Yearly Archives: 2017
Scripture: Isaiah 9:6-7 – Prophecy of the Birth of Christ
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
Luke 2: 1-21 The Birth of Jesus
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. This was the first census that took place whilea Quirinius was governor of Syria.) and everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
Revelations 22:6-17, 20 Invitation
The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”
“Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll.”
I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!”
Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near. Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.”
“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.
If the scripture is true – then what does it mean to each of us?
Succinctly put, Jesus is God in human form sent to conquer death through his willingness to die on the cross as the final sacrifice for sin. God accepted Christ’s death as the final sacrifice for all sin, past, present and future. Once this was accomplished, God through the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from death to eternal life with God providing a way for each of us to also join Jesus for eternal life. “The Way” is by believing and accepting this gift of the “good news”.
God accomplished this. He told us about it. The Holy Spirit was sent to us to help us on our journey to belief in Christ. God formed the Church Universal as His vehicle to call His people to Him. It’s purpose is not as a social organization but as a vehicle to battle unbelief. Our unbelief is a stumbling block for living the life God destined us to live for His Glory.
As we approach the new year, let us ask God to search our souls and rid us of our unbelief in whatever area it is rearing its ugly head – whether it be in an illness, a financial crisis, an employment situation, the unbelief of a loved one, the waywardness of a child, the brokenness of your family, the death of a loved one or a tragedy that has left you reeling. Let us ask our Mighty God into these situations to shed light and wisdom – to give us hope and strength to hold our heads up and to bask in the light of His glory for one more day.
Remember, eternity meets us in this moment. So come and take the free gift of the water of life.
Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up. We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this.
If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.
You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you.
But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke. We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.
That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
2 Corinthians 4
I know each day you are transforming me into your Glory. That is why I never give up. I try hard to reject that which is shameful and underhanded. I try to always tell the truth. Because I know you use the truth to set people on the right path.
I have come to realize that I have no control over who believes, only you are able to draw people to yourself – I am but a messenger sharing the truth that Jesus Christ is you in human form and that his death on the cross conquered death and freed those who believe to live eternally with you. This is a profound mystery to me.
But I have seen you in action – seen your miracles and transforming ways. I have experienced your mercy in my own life and what you have done to bring me out of the pit of death into the light of Christ. I hope your light shines brightly within me not for my sake but for the sake of those you place in my path.
I have been pressed on every side – fires, cancer, sickness, death, but I have not been crushed. I am perplexed about the way you bring about change in me and those you have placed me around on this earth. But even through it all, I have not been driven to despair. I know you never leave me or forsake me – no matter what. The suffering I have experienced you have allowed so that I can be closer to you. Faith I have only because I have walked, crawled and been carried through adversity.
I know I must continue to speak about you. Because I know that this is an eternal matter – that those around me who don’t know you may perish – so if you can use me to bring even one soul into the saving knowledge of your Glory, there will be great rejoicing!
That is why I never give up. Though I grow older with each day, I feel energized each morning, knowing you are going to do something miraculous in this day. Eternity is forever – so I try to keep that in mind as I weather these storms of life. Your plan and purpose uses these storms to bring me closer to you and prepare me for my eternal home.
May this day be the day you intended with many children coming to know you as their Father for all eternity.
Thank you, Abba. I love you.
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Just as it is written,
“FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG;
WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.”
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Why is it important to know that God is for us and not against us? Why is it critical that we know that Christ intercedes for us? Why is it imperative to know that nothing – absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus?
Because focusing and refocusing on these promises can mean the difference between life and death – between being able to persevere and giving up – the difference between hope and despair. Knowing this deep, abiding love will mean we can face tragedies and challenges with hearts, minds and souls that know our God is always for us and never against us.
God does not make bad things happen to us – but He does permit them at times. Why? Because He sees the whole picture – we see but a speck of sand on the shores of the ocean. Because He is weaving all circumstances and people together in the most beautiful tapestry ever created – we see only the backside of the tapestry with knotted and broken threads. Because He loves us so much that he wants us to be in full communion with Him – we see only where we are in our own brokenness. He uses ever tragedy in our lives to bring Glory to His Name – which we are able to see in His time.
So in this season of Advent – this season of hope for some, despair for others and joy for many, focus on His love – the love of a Father who gave His one and only Son so that we can live. Let us take our challenges and tragedies and give them to our God so that His Glory will shine through us and light up our World!
Many years ago, I had the privilege of hearing Richard Wurmbrand speak. (He was part of the beginning of the Voice of the Martys publication and web site) Richard had been held in a concentration camp in Romania. He said this about his time there, “Here in the United States, you have the words about the words about the words, there we had the Word.”
How many of us have the Word–living and dwelling in us? Too often we depend on the preacher, the speaker, or the writer to have the words for us. Scripture says “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you” Colossians 3:16.
In this season of Advent, take a portion of scripture that God has laid on your mind and heart and ponder it as Mary pondered the words she heard (Luke 2:19). Reflect on it, chew on it (the word meditate means to chew the cud), and let it take root in your living.
To help you with reading the Word:
For those of you who love geography and are tired of reading place names that have no meaning for you, this is the book for you. With the Rose Book of Bible Charts, Maps, and Time Lines, not only will you be able to see where things were then but also where things are now. For instance, did you know that “Antioch” where believers were first called Christians is in modern day Turkey?
The Blue Letter Bible–this is an app that can be used with android and Apple. You will find commentaries, definitions, and much more. Explore it and see if it helps you find your way through the Word.
If you want to go deeper into one particular book of the bible, then try the Holman New Testament/Old Testament Commentary. Not only will you be able to read one person’s insight into the text but you will also find definitions, teaching outlines, and issues for discussion.
Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 The Message
There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:
A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace.
9-13 But in the end, does it really make a difference what anyone does? I’ve had a good look at what God has given us to do—busywork, mostly. True, God made everything beautiful in itself and in its time—but he’s left us in the dark, so we can never know what God is up to, whether he’s coming or going. I’ve decided that there’s nothing better to do than go ahead and have a good time and get the most we can out of life. That’s it—eat, drink, and make the most of your job. It’s God’s gift.
14 I’ve also concluded that whatever God does, that’s the way it’s going to be, always. No addition, no subtraction. God’s done it and that’s it. That’s so we’ll quit asking questions and simply worship in holy fear.
15 Whatever was, is.
Whatever will be, is.
That’s how it always is with God.
Galatians 4:4(NIV) But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons, because you are sons, God sent the Spirit who calls out,” Abba, Father”. So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.”
Revelations 1:3(NIV) Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.
Revelations 22:12 (NIV) Behold I am coming soon!
God’s timing is perfect.
It is hard to comprehend that when we are in a holding pattern – waiting for something to happen in our lives so that something better can come to fruition.
Just as it was so long ago, the people of Israel were waiting for the Messiah – for over 400 years they waited – and when God’s timing was perfect, the Messiah came.
We are again in a holding pattern – waiting for Christ to come again as He promised.
However, waiting when you know the outcome, can be the difference between waiting in peace or waiting in anxiousness and fear.
Whatever you are waiting for in this earthly realm, remember God’s timing is perfect for your situation. You can trust that the God who made you, who delivered you to this earth and who loves you, has the right timing. REMEMBER the outcome – God wins and as his beloved son or daughter, you win with Him.
May you find peace in the waiting remembering God’s timing is always perfect and rejoicing in His promise – “Yes, I am coming soon! Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! Rev 22:20
“There’s nobody living right, not even one,
nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God.
They’ve all taken the wrong turn;
They’ve all wandered down blind alleys.
No one’s living right;
I can’t find a single one.
Their throats are gaping graves,
Their tongues slick as mud slides.
Every word they speak is tinged with poison.
They open their mouths and pollute the air.
They race for the honor of sinner-of-the-year,
Litter the land with heartbreak and ruin,
Don’t know the first thing about living with others.
They never give God the time of day.”
Romans 3:10-26 from The Message
This makes it clear, doesn’t it, that whatever is written in these Scriptures is not what God says ‘about others’ but ‘to us’ to whom these Scriptures were addressed in the first place! And it’s clear enough, isn’t it, that we’re sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else? Our involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin.
But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting–things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve complied this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.
God sacrified Jesus on the altar of the world to clear the world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public-to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but its ‘now’ – this is current history! God sets things right. He also makes it possible for me to live in his rightness.
Do we understand this? – Why Jesus is so important? – Why his birth is so extraordinary? – Why should we even care?
Because . . . Jesus is the “new” Adam.
The first Adam disobeyed God and was banished from God’s Kingdom and with his banishment we were all barred from admission to eternal life in God’s Kingdom.
Nothing we could do could ever change that banishment. Only God had the power to correct the course of history. So God did the unthinkable and sent his only son to die . . . as the final sacrifice . . . once for all.
The last Adam (the Alpha and the Omega), Jesus, obeyed God by accepting that he was the final sacrifice for all sin. God deemed him righteous by God’s grace. Jesus was brought back into God’s Kingdom by the Holy Spirit resurrecting Him from the dead – opening a pathway for all those who believe in Jesus to follow Him into eternal life in God’s Kingdom.
Without Jesus, there is no eternal life for human kind. Without Jesus, we only have the Law which none of us can hold up under. Without Jesus, there is no redemption which means God would continue to banish us from eternal life with Him. Without Jesus, we have no hope of conquering death and living forever with God.
So let us remember the reason for this season. Let us slow down. Let us prioritize and realize the importance or lack of importance of traditions of the past. Let us be still and rest in the gift that God has given us.
May your week be filled with the stillness of God’s peace. Amen
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”
The mother hung up the phone and moved away from the busyness of the home. She moved away from the hustle and bustle of the children. She moved away from the lights and the commotion. She opened the door and sat on the porch in the darkness. The stars were just coming out; the moon just coming over the horizon. There was a stillness in the air. An expectation. She sat and waited. “Where are you?” she asked. There was no response.
Then the mother cried out to the one she was waiting for “Why has this happened to this child? Why have you allowed her to suffer so? Why Lord, Why?” Tears began to flow and sobs erupted from deep within her soul. As the sobs consumed her, she felt the in flooding of warmth, the feeling of being enveloped by peace. And with that, her sobs subsided. She turned her heart to God and lifted the child to the Throne of the Almighty and her heart poured out her anguish in a silent unintelligible release – God’s Holy Spirit praying for the mother when human words were inadequate.
As the Spirit and the Mother prayed as one, she felt the words form in her heart and transfer to her mouth. She heard herself start to pray for peace to be one with the child, for hope to be restored – for love to be deeply seeded – for God to raise up persons to support and encourage and love the child.
And as she opened her eyes, she gasped as millions of lights lit up the countryside. Lightning bugs swarmed around her and as far as she could see – enveloping her in a cacophony of light. She felt like she was in the midst of angels – and then she knew that God had provided for the child in ways unimaginable to the mother, in ways of protection and guidance, in ways of hope and understanding; in ways of love and peace.
There was no need to worry or fear for God knew and knows all. She knew God had heard and answered her prayers. She knew that the child would be all right. She knew that she knew not how but she trusted in the one who knew. She let go and sat in the wonder of His presence. She thanked Him for sharing His light with her, for confirming His love in such an incredible display.
Then she got up and in the midst of the light moved to the door, turning once again to take in the unimaginable. With a deep sigh, she returned to the noise and activity of her life, once again filled with the joy of knowing God was truly an awesome God.
May God’s joy fill you this week in ways that are unimaginable and inexplicable.
“So I say to you, Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, he who seeks finds and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
He was tired. He could not speak anymore – the infection had ravaged his body. They gathered in the ICU around his bed each with their own thoughts and emotions. They were saying good-bye to a good man – a father, a father-in-law and grandfather – a mentor and teacher. There were thoughts of childhoods and others who had gone before – thoughts of life and death – of how each of them must at some point face this moment.
His faith in Jesus was never an issue. It was a strong and personal faith – a faith lived out in life – the kindnesses to neighbors, to those less fortunate – the friendships with the weak – the laughter with outcasts, not at them – a man of the church, of Sunday routine – a teacher of the lessons from scripture. A humble man yet with a rebellious streak – a human with flaws.
He did not shout his faith. He lived it.
His family said good-bye each in their own way. Some stayed. Others left. One, deeply grieved, took his own sons ice fishing as he waited for the phone call.
As the moments ticked down, the family was asked to leave the room so that the man could receive medical care. One returned to sit with him – the one who needed to see the transition from this life to eternity.
The ice fisherman was called to receive an update . . . and then the extraordinary happened. He started shouting . . . “Grab that line . . . Grab that one too . . . there goes another. All the lines were full – full of fish! They had not had one bite and then every single pole in every hole they had drilled had a fish.
At that precise moment, the one who was meant to be with the man walked into the room and reported the news of the man’s passing over into new life. The fisherman was told of his death . . . and he tried to grasp the enormity of what was happening . . . that on his father’s way to The Father, he had paused for a brief moment to pass on the gift to his son and to confirm God’s Spirit in his heart.
Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened! Remember. . . eternity meets us in this moment.
R. H. Loy
Scripture – Colossians 3
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Once we have accepted the gift of salvation, we are thrust into an incredible journey. It is not always “fun”; we are not always “happy”, but we can experience eternity everyday if we actively participate in Holy Living.
What is “active” participation? It means “thinking” and “working” to turn from our old ways and start anew. It means looking at ourselves and shedding what needs to be shed and developing what needs to be developed. We are not alone in this journey! The Holy Spirit is with us guiding us, nudging us, alerting us to what needs to be changed.
So what do we need to be looking for? Before offering a few examples, it must be made clear that each and every person has a different life journey. Although, many of us have similar circumstances, no one experiences the same set of circumstances as someone else. This is important to keep in mind when journeying through life – we can’t compare ourselves to someone else – it will not work. We can learn from one another and apply other’s insights to our own life, but each of us has to figure this out by ourselves through the guidance of the Spirit.
Set your hearts and minds on the “things above”. First thing “to do” is turn your focus from earthly things to Christ. Start small and work your way deeper. Instead of watching t.v. all evening, eliminate a show and crack open your bible or read or listen to a devotion. (check out pray-as-you-go or the Bible Hub). Turn on a Christian radio station like k-love on your way to work. Go for a walk and listen to the Word on your phone (try you version bible app) Join a Bible Study or Christian book club. Go to Church with a friend. In other words, start your training somewhere.
In everyday living, use your mind and heart to identify situations where you are exercising earthly desires contrary to God – sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed. Take yourself out of these situations and replace the time previously spent with an activity that focuses on God. It is hard to be specific here because each person has to identify their own “wrong” living and turn from it.
In your daily interactions with others, be mindful of your words and your responses. We all have moments of snarkiness – times when we point out what we perceive as others faults and failures for no good reason except it makes us feel superior. Let us learn to recognize these moments and avoid the comments or apologize for them if they slip out. Remember to include God in this process asking for wisdom to discern what to say in these tough situations, the strength to admit when we have failed, and forgiveness when we respond in our humanness.
Actively choose to respond to situations and people with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. If a friend has lost a parent or child, send them a card, make them a meal, remember them in prayer – practice Holy living. If your spouse has had a particularly tough time at work, make a special meal, or take them to the movies, give them a flower from your garden and write a sweet note. If your child is struggling in some area, “think” with your heart and mind of a way to convey your love for them – a note on their pillow, extra time spent with them, a tutor, or the plain truth delivered in love.
Go forth this day and week in the power of the Holy Spirit – mindful of walking in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And . . . Remember, eternity meets us in this moment!
The Gift has been Given – Accept it!
Scripture: Romans 5:15-19
But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
God saves. Why? Because he loves us – pure and simple. We can do nothing to be saved or earn salvation. It was accomplished on the Cross by Christ. The gift was given. It is finished. Christ in obedience to God went to the cross, paying the ultimate sacrifice for our sins and conquering death (death is the result of sin). His resurrection is proof that God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice as sufficient.
So how are we part of this story? The gift of salvation has already been given. We have the gift before us. Our job is to open it and accept it. The result of accepting the gift produces the following effects: an ever deepening faith, an ever deepening yearning to be obedient, an ever quickening desire for repentance and a peace that shuts out all fear.
If you have not already accepted the gift, take that step in faith and accept God’s gift of salvation. If you have already accepted the gift, rejoice in the on going daily process of refining which takes place to prepare us for eternal living.
Once we have accepted the gift of salvation, we are reconciled to God forever. There is nothing to fear for God has us in the palm of His hand. Let us go forth today and this week seeking a deeper faith, free of fear, obedient to the movement of the Holy Spirit and rejoicing in God’s peace.
R. H. Loy
Return to our First Love – Jesus
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen; Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. Revelations 2:1-5 (Emphasis added)
As a Follow of Jesus guided by the Holy Spirit, I realize that I am a member of the Church Universal. I am also a member of a small country church that is affiliated with a mainstream protestant denomination. However, having attended a regional conference of this denomination, I experienced what I fear is pervasive across the globe in church organizations: namely people claiming to be Christians but not acting as if they are followers of Jesus Christ.
What is happening? Apparently nothing new for the Universal Church. From the beginning of the Church’s formation after Christ died, there have been divisions due to theological differences and political maneuverings. The Church Universal is fragmented, theologically divided and politically splintered.
There are thousands of different types of Christian Churches. There are churches that claim they are the only “true” Christian church; churches that claim that their “way” of baptizing or “performing “ communion is the only way it can be done. Churches who ostracize those who have a different view of a theological point or a “behavior” that is not permitted by their theology.
There are news reports everyday that lump certain churches together to claim that the “religious right” voted this way or that way on political issues. We are bombarded by news ad nauseam about conflicts and disagreements between churches and between groups within the same church.
Individuals judge other individuals based on church affiliation. Christians judge other Christians based on their “Christian” church affiliation. Christian churches judge other Christian Churches based on their differences rather than their similarities. Let me just say – there is a lot of judging going on.
I wonder what Jesus thinks about the current state of His Church? He is probably smiling about the differences in worship music and all the different ways we can worship God in meaningful ways. However, I sense that He weeps over the controversies, atrocities and politics of His Church – over how far we have strayed from our first love – Him.
So what do we do as followers of Jesus? How do we return to our first love? Here is my list in no particular order. I am sure you can add to it!
- Love Jesus right now – in this moment – praising him continually – seeking him for wisdom and encouragement – in other words being in constant communion with him. (Mark 12:30)
- Love our neighbor as ourselves – these are the people that are placed in our lives on a daily basis. Treating them with respect and dignity – assisting them in their hour of need; loving them in small ways – a kind word – a container of soup – a listening ear. (Mark 12:31)
- Love our neighbors across the globe as ourselves – give as we are moved by the Holy Spirit. (Luke 10:33-36)
- Recognize that God is in control and we are not. Cooperate with God – humble yourself – seek His counsel. (Job 37:14-; Psalm 46:10; Matt 18:1-9)
- Agree to disagree with others about theology and even when we “know” they are wrong, love them anyway. (1 Peter 4:8)
- Stop being so sensitive about what others say and do as if we are the center of the universe. Practice giving people the benefit of the doubt. Let perceived hurts roll off and let grace abound. If another Christian sins against you, don’t gossip and create a cloud of drama, go to them yourself and try to work it out. (Matt 18:15-18).
- Remember, we can’t expect “Christian” behavior from those who don’t know who Christ is. Be prayerful and grace-filled in responding to non-Christians in hopes of pointing them in the direction of Christ. God works in mysterious ways and our job is to cooperate with the leading of the Holy Spirit. We never know what small act will draw people to God.
- Start cooperating with the Holy Spirit and practice religion that God accepts – “to look after orphans and widows in their distress and keep oneself from being polluted “– (James 1:27)
- Remember church “traditions” are just that – traditions or teachings created by man and carried on through generations – they should not be used to divide us as Christians. Look to Scripture for guidance. (Matt 15:1-20)
- Recognize that “church” is not a building or a program but people gathered in the name of Jesus Christ to worship God and to love each other. “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matt 18:20)
- Remember we are stewards of the Blessings we have received from God – we need to seek the Holy Spirit’s direction in order to use those resources in God’s way – not our own. This is true of individuals and churches. Why do we hoard our blessings? Why do we fail to seek direction? Why can’t we trust that the God who gave us the Blessings can certainly guide us in using them? (Acts 4:32-5:11)
- Remember Jesus’ parting words to his disciples “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28)
My prayer for us this week is that we refocus our eyes on Jesus, rebuild our relationship with Him and remember that He is our first love.
R. H. Loy
Scripture: Philippians 3:12-16
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 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, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.
Paul, formerly Saul, wrote the letter to the Philippians after he learned that some among them required that followers of Christ be circumcised in order to be saved. Paul explains to the Philippians that if anyone was made Holy through adherence to the law, it was he. He was a Pharisee with all the proper credentials and a life lived zealously for the Law as set forth in the Old Testament.
When Paul was confronted by the resurrected Jesus on the Road to Damascus, he had just condoned the stoning of Steven and was on his way to purge other Christians from the land. However, after this supernatural experience, Paul’s life was changed forever based solely on the grace of God and Paul’s faith in Jesus. See Acts 9.
And so he writes to these people warning them to forget the past – forget the old way – forget the requirements that determined status – forget the requirements that implied being saved based on human effort – forget what was in the past and press forward to grasp the prize of eternal life with Christ . . .
That is where we should be in this moment. Focused on what is before us (eternity with Christ) not on who we once were. The New Way is by God’s grace alone – no other requirements except faith in Jesus. Let the human requirements of religion fall away and focus on faith. Seek Jesus in faith.
My prayer for us this week is that we set the past behind us and recognize that we are not saved by human hands based on human traditions or requirements but by the grace of God alone through belief in His Son, Jesus Christ.
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.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him.
Whoever believes in him is not condemned but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only son.
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.
There is much misunderstanding about the “why” of original sin – about where the “sin” in each of us occurred at the beginning. Full knowledge of this is waiting for us in Heaven but we have been given the truth here and now to understand the choice we have in this day.
Oswald Chambers interpreting Romans 5:12 and Hebrews 9:26 describes it this way: “Sin entered the human race through one man who chose the right to himself over God’s sovereign right. This knowledge of the right to himself and therefore, his right to be his own God, resulted in expulsion of man from God’s presence and unleashed sin and death into the world.“
The nature of sin is not immorality and wrongdoing, but the nature of self-realization which leads us to say, “I am my own god.” (My Utmost for His Highest, October 5)
But God loved His creation so much that he sent a Savior – not just anyone – but His one and only Son, Jesus Christ– to take the heredity of sin upon himself taking the sin into death where it was destroyed once and for all. God raised Jesus from the dead and therefore overcame death so that a pathway was created from earth to heaven. Anyone who believes in Jesus accepts this redemption and has eternal life.
“Sin is something we are born with because of the actions of one man. However, God does not hold us responsible for the heredity of sin and does not condemn anyone for it. Condemnation comes when we realize Jesus Christ can deliver us from this heredity of sin, and yet we refuse to let him do so.” (My Utmost for His Highest, October 5)
My prayer for us this week is that we stop trying to earn our way into heaven and recognize and accept in this moment that we have been redeemed by Jesus. Let us remember that whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.
If you have played the fool and exalted yourself or if you have planned evil, clap your hand over your mouth! For as churning the milk produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife. Proverbs 30:32-33
In our daily walk, most of us come into contact with other human beings whether in person, or electronically. When we interact with people, there is the potential for stirring up anger. Whether we admit it or not, sometimes we intentionally “stir” the pot to put ourselves in a better light or to get a reaction from someone. We may not tell the entire story or we let someone think something that we know is not 100% true.
Sometimes, we don’t tell the entire story because we “fear” the other person’s reaction. Sometimes, we tell people what they want to hear because we think it will “prevent” controversy or its “easier”. Sometimes, we convince ourselves that our twisted truth will result in our orchestrated “good” outcome to a situation. Sometimes, we tell “white” lies to try to “protect” someone. Whatever our excuse, lying is our misguided attempt to control a situation that is not ours to control.
Why is this? Don’t we know that “lying” is one of the “do not’s” of the 10 Commandments? Don’t we know that God sees what is in our hearts or do we forget that we are seen and known by God in every moment? Don’t we know that our God is the weaver of life not us?
So when God says, “Don’t lie”, it is because lying causes tangles in the web. Sir Walter Scott says it this way, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive! “
So in this moment, day, and week, choose truth – no matter the consequences, for you see, God is truth and His Web is perfectly designed. Do not fear the truth or try to control situations with half-truths. Resist the temptation to twist the truth for good. Remember, God is in control and truth weaves the perfect web.
R. H. Loy
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
A time to be born and a time to die
A time to plant and a time to uproot
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance,
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
A time to embrace and a time to refrain
A time to search and a time to give up
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to fear and a time to mend,
A time to be silent and a time to speak
A time to love and a time to hate
A time for war and a time for peace
What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and to do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil – this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.
Whatever is has already been and what will be has been before and God will call the past to account.
God’s timing is perfect. Our existence was planned by God for this moment in time. Why else would we exist if He did not desire us to be part of His plan in this moment?
God placed eternity in our hearts but we don’t understand – but how could we? We see only a miniscule part of the universe and its journey but cannot comprehend how it all comes together under God’s hand.
But He has not left us without understanding. He has given us His Word, His Son and His Spirit to guide us. He has asked us to trust and obey.
God has told us that we are created in His image, in this time and in this place to be part of His plan. If we believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and our Savior, then we are filled with the Holy Spirit.
If we are filled with the Holy Spirit, it means God is guiding us. However, we must choose to follow. Choosing to follow involves spending time listening and talking with God – that is what prayer is – taking the time to be in quiet restfulness with God.
If we are filled with the Holy Spirit, it means we will be impacted when someone in the body of Christ is impacted. We must listen to determine our response.
If we are filled with the Holy Spirit, it means that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. We must listen to determine what “things” we are to do.
If we are filled with the Holy Spirit, it means Christ is alive in us. It means to live is Christ and to die is gain. “Life versus even more life!” Phil 1:21. The Message
My prayer for us this week is that we recognize that God created us specifically for this time and in this place to bring Glory to His Name – so let us GO forth remembering we are alive in Christ in this moment in time and in this place!
“ . . . Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you which can save you.”
Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.
If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”
We tend to want to read someone else’s view of Scripture instead of opening our bibles and reading it ourselves. God’s Word is intended to be read, listened to and acted upon by each of us. The “Word” is planted in us. We recognize God when we read what is already planted in us.
So read, listen and do. Remember what is an acceptable “religion” to God – to care for those in need. Don’t complicate your “religious” life by adding to or misinterpreting what “religion” is.
Remember, Jesus promised, “. . . my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:30.
My prayer for us this week is that we consciously take time to listen, hold our tongue, and help those who God has placed in our paths. May we know that “peace that surpasses all understanding”.
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “ The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. GO! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” Luke 10:1-3
Have you heeded the call of Jesus?
If we are believers in Jesus Christ as our Savior, as the One to follow in this life, as the One who provides a pathway from this earth to eternal life, then we have been sent out to share that saving knowledge with those who have been placed in our paths.
Our life circumstances are not random. Life is not a series of coincidences.
We have all been placed at certain places, in certain circumstances at certain times for a reason. However, we do have choices in our responses and in our actions. The key is whether we are consulting our Lord and Savior in the situations we are in.
If we are, then we need to trust that He is in control and even if we don’t think things are going as “we” think they should, our trust should be in the One who sent us out in the first place. What may appear to be the “right” path or “correct” conclusion in our eyes may have nothing to do with what God is accomplishing through us.
Be prepared to share God’s love and the Good News of Jesus each and every moment.
We may never know if we are the last one to share the saving knowledge of Christ’s life, death and resurrection with a person before their physical death. We may never know if our small act of love is the one act which turns someone towards Jesus. We may never know if that one phone call was the one event that prevented a catastrophe in another person’s life. We may never know if the truth we speak, is the truth which breaks a heart of stone.
We may never know the “why” of any situation, but we can trust if we are walking with Jesus, that there is a rhyme and a reason for it all.
My prayer for us this week, is that we are aware – moment by moment – that we have been sent out by Jesus and that we stick close to Him so we can act according to His Plan. Remember, eternity meets us in this moment. Amen.
“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do for it is written be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:13-16
What to do? What to do? That is the question. You have a problem, not just a problem with the length of your hair, but a real problem – something that is a “trial”. You want God to tell you what to do, but you don’t seem to receive an answer to prayer or you can’t even pray or you never even thought to pray. Your mind is stuck; you are in a rut.
Many of us remain in the rut because we don’t know how to move on. The problem becomes bigger than it is because we are dwelling on it. We are discussing it with our loved ones and close friends. We are sharing it with our co-workers and our acquaintances. We create a swirling dervish of judgments, advice and opinions from many people. Suddenly, the problem has tripled in size and we are deeper in the pit then we started.
We do need to remember that many times we create problems by our “unholy living”. So before stepping out to tackle a trial, we need to make sure that we are not creating it and recreating it by our unholy behavior. If that is what is causing the problem, stop it. We need to discipline ourselves to refuse to live unholy lives. If we can’t stop the unholy living then, it has become a trial.
We also need to make sure that the problem is actually ours to deal with. Many times a problem is someone else’s issue and not one we should be tackling. We need to remember to seek God’s guidance to make sure that the “problem” is something we should take action on or something we need to step back from. Remember if it is someone else’s problem, be a good friend by listening if called upon to do so, but don’t let them pull you into the pit with them. Then we are of no use at all but rather a hindrance to their journey.
A trial is defined as being subjected to suffering or encountering a grievous experience. It is also defined as a distressed or painful state. Trials tend to take place over time.
The Great Book tells us that we all will “suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even through refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1Peter 1:6-7. So trials are necessary in order to deepen our faith and prepare us for eternal living.
If we are experiencing trials, GOOD! It means we are being refined by God.
The first step in facing any trial is to seek out Jesus for comfort, wisdom, strength, perseverance and hope. Sit with Him and talk and listen.
The second step in facing any trial is to seek out Jesus day by day. If the day seems too long, seek Jesus hour by hour. If an hour is too much to handle, seek Him moment by moment. Keep your eyes on Christ.
The third step in facing any trial is to seek out Jesus when we can’t. When we have done all we can, prayed until we are without prayers, persevered until we can’t persevere anymore, hoped until it seems there is no hope, then let Jesus just hold us . . . for His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Matthew 11:30
Trials are not solvable by us – they are processes to journey through not by ourselves but with Christ’s wisdom, strength, and comfort. My prayer for us this week is that we allow Jesus to walk with us in our trials and that in those journeys, our faith is proved genuine!
“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ “Acts 20:35
Are we prepared to give?
Paul quotes Jesus as saying “it is better to give than to receive.” This directive is one of the rare instances when Jesus is quoted and the quote is not found in the Gospels. Paul was giving a farewell speech at the time and encouraging the people of Ephesus to help each other especially those in need. Paul had just spent a long time in Ephesus – preaching, teaching and working with these new Christians. He had instructed them in the ways of Jesus. He had explained the power of the Holy Spirit. These people were filled!!!!
Paul was leaving them – not to flounder but to flourish. God, through Paul and the Holy Spirit, had filled these people’s spiritual tanks. Like a cargo ship, the Ephesians had been in dock with Paul filling their cargo tanks and reserve tanks. Paul was leaving so that their ships could set sail to deliver what they had received to the people who God had directed them to deliver to. They were ready to be God’s hands and feet in their community.
As Christians many of us have grown up knowing that it is more blessed to give than to receive. We help others and we take care of ourselves. So, we rarely, if ever, accept help from others. We pride ourselves on being self-sufficient. On the surface, it would appear that we are following the directive of Jesus.
The question for us is, “Are we ready to give?” Are our spiritual tanks full? Have we taken the time to listen and study the words of our Savior, worship our God and follow the Holy Spirit’s direction?
“Giving” presumes that we have something to give. Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than to receive because the Blessing comes from taking the gifts we have already received and sharing them as God directs! The more we receive, the more we are able to give.
How do we know if we need to return to port? The answer: When we are floundering; When we lack peace; When we are grumpy and grouchy; When we react to a No. 2 problem with a No 10 response; When we are isolated; When we are overly anxious; When we are confused; When we are in a state of deep sadness.
If your tank is empty, then dock your boat and take steps to fill your spiritual tank. RECEIVE what God has for you. If you have been asking for God’s help, then don’t refuse His answer – RECEIVE IT.
Once our spiritual tank is full, we can then set sail and deliver to others as God directs. But we must return to port periodically to replenish our spiritual cargo or we will start tapping into our reserves; and if the reserves are depleted, we have nothing left in our tanks to give but hot air. That is always disastrous!
My prayer for us this week is that we refocus our eyes on Jesus, return to port to fill our spiritual tanks and remember that receiving is part of giving.
I lift my eyes unto the hills-
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
The Maker of heaven and earth.
How can we walk the journey of grief and find solace for our souls?
If you have ever lost a good friend, you know the struggle that rages in the innermost recesses of your soul – the pain of losing their companionship, the frustration of the loss to the world of their energy and spunk, the grief for their family and loved ones and most of all the realization that you must move on with only the memory of their love.
And yet …. What if your friend was a person of faith in Jesus Christ? What if they knew they were headed into His arms and were going to a great banquet feast with Jesus and all their loved ones who have gone before them? What if their death was actually the beginning of the next step of their journey in eternity?
If these precepts are true, then our sadness and grief is for ourselves and those left behind but certainly not for the person who has traveled on. There is comfort in focusing our eyes on Jesus, knowing that He is celebrating with our departed friend. It does not stop the tears but it provides solace for the soul and brings us a bit closer to being prepared to make that journey ourselves.
Let us make sure we take time to walk with Christ. Let us make sure we are helping those He has placed in our lives to walk the journey towards and with Christ. Pray in earnest for those who are struggling in their walk and above all, let us keep our eyes focused on Jesus because “we can do all things through Him who gives us strength.”
The Wedding at Cana
On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and His disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to Him, “They have no more wine.”
“Woman, why does this concern us?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.”
Now six stone water jars had been set there for the Jewish rites of purification. Each could hold from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim.
“Now draw some out,” He said, “and take it to the master of the banquet.”
They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not know where it was from, but the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone serves the fine wine first, and then the cheap wine after the guests are drunk. But you have saved the fine wine until now!”
Jesus performed this first sign at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.
We have all had events in our lives in which we celebrate – our own “highs” that we take time to acknowledge and celebrate with others – graduations, promotions at work, marriages, births of children – events that cause us to stop and acknowledge that we have been fortunate enough to reach a milestone that is cause to celebrate.
It is good to celebrate – to laugh and sing, to cry for joy and remember what was and what has now come. Jesus knew of the importance of celebration – so much so that he revealed His glory possibly prematurely in order that someone He knew would be able to celebrate to the fullest extent possible.
Most times our celebrations involve ourselves or our loved ones. We observe others celebrations but unless they are our own or our circle of family or close friends it is usually not something we think about.
And yet . . . maybe we should. I am convinced that if we can focus our eyes on Jesus and celebrate someone else’s achievements and successes, we can eliminate jealousy and competition in our own lives. We are not always part of other’s actual celebrations, but we are within the circle of many people’s lives where their successes are known to us. We hear about the birth of children and grandchildren, of graduations and weddings, of promotions and new jobs, or awards and accomplishments.
When we hear of these things from our friends and colleagues – from our Church family and friends, do we take the time to celebrate with them? Do we sincerely listen and share in their joy? Do we pray Blessings over them and their family? Or do we secretly become jealous or ignore their joy because we have not accomplished that milestone yet? Do we wonder in our minds whether the person “deserved” the promotion or who they “knew” in order to get that award? Do we make negative comments about how someone “cheated” to get where they have gone? Do we comment on the age of the parent of a newborn and put our two cents in about having children too early or late in life?
In other words, do we pretend to celebrate other’s joys while in our hearts and minds, we curse their achievements? It is a nasty and vicious trap that many of us fail into, time and time again. We forget that we are not in “competition” with others. We forget that each of us is made differently by God and our paths although similar in some ways vary more than they are alike. We forget that Jesus celebrates milestones and we should be doing the same.
We are called to celebrate with others as God moves in each of our lives. These milestones happen at different times in different ways – if they happened at the exact same time, there would be no one to celebrate with – we would all be accomplishing things simultaneously!!!
My prayer for us this week is that we consciously take time to celebrate with others and share in their joy; that we set aside our own thoughts, judgments and perceived lack of accomplishments, for the express purpose of simply enjoying God’s blessing on someone else.
Scripture: Psalm 23 The Lord is My Shepherd
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
As we become closer to God through our walk each day, several things happen.
First, our inner being begins to be at peace. As we refocus and rebuild, we begin to be aware that we are not whipped about by the waves of life’s storms because we have confidence that Jesus is walking with us and God is in control. We are confident that God’s plan is good and that we are under the umbrella of His protection.
Second, when we remember that God loves us; God forgives us and His grace is sufficient, we realize how freeing it can be to live focused on loving others free from the guilt and condemnation of sin. The more we refocus on God and rebuild the areas in our lives that are lacking, the more we realize the simplicity of doing what is good and what is right with the only purpose being to bring Glory to God.
Third, when we recognize that our purpose is to bring God glory and God’s purpose for us is to be obedient to Him and to keep our eyes focused on Him. Doing this through the process of life we bring God glory and we can be confident that when it is God’s time to bring us home, He will meet us with the greeting, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
None of this means that we will be free from challenges, heartache and disasters. What it does mean is that God has equipped us to face them by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, His Spirit and His Word to guide us through every moment of life. His Plan for us is in life’s process. Life’s coincidences are God’s perfect timing.
Sometimes we get a peek at His Glory as we walk in His Will and in His Way. Those are the mountaintop experiences we hear others talk about. They bring us hope and cement our faith. But, the majority of our time is spent in the valley where life happens. If we had the mountaintop experiences all the time, I suspect we would retreat into the emotion and wonder of what He has waiting for us instead of living each moment in the light of eternity. It is in the valley, where we face what needs to be overcome, that the light overtakes the darkness and we are one with God.
My prayer for us this week, is that we keep our eyes focused on Jesus; we turn away from that which we know needs to be left behind and we look for the “coincidences” that happen to remind us that God is in control and His timing is perfect.
Keeping Place by Jen Pollock Michel
The subtitle to the book is “reflections on the meaning of home”. Having moved often the author reflects on home. What is it? How is it expressed by God? What is the “work” of home? How does it express holiness?
Since retiring I have been “down sizing”–that means sorting, giving, trashing. And all of that means making decisions about home. I recently visited a long time friend and mentor who is now 90 years old. She had just moved from a four bedroom house to a one bedroom apartment at a seniors housing. I walked in and there it was; with well chosen simplicity, her home. It looked like her. The essence of her expressed in this tiny space. Her former home was now extended to those who chose a piece or two. I now have the wicker chair where she taught me to pray. It is part of my house–my spiritual home.
What is home? Read “Keeping Place” to discover for yourself. Jen will take you from our first home in the Garden to the home called Tabernacle and on to the home called church with a table called communion. Then finally to a new heaven and earth. I guarantee you will enjoy the journey. May your home (not house) express the essence of Christ.
A little extra: If you want to explore your heart as Christ’s home, then get the little booklet: My Heart Christ’s Home by Bob Munger. It was written in the ’50’s by a pastor. You can get it from Christian Book Distributers or down load it from the internet.
Improving with Age by Stuart & Jill Briscoe
Written by two leaders in the church who are in their 80’s, it is full of wisdom and humor. It is a great read for those about to retire or who are retired or who have retired persons in their circle.
Stuart and Jill share the joys and struggles of learning to age with grace and continue to be used by God in God’s work in our world. They also share the modern malady of seniors feeling marginalized by the church and what to do about that.
While there is no retirement for a follower of Jesus, there are ever changing ways in our call to be his hands and feet in the world. Each chapter is followed with questions and reflections. It can easily be used in a small group or Sunday School class.
One of my favorite chuckles: An old lady was pulled over by a policeman who asked her, “Do you know how fast you were traveling?” “Oh no,” she replied, but it was very fast. You need to understand, young man, that we older people have to drive very fast before we forget where we are going.” p.190
The Patmos Deception by Davis Bunn
A great beach read from a Christian mystery writer…
If you want to learn about Greece and antiquities while living an adventure through Nick and Carey, then this is the book for you. You will learn about the Isle of Patmos, where John the Apostle wrote the Revelation, while experiencing the closeness of families in Greece. You will see how Greece has changed with history and live through the struggles of a charter boat business. While all this is going on, there is intrigue and mystery. Have fun!
The Book of Hours by Davis Bunn
This book is full if mystery, hidden clues, dealing with grief, and coming to faith. Seven churches and their bells cause the reader to wonder if we still need the ancient tradition of bells to call us to hourly prayer. Clues lead a grieving widower on a journey of healing. It is all there for you to savor!
Davis Bunn (1952) is an American author and grew up in North Carolina. He became an international financial expert and worked in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Bunn and his wife live in Oxford now. He is a novelist in residence at Regent’s Park College, Oxford University. Bunn is writer of historical fiction and legal thrillers, in which Christian faith plays a big part. (from Wikipedia)
The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah
This would make a long summer read of excellence. By excellence, I mean well written, well researched, and keeps you reading. Now I must confess that I did not read it. I listened to it on CD’s while I drove on long and short trips.
This is a story of two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, during World War II in France. The journey you take is one of family, choices, the dark side of humanity, courage, and persistence. If you read the Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom (her family’s resolve to hide Jews) , then you will want also to read this. It will cause you to think, to laugh, to cry, to rejoice, to lament. Again if you read the Hiding Place this will give you an in depth picture of the hard choices that were made. Unlike Corrie’s book, this is not gospel oriented but it is a picture of how I believe God used people to work to save in the midst of war.
God still works that way today. Where people are in dire straights in the world, pray for God to work through his church and through those in the world who will make courageous choices. God is always at work even though we cannot see it!
Of course, if you haven’t read The Hiding Place, then please read it as well!
Remember . . . we are God’s beloved.
Remember . . . we are forgiven.
Remember . . . God’s Grace is sufficient.
Remember . . . our purpose in life is to bring God Glory!
Jesus Walks on the Water
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Matthew 14:22-33
Remember we are a work in progress. If you are reading this, then God is not finished with you yet! As long as we are living, God is working in us and through us to bring Glory to His Name. How? – by being obedient and keeping our eyes on him. That is our purpose in life. The purpose is the same for each of us, but how God works in us and through us is unique to each and every person.
If we can but truly grasp this purpose in our life, then we can better understand and celebrate the challenges we face. If our purpose is to bring Him Glory then in each and every challenge, His Glory can shine through us.
If you are in a season of routine, where everything seems to be “ok”, remember there are those in a difficult season who God may be calling you to assist – Remember your purpose and bring Glory to His Name.
If you are in a season of challenge – a major illness, a death, a move, a change of employment, a divorce, a marriage, a birth – Remember your purpose and bring Glory to His Name.
If you are in the final season, remember His timing is perfect and even in dying we are His . . . Remember your purpose and bring Glory to His Name.
God has placed us in this moment for a purpose. Remember, that eternity meets us in this moment . . . and our purpose is to bring God glory.
The Parable of the Lost Son
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
“ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ” Luke 11:11-32
Grace means unmerited favor. God’s Grace means that God forgives us even though we don’t deserve it. This is true for every single one of us. As in the story of the prodigal son, God allows us to choose to turn our backs on Him but He is always ready to joyously receive us back when we turn and ask for forgiveness. God beautifully intertwines His Love and His Forgiveness and gives us His Grace.
So Remember whatever we have done, God’s Grace is sufficient to cover it all. Go forth this week knowing you are forgiven. And if you already know you are forgiven, Remember to shower Grace on those around you . . . Remember we are not in competition with other Believers . . . Be joyful when a child who was lost, returns, and is Blessed by God.
There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”
“How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.
Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”
John 3:1-21 New Living Translation
Remember the best way to remind ourselves that God loves us is to read His words to us. God sent Jesus to show us how much He loves us. It was the ultimate act of love . . . to send His only son to suffer and die in order to make a pathway for us from this life to eternal life. “No one comes to the Father except through me”. If we believe in Jesus; we will be born from above with His Spirit in us; and when we die here on earth, we will join Jesus in Heaven for eternity.
Remember God loves us. Remember. Remember. Remember. Why?
So we can keep our hearts, minds and souls focused on God and rise above our circumstances to put God first, learning to imitate Him so that others will know of His love and turn and believe.
My prayer for us this week is that we will remember God’s love for us and turn and share that love with the people placed in our path.
“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance of what we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1
Each and every circumstance in our lives can impact our perspective on life and how we react to a situation. If we are not grounded in our faith, it can feel like we are being tossed about by the wind, never being able to feel like we are on solid ground – never quite feeling at peace. (See Ephesians 4:14)
Sometimes circumstances are within our control because we each have choices to make everyday that affect our circumstances. If we choose risky behavior then we should expect consequences that bring about difficult circumstances. If we choose to walk a path that avoids risky behavior, we are more apt to avoid difficult circumstances.
But what about the times that circumstances are beyond our control or influence. What do we do when circumstances involve death, destruction or despair – the death of a loved one, the loss of our home, the loss of a job or a severe medical diagnosis? We did not expect it. We don’t understand it. We wish it were not so. What do we do then?
We may angrily or tearfully ask God, “What ARE you doing? We may ask Him to take it away or change the circumstance. Or, we may not ask anything because we don’t even think about God. We are so engrossed in our own sorrow or anger that we can’t even think. We may turn to behavior that blocks our despair – alcohol, drugs or behavior that numbs the mind and helps us escape into nothingness.
So what are the alternatives to all of the above responses? What is helpful in these types of circumstances?
It is helpful to turn to God, first – To seek God in prayer – To trust in His power – To be prepared for a miracle of His making, not our own. So practically speaking this means that we need to take time to be in prayer, meditation and contemplation. Do not rush a response – “wait upon the Lord”. If our “gut” is saying something, we need to take time to make sure that our response is prompted by the Holy Spirit. If we have developed a “habit” of taking time with God, we are move likely to walk with Him through the circumstance instead of being tossed about in the circumstance.
It is helpful to be grounded in our faith – to have weathered other storms that have made us stronger, less wind tossed, more able to have faith that God is in control and we are not. More faith that the plan we had may not be the best plan and He always has a plan that is good for us. Faith that allows us to trust that God’s glory will be revealed in His way and in His time – not ours. So practically speaking this means that we need to prepare for the next life challenging circumstance by deepening our faith NOW. We can deepen our faith in God and our relationships with others by taking time to get in the habit of reading scripture, praying, immersing ourselves in a bible study, or attending church services.
It is helpful to have people in our lives who know Jesus – who are calm and reassuring, who walk the journey with us and provide support. This is when an extended church family “circles the wagons” providing practical assistance, prayer support, and most of all – love. When we don’t seem to have faith, it helps to be around people who do – people who shoulder our burden. So practically speaking it helps to have a church family NOW. If you don’t have one, ask someone you know and trust where they go to church. Tag along with them or check out the church closest to your home.
It is helpful to guard ourselves against godless chatter with others and extended questioning of why the circumstance occurred. So practically speaking, we can prolong a crisis by dwelling in the crisis instead of moving through it by seeking God. This does not mean we can’t confide in a close friend who is faith-filled. However, allowing ourselves to continually complain, analyze, criticize, and gossip does not help in any crisis. If we are the ones providing comfort to someone in crisis, remember not to prolong their crisis by jumping into the “pit” with them – but instead listen, listen, listen and encourage them to climb out of the “pit”.
It is helpful to not “check out” of the situation. Choosing “numbing” behavior will cloud our minds, block our relationships with others and most of all prevent us from hearing God. So practically speaking, it is good to control that behavior now, before a crisis hits so that such behavior is easier to avoid.
It is helpful to recognize God’s response to our cries for help. In times of crisis, when we have asked for God’s help, we need to learn to receive it. Many of us are great at helping others, but not so good at receiving help. So practically speaking, this means we need to prayerfully consider other people’s offers of help. A refusal to receive God’s Blessing is an affront against God and will prolong the process of recovery. Such a refusal of God’s Blessings is a roadblock to deepening our Faith. It prevents us from becoming the humble soul God wants in His Kingdom.
It is helpful to remember that God is God and we are not. Sometimes we do not understand and may never understand in this lifetime why God allowed something to happen. Not all things that happen are “caused” by God but God allows all things to happen. Could He have stopped something from happening – Yes. God could have stopped Christ from going to the Cross, but He didn’t because God knew it was the way to our salvation. So practically speaking, when we do not understand the “why” of a circumstance, “put a pin in it” and add it to your list of things you are going to ask when you get to heaven.
My prayer for us this week, is that we choose to approach our circumstances in a new way that deepens our faith and brings Glory to God. AMEN.
“So from now on we regard no one from a “worldly” point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation . . . “ 2 Corinthians 5:16-18
Perspective on life’s circumstances is critical. Where does our perspective come from? Is it from God or in need of discarding and rebuilding? Perspective is the state of your ideas as you interrelate with others – the basis upon which you view life. Are you viewing life through God’s lens – the lens of reconciliation – the lens of grace?
We all have different perspectives on life situations because we all have different life journeys. Our perspective is impacted by the experiences we have – good or bad. If we have lost a parent at a young age, our perspective on relationships in all likelihood is different from another person who did not experience such a tragic loss. If we have been abused as a child, our perspective is viewed through this deep hurt. If we have children, our perspective on many life situations suddenly changes when they are born and we may have a totally new respect for our own parents.
Each and every circumstance in our lives can impact our perspective on life and how we react to a situation. Take some time today and this week to think about your perspective. Is it skewed in certain circumstances? Is it self-centered? Compare it to God’s – His perspective is one of reconciliation of us to Him through Christ. His perspective is filled with grace. – the gift of unconditional love. Remember this as you approach the every day situations in your life. Rebuild by looking at a situation through God’s lens – Remember, the Holy Spirit is with you and will guide you – seek Him.
Remember – You are a new creation in Christ. So . . .
In an interaction with a difficult person, try praying for the person instead of dismissing their words before they are out of their mouth. Remember your perspective is different from theirs. You may not know what they have endured, what they are enduring, how their perspective has been shaped and molded by their life experiences. Instead of a harsh response, try a kind word or no words at all.
If you are working at a job you despise, start thanking God for the opportunity to serve Him through the job. Turn your mind to the Blessings that He is providing to you and others through your work. In other words, change your perspective if that perspective is making you a grumpy, short tempered, mean, conniving, loud-mouthed or not fun to be around person.
If you are alone and feel unworthy, turn your attention to others and take time to write a note or say a kind word. Set your circumstances aside in your mind and focus your attention on helping someone else through prayer and a positive perspective.
If you are having a number 10 reaction to a number 2 problem, evaluate why you are over reacting. Give the overreaction to God and ask for His perspective – a new understanding of your overreaction. With your new perspective, practice a new response.
If you are overworked and stressed, evaluate why. Ask God to give you a new perspective on your situation. Are you unable to say “no” to requests of others? Remember to seek God’s guidance when saying “yes”. If it is not a job or task intended for you and you take it, you may be preventing another person from being able to do what God intended for them. Remember what Jesus said, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:30.
When you change your worldly perspective to God’s perspective, your eyes will see the new creation He has made in you and what a ripple effect that can have in other’s lives.
My prayer for us this week is that our eyes are opened to see our situation through God’s perspective giving us a new perspective that brings Glory to His Name. AMEN.
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you, he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” Deuteronomy 31:8
Sometimes . . . something is missing.
We go to church. We do “good works”. We try to love our neighbor as ourselves. We strive to be good role models to our children, our colleagues or our co-workers. And yet, something is missing. What is it?
We don’t go to church because “church is filled with a bunch of hypocrites who claim to do good but are judgmental, holier than thou people.” We don’t go to church because we are scared of meeting people or embarrassed about our past or feel ,shy or awkward and out of place. And yet, something is missing. What is it?
It could be we are out of practice – or never were in practice. Walking with Christ begins as a discipline and progresses into a way of life. It takes time and commitment; it takes focus and determination.
It also could be that we “listen” to the gospel but we do not apply what we hear. We have lost or never found a “fervent response to the gospel”. (Ten Brave Christians, Danny Morris, page 2). Instead, we think life’s purpose is to be happy.
We have forgotten the basics. The way to joy is not through the acquisition of “things”, or the “retirement” nest egg, or the “prestige and power” of our position.
No . . . it has to do with putting God first each and every day in each and every way. That’s why we refocus each day on “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Once our focus is correct we can work on rebuilding.
Rebuilding is a process. It can be slow and steady or occur in fits and starts. It can be going well and then hit a barrier or hurdle. We can become discouraged about circumstances or events – we can become frustrated because we can’t “see” the progress being made. But part of the rebuilding process is perseverance – it is trusting that even when we don’t “see”, God does.
God is always with us – He never leaves us, nor forsakes us – God always answers prayer – God is for us, not against us. His plans for us are for good and not for evil. So when we refocus, God will honor us with His presence . . .
For each of us the rebuilding process will be different – it will look different – it will progress at different speeds – it will address different needs and challenges – it cannot be compared to someone else’s rebuilding efforts. However, there are some common ways to rebuild – there are options and variations of options for each of us – the path is between you and God.
So this coming week pick an option to start rebuilding. If it does not seem to work, pick a different way . . . but the point is, start in some way to rebuild your relationship with your Creator. Here are some suggestions:
WARNING – THIS MAY CHANGE YOUR LIFE!
- Pick up your Bible. Dust it off. Is the translation understandable to you? If not invest in a different translation such as The New Living Translation, The English Standard Version, The New International Version – Study Bible, or The Message, to name a few. If you are smart phone savvy, get an app like Bible-Life Church YouVersion (there are many to choose from).
- Read your Bible. Start at the beginning (Genesis) or Pick a Gospel – Mark is a good place to begin. Or read it chronologically – google it – http://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-reading-plan/chronological.html. Read one verse or chapter a day, read according to a reading plan; read because you want to rebuild your relationship with God.
- Meditate on the scripture you have read. Actually set aside time each day to sit quietly with all your attention on God – no phones, no computers, no discussion, just quiet, uninterrupted solitude
- Pray. Prayer is talking with God. Start your focus of prayer on an area you have identified as needing repair or rebuilding. Ask God to reveal to you how to start rebuilding. Then listen.
- Try an Adventure – The 30-day Great Experiment of rebuilding your relationship with God. (Purchase 10 Brave Christians – The John Wesley Great Experiment by Danny Morris; Amazon $10)
May God reveal a pathway to greater intimacy and may we see and journey forth!
The Inquisitors Tale by Adam Gidwitz
If you have a child or know a child in late elementary or middle school, you now have the perfect excuse to read to them without them knowing it is reallly for your enjoyment! Steeped in his understanding of the history of the midieval ages, Adam Gidwitz unfolds a story that has God, a dragon, saints, a nun and a story of truth that runs through it.
Our first “member” of the church is a story of three magical children and their holy dog. The story takes place in an inn with the character of a story teller wanting to collect the stories of this group. It unfolds from character to character as each person in the inn tells what they know. You will hear about a saintly dog (and there actually is a dog that was a saint), a dragon, curious adventures, and ordinary children with gifts. If you listen to the story, you will learn about truth, about the song God sings through creation, about grace and forgiveness, and about love and acceptance.
The chapters are short so that it is a good before bed read or a read in the car while travelling.
The Art of Breathing by Gina Roes
My next “member” of the church is Gina Roes. In the Art of Breathing, Gina goes to the heart of all our desires–intimacy with God. Knowing it or not, we all are wanting to go back to Eden where they walked in the garden with God and enjoyed that intimacy that meant life in all its fullness. This side of Eden – we are all trying to survive. In our survival we try to do it ourselves and we try whatever means are in front of us: power, control, possessions, achievement, whatever will make us feel better about ourselves and keep us safe. We try to numb the pain of broken relationships, be that a relationship with ourselves, our family, and people who abuse us. We numb the pain with sex, drugs, constant work, or the neatest and cleanest house in the neighborhood. Gina takes the reader on a journey through it all to the heart of God.
This is not an easy read. The reader needs to pause, to listen, to reflect, to soak it in. The journey is more than worth it.
not R & R – but added for flavor
Do you wonder what version of the Bible to read? You and I have been blessed with the Bible in our language and translated into our culture. Like many things there are too many versions from which to choose. Here is a suggestion: The New Living Translation. It is a translation from the original language, it is geared to a certain reading level, and it makes the text read in a way comfortable to modern language. However, you may be more comfortable with another translation and that’s ok.
A means to enhance your bible reading is to go to Bible Gateway on your computer put in a text that you are reading and then read if from the variety of translations offered to you. The variety of translations will help you to read more deeply and fully. Here is an example: The King James Version (KJV) gives a verse this reading: Be ye saved. Now when you utilize other translations and resources from Bible Gateway you’ll see the greek word “saved” is a continual action verb and so is translated: Keep on being saved. So who we are with Jesus is not a once and done event but an ongoing journey. Isn’t that lovely? Be ye saved = Keep on being saved. Reading the bible more deeply and having a fuller understanding can only be a benefit on our individual journeys!
Who is this person sharing books with you? (You can skip this part and go right to the books!)
Crazy Book Lady here,and I have this unusual church. It is not a denomination. It has no pews, no organ or praise band. It meets at all hours of the day. I can drink coffee without fear of spilling. And I only realized lately that it is my church. Don’t misunderstand, I do attend a church of a denomination that meets on Sunday morning, that has a choir, drinks coffee in Sunday School, has VBS in the summer, and celebrates communion once a month. This unusual church is my extended body of Christ and as close to me and as important to me as the one that gathers on a Sunday. It is my library of books. God has blessed me with an appetite to read, the time to read, and a husband that is patient with the Amazon bill that brings me the members of this church.
Each month, I’d like to introduce you to some of the members who sit on my shelves (or beside my chair or next to the bed or in the car) Yes, I can read in a traffic jam or waiting at the doctor’s office. Not all the members of this church are followers of Jesus but God speaks through them and I listen.
Hello Friends –
At the beginning of each week during his presidency, President Gerald Ford would arrive at his office and a devotional sent with encouragement and love was waiting for him. His friend knew how important his job was and he also knew he needed to keep his eyes on God through each moment. The heading was always the same “God’s Got a Better Idea”. It began with scripture and ended with a prayer.
We all need a friend like that and we all need to be that friend. Not all of us can write devotionals in the formal sense but we can be the source of encouragement, love and support for those that God has placed in our paths.
Each week we will ask a question. You are encouraged to keep a journal of what God shares with you concerning the question and of course anything else. Journaling is a tool to help you “remember” what God has done for you, the Grace He has extended to you and others and the wisdom you have gained.
May this devotional bring encouragement, love and support to you as you discern God’s Will and Way for you this week.
What habits or behaviors turn our eyes to God and what habits or behaviors draw us away from God?
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30
The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
for gaining wisdom and instruction;
for understanding words of insight;
for receiving instruction in prudent behavior; doing what is right and just and fair;
for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young-
let the wise listen and add to their learning and
let the discerning get guidance-
for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.
A good habit for one person can be a bad habit for someone else. Let us take stock of our habits and assess if they do us good or do us harm. For instance, our daily walk at lunch can be wonderful conditioning for our bodies, a time to listen to the bible or praise music; a time of prayer or a time to strengthen a relationship with a friend. However, it can also be an obsession, a way to check out not check in with God, a way to avoid a situation; or gossip about others.
So each of us must assess our current life with our own eyes asking God to open them to see where and when we are checking out instead of checking in. The key to refocusing on God is identifying where it is that we see and don’t see God in our day. If a habit or behavior we routinely participate in does not bring Glory to God then we need to assess what God wants us to do with it.
When we have our eyes focused on God, what are we doing? If we only have our eyes on God Sunday mornings then reassessment is critical. If we are focusing on God at home but not work, why? If we are walking in His Way all day, but check out each evening engaged in habits that draw us away from God, then we need to turn and ask God into that time.
If we are in a job that causes us to stumble, is it the right job? If we are associating with people or friends or family members who cause us to stumble, what can we do to see God in the situation? Do we need to spend less time with the person, or react differently when a particular subject comes up or take a stand with the truth or gracefully remain silent? Do we need to change a routine or behavior because it is offensive, not appropriate for young ears, or leads others astray? Do we need to speak less and listen more?
I challenge us this week to assess our own situation, routine and habits. Ask God to reveal where we can improve our “living” by refocusing on Him. Where can we turn from or adjust a habit or routine that leads us away from God instead of towards Him?
May we refocus our hearts, minds and souls on our God who gives us wisdom and instruction; understanding and words of insight; and instruction in prudent behavior for doing what is right and just and fair.
Blessings to you, my friend,
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:3
Most of us would agree that God should be first in our lives. Many of us believe God is first in our lives but allow the situations of our past, circumstances of this day, the “unknowns” of the future or the people in our lives to take the driver’s seat in our journey. A few of us understand that if God is first in our lives all situations, circumstances and people are not ours to control – they are God’s to control. We are His workers, each assigned different tasks to bring Glory to God.
Past and present events that have caused brokenness in our lives and are unresolved in our souls many times become barriers to our ability to focus on God. We may be steeped in bitterness or jealousy or anger. The events or circumstances continually resurface in our minds. They become our focus in times of quietness or are triggered by new and similar situations. They steal our joy.
We sometimes keep going around and around the mountain as if on a train that never changes tracks but circles the same scenery day after day. We can feed on the drama letting it weave its ugliness into us day after day. We seem to be unable to move forward, to forgive, to give the bitterness to God to handle – unable to search for the way to set the anger aside.
Likewise, the possibilities of disaster in the future can be overwhelming. We can become obsessed with planning for a future that we do not realize is in God’s control. We waste time, effort and resources planning for something that we think we want or need. We get caught up in what is going to happen to the point that we miss the miracles of today – the song in our heart that once sang for Jesus is but a faint memory.
In all these scenarios, we forget that we can stop, turn and refocus on Jesus –
“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
The Grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. AMEN.
Challenge of the Week – Identify one thing that is separating you from God – pray to forgive, if forgiveness is needed; pray for mercy if mercy is needed; pray for grace, if grace is needed; pray for healing if healing is needed and Pray for your eye’s to see the situation through Jesus’ eyes; for your ears to hear what the Holy Spirit is communicating to you about the situation and for your heart to be filled with the love, peace and joy that comes from seeking God’s Glory.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:3
One of the hardest legs of our spiritual journey is reordering our priorities to move God ahead of all our earthly relationships. Most of us have a relationship whether it be with a parent, spouse, friend or spiritual mentor – where we have placed a person on a pedestal. Sometimes, the person promotes the rise above and desires to be on the pedestal. Other times, we place the person there due to familial relationship, gratitude or simply age.
Regardless of the reason for the elevation, no one should come between God and each of us. This does not mean that we should not love and respect those who have a special place in our lives. It just means that any relationship that takes our eyes off Jesus, is not the best it could be.
When we put Jesus in the driver’s seat, when we are listening first and foremost to the movement of the Holy Spirit, when prayer is the first line of defense, our earthly relationships will be set in God’s order. When that occurs, we will find “the peace that surpasses all understanding”.
May the God of Peace be with you.
Challenge of the Week – Identify relationships that stand between you and God and seek God’s counsel (pray) on how to refocus on God first.
The definition of prayer is “a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God.” Prayer is a mighty weapon available to all of us at all times. Prayer is communication with our Lord and a vital resource we should readily rely upon. Please allow us to confidentially take your prayers to the Lord though our prayer room. As at our events, our prayer room is for your access to come along side another believer and bring praise, joy, concerns and requests to the throne of our great God.
Question to contemplate this week:
If we are made in God’s image, what attitude does He desire us to display throughout each day?
Scripture Assistance: Philippians 4:4-8
“Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.”
In His Likeness . . .
Then God said “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness . . .” Genesis 1:26
Just think about that – God made you specifically in God’s likeness. Someday when you enter the Kingdom of Heaven, you will see God for the first time in glorious splendor – but you will already know him because you were made by Him. You will know God because you have been made to know God – specially wired to know your Maker.
One of the challenges of living in this world is to know your Maker now – in the fullest way possible. God is present everywhere – in the midst of everything. Reading the Bible (God’s Word) helps us to know and understand God. In praying (talking) with God we gain intimacy with Him. Worshiping (praising) God brings pleasure to Him as well as peace and blessings to us! Knowing and believing in God is of eternal significance. It is of the utmost importance! Yet in the busyness of everyday life, we forget that eternity meets us in this moment. So what is it we need to remember? Here’s a nutshell version, for the full version – see the Bible.
God created the heavens and the earth, mankind, along with plants and animals. In the beginning, God enjoyed intimate fellowship with mankind and His creation. Through our (Adam and Eve) temptation by satan, and our choice to disobey God’s direction, sin was unleashed into the world. Sin is a choice we make that separates us from God – it literally means, “missing the mark”.
Throughout the ages, God has been “wooing” us back to him by sending Angels, Prophets, Judges, and kings; also by using all sorts of events such as banishment from the Garden, massive flooding, covenants, signs, wonders, plagues, Commandments, laws, and war. Although these events were temporary, sin still existed and people still chose to sin (disobey God’s direction-thus separating themselves from God).
Therefore, in order to save mankind from sin and certain destruction, God sent us His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin, Mary. Jesus walked this earth sinless and righteous, teaching God’s Will and His Way. He angered jealous people who reacted with hate. Jesus chose to follow God’s Will for Him and to be the ultimate “sacrifice” dying for us and all our sins – (the ones before us, the ones we have committed and the ones to be committed) clearing a pathway of GRACE to heaven for those who believe in Him. He was persecuted, suffered, was crucified, died and was buried. On the third day, He rose from the dead. After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples and followers over a 40 day period during which He taught them repentance and forgiveness (God’s Grace) and sent them out into the world to make disciples of all nations, baptizing people in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. He then ascended into Heaven and sits at the right Hand of God. He promised that He was going to Heaven to prepare a place for us and He will come back and take us to be with Him. “Keep watch because you do not know on what day your Lord will come . . . So you must be ready, because the Son of Man (Jesus) will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” Matt 24:42, 44
When Jesus ascended into Heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to be with us. The Holy Spirit is in every Christian (the same Holy Spirit is in all those who believe and the Holy Spirit communicates with God and individuals and in the “Body of Christ” which is the Church universal) and moves everywhere and works non-stop to provide God’s wisdom, protection, comfort, healing, revelation . . .
Remembering what God has taught us allows God to work in and through us in our own lives and the lives of others. When we remember, we refocus our minds back to God. Refocusing our minds on God, allows us to seek God’s Will and Way for the day ahead so we can start or continue rebuilding our lives and relationships where we left off the day before. When we are focused on God and the rebuilding is going on, we need to Remember so that we don’t forget where God has been in our day.
If you are in a time of crisis, we are here to walk along side of you, but more importantly, God is always with you – Call upon him – and even when you can’t pray, He knows your heart and the Holy Spirit will intervene on your behalf. Feel free to e-mail us at nekodaunlimited.org. also! It’s good to know that we are loved so much!
May your week be filled with love, joy and peace, and until we meet again I pray that you, “being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” Eph. 3:17-18