Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Day in the Life.....

Each day we wake, open our eyes, and wonder what will be the gift we are given for that day.  Will it be the gift of blessings and peace, or will it be the opportunity for long suffering, patience, mercy, and grace.  All are blessing of a certain kind.

On days when we are given peace and blessings, it is God's way of allowing us to re-charge the batteries for the next of our life's battles.  Re-charging can take many forms.  Some of us just need to sleep. Others may need a day trip to see a good friend, while someone else just needs an hour at Starbucks with a coffee and a good book.  There as those of us, like me, a full day of organizing something will energize me!!!! Janell, I know that's not you!! Whatever will re-energize you for the coming challenges, please take time to do it!!!

For Christians, we know that our battle isn't really the things of this earth,  "Ephesians 6:12
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens."  With all that happens to us, we have to remember where our struggle truly comes from so we also take time to energize our spiritual life.  We truly aren't struggling against people, we are struggling against the powers of the evil one that permeate this present age we live in.  The Bible tells us that the Word of God is sharper than any two edged sword!!!  In order to remain useful, a sword has to be sharpened.  This is a time consuming, meticulous process, and if you don't do it, the sword will not function as it was intended.

The same can be said for our "spiritual sword."  Our function depends upon a finely sharpened weapon; The Word of God.  On those days, when we are recharging, we need to take time in God's Word to remind us of what we really battle, and how to live with it all.  God gave us everything that pertains to righteousness and godliness in His Word, and time reading and meditating on it, will empower us each day.

Unfortunately, each day brings more and more evil.  God revealed that to us in his word, that the days are waxing worse and worse.  Just look at the news. Evil permeates our lives on every corner, but thank God for Jesus Christ, whom he sent to redeem us from this present age and to bring us to the new age where we will all live in harmony with one another.  Though we presently struggle with problems, we have the hope of eternal life with Christ Jesus our Lord and our Heavenly Father.  Rejoice and be glad!!! Healing and harmony are part of our future with Christ Jesus our Lord!!! Prepare for the battle and look to the rewards of faithfulness in Christ!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What "Religion" Do You Belong To?

 Matthew 9:9-13(The Message)

Passing along, Jesus saw a man at his work collecting taxes. His name was Matthew. Jesus said, "Come along with me." Matthew stood up and followed him.
 Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew's house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus' followers. "What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riff–raff?"
 Jesus, overhearing, shot back, "Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: I'm after mercy, not religion. 'I'm here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders."

How many of us have gone to a church where the "insiders" were in constant strife over some doctrine, rule, etc at church?  Been there, done that.  What outsider would want to be part of a church like that?  I am not one for titles concerning churches.  Catholic, Baptist, Methodist etc.  I want to be part of the church of "Mercy."  How many more people do you think would come to Christ if we were truly the church of Mercy?!

Matthew 10:5-15

Jesus sent his twelve harvest hands out with this charge:
"Don't begin by traveling to some far–off place to convert unbelievers. And don't try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.
" Don't think you have to put on a fund–raising campaign before you start. You don't need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light.
 "When you enter a town or village, don't insist on staying in a luxury inn. Get a modest place with some modest people, and be content there until you leave.
" When you knock on a door, be courteous in your greeting. If they welcome you, be gentle in your conversation. If they don't welcome you, quietly withdraw. Don't make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way. You can be sure that on Judgment Day they'll be mighty sorry––but it's no concern of yours now."

We don't have to go to some far away land to do the work of the Lord. There are many lost in our own back yard.  The verse that says "Bring Health to the Sick" just struck me this morning.  We don't see a lot of "big" healing miracles this day.  God gave men the ability to invent ways to conquer disease.  Maybe it is time to look at this verse in a different light other than praying and seeing a "Healing Miracle." Maybe we need to take the poor to the Dr and pay for a Dr appointment so they can get what they need to get better?  Maybe more doctors need to do pro-bono work to help the poor.  Maybe the churches need to travel less to other countries and spend the cash on the medical needs of the poor in their community!  This is true Christianity.  True Christianity is all of us in the community pooling together to meet the needs of all.  I could do with one less computer and take someone to the doctors instead!!!  What could you do without and put the money aside to take someone to the doctors office when in need?  I am going to do some thinking about how to better serve my community.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Why Am I Here??!!

Matthew 5:13-16

"Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt–seasoning that brings out the God–flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You've lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.
" Here's another way to put it:You're here to be light, bringing out the God–colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light–bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand––shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.

We are to make this earth more "palatable" by being salt on the earth. Being salt on the earth makes it a better place for all of us to live.  We are to bring out all of God's colors on this earth.  We are to shine brightly so these colors can be seen.  What do we want the world to taste and see? Our "generous" lives.

Matthew 5:42-48

No more tit–for–tat stuff. Live generously.
 "You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, 'Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God–created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best––the sun to warm and the rain to nourish––to everyone, regardless:the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run–of–the–mill sinner does that.
" In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God–created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.

Wow!!! How generous is God that he even gives good our enemies. What an example.  May we all give prayer for our enemies.  Enemies aren't people who are trying to kill you necessarily. Enemies are people who may treat you poorly or talk about you behind your back.  Whenever someone misuses you, pray for them.  Isn't the end result we all want is a restored relationship with God.  If we start restoring relationships with those we are out of sorts with, then the relationships with God will fall back not place.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Words to live by today from what I am reading

1 Peter 3:10-12

Whoever wants to embrace life

and see the day fill up with good,

Here's what you do:

Say nothing evil or hurtful;

 Snub evil and cultivate good;

run after peace for all you're worth.

 God looks on all this with approval,

listening and responding well to what he's asked;

But he turns his back

on those who do evil things.

Wow! Today we need to fill the day with good embracing the life God has given us!! Snub evil and cultivate good.  What a challenge some days!

1 Peter 3:13-15

If with heart and soul you're doing good, do you think you can be stopped? Even if you suffer for it, you're still better off. Don't give the opposition a second thought. Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you're living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.

Telling people why we live the way we live with the utmost courtesy!!  I remember the "old" days of witnessing. We were not courteous at all.  Too in your face. I must have sounded like a self righteous idiot,  Praise God he has brought me out from that!

1 Peter 3:16-18

Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They'll end up realizing that they're the ones who need a bath. It's better to suffer for doing good, if that's what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad. That's what Christ did definitively:suffered because of others 'sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all––was put to death and then made alive––to bring us to God.

Bring on the mud!!!  I will just take a bath in Christ Jesus to clean me up!

1 Peter 4:1-2

Learn to Think Like Him

 Since Jesus went through everything you're going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you'll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.

That we can all be free to pursue God without sin bogging us down. 

1 Peter 4:3-5

You've already put in your time in that God–ignorant way of life, partying night after night, a drunken and profligate life. Now it's time to be done with it for good. Of course, your old friends don't understand why you don't join in with the old gang anymore. But you don't have to give an account to them. They're the ones who will be called on the carpet––and before God himself.

We are held accountable to God and no one else.  Remember, people are not held accountable to you for their sins.  It is a matter between them and God. Do not judge. We have to remove the plank from our own eye first.  Removing that plank is a lifelong chore until Jesus returns.

1 Peter 4:7-11

Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide–awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless––cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God's words; if help, let it be God's hearty help. That way, God's bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he'll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything––encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!

1 Peter 4:19

So if you find life difficult because you're doing what God said, take it in stride. Trust him. He knows what he's doing, and he'll keep on doing it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Overcoming Sin

1 Peter 1:13-16
A Future in God
 So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that's coming when Jesus arrives. Don't lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn't know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God's life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, "I am holy; you be holy."

That happened to be the first verse I came to this evening when I decided to devote some time to God.  What really struck me was the quote, "Don't lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing."  Wow!!!!!!  I must confess, today I lazily slipped back into a "way of the past."  Why is it we do so well for so long then "whack," there it is again creeping back into your life?  It immediately came to my mind, "You have triggers! Learn to recognize them and avoid them."

What triggers you to fall back into a sin of the past?  Whatever it is, steer clear of that trigger.  Run as far as you can from it.  If you are having trouble get a "trigger" buddy; someone you can call on when you feel weak.  

1 Peter 1:17-24
You call out to God for help and he helps––he's a good Father that way. But don't forget, he's also a responsible Father, and won't let you get by with sloppy living.
Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead–end, empty–headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ's sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. And this was no afterthought. Even though it has only lately––at the end of the ages––become public knowledge, God always knew he was going to do this for you. It's because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God.
 Now that you've cleaned up your lives by following the truth, love one another as if your lives depended on it. Your new life is not like your old life. Your old birth came from mortal sperm; your new birth comes from God's living Word. Just think:a life conceived by God himself! That's why the prophet said,
The old life is a grass life,
its beauty as short–lived as wildflowers;
Grass dries up, flowers droop,
1 Peter 1:25
God's Word goes on and on forever.
This is the Word that conceived the new life in you.

Wow, have I had some sloppy living lately!!!  I need to journey through my life with a more deep consciousness of God and what he has done for me!  I know better than to let sin try and get a grip on me.  Sometimes it seems like we take one step forward, then sin creeps in and it is 10 steps backwards.  I am tired of trying to recover from my falls!  I need to remember that I reap what I sow.  Sin gives birth to more sin!! I need to take it more seriously. 

1 Peter 2:1-5
So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You've had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God's pure kindness. Then you'll grow up mature and whole in God.
The Stone
 Welcome to the living Stone, the source of life. The workmen took one look and threw it out; God set it in the place of honor. Present yourselves as building stones for the construction of a sanctuary vibrant with life, in which you'll serve as holy priests offering Christ–approved lives up to God.

So I guess it is time to clean house again!!!  Only this time I need to clean my spiritual house!  Time to put the cornerstone at my front door!!!  I need Jesus on the mantle of my door!!

1 Peter 2:11-17
Friends, this world is not your home, so don't make yourselves cozy in it. Don't indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they'll be won over to God's side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.
 Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; they are God's emissaries for keeping order. It is God's will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you're a danger to society. Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government.

This world is not my home.  I am just passing trough on my way to eternity to live with my Lord and savior Jesus Christ. When that day comes I will be totally healed of all sin and sickness and will stand before him in all righteousness and I will see Him as He is.  It is time to stop being cozy and time to jump back on the train to all eternity.  God did so much for me through Jesus Christ and I need to do more for Him!! Come along with me on our journey through life on our way to Glory!!!

(Quotes from the Bible are from "The Message")

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Thoughts From Proverbs 31

Proverbs 31 is the section that talks of The Virtuous Woman.  Here are some things that stand out for me today.

Proverbs 31:8-9
"Speak up for the people who have no voice,
for the rights of all the down–and–outers.
 Speak out for justice!
Stand up for the poor and destitute!"

Proverbs 31:20
She's quick to assist anyone in need,
reaches out to help the poor.

“In Matthew 25, Jesus describes Judgment Day. Many will stand there and call him “Lord,” but Jesus says, stunningly, that if they had not been serving the hungry, the refugee, the sick, and the prisoner, then they hadn’t been serving him (Matthew 25:34-40)

Proverbs 31:25
......she always faces tomorrow with a smile.

Proverbs 31:26
When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say,
and she always says it kindly.

Proverbs 31:30
Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades.
The woman to be admired and praised
is the woman who lives in the Fear–of– God. (Lives in extreme respect, awe, and admiration)

I have been reading in several places lately about taking care of the down and out, the sick, the poor, the needy, the widows, the parentless children.  Here is a verse from James that sums it all up.

James 1:27
Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this:Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.

I have a good friend that has been preparing herself the Resurrection Season by looking inward to see what she needs forgiveness for. I decided to be a bit more deliberate about my confessions to God also.  I do it to see what I could be a better person at.  One of the things God has been showing me is that I need to be more compassionate to the plight of the needy and unwanted.  Especially at work.  There are a ton of needy and unwanted people at work.  My goal is to say a prayer over each one of them as they pass through my room for care.  I have always thought of myself as a giver, monetarily etc, but I need to be more giving with my prayers and compassion.  Work is stressful some days and sometimes I can be a bit dismissive with the very "needy" at work.  It is not my job to judge why they are being so gosh darn needy(attention etc) it is my job to be compassionate.  This can be a major challenge some days, as many come through our doors that just demand so much attention. My goal is to see them as God truly sees us all, as his wonderful creation, that he loves, even with all our warts.  

So I have presented myself a great challenge for my work week starting tomorrow.   God bless and I challenge you to examine yourselves for whatever area you need to improve. Thank you Gretchen for reminding me to examine more intently during this Holy season!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

True Mercy and Forgiveness:

“Luke 15 informs us in verses 1-3 that Jesus told not one but three parables to the Pharisees who were complaining about his fraternization with sinners. The first parable is called the Parable of the Lost Sheep. A man is tending a flock of one hundred sheep, but one goes astray. Instead of accepting this loss, the shepherd goes out searching until he has found his lost sheep. Then he calls all around to “Rejoice with me, for I have found my lost sheep” (verse 6).
The second parable is called the Parable of the Lost Coin. In this story a woman has ten silver coins in the house but loses one. She does not write it off as a loss, but instead “lights a lamp, sweeps the whole house, and searches diligently until she finds it” (verse 8). And when she does, she calls her friends and neighbors and says, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my lost coin.” The third parable is the story we have been studying, the Parable of the Two Lost Sons.
The similarities among the three stories are obvious. In each parable something is lost—sheep, coin, and son. In each parable something is lost—sheep, coin, and son. In each the one who loses something gets it back. And each of the narratives ends on a note of festive rejoicing and celebration when the lost one is returned.
There is, though, one striking difference between the third parable and the first two. In the first two someone “goes out” and searches diligently for that which is lost. The searchers let nothing distract them or stand in their way. By the time we get to the third story, and we hear about the plight of the lost son, we are fully prepared to expect that someone will set out to search for him. No one does. It is startling, and Jesus meant it to be so. By placing the three parables so closely together, he is inviting thoughtful listeners to ask: “Well, who should have gone out and searched for the lost son?” Jesus knew the Bible thoroughly, and he knew that at its very beginning it tells another story of an elder and younger brother—Cain and Abel. In that story, God tells the resentful and proud older brother: “You are your brother’s keeper.”
Edmund Clowney recounts the true story of a young man who was a U.S. soldier missing in action during the Vietnam War. When the family could get no word of him through any official channel, the older son flew to Vietnam and, risking his life, searched the jungles and the battlefields for his lost brother. It’s said that despite the danger, he was never hurt, because those on both sides had heard of his dedication and respected his quest. Some of them called him, simply, “the brother.”“This is what the elder brother in the parable should have done; this is what a true elder brother would have done. He would have said, “Father, my younger brother has been a fool, and now his life is in ruins. But I will go look for him and bring him home. And if the inheritance is gone—as I expect—I’ll bring him back into the family at my expense.”
Indeed, it is only at the elder brother’s expense that the younger brother can be brought back in. Because, as Jesus said, the father had divided his property between them before the younger son had left. Everything had been assigned. The younger brother had gotten his one-third portion and it was completely gone. Now, when the father says to the older brother, “My son, everything I have is yours,” he is telling the literal truth. Every penny that remained of the family estate belongs to the elder brother. Every robe, every ring, every fatted calf is his by right.”“Over the years many readers have drawn the superficial conclusion that the restoration of the younger brother involved no atonement, no cost. They point out that the younger son wanted to make restitution but the father wouldn’t let him—his acceptance back into the family was simply free. This, they say, shows“that forgiveness and love should always be free and unconditional.
That is an oversimplification. If someone breaks your lamp, you could demand that she pay for it. The alternative is that you could forgive her and pay for it yourself (or go about bumping into furniture in the dark). Imagine a more grave situation, namely that someone has seriously damaged your reputation. Again, you have two options. You could make him pay for this by going to others, criticizing and ruining his good name as a way to restore your own. Or you could forgive him, taking on the more difficult task of setting the record straight without vilifying him. The forgiveness is free and unconditional to the perpetrator, but it is costly to you.”“Mercy and forgiveness must be free and unmerited to the wrongdoer. If the wrongdoer has to do something to merit it, then it isn’t mercy, but forgiveness always comes at a cost to the one granting the forgiveness.
While Act 1 of the parable showed us how free the father’s forgiveness is, Act 2 gives us insight into its costliness. The younger brother’s restoration was free to him, but it came at enormous cost to the elder brother. The father could not just forgive the younger son, somebody had to pay! The father could not reinstate him except at the expense of the elder brother. There was no other way. But Jesus does not put a true elder brother in the story, one who is willing to pay any cost to seek and save that which is lost. It is heartbreaking. The younger son gets a Pharisee for a brother instead.“But we do not.
By putting a flawed elder brother in the story, Jesus is inviting us to imagine and yearn for a true one.
And we have him. Think of the kind of brother we need. We need one who does not just go to the next country to find us but who will come all the way from heaven to earth. We need one who is willing to pay not just a finite amount of money, but, at the infinite cost of his own life to bring us into God’s family, for our debt is so much greater. Either as elder brothers or as younger brothers we have rebelled against the father. We deserve alienation, isolation, and rejection. The point of the parable is that forgiveness always involves a price—someone has to pay. There was no way for the younger brother to return to the family unless the older brother bore the cost himself. Our true elder brother paid our debt, on the cross, in our place.
There Jesus was stripped naked of his robe and dignity so that we could be clothed with a dignity and standing we don’t deserve. On the cross Jesus was treated as an outcast so that we could be brought into God’s family freely by grace. There Jesus drank the cup of eternal justice so that we might have the cup of the Father’s joy. There was no other way for the heavenly Father to bring us in, except at the expense of our true elder brother.
How can the inner workings of the heart be changed from a dynamic of fear and anger to that of love, joy, and gratitude? Here is how. You need to be moved by the sight of what it cost to bring you home. The key difference between a Pharisee and a believer in Jesus is inner-heart motivation. Pharisees are being good but out of a fear-fueled need to control God. They don’t really trust him or love him. To them God is an exacting boss, not a loving father. Christians have seen something that has transformed their hearts toward God so they can finally love and rest in the Father. The acclaimed foreign film Three Seasons is a series of vignettes about life in postwar Vietnam. One of the stories is about a Hai, a cyclo driver (a bicycle rickshaw), and Lan, a beautiful prostitute. Both have deep, unfulfilled desires. Hai is in love with Lan, but she is out of his price range. Lan lives in grinding poverty and longs to live in the beautiful world of the elegant hotels where she works, but in which she never spends the night. She hopes that the money she makes by prostitution will be her means of escape, but instead the work brutalizes and enslaves her.
Then Hai enters a cyclo race and wins the top prize. With the money he brings Lan to the hotel. He pays for the night and pays her fee. Then, to everyone’s shock, he tells her he just wants to watch her fall asleep. Instead of using the power of his wealth to have sex with her, he spends it to purchase a place for her for one night in the normal world, to fulfill her desire to belong. Lan finds such grace deeply troubling at first, thinking Hai has done this to control her. When it becomes apparent that he is using his power to serve rather than use her, it begins to transform her, making it impossible to return to a life of prostitution.
Jesus Christ, who had all the power in the world, saw us enslaved by the very things we thought would free us. So he emptied himself of his glory and became a servant (Philippians 2). He laid aside the infinities and immensities of his being and, at the cost of his life, paid the debt for our sins, purchasing us the only place our hearts can rest, in his Father’s house.
Knowing he did this will transform us from the inside out, as Hai’s selfless love did for Lan. Why wouldn’t you want to offer yourself to someone like this? Selfless love destroys the mistrust in our hearts toward God that makes us either younger brothers or elder brothers.
John Newton, the author of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” wrote another hymn that puts this perfectly:

Our pleasure and our duty, 
though opposite before, 
since we have seen his beauty 
are joined to part no more.

In a few short words Newton outlines our dilemma. The choice before us seems to be to either turn from God and pursue the desires of our hearts, like the younger brother, or repress desire and do our moral duty, like the older brother. But the sacrificial, costly love of Jesus on the cross changes that. When we see the beauty of what he has done for us, it attracts our hearts to him. We realize that the love, the greatness, the consolation, and the honor we have been seeking in other things is here. The beauty also eliminates our fear. If the Lord of the Universe loves us enough to experience this for us, what are we afraid of? To the degree we “see his beauty” we will be free from the fear and neediness that creates either younger brothers or elder brothers.
John Newton’s friend, the poet William Cowper, treats this idea in another hymn:
To see the Law by Christ fulfilled, 
and hear his pardoning voice, 
changes a slave into a child 
and duty into choice.

We will never stop being younger brothers or elder brothers until we acknowledge our need, rest by faith, and gaze in wonder at the work of our true elder brother, Jesus Christ.”

Excerpt From: KELLER, TIMOTHY. “The Prodigal God.” iBooks.