Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Conquering the Earth: Not Your Job

Have you ever come to the point when you feel like you are not doing enough? Life is busy, you are surrendered to God, but you wonder, "Am I really fulfilling God's will for me?". While the Bible commands us to be faithful stewards and endure hardness, we must see that life is about magnifying what God did/does, not get as much work done as we can.

John chapter 9 accounts the history of a man who was blind from birth. He become an object of judgment: was it his parents' sin that resulted in his blindness or his own? Jesus not only opened this man's eyes, but our own also to understand that guilt was not the cause. God allowed him to be unable to see from birth that God's works might be recognized. "Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him, (John 9:3)." During the years of sitting on the roadside, perhaps that man wondered, "Am I worth living? Do I accomplish enough?". Although the man could do little in his years of blindness, he was accomplishing God's will for him. God's power is demonstrated through weakness. While this is never an excuse for sin or halfheartedness, know that as God's children we are required to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly --not conquer the world. God's will for your life will probably be monotonous at times, or seem unimportant. That's OK. This is why we should walk humbly.
James is a toddler. He does not a have a job, manage a bank account, or drive Daddy's truck. That is Dad's business. Although little James does not control those things, he does benefit from them. He is fed, has health insurance, and is sheltered and cared for. In the same way, we as children of God should not try to manage God's care of us, but trust it. Others should see that we benefit from our relationship with God, not take over God's role. "These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world, (John 16:33)."  God does not expect us to overcome the world-- Jesus already did.


Jesus, I am resting, resting
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee,
And Thy beauty fills my soul,
For, by Thy transforming power,
Thou hast made me whole.

Simply trusting Thee, Lord Jesus,
I behold Thee as Thou art,
And Thy love, so pure, so changeless,
Satisfies my heart,
Satisfies its deepest longings,
Meets, supplies its every need,
Compasseth me round with blessings,
Thine is love indeed.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Joy or Void?

All of mankind is born with a hole in himself. As we grow and experience the world, each of us choose what we will fill that chasm with. The Pharisees of Bible times filled this hole with ceremony, religious practices, knowledge of law, and good appearances. Regardless of their performances, they had no place for Jesus and were joyless, unsatisfied, and incomplete. Jesus told them,

"I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because My word hath no place in you." John 8:37

The Pharisees had a good heritage --with priceless covenants-- but no joy in life. No Jesus.

\

What fills the void in your life? Full schedule? Cares of this world? Entertainment and food? Politics or sports? Spouse hunting? Working towards the dream house, career, or car? While these are all things we can enjoy or participate in, are they worth taking the place of Christ, our eternal glory? Read this familiar hymn closely. (Whenever you see the word world or earth, replace it with my life.)

Joy to the my life! the Lord is come;
Let my life receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing.
Joy to my life! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.
He rules my life with truth and grace,
And makes my life prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love.

Does He really rule your life with truth and grace? And make your life prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love?

"If I do not remember Thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy." Psalm 137:6

True joy in the human heart is only possible if there is a place for Christ in it. The more room we prepare for Christ, the more joyful we will be! God created this hole in mankind that we might see our need that only His Son can fill.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What Makes a Family


A family is made up of parents and children... but what makes those individual people live in a home together in harmony? Family is about others, not yourself. For example, being part of a family is 
Daddy hugging little sister who has the flu to comfort her,
Older brother eating a sandwich so the other kids could have the much-wanted leftovers,
Older sister babysitting the little kids so the other older siblings could go to a friend's house,
Little sister not arguing back when the other sibling was clearly in the wrong,
Little brother considerately taking time to listen to grandma,
Mommy daily sacrificing ________ (you fill the black!) to spend time with her children,
One spouse spending their vacation time with in-laws for the other spouse's sake... (etc!)

Being part of a family is sacrificing in regard to others' interests, not living for our own pleasures. 
Even in the little things. Especially in the little things.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Was the Cross Enough?

When I was younger I understood that dying on the cross of Golgotha caused excruciating pain. Pain that I have never experienced. But I still had questions in my mind. Was Jesus' crucifixion enough to pay for all the sins of the world?

It is true that no man has ever lived a perfect life as Jesus did on earth, but haven't other humans experienced the same amount of pain? What about the two thieves that were crucified with Jesus, the thousands of Christians that were torn apart in the Roman Colosseum, and the millions of Jews that suffered the devastation of  Nazis concentration camps? I knew that their blood could not atone for sin, because they were sinners themselves, not perfect sacrifices. But was Jesus' death enough?

Yes. Jesus' death was enough. In searching the Bible I have learned that Jesus did not only endure physical death, but spiritual death as well. During the Last Supper Jesus was “troubled in spirit (John 13:21)” because he knew that one of His disciples was going to betray Him. Later in the evening, Jesus took His closest disciples took a certain place and informed them, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry here and watch with me. (Matthew 26:38)”. He walked a distance away and fell on His face, weakened from sadness and the weight of His burden. There were many times Jesus would travel to pray alone with God. In the garden of Gethsemane, God allowed us to hear in on their conversation. Jesus was so troubled emotionally that His life was susceptible to death. He prayed: “Oh my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt”. Jesus was God, with God's power, but He was still 100% human, and was not sure that He could endure what He was required of His Father. God the Father loves His Son and He sent one of His angels to strengthen Jesus. Even then, Jesus prayed harder. “And being in agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground, (Luke 22:44).” The condition of sweating blood is identified as Hematidrosis, a "rare clinical phenomenon". A few cases in history have been recorded that men who were preparing for battle sweated blood and a few cases when men were unexpectedly told that they were going to face death. It is an uncontrollable condition in which there is “deposition of hemosiderin in the parenchymal cells, causing tissue damage and dysfunction of the liver, pancreas, heart, and pituitary" (Wikipedia). Jesus' human body was enduring the maximum stress level.

While on the cross Jesus' spiritual death occurred. He was separated from God Almighty. God the Father turned His face from His Son, allowing full wrath and punishment to fall on His shoulders for the past, present, and future sins of all the other humans that had lived and will live. Jesus was left in the blackness, pain, and filth of all evil. He was completely alone. No man, angel, or God Himself was there to bear it with Him. He was abandoned. “...He said, It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up the Ghost, (John 19:30).” When there was no more crime that could possibly be charged, Jesus gave up His spirit. “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, He said, Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, He gave up the ghost, (Luke 23:46).” Although God left His Son, Jesus called out to Him, commending His spirit to Him. Commend, the original Greek word parativqhmi, means to place beside, near, or before; to set forth in hopes that it would be received; to entrust. Jesus could not see God take His spirit, He could only commend it to Him with a prayer that it would be accepted of Him. He offered all He had.

Jesus' death was more than the physical hurt of the betrayal, mocking, stripes, and crucifixion. It was the separation from God. Pain was not the price of our redemption, but it was rather a by-product of the punishment and separation from God. Separation caused the most unbearable weight of human emotions and pain. It is something we will never be able to full appreciate or comprehend until we share perfect, sinless fellowship with God as Jesus did before He died. The words of Elizabeth Hewitt's hymn My Faith Has Found a Resting Place echoes in my heart: “Enough for me that Jesus saves, this ends my fear and doubt; a sinful soul I come to Him, He’ll never cast me out. I need no other argument, I need no other plea, it is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me”. May our life attitude be as the apostle Paul's. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world, (Galatians 6:14).”

~

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all. 

(by Isaac Watts, 1707)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Approved of God



                                  "...in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God,
in much p a t i e n c e, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, 
In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings; 
By pureness, by knowledge, by long suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, 
BY LOVE UNFEIGNED, 
By the word of t r u t h, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, By honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report: 
As deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; 
as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, 
and yet possessing all things."
II Corinthians 6:4-10
~
I entitled my blog By Love Unfeigned, which is from the passage above. Having unfeigned love is one of the ways we can approve ourselves as ministers of God. When I first read this passage years ago, I stopped at the word unfeigned. What does it mean? My research began. Unfeigned is translated from the Greek word ajnupovkrito├č, which means undisguised, sincere; genuine. It is by absolutely pure love that we can be approved of God. I know from the times my heart has been tested that my love is not 100% genuine all the time. Only when Christ lives in us and we claim His perfect love as our own, can we be approved of God. Notice in II Corinthians 6:4-10 how ministers of God are identified: in, by, and as. Being a minister of God, we will be led in dark paths that require faith. But by trust in His word we can follow. And as we follow, so are our lives fulfilled. While fulfilling His ministry on earth, Christ Jesus said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends," (John 15:13). Are we sincerely  ministers of God on earth now? Do we love others sacrificially in such a way that we put our lives and dreams aside to usher God's truth to others? In laying our lives aside we may feel like we have nothing for ourselves, but in reality we possess all things. Our place of prayer is before His Throne of grace, and our work is invested in His eternal Kingdom!

"For there is one God, 
and one mediator between God and men, 
the man Christ Jesus," 
(I Timothy 2:5).

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Measure of Mercy

Most of us know that mercy is showing favor to those who do not deserve it. What is mercy in comparison to love? In Ephesians 2:4 we see that it is through Christ's mercy that God's love can be extended to us. Proverbs 3:3 and Micah 6:8 inform us that we are not to forsake mercy, but rather that we are required of God to love mercy.
While reading through the Gospels our Bibles have a parable entitled, “The Prodigal Son”. Although he may indeed be the main character of Jesus' parable, I recently learned something important from the older, faithful son. Imagine.
~
The sun was draining as the faithful son sunk his mattock into the earth. Despite the famine, he worked long hours in his father's fields. It probably would have been easier if his younger brother were there to help, but  he was gone. Had been for several years. Sometime later he paused. Music? Yes, from across the darkening fields he heard music –and laughter. He was very expectant as one of the servants came from the house. “What has happened?”
Your brother,” the servant panted, “has returned. He is home.” When the faithful son did not reply, he continued, “Your father has killed his prize yearling. I was commanded to prepare it for supper.” The servant hurried off. The faithful son finished his work and walked slowly toward the house. His mind reeled. My brother disrespectfully insisted on receiving his part of  father's inheritance. He wasted father's living on foolish pleasures and dirty harlots and forsook us in the family work for several years. I've worked harder than ever. Although I know he loves me, father has never honored me with a feast... His thoughts were interrupted by a hearty laugh. He stood outside the door. Everyone inside sounded so overjoyed. Finally his father came out.
Son, come in; it is time to celebrate!” The faithful son did not move. He took in a breath and began slowly.
All these years I have done all you've asked. I've never left your will for me. You've never given me a feast to enjoy with my friends. After a few minutes of being gone for several years, you throw him a feast. He used your inheritance on harlots and gambling, Father. Celebrate? Why?”
Son, you have earned all that I have. It is yours. Now it is right time to celebrate your brother's return –not his leaving. He has repented of his error and did not even expect to be accepted as family– but I've forgiven him. He is a new, faithful son now, and that's why I rejoice!”
~
The parable does not reveal the faithful son's response. That is for Christians to answer in their own lives. It does not matter how long you have been saved or how devoted you are to the ministry. What does matter is having the motives of Christ. We become prideful in our faithfulness and forget the mercy by which we were saved. Jude 1:21 instructs us to keep our eyes on the mercy of Christ. The same mercy that saves us also keeps us in God's love. Mercy is not something that we can create in ourselves; for, we are as undeserving as everyone else. We must come before the throne of grace and pray that we may obtain mercy and find grace in time of need (see Hebrews 4:16) . God is our store of endless mercy.
You will be repaid for serving those you love, even when you do not feel like serving them. But you will be abundantly ~blessed~ when you give of yourself to those who do not deserve your love or cannot give in return. Mercy is one of the truest forms of Christlikeness that can be displayed in the human heart. What is your measure of mercy? 

There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose to whom he forgave most. And He [Jesus] said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.” Luke 7:41-43

But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” Luke 14:13;14

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

God IS, and That is Enough

Do we know Who God is? Do we know where we can find Him, and what His presence and our existence have to do with one another?

How do we approach God? as an idea, as a feeling, or as a real Being? We should not approach God the Father as a man, for He is immeasurably greater than a human. He is God. We should approach for Who He is with the deepest respect, humility, gratefulness –and expectation.

1.Who God is in relation to mankind:
God is not a man. Numbers 23:19
God is greater than man. Job 33:12
God is wiser than men. 1Corinthians 1:25
God is stronger than men. 1 Cor. 1:25
God is preached, and every man presseth into it. Luke 16:16
God is come to prove you. Exodus 20:20
God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God. Deut. 4:24; Hebrews 12:29
God is jealous, and the Lord revengeth. Nahum 1:2
God is a jealous God among you. Deuteronomy 6:15
God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward. Deut. 10:17
God is no respecter of persons Acts 10:34
God is judge Himself. Psalm 50:6
God is the judge: He putteth down one, and setteth up another. Psalm 75:7
God is the God of salvation; and unto God the Lord belong the issues from death. Psalm 68:20
God is the King of all the earth. Psalm 47:7
God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets. Dan 2:47
God is not mocked. Galatians 6:7
God is mighty, and despiseth not any: He is mighty in strength and wisdom. Job 36:5
God is great, and we know Him not, neither can the number of His years be searched out. Job 36:26
God is terrible majesty. Job 37:22
God is holy. Psalm 99:9
God is true. John 3:33;2 Cor. 1:18
God is love. 1 John 4:8
God is able to graft them in again. Romans 11:23
God is able to make him stand. Romans 14:4
God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. John 6:33

Those who do not trust in God make a sad progression away from His goodness. They do not think highly of Him, then they do not talk highly of Him, and finally, once in the grave, they do not spend eternity with Him either. Trusting God is a decision we can make only when living on earth. God is just in letting unbelievers face the judgment that we all deserve.

2.Who God is in relation to unbelievers:
God is not in all his thoughts. Psalm 10:4
God is righteous in all His works which He doeth: for we obeyed not his voice.  Daniel 9:14
God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you. Romans 2:24
God is according to truth against them which commit such things. Romans 2:2
God is angry with the wicked every day. Psalm 7:11
God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. Matthew 22:32

Where can we find God? We can see His fingerprints in the design of creation. He enables the breath we take in at this moment. But for a closer look, we can see His likeness and His presence in the lives of His children.

3.Where God is:
God is in my nostrils. Job 27:3
God is in the generation of the righteous. Psalm 14:5
God is in his heart. Psalm 37:31
God is manifest in them [the just who live by faith]. Romans 19:11
God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. Romans 5:5
God is upon all them for good that seek Him. Ezra 8:22
God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me. Isaiah 61:1
God is come nigh unto you. Luke 10:9;11;11:20
God is within you. Luke 17:21
God is nigh at hand. Luke 21:31
God is with thee in all that thou doest. Genesis 21:22
God is with thee. Deuteronomy 20:1;1 Samuel 10:1;1 Chronicles 17:2
God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. Joshua 1:9
God is with us. Isaiah 8:10
God is with you. Zechariah 8:23
God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. Acts 28:28
God is come into the camp. 1 Samuel 4:7
God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the [enemies]. Joshua 3:10
God is gone forth before thee to smite the host of [enemies]. 1 Chronicles 14:15
God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased. Psalm 115:3
God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. Ecclesiastes 5:2
God is not bound. 2 Timothy 2:9
God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Psalm 47:5
God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. 1 John 5:20
God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. Revelation 21:3

To the trusting heart, God is a new beginning. He is our constant Enabler, and we can cultivate integrity in our lives for His Name's sake. He is the fullness of mankind. God is without fail. He fights for us, makes our way perfect, loves us unconditionally, and is pleased with our sincere sacrifices of love to Him. Before God sent the Holy Spirit to indwell believers (after Christ's Ascension), His spirit did not always stay with people. If they forsook Him to a certain point, His spirit left them. Such was the case for the Old Testament King Saul, “God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, (1 Samuel 28:15). But now His Spirit unmovable from the hearts of those truly saved. 

4.Who God is in relation to His Children:
God is in you of a truth. 1 Corinthians 14:25
God is the Lord, which hath shewed us light. Psalm 118:27
God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23
God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5
God is upon him: I am the Lord.  Leviticus 21:12
God is one Lord. Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29
God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; He also is become my salvation. Isaiah 12:2
God is the salvation of Israel. Jeremiah 2:23
God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hinds' feet, and He will make me to walk upon mine high places. Hab. 3:19
God is merciful. Psalm 116:5
God is a merciful God; He will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget. Deuteronomy 4:31
God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away His face from you, if ye return unto Him. 2 Chro. 30:9
God is my defence. Psalm 59:9
God is my defence, and the God of my mercy. Psalm 59:17
God is He that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.  Deuteronomy 20:4
God is He that hath fought for you. Joshua 23:3
God is my strength and power: and He maketh my way perfect. 2 Samuel 22:33
God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and He shall thrust out the enemy from before thee. Deut. 33:27
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 36:1
God is known in her palaces for a refuge. Psalm 48:3
God is the rock of my refuge. Psalm 94:12
God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Psalm 62:7
God is a refuge for us. Psalm 62:7
God is mine helper. Psalm 54:4
God is for me. Psalm 56:9
God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart. Psalm 73:1
God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. Psalm 73:26
God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth. Psalm 74:12
God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly. Psalm 84:11
God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about Him. Ps. 89:7
God is pure: He is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him. Proverbs 30:5
God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. Matthew 3:9; Luke 3:8
God is greater than he [John the Baptist, a respected proclaimer]. Luke 7:28
God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. John 4:24
God is glorified in Him [Jesus Christ]. John 13:31
God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Romans 14:17
God is faithful, by whom ye were called. 1 Corinthians 1:9
God is holy, which temple ye are. 1 Corinthians 3:17
God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13
God is not the author of confusion, but of peace. 1 Corinthians 14:33
God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8
God is one. Galatians 3:20
God is witness betwixt me and thee. Genesis 31:50
God is my record. Philippians 1:8
God is witness. 1 Thessalonians 2:5
God is my witness. Romans 1:9
God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love. Hebrews 6:10
God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. Hebrews 11:16
God is well pleased {with sacrifices of sincerity]. Hebrews 13:16 
God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. 1 John 3:20
God is greater: for this is the witness of God which He hath testified of his Son. 1 John 5:9
God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.  1 John 4:16
God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death. Psalm 48:14

Who is God to us? Simply our Creator? The Savior of our past youths? Or is He our daily Counselor and Redeemer, the One who feels each heartbeat, hears each prayer, sees each tear, and enables each victory? Is He our closest Friend, Who we take time to tell every thing? Do others see that He is indeed a part of our lives, or that He is the very center of our hearts and its choices? God is, and that is enough.

...the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power,” (1 Corinthians 4:20).

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Beautiful Dwelling

"We heard Him [Jesus] say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands, (Mark 14:58)." "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)."


As Christians saved by grace, our bodies become the dwelling place of God. By living in the "beauty of holiness" (Psalm 29:2), our hearts will grow in faith, humility, justice, mercy, and love. Even as the Temple, God's dwelling place in the Old Testament, was physically beautiful, so should our hearts be beautiful spiritually in our devotion to Him. (To read of the Temple's structure, see Exodus 36:8-39:43.)

"He hath made every thing beautiful in his time... (Ecclesiastes 3:11). God loves beauty. He created the world, people, and life to be enjoyably beautiful. Once sin entered the world, earth began to darken and become corrupt. Yet even under the curse, beauty and design can still be seen in God's creation. We are created in God's image and we can reflect God's glory by living for Him. Our motives are most important. God wants our hearts foremost, and if our hearts are devoted, orderly, and lovely, our physical lives will demonstrate the same.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 commands,"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest." Every thing God has for us to do can be done to its best. We can dress decently. We can show compassion towards coworkers. We can take the time to help an elderly couple mow their lawn on the way home from work. We can take interest in our family members' struggles and joys. We can walk the extra mile. Why? Because if we truly love the Lord, we will love others more than ourselves and our own interests. As the verse above says, we will never have the chance to live these things again. In reality, genuine happiness comes not from attaining our own pleasures, but these of others. Our second highest calling in life should be to point others to a better way: Jesus Christ. The very best way to do this is to make our love relationship with God as top priority. God may not have given you many material things, but your heart and all that surrounds it can be beautiful by adorning it with God's grace and holiness.

How inviting does your life look to others? Would they trust you with their burdens? Are you trusting the Lord with yours? Is your heart a pleasant dwelling place for the Lord?

  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Life Unfolded

In the past month my family has moved from Pennsylvania to the Black Hills of South Dakota. After having lived in PA all my life, this was quite a change. But in leaving friends and the familiar, I have learned some very important lessons in trusting the Lord. I thought that high school graduation was going to be the main highlight of this year, but God had more in store. I can only pray for grace to live it to the fullest. What do you do when your life is a hotel of feelings? Read the Bible. This post contains some of my reflections from His Word.



Life Unfolded
Matthew 2


"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, (verse 1)


And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. (v. 12)


And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. (v. 13)


Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men... (v. 16)


And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, 'He shall be called a Nazarene'. (v. 23)"



Life is made up of days. It happened that Jesus was born "in the days of Herod the king". This was not a historic matter of chance, but a purposed unfolding of God's plan. Herod was determined to snuff out the life of Jesus. He was a political terror. (We have those today too, don't we?) But there is no chance with God, only will and grace. Jesus' parents were warned of God to change routes. God never expects us to do that which He has not commanded. God's will is not something we must uncover; it is a sure thing we must have our eyes opened to. Take and digest that life will have unplanned situations. Our expectations must always be answerable to God. Accept the "unknown way" before you must plan to take it. Joseph and Mary went another way home and Jesus' family stayed in Egypt until Herod died. W a i t i n g. Great lengths of life are lived in waiting, many times in an undesirable position. These days are not pointless, but fraught with meaning to learn and grow. Changes continued to arise, but God's plan for Jesus' youth was perfectly fulfilled by the obstacles that appeared to be blocking the way. As Christians we are called to be someone, and we become that one not by where we finish --but by how we got there.

Human Desire & Heavenly Compassion

Matthew chapter twenty details three different parties that desired something of the Lord. Unlike the rich young ruler of the previous chapter, these people did not ask, "What good thing shall I do...". Jesus asked of them. "And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, 'What will ye that I shall do unto you?" (Matt. 20:32). Life is not about what we can do for Him. It is about what He has done and will do for us and His Father.

The first party was hired to labor a full day for a days wage. Overjoyed to have work, they set out to the vineyard. When seeing the other workers' pay they expected much more; for they had labored longer. Their joy was lost. The master paid them what they all had earlier agreed on. We should not compare our circumstances with others, expect more than God wills, or think that our work deserves more than He rewards. The vineyard master was just in paying them what they had agreed to work for.

The second party was the family of James and John, two of Jesus' disciples. They desired to sit on either side of the Almighty's Throne in eternity. Did they fully know what they were requesting? They were bold in asking, but prideful in their motives. It was for their own glory, not the furtherance of God's Kingdom. Not even the Son of God could grant them this position in God's authority.

The final party knew exactly what they desired. They had the faith to ask and the grace to receive. They were physically blind and wanted to see. Their desire was natural. In being blind they humbly realized God's authority over them and their lives' purposes. Although perhaps difficult to understand, these blind men did not deserve their sight --it was of Jesus' compassion alone that they received what they desired.

We all have desires. Before we take them to the Lord we should evaluate them in the light of truth. What is the root of your desire? Dig deep. Are they only self-centered? While we have many carnal desires, God Himself creates desires in people too. The Lord is standing still. He is calling you, asking, what do you desire? Even though reigning above armies of angels, He lovingly continues to serve us. We should not be afraid to ask, only do know why you ask. The Lord understands human desire. "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt," (Matt. 26:39). Lastly, if your desire was fulfilled, would it have drawn to following the Lord more closely than before? "So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him," (Matt. 20:34). We should take our desire to Him, only not if it is apart from His glory.

"Now unto Him that is able to do exceedingly abundant above all that which we ask or think, according to the power which worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20;21).

Monday, March 11, 2013

Power-Outage Christian

As a Christian, your relationship with God is comparable to household electricity. The power of God is the electricity, and your life is the house. Without power, your eyes grow strained from trying to see the way through your home. Rooms are gloomy and depressing. The shower does not function. Your body becomes filthy and eventually the food goes bad, making you sick. Stumbling over appliances and being unable to see the growing disorder in your dwelling, you find life frustrating.

Click.

The power has been connected. Light reaches every corner. Hot water surges from the faucet. The clock blinks tirelessly, "12:00, 12:00, 12:00...". A new beginning. Set the time. Clean and reorganize the clutter from misled steps. Now you walk confidently, knowing where the chairs and stairway are. Life is so much more simple with access to electric power. The same is true for spiritual power. How foolish it would be to struggle though an extended power outage only because of one disconnected cord! In reality, many Christians live that way.

"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By Whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God, (Romans 5:1;2)."

"For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father, (Ephesians 2:18)."


"According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him, (Ephesians 3:11;12)."



The less you read God's Word, the dimmer the lamps shine. The less you pray, the less water is pumped for drinking and cleaning. Days are joyless. When you do not take access to God's power, the very reasons of living seem to fade; however, if you do access it, life is effective, direct! God's power is unfathomable, and He wants us to be channels of it. Never has living been so purposeful! Are you connected?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Self-Opinion and True Potential

What influences have the greatest impact on your opinion of yourself? Who do you believe you are and what do you think you are worth in the world? What is your view of a successful life? By comparing God's views with our own, we may find harmful errors in what we think of ourselves.

Deep down, most people have an unspoken (or not-so-unspoken) opinion of themselves. They evaluate their worth and potential by other people's qualities. They have a mental scale of who they are. For example:

Appearance: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10            Athletic: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Intelligence: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10            Talent: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Popularity: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10              Job Status: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Wealth: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10                   Family Acceptance: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Reputation: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10            Religious Devotion: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10     RESULT: 73/100

Wow, seventy-three! You are an above average person. Wrong. I realize that my example of a “mental scale” may have been a bit exaggerating, but you get the point, right? People gather all their information based on others they see, read about, or live with. (Isn't amazing how incapable we feel attending the World Olympics or a national music competition?) Even if we do not want to compare our lives with others, it comes so naturally. It is dangerous. Comparing with others with leads down two paths: the looking-good pride or the self pity and ignorance pride that refuses to see glory and purpose in each individual. We cannot lay our score of seven-three before God and expect that He will judge our worth by it. I encourage you to write down on a 1 – 10 scale the opinion you have of yourself. Then, one by one, erase them. Permanently. No Christian that has that list can walk down the street without judging others by it. Human character math goes something like this:

Desirable Appearance + Impressive Performance = Successful

Intelligence – (Wealth + Popularity) = Unsuccessful

INCORRECT. Appearance, performance, and all the other human qualities are changing traits. The only character that adds up is God's character within us, because its factors are unchangeable and true. In the beginning God created the humans in His image. Saved or unsaved, we are all born with the worth and potential to have good success in God's eyes. If we would simply accept God's gift of eternal life and live trusting His Word and purpose, we will have completed our mission on earth. Joshua 1:8-9 says,

This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

Living the law cannot save anyone, but living by the truth of God's law we are guaranteed good success –in God's eyes. You see, God's view of potential and success are completely different than the world's. When I was younger, I believed that if I achieved the level that was pleasing to me, I would have reached success. Success cannot be measured by any level we set. Truly, success is about recognizing God's level and as an result living a life that humbly loves and magnifies Him.
Despite the fact that we are not to compare with others, it is true that people have different appearances and abilities. How should we address this? We should be in awe of God's variety, enjoy it, and use our own gifts to fulfill His glory! How do people's comments effect you? Whether criticism or compliment, their words should encourage you to embrace God's design of you. Do your comments to others have the motive of thanking God for the gifts He placed in their lives? If we do not believe that unsaved individuals have the potential to be a godly Christian, then why would God have us living on earth today? May He give us a greater faith and vision in the power of His Salvation. We are not only to think humbly of ourselves, but also truthfully according the measure of gifts God has given us.

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith, (Romans 12:3).”

Imagine we are in our nineties, sitting in adjustable recliners and trying paying medical bills. Life on earth is almost over. What will having had good looks, high school popularity, and a healthy college career be worth then? Nothing. What will mean something is seeing grandchildren (or others you have ministered to) loving and serving God –knowing true success. Exchange your idea of success for God's view of success. Make the Bible the blueprint of your identity. Do not be harmed and unusable by believing lies about yourself. You were created in the image of God!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Will You be my Valentine?



Yes, it's that time of year. Except for the little gifts that my parents leave on my dresser to find in the morning, Valentine's Day almost makes me cringe.... What do paper hearts, candies, and undressed angels armed with bows and arrows have to do with February 14th anyway? Who was Saint Valentine? By looking back in history, we can find a different kind of love displayed by a man named Valentine.

Valentine was one of the hundreds of Christians martyred in Rome for his faith. Demonstrating the utmost love for Christ, Valentine was killed for claiming Jesus as his Savior on the 14th day of February, A. D. 269. It so happened that Romans celebrated their festival of love on February 15th. Juno, the goddess of women and marriage, as well as Pan the god of nature, was honored. In Roman mythology, Cupid was supposed to be the son of Venus, the goddess of sensual love. Believe it or not, but our word romance comes from Rome. In 495, many years after Valentine's death, Roman Catholic Pope Gelasius announced February 14th as Saint Valentine's Day in exchange of the pagan festivals on the 15th. It was an act to Christianize a sinful tradition of Rome.

Today in America, Valentine's Day is commercialized –like every holiday. Truthfully, love is not something that can be sold. Remembering your sweetheart or loved ones is wise, and buying flowers and candy to show them that is precious. But how much further could we go as to love them with the greatest love and live each day putting their lives' first? Christ's words still echo through the ages in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Love is a daily sacrifice. Love has faith that sees beyond death to the eternal joy in living for others. When people sheepishly ask, “Will you be mine Valentine?”, do they know what they are requesting? They are asking for the love that is willing to die for Christ's Name sake.