Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunday Praise! - January 31, 2016

 
Psalm 135:1-7; 13-18 (New Living Translation)
1 Praise the Lord!

Praise the name of the Lord!
Praise him, you who serve the Lord,
2 you who serve in the house of the Lord,
in the courts of the house of our God.

3 Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good;
celebrate his lovely name with music.
4 For the Lord has chosen Jacob for himself,
Israel for his own special treasure.

5 I know the greatness of the Lord—
that our Lord is greater than any other god.
6 The Lord does whatever pleases him
throughout all heaven and earth,
and on the seas and in their depths.
7 He causes the clouds to rise over the whole earth.
He sends the lightning with the rain
and releases the wind from his storehouses.
...
13 Your name, O Lord, endures forever;
your fame, O Lord, is known to every generation.
14 For the Lord will give justice to his people
and have compassion on his servants.

15 The idols of the nations are merely things of silver and gold,
shaped by human hands.
16 They have mouths but cannot speak,
and eyes but cannot see.
17 They have ears but cannot hear,
and noses but cannot smell.
18 And those who make idols are just like them,
as are all who trust in them.


Those who don't take the time to regularly attend a good Bible believing and teaching church are really missing out. My most enjoyable times are spent in worship, lifting hands to God in thanksgiving and praise. It is a time when I can truly get away from the world and share in the presence of the Holy Spirit with others of like mind. Let's be mindful of what we have because of Jesus Christ, and savor the good fellowship He so generously gives us.

Photo "Worship Hands" by ischutt, 1-23-2005 from stock.xchng

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Our Free Will - January 30, 2016


Ezekiel 18:32; Ezekiel 33:11 (New International Version, ©2010)
18:32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!
...
33:11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’

Matthew 18:14 (New King James Version)
14 Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

1 Timothy 2:3-4 (New International Reader's Version)
3 That is good. It pleases God our Savior. 4 He wants everyone to be saved. He wants them to come to know the truth.

I have often wondered and about the billions of people on this planet that are "lost". By lost I mean that they either don't know or have rejected that the only way of salvation is through Jesus Christ. Many in this world would dispute that, but fact is that once you have studied the Bible, and every other religious text, only Jesus claimed to be the full representation and only way to God.

Once I fully grasp what He was offering, what Jesus did on the cross in sacrificing himself for our sins became very clear to me. The more I studied the Bible and the Old Testament sacrificial system, the more I read how God's people would wander from Him despite His provision and love, the more it became obvious that mankind needed a permanent solution to his sinfulness and waywardness.

God, through His love, grace, mercy and sovereign will, determined that He would have to be the One to redeem His people. Just like a good parent would rather take the punishment or pain inflicted on their children, God decided that He needed to take it upon Himself to resolve man's problem of sin by taking on the just punishment that sin would require. No other religious teaching has God doing the work to bring man to Himself. The sole requirement is for us to freely believe and accept it.

If you are still not a Christian, God has given you the free will to choose His way of rescue. He has known you from the beginning and He knows when your life will end. For all of us, our time on this earth is short. He will not let you or anyone get away from His holiness and justice. Someday we will all have to reconcile our account with Him. Better to do it in this life, by accepting His free gift of salvation, than have to stand judgment in the after life.

If you were called to stand before Him without Jesus Christ, would your good outweigh your bad on the scales of justice? When the gavel comes down at your judgment, where you will spend eternity?

2 Peter 3:9 (New Century Version)
9 The Lord is not slow in doing what he promised—the way some people understand slowness. But God is being patient with you. He does not want anyone to be lost, but he wants all people to change their hearts and lives.

Photo "Hammer to Fall" by gmarcelo, 12-4-2006, from stock.xchng

Friday, January 29, 2016

Looking for Paradise - January 29, 2016

Philippians 3:18-21 (New Living Translation)
18 For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.

20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. 21 He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.


Having lived in California for some time, and now that I live in Texas, I love to read a magazine called Sunset. This magazine is all about California and "Living in the West", and when I read it it reminds me of the times that I enjoyed living and vacationing there. I can get all kinds of tips on places to see, foods to prepare eat, ways to garden, and other things that I really enjoy. I really look forward to getting this little reminder of the West each and every month.

One thing struck me a little differently as I was reading the an issue I received a few years ago. What struck me is how the magazine tried to promote "paradise on earth" for its readers, and the thought came into my head that "everyone's looking for paradise". California is probably one of the most sought after places to vacation or live, because to many it is a piece of "paradise on earth".
Also in that issue were "The Top 100 ideas, people, places, and things that are making life in the West better right now". This was an assemblage of things right here on earth where one can create their own little bit of "paradise", as long as they're lucky enough and have the financial wherewithal to do and meet and see all the things the article suggested.

You see, all of us are constantly being bombarded by the world's attractions that really leads us to distraction. There simply is no way that anything here on earth will ever match the ultimate destination of true Paradise, Heaven itself. The things of earth are constantly breaking down and being corrupted. Yes, God did create these places and things for us to enjoy while we are here, but we should never let it take the place of the "real thing" in the heart of a believer.

What Jesus Christ did for us is serious stuff; our acceptance of His work on the cross allows us to know that someday we will be in a new heaven and a new earth that will be as God initially intended for His creation before the fall. Our focus should not be on what is here on the earth, but on what we will ultimately attain through Jesus in eternity. He provides all of the blessings both here and in eternity, but don't get too caught up on what we will eventually leave behind.

So enjoy the life that God has given you, and the opportunity He allows you to partake and enjoy the beauty of His creation, but be certain that each and every day you remember to yield you heart to the Giver and make your main focus to serve Him while we are here. In doing so we can be assured of the fact that "we ain't seen nothin' yet"!

Colossians 3:2 (New King James Version)
2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.


Photo of "Big Sur" from a trip to Carmel, 2008

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Being Just Like Jesus - January 28, 2016

Romans 8:28-30 (New Century Version)
28 We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love him. They are the people he called, because that was his plan. 29 God knew them before he made the world, and he chose them to be like his Son so that Jesus would be the firstborn of many brothers and sisters.

30 God planned for them to be like his Son; and those he planned to be like his Son, he also called; and those he called, he also made right with him; and those he made right, he also glorified.

As parents, we are always mindful of who our children are looking up to. When we were growing up, there were plenty of heroes and it was easy to find an example of someone we wanted to be like. It's not as easy today, because many of the athletes or politicians or movie stars tend not have the character traits that we would like our children to exhibit. In most cases, the best heroes for our children are their parents. We need to lead by being the best example of holiness that we can.

That was part of God's overall plan for the lives of those who would believe in Jesus. He gave us the example of His Son, so that we would know what character traits would be pleasing to God and good for His people. God wants us to be like Jesus; our behavior, habits, and how we treat others need to be a reflection of Jesus Christ. God planned what would happen in our lives in advance for us to be able to be so, Everything that happens in our life has the purpose of making us more like Him.

With this in mind, we need to make sure that our pursuits in life are to be more like Jesus Christ. We need to try to reflect Christ in every thing we do, and to everyone we come in contact with. It isn't always easy, and there are many times when behaving like Jesus is very hard to do, but we need to be always intentional in our actions to try to be more like Him.

Photo "Just Watching" by emuman, 7-21-2008 from stock.xchng

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Fire! - January 27, 2016

Proverbs 11:13 (New Living Translation)
13 A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.

Proverbs 13:3 (New International Version)
3 He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.

Proverbs 16:28 (New International Version)28 A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.

Proverbs 18:8 (New Century Version)8 The words of a gossip are like tasty bits of food. People like to gobble them up.

Proverbs 20:19 (New International Version)
19 A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.

Proverbs 26:20 (New Century Version)20 Without wood, a fire will go out, and without gossip, quarreling will stop.


We all like to "stir it up". From the time we were in school we all have been involved in talking about other people. Now as adults we all take part in the what goes on in the office. Maybe not maliciously, but a "juicy" and "scandalous" story is sometimes too hard to resist. Some of us though say things about those we want to hurt.

Maybe they took our position, or they attained a something we wanted very hard to get. Maybe they even hurt us before, and we feel it is "high time they got what is coming to them". This thing can really burn, and it can do extreme damage. It can even ruin someone's life. And I am sure that we do not want to be the center of it.

God has a lot to say about that little "fireball" gossip. Here are just of few statements about it from Proverbs. God calls this destructive activity by its more revealing name "sin", and as believers in Jesus Christ, we are supposed to avoid this like the plague. We are to run as far from gossip as we can. And if we find ourselves in the middle of a malicious conversation we should pretend like we haven't heard a thing.

The key to putting out the "fire" of gossip is to be the end of it. Don't let it spread any further, and encourage others not to go there. Your life will be much happier and you will have many more friends if you become known as the "firefighter" rather than the "arsonist".

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Don't Look Back - January 26, 2016

Philippians 3:13-14(New Living Translation)
13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.


All of us know people that constantly dwell in the past. No matter what happens, they are always dredging up what happened in the past as the reason for it. This is especially true if that person encounters failure; something in the past is always the cause. Instead of accepting responsibility and moving on they remain stuck in the past and never move forward into the future.

On the other hand, there are those who look to the past and the days gone by as the good times. That is so true of society these days. Many well-meaning Christians talk much about how it used to be rather than working to change things today. The problem with looking back in this case is that complacency sets in; that's because we think that it will never be as good as the past, so why even try to change things?

Both of these situations may be true for all of us at one time or another. There are times when we get so tired of fighting the difficulties of today, that we would rather just stay in the past and recall better days. We get ourselves stuck and the resulting complacency can really tie us down. Sooner than later we can so deep in the pit that it takes a huge effort to climb out, and without God it might be almost impossible.

We can't spend our lives looking in the rearview mirror. God wants us to forget the past, because what is done is done. That is what salvation is all about. In Jesus Christ we have the opportunity to have our past washed away in His precious blood. No longer do we have to carry the burden of the bad that we have done, but we can look forward to the future that God has in store, a blessed future here and now, and for eternity.



Monday, January 25, 2016

Working Together for Our Good - January 25, 2016

 
Romans 8:28;37-39 (New King James Version)28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. ...37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What great news for today; to know that when we chose to love God through Jesus Christ that He will work things out for our good! Yes, this is sometimes very difficult to understand, especially when things in our lives seem to go badly. Many times when we see the circumstances close up or we are right in the midst of the difficulty we find it hard to see how God is helping us through it.

Paul wrote this letter to the believers in Rome from Corinth, just after the middle of the 1st century. The purpose of Romans was to preach the "good news" of salvation in Christ and to impart to the reader a gift of encouragement and assurance in all that God has freely given them. The 8th Chapter of Romans specifically addresses the favor, benefits and protections offered through believing, and living lives led by the Spirit of God, as we have come to know as the Holy Spirit.

Just as they were for the Roman believers, these words offer us encouragement, hope and a promise that God will help us. He will be in the life's most difficult situations and work them out for our ultimate benefit. Even better is that the this text emphasizes ALL things, not just some things working together for good. If at those times in our own lives, when things seem most hopeless and depressing, we will shift our focus away from the situation and onto what God might be trying to do through it, we can find greater peace and comfort. We may not see or know the results for some time, but the outcome will give positive results.

The best promise is at the end of the highlighted verses for today. That is that no matter what the circumstance, or the situation, whether it is in this life or the next, nothing will ever separate us from God's love once we place our belief in Jesus Christ. Now that is "good news"!

 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

"I Am My Neighbor's Bible" - January 24, 2016


1 Peter 2:12 (New Century Version)
12 People who do not believe are living all around you and might say that you are doing wrong. Live such good lives that they will see the good things you do and will give glory to God on the day when Christ comes again.


You never know who is watching you. You never know what you do as a witness for Jesus Christ might make the difference to whether or not someone comes to know the Lord. When we take on the mantle of "Christian", our lives no longer are our own. We need to remember that we now work for the Creator of the universe. We now are the hands and feet of Jesus to a dying world around us, and we need to be His example.

I was reading a book in my "library" today, and I came across a short little poem that really brought the point I have been trying to get across over the last couple of days:

"I Am My Neighbor's Bible"

I am my neighbor's Bible:
He reads me when we meet,
Today he reads me in my house,
Tomorrow in the street;
He may be a relative or a friend,
Or a slight acquaintance be;
He may not even know my name,
Yet he is reading me.
- Author Unknown


Each and everyday someone is searching for something different than the troubled world in which we are living. Someone out there wants to have something that they can believe in that will bring change to their lives. If we are Christians, we have that life changing difference. But others will never know it, unless we live like we do.

It's not easy, but we were never promised it would be. It is important that we understand this point, because it is a matter of life and death for many. It is time we stepped out of our comfort zones and made a difference in the lives of other people. Time for us to be the examples that God has called us to be.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Trustworthy and True - January 23, 2016

 
Revelation 4:1-3 (New International Reader's Version) 1 After this I looked, and there in front of me was a door standing open in heaven. I heard the voice I had heard before. It sounded like a trumpet. The voice said, "Come up here. I will show you what must happen after this."

2 At once the Holy Spirit took complete control of me. There in front of me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. 3 The One who sat there shone like jewels. Around the throne was a rainbow that looked like an emerald.

Revelation 22:1-6 (New Living Translation)
1 Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.

3 No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. 4 And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. 5 And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.

6 Then the angel said to me, “Everything you have heard and seen is trustworthy and true. The Lord God, who inspires his prophets, has sent his angel to tell his servants what will happen soon.”


In the Book of Revelation, after the messages of Jesus to the churches, John gets very descriptive about his visions of Heaven. We are taken into the very presence of God and the throne room of Heaven, after which we read through a long narrative about what occurs to the earth and mankind. It is interesting reading the visions of future things through the eyes of someone living almost 2000 years ago.

I am very confident that what I read must be accurate, because rarely is a person as detailed about what they are seeing unless they truly witness what they describe. Yet in today's society, what is written in the Bible is rarely taken at face value. I would chose to believe that all that is in the Bible is accurate and infallible given to us by God.

The more you read and study the Bible for yourself, the more you will be able to trust in the literal meaning of what you are reading. God through the Holy Spirit has a way of opening up your mind to understanding, if you have surrendered yourself to Him. You can trust that, “Everything you have heard and seen (read and studied) is trustworthy and true. The Lord God, who inspires his prophets (and brings understanding to His people), has sent his angel (and inspired authors)to tell his servants what will happen soon.”

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Refiner's Fire - January 23, 2016

 
Zechariah 13:9 (New International Version)
9 This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, 'They are my people,'and they will say, 'The LORD is our God.' "

Malachi 3:2-4 (New International Version)
2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, 4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.

1 Peter 1:6-9 (New International Version)
6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Life has its difficulties, hardships and challenges, and many a new Christian has fallen back into their old way of living because of life's disappointments and problems. It is far easier to cover and minimize the problems by embracing the world, but in the long run God draws back to right living those he loves.

The process that we go through as Christians is likened to a silver or gold smith, refining the precious metal, by burning off the impurities in the fire. So too we are brought through the fire of difficulties, hardships and challenges, to help to us get rid of anything that hinders our relationship with God. Through all of it though, God makes His presence known by bringing us comfort through the Holy Spirit.

If you Christian are in the midst of the refining fire, hold on to Jesus and the promises of God. Strengthen your faith through prayer, the fellowship of other believers, and worshiping the Savior of your soul. Remember too that as you journey through, God will bring you to a place of joy. All you need to do is hold on to your faith.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Janitor in Heaven? - January 21, 2016

Psalm 84:1-4;10 (New International Version, ©2011)
1 How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty!

2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

3 Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, LORD Almighty, my King and my God.

4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.
...
10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.


Before I truly accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord, I had a very limited understanding of what God and salvation was all about. Sure I believed in God, but at the same time I was trapped in the thought that what I did, earned my way into heaven. With this mind set, I would often fall into sin, and when the guilt would really burden me, I would throw up a prayer to God pleading that He would forgive me, and allow me to at least be a janitor in heaven.

Nothing wrong with janitors, but I had a true fear in the knowledge that what I was doing angered God, and this was my plea for Him to somehow look away from my sin and accept me. It made me "ripe" for any works based religion where my own actions would be the final determiner of whether or not I would go to heaven when I died. Let's face it; I was totally lost with no clue of what would happen to me if I died.

The Psalter expresses his anguish of being kept out of the house of the Lord, and in the same psalm he makes a plea that he would do anything menial in the courtyard of the Temple, just to be near God's presence. He even shows some jealousy in the ability of the birds to get closer to the altar, the presence of God in ancient Israel, than he was able. In the same way, I was standing outside of the "Temple of the Lord", His kingdom in Heaven, jealously looking in, without a clue of how to get closer to God.

Thank God for His mercy and grace that allowed His Holy Spirit to clearly show me my wrongdoing, and the way out of my situation. He showed me that Jesus Christ was the bridge between my sinful self and a Holy God. Only with the shed blood of Christ could I be cleansed of my sins and allowed access into God's kingdom. That was a beautiful revelation that lifted the burden of my "junk" and brought me the relief of salvation. God no longer saw me as a "janitor" kept outside of the kingdom, but He now welcomed me as His son.

We all can become sons and daughters of the King. There is no reason to stand outside and just look in. Surrender yourself, find salvation from your sins by accepting the work of Jesus and be welcomed into His kingdom.

Photo "Clean Well" by nazreth, 5-4-2006 from stock.xchng

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Heart Matters - January 20, 2016

Proverbs 14:21 (Amplified Bible)21He who despises his neighbor sins [against God, his fellowman, and himself], but happy (blessed and fortunate) is he who is kind and merciful to the poor.

Matthew 25:37-40 (New King James Version)37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

What breaks your heart? Are you moved to tears when you see video of the devastation of an earthquake or catastrophic storm? Are you stirred into action when you see the poor and suffering in this world? Does the thought of many millions without food and shelter move you? What is our responsibility to those we are seeing? Do we focus on the world's needs or should we be more focused on the people around us? Where does our day to day labor for our own needs end and we start to work to make a difference in the lives of others?

Jesus spoke a number of times about the poor and the humble, and he kept the company of many that were hurting in his time. As we consider how we live lives dedicated to our heavenly worth, we need to keep in mind that we need to serve those that are hurting around us. God has a heart for the poor, and as His followers, we need to have the same heart that He does. We must always keep in mind, that someday we will have to give an accounting of the opportunities He gave us, to follow after His heart.

Photo from the Blog "Dreams of Arcadia"

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall - January 19, 2016

Colossians 1:21-23 (New International Reader's Version)
21 At one time you were separated from God. You were enemies in your minds because of your evil ways. 22 But because Christ died, God has brought you back to himself. Christ's death has made you holy in God's sight. So now you don't have any flaw. You are free from blame.

23 But you must keep your faith steady and firm. Don't move away from the hope that the good news holds out to you. It is the good news that you heard. It has been preached to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, now serve the good news.


There was a time in my life when I didn't feel very good looking into the mirror. No, it's not because I am getting older. Before I surrendered to the gospel of Jesus Christ, I was lost and adrift in the world. It led me into many valleys and places I really didn't like being in. During this time in my life, God never gave up on me.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, He convicted me of what was wrong in my life, and set my heart on wanting to come back to Him. He made me aware of the "mirror" of His law, what's right and wrong, what's pleasing to God and not, that I would someday be held accountable to.

I love these verses from Paul's book to the church in the Colossians. I can see myself described so clearly in them, that it is like looking into that mirror. I really can see myself, through the bad and the good. Today, I continue to measure myself against God's word. As it says, through Christ's death I have been made holy in God's sight, and in His eyes I don't have any flaws, and I am free from blame. It has been a struggle everyday to keep my faith steady and firm, but through His Spirit I have been able to not "move away".

How about you? Can you see your reflection in the "mirror" of these words? If you can't, take hold of this fact, Jesus Christ died for you, God has forgiven you and brought you back to Himself. Christ's death has made you holy in God's sight. You can free yourself from the chains of your sin and shame, because God has freely provided the way for you. When you surrender yourself and accept His gift to you, you can be sure that Jesus has provided a place with God for you.

If you see yourself in this "mirror" as I do, "hold your faith steady and firm. Don't move away from the hope that the good news holds out to you". This is the mirror that the good news, the Gospel of Jesus Christ that has been given to you. So in turn, follow the way that Paul did long a go. Serve the good news, reaching out to all those that need to see their reflection too.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Making the Most Out of Your Bible - January 18, 2016

 
Hebrews 4:12-13 (New Living Translation)12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.


You cannot approach the use of the Bible as a text without a basic understanding of how to go about studying it. Yesterday we explored why the Bible is relevant for our study, and that is has been proven authoritative and valid due to its manuscript evidence, archaeology, fulfilled prophecy, and overall continuity of story. One need only commit to taking time to studying God's word, and they will be amazed how the words can reveal what is in a person's heart. Our text above, which has been attributed to Paul in his Letter to the Hebrews , describes how this takes place.

How should we go about studying God's word to achieve the greatest revelation and understanding? Here are a few tips on how to:

1. Select a Bible - There are many good translations of the Bible that are in use today. The one you use depends on your current level of understanding. A beginner will find that the New Living Translation or The Message are paraphrased and amplified in today's manner of speaking, and these will be fairly easy to understand. If you wish a more accurate translation that adheres more to the word for word meaning in the original Hebrew or Greek, The New International Version(NIV), American Standard Version(ASV) or New King James Version(NKJV) are good to use.

2. Select Study Tools - You will want to arm yourself with a few good tools that will help you make sense of what you are studying. These will include a Bible Dictionary for word clarification, Bible Study Guides that will help you plan your study, Commentaries that are interpretations of the textual meaning by scholars, a Concordance that allows you to find passages that you might be looking for, and the Internet that allows you to find anything on the topic. You do need to be careful that what you use and read are from reliable and reputable authors that have extensive knowledge of the Bible.

3. Select a Location and Time - You will want to find a location and time that is most convenient for consistent study. Free yourself from distractions and obstacles that will keep you from meaningful time with the Bible for at least 15 minutes. You will be surprised how much will happen to distract and discourage you, but if you remain faithful and diligent, you will get past this. You will find more time and desire to keep up your study program.

4. Pray - Before you get started reading, begin by praying and asking God to give you spiritual understanding. Seek God's direction through His Spirit asking Him to reveal His will and meaning of the words to you.

5. Select a Place to Start - This is really up to you. Some people start from the beginning in the Old Testament, while others start with the New Testament accounts of Jesus's life. Others will start with the books of the Bible that give a good synopsis of the message and reason behind the Gospel, such as John or Romans. You will want to limit yourself to reading chapter or book. Read it, then read it again. Meditate on what the words are trying to tell you. Use the study tools to help you dissect the meaning. Be sure that you complete the chapter or book before moving on to the next. It is difficult to gain real understanding of context and purpose if you do otherwise.

6. Live it - After you have taken time to read and dissect the Bible, actively apply what you have learned. Living out what you have come to understand is God's direction and purpose for your life can be truly life changing. You will find opposition at times, but you will find that God's word will provide comfort and peace. Become a "doer of the word" and you will be blessed by the results.

 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Whole Story - January 17, 2016


Ecclesiastes 12:1,13-14 (New Living Translation)
1 Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.” ...13 That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. 14 God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.

One advantage from looking at life from the right side of forty is that you have the ability to look back and see what we have done wrong. One statement I am sure we all would agree with is that "life is hard", and many of us have had to learn the hard way, that we cannot do this job of living on our own.

As he approached his later years, the King who had it all in his time, when it came to the world's definition of success, wisdom, money, pleasure, and power, had to give the life he led a serious look. As he examined his life and everything he had done, Solomon reached the conclusion that his life had been meaningless. The twelve chapters of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament of the Bible is a sad lament on leading a life that is only after the things that this world has to offer.

This is a great book for us to read and reflect upon for ourselves. It is never too late to understand the fact, that this life and everything in it has been given to us as a gift with a purpose. The world would want us to think otherwise, but we have been created to serve God and to serve those around us. I am thankful that God in His unexplainable love and grace revealed this to me before I too had to lament, as Solomon did, that everything was meaningless.

Solomon gives us a bit of wisdom that we need to take to heart and pass on to our youthful friends, and our children and grandchildren. We need to remember that we are here for God's purpose, and life is much easier if our focus is on Him. He summarizes all of the wisdom that God gave him in the concluding verse above. Our reason for living is to love, obey and serve God, because ultimately we are accountable to Him for what we do with this gift He has given us.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Everything is Meaningless? - January 16, 2016




Ecclesiastes 1:1-3 (New International Reader's Version)1 These are the words of the Teacher. He was the son of David. He was also king in Jerusalem. 2 "Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Everything is completely meaningless! Nothing has any meaning." 3 What does a man get for all of his work? Why does he work so hard on this earth?

Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 (New Living Translation)10 Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. 11 But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.

Why do we do what we do? What purpose does our work and everything we strive for have in this world? What value does it truly add to our lives and to the lives of others? Many of us ponder these questions often in our lives, especially when we are searching for meaning to our lives and life's work. The value of what we do in life is just as important as the question, "Why am I here?".

The Book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament of the Bible was written by King Solomon of Israel as his reflection on the life he led. In it he examined the many aspects of what he did as the wisest and richest king in biblical history. Here was a man that God granted great wisdom and wealth, but he squandered away the blessings he was given for a life of immorality and pleasure. As he writes this book at the end of his life, we have the opportunity to look into the window of his life, to ask and answer some big questions for ourselves.

As Solomon sought to understand what benefit there was in his efforts of working, gaining wisdom, and at seeking pleasure, we need to examine for ourselves the purpose in what we are doing. Are we here to work hard at our jobs and accumulate homes, cars, and investments for retirement denying ourselves nothing in material gain? Are we here to get a great education and learning all that we can, to secure the best position and power possible, that our advanced degrees will allow? Or are we just here to live like there is no tomorrow and experience every pleasure and desire the world has to offer?

Not that any of these things are wrong in themselves, but Solomon tries to show us through the self-examination of his experiences that chasing after these things alone is meaningless.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Overcoming Obstacles - January 15, 2016

















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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Good Book - January 14, 2016

 
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)


On cold, dreary outside, 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

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Seeking God - January 13, 2016

1 Chronicles 28:9 (New International Version, ©2010)
9 “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought.

If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.

Jeremiah 29:13 (English Standard Version)
13You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

We live in a world that thinks that there is little or no need for God. If you travel to other countries, especially those that are considered "affluent", such as in Europe, you will find the people overly comfortable in themselves and in their own efforts for everything that they have accomplished and acquired. Sad thing is though, that left to their own devices, it is only a matter of time before you find that the people are fairly "soul-less" and very cynical about life.

In our own country, we too live in a generation that has little need for God; it is a generation that believes that they are in control of their lives and destinies. This attitude is reflected in how quickly the secular culture is trying to wipe away any sight or mention of God in public life. God has become too controversial; He makes offends people and makes them uncomfortable, and it is better to remove or ignore Him than to face Him.

I would venture to say that many of us were the same way, especially when we were young. We believed that we could do anything and we were responsible to no one but ourselves. Even though many of us grew up around godly parents and church, we still had to find out on our own that we weren't "all that". There probably were many times when we chose our own way, even when we knew it was against the things of God. But we chose to remove or ignore Him from our lives, and it took many hard knocks and dark and terrible days, before we could acknowledge our need for Him.

In the verses above, we are made aware that God knows everything about us. There is no hiding from Him. Sooner or later everyone is going to have to face Him; we are going to have to face Him. We can either accept Him and His provision of redemption for us , or we can reject Him at our own eternal peril. He is there waiting for us; it is up to us to seek Him; He will make sure that we find Him.

Photo "Peek-a-boo 1" by vivekchugh 7-18-2008 from stock.xchng

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Chains for Christ - January 12, 2016

 
Philippians 1:12-14 (New International Version, ©2010)
12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.


What type of affliction are you undergoing as a believer in Jesus Christ? I would venture to say that very very few in the United States have really encountered true persecution, physical persecution, for the cause of Jesus Christ. About the most we ever have to worry about in this country is that non-believer who gives us grief at work, or that college professor that believes we come from apes. If you were truly faced with a decision of renouncing your faith in Jesus, would you stand up to the test?

One of the ministries that I link to on this blog is Voice of the Martyrs. The story of its founders Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand is a remarkable one. They were two Jewish converts to Christ who survived World War II and the rescue of Jews from the Nazis, almost giving up their lives in the process, only to be imprisoned for many years under the Communist regime in Romania. Richard was savagely beaten and tortured because he was bold enough to take a stand for God and His Christ. Their story is worth reading, and their ministry today spreads the message of the atrocities that Christians face in restricted nations.

I believe a time may come in this country where faithful Christians will be faced with the same trials and persecution that is faced by our brothers and sisters around the world today. If you are a true Christian, you know that the rhetoric coming out of the media and other places today is already setting the stage. Our faith is probably the most ostracized in the world today; all because a Jewish carpenter, who claimed himself God in the flesh, traveled the roads of the Middle East, healing the sick and comforting the afflicted, gave up his life as a sacrifice on our behalf, and then proved who he was by getting up out of the grave a few days later.

A time is coming when we will be imprisoned, put in chains, for believing in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. Will we be able,...will you be able to stand up to the test?

Photo by juliaf, 3-27-2007, from stock.xchng

Monday, January 11, 2016

Giving a Helping Hand - January 11, 2016

 
Galatians 6:2 (New International Version, ©2010)
2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.


For almost one third of our citizens, the last several years have been tough in this country. Although the unemployment rate has been trending down, over 94 million people that are eligible to work have dropped out of the employment ranks. Many other now in the oil and gas industry have now lost their jobs and are unemployed.

For others, financial pressures has broken up families. The number of people on some type of government assistance is the highest ever, highlighted by the fact that over 45 million remain on food-stamps alone. Food pantries are empty and shelters are full, and there are more homeless on our nation's streets than ever before.

To add to this, there is growing spiritual poverty in our country as well. More and more people are lost and have no where to turn to relieve the stresses and pressure of their lives. Depression, anxiety, addiction, compulsive behaviors (over-eating, excessive gambling, spending, etc.) and substance abuse are also soaring. The times are hard but the relief is close to everyone.

It is times like these that the church of Jesus Christ can be at its finest. As believers, we are to be the "hands and feet" of Jesus. We are to be those who provide help and assistance, along with the hope and grace that are available through a commitment to God's gift of Jesus. Our eyes need to be open to opportunities to help, and our hands need to be open to share in the blessings that God has given us.

If someone you know is in need of a helping hand, now is the time for you to be what you have been called to in Christ. Now is the time for you to pick up your brother or sister and let them see Jesus through you.

Photo "Baby's Hand", 6-22-2008 from pdphoto.org

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Heavenly Focused - January 10, 2016

 
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 Spring 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 this year the one that you surrender everything to Him.

Photo from Strandhill,Ireland 6/17/2010 credits to www.pdphoto.org

Saturday, January 9, 2016

God's Agenda - January 9, 2016



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.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Stop Wandering! - January 8, 2016



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

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

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

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

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

If you have not done so yet in the New Year, now is the time to follow God's leading out of the desert.

Photo compliments of pdphoto.org

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Setting Goals - January 7, 2015

 
James 4:13-15 (New International Version)13Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." 14Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."

By now many of us have made plans to go here or there this year, set goals to lose weight or accomplish this or that, planned calendar events such as vacations or weddings, committed to change jobs or find one, or set resolutions to bring about change. I am in the process of doing so and have done it in the past. In order to go anywhere in life, you need to have goals, and construct a plan on how you will accomplish them. Many fail in attaining their dreams and living a truly satisfying life, because of their failure to do so. Nothing is worse than a "ship without a rudder".

James, the brother of Jesus, was interested in vital Christianity, that results in consistent character and is lived out in serving those around us. In this passage, he encourages us to make our future plans with God in mind. As you sit down and take time to do the work of setting goals and making plans for the new year, meditate on what God might desire for your life. What can you accomplish in your life and for those around you with God's help? What are His purposes for you in 2010?

This life passes quickly by; we need to do the work of seeking God, placing Him first in our lives, and include His work in our plans. Commit yourself in the new year to seek Him in prayer before you go on the journey.

This post is a re-post of one of my past blog posts. I believe it is very appropriate for today as it was when I first posted it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Finding Identity - January 6, 2015

2 Corinthians 5:17 (New International Version)17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Romans 10:15 (New Living Translation)15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”(Isaiah 52:7)


Another question that we often ask ourselves is, "Who am I?" Much of our time is spent working on ourselves, seeking to present just the right image for the world to see. As young people, we wanted to fit in and to be liked by those around us by wanting to be identical to everyone else, but at the same time we went to great lengths to create our own individual identity and personality. We longed for self-worth and acceptance, and as we grew up, I would venture to say that not much really changed.

In the book of Corinthians, Chapter 5, Paul is very clear to let the Corinthian church know their identities as believers in Christ. He contrasts the earthly from the heavenly; the temporary from the eternal. He further encourages followers in Christ that they are no longer the same, and as such they are Christ's representatives of what God has done for His people.

When we decide to take the step to follow Jesus Christ we finally have true identity. God's love changes who we are from the inside out. We no longer are our "old selves", but we are transformed into something new, a "new creation"! As such, we also accept an awesome responsibility to reflect Christ to those around us, and to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our daily lives.

This post is a re-post of one of my past blog posts. I believe it is very appropriate for today as it was when I first posted it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Finding Value - January 5, 2015

 
Jeremiah 31:3 (New International Reader's Version)3 The Lord appeared to us in the past. He said,"I have loved you with a love that lasts forever.I have kept on loving you with faithful love."

John 3:16-17 (New International Version)16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

As we journey into the New Year, it may be difficult for some to know how much they are truly valued. It is difficult to move forward into a season of renewal, because the past may carry with it burdens of hurt and pain that hold them back from truly accomplishing what God has planned and designed for their lives. A first step in the direction of letting go of the past is to realize that we are intensely loved by God.

The Bible gives us many passages that tell us how deeply God loves us, the jewel of His creation. As you read in the passage to His chosen people Israel above, God loves us with an everlasting love. That means a love that is unending, eternal, lasts forever, endures for all time. He has known us since before we were born, and continues His love for us by providing a way for us to always be with Him. That way is highlighted above in the words of Jesus himself.

Do you realize how much you truly mean to God? Do you understand how truly valuable you are? When you come to realization of your value and worth, it will make a world of difference to everyone and everything else around you. As you move forward into the New Year, you cannot truly value and love others unless you first understand the intensity of God's love for you.

This post is a re-post of one of my past blog posts. I believe it is very appropriate for today as it was when I first posted it.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Finding Purpose - January 4, 2015

 
Ephesians 2:10 (New Century Version)
10 God has made us what we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us to do good works, which God planned in advance for us to live our lives doing.

Why am I here? That is the biggest question we all ask of ourselves. It is probably the single most asked question that is common to everyone on the planet since time began, and it will be asked by everyone living after we are gone.

Tradition tells us that Paul wrote this verse in the 1st century, while in prison in Rome, as part of his letter to the Church in Ephesus in modern day Turkey. The church was very multicultural, and Paul sought to unify this diverse group of Jews and Gentiles, emphasizing the central theme that we all were created by God. He then reaffirmed who they were as believers and laid out guidance for spiritual living.

This verse of the Bible tells me that we are all created by God. He planned out our lives long long ago, and each one of us has a particular reason for living, and mission on this earth that is part of His overall plan. Every life has intrinsic worth, value and purpose, although some in society today would seek to tell us differently. As such we need to take time to discover what it is that we should be doing. We need to ask ourselves, "Now that I am unique and of great value to God, what it is it that He has made me to do? What is the good work, mission, or purpose that I should be doing?"

We can only answer this by first knowing Jesus Christ, and then spend time in prayer seeking God. When we take this step for ourselves, He will be anxious to reveal His plans in our hearts. Have you taken the time in this new year to discover God's purpose for your life?

This post is a re-post of one of my past blog posts. I believe it is very appropriate for today as it was when I first posted it.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Accounting For of Our Days - January 3, 2015


Psalm 90:12 (New International Version, ©2010)
12 Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.


Although we have just started a new year, I am sure you will agree that days and time pass by very quickly. When we were children, a year would seemingly take a long time, because if we were 10, 1 year would be a 1/10 of our existence. At 50, 1 year is a 1/50, and 1/50 is much smaller than a 1/10, and in the case of time, seemingly faster.

After today, we only have 363 days left in this year to do the important things we are called to do before we pass from this earth. What has God placed on your heart to do this year? If you don't know yet, you need to take some time with your Bible, pen and paper. In mediation and prayer, first commit the new year to Him, and then seek His wisdom in what you are to do.

God has big plans for you this year! Don't waste a single day of them not knowing what they are!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

A Clean Start to the Year - January 2, 2016

Psalm 51(New International Version)
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.


13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.

18 May it please you to prosper Zion,
to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.


As you begin this New Year, it is appropriate to approach this year with a fresh start, a "clean heart", to give yourself the best opportunity to be blessed and be a blessing. We all have things that we probably would rather forget from last year, and we all have had moments that we would like to take back.

Now is the best time to seek God and ask for His forgiveness. Now is the time to turn it over to His provision for our sins, Jesus Christ. Because of His work on the cross, we can walk into the year with a renewed spirit and leave behind the junk of the past.

If you have not surrendered your heart to Jesus, do so now while the year is still new. Pour out your heart to Him and confess your sins; He will be faithful and forgive you and make you "clean" again.

Friday, January 1, 2016

The New Is Here - January 1, 2016


2 Corinthians 5:17(New International Version)
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

2 Corinthians 5:17(King James Version)
17Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.


Every New Year offers us an opportunity to start over. I am sure that each of us have a few things that we are going to commit to do differently from last year. For some, it may be a new weight loss program to shed a few unwanted pounds. For others it may be a renewed discipline of reading the Bible more. Some of us might just want to maintain what was started before, or a few may want to quit something they shouldn't have ever started. No matter what it is, this is the time in every New Year when the "new is here".

When I say the "new is here", it is an opportunity for a newness, a fresh start, a time to begin again. That is what we get when we become Christians. Jesus gives us the chance to throw off our old selves and become new again. He takes our old sinful beings, and because He paid for our sins on the cross, we are able to clothe ourselves in His righteousness. That means when God sees us, if we have trusted Christ for our salvation, He sees us as forgiven and all cleaned up. As Paul put it in his letter to the Corinthians, we are a new creation.

As you start out this New Year, if you haven't trusted Jesus Christ for your salvation, let today be the day when you start out new with God. Let 2012 be the year that you began life anew. If you already know Jesus as your Savior, it is still a great time to recommit yourself to something new. Seek Him and find a new and fresh way to serve Him. Be that reflection of Jesus to a lost and fallen world that you have always wanted to be. Make sure that this year is the year when the "new" is truly here in your life.