like what's written in the fortune cookie, except these sayings do come true! So next chance you get, break open your Bible, turn to a good section of the Psalms or Proverbs and see what good fortune the Lord has in store for you.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Amazing Grace - March 2, 2014

1 Timothy 1:14-16(New Living Translation)
14 Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.

15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all.

16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.

One of my favorite hymns (and it turns out my favorite movies) is "Amazing Grace". The words of this hymn were penned by John Newton July 24, 1725 – December 21, 1807), who was an English sailor, and later in his life an Anglican clergyman. His story is one of conversion, repentance, and how a relationship with Jesus Christ made a significant impact on his life, that took him from being a sailor and Captain of a slave ship to being a minister, hymn writer and abolitionist. Published in 1779, it is "amazing" that even in secular venues, the hymn has received widespread acceptance. The words point to how through Jesus our once wretched state can be transformed by embracing God's love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness; it is the story of redemption.

I can really identify with both Paul, as he writes of his salvation in Christ, as well as John Newton. I too can claim the mantel of once "being even the worst of sinners", because I too was brought from the depths of my worldly and sinful self to a life worth living in Jesus Christ. Not that I am perfect, but I have a far clearer understanding of where I was and where I am going. God "grabbed a hold of me", and I will never be the same. Yes, I do have struggles like everybody else, and I do feel overwhelmed and defeated at times, but knowing that the Creator of the Universe guides my steps and has secured my eternal future gives me confidence that every day will be better than the one before.

I know that there are some out there that read my blog, that do not have a true knowledge of Jesus Christ. There are also those that may be cynical about so-called "religion", that probably think I have "gone off the deep end". My word to you all is get to know the real thing; get to know who Jesus Christ really is. Not the sterilized, wimpy version that is ridiculed by the world and the media of our day, but the real man's man who was not afraid to stand up to the evil in His day. Who willingly was ridiculed, beaten, abused, and then carried His means of execution to the place where He was put to death, all for our sakes. Who later stepped out of the tomb in which He was laid, walked among the living for over 40 days, and later returned to Heaven where He is today. Really check it out for yourself; you don't have a right to ridicule Him until you have.

Yes, Jesus does SAVE, and to me that is "Amazing Grace"!

Photo of John Newton from the movie Amazing Grace, 2006

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Divine Appointments - March 1, 2014

Proverbs 16:9 (New King James Version)
9 A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.

Isaiah 48:17 (New King James Version)
17 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:

“ I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way you should go."

If you have been walking with God for awhile you know a truth about your walk with Him. When you walk with God there are no coincidences. Everything that happens to you has a specific purpose, and every encounter you have is part of His plan. These are "divine appointments", situations that He has arranged in advance for you. So why do these things happen? What purpose do they have?

When you accepted the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ's death on the cross for your sins, something supernatural occurred in your life. Your confession of those sins, and your surrender to God, not only cleansed you from your wrongdoing, and redeemed you for eternity, but it opened your spirit to allow the Holy Spirit to reside in you. The Spirit of God took up residence inside of you.

No this may sound a little creepy, but it is a very powerful truth. A sure test of this is what happens to you after you are "saved". Things that you once thought were "no big deal" in your life, suddenly cause you to feel guilty. In fact the more you continue the behavior the worse you feel, until you finally cry out in confession to God and again seek His forgiveness. Although you were forgiven at the time of your conversion, this continual confession keeps you walking in obedience to God.

The Spirit has a big job; it is His job to conform you to the image of Jesus Christ. In other words, He works on the inside and with things on the outside, to direct your life to become more like Jesus. That is what these "divine appointments" are all about; God places people in our lives by working through their lives, to serve His purposes and make us more like Him.

When we follow God's direction, continually seeking His guidance, and walking in obedience to where He is taking us, we will accomplish great things for Him. Not that God needs it, but in our service to Him we will live abundant and joyful lives, as we look forward to eternity with Him. Those we encounter along the way will benefit in seeing what a life in Christ is all about.

The reality of this truth should make you aware that no one that you meet is by chance; there are no coincidences. It is a divine appointment, arranged by God, for the benefit of His eternal kingdom. Make sure that everyone you meet knows that Jesus Christ set up the appointment.

Photo "Handshake",12-1-2006, from stock.xchng