Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"How to Be" Attitudes - June 30, 2015

Matthew 5:1-12 (New Living Translation)
1 One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around him, 2 and he began to teach them.

The Beatitudes
3 “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

4 God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

5 God blesses those who are humble,
for they will inherit the whole earth.

6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
for they will be satisfied.

7 God blesses those who are merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
for they will see God.

9 God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.

10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.

When we make the decision to be part of God's Kingdom, there are certain behaviors, characteristics, and attitudes that He blesses. His hope is for all of us to approach the world with our hearts and hands wide open. He is looking for people to be in His Kingdom that have the "right stuff". We are to realize our utter need before Him and as life's struggles and problems weigh in on us, He will reward those who seek Him.

Jesus set out to help those around him understand who God really was. He was not an unapproachable Creator, that looked upon mankind to purely administer His justice, but He was also intricately involved in all that people would go through. Ultimately He would make the supreme gesture of love, mercy and blessing, by allowing the Son, Jesus, to be crucified on a wooden cross as payment for our sins.

In thanksgiving, we need to take on the right attitude, and be examples of God's goodness and mercy. We need to truly be His subjects and be ambassadors for the King.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Kingdom of the Skies - June 29, 2015

Mark 1:14-15 (New International Version)
14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Matthew 4:17 (Young's Literal Translation)
17From that time began Jesus to proclaim and to say, `Reform ye, for come nigh hath the reign of the heavens.'

What would people do to have heaven on earth? What amount of money would they pay? What length would they go to have a taste of heaven? Mankind has tried for ages to have utopia in this world, an ideal community or society possessing a perfect socio-politico-legal system, an attempt to create an ideal society where everyone lives in harmony.

The Jews of Jesus time felt that if the Messiah came and conquered all of their oppressors, they would have their utopian Kingdom of God. The Romans of the day felt that as long as they subjugated all of the inhabitants of the known world and created the perfect Republic, wherein the "beauties of society" reigned as Plato had written about, they would have the perfect world.

If you look at different translations, you will notice that the Kingdom of Heaven, or the Kingdom of God, can be translated as the "reign of the heavens" or "kingdom of the skies". Jesus entered the world in human form to tell the inhabitants that they could live under the authority, grace and mercy of God. He was there to point them back to God and His divine love.

He was there to show them how to be reconciled to God and to proclaim God's kingdom here on earth as well as eternally in heaven. He was there to truly establish the perfected kingdom and restore God's perfect creation.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sunday Praise! - June 28, 2015

Psalm 146 (New International Version, ©2010)
1 Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD, my soul.

2 I will praise the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
3 Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
5 Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD their God.

6 He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
he remains faithful forever.
7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets prisoners free,
8 the LORD gives sight to the blind,
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down,
the LORD loves the righteous.
9 The LORD watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

10 The LORD reigns forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the LORD.

A Healthy Fear of God - June 27, 2015

Psalm 119:73-80 (New International Version)
y Yodh
73 Your hands made me and formed me;
give me understanding to learn your commands.

74 May those who fear you rejoice when they see me,
for I have put my hope in your word.

75 I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous,
and in faithfulness you have afflicted me.

76 May your unfailing love be my comfort,
according to your promise to your servant.

77 Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight.

78 May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause;
but I will meditate on your precepts.

79 May those who fear you turn to me,
those who understand your statutes.

80 May my heart be blameless toward your decrees,
that I may not be put to shame.

Healthy fear of God is a good thing for you. Realizing that their is a Supreme Being that could end it all for you in any moment, gives you a healthy appreciation for Him. The best earthly pattern for this is a loving Father. As children you know your Dad loves you and you love and respect your Dad, but you also know, usually from experience, that if you disobey him, you will suffer the consequences. That doesn't mean that the love is no longer there, it just means that you know that not matter what he will love you, but you will get "correction" if you deserve it.

Our priest appeals to those who "fear" God to look to him and his example of how to follow God. He points out that the word of God is the guidance that is needed to have a healthy understanding and respect for God. God loves us, and He has given us His word for us to learn about Hid nature. We are fortunate that God is not a vengeful God, seeking justice for wrongdoing, no matter what. If so, we would all have perished long ago.

Our God has compassion and mercy for those who love, respect, and "fear" Him. He not only wants us to know that we need to be obedient to Him and follow His ways, but He also hopes that we will see examples of His love in those who follow Him and call on Him. We can be assured that our fear of Him will translate into our salvation, because in His love He has provided everything for our good.

Psalm 119 is a devotional poem from a very pious priest. This is the only psalm in The Psalms written by this author. This psalm is an acrostic poem; the verses of each stanza begin with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This Israelite priest sought to pass on godly instruction in his devotional study of the word of God.

Friday, June 26, 2015

In HIS Care - June 26, 2015

Psalm 16 (New International Reader's Version)

1 God, keep me safe. I go to you for safety.

2 I said to the Lord, "You are my Lord. Without you, I don't have anything that is good."

3 God's people who live in our land are glorious. I take great delight in them.

4 Those who run after other gods will have nothing but trouble. I will not pour out offerings of blood to those gods. My lips will not speak their names.

5 Lord, everything you have given me is good. You have made my life secure.

6 I am very pleased with what you have given me. I am very happy with what I've received from you.

7 I will praise the Lord. He gives me good advice. Even at night my heart teaches me.

8 I know that the Lord is always with me. He is at my right hand. I will always be secure.

9 So my heart is glad. Joy is on my tongue. My body also will be secure.

10 You will not leave me in the grave. You will not let your faithful one rot away.

11 You always show me the path that leads to life. You will fill me with joy when I am with you. You will give me endless pleasures at your right hand.

In these verses, David meditates on his relationship with God. He rests in the knowledge that God cares and will always care for him. The picture is one of a close and intimate friend that brings safety, good things, joy, and guidance. You may have enjoyed this same type of closeness with a dear friend or parent.

Take a few minutes to think and meditate on these words; reflect on the picture it gives you in your mind. Seek comfort and rest in the Lord. As you think about the momentous and difficult events of the day, know that you can feel safe and secure in the loving arms of your Savior Jesus.

Photo of Zeke Clanton, from Juana Clanton's blog: Sweet Bedtime Prayers, April 13, 2011

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Peek-a-Boo! - June 25, 2015

Proverbs 5:21-23 (New International Reader's Version)
21 The Lord watches a man's ways. He studies all of his paths.

22 A sinner is trapped by his own evil acts. He is held tight by the ropes of his sins. 23 He will die because he refused to be corrected. His sins will capture him because he was very foolish.

Job 31:4;34:21(New International Reader's Version)
4 Doesn't God see how I live? Doesn't he count every step I take?
21 "His eyes see how people live. He watches every step they take."

Jeremiah 16:17(New International Reader's Version)
17 My eyes see everything these people do. What they do is not hidden from me. I always see their sin.

Hosea 7:2(New International Reader's Version)
2 But they do not realize that I remember all of the evil things they do. Their sins pile up and cover them. I am always aware of those sins.

John 3:19-21 (GOD’S WORD Translation)
19This is why people are condemned: The light came into the world. Yet, people loved the dark rather than the light because their actions were evil. 20People who do what is wrong hate the light and don’t come to the light. They don’t want their actions to be exposed. 21But people who do what is true come to the light so that the things they do for God may be clearly seen.

All of us that have had young children have played the game of "peek-a-boo" with them. Nothing is cuter than our little loved one covering their eyes to hide from you, only to move their hands and suddenly seeing you, when you say "I see you". In their young minds they are hidden from you and you cannot see them, but in actuality you are there the entire time, seeing everything that they do.

As little children this game is fun, and it is just as fun for us as we play it with them. But as adults, this game is not so fun anymore. As lost human beings, we try to hide many of the bad things we do, thinking that no one is watching us. We fool ourselves into believing that we can live like "hell" and get away with it. Sooner or later though, all of our sins will catch up with us. God sees everything we do, and eventually He will expose everything to the light of day.

The wonderful thing about God is that even though we try to hide our sins there is no need, because God has already provided us with a way to "come clean" and bring everything into His light. If you find yourself trying to hide from God, come into the light of His mercy and grace through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. You will find that there is no reason to hide from Him ever again.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Seeing the Light - June 24, 2015

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 lightbulb 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 new 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, June 23, 2015

The Giving Thing - June 23, 2015

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (New International Reader's Version)6 Here is something to remember. The one who plants only a little will gather only a little. And the one who plants a lot will gather a lot.

7 You should each give what you have decided in your heart to give. You shouldn't give if you don't want to. You shouldn't give because you are forced to. God loves a cheerful giver.

There are many in this world and in the church that have the wrong idea about the subject of giving. Many refuse to go to church or have even quit attending church because they feel that the church is just after their money. Yes, some are, and that is why it is important to be very discerning when choosing a church to attend. The bigger problem though is that the "world" leads those who are of the world to believe that churches only exist for the money.

Let me share an interesting side note, while we are talking about this. I have several family members who are German citizens, and they have grown up in a very secular, post-Christian environment(which could be our future if we do not get more involved in the culture). Just as our government requires the withholding of monies from our paychecks for Taxes, Social Security and Medicare, the German citizen is subject to a special Church Tax that goes to maintain the country's churches. (Most of these churches have ended up just being Museums really, but there is a small remnant of believers who faithfully attend services.) Because of this special Church Tax, many Germans are very resentful of church, Christianity and religion in general. All this to say, that forced giving never does anything to help others or further sharing God's love for this world.

Paul, writing under the inspiration of God's Spirit, sought to clarify God's heart on giving, in his second letter to the Corinthian church. He sought commend them for their past giving and to encourage them to continue to give more to less fortunate believers. He was not ordering them to give, but he was revealing to them that God believes that good gifts are those that are freely given, from the compassionate heart of the believer. We are to give whatever we want to give, making sure it is done willingly and cheerfully.

If we reflect on our own lives, God has showered us tremendously with good gifts, not only the gift of His own Son, but also everything else that we have. While we consider giving as a part living for God, let us joyfully consider giving to others as an appropriate response to what He has generously given us.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Heavy Lifting - June 22, 2015

Romans 12:12 (New International Version)
12Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Hebrews 10:32,36 (New International Version)
32Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering.
36You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

It takes more than a day and a few platitudes to work ourselves out of difficulty, especially if you are overwhelmed by persecution, or searching for ways to overcome problems. Sometimes what you encounter weighs so heavily on you that it leads you into deep depression. Or it might create within you so much anxiety and worry that it becomes difficult to function in everyday life. I have had those times in my life, especially before I gave it all to Jesus Christ. These times are very real, and at times you almost feel hopeless.

There is a real solution for what you are going through and cure for the fear that you are encountering. First you need to regain your trust that God will take care of you, and not lose hope. You need to allow God to do the "heavy lifting" for you, and help you through what you are experiencing. You need to focus on remaining joyful despite the circumstances, knowing that what you are going through will come to an end. You need to also learn to be patient in your suffering, and be confident that your troubles are temporary. Finally, as I have stated before in this blog, you need to commit everything to prayer. Prayer is your way of communicating your concerns to God. He likes hearing from you, and if you feel like He is not hearing you or answering your requests, stay with it.

There is an old adage that I have heard many times: You can't enjoy the mountain top until you have come through the valley. But you need to also remember this; once you have committed yourself to walk with God in Jesus Christ, He will be with you through it all. He is there waiting for you to call on Him, and He will lift your every burden. Stay with Him just as He is always with you.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Praise for Fathers - June 21, 2015

Proverbs 23:22,24 (New International Version)
22 Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.
24 The father of a righteous man has great joy; he who has a wise son delights in him.

Proverbs 1:8(New Living Translation)
8 My child, listen when your father corrects you. Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction.

Psalm 68:4-6a (New International Reader's Version)
4 Sing to God. Sing praise to his name. Lift up a song to the One who rides on the clouds. His name is the Lord. Be glad when you are with him.

5 God is in his holy temple. He is a father to those whose fathers have died. He takes care of women whose husbands have died.

6 God gives lonely people a family. He sets prisoners free, and they go out singing. But those who refuse to obey him live in a land that is baked by the sun.

Ephesians 6:1-4 (New International Version)
1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2"Honor your father and mother"—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3"that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth." 4Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Being a father is a huge responsibility. There is no greater impact on the life of a child than the example of a good father. God has set up the earthly father as His example of His love for the jewel of His creation. He tells us who do not have fathers that He will take the place of the earthly father. With that responsibility from the Lord, we need to mindful that we are always to be godly men of integrity, humility, and love. We set the course of the life of our family.

As we celebrate godly fathers today, let us give them the honor and respect they rightly deserve, and at the same time let us lift up all fathers in prayer, that God will direct their paths and help them as they lead their families. May God bless and guard their hearts, and keep them in His loving care. Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Faith Benefits - June 20, 2015

Philippians 1:21(New International Version)
21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Much is made these days of the benefits that you receive when you work for an employer. Benefits are very important when making a decision on a new job, or in the retention of employees for a Company. Whether or not there is something that takes care of our medical needs now and our well-being later when we retire is usually pre-eminent in providing for our families. If you are a Company that has great benefits, you are almost assured that you can get and keep the best employees in the work force.

God offers us the best of benefits that we could ever imagine, because if we follow Him and accept His gift of salvation, we are guaranteed of being taken car of in this life and the next. In following Jesus Christ, we have the opportunity of demonstrating His love, mercy and grace to all those we encounter, and once we leave this planet, we are assured of a place with Him in Heaven. Our job is to make the decision to be the best "employee" there is, and to serve Him with our entire being.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Getting Washed - June 19, 2015

Isaiah 1:16-17 (New Century Version)
16"Wash yourselves and make yourselves clean.
Stop doing the evil things I see you do.
Stop doing wrong.

17 Learn to do good. Seek justice.
Punish those who hurt others.
Help the orphans.
Stand up for the rights of widows."

In the Old Testament of the Bible, we often read how the Israelites did "detestable" things. Although they were God's chosen people, they often fell into the sinful lifestyle of the peoples they were surrounded by. In order to make themselves right with God, He would often admonished them in Scripture. He hoped that they would return to Him and follow His agenda for them, by changing their ways and seeking after the ways of God.

We too often neglect the desires of God and seek after our own way of doing things. If you have lived for anytime on this earth, you know that taking God's path is usually not your first priority, but His will is that we too will seek after Him and follow His ways. But for us, God has taken it a step further, by washing us in the blood of Jesus Christ, and making it possible through the power of the Holy Spirit to follow after Him.

Out of thanks for His mercy and grace, we need to prepare ourselves to do the things that come close to God's heart. We need to first accept the washing He offers us, and then extend His justice and mercy to the world around us. In this new year, we need to make sure that we are following His agenda rather than our own.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Glimpse of Heaven - June 18, 2015

Colossians 3:1-4 (New Living Translation)
1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.

I love going outdoors after a thunderstorm, when the sun is just peering from behind the darkened clouds. The air is slightly cooled and smells of a an indescribable freshness. The most beautiful thing that you usually see is a rainbow. It reminds me of these verses in Genesis, when God was speaking to Noah:

12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth." Genesis 9:12-13(NIV)

A rainbow in the sky reminds us that God is there, watching over us. There is nothing within the control of man that can ever duplicate the majesty of this display. It lets us know that God's power in the Universe is far greater than we can imagine, and it is a reminder that someday, if we have accepted His gift of redemption through Jesus Christ, we can be with Him.

If you are a committed believer in Christ, you are no longer a child of the world. Since you have been bought for a price, through the precious blood of Jesus, you should no longer be focused on the things of the world. Instead your focus needs to be on the things of heaven. Yes, the cares of the world and the opposition of the evil one distract us from what we should be thinking about, but if you will diligently focus, the Holy Spirit will help you overcome this.

Why should we do this? Someday, everything will be revealed when Jesus Christ returns for those He loves. When He does, we will be able to reap the benefits of the commitments and sacrifices we have made for Him by focusing and following His commands. If you look around the world today, we really have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. If you have not done so, make today the day that you surrender everything to Him.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Our Witness - June 17, 2015

Hebrews 12:14-15(New Century Version)
14 Try to live in peace with all people, and try to live free from sin. Anyone whose life is not holy will never see the Lord.15 Be careful that no one fails to receive God's grace and begins to cause trouble among you. A person like that can ruin many of you.

One of the saddest things about Christianity today is that many people have a bad impression about Christians. Non-believers have been soured by how many who claim the faith behave. These behaviors that turn others off fall into two groups.

The first group, although they have been saved by Jesus Christ, continue to behave as if their conversion has made no change in their lives. They still cling to the things of the world and they treat others just as they did prior to knowing Jesus. Their behavior is marked by doing the exact things as those around them. Non-believers question why they should embrace faith in Jesus if it doesn't make a difference in their lives.

The second group have changed their lives because of their desire to please God, but they exhibit that change by excluding others. Their behavior is one of legalism, and they set a bar that new believer have to reach to become Christ followers. They further exacerbate this characteristic by them judging others with a "holier than though" attitude. Non-believers are turned off, because they feel that all Christians do is point out their faults.

In the Book of Hebrews, the apostle Paul admonishes us to live at peace with everyone, meaning that we need to seek peace in any human interaction we have. We then need to try to live holy lives, seeking to be good witnesses of the change Jesus has made our lives. And most importantly, we need to be sure that we show the same "grace" that God showed to us in drawing us to Christ.

We all are sinners and we all deserve God's judgment. Who are we to criticize others who have not yet found Jesus Christ? Instead we need to lead lives that reflect the love of Jesus, and attract others to the faith through "right" living, love, and acceptance. Our outward witness of our inward change is the most important thing in drawing others to Christ. Make sure that your witness as a Christian is one that will win others to Jesus.

Photo from Lost Sheeo Finders' Digest

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

He Is the Good Shepherd - June 16, 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.

Monday, June 15, 2015

My 2 Cents - June 15, 2015

Luke 12:6-7(New Living Translation)
6 “What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. 7 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.

These days, it's hard for us to believe that God really cares about us. Surely there are far more important things that are happening in this world for Him to handle. From the economic situation around the world, the famines, the human devastation of war, riots occurring in our country, etc.; why should God even give us a second thought? Why should He care about me? I deserve nothing, so why am I "valuable" to Him?

For us to know how personally God cares for each one of us, He sent His one and only Son Jesus Christ to walk in our "sandals". Jesus knew what it was to deeply feel loneliness and abandonment; to face extreme difficulty and pain; to go through the trials and tribulations of life; to know the importance of having someone care and be concerned about you. Yet He made a point of telling His disciples that they had significance, and in serving Him they would be cared for. He taught them not to fear what was going on around them and the opposition that they would face, because God would care for them.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are His disciples; we are His followers. As such, we have just as much significance as the disciples in the 1st century had. He loves each and everyone of us, and although we may not understand His methods, or where He may be leading us, He still cares for us. God wants what is best for us and He will make sure that whatever we are going through serves that purpose.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Continuos Burn - June 14, 2015

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. He wants you to keep the fire of His Spirit continuously burning in your heart. Be about His business, and He will be about yours!

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

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Saturday Praise! - June 13, 2015

Psalm 57:7-11(New International Version)
7 My heart, O God, is steadfast,
my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.

8 Awake, my soul!
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.

9 I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
10 For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.

True freedom comes from being able to cast all of your cares upon God and releasing all of your anxiety on Him. He has stepped out of Heaven to carry each and every burden, and because He has also carried each an every sin, He is worthy of all praise and exaltation. You can be sure that the One that receives your worship and praise is faithful. May He be lifted up above the Heavens, and may His glory radiate throughout the earth!

Photo from "Heart of the Matter Online", posted by Lysa Terkeurst, 1-17-09

Friday, June 12, 2015

God's Forebearance - June 12, 2015

2 Peter 3:8-9 (New International Reader's Version)
8 Dear friends, here is one thing you must not forget. With the Lord a day is like a thousand years. And a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow to keep his promise. He is not slow in the way some people understand it. He is patient with you. He doesn't want anyone to be destroyed. Instead, he wants all people to turn away from their sins.

As I read through this chapter in 2 Peter, I was trying to come up with a word that described what is taking place; what God was doing through His actions towards us. What came to my mind (and I know it was through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit), was the old word "forbearance". It is not a word used much in our everyday language today, and when I read the definition and its synonyms I understood why.

The word "forbearance" is defined as, "a refraining from the enforcement of something that is due; the capacity to endure what is difficult or disagreeable without complaining; kind, gentle, or compassionate treatment, especially towards someone who is undeserving of it; patience, long-suffering, tolerance, charity, clemency, leniency, mercifulness."

This is hardly a word that describes most of us today. We are quick to react whenever we are wronged or unhappy, or if someone does something that we don't like. Driving the busy freeways and getting cut off and you'll know what I mean. How about our attitude with work? How do we react when we feel that someone is trying to "steal or show"? And our kids are another thing; what happens when we are in the car talking on our cellphone and the kids are fighting in the back? No, I don't think "forbearance" is our best character trait.

But for God, this word describes his actions perfectly. He has delayed the return of Jesus for His people because of His "forbearance", His patience, long-suffering, tolerance, charity, clemency, leniency, and mercifulness; His love, mercy and compassion for us. The adjectives can't sufficiently describe His compassionate treatment, towards someone as undeserving as us. Year after year, century after century, God patiently waits until the last person that would accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, does.

I have often heard it said that "God is waiting for people to get on the bus"; for us to take the step to admit our shortcomings and get on board with Him. ...He won't wait for you forever. Isn't it time you took advantage of His "forbearance", and gave your life to Him right now?

Photo "Waiting Passenger" PKS in Krakow, Poland, by malpec 7-13-07 from stock.xchng

Thursday, June 11, 2015

He IS the Rock - June 11, 2015

Deuteronomy 32:4(New International Version)4 He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,
upright and just is he.

2 Samuel 22:47(New International Version)
47 “The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock!
Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior!

Psalm 18:2(New Living Translation)
2 The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
and my place of safety.

Psalm 62:2(New International Version)
2 Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

One of the best loved hymns of all time is Rock of Ages. "Traditionally, it is held that Rev. Toplady drew his inspiration from an incident in the gorge of Burrington Combe in the Mendip Hills in England. Toplady, a preacher in the nearby village of Blagdon, was travelling along the gorge when he was caught in a storm. Finding shelter in a gap in the gorge, he was struck by the title and scribbled down the initial lyrics on a playing card."*

When I was young I remember many funerals where I heard this hymn played, and I am sure many of you have that same memory. The hymn provided comfort to those who were grieving that their loved one would be received by their Savior and sheltered from the sting of death. It also gave hope to those who attended that they too would have that same protection from the fear of their own death, because of the atoning work of Jesus Christ crucified of Calvary's rock. In the words, we are reminded that we come to the cross empty-handed, and because of Christ's work alone, can we be saved.

God truly is a sheltering rock, under which we can receive protection from the storms of life that come upon us. We can do nothing to secure that protection, and in Christ Jesus we too can claim these words as our own:

"While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyes shall close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown,
And behold Thee on Thy throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee."**

Photo "Rock of Ages" by Phil Thomson, order print from redbubble.com
*Details from Wikepedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Rock of Ages (Christian Hymn)
**Rock of Ages by Augustus M. Toplady

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Hunger for God - June 10, 2015

Psalm 119:17-24 (New International Version)
17 Do good to your servant, and I will live;
I will obey your word.

18 Open my eyes that I may see
wonderful things in your law.

19 I am a stranger on earth;
do not hide your commands from me.

20 My soul is consumed with longing
for your laws at all times.

21 You rebuke the arrogant, who are cursed
and who stray from your commands.

22 Remove from me scorn and contempt,
for I keep your statutes.

23 Though rulers sit together and slander me,
your servant will meditate on your decrees.

24 Your statutes are my delight;
they are my counselors.

What do you hunger for? What drives you with an insatiable desire? It may be something in this world, a passion, a goal, an accomplishment. It could be a job or career, sports, children, even church. All of us are driven by something. It becomes an all-consuming appetite that needs to be satisfied.

In this portion of Psalm 119 the writer is driven by his hunger for God's word, and his desire to please God with his obedience. You can read the passion in his words and feel the emotion in what he is writes. If only we had the same hunger for the word of God, and an all-consuming appetite to please God!

How do we do this? As a Christian, we have help. We have the Holy Spirit that takes up residence within us. He helps us to have that all-consuming desire to please God, and to live in the light of His mercy and grace. If you truly believe and you are truly saved, no matter how bad it might get, and no matter how lost one might seem at times, there is no way that you can walk away from God.

If you have a new relationship with Jesus Christ or if you have been following the Savior for many years, get into God's word. Pray for the Spirit to inhabit your desires and give you a hunger for His will. Share what you learn and talk about it with fellow believers and with those that don't know God. You will find that God will give you an appetite for the things that truly satisfy.

32 Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, it was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven; it is my Father who is giving you the true bread from heaven. 33 God's bread is the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."
46 "No one has seen the Father except the One who is from God; only he has seen the Father.47 I tell you the truth, whoever believes has eternal life.48 I am the bread that gives life.49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but still they died.50 Here is the bread that comes down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will never die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give up so that the world may have life." John 6:32-33;46-51(New Century Version)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

He Is With You - Jun 9, 2015

Joshua 1:9 (New Living Translation)
9 This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Acts 18:9-10 (English Standard Version)
9And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, "Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people."

Once we have found eternal salvation by believing in Jesus Christ, it becomes necessary that we tell as many people as we can. Problem is though many of us feel like we are going it alone, when we take a step of faith and decide to serve God. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Those of us who do believe only do so because God has rescued us for His purposes (John 6:44). God draws everyone, but many harden their hearts to His call. That is why He uses the witness and example of simple men and woman to be His "hands and feet", causing those who may not have heeded God's call to be drawn to the living examples of Jesus. Sharing the truth in love while extended a helping hand is very difficult to resist.

God goes before you preparing the way, by preparing the ground(the hearts of people)before you, and He goes behind you protecting you while you are in His service. His call is for us to go and do, following the call that He has placed within your spirit. Once you are truly "saved" it is difficult to ignore that call. Don't worry and don't fear stepping out,just GO, because God will always be with you.

Monday, June 8, 2015

A Good Book - June 8, 2015

Romans 1:16-17 (New International Reader's Version)
16 I am not ashamed of the good news(Gospel). It is God's power. And it will save everyone who believes. It is meant first for the Jews. It is meant also for those who aren't Jews.

17 The good news(Gospel) shows how God makes people right with himself. From beginning to end, becoming right with God depends on a person's faith. It is written, "Those who are right with God will live by faith."—(Habakkuk 2:4)

For some nothing beats curly up in a chair and reading a good book. A good book allows you to escape into a whole, other world. It allows the reader to get outside of themselves, and become the main character. Probably the best thing about a good book is when, although the there may have been difficulties, there is a happy ending. It makes reading the book all worth it, and it brings a certain satisfaction. For the time that the reader spends with the book, everything seems right with the world.

God has given us such a "good book". It is the Gospel, written in the first four books of the Bible. It is the story of God's gift to us and all of mankind. It is a book that we can place ourselves into as the main character, because what is being done is for us from beginning to end. It is a story about us, and with God, although there are difficulties, it offers us a happy ending. If we will accept the gift that is offered in Jesus Christ, all will be right with our world.

There is only one thing that is required of the reader, and it is that we need to have faith. We need to believe what is written in the book, because it is much more than mere words on pages. It is a living story that can bring the reader new life. It is about Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, stepping into our lives and through His sacrifice, offers us forgiveness for everything that has separated us from God. It offers us relief from our burdens, and comfort for our souls. It is about the Word of life, a good book, the Good News, that redeems us for eternity.

Photo "Woman Reading at Home" by arinas 74, 7-1-2009 from stock.xchng

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Learning to Wait - June 7, 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.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Keeping Things Straight - June 6, 2015

Proverbs 3:5-6(Amplified Bible)
5Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding.

6In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6(New Living Translation)
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
6 Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.

Proverbs 3:5-6(New King James Version)
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

We really have a simple faith to follow. No, I didn't say it was easy, but I did say it is simple. God wants us to have a simple, childlike faith, that takes it for granted that as long as we lean on, trust, and have our confidence in Him, He will make sure it all works out for our good.

Everything we read about in the Bible is about trust and faith, that pure release of our own will and mental faculties and giving them over to God. It is a story about total surrender to Him, committing it all to Him before we do anything. He will promises to take care if the results.

No matter how you say it, that's simple, but again, it's not easy!

Photo "A Straight Path", Dr. Roy Winkelman, 5-22-2008, from Clippix ETC

Friday, June 5, 2015

Honor the Lord! - June 5, 2015

Psalm 29(New Living Translation)
1 Honor the Lord, you heavenly beings;
honor the Lord for his glory and strength.
2 Honor the Lord for the glory of his name.
Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.
3 The voice of the Lord echoes above the sea.
The God of glory thunders.
The Lord thunders over the mighty sea.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is majestic.
5 The voice of the Lord splits the mighty cedars;
the Lord shatters the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon’s mountains skip like a calf;
he makes Mount Hermon leap like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord strikes
with bolts of lightning.
8 The voice of the Lord makes the barren wilderness quake;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord twists mighty oaks
and strips the forests bare.
In his Temple everyone shouts, “Glory!”

10 The Lord rules over the floodwaters.
The Lord reigns as king forever.
11 The Lord gives his people strength.
The Lord blesses them with peace.

There are days when very little needs to be said but to give God honor and praise for who He is and what He has done. Without Him we would not enjoy the benefits we have been blessed with. No matter your circumstance, whether good or bad, you can count on the fact that He loves you enough to die for you, so that you could be redeemed and spend eternity with Him. Give Him honor and praise; let us lift up the name of Jesus above all else. "Honor the Lord for the glory of his name. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness".

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Giving Our Best - June 4, 2015

2 Peter 1:3-7 (New International Reader's Version)
3 God's power has given us everything we need to lead a godly life. All of that has come to us because we know the One who chose us. He chose us because of his own glory and goodness.

4 He has also given us his very great and valuable promises. He did it so you could share in his nature. He also did it so you could escape from the evil in the world. That evil is caused by sinful longings.

5 So you should try very hard to add goodness to your faith. To goodness, add knowledge. 6 To knowledge, add the ability to control yourselves. To the ability to control yourselves, add the strength to keep going. To the strength to keep going, add godliness. 7 To godliness, add kindness to believers. And to kindness to believers, add love.

As a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, we should be continually be giving our best in gratitude for what He has done for us. What is giving our best? The second letter attributed to the apostle and eye-witness of Jesus's earthly presence, Peter, touches on this in verses 5-7.

Our best is offered in how we live out our faith in Jesus Christ, and this is lived out in our goodness to others, our hunger to know God more, how we control our earthly desires, our endurance in the face of difficulty and persecution, our behavior and character before God, in how we treat fellow believers we serve with, and most importantly how we demonstrate love to all.

I have found that in times of trial and distress, the closer I get to Him, the more confident I am in the future. And the more confident I am in the future with God's help, the more I am able to serve others for Him. I have resolved to listen more to His voice in my heart, to turn from doing things my own way, and to follow His leading in all things. I have learned that in the race called life, I need to always try and give God my best.

Photo of Olympic and world champion Jeremy Wariner, by Gene Cherry,Eugene, OR, July 5, 2008 - Reuters

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Non-conformity - June 3, 2015

Romans 12:2 (New Living Translation)
2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

All of our lives we strive to be like other people and to be liked by other people. Especially as teens, we were very sensitive to being like everybody else. We would copy people's clothes and the hair, the way they did things or how they acted. We did everything we could to be acceptable to those around us. As we become adults, nothing much changes, because we want to be accepted by the world!

In God's economy, what drives His opinion of us is what we do with what unique gifts and talents He has given us. He doesn't want us to copy everybody else; He wants us to take what He has given us and do something in service to Him, which is going and making disciples. What we need to do is to understand and know our gifts and talents, then seek God in finding His purpose for what He has given us.

As long as we reflect the world's purposes, our image of what God wants is blurred and we can't distinguish what is what. When we begin to reflect God in our lives, by being obedient to what He tells us to do in His word, then it is much easier to see His direction for our lives. He begins to open up opportunities in the very thing He has made us to do. Then it is our obligation to go out and do it.

Bottom line is this: Don't try and copy what the world places in front of us(don't get trapped into seeking to be like those in the world). Instead follow what we are told in the Bible pleases God, and seek to use our God given abilities to be more like His example for us, Jesus Christ. In doing so, we will know and do His will for our lives.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Dinner Invitation - June 2, 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.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Wearing White - June 1, 2015

Isaiah 1:18-20(New International Version)
18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says the LORD.

“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.

19 If you are willing and obedient,
you will eat the good things of the land;
20 but if you resist and rebel,
you will be devoured by the sword.”

For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Revelation 7:13-14(New King James Version)
13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?”

14 And I said to him, “Sir, you know.”
So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

I think all of us can identify with the meaning of these verses. All of us have felt the guilt and shame of our wrongdoing, and at times it even makes us feel dirty. How many of us had difficulty committing to follow Jesus Christ, because we felt unworthy? How many of us were so weighed down by the dirt of our sin, that we longed to be cleaned? It is said that we have been stained with our corruption; what does it take for us to be cleaned up?

The good news is that God has provided us the way; through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross, the sin that has turned us scarlet can be washed away to where we are "white as snow". Though we are stained crimson with because of our sin and disobedience, we can be made "white as wool". Only through the purifying blood of Jesus can we truly be clean. Only through Jesus can we br free of the burden and weight of our sins, past, present and future.

Only with Jesus can we be washed white, holy and pure in God's sight. If you have not accepted the cleansing that God offers, won't you do that today? God wants you to "eat of the good things of the land". He wants you to share in the inheritance that He has waiting for eternity. He wants you to be wearing white.