Weekly Devotion

Journey of Understanding

Jesus asked, “Do you finally believe?  But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.  I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:31-33

As we celebrate the coming of the birth of Jesus, many of us are pulled in many different directions – leaving Jesus out of our preparations for Christmas. But at the heart of the Christmas celebration is the understanding that God humbled himself and came into this world as a baby – a baby with a purpose.

The religious scholars at the time of Jesus’ birth were looking for a Messiah – a King – a powerful leader that would free them from oppression. They were looking for someone to put them in power and establish them in comfort. And even though Jesus has freed all those who believe from oppression, the religious scholars were looking for someone else, not Baby Jesus.

What are we looking for? Who do we think Jesus is? Can we wrap our heads around the fact that Jesus was sent by God to conquer death and sin by dying a physical death on the Cross and rising from the dead in victory to be with God?

Are we looking for a Jesus whose purpose is to heal, comfort and defend us? One who takes us out of our troubles? One who is merely a sounding board for our wants and desires?

Remember who Jesus is – not who we might want Him to be.

Jesus came to save us from sin and death, to forge a pathway for us to eternal life with Him in Heaven and to send the Holy Spirit to help us navigate in this world. He shows us what love is by laying His life down to save us from certain death.

He did not come so that we could be comfortable or satisfied or free from troubles. Remember His words, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

If all we know is comfort and satisfaction, we have no need for a Savior. It is through troubles that we gain an understanding of grace. We learn about obedience and self-control. We gain empathy and wisdom. We gain faith and are filled with hope.

So remember, who Jesus is. Our understanding starts with BELIEVING that He is who He says that He is.  Remember that trials and tribulations are part of our journey of understanding. With this understanding, we experience His peace – the peace that surpasses all understanding!

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me. John 14:5 NLT

Sharpening Others

Be Still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

In our journey walking with God during our short stay on this earth, He is teaching us critical lessons for eternal living – lessons dealing with Loving Him, Loving others, pride, self-sufficiency, obedience, etc.

These lessons are critical and for many of us, are cyclical in nature. Not all of us struggle with the same lesson; some “get it” on the first encounter with a particular lesson while others are “stuck” for years dealing with the same critical instruction. Regardless of whether we are in a season of being “stuck” or are moving from one lesson to the next, God is using each moment of every day to assist us in our journey closer to Him.

Each day, we can be sharpened. Each day we can learn something new or experience a deepening of an understanding that we have known for quite sometime. Sometimes, we are called in obedience to help someone else in their journey.

When we become followers of Jesus Christ, we become saints – chosen by God – set free by His Son and filled with His Spirit to bring Him glory today and for all eternity. We must therefore, seek Him in the moment we are in to determine what we are to be doing. Just as God uses others to sharpen us, we are also called at times to sharpen others.

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. Proverbs 27:17

To be called to sharpen another believer is a great responsibility. When we know we are being called to be a sharpening tool, we must seek the help of the Holy Spirit in the process of the sharpening – remembering that God can use us in any situation. Our job is to “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” Ephesians 6:18

If you are being used by God in someone else’s journey, make sure that you are walking in step with the Lord and seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Remember, eternal living starts today.

Who is Sharpening You?

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11

 Did you ever wonder why someone is your relative, friend or part of your circle of acquaintances? As we contemplate the celebration of Thanksgiving and as we look forward to the possibly of spending more time with some of the same people at Christmas, we may want to sit with God and ponder the purpose of our relationships – the good, the bad and the ugly!

If we believe God has a plan and that plan is good, then we must assume the people placed in our lives are there for a reason – the reason being ultimately good. So what does that mean for each of us?

Most people have a variety of relationships – with a spouse , children, or siblings or cousins or aunts or uncle, or in-laws or a best friend from childhood. So why has God placed you with your spouse, your brother or sister, your parents, your relatives, your neighbor, your best friend, or your co-workers or acquaintances you keep running into? What does God have in mind for you?

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. Proverbs 27:17

One truth that is evident is that God gives us people who will help us grow in Him. We can see this principle played out in our own families. Ask yourself this question, “Am I closer to God than I was last year?” If so, then how so?

Did you have to struggle through an issue with your spouse or sibling or co-worker? Was it frustrating and hard – were their views different from yours? Do you feel like you made mistakes or you could have handled the struggle differently? Did you learn anything from the experience? Did you end up estranged from the person or did you end up closer to God or both?

Are you still angry at God and asking, “Why did that happen to me or why did you do that to me or why did you not save me from that?”

Do not get stuck in that cycle of self-pity. Set it aside. Remember who God is and His purpose for you. Then re-evaluate the situation in light of His goodness. Instead, think about how your relationship with others has sharpened you. Contemplate how you have grown in your love for God. Claim the power of His love by thanking Him for the experience and asking for help to carry on with this day – the day you are in.

As you look forward, remember those who are placed in your path and view them in light of God’s plan for you – plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Give Him praise and thanks for these people who are sharpening you with love, truth, and grace – even if they have no idea that they are part of God’s purpose for you and you are part of God’s purpose for them.

Head into today and tomorrow with anticipation that the people God places in your path are here for your “good” and not for your “harm”. Then, remember to allow yourself to be sharpened giving thanks in all situations for God’s love for you.

FAITH v. fear

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:15-17 NIV

In other words, if you are a follower of Jesus then you have been set free by Jesus and are filled with the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Truth. Remember the freedom you have received. Remember that faith is active – don’t make the mistake of just reading the scripture and then going off and doing it “on your own”.

Faith must be exercised in order for it to grow. If you are struggling to live life, then remember you are a child of God, filled with His Spirit who is void of fear! The fear inside of you is not of the Spirit of God. Get rid of it – actively choose to eliminate it – exercise your faith – by trusting God with your hardship.

If you are without a job or direction or purpose, remember you are not in bondage. You are free – free to live – free to thrive – free to learn and love and prosper. Exercise your faith. Take a step. Even if it turns out to be a “wrong” step, trust that God can handle it and steer you in the right direction.

Don’t allow fear to lie to you. Don’t allow bondage to cripple you. Remember you are a child of God’s, born of the His Spirit. Don’t let yourself be something less than God’s precious child.

It is worth hearing more of Romans Chapter 8 and maybe it helps if you hear it said a different way:

 Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.

But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!

 So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him! Romans 8:5-17 The Message

REMEMBER, His plans are for you, not against you. So come on! Forget what you once were and focus on who you are in Christ. Step out in faith. Exercise what is inside of you. Don’t let fear or bondage hold you back. You are a child of God! You live with the Father and the Son through the Spirit each and every moment! AMEN.

Claim it!

God wants us to be passionate about what He is passionate about. He wants us to knock – to seek – to ask. He wants us to want what He wants – to be intimate in our relationship with Him. When we are able to understand this basic truth, a whole new life opens up. We then begin to understand that we are who He says we are – and it is good!

Listen to the beginning of the story of Nehemiah – about a man who grasped the passion of God with regard to His people living in Jerusalem and who sought His Will and asked for His help.

 The memoirs of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah.

It was the month of Kislev in the twentieth year. At the time I was in the palace complex at Susa. Hanani, one of my brothers, had just arrived from Judah with some fellow Jews. I asked them about the conditions among the Jews there who had survived the exile, and about Jerusalem.

They told me, “The exile survivors who are left there in the province are in bad shape. Conditions are appalling. The wall of Jerusalem is still rubble; the city gates are still cinders.”

When I heard this, I sat down and wept. I mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God-of-Heaven.

I said, “God, God-of-Heaven, the great and awesome God, loyal to his covenant and faithful to those who love him and obey his commands: Look at me, listen to me. Pay attention to this prayer of your servant that I’m praying day and night in intercession for your servants, the People of Israel, confessing the sins of the People of Israel. And I’m including myself, I and my ancestors, among those who have sinned against you.

“We’ve treated you like dirt: We haven’t done what you told us, haven’t followed your commands, and haven’t respected the decisions you gave to Moses your servant. All the same, remember the warning you posted to your servant Moses: ‘If you betray me, I’ll scatter you to the four winds, but if you come back to me and do what I tell you, I’ll gather up all these scattered peoples from wherever they ended up and put them back in the place I chose to mark with my Name.’

“Well, there they are—your servants, your people whom you so powerfully and impressively redeemed. O Master, listen to me, listen to your servant’s prayer—and yes, to all your servants who delight in honoring you—and make me successful today so that I get what I want from the king.”

I was cupbearer to the king.

Nehemiah Chapter 1 The Message

Nehemiah, a cup bearer to the king, a trusted and influential position, placed in the right place at the right time for the work God had for Him. God’s passion became Nehemiah’s passion. He sought after it through prayer and fasting – crying out to God in repentance and thankfulness. And God delivered.

What passion has God placed on your heart? How has He aligned you in the right place and at the right time to accomplish the work He has for you? Are you crying out – seeking – asking?

Remember, God created you in His Image. You are who He says you are. His passion is placed in you. Now, claim it – and watch God deliver!

God shares His Spirit

Are you struggling to keep your eyes on the Lord? Are you hearing voices in your mind that you know are not of God? Do the words of Lauren Daigle’s song “I say” speak to you?

I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?
Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know

 You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
I believe

 Remember there is a battle going on in the heavenly places. But we do not need to fear. We have the Holy Spirit who knows the mind of God. Listen to these words of Paul as he teaches the Corinthians:

The Spirit, not content to flit around on the surface, dives into the depths of God, and brings out what God planned all along. Who ever knows what you’re thinking and planning except you yourself? The same with God—except that he not only knows what he’s thinking, but he lets us in on it. God offers a full report on the gifts of life and salvation that he is giving us. We don’t have to rely on the world’s guesses and opinions. We didn’t learn this by reading books or going to school; we learned it from God, who taught us person-to-person through Jesus, and we’re passing it on to you in the same firsthand, personal way.

 The unspiritual self, just as it is by nature, can’t receive the gifts of God’s Spirit. There’s no capacity for them. They seem like so much silliness. Spirit can be known only by spirit—God’s Spirit and our spirits in open communion. Spiritually alive, we have access to everything God’s Spirit is doing, and can’t be judged by unspiritual critics. Isaiah’s question, “Is there anyone around who knows God’s Spirit, anyone who knows what he is doing?” has been answered: Christ knows, and we have Christ’s Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:13-16 The Message

Paul continues in his letter to the Ephesians – teaching them about the weapons to fight back against the devil’s schemes:

And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out. Ephesians 6:10-18 The Message

 Remember . . .

 The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me
In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity

 You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
I believe

 Taking all I have and now I’m laying it at Your feet
You have every failure God, and You’ll have every victory

 You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
I believe

 Oh I believe, yes I believe
What You say of me
Oh I believe

 Songwriters: Paul Mabury / Lauren Ashley Daigle / Jason IngramYou Say lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

In time of Crisis . . .

There are different kinds of crises – death of a loved one; unfairness of a situation which brings great turmoil; a national tragedy; a dispute within the Church; an extended illness of a family member or friend; a tragic accident; loss of a job and the list goes on and on.

When someone else is enduring a crisis, what do most of us do? It obviously depends on the type of crisis, but should it? It seems like our first human instinct is to talk to others (not the person involved) about the crisis – expressing our disbelief or heartfelt dismay or sympathy or maybe our anger, opinion or judgment.

We may disown the person or follow them from afar – waiting to see what happens before we enter into the situation.   That’s what Peter did:

They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire. Mark 14:53-54 NIV

Or depending on the crisis we may actually distance ourselves from knowing the person altogether or claim we really “never knew them” as a close friend.

While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him. “You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said. But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway. When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” Again he denied it. After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean. He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.” Immediately the rooster crowed the second time.  Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept. Mark 14:66-72

We may even surround the person, shouting curses and throwing stones as they did with Stephen who merely told the truth to people who did not believe.

At that point they went wild, a rioting mob of catcalls and whistles and invective. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, hardly noticed—he only had eyes for God, whom he saw in all his glory with Jesus standing at his side. He said, “Oh! I see heaven wide open and the Son of Man standing at God’s side!” Yelling and hissing, the mob drowned him out. Now in full stampede, they dragged him out of town and pelted him with rocks. Acts 7:54-58 The Message

But what should the saint do? (by definition a saint is a believer in Jesus Christ.). In someone else’s crisis, are we not first called to pray – taking time to enter into conversation with God about the person He placed in our lives? What does our conversation with God sound like? It sounds like love wrapped in a heartfelt desire for God to do the very best for the person. Our prayer does not necessarily request that the person be removed from the crisis but rather for the Holy Spirit to move in the crisis to bring the person into unity with God for His Glory.

The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.

He wants not only us but everyone saved, you know, everyone to get to know the truth we’ve learned: that there’s one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us—Jesus, who offered himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free. Eventually the news is going to get out. This and this only has been my appointed work: getting this news to those who have never heard of God, and explaining how it works by simple faith and plain truth.

Since prayer is at the bottom of all this, what I want mostly is for men to pray—not shaking angry fists at enemies but raising holy hands to God. And I want women to get in there with the men in humility before God, not primping before a mirror or chasing the latest fashions but doing something beautiful for God and becoming beautiful doing it. 1 Timothy 2:1-10

So the next time God places us in the path of someone in crisis, let us remember that prayer is the first line of defense for that person – not gossip or anger or judgment – but intercession for one of God’s creations whom He has entrusted into our sight for but a moment in time.

Believe?

What does it mean to believe in Jesus – to be His follower? Listen to what he tells us:

The Good Shepherd and His Sheep

“I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

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

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

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

When he said these things, the people were again divided in their opinions about him.  Some said, “He’s demon possessed and out of his mind. Why listen to a man like that?” Others said, “This doesn’t sound like a man possessed by a demon! Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”  John 10:1-21 New Living Translation

Jesus specifically tells us that that he is the Good Shepherd – the Messiah. Why don’t we believe him? Are we in the same category as the Pharisees that were going to stone him because he was claiming to be the Messiah – not taking the time and energy to actually hear and understand what Jesus is actually saying to us? Listen again to Jesus’ words of explanation.

 Jesus Claims to Be the Son of God

It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication. He was in the Temple, walking through the section known as Solomon’s Colonnade. The people surrounded him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name. But you don’t believe me because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.  The Father and I are one.”

Once again the people picked up stones to kill him. Jesus said, “At my Father’s direction I have done many good works. For which one are you going to stone me?”

They replied, “We’re stoning you not for any good work, but for blasphemy! You, a mere man, claim to be God.”

Jesus replied, “It is written in your own Scriptures that God said to certain leaders of the people, ‘I say, you are gods!’ And you know that the Scriptures cannot be altered. So if those people who received God’s message were called ‘gods,’ why do you call it blasphemy when I say, ‘I am the Son of God’? After all, the Father set me apart and sent me into the world. Don’t believe me unless I carry out my Father’s work. But if I do his work, believe in the evidence of the miraculous works I have done, even if you don’t believe me. Then you will know and understand that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.”

Once again they tried to arrest him, but he got away and left them. He went beyond the Jordan River near the place where John was first baptizing and stayed there awhile. And many followed him. “John didn’t perform miraculous signs,” they remarked to one another, “but everything he said about this man has come true.” And many who were there believed in Jesus.  John 10:22-42 

Do you believe? Remember, belief is not about being part of a social club or volunteer organization. It is not about “doing good” for others. It is not going to church because it is the right thing to do or to be seen in order to build up your status at work or in the community.

Many of us say we believe in Jesus but never speak His Name except as an expletive.  We may go to church, take communion and count ourselves as Christians but we have never spoken to another person about Jesus.

Belief is not based on someone else’s belief although many times it starts with watching someone else we admire or envy. We want what they have so we follow their behavior. But ultimately, belief is based on our personal connection to the living God – Jesus.

Some of us believe in a “higher being” but do not believe that Jesus is God in human form who lived, walked and died on the Cross to be resurrected from the dead, ascending into heaven sealing the pathway to eternal life for us.

If you believe Jesus is the way the truth and the life – providing those who believe with eternal life – doesn’t it make you want to turn to those God has placed in your path and encourage them to believe?

 

From Sin . . . By Grace

Sometimes it is good to go back to the beginning – to remind ourselves that we were born into sin – we inherited it as our nature from the beginning – from the expulsion from the Garden.

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.  And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”  So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.  After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:21-24 NIV

So the human race was banished. Why? Because we did not obey God – we could not be allowed to eat from the tree of life and live forever with our sinful nature. This rebellion has continued through the ages. God started again with Noah saving six humans from the flood but the same thing happened. Disobedience.

Isaiah reported the following vision to the people of Israel during the reigns of kings around 700 B.C:

 “Doom, rebel children!”
    God’s Decree.
“You make plans, but not mine.
    You make deals, but not in my Spirit.
You pile sin on sin,
    one sin on top of another,
Going off to Egypt
    without so much as asking me,
Running off to Pharaoh for protection,
    expecting to hide out in Egypt.
Well, some protection Pharaoh will be!
    Some hideout, Egypt!
They look big and important, true,
    with officials strategically established in
Zoan in the north and Hanes in the south,
    but there’s nothing to them.
Anyone stupid enough to trust them
    will end up looking stupid—
All show, no substance,
    an embarrassing farce.”

And this note on the animals of the Negev
    encountered on the road to Egypt:
A most dangerous, treacherous route,
    menaced by lions and deadly snakes.
And you’re going to lug all your stuff down there,
    your donkeys and camels loaded down with bribes,
Thinking you can buy protection
    from that hollow farce of a nation?
Egypt is all show, no substance.
    My name for her is Toothless Dragon.

 So, go now and write all this down.
    Put it in a book
So that the record will be there
    to instruct the coming generations,
Because this is a rebel generation,
    a people who lie,
A people unwilling to listen
    to anything God tells them.
They tell their spiritual leaders,
    “Don’t bother us with irrelevancies.”
They tell their preachers,
    “Don’t waste our time on impracticalities.
Tell us what makes us feel better.
    Don’t bore us with obsolete religion.
That stuff means nothing to us.
    Quit hounding us with The Holy of Israel.”

Therefore, The Holy of Israel says this:
    “Because you scorn this Message,
Preferring to live by injustice
    and shape your lives on lies,
This perverse way of life
    will be like a towering, badly built wall
That slowly, slowly tilts and shifts,
    and then one day, without warning, collapses—
Smashed to bits like a piece of pottery,
    smashed beyond recognition or repair,
Useless, a pile of debris
    to be swept up and thrown in the trash.”

Isaiah 30:1-14 The Message

Isaiah continues to instruct the people as to what God is saying to them:

“Your salvation requires you to turn back to me

    and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves.
Your strength will come from settling down
    in complete dependence on me—
The very thing
    you’ve been unwilling to do.
You’ve said, ‘Nothing doing! We’ll rush off on horseback!’
    You’ll rush off, all right! Just not far enough!
You’ve said, ‘We’ll ride off on fast horses!’
    Do you think your pursuers ride old nags?
Think again: A thousand of you will scatter before one attacker.
    Before a mere five you’ll all run off.
There’ll be nothing left of you—
    a flagpole on a hill with no flag,
    a signpost on a roadside with the sign torn off.”

18 But God’s not finished. He’s waiting around to be gracious to you.
    He’s gathering strength to show mercy to you.
God takes the time to do everything right—everything.
    Those who wait around for him are the lucky ones.

Isaiah 30:15-18 The Message

The human race including God’s chosen people continued to disobey. Relying on themselves – refusing to seek God for direction. So what happened to change that? We are still in the same boat EXCEPT for one extraordinary event.

Isaiah tells us about it:

 “Take a good look at my servant.
    I’m backing him to the hilt.
He’s the one I chose,
    and I couldn’t be more pleased with him.
I’ve bathed him with my Spirit, my life.
    He’ll set everything right among the nations.
He won’t call attention to what he does
    with loud speeches or gaudy parades.
He won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt
    and he won’t disregard the small and insignificant,
    but he’ll steadily and firmly set things right.
He won’t tire out and quit. He won’t be stopped
    until he’s finished his work—to set things right on earth.
Far-flung ocean islands
    wait expectantly for his teaching.”

 God’s Message,
    the God who created the cosmos, stretched out the skies,
    laid out the earth and all that grows from it,
Who breathes life into earth’s people,
    makes them alive with his own life:
“I am God. I have called you to live right and well.
    I have taken responsibility for you, kept you safe.
I have set you among my people to bind them to me,
    and provided you as a lighthouse to the nations,
To make a start at bringing people into the open, into light:
    opening blind eyes,
    releasing prisoners from dungeons,
    emptying the dark prisons.
I am God. That’s my name.
    I don’t franchise my glory,
    don’t endorse the no-god idols.
Take note: The earlier predictions of judgment have been fulfilled.
    I’m announcing the new salvation work.
Before it bursts on the scene,
    I’m telling you all about it.”

Isaiah 42:1-9

This Book we call the Bible is filled with life altering Truth and glimpses into the future. We are told that Jesus is coming. We are told to look for him. We are told that a NEW salvation plan is going into effect. Why? Because until then nothing changes – the human race is still the same corrupt people who keep doing the same thing over and over and over again. Disobedience. Wanting to be their own Master.

How is it that we realize that we have a choice to turn from that sinful nature? It is our realization that we are not enough – that we cannot do it all on our own – that we need the help of God.

It is at that point when we turn from our own self towards God and ask for help that God with His unmerited favor (“grace”) can reach us without destroying us. It is only by recognizing we need God that He can actually break through our sinful nature and give us a way out of our inherited nature. The way out is through Jesus – it is through Jesus that the Holy Spirit came and it is through the Holy Spirit that you and I receive guidance, wisdom and the ability to turn from our sinful nature to the nature of Jesus.

God is Multi-Tasking – Right Now!

Paul brought the Gospel to the Gentiles after a supernatural visitation from Jesus. In the midst of Paul’s zealous religious quest to annihilate the people of the “Way”, God caused a complete turnaround in Paul’s life. Everything he stood for was completely debunked in a matter of seconds.   Listen to the Scripture Account and put yourself in Paul’s story:

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.  As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.  “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.  Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus.  For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem.  And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.  I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.     Acts 9:1-19 NIV

What is going on in your life? Do you need a Paul moment – a 360 degree turnaround? Or are you so zealous for a cause that you don’t even know that you need a Paul moment? Maybe you are unwilling to fully commit yourself to God such that a Paul moment will not come? Or maybe you are being called to be part of a bigger picture – one you know nothing about – one that defies logic? Maybe you have argued with God’s call but have chosen to be obedient anyway – like Ananias?

 Whatever your circumstances are, REMEMBER our God is multi-tasking, in this moment. He is orchestrating and carrying out plans both big and small that we have no comprehension of. He can orchestrate a 360 degree turn instantaneously at the perfect moment in someone’s life, direct them to a place already prepared for them, while at the same time causing someone else to have a dream or vision to cooperate in the completion of the 360 degree turn.

 God does not slumber or sleep but is multi-tasking each and every moment of each and every day. He deals with the big things and the very small things. All are important to Him and all are accomplished according to His Will. So turn to Him and be prepared for His multi-tasking in your life – RIGHT NOW!

In Trouble? Then Remember!

We all face times of trouble – moments when we don’t understand – moments when events occur and our circumstances seem hopeless. But God’s promises never change. They were Truth when they were said and recorded and they continue to be Truth today.

When Jesus was facing the Cross, He was trying to prepare the disciples for His death and resurrection, but they did not understand. How could they? But he told them anyway, because later they would remember His Words. Later, they would comprehend and understand. Later, the Spirit would come and make it clear. Later, they would celebrate His Way.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God a; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:1-7 NIV

Jesus continues to answer the disciples’ questions with Truths to remember:

Philip said, “Master, show us the Father; then we’ll be content.”

 “You’ve been with me all this time, Philip, and you still don’t understand? To see me is to see the Father. So how can you ask, ‘Where is the Father?’ Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you aren’t mere words. I don’t just make them up on my own. The Father who resides in me crafts each word into a divine act.

“Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can’t believe that, believe what you see—these works. The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it. That’s how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I’ll do. John 14:8-16 The Message

So Remember – refresh your memory with the Words of Jesus. Repeat those Words to yourself. Sing them. Whatever it takes to remember . . . He is the Way the Truth and the Life! Anyone who believes in Him shall not perish but shall have eternal life.

Completing the Assignment with Intentional Love

We are to be disciplined in following Jesus – seeking His direction and then acting upon it. But how do we act? How do we fulfill His directive?  

Paul answers this question in his letter to the Romans.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:9-13 NIV

Or translated another way:

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Paul continues his answer by reminding us that our job is to complete our assignment through the love of others both friend and foe:

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.  Romans 12:9-21 The Message

Remember, it takes discipline to find direction and it takes intentional love to fulfill it.

 

Disciplined Direction

Are we “doing” things for God in the Name of Christ that have nothing to do with Him? Are these good deeds merely our ideas and impulses which have not been properly vetted through prayer and petition? Are we seeking His guidance to determine our role in His Church?

These are questions Paul answered for us in his Letter to the Romans over 1900 years ago.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:1-2 NIV

Or translated another way in The Message:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Paul goes onto advise us on how we should view our relationship with God and our role in the Church:

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.

If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face. Romans 12:1-8 The Message

Remember, “doing” for God without disciplined direction from God is merely self-centeredness. Our role in the Church is at the direction of Jesus Christ who is the head of the Body – so let us keep our eyes on Him!

Story Time!

Never Without a Story

26-29 Then Jesus said, “God’s kingdom is like seed thrown on a field by a man who then goes to bed and forgets about it. The seed sprouts and grows—he has no idea how it happens. The earth does it all without his help: first a green stem of grass, then a bud, then the ripened grain. When the grain is fully formed, he reaps—harvest time!

30-32 “How can we picture God’s kingdom? What kind of story can we use? It’s like a pine nut. When it lands on the ground it is quite small as seeds go, yet once it is planted it grows into a huge pine tree with thick branches. Eagles nest in it.”

33-34 With many stories like these, he presented his message to them, fitting the stories to their experience and maturity. He was never without a story when he spoke. When he was alone with his disciples, he went over everything, sorting out the tangles, untying the knots.

The Message Mark 4:26-34

What was the purpose of Jesus’ method of teaching? Obviously, it was to teach a lesson about the subject matter. But wasn’t it also to guide us in how we share our faith with others? How do we do that?

With a story – our story – unique to us – designed by God – perfect for the situation He places us in – filled with our mistakes and God’s grace.

If we can picture our lives as the backside of God’s tapestry, we will understand that there is a story that the Weaver has designed that we just don’t know in its fullness. It is our story. Uniquely ours. It is interwoven with other’s stories – people that the Weaver places in our path – whose strand intersects with ours.

Each strand weaves its way through the tapestry. Each strand has a unique path – none are the same although for a period of time, the strands might mesh to make a beautiful splash of color or form the critical juncture with another strand. Some day our strand will complete its place in the tapestry.

The tapestry of life is so complex that we have no way to control it. When we do try to control it, we lose sight of the purpose of being in the tapestry – to go where the Weaver directs us in order for the tapestry to be completed in accordance with its original design.

Each day can be viewed as a day of weaving. Each day we have the choice to cooperate with the Weaver – to follow the example of the Weaver’s son, Jesus – to exhibit his love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, kindness, goodness and self-control – to obey the pull through the loom so the going goes smoothly except when it doesn’t which may have been the point.

It is the journey that is important and whom we have partnered with that makes the difference. Each day our eyes can focus on Jesus, the one who shows us how to live by making each moment holy – whose love, mercy, and grace form the path of each strand.

We also have the choice to do it “our” way – twisting our way through our day. Our way is the hard way – the way of turbulence and restlessness. The Weaver will still be in control but it will be difficult for us when He straightens out our twisted strand. Of course, sometimes the straightening has nothing to do with us because it is caused by the choices of others who may have chosen their own way.

But regardless of the choices we make or others make, the Weaver is in total control and the Tapestry will be completed in accordance with the Weaver’s pattern, not ours and not anyone else’s.

So back to the original question – how do we share our faith?

Like Jesus did – in the form of a story. Our story of love, grace, and hope – of disappointments, trials and tribulations. Not in a complaining way, but in a way that brings hope and comfort to someone else.

Our journey intersects with other’s journey at the direction of the Weaver. At those intersections, we are to come up along side the other strand bonding with them as Jesus has bonded with us in order to bring glory to the Weaver whose masterpiece is in the making. We are to treat the other strand as we desire to be treated. Our desire comes from the Weaver, our direction from the Weaver’s son and our power flows from the Weaver’s Spirit.

So share your story – woven by God through the love and grace of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit!

 

A Simple Guide for Behavior

Simplify in word collage

1-5 “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.

“Don’t be flip with the sacred. Banter and silliness give no honor to God. Don’t reduce holy mysteries to slogans. In trying to be relevant, you’re only being cute and inviting sacrilege.

7-11 “Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing. You’re at least decent to your own children. So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?

12 “Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get.

Being and Doing

13-14 “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.

15-20 “Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned.

21-23 “Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’

24-25 “These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.

26-27 “But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.”

28-29 When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this. It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying—quite a contrast to their religion teachers! This was the best teaching they had ever heard.

Matthew 7 The Message (MSG)

AMEN!

 

God’s Grace is Enough

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come:  I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.” Genesis 9:12-17

It was late afternoon, and I struggled to understand where life was taking me. I was confused – thinking that God’s plan was taking me one way but now doubting that I had heard correctly. I have come to learn that this kind of self-awareness of His plan is a warning – a warning to slow down and “Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10.

It is a time to remember God’s sovereignty – to remember His promises – to remember to turn to the one who gives life so abundantly. It is a time to be quiet – a time not to speak or complain or analyze. “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28. Christ-awareness always eliminates self-awareness and produces peace.

And then it happened. A stunning double rainbow – a symbol of God’s covenant with the earth and with me. It spoke of His control over His creation – of the link between heaven and earth – of His promise to overcome the storms with a beautiful display of His Grace. It pointed me to Him – reminding me to trust in His plans for me – For I know the plans I have for you – plans to prosper you and not harm you. – plans to give you hope and a future.  Jer 27:19.

Powerfully Prepared to Serve

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. 1 John 3:1-3 NIV

Or said another way:

What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are. But that’s also why the world doesn’t recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he’s up to.

 But friends, that’s exactly who we are: children of God. And that’s only the beginning. Who knows how we’ll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we’ll see him—and in seeing him, become like him. All of us who look forward to his Coming stay ready, with the glistening purity of Jesus’ life as a model for our own.

John goes on to say:

All who indulge in a sinful life are dangerously lawless, for sin is a major disruption of God’s order. Surely you know that Christ showed up in order to get rid of sin. There is no sin in him, and sin is not part of his program. No one who lives deeply in Christ makes a practice of sin. None of those who do practice sin have taken a good look at Christ. They’ve got him all backward.

So, my dear children, don’t let anyone divert you from the truth. It’s the person who acts right who is right, just as we see it lived out in our righteous Messiah. Those who make a practice of sin are straight from the Devil, the pioneer in the practice of sin. The Son of God entered the scene to abolish the Devil’s ways.

People conceived and brought into life by God don’t make a practice of sin. How could they? God’s seed is deep within them, making them who they are. It’s not in the nature of the God-begotten to practice and parade sin. Here’s how you tell the difference between God’s children and the Devil’s children: The one who won’t practice righteous ways isn’t from God, nor is the one who won’t love brother or sister. A simple test.

For this is the original message we heard: We should love each other.

We must not be like Cain, who joined the Evil One and then killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because he was deep in the practice of evil, while the acts of his brother were righteous. So don’t be surprised, friends, when the world hates you. This has been going on a long time.

The way we know we’ve been transferred from death to life is that we love our brothers and sisters. Anyone who doesn’t love is as good as dead. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know very well that eternal life and murder don’t go together.

This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.

My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.

And friends, once that’s taken care of and we’re no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we’re bold and free before God! We’re able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we’re doing what he said, doing what pleases him. Again, this is God’s command: to believe in his personally named Son, Jesus Christ. He told us to love each other, in line with the original command. As we keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us. And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit he gave us.         1 John 3 The Message

Since Jesus “showed up” to get rid of sin and did indeed conquer it, we are saved from it. That is the freedom we have. We are free to love unconditionally – no strings attached! No fear! No worry! Just existing to love God and others.   It is a simple life goal and yet it becomes complicated if we succumb to our human tendencies and accept the temptation to turn from God.

For although satan has lost the war, he is alive and roaming about the earth, tempting us to turn away from God. That is his sole purpose – to tempt us to separate ourselves from God. But do not fear, for we have the Holy Spirit – a gift from Jesus – to combat the temptations. The same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead lives in us and is quite capable – to steer us clear of acting upon the temptations of life.

Therefore, go forth with confidence that you are fully empowered to be God’s servant today – free of fear and worry – ready to love God and love others – guided by the powerful Holy Spirit!

The “HOW TO” of Living

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires, but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:5-8 NIV Translation

 Or said another way:

Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored. Romans 8:5-8 The Message

The Apostle Paul goes onto say:

 But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!

So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!  

Romans 8:9-17 The Message

We are an integral part of God’s work in ourselves. Each of us must identify our own tendencies toward self-focus and what triggers our tendency to turn towards ourselves and not immediately towards God. Intently refocusing on God in these situations will shed a whole new light on our self-created cyclone and give us a new perspective. With this new perspective, our personal swirling dervish starts to diminish. And when the swirling dervish starts to slow down, misperceptions can be reinterpreted in the light of truth. Forgiveness becomes a reality. The by-products of the self-focused behavior begin to fall off.

The end result of the change from self-focus to God-focus is love and peace and joy – not to mention patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Who is my Neighbor?

. . . so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”          

Luke 10:29-37

 

FAST FORWARD – TWO THOUSAND YEARS LATER

A young couple was traveling from a big city to the safety of the country. They had lost everything in a hurricane but had enough money to buy two train tickets to make it to within 100 miles of their destination.   They did not speak the native language very well, but knew enough to get by. They used their phone gps sparingly (they lost their charger) to point them in the right direction.

They walked for days trying to avoid difficult situations. They were hungry and tired. A storm drenched them. They found shelter on the steps of a locked church and slept on the concrete stoop. They persevered.

As they walked down a major highway, a follower of Jesus whizzed past them in the safety of her mini-van. She wondered what two people were doing walking down a highway with a duffle bag on their shoulder. She said a prayer for them but did not stop to inquire as to their condition – she was very busy and her mind moved on. Hundreds of other cars passed them by with no one inquiring as to their need.

Four hours later, the Jesus follower was returning home from work. It had been a very long day and she had things to do at home – children to care for, laundry to complete, plans to make. And then, she saw them.

Immediately, she knew that this moment in time was no coincidence – she had long ago learned that there are no coincidences in life. She called her husband who confirmed that she should not stop alone and so she traveled onto her hometown stopping at a fellow Jesus follower’s house for assistance. He immediately set aside his dinner and came with her.

The two of them stopped near the couple who were standing near a bridge. As they approached the young people, the Jesus Follower asked if they needed help. The young lady hesitantly and in a few words of English said they were fine.

Realizing that the couple did not speak her language very well, the Jesus Follower asked if they needed food and a place to stay. The Jesus Follower explained that she would call a Pastor friend who could help. The young lady’s eyes lit up when she heard “pastor” and looked with pleading eyes at her companion.   She spoke to him in her native tongue and he hesitantly agreed.

The Jesus Follower called her friend, the Pastor, who was the director of a local church sponsored support agency. He steered them to a local campground and promised to assist in the morning. The couple climbed into the Jesus Followers van and they drove to the campground. All the cabins were full but the Campground owners offered a place to pitch a tent. The Jesus Followers called other Jesus Followers and with the wheels in motion for shelter, they traveled to a local fast food restaurant for dinner.

The couple was hungry and appreciated the meal. “Gracious” was shared. “God bless you” was spoken by these young people from a foreign land to the Jesus Followers. Breakfast foods were obtained and they all returned to the campground where three more Jesus Followers met them with a tent, sleeping mats and a cell phone charger. Bedding was produced by the campground who provided a bathhouse and the ability to charge the phone. The Pastor arrived in the morning and took them to breakfast, provided them with shoes, clothing, train tickets, and transport to the train.

Jesus asks the same questions: “Who are these young people’s neighbors?”

The Body of Christ answers, “Jesus Followers who had mercy on them, without regard to where they were from, what they had done, or where they were headed because: God knows them. God loves them. God provides for them.

That is how the Body of Christ should work. Each Jesus Follower discerning in the moment they are in what they are being called to do. There is no need to worry about the big picture or how the parts come together because God is in charge of that. Jesus Followers must learn to focus on Jesus and do what is right and good in the day they are in. If the Body of Christ can learn to do that individually, then we can be used by God together for His Glory – and one day when we are called home, we, too, can hear those words of Glory – “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Construction Zone

I am the way the truth and the life no one comes to the father except through me. John 14:6

 I waited at road construction the other day. It was 90+ degrees and I was praying for the flag holder – what a difficult job! My air conditioner was pumping cool air into my car and I was quite comfortable but that flagger was red faced and sweating.   It was a long wait because there was a “follow me” vehicle. Soon, it was my turn to follow the lead car. It was a windy road and there were multiple work crews on a 2-mile stretch. It was good to have the lead car because we kept switching lanes.

As I sat in contemplation with God today, I was reminded of that experience. God was helping me understand it as a parable. Jesus is the “lead car”. Those of us who are followers of Jesus are following Him through the road construction of life. Life is a windy road, with unexpected turns and lane changes. Jesus leads us through the twists and turns, the hazards and road blocks – through the rough patches and pot holes. As we experience this journey we are bumping up against God’s gift to us through Jesus – eternal life!

Eternal life is not something we “attain” at death but something that we have already received as believers in Jesus Christ. It is not taken from us when we screw up or hit a pot hole. It is here. It is now. It is real. We are His.

Ryan Stevenson describes it this way in his song “No Matter What”:

A lot of us grew up believing
At any moment we could lose it all
And at the drop of a hat
God might turn his back and move on
A lot of us feel like we blew it
Thinking that we’re just too far gone
But I want you to know
There’s still a hope for you now

No matter what you’ve done
You can’t erase His love
Nothing can change it
You’re not separated
No matter what

There’s never been a better time to get honest
There’s never been a better time to get clean
So come as you are
Run to the cross and be free
Oh be free

No matter what you’ve done
You can’t erase His love
Nothing can change it
You’re not separated
No matter where you run
He’s always holding on
You’re still a daughter, You’re still a son
No matter what

Don’t know what you’ve been taught
Don’t know what you’ve been told
All I know is my God
Will never let go of you
And I don’t know what you’ve seen
Don’t know what you’ve been through
All I know is my God
Will never let go of you
He’ll never let go

One day, we will all reach the end of the construction zone of life. In the meantime, the key to persevering is to keep our eyes on the one who knows the way – the one who leads us through the trials and tribulations of life – the one who deliverers us to the other side of each of these experiences – Jesus.

All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6:37-40

What a Waste of Time!

It is such a common trap – thinking about how someone else should be acting towards someone or something – trying to figure out what someone will think if a certain thing is said or a certain action occurs.

God, come close. Come quickly!
    Open your ears—it’s my voice you’re hearing!
Treat my prayer as sweet incense rising;
    my raised hands are my evening prayers.

Post a guard at my mouth, God,
    set a watch at the door of my lips.
Don’t let me so much as dream of evil
    or thoughtlessly fall into bad company.
And these people who only do wrong—
    don’t let them lure me with their sweet talk!
May the Just One set me straight,
    may the Kind One correct me,
Don’t let sin anoint my head.
    I’m praying hard against their evil ways!
Psalm 141:1-7 The Message

 It becomes so complicated – this thing called life – when we are trying to figure out other people’s reactions and then what our reaction should be. We are tempted to repeat the issue over and over again to others (getting conflicting advise) which causes it to become bigger and more distorted. We “fret” and cause ourselves anxiety about an issue that has increased in size as we smolder in it. But remember, Jesus commands us to actively stop the fretting and set the worry aside.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me” John 14:1

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 15:33

 When in those situations – when we are being pulled toward worry, intrigue and judgment, it’s always good to remind ourselves of what we should be doing instead – loving our neighbor as ourselves.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Cor 13:4-8

If we pray and ask God into the situation – If we remember that we are to actively set aside our worry – If love never fails – Then these situations are simplified in our minds and our job is to do what is “right” and “good” in the moment we are in and let God handle the rest. We don’t need to revisit the situation or dwell on it or smolder in it or worry about tomorrow. GOD HAS IT! AMEN!!

The Intersection of Grace with Prayer

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” Ephesians 2:8-10. 

Grace is the unmerited and overflowing favor of God. We don’t deserve it, but God extends it because Jesus opened the pathway for us to be redeemed by Him. His extending Grace to us is also beyond our comprehension – overflowing in ways we simply cannot fathom.

God’s Grace intersects with each of us on a daily basis – we cooperate with God’s Grace through prayer.

Prayer is communicating with God. It can be corporate in nature – as in a prayer together with others during worship at Church. However, most prayer is “personal”. It is talking with God in solitude and silence, in the midst of disaster and chaos – in whatever situation we are in – at work, at play, at worship. It is done by kneeling or standing or sitting or running or singing. Prayer cannot be put into a box of “how to” but instead it is a lifestyle of consistently seeking relationship with God.

When God’s Grace intersects with our Prayer, we are cooperating with God to make the moment we are in Holy. It is how He asks us to live – drawing on his unmerited favor which overflows into our lives each and every day. Does that mean that we can ask anything and expect that He will respond –YES!! – He will respond – not always as we imagined or requested but He always responds to one of His children.

And what is the result of this lifestyle? Peace. Simple, uncomplicated Peace. Paul puts it this way in his letter to the Philippians:

Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, take pleasure in Him]; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit [your graciousness, unselfishness, mercy, tolerance, and patience] be known to all people. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God.  And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].

Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart].  The things which you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things [in daily life], and the God [who is the source] of peace and well-being will be with you.

Philippians 4:7-9

Remember . . . . God wants us to seek Him.  As we seek Him more and more, His Grace will become more and more evident to us. . . . God’s Grace is enough. His Will Be Done. Amen

Suffering – What to do, say and pray!

What do we do when someone who we love is faced with deep anguish, pain and suffering? What do we say? How do we pray?

The Book of Job gives us insight into a situation beyond the knowledge of Job and his four friends. Job had no idea that God and Satan were in the midst of an interaction involving Job who God had declared was righteous in God’s eyes. Satan argued that Job was righteous because he had been so wonderfully blessed by God – a great family, lots of possessions and the respect of his community. Job 1-2

But God knew what Job was made of – He created him! God allowed Satan to take away Job’s blessings. What followed was the terrible suffering of Job who could not understand his circumstances and his friends who judged rather than comforted. Job 3-37

God reveals to us in the Book of Job these nuggets of wisdom:

  1. God is in charge and is looking at the entire picture that we do not have the ability to comprehend. It is not our job to figure out the “why” of a tragedy. If we focus on the “why”, we will fall into a pit of despair that will be difficult to climb out of.
  2. We will all suffer. Each person will have their own trouble. Jesus reminded us of this when he told his disciples that his time had come. He stated, “Now my heart is troubled and what shall I say? ‘Father save me from this hour?’ No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” John 12:27-28.
  3. Suffering removes shallowness. In the course of suffering most of us become more empathetic. In other words, suffering can prepare us to help others. God has put in place persons who are our safety net in the event of a fall. They cannot save us from the fall but they can offer comfort, reassurance and hope to help us weather the storm. Safety nets are made up of a few persons who have usually weathered their own storms with the help of others.
  4. Since there is no way to truly know why a tragic event occurs, we need to focus our energies elsewhere. If you know you are part of the safety net for another, do not shirk your duty. Rest assured that if you do, God will call someone else but you will have missed an opportunity. In that event, repent and move on – ever more vigilant the next time you are called.
  5. In the midst of the storm, there is no room for judgment. Judgment means we are focusing on the “why” instead of the person. Our focus should be “do unto others as you want others to do unto you”.
  6. What to do, say or pray?
    • If you are part of someone’s inner circle, go to them, listening and loving as the Holy Spirit moves in you. There are no hard and fast rules on comfort. It is a work of the Holy Spirit.   Those who ask God to go before them and trust that God is in control of the situation will do and say the right thing. (Job’s friends did start out with the right idea – they went to him, sat with him presumably with the intent to comfort him. However, their focus was on the “why” of the situation instead of sharing the hope of the Living God.)
    • If you are not part of someone’s inner circle, but have been called by circumstance or experience, do your part. Is it sending a card with words of encouragement? Is it helping with a task that will ease the load of the suffering person or their inner circle? Is it a hospital visit or a meal? Is it monetary assistance?
    • If you are not part of someone’s inner circle but the person has been placed on your heart, pray for the person and the people who are part of the inner circle. Your prayers are strengthening the Body of Christ. They are of critical importance.
  7. Persevere in faith. God is good and we can safely rely on Him in our troubled times. In the midst of our trouble or someone else’s, we need to draw close to Him so out of our relationship, we will find His comfort. The key to developing this focus is to practice it on a daily basis during the good times and the mundane times, because trouble will eventually come to us all.  So in this day and in this week be in the practice of “making each moment Holy”.

Remember, God is in charge. He is good – ALL the time. He has The Plan. He is the judge – not us. We can trust in Him even when circumstances are not what we think they should be or what we want them to be. Suffering will come. Ask and you will receive Holy Spirit guidance to be able to persevere and to be able to be the safety net for others.  Our focus in times of trouble should be on Him. Our focus when others are in trouble should be on Him. So, persevere in faith. And Remember, 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

Fruit Bearers

Talking with His disciples, Jesus conveyed to them what the process of life with Him is like. He wanted them to understand the relationship between Himself, God and us. As was His way, He taught the disciples using something they were familiar with – a vineyard and the process the Gardner painstakingly engages in to produce fruit for His use.

“I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.

“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.

 “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.

“I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.

“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.

“You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.

“But remember the root command: Love one another.”  

John 15:1-17 The Message

This process of life is just that – a process. We have been grafted into God through Jesus. Once grafted, we are pruned in order to bear fruit not for ourselves but for God’s Glory.

Practically speaking, this means that we need to take an active approach to abide in Jesus.

  1. Believe that when we are grafted onto the Vine, Jesus will not remove us. Set worry behind you – it is unbelief. Unbelief can only be conquered through the process of pruning.
  2. Remember who is first in our life. Jesus is the source of our life – without the Vine, we would have been dead branches (burned and discarded). However, since we believe and are grafted to the vine, we need to remember not to turn from the source of life. Actively seek Him – by taking time to: worship, delve into His Word, communicate with Him (prayer) and serve those placed in our paths on a daily basis. Abiding can only be accomplished through pruning.
  3. Know God’s commands and follow them. This can only occur if we delve into God’s Word and actively seek to follow what we read. Welcome the pruning process knowing that you are being drawn closer and closer to the Gardner!
  4. Celebrate the pruning that occurs in our life. Attitude does matter. When tough times come, we need to be vigilant to abide in Jesus with our attitude, words and responses. As the pruning process becomes more refined, we can see how far we have progressed!
  5. The point of the Gardner/Vine/Branch analogy is to help us understand that we are not in this alone – in fact we are not “in charge”. Our job is to stick to the Vine and not turn from it. Pruning helps us understand that abiding in Jesus is good and getting ahead of Jesus on our own direction is not.
  6. Remember why Jesus told the disciples about the vine and the branches – so that His joy could be theirs! Be joyful – not just in the good times but also in the challenging times. Pruning does produce joy; so welcome it!
  7. Love one another. In each day, we need to be aware of those placed in our path and care for them. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in that care. Walk with others through difficult times as others have walked with you. Send a note. Make a call. Cook a meal. Listen. Share in others celebrations. If you miss these opportunities, don’t worry; pruning produces more opportunities!

The point of pruning is to bear fruit. And as fruit bearers, God will hear you. God is pleased when you talk with Him. Remember, a request to God, made out of pure love for God’s Will to be done in a person’s life, will be granted. He promised.

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow – A Perspective

Forget the former things;

do not dwell on the past.

See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the wilderness

and streams in the wasteland.

The wild animals honor me,

the jackals and the owls,

because I provide water in the wilderness

and streams in the wasteland,

to give drink to my people, my chosen,

the people I formed for myself

that they may proclaim my praise. Isaiah 43:18-21

The “past” sets the stage for the present. It is the launching point for today.

Having perspective on “what has been” is a matter of life or death – of joy or continued sorrow – of eternal significance or of no significance.

Our pain of yesterday – is just that – past pain. It is not present pain unless we choose to continue it in this day. It takes a reordering of our mind to choose God and His righteousness in this day.

Use the past to remember how to live in today.

Those earlier ones never did get to the place of rest because they were disobedient. God keeps renewing the promise and setting the date as today, just as he did in David’s psalm, centuries later than the original invitation:

Today, please listen,
    don’t turn a deaf ear . . .

 And so this is still a live promise. It wasn’t canceled at the time of Joshua; otherwise, God wouldn’t keep renewing the appointment for “today.” The promise of “arrival” and “rest” is still there for God’s people. God himself is at rest. And at the end of the journey we’ll surely rest with God. So let’s keep at it and eventually arrive at the place of rest, not drop out through some sort of disobedience. Hebrews 4:5-11 The Message

Our goal for “today” is to bring glory to God in each moment by living obediently as Jesus teaches us – in peace with others, acting in a righteous manner (being honest, kind, merciful, humble, meek, pure in heart) and praising God in word and deed.

So, in this day. . . 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 11:28-32

Remember, “today” has enough worries of its own – so don’t dwell on what is to come.

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:28-34

The purpose of “tomorrow” is to live righteously today. Concentrate on today and tomorrow will take care of itself. Eternity meets us in today and will meet us again, tomorrow, either here or in Heaven.

Remember, today is tomorrow’s past so live “right” today and launch into tomorrow at the right place.

Slipping?

If you feel yourself slipping into depression or lethargy;

If you feel directionless with no indication of where to turn;

If you are hurt and unable to be comforted;

If you are grieving with no end to your pain;

If you are questioning His presence;

If you are worried and losing hope;

If you feel your faith slipping away;

If you feel completely alone;

If you feel misunderstood and have no one to turn to;

If you are trapped in circumstances beyond your control;

If you are in need of reassurance and unfailing love.

Then, turn to the Word of God.

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.

He will not let your foot slip –  he who watches over you will not slumber . . . Psalm 121:1-3

 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

 Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. . . Matthew 5:3-6

 Be still and know that I am God . . . Psalm 46:10

 Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? . . . Matthew 6:25-27

 I am the Way, the Truth and the Life – No one comes to the Father except through me.  John 14:6

 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 . . . Matthew 7:7-8

 I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. . . . John 7:25

It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this and I will be his God and he will be my son.     Rev. 21:6-7

Don’t you give up!

We must trust that God’s Plan for us is being worked out even if we don’t understand and even if it is difficult. For we know His Plans are to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us hope and a future. See Jeremiah 29:11.

If you are in a place of turmoil – a place where you do not understand His plan – then ask God for His Word to fill your being, for His Spirit to comfort your emotions, and for a song in your heart to help your thoughts from turning negative.

Natalie Grant sings of this in her song, More than Anything:

I know if You wanted to You could wave Your hand
Spare me this heartache, and change Your plan
And I know any second You could take my pain away
But even if You don’t, I pray

Help me want the Healer
More than the healing
Help me want the Savior
More than the saving
Help me want the Giver
More than the giving
Oh help me want You Jesus
More than anything

You know more than anyone that my flesh is weak
And You know I’d give anything for a remedy
And I’ll ask a thousand more times to set me free today
Oh but even if You don’t, I pray

When we focus on Jesus, instead of what we can get from Him, we are able to walk in God’s Plan even when it is difficult and we don’t understand. Why? – Because we have Resurrection Power living on the inside of us through Jesus’ gift of the Holy Spirit.

Chris Tomlin sings of the mighty power of the Holy Spirit in the song entitled Resurrection Power:

You called me from the grave by name
You called me out of all my shame
I see the old has passed away
The new has come

Now I have resurrection power
Living on the inside
Jesus, You have given us freedom
No longer bound by sin and darkness
Living in the light of Your goodness
You have given us freedom

I’m dressed in Your royalty
Your holy spirit lives in me
I see my past has been redeemed
The new has come

Freedom
You have given us freedom
You have given us freedom
My chains are gone

When we grasp the freedom given to us by Christ through the Holy Spirit, we can live expectantly – looking for His Miracles – each and every day – knowing that through our faith and trust, His plans will prevail.

So don’t you give up! Expect that in each and every day, God’s miraculous power is at work through the Holy Spirit for our good. Expect a miracle. Look for them. Do not give up. Do not worry – worry means you are not trusting in Him and the resurrection power living on the inside of you.

Unspoken reminds us to never give up in their song Miracle:

Have you stopped reaching
No longer seeking greater things
Have you forgotten
You have a Father listening

He tells the sun when to rise
Gives the wind it’s breath
Swings a door wide open and
Moves in the moment you least expect

Don’t you give up on a miracle
You’ve got to speak to the impossible
You gotta
Pray till your breakthrough breaks through the ceiling
Keep on believing
Don’t you give up
Don’t you give up
On a miracle

How many chances
How many answers
Pass us by
You know it takes faith
To step on the waves
When you’re terrified
When you’re backed in a corner
And you can’t wait any longer

Don’t you give up on a miracle
You’ve got to speak to the impossible
You gotta
Pray till your breakthrough breaks through the ceiling
Keep on believing
Don’t you give up
Don’t you give up
On a miracle

Feels like the prayers and the words you have spoken
They go unnoticed
Like drops in the ocean
Just beyond the veil of your vision
You’re mountains are moving, moving on
Remember the works his hands have done
Where you once were and how far you’ve come

Don’t you give up on a miracle
You’ve got to speak to the impossible
You gotta
Pray till your breakthrough breaks through the ceiling
Keep on believing
Don’t you give up
Don’t you give up
On a miracle

So in this day, focus on making each moment Holy. . . Remember eternity meets us in this moment.

Life Lines

As she careened down the flooded creek in a canoe, she began to wonder about her decision to join her friends in what appeared now to be a foolish adventure. It was March and it had rained for days. The water was cold – very cold. Wasn’t this the type of situation that her parents had warned her about? Had she assessed the risks correctly? Was she properly prepared for this?

She heard a yell followed by a splash. Turning, she saw two friends in the water. Her boyfriend said, “They will be alright. We’ll pull off.” But, she couldn’t leave them and pleaded with him to turn around and help.

As they maneuvered their canoe towards their friends, they were sucked up against some trees. She leaned trying to stay upright as her boyfriend yelled, “Don’t lean!!” It was too late. Water started filling the canoe. Her boyfriend yelled, “Get out!!!”   She did. She whirled downstream until her feet hit solid ground. Thankful, she stood in the middle of the raging creek, life vest on, calm and satisfied that she was safe.

Her boyfriend had made it to the side of the creek and started yelling at her to swim. She simply replied, “No”.   Others joined him directing her to swim, but why would she. She was safe – she felt secure. Her mind was not registering that she was freezing or that water raged around her shoulders. She did not think about the trees and debris that were shooting down the river towards her. She just knew that she was very safe with two feet on solid ground.

They all continued to yell but she heard none of it – it seemed serene where she was and very quiet. But something caught her attention. Her boyfriend was staring at her. Their eyes locked. She noticed that he had never looked at her that way – what was it? Love? Genuine concern?

She wondered why. She opened her ears to hear what he was saying. He was pleading with her – “You have to get out of the water; you are going to freeze.” He started into the water and it was as if his soul reached out to her and in that split second she believed that she should do what he told her because she believed in him – not in what he was telling her to do – but in him. Why would he look at her that way and encourage her to do something that would hurt her? Why would he not want her to be ok? Why would he come back into the raging water towards her if everything was alright?

She launched herself into the raging waters again, swimming across the rapids. She was panicking – why had she listened to him. She was safe in the middle where her feet could touch. She should have stayed. She would have been safe there. But now that she was in the water she had to swim and swim hard.

As she was dragged up from the waters, she heard his voice, taking charge of her, telling her to get up and walk. She did not want to walk. She just swam through a raging creek. She was exhausted. She just wanted to sit. What was he yelling at her about when she just did what he told her to do!! Didn’t she deserve to just rest – but he was pulling her up, practically dragging her towards the road. The others were going too – quickly as if they were late for something.

She allowed herself to be led along the side of the creek, but her strength started to slip away. Her boyfriend was practically carrying her. She was cold – very, very cold. Her mind was not working as it should – she had just come through a near tragedy and she was not able to focus. Things seemed to be happening in slow motion. From her daze, she saw them knocking on someone’s door. They were welcomed into warmth and the hospitality of new friends.

Reflection

This is a life moment – one that happens every moment of every day somewhere in this world. A moment when a person helps someone else through a sheer desire to save them. A moment born out of love for someone else who is in a terrible situation. A moment when a life line is thrown and when someone realizes they need help or when the life line is accepted even if the person does not believe they need help. It is a moment when a person in trouble takes a step towards freedom because they believe someone else has the answer. It is a moment when belief is born not out of a person’s own knowledge but because that person is confident in someone else’s knowledge.

The following Scripture is a challenge to all of us. Where are you in God’s story?

Scripture – John 14:5-14 Jesus the Way to the Father

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.  

Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.  

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

Challenge

Do we believe in Jesus because he is living in us or do we believe because someone we trust believes?

Are we in the middle of a raging creek unable to hear the people shouting from the bank? Are we under a delusion that we are safe in the middle of the raging waters because it is easier to continue in our perceived safety than cross the raging waters to freedom? Have we focused in on someone who has earned our trust and asked Jesus to open our ears to hear? Do we believe because the evidence of Jesus is exhibited in the person we trust?

Are we a life line for someone to begin to believe? If we are a life line, have we taken the additional steps to bring our friend into safety? Have we stood on the bank and called to them? Have we stepped into the raging waters and held out our hand? Have we brought them into the warmth, clothing them in love and feeding them with the knowledge of Jesus so that they too can become life lines for others?

 

Resurrection Power

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Phillipians 4:10

 

Reflection

 

Do you know what power you have through the Holy Spirit who was sent to us by Jesus Christ? Do you grasp the enormity of this Truth?  The verses that follow verse 10 give us the answers but the answer is worked out differently in each of us.

 

Scripture

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.  I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Phillipians 4:10-13 NIV

 

Or The Message translates it this way:

 

I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don’t mean that your help didn’t mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles.

 

Challenge

 

How The Spirit works the power of Christ out in each of us is miraculous and beautiful. Think about how this occurs in your life. Write your Resurrection Power list knowing that each day God will add to it. What follows is a generalized beginning list. Make yours to include the situations and circumstances that have transformed or are transforming you.

 

Resurrection Power is believing today that we became and are a new creation in Christ when we first believed that He is the Son of God.

 

Resurrection Power is believing that we can do all things through Christ who set us free from our past.

 

Resurrection Power is focusing on today (tomorrow has enough worries of its own) and acting upon what God has promised us in this day.

 

Resurrection Power is being content in our circumstance of today because we believe God is moving us past it or through it or around it or over it.

 

Resurrection Power is being content knowing that no matter what the circumstance I have all in need in Jesus.

 

Resurrection Power is the certainty of impossibility.

 

Resurrection Power is unconditional love at its finest.

 

Resurrection Power is the belief that the Holy Spirit is working is us today.

 

Resurrection Power is the joy of the mundane.

 

Resurrection Power is trusting that God has healed our soul wounds.

 

Resurrection Power is confidence that Jesus is alive in us in each and every moment.

 

Resurrection Power is the confidence that the Holy Spirit is moving through the unexpected “feeling” of deep confidence in a decision or a “catch in our Spirit” which makes us pause before acting.

 

 

Weathering the Storms

Reflection:

We anticipate a hard day filled with many activities, work decisions, deadlines or interactions with people that sap our strength. We run quickly into the fray – never stopping to breath or assess our state of being – no time to think about God let alone seek His counsel or be thankful for His Blessings.  And yet, we yearn for His wisdom. We ask for it in our off-handed way. When we arrive home after our event filled day, we are too tired to do anything but finish our day with our favorite “zone out” activity – you know what yours is – watching television, withdrawing into social media, computer surfing or gaming, shopping, excessive drinking, exercising, reading – escaping because you “deserve” it after the hard day you’ve put in! We fall asleep exhausted having taken no time to be still with God.

What just happened to your day? Where was God in it? How are we to gain wisdom from the storms and happenings of our day if we don’t take time to assess what just happened! God is providing us with Truth if only we will take time to sit, be still, and commune with our Creator and the One sent to redeem us.

Scripture – Jesus Calms the Storm – Mark 4:35-41

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.  A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Challenge:

Faith is gained by exercising it. Exercising faith means relying on the Truth. Relying on the Truth means trusting the One from whom the Truth comes. Trust overcomes fear. In order to overcome fear and trust Jesus, we need to spend time with Him.

What storm are you in the midst of that needs to be “Quiet! Be still!”?

What fear do you need to set aside in favor of faith?

Will you claim the “Resurrection Power” that is in you through the Holy Spirit, to speak to your current storm?

What one thing can you give up in order to spend daily time with Jesus?

Being Certain in the Uncertainty

Reflection

 For most of us, being uncertain of what is to come is a sign of weakness. We think it speaks to being unprepared or ignorant of our circumstances. We think it represents to others that we are not fit to be in a leadership position because we have not anticipated the next course of events. It means we have not “mapped out” where others are going to “zig “ so we can “zag” appropriately to gain an advantage.

The truth is NO ONE knows what tomorrow will bring. We can all make educated guesses of what is to come in many areas of life but we have no idea what will happen in any given day. We simply do not know.   If we sit too long thinking about our lack of knowledge about the future it will produce anxiety – why? Because we want to know – we want to be in control – we want to set our own course – we want to be in charge of our destiny.

Again, the TRUTH is we cannot know – we are not in control – we cannot set our own course and we are not in charge of our destiny.

The key is to know what to be certain about so that we view uncertainty with anticipation instead of dread. As you read the Scripture below, put yourself in Paul’s shoes and walk with him as he journey’s to Damascus. You might just figure out what you need to be certain about.

Scripture

 All this time Saul was breathing down the necks of the Master’s disciples, out for the kill. He went to the Chief Priest and got arrest warrants to take to the meeting places in Damascus so that if he found anyone there belonging to the Way, whether men or women, he could arrest them and bring them to Jerusalem.

He set off. When he got to the outskirts of Damascus, he was suddenly dazed by a blinding flash of light. As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice: “Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?”

He said, “Who are you, Master?”

“I am Jesus, the One you’re hunting down. I want you to get up and enter the city. In the city you’ll be told what to do next.”

His companions stood there dumbstruck—they could hear the sound, but couldn’t see anyone—while Saul, picking himself up off the ground, found himself stone-blind. They had to take him by the hand and lead him into Damascus. He continued blind for three days. He ate nothing, drank nothing.

There was a disciple in Damascus by the name of Ananias. The Master spoke to him in a vision: “Ananias.”

Yes, Master?” he answered.

“Get up and go over to Straight Avenue. Ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus. His name is Saul. He’s there praying. He has just had a dream in which he saw a man named Ananias enter the house and lay hands on him so he could see again.”

Ananias protested, “Master, you can’t be serious. Everybody’s talking about this man and the terrible things he’s been doing, his reign of terror against your people in Jerusalem! And now he’s shown up here with papers from the Chief Priest that give him license to do the same to us.”

But the Master said, “Don’t argue. Go! I have picked him as my personal representative to non-Jews and kings and Jews. And now I’m about to show him what he’s in for—the hard suffering that goes with this job.”

So Ananias went and found the house, placed his hands on blind Saul, and said, “Brother Saul, the Master sent me, the same Jesus you saw on your way here. He sent me so you could see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes—he could see again! He got to his feet, was baptized, and sat down with them to a hearty meal.

Acts 9:1-19 The Message

Challenge

Paul thought he had a good plan that was based on his religious training as a Pharisee and on his misguided belief that God wanted to eradicate the “Jesus followers” involved in “heresy”.   He was executing that plan to perfection when God showed him who was really in charge, what his destiny would be and where he would go from that point. After his encounter with Jesus, Paul’s certainty was not in his own plans but in his Savior.  He knew that each day was going to be about following Jesus – he became certain in the uncertainty.

What part of Paul’s story are you in?

-Are you in the process of planning something that might be off course? Have you consulted (prayed) Jesus in your planning process?

-Are you “blinded” and waiting for God’s direction? Have you sought help (prayed) from Jesus?

-If you are off course, have you consulted Jesus (prayed) about how to make a hard “right” turn? Has God provided an “Ananias” for you? Have you listened, turned and stepped out in faith onto your new path?

-Has God called you to be an “Ananias” for someone? Have you listened or are you still arguing with God about it?

R. H. Loy

God’s Deposit

Reflection

At Pentecost, The Holy Spirit was given to believers in Jesus – people that believed that he had died and rose to be received by God.

We receive the Holy Spirit when we believe in Jesus. Depending on the tradition of the group of Christians we affiliate ourselves with, the determination by others as to when a believer receives the Holy Spirit may differ but the bottom line is that a believer in Jesus receives the Holy Spirit – meaning we have been infused with the Resurrection power of Jesus Christ.

In other words, “we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength”. (Phil 4:13)   The test as to whether we are “doing” what we should be doing is determining if we are walking as The Holy Spirit directs us to. The question we need to ask of ourselves on a daily basis is this: Am I loving the Lord my God with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind and with all my strength and my neighbor as myself”? See Mark 12:30

The second question is this: Am I “doing” what I want to do for my own benefit and comfort or am I “doing” what The Holy Spirit is leading me to do realizing that God’s investment (The Holy Spirit) in me requires a response.

Read this familiar Parable (of the Talents) from the Gospel of Matthew 25:14-30 understanding that the man (Jesus) entrusted his wealth (The Holy Spirit) to each of us in accordance with our abilities.

The Parable of the Bags of Gold

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them.  To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.  The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more.  So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more.  But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.  The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?  Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

“ ‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags.  For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.  And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 25:14-30

Challenge:

Assess your life in view of the power of the Resurrection which God has deposited in you?

How does your assessment impact your current course of life?

Speak to the Impossible

In these scriptural situations, Abraham, Daniel, Paul and Jesus faced the impossible. Spend some time stepping into each of their lives. Do you feel their anguish? Can you relate to infertility or abuse? Have you faced death in your job or through the suffering of another? Have you been persecuted?

What did they do when faced with the impossible?

Abraham and Sarah

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation,and I will bless you; . . . So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. (Genesis 12:1-2,4)

Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.”  He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.( Genesis 15:4-6)

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne.Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.

(Genesis 16:1-2, 15-16)

Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac; I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. (Genesis 17:17-19)

Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he said. Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him.  Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing.  So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” (Genesis 18:9-12)

Daniel and the Lion’s Den

At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”

Daniel answered, “May the king live forever!  My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”

The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. (Daniel 6:19-23)

Paul and Silas in Prison

The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. (Acts 16:22-26)

Jesus in Gethsemane

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.  “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him.  “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:32-36)

Reflection

Sit with your impossible – As you contemplate your impossible situation hear these words from the song Miracle by Unspoken (video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yrV9kRr888)

Have you stopped reaching 
No longer seeking greater things 
Have you forgotten 
You have a Father listening

He tells the sun when to rise 
Gives the wind it’s breath 
Swings a door wide open and 
Moves in the moment you least expect 

(Chorus) Don’t you give up on a miracle 
You’ve got to speak to the impossible 
You gotta
Pray till your breakthrough breaks through the ceiling 
Keep on believing 
Don’t you give up 
Don’t you give up 
On a miracle 

How many chances 
How many answers 
Pass us by 
You know it takes faith 
To step on the waves 
When you’re terrified 
When you’re backed in a corner 
And you can’t wait any longer 

(Chorus)

Feels like the prayers and the words you have spoken 
They go unnoticed 
Like drops in the ocean 
Just beyond the veil of your vision 
You’re mountains are moving, moving on 
Remember the works his hands have done 
Where you once were and how far you’ve come 

(Chorus)

(Publishing: © 2016 Centricity Music Publishing (ASCAP)/Jon Lowry designee/Wordspring Music, LLC & Fleauxmotion Music (SESAC) Writers: Chad Mattson, Jon Lowry and Tedd T)

So in this day, speak to your impossible. In your darkness and your solitude, speak to the impossible. Remember . . .

Abraham did it by his faith in God’s Word to him – stepping out and persevering and it was credited to him as righteousness. God took care of the impossible!

Daniel did it by standing firm in the midst of terror and fear – stepping into certain death and faithfully facing those fears. God took care of the impossible!

Paul did it by faithfully worshiping and praising God in the midst of abuse, pain, and imprisonment. God took care of the impossible!

Jesus did it by going off by Himself and sharing His heartache and anguish with His Abba, recognizing that He wanted what God wanted regardless of the human sacrifice that God required.  God took care of the impossible!

R.H. Loy

STAND FIRM

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints…

Ephesians 6:10-18 New American Standard Bible

 

OR maybe understanding comes through this biblical version:

 

And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

Ephesians 6:10-18 The Message

 

Reflection: This message of preparation is critical to our spiritual well-being and that of the people God has placed in our lives. We need to take heed and be aware that there is a battle going on that we cannot fully comprehend but which exists whether we acknowledge it or not.

God has not abandoned us in this battle but has provided us with armor to protect ourselves and others. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation as described in God’s Word are set forth as actions to protect us. Practicing these actions strengthens us for the battle. Prayer should be our constant companion because it is our lifeline of communication with God.

We are called to stand firm in the battle against evil. That means using the weapons of truth, righteousness, peace, faith and salvation gained by delving into God’s Word and praying for guidance. God is at the forefront of these battles (the war having been won by the death and resurrection of Jesus) and we are called to do our part by standing firm.

 Contemplate (read God’s Word and think about it) the weapons given to us (truth, righteousness, peace, faith and salvation) and ask God to reveal to you which weapon in your arsenal needs to be sharpened.

Ask God (pray) for assistance in sharpening that weapon(s) and BE PREPARED for situations to arise where you will need to exercise the weapon. Remember, it is only through exercising our weapons in the small skirmishes that we are prepared for the battles to come.

 R.H. Loy

Doubts?

Jesus Appears to Thomas

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

John 20:24-29

 

Reflection: Thomas, like many of us, doubted. Jesus did not chide him for his doubts but instead encouraged him to check out his wounds – to seek the Truth and Believe.

Jesus does not shun us for our doubts – He encourages us with His Truth.

Yesterday, as I greeted Easter at sunrise, I marveled at the fact that although I did not see the sun rise as I had hoped, it rose nonetheless. It rose even though clouds obscured my vision. It rose whether I believed that it would rise or not.

Jesus arose and is alive today whether we see Him or not – whether our vision is obscured or not – whether we believe or not.

So return to the Truth – refocus on its message – rebuild your life upon it – and remember what it teaches you.

R.H. Loy

Jesus is Risen!

The Empty Tomb

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words.

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened. Luke 24:1-12

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.  He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?  Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.  And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.  He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,  and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.  I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:36-49

Reflection

The disciples were just waking up from their Sabbath rest. (Remember, Jesus was hurriedly buried on the First Day of the Feast of the Unleavened Bread because the Sabbath was approaching.) They were still reeling from what they had witnessed – the brutal torture and death of Jesus on the Cross. So their reaction to the women’s account of what they found at the tomb is understandable and their reaction to seeing Jesus again is – well “perfectly human”! They were not prepared for Him to be alive. They did not remember His words to them before He died – they had to be reminded.

Step into the shoes of the disciples at the moment they saw Jesus and heard him say “Peace be with you”. What would the Truth that He is alive and risen from the dead mean to you?

On this first day of the new week after the trauma of the 6th day and the rest/refreshment of the 7th day, are you prepared to meet the Risen Christ? If not, sit with Jesus and ask Him to open your mind to understand the scripture and to show you what He has prepared for you.

Lessons from the day in Between

Creation

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. Genesis 1:27-28, 31, 2:1-3

The Sabbath

Then the Lord said to Moses,  “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.

“ ‘Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people.  For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death.  The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant.  It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’ ” Exodus 31:12-17

The Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread

“ ‘These are the Lord’s appointed festivals, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times:  The Lord’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of that month the Lord’s Festival of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast.  On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.  For seven days present a food offering to the Lord. And on the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.’ ” Leviticus 23:4-8

Do not eat it with bread made with yeast, but for seven days eat unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, because you left Egypt in haste—so that all the days of your life you may remember the time of your departure from Egypt. Let no yeast be found in your possession in all your land for seven days. Do not let any of the meat you sacrifice on the evening of the first day remain until morning. Deuteronomy 16-3

 The Passover Lamb and Unleavened Bread

 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 1 Cor 5:6-8

 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. 1Peter 1:18-21

Reflection

On Thursday evening, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his friends – the celebration prescribed by God to Moses commemorating the day that the spirit of death passed over the Israelites.

On Friday, the Feast of Unleavened Bread began – a seven-day celebration commemorating the swift exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt. The leaven (yeast) which makes the bread rise by a fermentation (decaying) process, was eliminated from the bread because there was no time to let the bread rise – the people needed to be ready to leave. “Unleavened bread” – bread not subject to the decaying process – represents the purity, sinlessness and holiness of Jesus.

On that first day of the Feast, it was also customary for the release of a prisoner – representing the release of the Jewish people from slavery and death. However, the people at the urging of their leaders chose a murderer to be released instead of the sinless Christ.

Further on that first day of the Feast, God directed the people “Do not let any of the meat you sacrifice on the evening of the first day remain until morning.”

On Friday, Jesus was crucified. As sunset approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a secret disciple of Jesus, got permission from Pilot to remove Jesus’ body from the cross and bury it before the Sabbath began.

 

Reflect upon the symbolism and timing of these events:

On the 6th day, God made us in His own image and “it was very good”.

On the 6th day, the Feast of Unleavened Bread began; Jesus was crucified and buried.

On the 7th day, God rested because His creation was complete.

On the 7th day, the followers of Jesus were observing the Sabbath – resting, recuperating, and waiting.

 

As you contemplate this Saturday in between the death/decay and resurrection, think about what “decaying” process God wants to eliminate from your life to prepare you for Resurrection and new life.

The Crucifixion

1-2 Then they all took Jesus to Pilate and began to bring up charges against him.  They said, “We found this man undermining our law and order, forbidding taxes to be paid to Caesar, setting himself up as Messiah-King.”

Pilate asked him, “Is this true that you’re ‘King of the Jews’?”

“Those are your words, not mine,” Jesus replied.

Pilate told the high priests and the accompanying crowd, “I find nothing wrong here. He seems harmless enough to me.”

But they were vehement. “He’s stirring up unrest among the people with his teaching, disturbing the peace everywhere, starting in Galilee and now all through Judea. He’s a dangerous man, endangering the peace.”

6-7 When Pilate heard that, he asked, “So, he’s a Galilean?” Realizing that he properly came under Herod’s jurisdiction, he passed the buck to Herod, who just happened to be in Jerusalem for a few days.

8-10 Herod was delighted when Jesus showed up. He had wanted for a long time to see him, he’d heard so much about him. He hoped to see him do something spectacular. He peppered him with questions. Jesus didn’t answer—not one word. But the high priests and religion scholars were right there, saying their piece, strident and shrill in their accusations.

11-12 Mightily offended, Herod turned on Jesus. His soldiers joined in, taunting and jeering. Then they dressed him up in an elaborate king costume and sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became thick as thieves. Always before they had kept their distance.

13-16 Then Pilate called in the high priests, rulers, and the others and said, “You brought this man to me as a disturber of the peace. I examined him in front of all of you and found there was nothing to your charge. And neither did Herod, for he has sent him back here with a clean bill of health. It’s clear that he’s done nothing wrong, let alone anything deserving death. I’m going to warn him to watch his step and let him go.”

18-20 At that, the crowd went wild: “Kill him! Give us Barabbas!” (Barabbas had been thrown in prison for starting a riot in the city and for murder.) Pilate still wanted to let Jesus go, and so spoke out again.

21 But they kept shouting back, “Crucify! Crucify him!”

22 He tried a third time. “But for what crime? I’ve found nothing in him deserving death. I’m going to warn him to watch his step and let him go.”

23-25 But they kept at it, a shouting mob, demanding that he be crucified. And finally they shouted him down. Pilate caved in and gave them what they wanted. He released the man thrown in prison for rioting and murder, and gave them Jesus to do whatever they wanted.

26-31  As they led him off, they made Simon, a man from Cyrene who happened to be coming in from the countryside, carry the cross behind Jesus. A huge crowd of people followed, along with women weeping and carrying on. At one point Jesus turned to the women and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t cry for me. Cry for yourselves and for your children. The time is coming when they’ll say, ‘Lucky the women who never conceived! Lucky the wombs that never gave birth! Lucky the breasts that never gave milk!’ Then they’ll start calling to the mountains, ‘Fall down on us!’ calling to the hills, ‘Cover us up!’ If people do these things to a live, green tree, can you imagine what they’ll do with deadwood?”

32 Two others, both criminals, were taken along with him for execution.

33 When they got to the place called Skull Hill, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right, the other on his left.

34-35 Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.”

Dividing up his clothes, they threw dice for them. The people stood there staring at Jesus, and the ringleaders made faces, taunting, “He saved others. Let’s see him save himself! The Messiah of God—ha! The Chosen—ha!”

36-37 The soldiers also came up and poked fun at him, making a game of it. They toasted him with sour wine: “So you’re King of the Jews! Save yourself!”

38 Printed over him was a sign: this is the king of the jews.

39 One of the criminals hanging alongside cursed him: “Some Messiah you are! Save yourself! Save us!”

40-41 But the other one made him shut up: “Have you no fear of God? You’re getting the same as him. We deserve this, but not him—he did nothing to deserve this.”

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom.”

43 He said, “Don’t worry, I will. Today you will join me in paradise.”

44-46 By now it was noon. The whole earth became dark, the darkness lasting three hours—a total blackout. The Temple curtain split right down the middle. Jesus called loudly, “Father, I place my life in your hands!” Then he breathed his last.

47 When the captain there saw what happened, he honored God: “This man was innocent! A good man, and innocent!”

48-49 All who had come around as spectators to watch the show, when they saw what actually happened, were overcome with grief and headed home. Those who knew Jesus well, along with the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a respectful distance and kept vigil.

Luke 23:1-49 The Message

Reflection: In the space of less than 24 hours, Jesus shared a Last Supper with his friends, was betrayed by Judas, condemned by the leaders of his faith and the government, tortured, humiliated, spat upon and hung on a cross to die. In that process, the four Gospels give us a sense of what was experienced by Jesus and those around him. Each Gospel tells the story differently but not in contradiction to one another.

Step into the shoes of one of Jesus’ accusers as you watch him being beaten and whipped. Are you spitting on Him like the leaders? Are you mocking Him along with the soldiers? Are you nailing Him to the Cross? When the sky turns totally black for 3 hours what do you do?   Run in Fear? Stay and continue to watch Jesus die? Turn to God in repentance? Is your faith strengthened or are you content to think “good riddance”.

Step into the shoes of one of Jesus’ followers as you follow Jesus to the Cross. Notice the despair, anguish and hopelessness you feel as you watch the torture and listen to the abuse of Him. Notice the horror you feel when he is nailed to the Cross. When the sky turns totally black for 3 hours what do you do? Run in Fear? Fall to your knees to pray? Gather with those who stand by Him? Is your faith strengthened or are you hiding in fear?

As a modern day disciple, knowing that the Resurrection comes, sit with the truth of these events and ask God to show you where you have come in your journey from accuser to disciple and where He still wants you to go in His Grace.

The Last Supper

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”

The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”

They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?”

“It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.

“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Mark 14:12-26 NIV

Reflections:  This is the last time Jesus gathered with his group of disciples and followers – their Last Supper together.  These were his friends and his betrayer.  These were the people chosen to spread the Gospel to the World.  Jesus knew He was saying good-bye but not forever.  So, He shared with them an act of fellowship, blessing and thanksgiving – symbolizing His sacrifice and their (our) eternal communion with Him through Grace.

Try to imagine yourselves as a disciple at the table – What would you think as Jesus told you of the betrayer?

As a modern day disciple of Jesus, knowing the Truth of the Resurrection, come to the table and contemplate the eternal significance of Jesus’ sacrifice to bring you -through Grace – into His fellowship.

Washing His Disciples’ Feet

Just before the Passover Feast, Jesus knew that the time had come to leave this world to go to the Father. Having loved his dear companions, he continued to love them right to the end. It was suppertime. The Devil by now had Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, firmly in his grip, all set for the betrayal.

 Jesus knew that the Father had put him in complete charge of everything, that he came from God and was on his way back to God. So he got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with his apron. When he got to Simon Peter, Peter said, “Master, you wash my feet?”

 Jesus answered, “You don’t understand now what I’m doing, but it will be clear enough to you later.”

Peter persisted, “You’re not going to wash my feet—ever!”

Jesus said, “If I don’t wash you, you can’t be part of what I’m doing.”

“Master!” said Peter. “Not only my feet, then. Wash my hands! Wash my head!”

Jesus said, “If you’ve had a bath in the morning, you only need your feet washed now and you’re clean from head to toe. My concern, you understand, is holiness, not hygiene. So now you’re clean. But not every one of you.” (He knew who was betraying him. That’s why he said, “Not every one of you.”) After he had finished washing their feet, he took his robe, put it back on, and went back to his place at the table.

Then he said, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do. I’m only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer. If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it—and live a blessed life.

John 13:1-17 The Message

Reflections: Jesus has rescued a people out of this world who are His. He will never leave us or forsake us. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Therefore, we are cleansed but we need to be vigilant in our daily walk because evil tempts all of us regardless of our spiritual maturity.

What does Jesus desire to wash from your feet?

Is there an attitude you need to lay aside to achieve the humility exhibited by Jesus?

Are you able to accept help from other Christians as well as offer it?

Anointing Jesus

Jesus was at Bethany, a guest of Simon the Leper. While he was eating dinner, a woman came up carrying a bottle of very expensive perfume. Opening the bottle, she poured it on his head.

Some of the guests became furious among themselves. “That’s criminal! A sheer waste! This perfume could have been sold for well over a year’s wages and handed out to the poor.” They swelled up in anger, nearly bursting with indignation over her.

 But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why are you giving her a hard time? She has just done something wonderfully significant for me. You will have the poor with you every day for the rest of your lives. Whenever you feel like it, you can do something for them. Not so with me. She did what she could when she could—she pre-anointed my body for burial. And you can be sure that wherever in the whole world the Message is preached, what she just did is going to be talked about admiringly.”

Mark 14:3-9 The Message

Reflections:

Reflect upon a time when you judged another’s act of kindness becoming angry and indignant?

How can we turn our indignant anger over someone else’s faithful act or accomplishment into a celebration?

Read the Gospel account of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection. Notice the people who were chosen to comfort, honor and assist Him in his final week of life before his Resurrection.

R.H. Loy

Simply the Truth

The Gospel Accounts of Jesus’ Crucifixion, Death and Resurrection:

Matthew 26-28    Mark 14-16    Luke 22-24   John 12-21

As we approach the celebration of our Savior’s death and resurrection, it is good to remember the truth of what occurred. The accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are eyewitness accounts of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Some argue that the accounts vary and therefore, they cannot be relied upon.

However, a study of each Gospel reveals individual accounts written by people who experienced a miraculous event. The fact that they each emphasize different aspects of the same event only lends credence to their accounts. The Truth of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus has been denied by non-believers for over 2000 years but God’s Truth continues to prevail.

Holy Week began yesterday on Palm Sunday and will continue until next Sunday, Easter. Some Christians will practice traditions during this week to remind them of the events of Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection. Some Christians do not follow specific traditions but hold special services to reflect upon the Last Supper (Maundy Thursday), the Crucifixion (Good Friday) and the Resurrection (Easter Sunrise).

Regardless of the traditions and events practiced by different parts of the Body of Christ, all Christians are called upon to reflect upon the Truth of the Word of God set forth in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The question that we need to each resolve in our own hearts is this: “Do we believe that Jesus was crucified for the sin of the world, died to conquer death, is risen from the dead and is alive today?”

Our answer to this question is a matter of eternal life or death.

R. H. Loy

Chipping Away!

My face hurts!

After seeing my doctor for my “annual” checkup that happens every couple of years, I was told to use a cream that attacks pre-cancerous cells on my face to prevent future problems.   Since I have already had two surgeries to remove these nasty cells, I knew that the use of the cream was very beneficial and could prevent the need for more surgery.

I experienced this wonder cream before and despite its beneficial healing qualities, I was not eager to use it again.   The memory of it was very clear in my mind because over the course of several weeks it produced very red and painful chapped skin that flaked off leaving behind “good” skin free of the pre-cancerous cells.

Purchasing the cream was the easy part – I did that in 2016. But needless to say, I kept putting off its use – it was never quite the “right” time to experience 4-6 weeks of painful and ugly facial therapy. Although I knew I should for my own well being, I just could not bring myself to go through that again. Silly – right?

As I experience this facial cleansing, I am reminded of the spiritual cleansing God has for us that we push off for a later time – a time when we don’t have to worry about what other’s think or the “fall out” we think is going to occur. It is easier to sweep those issues under the rug for cleansing at a later date or bury them totally so there is no need to address them at all.

Chipping away at our spiritual exterior can be painful. Applying spiritual disciplines can be hard to start and harder to maintain. Sometimes we know that the discipline is going to be painful so we shy away from starting – knowing it will cause pain to us or the people we love. However, in the scope of eternity, it is necessary to free us and bring us closer to God.

Listen to the Writer of Hebrews as he encourages us in Chapter 12:1-6 of The Message:

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

 In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?

My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline,
but don’t be crushed by it either.
It’s the child he loves that he disciplines;
the child he embraces, he also corrects.

God loves us. He wants us to be fit for service. He disciplines us to make us ready and able to work in His Kingdom. The “pain” we endure increases our faith. Without pain there is no gain. So let us endure so that we can achieve all that God has for us.

R.H. Loy

Friendship within the Body of Christ

“On hearing it, many of the disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.”

For Jesus knew from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.    John 6:60-66

 As a prisoner for the Lord, then I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith one baptism one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.   Ephesians 4:1-6

 

Relationships can be difficult.

Sometimes, we get “ticked off” with a friend and our reaction may be to cut off the relationship because they have offended us. We may think to ourselves, “my life is very busy and I don’t have time for people who irritate me, grumble all the time or are depressing to be around.”

We may think that it is the other person’s responsibility to say that they are “sorry” since they offended us! Sometimes, we are so exhausted from dealing with the person that we just need a break. Then again, sometimes it is our own insecurities and fears that cause us to step away, fearful that the other person may discover something we have hidden too deep for others to know.

Whatever the reason, God created us to love Him and to be in relationship with one another for His Glory. Our job is to prayerfully love and encourage those who God wants us to be in relationship with and to seek His Will in that relationship.

If a relationship is with someone who we know is a member of the Body of Christ then we have increased obligations.

We, as the Body of Christ, did not create ourselves. We were drawn into a relationship with Jesus by God himself. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him”. When we finally come to Christ, it is a miraculous event – being drawn by God and enabled by God to believe in Jesus sets us apart. Therefore, those who are set apart by God for Jesus are also set apart by God for other believers – the Body of Christ.

This is a extraordinary group – each member drawn by God to be in relationship with other members of the same “Body” which in turn is to be God’s hands and feet on this earth. Each person is essential to the Body’s function. Each person is specially made to contribute in a unique way to the Body. The Body is God’s creation. It should be handled with great care.

So why is it that we struggle with the very people God drew into His Body? Remember there is evil afoot!   Satan likes nothing better than to disrupt the work of the Body of Christ. He does this by tempting us – preying on our pride, our insecurities, our past hurts and present struggles in an attempt to divert our attention from God.

It can be difficult work to maintain a relationship with someone who is challenging our sensibilities – but God uses all sorts of people and allows challenges to refine us so we can be more productive members of the Body.   Sometimes it is the relationships that challenge us the most that also bring us closer to Jesus.

If we are at odds with someone who we know is part of the Body of Christ, then it is a relationship by definition that we need to carefully, gracefully and prayerfully seek to peacefully preserve.

It is not to say that we are called to be “bosom buddies” with all Christians.   However, we are called to be in a respectful, grace-filled, peaceful relationship that builds up the Body of Christ instead of tears it down.

When the Body of Christ is a cohesive group, strengthening each other with encouragement and loving each other with unending grace (like Jesus loves us), then we are a powerful instrument to bring Glory to God.

When the Body of Christ is a fractured group, competing with each other for power and refusing to give each other the benefit of the doubt, then we have gone the way of the disciples who turned their back on Jesus and no longer followed Him.

My prayer for us in this coming week is that we prayerfully and gracefully seek resolution of conflict with members of the Body of Christ who God has placed in our paths. You never know – it might be the catalyst for the miracle we are waiting for!

R.H. Loy

Vigilant Anticipation!

And so I insist—and God backs me up on this—that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion.

But that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.

Ephesians 4:17-24 The Message

Have you ever had the feeling that something is about to happen but you don’t know what it is? You know it is from God but you don’t know how to prepare because you don’t know what to prepare for.

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”  C.S. Lewis – Mere Christianity Book IV, Chapter 2

C.S. Lewis draws a picture for us of God indwelling our bodies and taking great care to get our house ready for Him. That process is not always easy. Sometimes we just can’t wait for God to get the work done – we need to forge ahead on the logical path we have set for our new rooms. Sometimes, we want to be in charge of the reordering because we know what our rooms should look like! Sometimes we don’t want our house reordered. It is easier to stay just the way we are.

But if we are truly seeking and wanting God to use us for His glory, then we welcome this rebuilding with vigilant anticipation. We welcome the hurting gut wrenching change. We welcome the vision God has for us as opposed to the vision we have for ourselves which falls so short of His desire for us. We welcome our new look relishing the cottage he is turning into a palace!

So expect the unexpected. Be aware of everything. It is a time to be treading water with eyes wide open. It is a time to be listening to what is going on around you – of writing down the events that are occurring especially the “coincidences”.  Be extra vigilant in prayer and seek the movement of the Spirit. Be careful of your steps – careful of your words – careful of where you are going. But most of all . . . vigilantly anticipate the unexpected.

My prayer for us this week is that we, with vigilant anticipation, wait upon the Lord!

R.H. Loy

Complaining v. Speaking Life

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.  But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.  So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

Philippians 2:12-18

“It is so cold and rainy! I wish it were spring!”

“It is so hot and muggy! I wish it were fall!”

“It is too noisy! It is too quiet! It is too fast! It is too slow!”

“Those refs are terrible! “Those umps are useless!” “These games are rigged!”

“This phone never works!”   “I always have to do everything!”

“These politicians are crooks!” “ALL they do is fight – they never get anything done!”

Blah ….. ..Blah ……..Blah ……… Blah!!!!

Is it possible to do everything without grumbling or complaining? Or maybe the question for you is: Is it possible to do anything without grumbling or complaining?

Does your life revolve around YOU? Because that is what complaining is – the spinning desire to concentrate on yourself and your own needs, desires and comforts.  What would happen if you stopped? Would you end up with nothing to say?

The purpose of not grumbling or complaining is so we can become blameless and pure. The assumption then is that if we don’t stop, we continue to be part of the warped and crooked generation doing and speaking what does not please God.

Complaining is actually an affront against God. It is disagreeing with the circumstances He has placed us in. Instead of being lights in the darkness of that situation, we make the darkness darker unless we choose to be the light with God’s help. Sometimes just stopping the complaint can bring a whole new perspective to a situation or hope to what appears to be a hopeless place.

My prayer for us this week is that we rejoice in our circumstances, giving thanks to God for using us for His glory in situations that call us to be the light in the darkness.

R.H. Loy

Of God or Of the World?

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

 1 John 2:15-17

There is a point in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia – Prince Caspian – when Lucy hears Aslan’s voice (Aslan represents Jesus in this series) and excitedly reports this to the rest of the group who are trying to come to the aid of Prince Caspian but have lost their way. The rest of the group, Peter, Susan, Edmund and a dwarf dismiss her proclamation and decide to “vote” which takes them down the wrong path. Lucy who was so certain that she heard Aslan follows the group because she doubts herself in light of the “logic” of her older brothers and sister.

After the children are lost and facing danger, Aslan calls to Lucy again in the middle of the night and she follows his voice until she sees him. He asks her why she did not follow Him. She ashamedly admits her error.

This is a critical lesson for all of us who proclaim ourselves to be Jesus Followers. Many of us are prone to take the advise of worldly advisors or other Christians before seeking God in situations both personally and in the Church. Likewise, many of us “offer advice” to other Christians or “take a vote“ without seeking God in the situation. Our well-intentioned seeking or advising without Godly direction can take us down the logical worldly path straight into danger.

My prayer for us this week is that we seek God in our situations and make every effort to listen for His voice.

R.H. Loy

Sharing, Listening, Trusting

Scripture reassures us, “No one who trusts God like this—heart and soul—will ever regret it.” It’s exactly the same no matter what a person’s religious background may be: the same God for all of us, acting the same incredibly generous way to everyone who calls out for help. “Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help.”

But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That’s why Scripture exclaims,

A sight to take your breath away!
Grand processions of people
    telling all the good things of God!

But not everybody is ready for this, ready to see and hear and act. Isaiah asked what we all ask at one time or another: “Does anyone care, God? Is anyone listening and believing a word of it?” The point is: Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ’s Word is preached, there’s nothing to listen to.

Romans 10:11-17 The Message

Many of us have experienced the defeatist attitude expressed by Isaiah, “Does anyone care, God?” It is usually expressed when we are having difficulty “hearing” from God and our default thought is “What difference does it make, God – nobody cares anyway.”

When we are not “hearing”, it may be that we should be persevering by trusting that God’s Plan is in motion.   We must trust that He works in mysterious ways to bring about His plan. His Plan is always to “prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jer. 29:11 (remember to think of this from God’s perspective not your own).

In the meantime, remember that before a person can trust, they have to listen. But unless Christ’s Word is preached, there is nothing to listen to.

My prayer for us this week is that we be alert to opportunities that God orchestrates to “tell the good things of God” in our situations! We can be used as God’s instruments to assist others to listen so they can trust in God.

R.H. Loy

The journey to the end of ourselves – Pride

Jesus, the Way to the Father

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home.  If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”

“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.  If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”

Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do.

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.  You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.  Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!

John 14:1-13

Each of us is on our own journey – yet we share common potholes. One such pothole is “pride” in our own abilities and direction. You know, the voice that says, “I am going to do this particular thing, in this particular way, at this moment for this reason because I can.   I am able and I am skilled and I know what is best.”

We set out on this journey of our own making and then suddenly, we hit a pothole that causes a slight wheel alignment issue – a change in our plans.

But again, we know our goal and our purpose – what’s a little pothole? We go ahead on our own accord, newly aligned in the manor we see fit and move on down the road. The next pothole we see a bit too late and hit it head on – flattening a tire. We pull off the road –disabled and disconcerted.

But again, we know our goal and our purpose – we can fix a flat tire, right? We arrange for a tire fix and continue on in the same manner knowing what we want and how we are going to do it. We chalk the event up to “fate” and move on as if there is nothing else to think about. However, the next pothole we hit is totally unexpected and we have no idea we even hit it until we are totally disabled. Stranded with no idea how to fix the problem, we sit in our mess.

At this point, we may get a distinct feeling that maybe we have been operating the vehicle on the wrong power. Maybe we need to take some time for reassessment of our plan and purpose. Maybe we “don’t know” what we are doing. Maybe we are headed in the wrong direction and didn’t even realize it because we were focused on ourselves instead of the ONE who is in charge.

“Pride” is a subtle and debilitating state of being. I’m not talking here about “civic pride” or “school pride” or “familial pride” in the accomplishments of a family member. I am talking about the “pride” we take in ourselves – in making our own plans and setting our own agenda without seeking God in the process.   It is living life without the realization that God is in control and we are not.

And pride in ourselves is a “trust” issue. Do we trust God? Do we trust that Jesus was sent by God to be the final sacrifice for the sin of the world and in that sacrifice He conquered death creating a pathway to eternal life? Do we understand that we will not enter eternal life on our own but only through Jesus? Do we comprehend that “our” plans without Him means we don’t trust that His plans are best.

As we grow in our faith, our pride diminishes, but beware of the deeply imbedded areas of our lives where pride still flourishes. These areas will be brought to the forefront as we journey forward on the path set for us. God is not finished with us and He is in the habit of refining us so that we are more and more like Jesus. In this process, it is good to keep our eyes on Jesus and accept with gratitude the refining process.

Remember, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. 

So go forth this week with your eyes fixed on Jesus – reassess your own plans in light of His knowing and trusting that His plans are to prosper you and not to harm you but to give you hope and a future.

R.H. Loy

The journey to the end of ourselves – giving up OUR riches!

Parable of the Rich young Man

 Another day, a man stopped Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

Jesus said, “Why do you question me about what’s good? God is the One who is good. If you want to enter the life of God, just do what he tells you.”

 The man asked, “What in particular?”

Jesus said, “Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you do yourself.”

 The young man said, “I’ve done all that. What’s left?”

“If you want to give it all you’ve got,” Jesus replied, “go sell your possessions; give everything to the poor. All your wealth will then be in heaven. Then come follow me.”

That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crestfallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go.

As he watched him go, Jesus told his disciples, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God’s kingdom? Let me tell you, it’s easier to gallop a camel through a needle’s eye than for the rich to enter God’s kingdom.”

The disciples were staggered. “Then who has any chance at all?”

Jesus looked hard at them and said, “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.”

Matthew 19:16-26 The Message

What is Jesus’ point in this parable? Is He trying to warn us that “rich” people are probably not going to enter God’s kingdom? Maybe.

However, may I suggest that the deeper lesson for all of us is not “how much” each of us has, but how we allow it to control our living. Do we dwell on” money “ or “things” as if they are ours to have and to use for our own gain? Is acquiring “things” our goal in life? Is attaining wealth and status the center of our thoughts? Are we “saving” for retirement so we can sit around and focus on our own pleasures?

The scriptural lesson is one of “Whom” we allow and trust to be in charge of the resources God has blessed us with. Jesus complimented the young man on “behaving” in the correct manner. To be perfect, however, Jesus told him that he needed to give up the “right” to all that stuff by giving it to those in need and turning and following Him. The young man turned away crestfallen because he did not want to give up control of “his things”.   He wanted to hang onto the resources he had and all that they represented to him instead of giving them to God.

Does the scripture mean that we should give away all our money and “things” today? Maybe.

Each of our paths is unique and individually God-tailored. You may be called to give all your assets away and move as a missionary to foreign lands. And maybe you are not. It may be that He has provided you with certain resources to enable you to reach a group of people that cannot be reached by others who have been called to foreign lands!

The point is that God wants us to relinquish to Him our perceived right to these resources AND then turn to Jesus and allow Him to use us and these resources to bring others to Him. Having resources is not the problem – the problem is “thinking” and “acting” as if they are ours and not Gods.

Remember,  “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being. Matthew 6:19-21 The Message

My prayer for us this week is that we examine our relationship with our resources and determine if we are in control of them or if we have fully turned them over to God. If we have not, may we seek Him to determine what path we should be taking trusting that He will provide us with all we need for our journey.

R.H. Loy

Are we “doing” for Jesus or being “Used” by Jesus?

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,  but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42

 There is a distinction to be made between “doing” what we think is “good” for God’s Kingdom and being “used” by Jesus. The distinction is important because many Christians are “working” very hard “doing” stuff that could be termed “good” but it is not at the direction of the Holy Spirit.

If Jesus was talking to a Martha today, the conversation may go something like this:

“What a worker you are, but I need you to put down that spatula or hammer or clipboard or telephone and come sit over here with me.

You are working very hard – you are directing a lot of people in your works – you are trying so hard to get it right – but for whom? Did I tell you to do that? Have you asked Me?

Remember, this kitchen is not yours. This building is not yours. This activity is not yours. This fundraiser is not yours. This money is not yours. You are not on the throne.  You need to stop and turn and sit with Me.

I am the Way the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6) And right now you are not encouraging anyone to come to me – you are a roadblock in their journey. Everytime you “do” something that “you” think is “good” without consulting me, you are a stumbling block to someone or something else. Stop it. Seek me first and my righteouseness then all the things you need will be provided. (Matthew 6:38)

Remember my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:30) If you come and sit with me on a daily basis, I will direct your path. You will not spin your wheels. You will feel my peace – the peace that surpasses all understanding which guards your heart in me. (Phil 4:7)

If you continue on the path you have set for yourself, you will continue to be frustrated, mean, angry, hard to work with, arrogant, and oblivious to others. Additionally, you will block the works I have for others to do. Stop saying “yes” to good causes without consulting Me. Your disobedience is shutting down opportunities for others to step out in faith.”

Come. You are weary and burdened. I will give you rest. Take what I have for you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my way is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30)

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all” (2 Cor 13:14)

R. H. Loy

If you want to follow, then let Him lead.

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (emphasis added)   For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?  Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

 Luke 9:22-27 New International Version

 Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels. This isn’t, you realize, pie in the sky by and by. Some who have taken their stand right here are going to see it happen, see with their own eyes the kingdom of God.”

 Luke 9:22-27 The Message

The process of sanctification (refocus, rebuild, and remember) is striving for holiness of your heart and life. (1 Thes 4:3 – Wesley’s Notes on the Bible) It is allowing Jesus to lead you. It is recognizing that sometimes we are led to sacrifice, sometimes to stand strong, sometimes to pray, sometimes to watch. There is no list of do’s or do not’s. It is instead a choice to follow and listen – each of us will hear and know in a different way – that is God’s nature in us communicating to us. So going to others to discuss it is of little use. It is a journey we must seek on our own.

This process can be painful, depressing, frightening, confusing, disconcerting, humbling, and, at times, exhilarating. Sometimes, you take two steps forward and then find yourself back where you started. Sometimes you are on a roll and the layers of sin and unbelief peel off quickly. Sometimes, you reach an impasse and it seems like there is no answer. It is hard work to allow Jesus to redefine you as “His” instead of you defining yourself in terms of Him.

For each of us, the path is different. However, for all of us today is the beginning of a new day of striving for holiness of our hearts and lives – a daily commitment to allowing Jesus to lead us. Go forth and let Jesus lead!

R.H. Loy

Whose House are you building?

(This scripture is from the Old Testament Book of Haggai. Haggai was a prophet who encouraged those returning from exile to rebuild the temple of God as set forth in the Old Testament Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. The dates of these prophecies were precisely stated and span a four month period from August 29, 520 B.C. to December 18, 520 B.C. Many of the Jews had returned to rebuild the temple in 538 B.C. but after completing the foundation, they were met with opposition from surrounding peoples and this coupled with their fear and distractions of their own lives caused the work on the temple to halt until 520 B.C.)

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’ ”

Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”

Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”

Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord.

Haggai 1:2-12 (Version – NIV)

Do you feel like you have been in exile? Do you feel like you have returned from exile and are trying to do great things for the Lord? Do you feel like all your efforts are being thwarted? Do you feel like no matter what you do, you can’t get ahead?

That’s what God’s people were feeling. They had done great things for God and had returned to Him – returned to help rebuild his temple – but then they were met with had returned to Him- returned to rebuild the temple – but then they were met with opposition and distractions.  Neighbors started fighting with them. They retreated to their own homes, building their own lives and taking care of their own needs.

They may have been thinking, “Let the leaders figure out what we should do”; or “who am I to continue building when others are saying we don’t have the authority to build”. Regardless of the way it happened, it ended up with everyone thinking about their own needs and forgetting about whom they ultimately serve – God.

Isn’t the same thing happening now? Aren’t we struggling with our own focus? Who are we serving – ourselves or God? In our churches, aren’t we relying and waiting on our leaders to tell us what to do while at the same time failing to seek out what God wants us to do?

So this week, as you contemplate your next step in life’s journey, make sure you are focusing on your first love – Jesus Christ. Refuse to be distracted. Seek His timing and His purpose. Don’t fall into the lethargy of waiting on others to do what it is you should do for yourself. Seek Him first.

R.H. Loy

Joy made complete!

The Incarnation of the Word of Life

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.  We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.  We write this to make our joy complete.

Scripture: 1 John 1-4

If you believe the words of this scripture passage then everything in you is or will be different from the time when you did not believe.

If Jesus is the Son of God, and was seen by shepherds, fisherman, tax collectors and ordinary people, and they are telling us that they saw Him, heard Him, touched Him with their own hands and “proclaim to us eternal life” which is Him, then why are we not acting like we believe them?

If John is speaking for the other disciples and telling us that they are passing on this information about the Son of God so that we can have fellowship with them and their fellowship is with God and Jesus, then why are we not eagerly seeking that fellowship?

If they are writing these truths to us to make their joy complete, why are we not sharing these truths with others so that our joy can be complete?

Belief is a process. Ridding us of unbelief is a process. These processes begin with God drawing us to Him and our response to that pull. No matter how small our belief, Our God is mighty to save us.

Picture an hourglass filled with sand – turn it over in your mind. As our unbelief diminishes, those sands of unbelief slowly become the sands of belief. As time goes on, our belief increases as our unbelief decreases.

If that is not happening in our lives, it is because we have allowed a roadblock to hamper our process of believing. Roadblocks are allowed so that we can take a step towards believing (also called a step of faith) – those steps are like the pieces of sand which need to move from one chamber of the hourglass to the other. They are temporarily stuck because we are positioning ourselves spread-eagled across the entrance between the chambers of the hourglass – in essence saying to Jesus, “I don’t believe you can take care of this”.

It is not a pleasant position to be in. It is heavy to shoulder all that unbelief. It is exhausting to hold that position – to be strong enough to hold it all together – to control the timing – to control others – to try to stop the time from happening.

But if we can just let go, we will topple into the chamber of belief. This chamber is filled with the love of Christ, the hope that it produces and the peace that comes with allowing Him to carry the burden.

Added bonus – As we share that experience with others as the Holy Spirit directs, we will experience an indescribable joy.

So as we begin this new year, may we respond to God’s nudges and the roadblocks He allows by toppling into the chamber of belief with joyful anticipation of what God has for us to share – because it is in the sharing that our joy will be made complete.

R.H. Loy

So why does Christmas matter?

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.

R.H. Loy 

Never give up!

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

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Dear God:

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.

R.H. Loy

Our Victory in Christ

      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,
“F
OR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG;
W
E 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.

Romans 8:26-39

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!

R.H. Loy

 

 

 

God’s Time

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

R.H. Loy

Is anybody there? Does anybody care?

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

R.H. Loy

The Unimaginable in the Inexplicable

“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.”
Romans 8:26

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.

R.H. Loy

Ask, Seek and Knock

“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!”

Luke 11:11-13

“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.”

Matthew 7:7-12

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

Holy Living

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!

R.H. Loy

The Gift has been Given – Accept it!

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

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!

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. Love our neighbors across the globe as ourselves – give as we are moved by the Holy Spirit. (Luke 10:33-36)
  4. 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)
  5. Agree to disagree with others about theology and even when we “know” they are wrong, love them anyway.  (1 Peter 4:8)
  6. 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).
  7. 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.
  8. 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)
  9. 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)
  10. 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)
  11. 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)
  12. 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

Forget the past – Look forward to what lies ahead!

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.

R.H. Loy

 

 

The Truth will set you Free!

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.

 John 3:16-19

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.

R.H. Loy

Oh What Tangled Web We Weave!

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

It is time!

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.

 Ecclesiastes 3:1-15

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!

R.H. Loy

Listening and Doing

“ . . . 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”

 James 1:19-27

 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”.

R.H. Loy

Jesus is sending You – GO!

 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.

R.H. Loy

What to do . . . What to do?

“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!

R.H. Loy

It is more blessed to give than to receive . . .

 “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.

R.H. Loy

It’s hard to say good-bye . . . and yet its not forever.

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.

Psalm 121:1-2

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.”

R.H. Loy

Have we learned to celebrate the joys in other people’s lives?

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.

John 2:1-11

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.

R.H. Loy

Refocus, Rebuild, Remember

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.

R.H. Loy

Remember – Our purpose in life is to bring God Glory!

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.

R.H. Loy

Remember – We are forgiven and God’s Grace is sufficient.

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.

R.H. Loy

Remember. We are loved!

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.

R.H. Loy

Rebuilding Faith – Circumstances beyond our control

“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.

R.H. Loy

Rebuild – How do we rebuild or redefine our Perspective?

“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.

R.H. Loy

Rebuild – How do we rebuild our relationship with God?

“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!

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  5. 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!

R.H. Loy

Refocus – Do your habits focus you on God?

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.

Proverbs 1:1-6 

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,

R.H. Loy

Refocus – What is first in your life?

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.

R.H. Loy

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.

Refocus – Who is first in your life?

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.

R.H. Loy

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.

In His Likeness . . .

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

R.H. Loy

Return -Refocus - Rebuild - Remember

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