Sunday, November 30, 2014

~ "Clear the way..."

"Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts." (Mal 3:1)

There are two messengers mentioned in this verse.  The first is generally understood to be John the Baptist.  The second messenger is Jesus, the Messiah.  Both Malachi and John prepared the way for Jesus.

During the Christmas season, many speak about making a place for Jesus in one's heart.  Why is it only at Christmastime that "Jesus" is acceptable?  Should we not make a place in our heart for him all the time?  Should we not carry that "giving" spirit with us all year?  Just as many are only thankful in November, many are also only joyous and giving in December.

Prepare yourselves to celebrate the season of giving by doing just that!  Give a little of what you have to someone who does not.  Share a little of your time with someone who is alone, or lonely.  Make someone's day better.  If it is more blessed to to give than to receive, think of how much more blessed you will be if you give of yourself!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

"Strong in truth..."

"Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving." (Col 2:7)

Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him.  Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught and you will overflow with thankfulness.

When the soil is good, the roots of a tree will grow deep into it.  It will be firmly planted and unmoveable.  So, too, should be your faith.  Firmly planted and grounded in him!!!  But remember, the truth is not always what you were taught, the truth is contained in God's Word!!!  Church doctrine and the Bible are not one in the same.  Seek out the truth and follow that path!

I do not hold with many of the things I was taught, simply because there is no foundation for it in scripture.  Much of what was ingrained in me as a child (because of my religion and my heritage) has been replaced with what I know to be true, what I know to be real.  The foundation on which my faith was planted gave way to a greater, richer soil, nourished by the Holy Spirit in anticipation of my acceptance of God's calling.

What you have learned (be it fact or fiction) can help you discern for yourself the truth and the way.  The Holy Spirit will guide your every step.  Let this season, which celebrates the birth of our Savior guide your heart, help you establish a rebirth in faith and cause you to experience gratitude on a whole new level!

Friday, November 28, 2014

~ "The reason for the season..."

"But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."  (1 Cor 15:57)

Ah, victory!  Knowing that my debt has been paid in full, my soul washed in the blood of Christ - an awesome feeling!  There is no greater gift that could ever be given!  With Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas approaching, we begin to think of the gifts we will give and those we will receive.  For me, I have no real requests for presents this year.  God has seen fit to provide me with everything I need and just about everything I want.  Sure, there are a few material things that would make my life a little more comfortable, but I'm not going to be terribly upset if I don't get them.

The season of Christmas, the birth of Christ, is the season of giving!  Give with your heart, not your wallet.  Don't look to outdo with the bigger, more expensive gift.  Give something that you will be remembered for, something unique.  It's not always the most expensive gift that is best!  Look around at those who have less than you and include them in your holiday joy!  Take the time to convey the true meaning of Christmas!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

~ "In Thanksgiving..."

"Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name." (Ps 100:4)

To those in the United States, I want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.  It is truly a day filled with love, warmth and food!  Not unlike a great banquet thrown by a King!

We walk into the home where we will be eating and we compliment the host and hostess on the wonderful smell emanating from the kitchen.  We are in awe of the beautiful table that has been set for us.  We hug and we offer each person present a "Happy Thanksgiving" and we reminisce over the year that passed.

I look forward to the banquet that will be prepared in my honor; the one that had been prepared for my mother, my grandmother, my brother, my brother-in-law and all those who have also, at one time or another, sat around my Thanksgiving table.  The banquet Jesus speaks about.  The banquet to welcome me home!

On this Thanksgiving Day, don't be thankful just for the food and the family, be thankful for the right to celebrate it (and remember that there are soldiers who will not be sitting with their families this day).  Be thankful for God's mercy and grace in blessing us with those we gather together with, as well as the food that has been prepared!  Be thankful for all he has given you this day and every day!!!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

~ "The heart of the father..."

"And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." (Malachi 4:6)

Benjamin Watson is a tight end for the New Orleans Saints Football Organization.   In light of the trouble in Ferguson, MI, here is what this man had to say...

At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:

I'M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.

I'M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.

I'M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I'm a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a "threat" to those who don't know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.

I'M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.

I'M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.

I'M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn't there so I don't know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.

I'M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I've seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.

I'M CONFUSED, because I don't know why it's so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don't know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.

I'M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take "our" side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it's us against them. Sometimes I'm just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that's not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That's not right.

I'M HOPELESS, because I've lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I'm not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.

I'M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it's a beautiful thing.

I'M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I'M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that's capable of looking past the outward and seeing what's truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It's the Gospel. So, finally, I'M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

~ "More thanks and praise..."

"Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name." (1 Chron 29:13)

Once again, we see that giving thanks and praise is in order.  It must be important if we are reminded of is so often.

Giving thanks and praise is not limited to going to church on Sunday.  Giving thanks is just what it says: thanking God.  When you receive a gift in the mail, don't you opened and then call the person who sent it to you and say "thank you"?  Why would you not do the same for the gifts given by God?  Call out to him!  Thank him!

The same goes for praise.  We (parents) are very good at telling other how our children made us proud - we praise them openly and to anyone who will listen sometimes!  Why do we not openly praise God for all he's done in our lives?

When it is all said and done, Chronicles again reminds us that praise and thanksgiving are important pieces of a Christian's life!  Incorporate them into yours!  Say thank you every chance you get - for the little things (like an uneventful ride to work).  Praise him every chance you get (after you arrive at work on the uneventful trip, praise him for the job you have - some people aren't as fortunate).  Even if you feel you've already given thanks and offered praise -- it's okay to repeat it again!  Our heavenly Father does not get tired of hearing us thank him!

Monday, November 24, 2014

~ "Growth..."

"O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever." (1 Chron 16:34)

The mercy granted us by the Father is surpassed by none.  Regardless of the path in life we choose, he is merciful throughout the entire journey.  His love for us is so great that he sent someone to redeem our souls, make a way to heaven and bring us closer to him.

Giving thanks to God for all he has done for us is a task we should not shy away from.  It is not an "embarrassment" to praise God, nor to give thanks for all he's done for us.  Far too many people mumble the words and then look around to see who is watching.  Shout it loud for all to hear!  Make your faith known to all!

Showing mercy to others does not mean allowing them to walk all over you.  Don't hesitate to say that something "off color" offends you, or that the constant barrage of four-letter-words makes you uncomfortable!  If someone is offended by your honesty with regard to their behavior, do you really need that person in your close circle of friends?  Can you keep them at a distance and still maintain a healthy relationship with them and with God?  Who is the more important one?  Who has given you more? Who will stand by you when all others leave?  Where does your loyalty lie?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

~ "The gift of life..."

"Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift." (2 Cor 9:15)

As we approach the season of "giving", while still in the season of being "thankful", we have the opportunity to reflect on all of the gifts given us by our Creator.  The greatest of all gifts is our salvation!  The sacrifice that paid our way, the unselfishness of the act and the opportunity to reach up and touch the face of God is unsurpassed by any of the other gifts afforded us through faith in Jesus Christ and belief in the power of God.

Do we take the time, throughout the year, to be grateful for this gift?  Do we pray the words written in this verse by Paul so very long ago?  Do we share with others this gift of eternal life?

Open your eyes and your heart this Christmas season!  Give a gift that is from the heart, not from the wallet.  Take the time to seek, for each person you buy for, a gift that reflects the love in your heart, the joy in your soul and the beauty of the season!  Give something unique, something special and something that will be remembered for years to come!  In doing so, remember to give thanks for the gifts given to you and remember that the reason for the season is the birth of Christ - the gift of life!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

~ "Purity..."

"Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word." (Ps 119:9)

How can a person stay on the path of purity?  By living according to God's word.

Even in this world, at this time, purity is not impossible!  It just requires a lot more dedication than it use to!  Why is purity so important?  God tells us to be "sanctified" - to remain holy; to avoid sexual immorality.  He tells us to learn how to control our bodies (just because it feels good, doesn't mean you have to do it).  He also tells us what not to do.  He tells us not to engage in incest, or to have "affairs".  God calls us to live a holy life!  By living a life of purity, we can save ourselves countless problems.  We will not be bringing sexual issues from past relationships, into the next relationship.  We will not be putting ourselves in a position to contract and spread diseases.  We will not be cheapening ourselves with partners that have nothing in mind beyond their own immediate satisfaction.

Many young people today take a public vow of purity.  They announce to the world that they will remain "virgins" until they marry.  The world today in which our young people (even some of us "older" folks) live in is telling them there are no rules, or rewriting the rules set forth by God.  "To doubt of our own wisdom and strength, and depend on God, proves the purpose of holiness is sincere." (Matthew Henry).

Don't look at it as a burden, a denial of "happiness" (don't I have the right to be happy?), look at it as yet another way to please the Creator and receive his blessings!

Friday, November 21, 2014

~ "Joy and deliverance..."

"But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head." (Ps 3:3)

Regardless of what happens in our lives, we are told to walk proudly - with our heads held high.  Our Heavenly Father lifts us up out of the sin we were born into and becomes the shield that protects us from further harm.  Our souls soar with joy and contentment when we are walking the path laid before us by our Creator!

We aren't supposed to "get" it all.  We will try to decipher the trials and the message all throughout our lives.  Some things are easy, others, not so much.  We are to walk by faith; to live our faith!  Our confidence lies in his promises!  His promises are our reward!

Whether it is work, or home, we are not alone.  Our voices are heard whenever we call out in pain, and in joy!  Once we are secure in the knowledge that we do not walk alone, our inner conscience can discern right from wrong, good from evil.  We will instinctively know what is from God and what is a temptation.

Don't underestimate what you know to be true.  Don't hesitate to call on him!  It's okay to be cautious and follow your gut when it comes to things that "just don't seem  right".  Put your faith and your trust in the Lord - he protects, his love is our joy and he reminds us that we are worthy to call on his name!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

~ "Who is more foolish..."

"He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed."  (Prov 13:20)

I do know a little about being in the company of fools.  For many years, I found it comfortable and I could do what I wanted without any repercussions...or so I thought.  "Fools" live for the moment.  They have no regard for anyone or anything outside of themselves.  They talk a good talk.  Their focus is simple:  fun.  Life is not always all about fun.

The wise man is one who is well rounded, and well grounded.  Matthew Henry tells us that "The rule by which the wise regulate their conduct, is a fountain yielding life and happiness".  Ephesians 5:15 reminds us again to be careful how we live our lives, to be watchful and discreet.

All in all, we are told to live a life that is pleasing to God.  How can we possibly do that if we are out chasing after celebrities every chance we get, or spending countless hours gambling away our money, or bar hopping until the sun comes up?  Our Creator does not want for us to remove every enjoyable adventure from our lives, but he does want us to do it in moderation and with the understanding that he comes before all else.  My mother use to tell me "moderation" - that's the key.  The other thing we need to remember is balance.  If we allow foolishness and the behaviors associated with it to overtake our lives, there will be nothing left to offer to God.

Don't be the fool who follows the the wise one people strive to emulate! Be a reflection of your Creator and enjoy the blessings that come with it!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

~ "Desires of the heart..."

"Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart." (Ps 37:4)

David calls for us to take "delight" in the Lord.  We should commit everything we have and everything we do to him.  How?  Well, to delight in someone means to experience great pleasure and joy in their presence.  Only when we know a person well enough does this happen.  We are not often "delighted" by a passing stranger.  We need to know God first!

We must trust God to guide our lives, our families, our jobs, our possessions - everything!  In doing this, we show we "trust" him.  We open ourselves to accept the fact that God can better care for us than we could ever do by ourselves!  Without his constant love and guidance, protection and mercy, we would fail before we ever got started.

We, in turn, wait patiently for our Heavenly Father to smooth the road when it's bumpy, to lead us in the direction that he has prepared for us, and to prepare a place for us in his Kingdom.  The desires of our hearts (in the long run) are to be with him in Heaven...therefore, when we delight in the Lord, when we are overflowing with joy at his blessings, he has, in fact, already given us the desires of our hearts...he sent Jesus to make it all possible!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

~ "Hidden treasures..."

"Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." (Ps 119:11)

This verse always puzzled me (no matter what translation I read).  How does one "hide" something in their heart?  When you're in love with someone, is shows! It's generally reflected in your face - it beams like the sun.  It's visible in your actions, the many things you do for the person.  It's noticeable in your gait, your stance and your sure-footedness!  It's impossible to hide, no matter how hard you try!

Hiding the "word" means simply to hold it close, to love it, to protect it and to share it with others!  If it is "hidden" in your heart, no one can take it from you!  What it does not mean is for you to tuck it away and hide it from the world.  It is not just yours, nor is it something to hoard.  God's love is big enough for everyone!  Everyone benefits when it's shared and passed from one to another.

If his word is hidden in your heart, you will know the enemy when he approaches.  Just as my computer gives me a warning that the web page I am trying to open may contain unsecured data, or damaging data, God's Word firmly planted in my heart ignites a warning when something "not of the Father" is attempting to worm its way into my life.  The light goes on and the enemy is caught in the act and promptly sent on his way.

If you do not know God's Word, you cannot hide it - it's not simply memorizing scripture - it's understanding it!  Once understood, you can carry it with you always.  Once understood, you can use it to educate others.  Once understood, it becomes the shield against Satan.  Hidden in your heart, God's Word becomes your life force!  Hide it well!!!

Monday, November 17, 2014

~ "Being happy..."

"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.  For God shall bring every work into judgement, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." (Ecc 12:13-14))

That's the whole story!  Keeping his commandments is our responsibility.  If we do what is commanded of us, everything else falls into place.  With these final verses in Ecclesiastes, we see that no matter what the mysteries and contradictions of life, we must work toward knowing God...our single purpose in life!

We should enjoy life, but this does not exempt us from obeying God's commandments.  This takes us back to the statement so many have made to me when discussing certain things forbidden by our creator.  The question: "Don't I have a right to be happy?" The answer is here in these verses!  We do have a right to be happy, but not before God's right to be happy!

We will all stand and be judged. We will not be able to use life's iniquities as an excuse for failing to live according to the standards set forth for us in God's Word!  We need to recognize that effort without God's help is useless.  We need to put God first in everything we do (now, not tomorrow).  We need to remember that everything is a gift from God.  Funny how people spend their lives striving for the very enjoyment that God gives freely, as a gift!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

~ " all generations, forever and ever. Amen."

"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."  (Eph 3:20-21)

Matthew Henry's commentary tells us that is proper to end all prayers with praise!  He suggests that we be encouraged by what Jesus has already done for us (the sacrifice for salvation, the conversion of sinners, and the comfort of believers) and continue to ask for more!

In these verses, Paul challenges us to "live close to Christ".  In doing so, we affirm our beliefs, renounce the enemy and continue to lift up our praises to the Creator!  When we have Jesus at the center of our lives, we place  all our priorities under his hand.  Our conduct becomes consistent with what we are asked to do: to honor, worship and serve our King!

Christ's church will last through all generations!  We are a part of that church and therefore are a part of that "world without end".  The doxology in verse 21 is familiar to many, but often it is just a sentence spoken at the end of a request.  Focus on the revelation contained in that sentence and be in awe of the miracle it contains!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

~ "The advocate..."

"Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." (Jude 1:21)

We have choices.  Keeping company with the enemy, or staying in the good graces of our Creator.  How?

Temptation comes in many forms. The most obvious and easiest to recognize is in the physical attractions we have for others.  As a young adult, there wasn't one member of the opposite sex that I didn't look at without have a desire to "have" that person.  My idea of sex before marriage was as real as the time I grew up in.  "Free love" was what it was all about.  The rationale used was that back in Jesus' day, a marriage vow was simply two people who made a public declaration of their love for one another so "living together" was essentially the same thing.  Not until years later did I truly understand the concept of marriage and the commitment that went along with it.

Keeping oneself in the love of God requires dedication and devotion.  It requires studying his word and applying it to daily life.  Looking for the mercy of God isn't simply saying "God understands" and continuing on with whatever it is you are trying to convince yourself is "right with God".  God does understand, but he has also laid out his plan for us to follow.  Continuously going against what is sanctioned by God is keeping company with Satan.  He hones in on your weaknesses and plays his cards well.  Be aware of his quest and ask Jesus for the courage to be strong when he is near.  Avoid those situations that put you in harm's way and in that way, you will keep yourself in the love of God!

Friday, November 14, 2014

~ "Journey..."

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end." (Jer 29:11)

This is one of my favorite verses, however I prefer the NIV translation for this verse: "For I know the plans I have for you", declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

God has had a plan for each of us from before we were born.  He, like any father, wants nothing but the best for his children.  He guides us, cares for us, protects us and loves us.  He encourages us to do the impossible and promises that our rewards wait for us.  He does not send us out into the world alone.  He does not send us without directions.

Know that God has a plan for you.  It is a perfect plan designed with just you in mind.  He has seen how it ends and it is good.  He blesses us daily and offers us a better life with him, through Jesus! Take advantage of the gift he offers!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

~ "Temptation..."

"Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed." (James 1:13-14)

Being a devoted and committed Christian does not exclude us from temptation.  Sometimes the remark "why is God tempting me" spills out of our mouths as we fight to maintain our footing.  God does not tempt us, however, he tests us by allowing Satan to tempt us.  He allows this for the purpose of strengthening our faith and our commitment to Jesus!  We can resist by asking for strength from our Creator.

Our life style, the way we choose to live, is fraught with temptation every day.  The whisperings of the enemy tempt us to include sinful things in our lives.  He also tempts us to excluded holy things from our lives.  He is a very cunning adversary whose devices should never be underestimated.  He has but one goal in life (our lives) and that is to separate us from God.

Pray for courage and strength, as well as discernment of what is from God and what is from the enemy.  Know, again, that whatever comes to you, be it a blessing or a temptation, has passed through the hands of the Almighty first!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

~ "Thank you..."

"Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory,  and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; this  is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all." (1 Chron 29:11)

Everything, total and all inclusive, belongs to God.  It is all his.  From the tiniest atom to the largest solar system - they are his!

We are his!  We are his creation and to him do we owe our praises, our gratitude, our loyalty and our love!  Honoring all things commanded of us and listening intently to the promises made is how we are to serve!  We are not his equal, yet he affords us the opportunity to spend eternity in his presence!  We...the lowly sinners!

Take a moment to lift up the praise offered to God in this verse.  Add to it your own praise and thanksgiving for the Father who created you and cares for you!  We are never alone and never but a word away from his magnificent ear!  Stop and say thank you for all he's given you!!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

~ "Love unseen..."

"Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory..." (1 Peter 1:8)

Thomas was blessed because he saw and believed.  We are more blessed by having not seen and yet believe!  Well, I may not have seen the power of God and the glory of Jesus with my eyes, but I have seen it with my heart.  I have seen miracles.  I have seen mercy.  I have seen grace.  I know Jesus! I know God!  I have experienced the unwavering love of the Creator!

The term used to describe this phenomenon is FAITH!  It is defined as a belief not based on proof or evidence.  Can I prove to you that God does exist - it depends on how much faith you have!!! Trusting in God, his actions and his promises can be considered a leap in faith!  Whatever you call it, it is, without exception, an unspeakable joy that has not been matched by any other feeling, ever!

Take the time to find the joy attached to believing in the promises of God.  It's not all about going through the motions of a religious doctrine.  It is a continuous relationship with God through Jesus!  It comes to us as a gift that we can accept or reject, but the blessings from acceptance are beyond the imagination!

Monday, November 10, 2014

~ "The better way..."

"For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men..." (1 Peter 2:15)

People respond better to example than words.  You can say you are a devoted follower of Jesus Christ, but if you life does not exemplify the true essence of those words, you won't be encouraging anyone to follow him.

We all have our moments of weakness.  We are human, we are fallible.  Most people understand that as well, especially if they understand the nature of sin.  We cannot, however, expect to gain any souls for Christ if we are passed out drunk at the corner bar every night, verbally and emotionally abusing our significant other, neglecting the needs of our children or using that unemployment check to buy lottery tickets.  We lead others to Christ by our example!

Our God is a loving God.  He is a forgiving God.  He is an understanding God.  People, in general, are not.  People are skeptical and hesitant when it comes to a "better way".  If you want to reach the single mother in the check-out line with 3 kids in tow, don't hand her a "tract", help her to the car.  If you want to reach the homeless man with the sign "will work for food", don't point out the direction of the local soup kitchen, drop a cheeseburger and fries in his lap.  People notice the good things done to help them, but even more so when the kindness comes from the heart!  Be the example today - show someone the true meaning of "Christ-like"!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

~ "Unread chapters..."

"Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.  Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others." (Phil 2:3-4)

Don't do anything out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, rather in humility, value others above yourself.  Everyone should look out for their own interests as well as the interest of others.

What this comes down to is brotherly love.  The "do unto others" theme rings true here, as it does in so many other areas.  If you experience God's compassion, be compassionate to others.  If you experience God's grace, be gracious to others.  If you experience God's blessings, be a blessing to others.  It's not really a difficult feat.

Far too often we are very aware of the faults of those around us, and we are quick to point them out.  We need to be more aware of our own faults, working to rectify them in accordance with God's Word and the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Only then will we be able to look past the faults of others and see the whole person, not just their faults.  And yes, there are people who do not take the same inventory of themselves, but that is not for us to judge - there has to be a little "good" in each person we meet or interact with.

Take the time to examine yourself.  Does what you do reflect a selfish or conceited nature or are you doing it humbly?  Do you have a respect for others?  Do you look out for others just as you look out for yourself?  Inner peace can only truly be enjoyed when you have an unpretentious mind!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

~ "Punishment..."

"For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth." (Prov 3:12)

I can remember my father telling me "this is gonna hurt me more than it does you".  I found that statement rather absurd since I was the one on the receiving end of the spanking!  It wasn't until I had children of my own that I understood the meaning of the statement.  It had nothing to do with the infliction of physical pain, it had to do with my heart, which at the time I handed down the punishment, broke into pieces because the punishment "hurt" my child, and seeing my child hurt, in turn hurt me.

That kind of love is uncomfortable, but necessary.  It molds children into good, moral people who understand the difference between right and wrong and also understand there are consequences for their actions.  The expression "God will punish you for that" are often said when we witness someone get away with an awful crime.  We are very quick to acknowledge the judgement of God when it comes to others, but not so quick to accept the reality that we, too, will also face that same judgement one day!

And even in all those wrongs we do, the sins we continue to commit, there is a promise!  Just as with our children when they "let us down", the love remains (well, for most parents this is true).  We've forgiven them before we even hand down the punishment.  The same is true of our Heavenly Father, who has already forgiven all of our misdeeds through our acceptance of Jesus as our Savior!  Our Brother has already received our punishment and has allowed us the opportunity to be right with God.

Once again, accept what comes your way, be it something you determine to be a blessing or a punishment, knowing that it has already passed through the Father's hands!

Friday, November 7, 2014

~ "Only..."

"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." (1 Timothy 2:5-6)

I know I have said it before, and there is a strong possibility that I will say it again - pray ONLY to God, and ONLY through Jesus!  He is the ONLY one who will intercede on your behalf.  I can't stress enough how important this is!!!

God's Word, the Bible, tells us this over and over again.  Praying to dead people is like praying to a brick.  It won't hear you and it can't help you.  There is ONLY one living person who can hear our prayer and take it to our Father...Jesus!!!  Reciting scripted prayers on string of beads or spending nine days reciting a litany over and over for "special intercessory graces" isn't going to get you anything.  Prayer is a conversation with God.  It is not an obligatory custom required to gain special grace.  It's personal, it's heartfelt, it's sincere.

Put down the book, the beads, the devotion to the dead and pray to the ONLY one who matters...pray to God, and pray through the ONLY one who can hear you...Jesus.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

~ "Criticism..."

"The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise. He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding."  (Prov 15:31-32)

Learning how to take constructive criticism it often not an easy thing to do.  It is a look at ourselves that we do often take the time to do.  When we ignore such criticism, we are telling others that we really don't care what THEY think.  The term "I'll take that under advisement" isn't just a pat answer to give someone we disagree with.  To take something under advisement is to examine what's been said and determine it there is, in fact, merit to what's been said.

Matthew Henry tells us:
"Faithful, friendly reproofs help spiritual life, and lead to eternal life.  Sinners undervalue their own souls, therefore they prefer the body before the soul, and wrong the soul to please the body."
Put your soul above your body, above your mortal pride and above the desire to reject advice (provided the advice is sound).  Be willing to see your own failings and to grow in love and service to God.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

~ "Living sacrifices..."

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." (Rom 12:1)

It's appropriate to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God...but how?

Every day, we should put aside our own desires to follow him.  We should lend all our energy and resources at his feet, for his use.  We should trust him to guide us.  Why?  Simple.  We do this out of gratitude for our forgiven sins - the price pre-paid by Jesus.

God has a plan for each of us...a good plan; a pleasing plan...a perfect plan!!!  We have been reborn - we are renewed and he wants us to live honoring and obeying him.  He wants only the best for us.  He gave us his Son as atonement for our sins.  Jesus made a new life possible.  Do everything for him with a joyful heart.  Be a "living sacrifice"!!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

~ "Kudos..."

"For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." (Gal 1:10)

Doing things to make others happy is one thing...doing things to garner affection, attention, and admiration from others in an attempt to be the center of attention or the "best" at everything is just selfish and self-centered.

I've done many things in my life.  I do them for two reasons:  I love to learn new things and what I do pleases God.  When I am using the talents he's given me to earn a living, or to make someone's life better, I am pleasing him.  If I use those talents to show off to my peers, to make other's take notice while looking for kudos, that is not pleasing to God.

To be a servant of Christ is to be humble.  It is to "do what you do" for no other reason than it is the right thing to do.  If you are constantly seeking the approval of men, you are, in fact, serving men! You cannot serve two masters...choose which one is worthy of your time, your efforts and your talents.  Use them for the better.  Use them with a purpose.  Serve God with joy in your heart and those kudos you seek will be transformed into blessings - a far greater reward than any pat on the back from your fellow man!

Monday, November 3, 2014

~ Rejoicing through the pain..."

"Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms." (Ps 95:2)

Giving thanks for what we have been given that we view as "good" is simple.  We say "thank you" and mean it from our hearts.  Giving thanks for what has been taken away, or what we don't see as a blessing is an entirely different story.

The most important thing to remember is that everything that touches us, passes through God's hands first.  Even the things we feel to be painful and unfair, are sent to us with our Father's blessing.  Whether it is the loss of a job or the diagnosis of a fatal disease, it has his approval.  Yes, we may ask why (as Jesus did while his mortal life literally hung in the balance), but it is through our acceptance of his will for us that we grow in faith.

I believe in miracles.  I've seen them.  I know that one "medical" miracle was not a "misdiagnosis", but truly the power of God answering a prayer and making my friend a true witness to the power of God.  I also know of others who have been dealt what we would consider a "bad hand".  Life is not a poker game.  We cannot simply "fold" because we do not like the cards we have right now.  We do not know what cards may follow.  Anything is possible!

Regardless of the pain, the struggle and the appearance, pain and sickness, too, is a gift from God that we should and are told to rejoice in.  When we hear the words "death with dignity", we need look no further than the cross for an example of courage and strength.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

~ "Stalwart..."

"The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; he will shew them his covenant.  Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord; for he shall pluck my feet out of the net."  (Ps 26:14-15)

When you walk in the ways of the Lord, when you choose to follow Jesus, you learn to almost instinctively know what is of God and what is of man.  The spirit of the Word of God, the teachings of Jesus are of love and forgiveness, not of hatred and punishment.  They are inclusive and not exclusive.  They are about growth, not stagnation.

In order to grow, we need to be feed - both physically and spiritually.  Our bodies need proper nourishment - yes, the occasional chocolate bar won't harm us (unless we are diabetic or allergic), but we need to eat balanced meals or we face certain metabolic problems.  The same is true of our spiritual needs.  We need to focus on the Word of God, not the dogma taught in religions.  Our spiritual well being can be jeopardized by too much of church doctrine.  All things need to be balanced.

We are all sinners and came into this world as such.  There is no "magic" eraser - there is only acceptance and forgiveness.  In time, our physical bodies will age and weaken, but our soul, when properly nourished, will live forever in the company of the King.  The promises of God, his mercy and grace, are resolute.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

~ "For all the saints..."

"The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.  He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them." (Ps 145:18-19)

If you have never acknowledged that Jesus died for your sins, if you have never accepted the fact that you are unworthy of eternal life with him, if you have lived your life with the mistaken belief that simply because of the religion you were raised in that you are entitled to heaven -- I'd suggest you re-evaluate your position!  No one can accept Christ on your behalf (yes, I am referring to infant baptism).  Memorizing 100 questions and answers does not confirm your seat in heaven.  Praying to dead people does not earn you points with the Creator.

God is everywhere.  Jesus is, at this moment, standing behind me as I write this post, just as he is standing along side of the soldier who called on him for protection.  He is watching over the baby in the NICU that hundreds of people are praying to him about.  He is standing beside that car wreck on the interstate because the driver called his name.  He is but a cry away.

Our fear keeps us in check.  It holds us to a higher standard than others.  Our "fear" is the respect and reverence we show our God - through prayer, through acceptance, through our actions.  We cheapen that respect when we brazenly profess to be better than others simply because of the religion we practice.  "Religion" is not the Church of Christ!  Religion, according to Webster's, is simply a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices".  It is not faith, it is not a guarantee of heaven - it is a set of man-made rules based on the Word of God.  The "Church" is the body of believers - those who believe in the salvation offered through acceptance of Jesus' sacrifice.  If your religion excludes other religions, set itself above other religions or encourages actions specifically prohibited in God's Word - perhaps you need to re-think your choice.  Find a religion that includes all of the members of the Church and allow your faith in God and your acceptance of Jesus to save you!  He is, after all, the only one who can!