Saturday, February 28, 2015

Under Siege - February 28, 2015

Revelation 12:17 (New International Version, ©2011)
17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.

If you have recently become a Christian, or you may have been following Jesus for sometime, you may have noticed that the "walk of faith" has not always been a happy one. This is contrary to the assumption many people have about following the Jesus Christ. We are also often told that if we do as we are supposed to that things will be always great, and there are some teachers of the "prosperity gospel" that say that you will receive good health, or be cured, or have riches and wealth if you will have enough faith and sow seeds into their ministries.

Not that God does not bring us indescribable joy and many blessings, but if our perspective is just about material or corporeal blessings, I am afraid that it is not always so. Life is hard, and the Christian life is harder still. We, who are spoiled by living out our lives in the West, don't have a clue about how much of a sacrifice it is for many to live as followers of Jesus. Many in this world today are giving up all of their earthly possessions and even their lives, just to call on the name of Jesus as Lord and Savior.

If you are a true, obedient, follower of Jesus Christ, you will be constantly under siege. The evil one will do all he can to either distract you or make you ineffective for building God's kingdom. This might mean losing the material things we have, our jobs, our health, loved ones, or everything that we might hold dear. For some of us, it might be losing our very lives. But our God has eternity laid out before us. He sees the end of all things, and He has promised that "he withholds no good thing from those who walk blamelessly"(Psalm 84:11).

If you are have been "under seige", give it over to the Master. He will not only redeem you in time of trouble, but as it says in the New King James Version of Psalm 40:2,"He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps". God will eternally set you upon His "rock of ages", Jesus Christ.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Be In That Number - February 27, 2015

Revelation 7:9-12 (New Century Version)
9 After the vision of these things I looked, and there was a great number of people, so many that no one could count them. They were from every nation, tribe, people, and language of the earth. They were all standing before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.

10 They were shouting in a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."11 All the angels were standing around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures. They all bowed down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,12 saying, "Amen! Praise, glory, wisdom, thanks, honor, power, and strength belong to our God forever and ever. Amen!"

This is probably something that you may not think too much about, but it is something that is important that you have assurance of. I don't think any of us will want to be caught surprised on this one, because someday all of us will be counted by the company we are associated with during our lifetimes. For some, this has changed over time, especially if you have surrendered your life to Jesus Christ. For others, it may still be a question you have yet to answer in your heart. Unfortunately for some, it is something that is of little importance.

There is an American Gospel Hymn that highlights the answer and desire in every Christian heart. That desire is to someday be with Jesus, to be counted among "good company". As a believer we look forward to that day as is noted in these lyrics to "Oh When the Saints Go Marching In":

We are trav'ling in the footsteps
Of those who've gone before,
And we'll all be reunited,
On a new and sunlit shore.

Oh, when the saints go marching in,
Oh, when the saints go marching in,
Lord, how I want to be in that number,
When the saints go marching in.

And when the sun refuse to shine,
And when the sun refuse to shine,
Lord, how I want to be in that number,
When the sun refuse to shine.
Oh, when the trumpet sounds its call,
Oh, when the trumpet sounds its call,
Lord, how I want to be in that number,
When the trumpet sounds its call.

Some say this world of trouble
Is the only one we need,
But I'm waiting for that morning,
When the new world is revealed.

Oh When the new world is revealed,
Oh When the new world is revealed,
Lord, how I want to be in that number,
When the new world is revealed.

Oh, when the saints go marching in,
Oh, when the saints go marching in,
Lord, how I want to be in that number,
When the saints go marching in.

The above passage is one of two places in the Book of Revelation where the apostle John details seeing the great multitude in the presence of Jesus in heaven. It tells us that someday people from every tribe and nation will be before the throne, worshiping and praising God. This is the question that has to be answered in every human heart, because the answer is of eternal importance, will you be counted among that number, when the saints go marching in?

Painting of "All Saints Day", by Frangelico, 1430

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Continual Praise - February 26, 2015

Psalm 34:1-3(New King James Version)
1 I will bless the LORD at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

2 My soul shall make its boast in the LORD;
The humble shall hear of it and be glad.

3 Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
And let us exalt His name together.

He alone is worthy of our praise! This needs to be our highest and best goal, because our ultimate purpose in life is to bring God glory. Whenever we do thing in the name of Christ, we magnify His name and point all those who may not know Him to Jesus Christ. Only in Jesus can we someday hope to spend eternity with God; so make it the aim of your present life is to bring Him glory in this one.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Beautiful People? - February 25, 2015

1 Samuel 16:7(New International Version)
7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Are you one who would just love to be identified with the beautiful people? Have you ever envisioned yourself taking part in the Academy Awards? Do you long for your chance to walk the red carpet under the adulation of raving fans? Are you mesmerized by seeing your favorite movie stars or favorite sports athlete? Do you fall for the opportunity to participate in events where you can be the hit of society?

We human beings really go over board with heaping praise on what is very superficial. The Academy Awards are an appropriate illustration of this. Imagine an award ceremony where the attendees vote for their own work and themselves, then give each other awards for it? Can you think of anything as prideful? Yet thousands of people clamber for the chance to see their favorite star walking the red carpet outside of the Kodak Theater. Millions more spend hours watching television to catch a glimpse of the spectacle and hearing these people thanking each other.

In God's economy, these superficial displays are far from what He desires us to be involved in. We may be impressed by the way people look, what they do, and what they have, but God isn't. In the Book of Samuel we read about such a "red carpet" walk of sorts when the prophet Samuel visited the house of Jesse to select the next King of Israel. Jesse had seven of his sons pass before the prophet, thinking that he was looking for the strongest and "most beautiful". But Samuel made it clear that the outward appearance that impressed man did not impress God.

What is most important to God is that you are a beautiful on the inside. He seeks out the condition of the heart when He looks for beautiful people. The most lovely in God's eyes are those who serve Him and others in love, care and compassion, seeking to be obedient to His will.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

God's Majesty - February 24, 2015

Psalm 8 (New International Version)
1 O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
above the heavens.

2 From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.

3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,

4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?

5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.

6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:

7 all flocks and herds,
and the beasts of the field,

8 the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.

9 O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

These days we find it hard to realize that the Creator of the universe cares for us mere human beings. Because of this, for most of us God gets relegated to the "back seat" in most people's lives. What we all will find out sooner than later though is that the more we place Him in the background, the more we will need Him, because of what we will get ourselves into. We can't make it by ourselves, and life comes quickly crashing down around us when we live it without God.

Like it or not, God expects to have a significant place in all of our lives; He does care for each and every one of us. Why else would Jesus come to live among us and give us a way out of our sin and despair. Today, why not take time in the busyness of life, and take a few moments to yourself to give praises and thanks to God for what He has done for you? When as David you recognize the wonder and majesty of God in your life, you will soon find it a lot easier to live.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Deaf, Dumb & Blind - February 23, 2015

2 Corinthians 4:4(English Standard Version)
4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

We live in a culture and a world today that has been blinded to the truth of God, and especially of Jesus Christ. There are many out there that refuse to hear the truth, that will not speak the name of Jesus if they can help it, and that cannot see how Jesus works though the lives of those who know Him. No matter how rational and sound your arguments for the truth, they are determined to refuse to hear, speak or see it.

The apostle Paul had much the same problem with people of his day. As the good news of Jesus Christ was bringing many to this new faith, there were many that refused to hear, speak or see in much the same way as is done. The reason for this is that the god of this world, Satan, blinds those that are lost to the truths of God. Many would rather believe lies than to admit their sin and yield to the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately we all know people that we encounter in our lives that have this problem.

What should we do? Our job is to continue to be witnesses to what God has done in our lives. We need to take the time to listen to their questions and doubts and hear why they believe as they do. We should then speak the truth in love, relaying our testimony of how Jesus has worked in our lives. Finally we need to not be blinded to those around us who are perishing; we need to see each and every person as one who is loved passionately by God, no matter how difficult they may be.

Everyone needs to know about Jesus Christ and what He has done for them; everyone needs to be given the opportunity to be saved as we have been. It is our responsibility that they are shown the "light of the gospel".

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Special Invitation - February 22, 2015

Revelation 3:20-21 (New Living Translation)

20 “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. 21 Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.

Do you like being invited out for a meal? When I was growing up, going out for a meal, or being invited to someone's home for dinner was something special. As a child, I looked forward to those opportunities. During my college years, I had the chance to travel often to Europe, and I always enjoyed the times spent with relatives and friends dining and conversing for hours on end. As an adult, times such as these are still special to me, and it remains one of my favorite things to do. Ask me out to eat and I will be right there!

In our culture and the many cultures around the world, an invitation to share a meal with someone is the ultimate gesture of hospitality. It is an opportunity for closeness and intimacy. Imagine the many intimate times you have enjoyed, sharing time with loved ones, friends and acquaintances, over a meal, and how good and memorable those times have been in your life.

These words from the Book of Revelation are an invitation from Jesus to everyone, to share time with the Savior. In this passage, Jesus is the one who initiates the relationship, because he is the one who comes to the door of our hearts and calls for us. All that we need to do is accept the invitation. Jesus then looks to future times, and he encourages us to live life victoriously, because in doing so, we will be able to share more intimate times with him, sharing in His kingdom eternally.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Pray It In - February 21, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Fork in the Road - February 20, 2015

Psalm 25:12-13 (GOD’S WORD Translation)
12Who, then, is this person that fears the Lord? He is the one whom the Lord will teach which path to choose. 13He will enjoy good things in life, and his descendants will inherit the land.

There are times in life when we are faced with a "fork in the road". It may be because of a job loss, or a divorce, or the death of a family member or good friend, or it may be because we have found ourselves at a dead-end. No matter the reason, all of us will come to a place where we will have to choose a different direction to go; a transition that we will have to go through.

I have known this first hand. There comes a time when one thing ends and it is time to choose another. We're faced with trepidation, uncertainty and fear, and we do not want to make the wrong decision for ourselves, or in my case, for the family. It can almost be debilitating. We can become "frozen" in our tracks, not knowing what to do. And in the end, we resign ourselves that we have to go through the transition; the change; down a different path.

When faced with this situation, what do you do? If we are believers, we can thank God that He is there to help us. We can be glad that He never changes and He will "never leave us or forsake us". God has our best interest at heart, and He will not lead us to down the wrong path. The journey might not be the smoothest, but in the end, we know that He has decided our destination. He will make sure that we will get there in one piece. Now that is a promise that you can hold on to!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Your Big Brother - February 19, 2015

Psalm 3(New International Version)
1 LORD, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
2 Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”

3 But you, LORD, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
4 I call out to the LORD,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.

5 I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.
6 I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side.

7 Arise, LORD!
Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.

8 From the LORD comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people.

Everyone can remember a time when they were picked on at school. If you are honest, you all encountered the bullies in your lives on more that one occasion. Those days of harassment seemed like they would never end, but if you had a big brother, those days soon cam to an end. It was your big brother who stuck up for you in the face of your enemies, and many of you fondly remember how you admired your great protector who kept you safe from harm.

These days, many are constantly under attack from one thing or another. At times the difficulties seem so overwhelming that you wonder if your "enemies" will do you in. If you are a believer, many of these attacks are sent by the evil one, wanting to distract you and keep you ineffective for God. At times it seems that the harassment will never end, but thank God, He stands ready to protect you, not as your big brother, but as your loving Father. If you will let Him, He will deliver you and keep you safe and secure.

If you are having trouble sleeping at night, why not let God be your "shield"? He will sustain you no matter what comes against you. Surrender your trouble to Him, and let Him stand in place of your big brother!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

In His Will - February 18, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Broken Hearts - February 17, 2015

Joel 2:12-14(New International Reader's Version)

12 The Lord announces to his people,

"Return to me with all your heart. There is still time. Do not eat any food. Sob and cry."

13 Don't just tear your clothes to show how sad you are.

Let your hearts be broken.
Return to the Lord your God.
He is gracious.
He is tender and kind.
He is slow to get angry.
He is full of love.
He takes pity on you.
He won't destroy you.

14 Who knows? He might turn toward you and have pity on you. He might even give you his blessing. Then you can bring grain offerings and drink offerings to the Lord your God.

How often God pleads for us to return to Him! Throughout the Bible we read of times when despite their disobedience and gross sin, God gave them opportunity after opportunity to return back to Him in faith and obedience. He had no joy in allowing His people to go through trials and suffering, but if it turned their hearts, and helped them to once again follow God, then it was worth it.

God's desire is to be with those He has created. In His love for us, He longs for us to follow Him. He doesn't want us to just go through the motions of being religious; He expects us to be broken hearted over our disobedience to Him, and to turn back to Him. He has even taken it a step further with us by having Jesus pay the debt of our sins.

Let's face it; it is in our nature to be disobedient to God. So much so, that we have invented countless ways to justify the bad we do, taking it so far as to form "religions" that give us permission to sin. One day we will all come to the realization that the One true God is unchanging, and He expects a "contrite heart"(Psalm 51:17), a heart that breaks when we disobey Him. And in that brokenness we reach out to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and redemption.

Then and only then, He will bring us back to Him. Then and only then can He bless our lives.

Monday, February 16, 2015

In Trouble? Pray! - February 16, 2015

James 5:13-18 (New International Reader's Version)
13 Are any of you in trouble? Then you should pray. Are any of you happy? Then sing songs of praise.

14 Are any of you sick? Then send for the elders of the church to pray over you. Ask them to anoint you with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 The prayer offered by those who have faith will make you well. The Lord will heal you. If you have sinned, you will be forgiven.

16 So admit to one another that you have sinned. Pray for one another so that you might be healed. The prayer of a godly person is powerful. It makes things happen.

17 Elijah was just like us. He prayed hard that it wouldn't rain. And it didn't rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Then he prayed again. That time it rained. And the earth produced its crops.

Romans 8:26 (New Century Version)
26 Also, the Spirit helps us with our weakness. We do not know how to pray as we should. But the Spirit himself speaks to God for us, even begs God for us with deep feelings that words cannot explain.

One of the most important and powerful tools we have in our relationship with God is prayer. It is our direct line to our Father in heaven, and even when we can't find the words on our own, the Holy Spirit helps us communicate with Him on our behalf. Much of Jesus' time was spent in communication with his Father through frequent and intense prayer.

It is the way to get answers and effective results to anything that might trouble us. It is effective and powerful in healing our physical and spiritual ills. If you have not started a frequent and consistent prayer life, you are really missing out. God is waiting to hear from you!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Santuary in the Desert - February 15, 2015

Psalm 63:1-5(New Living Translation)
1 O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.

2 I have seen you in your sanctuary
and gazed upon your power and glory.
3 Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!

4 I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
5 You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.

There are times in our lives when God seems absent from our day to day lives. You seek Him in prayer, yet it is difficult to find Him. You lift up your concerns, yet the answers don't come. You grow weary as you cry for help, only to feel more disappointment as it fails to come. You wonder what is going on? What did you do? Why hasn't He rescued you?

David had very much the same thoughts as he was fleeing from his enemies. Here was a man that it was said, "was a man after God's own heart", yet he too had many "desert" experiences. He too longed for rescue from his difficult circumstances. If you study the Psalms, you will find many times when he lifted up prayers to God, wondering why God has abandoned him, and wondering when God would free him from his troubles.

It's at these times when our faith needs to lift us up. It is our faith in the truth that we know which will sustain us. You know that God is on His throne, in His sanctuary, and He knows what you are going through. It is at these desert times in your life, when you need to give Him praise. You know what He has done for you in the past, and it is in that knowledge that you must give Him praise for what He has yet to do for you.

Nothing that you go through is wasted. God does have a purpose, and He has promised that He will never leave to forsake you. He will never turn away or abandon you. It is up to you to rest in the promise that He will turn your difficulties into joy. It may not be on our timetable, but our history with trusting Him should give us the confidence that it will end for our benefit in mind.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Author and Creator of Love - February 14, 2015

1 Corinthians 13 (New International Version, ©2010)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 13, 2015

Our Good Shepherd - February 13, 2015

Isaiah 40:11(New International Version)
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.

John 10:11-18(New Living Translation)
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, 15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.

17 “The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. 18 No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.”

Yes, like sheep we all can be very dumb sometimes, getting ourselves in trouble through our own stupidity. There are many times when we chose to go a different way from what the one we know we should, and when we encounter difficulty and get lost, we find ourselves "bleating" like a sheep wanting to be rescued. Once we hear the voice of the Shepherd, then we quickly find our way back into Him.

Jesus Christ made it very clear to the religious leaders of the day that the His sheep would know His voice, meaning that those who know Jesus as Lord and Savior know when He guides them, whether they be Jewish or Gentile. God calls and those who are His hear His voice, and as He promises that He will care for His sheep, even if it means laying down His life for them.

Thanks be to God that our Shepherd Jesus Christ DID lay down His life so that we would not be lost in our sins. Only the true Shepherd, the one true God would sacrifice Himself for us. No other religious system today or ever can claim that truth, for the sheep cannot save themselves. Only Jesus, God in the flesh and the true Shepherd, can claim that truth.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Before Sunset - February 12, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Living Word - February 11, 2015

Hebrews 4:12(New International Version)
12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Have you ever been "pierced" by the word of God? Have you ever read or heard a passage that cut you to the heart and guilt welled up inside of you? Have you ever heard a sermon when the pastor's message seemed to be about what you were going through at the moment? Have you ever read a Bible passage multiple times, yet this time in seemed to come alive and answer a question you were thinking about?

All of these experiences with the word of God are how the Holy Spirit of God communicates with us. That is why it is said that the word of God is "alive and active", or "living and breathing". There is no equal to what the Bible can reveal and tell you. What is important though is that you have accepted God's gift of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Only then can it truly come alive to you.

There is no other religious text that can compare. To test this, especially if you are already a Christian, just pick one up and start reading through it. Then, pick up an Bible and start reading through it. You will notice that there is a difference. The Bible speaks to you, even though it was written by many different authors, over thousands of years, almost two thousand years ago. In reading it, God's word speaks to you as if He is writing directly to you.

Thank God for His marvelous love letter to us, and that God for the living Word of God, Jesus Christ, who has made it all possible.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Embracing His Peace - February 10, 2015

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

Monday, February 9, 2015

Overcoming Difficulty - February 9, 2015

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 difficult. It may be something financial, or a personal struggle, an illness, the 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

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Fruit of Obedience - February 8, 2015

Leviticus 26:3-13 (New Living Translation)
3 “If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, 4 I will send you the seasonal rains. The land will then yield its crops, and the trees of the field will produce their fruit.

5 Your threshing season will overlap with the grape harvest, and your grape harvest will overlap with the season of planting grain. You will eat your fill and live securely in your own land.

6 “I will give you peace in the land, and you will be able to sleep with no cause for fear. I will rid the land of wild animals and keep your enemies out of your land. 7 In fact, you will chase down your enemies and slaughter them with your swords. 8 Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand! All your enemies will fall beneath your sword.

9 “I will look favorably upon you, making you fertile and multiplying your people. And I will fulfill my covenant with you. 10 You will have such a surplus of crops that you will need to clear out the old grain to make room for the new harvest!

11 I will live among you, and I will not despise you. 12 I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people.

13 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so you would no longer be their slaves. I broke the yoke of slavery from your neck so you can walk with your heads held high.

The amazing thing in all human history is that our Creator, the God that made us has reached out to us and desires to commune with His people. Long ago as God was laying out the laws under which His chosen people would live under, He told them the blessings that would come from their obedience and the consequences of their failure to do so. What is special about His mention of the blessings is that He promised to live with them someday, and He longed to embrace them.

Centuries before God would send the Son to be our sacrifice for sin, due to our inability to keep the law, He made the promise of what our obedience would bring. In Jesus Christ, God walked among us to tell us what the future would be like with Him. He served as our example of the Way which would be available to all, and that would someday establish God's kingdom in Heaven.

As we accept the gift of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, God looks upon us as being obedient because through the blood of Jesus, we take on the righteousness of Christ. In doing so, our lives will be truly blessed, and although circumstances may not always seem as such, God's promise will assure us that everything will work out.

Photo "Market Stall Fruit" by Scooterboy, 3-21-2007, from stock.xchng

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Our Defense Attorney - February 7, 2015

Job 16:19-21 (New International Version)
19 Even now my witness is in heaven;
my advocate is on high.

20 My intercessor is my friend
as my eyes pour out tears to God;

21 on behalf of a man he pleads with God
as a man pleads for his friend.

1 John 2:1-2 (GOD’S WORD Translation)
1My dear children, I’m writing this to you so that you will not sin. Yet, if anyone does sin, we have Jesus Christ, who has God’s full approval. He speaks on our behalf when we come into the presence of the Father. 2He is the payment for our sins, and not only for our sins, but also for the sins of the whole world.

When we find ourselves sitting in the heavenly courtroom before our judge, no one will be more important to us than our defense attorney. The prosecution, led by Lou Cifer, will do all he can to bring up every bad deed, every lie, every moral shortfall, every sin that we have ever committed in our lifetimes, in an attempt to have us pay the eternal consequence of spiritual death. We will stand before God, embarrassed and hopelessly ashamed for what we have done.

But if we are followers of Jesus Christ, he will stand before the court on our behalf, in our defense as our attorney. He will appeal to his Father based on the fact that he has already paid for our offenses with his blood, when he was hung on a cross. He will remind his Father that we have chosen to accept his sacrificial payment, and we have committed our lives to follow him.

God will see us in the heavenly courtroom and see His Son standing before him as our advocate and intercessor, and our case will be dismissed with all charges dropped. Christ's righteousness will be counted on our behalf, and we will be forgiven for every sinful thing we have ever done. We have been offered a gift through the grace and mercy of God, and all we need to do is to receive it.

If you were called into the courtroom of Heaven, could you stand before God and have your case dismissed?

Friday, February 6, 2015

Redefining Wickedness - February 6, 2015

Psalm 10 (New Living Translation)
1 O Lord, why do you stand so far away?
Why do you hide when I am in trouble?

2 The wicked arrogantly hunt down the poor.
Let them be caught in the evil they plan for others.
3 For they brag about their evil desires;
they praise the greedy and curse the Lord.

4 The wicked are too proud to seek God.
They seem to think that God is dead.
5 Yet they succeed in everything they do.
They do not see your punishment awaiting them.
They sneer at all their enemies.
6 They think, “Nothing bad will ever happen to us!
We will be free of trouble forever!”

7 Their mouths are full of cursing, lies, and threats.
Trouble and evil are on the tips of their tongues.
8 They lurk in ambush in the villages,
waiting to murder innocent people.
They are always searching for helpless victims.

9 Like lions crouched in hiding,
they wait to pounce on the helpless.
Like hunters they capture the helpless
and drag them away in nets.

10 Their helpless victims are crushed;
they fall beneath the strength of the wicked.
11 The wicked think, “God isn’t watching us!
He has closed his eyes and won’t even see what we do!”

12 Arise, O Lord!
Punish the wicked, O God!
Do not ignore the helpless!

13 Why do the wicked get away with despising God?
They think, “God will never call us to account.”
14 But you see the trouble and grief they cause.
You take note of it and punish them.
The helpless put their trust in you.
You defend the orphans.

15 Break the arms of these wicked, evil people!
Go after them until the last one is destroyed.
16 The Lord is king forever and ever!
The godless nations will vanish from the land.

17 Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless.
Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them.
18 You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed,
so mere people can no longer terrify them.

If you ever need to describe the wicked, the psalm above does a good job of it. The wicked are always in opposition to the good. Even so, wickedness is still attractive to the world. Look out onto the landscape we call the world today.

Do you realize how many things that once were considered wicked are now accepted as normal and good? If you oppose such things that once were seen as wicked, you now become the one who is considered wicked yourself. The world is upside down; it has redefined what is wicked, but that is to be expected in a world ruled by Satan. What seems as a recent event for us is one that has been repeated generation after generation.

God will eventually bring about justice because this ultimately is His world. He is patient in bringing about justice, only because He loves each and everyone of us, and He is waiting for all who are to come to Him to do so. Our responsibility is to make sure that we end up on His side, and that we bring as many people to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as we can.

Illustration: Gustave Doré - Dante Alighieri - Inferno - Plate 10 (Canto III - Charon herds the sinners onto his boat); 1857

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Divine Appointments - February 5, 2015

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

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Learning to Wait - February 4, 2015

Psalm 27:14(New King James Version)
14 Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD!

Galatians 4:4-5(New Living Translation)
4 But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.

We are a very busy society, used to things happening at a fast pace. Every aspect of life around us is busy, and because of this we have become increasingly in patient with everything. Nothing can happen soon enough, and we want everything done yesterday. Because of this tendency that has ingrained itself in our lives, we have to have a solution to our problems and difficulties instantly. We can't wait for things to work themselves out; we want it fixed now!

One of the biggest lessons we need to learn from our Christian lives is "how to wait". When Adam and Eve fell, we would have expected that God would turn right around and resolve the issue. Unfortunately, if that would have happened, we might not be here today. He worked through generations and accomplished our salvation at just the right time; His time. God's timetable is not our timetable, and He will accomplish things in the time and manner that He sees fit.

I know that it is easy to be impatient during times of trouble, wanting God to take it away, but what we need to be asking is for God to teach us during this time. We need to learn to wait on the Lord, understanding that in His time He will set things right. In doing so, we will learn that our present circumstances are just temporary and that when we trust in God, He will work every situation out for our good.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Tough Love - February 3, 2015

Hebrews 12:7-11(New Living Translation)
7 As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? 8 If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. 9 Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?

10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

During difficult times, we may not think of it as discipline, but if you are a Christian, God allows us to go through times of "Tough Love". Although it is not easy to go through, God has promised us that it is for our ultimate good. He wants to conform us to the image of Christ, and these situations are for smoothing out our rough edges.

The good news is that God does this because we are His children, and He likens it to a loving Father disciplining his child. It will not last long, and God will never leave or forsake you during the process. At the end of it our children expect a hug and comfort, and God has promised us the same thing. He has a harvest of blessing waiting for us at the end of the hardship.

Photo from Scurrilous Pamphleteer, posted 3-19-11

Monday, February 2, 2015

Hey Jude: Giving Praise - February 2, 2015

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, February 1, 2015

Hey Jude: Showing Mercy - February 2, 2015

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.

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