Determined!

“So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable.”  1 Cor. 15:58 

How do we remain steadfast in our faith when our lives seem to fall apart? Sitting in church, surrounded by people of like faith, singing songs of worship to God and listening to the encouraging words of other believers, our faith seems reasonable and steadfast. Yes, we proclaim, we will overcome and be victorious. Glory to God! 

But then, later in the day or perhaps the following day, our problems begin to creep back in and slowly weaken that victory we proclaimed. What will I do? Where is God in the midst of all this? 

Deeper and deeper we fall, grasping for a handhold that speaks of God and His promises to provide and care for us in every situation. Where is the light at the end of this very dark tunnel? There must be an answer. 

There is. The answers are all waiting for us in the Bible. Unfortunately, when we focus on the problems mounting all around, our feelings take over and guide us down a path of discontent, fear, insecurity, doubt and frustration. We want God to give us a break and solve the problems— even though we may be the cause. 

Perhaps living in a time when everything seems possible, every want seems likely to be fulfilled and every person seems promised to have it all, confuses and derails our faith in Christ. However, the Bible has warned us that our lives will have suffering, trials, and enemies for the sake of our faith in Christ.  

2 Peter 3:13  But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness. 

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may 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. 

If we had joined a group of people dedicated to protecting our city against enemy foes who promised to destroy all of us, we would prepare for the impending battle. There would be classes teaching everyone how to stand firm against the foes. We would be prepared to possibly give our lives for the cause. We would take it seriously, keeping an eye to the horizon, ever-watchful, ready to fight at a moment’s notice.   

The fact is, we are in spiritual warfare, facing the enemy of our soul, Satan, who desires to destroy everything good. Without our faith intact, we are defenseless to defeat our greatest arch-enemy. Since he cannot take away our promise of eternal life, he can make us useless with fear, discouragement and despair. This is war and we are in the fight of our lives. Even so, God is now and will always be victorious over Satan. 

Isaiah 41:10  Fear not, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed. I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. 

As followers of Christ, that should be our attitude no matter the circumstance.  With Jesus as our Leader and Savior, we should not back down, allow fear to rule, feel inferior or hopeless. “He did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind”-1 Timothy  1:7. 

Jesus, Himself, as he was facing certain torture and death, prayed, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” ~Luke 22:42

The Lord’s Prayer

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive” Matthew 6:12

We’ve seen it in movies, read it in the Bible as well as other books. And we have recited it from memory over and over again. We’ve learned what has come to be known as The Lord’s Prayer. Reciting these few verses can bring comfort and take away fear. However, reciting the Lord’s Prayer over and over can become a meaningless repetition we send up to God hoping He hears and will rescue us from our desperate situation.

Without doubt, the most commonly spoken version of this prayer is as follows:

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.”

This model prayer was given by Jesus to his disciples as he taught them how to pray, warning them against uttering vain repetitions, “Don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do.” He then reminds them that, “Your Father in heaven knows exactly what you need even before you ask Him. Pray like this:”

If you are like many people, you may worry about how to pray, what to say because you’ve heard impressive prayers spoken by well known pastors and teachers. Regarding this concern, we simply have to read Romans 8, verses 26-28.

Notice now that Jesus includes forgiveness in His model prayer. Verse 12 says, “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Then, immediately following the prayer, He continues in verses 14 and 15, “If you forgive those who sin (modern word for trespasses) against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Is your head spinning? Are you concerned about those who’ve sinned against you that you have not forgiven? Perhaps you’re holding a tiny little grudge. After all, they were completely in the wrong (as we forgive those who sinned against us). How did the Lord answer Peter?

Matthew 18:21 ~”Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times? No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”

Luke 17:4 ~”If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.”

Jesus died for our forgiveness. It is essential we extend that forgiveness to any who sin against us. 

Law or Grace?

“We will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus” ~Acts:15:11

            Law or grace? Now that we have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, don’t we still have to try living by the Law? Can we simply turn our backs on what God gave His people through Moses? I hear Christians refer to meeting on the Sabbath, meaning Sunday; or for some, Saturday. Which is proper and what does God expect from Christians today?

            Faith in Jesus Christ brings righteousness (apart from the law) to all who believe! ALL!

(Romans 3:19-26)   “The law commands many things. We know that those commands are for those who are under the law. This stops all excuses and brings the whole world under God’s judgment, because no one can be made right with God by following the law. The law only shows us our sin.

But God has a way to make people right with him without the law. And God has now shown us that way which the law and the prophets told us about. God makes people right with himself through their faith in Jesus Christ. This is true for all who believe in Christ, because all are the same. 

All people have sinned and are not good enough for God’s glory. People are made right with God by his grace, which is a free gift. They are made right with God by being made free from sin through Jesus Christ. God sent him to die in our place to take away our sins. We receive forgiveness through faith. And all of this is because of the blood of Jesus’ death. This showed that God always does what is right and fair. God was right in the past when he was patient and did not punish people for their sins. And God gave Jesus to show today that God does what is right. God did this so that he could judge rightly and also make right any person who has faith in Jesus.”

                      Realizing how difficult it is for Jews, who have been taught that following The Law is essential, Paul uses strong language to explain that faith in Christ is what justifies everyone…Jew and Gentile.

(Gal. 2:15-16)   “You (Paul) and I are Jews by birth, not sinners like the Gentiles. Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.”

            One of the most powerful explanations of the difference between law and grace is verse twenty-one:

(Gal. 2:21)  “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.”

            Beginning chapter three, Paul slaps the Galatians in the face with this powerful point:

(Gal. 3:1-4)  “Foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of His death on the cross. Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?”

            Pounding the message home further, Paul’s fervent love and concern for the Galatians continues in verse 5, “I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.”

            A scribe asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Mark 12:28

            (Mark 12:29-31)  Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”

            In the Gospel of John, Jesus emphasizes the importance of love as a command:

(John 14:15; 15:9-14, 17)  “If you love me, you will obey what I command…As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love…This is my command: Love each other.”

“Love each other.” Sounds easy, especially when we are not frustrated with each other; when all is going well; when we are in agreement; when we’re not stuck in traffic in the pouring rain and the gas gauge is hovering over empty! God’s example of love is the innocent Jesus dying on the cross. Love is sacrifice

Love Your Enemies


Charles was teaching an adult Sunday School class with 20-25 people. The same group had been meeting for several months and shared many of their fears, joys and challenges of walking with Christ as Savior. It was a class that seemed focused on serving the Lord, willing to make sacrifices.
One Sunday, Charles surprised everyone with a test! Of course there were protests and grumblings. “A test? Where are we, in school again?” He smiled and passed out the papers just the same. The test was actually not what they thought. Rather than finding out their knowledge of what he’d been teaching, it challenged the depth of their faith, forcing every person to face their “true life” walk with Christ. At the end of the test he included Luke 6:27-38 followed by this question: “Do you think that Christians today are to take these verses literally— to actually live our lives using this as our guide?”
Luke 6:27-38 (Words of Christ):
● Love your enemies
● Do good to those who hate you
● Bless those who curse you
● Pray for those who mistreat you
● If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also
● If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also
● Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back
● Do to others as you would like them to do to you
● “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners
love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why
should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those
who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.
● Love your enemies! Do good to them
● Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked
● You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate
● Do not judge others, and you will not be judged
● Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you
● Forgive others, and you will be forgiven
● Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap.  The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.


What do you think? Are these verses in the Gospel of Luke an actual blueprint for living our lives today or a metaphor, meant to encourage and challenge Christians to live more sacrificially? Do you find yourself thinking that most of these statements are good as a guide but a few of them are over the top? 

Did God include these verses to be thought provoking but not literal? Perhaps the purpose of these verses is to provide a basic outline for Christian living but not to be taken literally. But then, how can we pick and choose which Bible verses are literal and applicable for today’s Believers? Do we have the freedom to ignore verses that present too great a challenge for our flesh? 

If we believe the Bible to be God’s Word, given to its writers by the Holy Spirit, then who are we to disregard those which present too great a challenge? We only have to look to the Book of Job to be reminded of who God is:
Job 38:4-7 ~“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell me, if you know so much. Who determined its dimensions
and stretched out the surveying line? What supports its foundations,
and who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?”


Finally, what does the Bible itself have to say about all the verses contained inside?:
2 Timothy 3:16 ~”All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”

Whatever seems normal seems right. In our American lives, we are brought up to believe that we are capable of guiding our own lives, reaching for that elusive golden ring which, once securely held, brings happiness and satisfaction. 

However, there is no golden ring. Happiness and satisfaction may only be found through faith in Jesus Christ. His sacrificial death brought forgiveness of all our sins. Faith in Him allows us to love and be kind to our enemies— whether or not they reply in kind. 

Book Review. Suffering Is Never For Nothing!

“Everything that happens fits into a pattern for good. Suffering is never for nothing.”       ~Elisabeth Elliot

If you wish to more fully understand the author of these challenging and faith-demanding writings, I strongly suggest you read, Through Gates of Splendor.
Elisabeth Elliot, who is now with the Lord in heaven, lived a life infused with suffering, forced to draw God’s peace, grace, and mercy from the midst of earth-shattering, life-ending experiences. And just like Job, she began to understand that suffering is never for nothing!
After reading this book, I wonder what words I might choose to write a review. And then it strikes me that using her own words would serve the reader best. So the following quotes are taken from “Suffering Is Never For Nothing.”.
“There have been some hard things in my life…and I cannot say I know exactly what you’re going through. But I can say that I know the One who knows. And I’ve come to see that it’s through the deepest suffering that God has taught me the deepest lessons.”
“My definition of suffering: Suffering is having what you don’t want or wanting what you don’t have.”
“If I thank God for this very thing which is killing me, I can begin dimly and faintly to see it as a gift. I can realize that it is through that very thing which is so far from being the thing I would have chosen, that God wants to teach me His way of salvation. I will take the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will say yes, Lord. I will say thank You, Lord.”

I received a free copy of this book from B&H Publishing for an unbiased review.

Hope Springs Eternal, Part 3

Not too much later, while the couple knelt in their living room, thanking God for his mercy and grace in their lives, the phone rang. It was the apartment complex manager, the same woman who’d given them the eviction notice, “Please come to the office. I have something important to tell you.”

In an instant they were breathlessly standing in the office, not certain of what they would hear. “The pastor from your church has just stopped by to deliver a check to pay for your back rent and future rent to allow you time to get work!” They broke out in praise to God, dancing around the small office.

By the time the rent was due again, his wife was employed. And another month later, he was starting a new job too. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” Hebrews 11:1

Based on a true story.

The Future

We shall be saved much heartbreak if we stop forever expecting what we would call ‘fair’ or ‘just’. Frequently the innocent suffer and evil men prosper. This has been the pattern since the world began.

It is not, of course, the final answer, for that we cannot see in this world, but in the present tangled field of human life, both good and evil grow together until the harvest.

The Christian has such and advantage as he faces a new year. He knows that nothing in life, however painful or distressing, can ever separate him from the love of God.

Always, at all times, waking and sleeping, he is held in that unfailing love. As John Greenleaf Whittier put is so rightly, “I only know I cannot drift beyond His love and care.” ~J. B. Phillips

No Fear!

Little Roper (2013_06_21 16_53_37 UTC)

 

“I am the Lord your God. . . so don’t be afraid!” ~Isaiah 41:13

 

Are you a Christian? Do you read the Bible? Do you believe it is the Word of God? If you answered yes to these questions then I have wonderful news for you— you don’t have to be afraid! Regardless of the mounting debt you face, your unemployment, broken down car, illness, failure in business, or falsely accused; You don’t have to allow fear to control you. Life is filled with all manner of troubles and obstacles but fear only makes the problem worse. Calling out to God and reading the bible provides supernatural peace. Here are some Bible verses which will help:

Isaiah 41:13  I am the Lord your God. I am holding your hand, so don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.

Psalm 27:1 You, Lord, are the light that keeps me safe. I am not afraid of anyone. You protect me, and I have no fears.

Psalm 62:2 God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe, and the fortress where I am secure.

Psalm 91:1-2 Live under the protection of God Most High and stay in the shadow of God All-Powerful. Then you will say to the Lord, “You are my fortress, my place of safety; you are my God, and I trust you.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 The Father is a merciful God, who always gives us comfort. He comforts us when we are in trouble, so that we can share that same comfort with others in trouble.

Romans 8:38-39 I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love— not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not the powers above or the powers below.

Isaiah 25:8-9 The Lord All-Powerful will destroy the power of death and wipe away all tears— At that time, people will say, “The Lord has saved us! Let’s celebrate. We waited and hoped— now our God is here.”

Psalm 145:13-14 Our Lord, you keep your word and do everything you say. When someone stumbles or falls, you give a helping hand.

Philippians 4:6-7 Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking Him with a thankful heart. And God’s peace, which is beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus.

1 Peter 5:7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

Hebrews 13:5-6 God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”

Now, you may be thinking, more bible verses? What I need is tangible, real help. I need answers not more verses. But that’s it! The Bible is God’s infallible, never ending Word designed to answer life’s questions and provide comfort, hope, inspiration and LOVE. Love greater than all your fears and insecurities. God’s love takes away all fears.

 

He Who Serves God From Love

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He who serves God from love. . .walks in the path of wisdom, not because of any worldly advantage, nor to protect himself from evil, not to inherit good thereafter, he does the right because it is right, though in the end the blessing will not fail him.”

                                                                                                 Moses Maimonides 1135-1204