Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Treasures

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19 (NIV)

Have you ever thought about treasure? When I conjure up visions of “treasure” I see pirate chests full of gold and jewels hidden in some dark cave surrounded by a watery moat. Human nature tends to visualize tangible things when we think of treasure. Our treasures are “health, wealth, and happiness” on this earth. We equate earthly prosperity with personal treasures.

But Mary had it right. She treasured time and events rather than physical things, and the things she treasured all had to do with the glory of God. She treasured the birth of God’s son through herself (Luke 2:19). She also treasured the amazing revelation that Jesus was teaching in the synagogue when he was still just a boy (Luke 2:51). We should treasure all the wonderful things that God reveals to us and ponder them in our hearts like Mary did.

Jesus says in Luke “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (12:34). The Lord will bless us with earthly gifts so long as we do not exalt them above Him. If our treasures become more important than the Almighty God who provides them, He will take them away and leave us to understand that He alone is our ultimate treasure. Isaiah writes “He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure” (33:6). Understanding that God is Almighty and Sovereign is the KEY to untold wealth and treasure; not earthly storehouses full of treasure, but treasures in Heaven (Matthew 19:21).

So as we embark on a new year and a new decade, where are our treasures to be? Are we going to set aside gifts for ourselves here on earth to make our lives more prosperous and happy for a season or will we lay everything at the feet of the Almighty God of the Universe and know that the only treasure worth owning is the knowledge and fear of Him? This is the only true treasure that will last forever.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hope and Peace

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14

This is the time of year when we see so much commercial interpretation of what Christmas is all about. You see people living together in harmony, thoughtfully sharing gifts with each other, and visiting family and friends. You see cards and ornaments and wrapping paper with words like “hope” and “peace” on them. But do people truly understand why those words are associated with Christmas? They seem to think that the world itself is going to suddenly grasp one another’s hands and start singing in a circle and be happy neighbors and friends with no strife. But that is really not true. As long as we live on this earth, we will always have strife and trouble because Satan rules here. He is the “prince of this world” (John 12:31).

The hope and peace for which each person longs is found in our hearts and minds through Jesus. When that little baby was born in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago, He alone brought hope and peace. Not through His presence here on earth, but through the promise that was fulfilled by His presence. Isaiah 9 says “for unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” (6). The promise is that if we would trust in God and seek Him alone, we would be given that hope and peace. God is in us by the filling of the Holy Spirit, God is for us because He created us out of love never to be harmed, and God is with us through Christ, our Emmanuel. So our hope is found in Jesus through eternal life and our peace is inside by the filling of the Holy Spirit. Of course it would be wonderful if the world could all “just get along” and be peaceful like the beauty queen wishes of the pageants, but as long as the devil remains and we are broken and sinful, that will never happen.
My prayer is that each person who longs to understand the true meaning of Christmas and the peace and hope that accompany it will come to know Jesus Christ, the author of this season. May the hope for the future that He brings to fulfillment, and the peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7) be found by every single person. The gifts are nice but they will be forgotten or wear out. The seasonal happiness is great, but it will fade with the coming of the new year and the bills that follow. But the joy of the knowledge of Jesus Christ is the greatest gift that we have ever been given, by our Father Himself, and it remains for all eternity.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thanksgiving


“We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2 (NIV)

I have been pondering lately what it means to be thankful. I mean truly thankful. We say short prayers to God thanking Him for our food and homes and clothes and friends, but what does it mean to give thanksgiving to God? Thanksgiving as a holiday was traditionally a time to give thanks to God for the harvest. Of course, Americans have manages to turn it into a commercial holiday as much as possible through food sales and football. I’m sure we’ll be giving gifts on Thanksgiving in the next 50 years or so…but I digress. I think the key we forget about Thanksgiving is not about eating or watching a parade or football but giving thanks to GOD. We use Thanksgiving as a special time to get together with friends and family that we may not see very often, but let’s not forget to be truly thankful for everything that we have through God, our Father. Revelation chapter 7 says “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen!” (12). All good things come from God, and may we not dismiss or trivialize this fact as we begin to prepare turkey and ham and dressing and cranberry sauce this coming week. Not only should we be thankful for all the things we HAVE but we should be forever thankful to God for the privilege of being His children! Paul writes to the Colossians that we are “being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints of the kingdom of light” (1:11-12). May we remember that this life contains fleeting things that will pass away and that they are simply a small step toward the forever kingdom of God. Let’s be thankful for what we have been given here on earth and also for God’s saving grace, without which all things would be useless. I like the way Paul puts it. “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Tim 1:17). Now that is Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Prayer in the Spirit

"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." Colossians 4:2 (NIV)

Of all the things Paul ever asked from the saints, it was mostly prayer. He always stressed prayer in the Spirit for himself and others that they may further the kingdom of God. Do we still pray today for others and the kingdom? I believe our prayers have become more self-centered and conceited, stressing our own desires and those closest to us. There is nothing wrong with asking God's blessing on yourself and your family, but your prayer time should not be consumed with selfish prayers. The Holy Spirit should guide your prayers for yourself and others, helping you to find ways to help others and further the kingdom. God will ordain our circumstances in every situation, but we must pay close attention to the Spirit. What is our reason for being in a certain place at a certain time? Do we listen to the prodding of the Spirit when a friend keeps coming to mind over and over? Oswald Chambers wrote "Your part in intercessory prayer is not to agonize over how to intercede, but to use the everyday circumstances and people God puts around you by His providence to bring them before His throne, and to allow the Spirit in you the opportunity to intercede for them. In this way God is going to touch the whole world with His saints" (My Utmost for His Highest).

May we remember that our prayers and our actions are the most powerful things that we have been given by God. They are our direct connection to Him and His will for our lives and others. Jesus said "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer" (Matthew 21:22). This should not be misconstrued. We know in our hearts and do not actually believe that we will receive things we ask for that are inappropriate and do not conform to scripture and the will of God. So let's pray in the Spirit and listen to the gentle prodding so our lives can have the most impact and glorify our Lord in everything we ask in prayer and do each day.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Disturb us, Lord

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
[Sir Francis Drake]

What keeps us from stepping outside of our comfort zone? Perhaps I just answered that question in its self because the word “comfort” is synonymous to us with soft, inviting, engrossing surroundings. Like laying in a comfortable bed surrounded by fluffy blankets and soft pillows on a cold winter morning, or snuggling on the sofa with a pet reading a good book on a rainy day. We don’t want to move from our comfort zone.

We tend to do the same thing in our religion. We stay in our zone of Christian friends in our safe neighborhood and go to our pretty, modern churches with comfortable pews on Sunday. We relish in the blessings of the Lord and cry out in dismay to Him when we are faced with trials like we are undeserving of anything but His best. But we do get His best, each and every day. He wants us to grow in our relationship with Him and sometimes that requires discomfort. But we can take comfort in knowing that Christ loves us. Paul wrote to the Philippians “if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, them make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose” (Philippians 2:1-2).

Our goal is to be more like Christ. He did not come to this world, giving up his glory in heaven, to be comfortable. He suffered shame, loss, heartache, and pain so that we could be forgiven and have eternal life. So the next time we get comfortable in our environment, consider what Paul continues to write, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). Let’s ask the Lord to disturb us, convict us, and give us a heart for the hurting. May we listen to the gentle prodding of the Holy Spirit and seek those who need our loving kindness in Christ Jesus. Psalm 147 says “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (3). Are you the salve that God has sent to comfort the hurting?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Behind the Velvet Rope

"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:16 (NIV)

Have you noticed these days how important the word “exclusive” has become? We want to be part of exclusive groups, live in exclusive gated communities, and go to exclusive Ivy League schools. We put unborn children on the waiting list at exclusive daycares, drive exclusive automobiles, and on and on. People stand in line at exclusive clubs to get in to party with the rich and famous and to see and be seen. Everyone wants exclusivity in their lives until it comes to spirituality. We like our religion with a little less exclusivity and a little more leniency. No one wants “old fashioned authority, guilt trips, accountability, or moral absolutes” (MacArthur).


Christians are cursed for claiming that Christ is the exclusive way to Heaven. Yet Jesus himself says “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:16). He also says “for I did not come to judge the world, but to save it” (John 11:47). Christ died for our sins that we may freely receive his grace and compassion. We are not worthy to enter into the presence of our Almighty God if it were not for the saving grace of Christ. So our “exclusive” religion is open to all. Christ is standing at the velvet rope of salvation to enter into eternity. All we must do is accept him and trust him and then he will open the narrow gate for us. What makes Christianity so exclusive is that so few people actually accept Jesus, not that He is unwilling to accept us. Jesus said “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:26).


Once we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, we become sanctified, or “set apart” in our lives. God takes us into a group that becomes “exclusively” His. Paul writes in Romans “through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (5:2). And Acts 20 says “now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (32). Our reward and inheritance is God and eternal life through Jesus. We become exclusively His.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Lord of the Harvest


“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:37-38 (NIV)


I just love the Fall Season. It is perhaps the best season of all, and I am so glad when it finally comes around every year. It brings with it fond memories of school days, football, homecomings, cool weather, and magnificent clear blue skies and autumn leaves in every hue. It also ushers in Halloween and Thanksgiving with pumpkins and cornucopias full of harvest fruits and vegetables. Harvest is a wondrous time of reaping the bounty of what we have sown.
There is also a bounty that God has sown. Jesus tells his disciples that “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” in Matthew. Imagine fields full of ripe fruits and vegetables just rotting and wasting away because there is no one willing to pick them. That is the analogy that Jesus uses for the people of this world. He came to die for the sins of every person so that we might all be saved and harvested from our sins and eternal damnation. But those of us who are saved by this knowledge will not go out and share in the harvest. Jesus says “even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘one sows and another reaps is true’” (John 4:36-37). We are not picking the fruit from the vines that God has sown.

Paul writes to the Galatians “let us not become wearing in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (6:9). We should be filled with excitement to work in the fields for Our Father in Heaven. He has planted a great harvest which we are joyous to help reap. May we not grow weary but be ever knowing that God is good and He wants everyone to come unto Him so that we may increase our inheritance in His kingdom forever. As David writes, so we should also believe “the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance” (Psalm 16:8).

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Heaven, anyone?

“Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven.” Matthew 5:12 (NIV)

Are you afraid to go Heaven? Somewhere out there the world has convinced everyone that Heaven is a place where people become angels and sit around on clouds all day with harps looking down on the earth. I have heard more times than I care to admit “if that is what Heaven is like, I would be bored and I don’t want to go there.” Well, I would dare to say that God is not going to allow us to just sit around and be “bored.” I also cannot find any references in the Bible to sitting on clouds and playing harps, so what does God tell us about Heaven?

Heaven is God’s dwelling place. Acts says “Heaven is my throne, and earth is the footstool of my feet” (7:49). I would certainly rather be in the presence of a throne than a footstool. Thrones are beautiful seats made especially for a King that reveal His glory and honor. Typically in older cultures, those who were seated were in a position of honor and authority. All of the courtiers stood around the king on his throne. And when Jesus prayed to God he said “pray, then, in this way: Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9). Jesus knew where God was-He was in heaven. Jesus had come down from heaven himself to earth to bring salvation to its fallen and sinful inhabitants (John 6:41).

Heaven is filled with rewards for the righteous. Matthew 5:12 says “rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven.” And Peter writes “in his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4). So whatever rewards and treasures we may have here on earth that can be taken away and perish, nothing compares to the ones waiting for us in heaven that cannot be stolen or fade.

Heaven will not have any sin or sadness. “For of this you can be sure: no immoral, impure or greedy person-such a man is an idolater-has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Eph 5:5). Won’t it be wonderful to go to a place where there is no sin, evil, harm, tears, greed, impurity, sickness, disease or any other bad things?

Heaven and Hell are actual places that exist and each person on earth will one day reside in one or the other for eternity. Heaven is for true believers who are sanctified by God and Hell for the unbeliever who refuses God’s grace of salvation through Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that eternal life in either of these places is a deliberate choice by the person.

So what is our alternative? Jesus says in Matthew 13 “the Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (41-42). And in Matthew 25 “then he will say to those on his left, ‘depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’” (41). So it looks like the alternative to the beautiful dwelling place of God with many rooms and righteous people (John 14:2) will be an eternal fire where we can share space with the devil himself and all his minions where there is much pain, suffering, and gnashing of teeth. Hmmm…that one is kind of a “no-brainer” to me. I think I will put my faith in Jesus Christ and live for Him so that I can dwell eternally with the Almighty God, Creator of the Universe. How about you?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Refined by Fire

“For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined.” Psalm 66:10 (NIV)

When we look upon the trials that we face in our lives with dismay, we should remember that everything that happens to us today will influence who we become tomorrow. James writes “consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (1:2). When we are faced with all kinds of troubles in our lives with money, people, illness, or work, we are being honed for the future. We are constantly being prepared for future tests and learning to cope with the resources that God has entrusted to us. We are charged to be good stewards of our resources and to treat our fellow servants of Christ with respect and courtesy. How we think and react to our troubles determine our testimony for the ways that Christ says to live. James goes on to say “because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (1:3). These trials will give us perseverance in our faith and bring us closer to God.

In the past year I have had two of my sisters diagnosed with breast cancer. Each has been through surgery, chemo, and all of the pain and uncertainty that goes along with the disease. Even though I have not personally undergone what each of them has, I have spent many hours in prayer trying to discern what God would have people to learn from their experiences, including myself. Each person who is touched by their lives will have some sort of reaction to the news. Would they react with drama and dismay and fear for their own life? Would they react with shock and wonder how they would feel in the same situation? How would I handle this test? What would I do? What decisions would I make? I just pray that I would challenge myself each new day to discern what God would have me to reveal about myself to those around me. How He alone has gotten me through the uncertainty and challenges, even though I am surrounded by family and friends to help me.

And in our trials, may we remember that anything that drives us closer to God is good for us. Even though it may seem like punishment in the beginning, if you look at trouble as an opportunity to be refined and molded into the image of Jesus Christ then it is all worth it. “These [trials] have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:7).

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Children of God

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God." 1 John 3:1 (NIV)

What does it mean to be a child of someone? In my family, it meant that the parents were in charge of the home, that the children were obedient, and everyone loved each other and lived in harmony. I was very fortunate to belong to parents who truly wanted and loved each and every child that they had. But other homes are not so fortunate to have loving parents who desire the best for their children. Then there are those parents who want a child so desperately that they have to adopt a child that was ultimately born to someone else. They take them in as their own and love them as their own. In God's family, his children belong to Him as his creation AND they are loved as children who are adopted.

For God loves each and every one of us so much that He was willing to sacrifice his ONLY son that not one of us should perish into the eternal flames of damnation (John 3:16-17). If you are a parent, would you sacrifice your only child to save the world? How about a community? How about a family of four? God sacrificed His son to save each person individually. If there would have only been one person who needed saving, He still would have sent Jesus. Abraham bartered with God over the saving of Sodom. He asked God to save the city if there were only 50 righteous men in it, and God agreed to save it. When Abraham finished the questioning of God, the Holy Lord agreed to save the city if there were only 10 righteous men in it! And, of course, there was not because Sodom was consumed in flames.

It is difficult to understand the magnitude with which God loves us. His all-knowing, all-powerful Spirit understands the thoughts and hearts of each of us. He is all that is good within us! Psalm 147 says “great is the Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit” (5) and “His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (10-11). I will put my hope in the unfailing love of God the Father, because He cannot lie (Titus 1:2) and He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). God’s plan is always perfect for us (Isaiah 25:1), even though we cannot see the outcome for some potential discomfort on the front side.

So may we live in perfect peace, understanding that God’s love will keep us and protect us (Isaiah 26:3) as we are HIS children and heirs to the kingdom and co-heirs with Christ our brother (Romans 8:17).

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Effects of Prayer


“The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” James 5:16 (NIV)

We are a means to an end.

Prayer changes things.

God ordains the final outcome, but our prayers can influence the situation.

We hear the statements above, but do we truly believe them? The Holy Spirit urges us to pray for others and ourselves. Our prayers are the only way to truly communicate with God. Of course, He knows our every thought and deed, but he longs for us to WANT to communicate with Him. And as saints of God, it should be our desire as well. In a society that cannot go into another room without taking a cell or cordless phone, we do not seem to be communicating with the One that matters most. If we want to be in constant communication with our work, our friends, and our families, why don’t we want to be constantly communicating with the most important Person we will ever know? The Bible says “pray without ceasing” but we can hardly pray without allowing ourselves to be interrupted by other less important things. Would it not make sense that Satan would use our desire for communion to our demise? Being able to constantly talk to and listen to other humans keeps us distracted from talking and listening to God. And don’t the humans usually take precedent since they are actually here on earth and are much easier to “reach out and touch” as the old phone commercial says? God does not give into our “instant gratification” that we can satisfy with a quick phone call or text message. He requires earnest prayer and inquiry, rather than shallow, trite drivel.

So when was the last time that you actually prayed to God? Today, yesterday, a week, or a month ago? Allow the Holy Spirit to take you by the heart and lead you to that magnificent place of communion with God. Not the shallow “thank you for this food” but the genuine praise that accompanies moving into the presence of the Almighty Creator God.

David knew the importance of prayer. His psalms are written prayers to the Almighty Father set to music. He spent times of war, want, abundance and glory in praise to God.

The apostle Paul knew that the prayers of the saints were powerful. He counted on them to help deliver him through the trials he faced while preaching the gospel. He often asked for prayers and also offered his prayers to others.

Jesus knew the importance of prayer more than anyone. He taught the disciples how to pray in our model Lord’s Prayer in Matthew. He spent early mornings before the rising of the sun in prayer and spent the night before his crucifixion praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.

We should understand that God wants to hear our prayers. Revelation 5 speaks of golden bowls of incense which are the “prayers of the saints.” God gathers and keeps our prayers as beautiful offerings to be cherished. Let us pray for each other and ourselves understanding that God is waiting to hear from us and longs to communicate back through His blessings and answered prayers.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Laziness

“The way of the lazy is as a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway.” Proverbs 15:19

What does it mean to be lazy? Is it just lying around all day watching television and being completely inactive, or does it go deeper? Is being spiritually lazy just as detrimental as being physically lazy?

My husband and I visited a boarding house the other day while we were out working with a clothes ministry. We were bringing over a few additional items that were not available during their initial consultation. One of the people we were visiting had told him that she loved to read old Sunday School books and any other literature that she could get her hands on, so we found some stuff we had laying around the house to bring to her. The clincher was that she asked for a dictionary to help her when she reads the Bible because there are often words that she does not understand and she likes to look up the meaning. When I heard him tell me that, my eyes filled with tears and my heart filled with joy and sadness at the same time. Joy that the woman was reading the Bible, and sadness because so many of us take our education and abilities for granted. While we were talking to her at her home, she told us that she wanted to go to school so she could have homework! She said that she wanted to get her GED so she could have homework every night so she could learn more. The lady was plagued with a learning disability, but her excitement and desire to have homework and be able to get a job pierced my heart. Consider all of the people in the world who have the mental capacity to learn, are given the opportunity for an education, and they often squander it. I thought, “we should all be so eager to learn and work as this woman.”

I often consider all of the things the world has to offer these days to us to make our lives easier, faster, better, etc. From cliff notes to provide us with information so that we don’t have to read books to “bytes” of information to keep us from spending too much time truly learning about a topic. The abundance of resources to minimize the time we spend “working” on something is truly the work of Satan in our society today. Our physical and mental laziness had lead to our spiritual laziness and the lack of concern for the unsaved and broken hearted. Romans 12 says “never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (11). And Jeremiah writes “a curse on him who is lax in doing the Lord’s work!” (48:10).

Christians today often spend much time complaining about things that are wrong with society so there is not much time left to do anything to change or improve it. Paul writes to the Thessalonians “we hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right” (2 Thessalonians 3:11-13). Shall we settle down, earn our keep, and remember that our work here is to minister to the lost and the broken hearted? I believe we should. Let’s work to keep ourselves spiritually fervent, physically laboring, and always working to spread the Good News to those who need to hear it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

To Believe or Just Believe In?

“For they did not believe in God or trust in His deliverance.” Psalm 78:22 (NIV)

Does it make a difference whether you believe in God versus believing God? The Bible says it does. I would say that the majority of the people in the world believe IN God. James 2:19 says “you believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that- and shudder.” For the most part there is no denying in the existing of Creator God. Some atheists believe that there is no God, but just because you don’t believe something does not make it any less true.

But should our belief stop there? Can just believing in God, or Jesus, save us from eternal damnation? The Bible says that just believing in God will not save a person. Simply because the passage above states that even the demons believe in God, and I am certain that they will not be joining the Christians in Heaven to eternally worship God the Father. So what is the next step? Believing God. One must believe that God is truth. His Word is inerrant. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). When we earnestly seek God, He becomes the master and lord of our lives. We desire to live by His commands, and our lives are changed. Our faith in Him and His will for our lives takes precedent over our own human desires. “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God, nor can it do so” (Romans 8:5-7). So a person who believes in God can still live in willful disobedience to His commands when they do not make Him Lord of their life and desire to live in His ways. Genesis 15 says “Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness” (6). When Abraham was given a humanly impossible scenario by God, he still believed what God told him because he knew that “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).


So our challenge as true Christians and Believers of God is this, to not only believe in the existence of God Almighty and His son Jesus, but to make Him Lord of our lives and seek earnestly to live in His will. Only then will our belief be credited as righteousness.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Seeking Truth and Having Faith

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

Have you ever thought about truth? What is truth? Wikipedia says the following about truth. “The word truth has a variety of meanings, from honesty, good faith, and sincerity in general, to agreement with fact or reality in particular. The term has no single definition about which a majority of professional philosophers and scholars agree, and various theories of truth continue to be debated. There are differing claims on such questions as what constitutes truth; what things are truth bearers capable of being true or false; how to define and identify truth; the roles that revealed and acquired knowledge play; and whether truth is subjective, relative, objective, or absolute.”

What about all of those philosophers who have been seeking truth for the last 2000 years? They seek the truth to the universe and a reason for life within themselves and their finite minds, but they cannot even agree on the definition of what they are searching for. But Hebrews says “by faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what is visible” (11:3). There is no way for us to understand how everything works in our own minds in our one lifetime. God has slowly revealed information to us over the centuries in His own time and His own plan. There is a reason why humans did not travel to the moon 1000 years ago. We do not know what it is, but God does. Isaiah wrote “for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord” (55:8). And Jeremiah writes “ ‘for I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (29:11). We do not have the capacity to understand the mind of God, not here on earth. Charles Spurgeon wrote “in heaven our knowledge will be perfect, but the Lord Jesus himself will be the fountain of it. Dark providences, never understood before, will then be clearly seen, and all that puzzles us now will become plain to us in the light of the Lamb” (Morning and Evening).

So it becomes apparent that truth will be revealed to us only if we have faith. But we cannot have faith in unseen things if we seek truth in our own minds and in earthly revelations. It is a bit of a “Catch 22” for those who so arrogantly seek truth within themselves. Superficial “religion” and “beliefs” are human systems that must become relationships with Jesus Christ. The closest to truth that we will get here on earth is the knowledge and belief that Jesus was the son of God who died for our sins, rose again, and ascended to heaven to prepare a place for us there. If we believe this in faith, God will reveal His truths to us through His Word. Psalm 145:18 says “the Lord is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.” Charles Stanley said that the Bible gives us enough information to know everything we need to know about how to live and how to die even though we may still have questions. That is sound information for anyone looking for truth. Learn how God wants you to live and die, and the rest will come in time.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Election and Predestination

"[God] who has saved us and called us to a holy life-not because of anything we have done but because of his purpose and grace." 2 Timothy 1:9 (NIV)


What is election and predestination? Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines predestination as the biblical teaching that declares the sovereignty of God over human beings in such a way that the freedom of the human will is also preserved.

Christians and the Church are appointed by God according to the Scripture. Acts 13 says "when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the Word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed" (48). Does this mean that God chooses some for salvation and condemns the others for death? Paul writes "this is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim 2:3-4). And Romans 9 says "What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For He says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.' It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy" (14-16). So the only way that I can understand election is that there is no way for me to comprehend it in my humanity. Ephesians says "for he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the one he loves" (1:4-6). I believe that everyone is given the opportunity to come to know God, but many refuse the offer. This doesn't mean that God doesn't want them to be saved, it just means that He ultimately knows they will refuse because He is omnipotent and knows everything from beginning to end. I think it breaks His heart to know that so many will be judged in the end, but in His holiness and perfection, He is a just God who will do what is necessary to fulfill the plan.

So what does this mean for His disciples? We are given the Great Commission in the gospels of the New Testament. Jesus said "therefore go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20). Our purpose here on Earth is the spread the good news of Jesus' love and sacrifice for all the world. We should not be confused by election or predestination, saying that "whoever will be saved will be saved" for we never know when we are the one persons who is supposed to reach out and succeed at bringing someone into the family of God.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Persecution

"If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." John 15:19 (NIV)


So much animosity and hatefulness has been plaguing Christianity lately. It seems to me that it is most popular to disagree and ultimately hate the Truth and the Christians who proclaim it. But the Bible says that Believers will be persecuted for their faith. This should not be a surprise to anyone, but should be expected. Paul writes in 2 Timothy "in fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have know the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (12-15). Christians are God's elect, and should live under the knowledge that we were chosen for His pleasure and will before the foundations of the earth (Ephesians 1:4-6, Revelation 17:8). Jesus said, "you did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit-fruit that will last" (John 15:16).

So do not be afraid to be persecuted for Christ. James writes "consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance" (1:2-3). Notice it does not say "if" but it says "whenever." This means that trials are not an option, but will come to those of us that love the Lord. Tests to our faith will only make us stronger and more able to defend our belief in Christ and assure our place in heaven. May we remember that all of the people of the world are God's children, whether they choose to acknowledge Him or not. Romans 12 says "be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse" (12-14). And perhaps my favorite verse on persecution, Proverbs 25:21-22. "If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you." If you do not give your persecutors any fuel for their fires of anger and hatred, it will be frustrating and difficult for them to continue in their animosity. You will be living according to God's Holy Word, and the Lord will bless your efforts.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Bible

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

What about the Bible’s standard of truth? What makes the Bible pertinent to today’s society? People tend to think that the things they are going through are SO different than what people went through 40 years ago. What about 200 years ago or 2,000 years ago? Why does society believe that our Bible is outdated and impertinent today? Because Satan has convinced us that it is outdated and invaluable to us. He understands that God’s Truth is pertinent for yesterday, today, and forever.

God understands humans because He created us in His own image. He knows us from the inside out. Why would He give us instructions for an obsolete model of human? He would not. Has our capacity for human emotions changed? Do we experience a different type of love, hate, fear, awe, animosity, lust, pride, courage? Or are these the same emotions that people have experienced since the Garden of Eden? Do we honestly believe that we are different in a human capacity than those men and women who lived 2,000 years ago? They committed the same sins as our society today like adultery, being prideful, having family disagreements, trying to cheat each other out of money, and on and on.

We somehow think that just because Jesus didn’t walk around with an iPhone and a blackberry strapped to his waist running a corporation from his laptop on board his jet that he did not experience any of the things that people today experience. He still had temptations from Satan (Matthew 4), love for his family and friends (John 19:26), compassion for people (Luke 19:41-42), a desire to be what God intended him to be (Luke 22:42), the stress of knowing there were people out there who wanted to kill him (Mark 14:34) and animosity for those who were using God’s commandments to judge others and abuse their positions of authority (Mark 7:13). In fact, He probably experienced human emotion far more completely than most of us do today. Hebrews 4:15 says “we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” How many of us have ever truly had to fear for our lives? Jesus knew he was going to die by the hands of men. He also had to fight the temptation from Satan to use his power as God’s own Son for selfish ambition and human comfort. How many people do you believe would go to the desert and fast for 40 days, only then to refuse to be tempted to use holy power to draw up some food and water for themselves? He could have been prideful and shown the world He was the Messiah by coming down off the cross with a multitude of angels at his beckon, but He didn’t. He stayed up there and died for each and every sinful and worthless soul on earth before, during, and after his death so that we may have eternal life.

We must understand that Christ’s sacrifice is what makes us good. Without Jesus in us, there is nothing but the sinful nature of our human flesh. So for those who say that the Bible no longer has anything to teach us, I say that is a bunch of garbage. The Bible teaches us everything we need to know about how to treat other people, ourselves, and our Creator. Just because Satan has convinced many people of this world that their sins are no longer sinful doesn’t mean that it makes them alright. Our standard of truth is not our laws and society, but God’s Holy Word. It is the only standard by which we will be judged in the final days (Revelation 22:18-19).

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Freedom

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1 (NIV)


On this weekend where we celebrate our nation's birthday and independence from Europe almost 250 years ago, what is this "freedom" that we hold so dear? There are political freedoms, like we have here in the USA, that allow us to live in democracy rather than be ruled by a dictatorship. There is philosophical freedom that allows us to think whatever we want and vocalize it as such. There is personal freedom that gives us the ability to go wherever we want whenever we want. There is religious freedom that allows us to worship our God without fear of persecution. And on and on they go. We are so overwhelmed by our freedoms that we often take them for granted not realizing what we have in them. Freedom supposedly allows us to be in control of our own lives without the interference of others on our actions or thoughts.

But are we truly free in a personal sense? Nelson's New Christian Dictionary says "freedom is not a natural state of human beings but is gained through faith in Jesus Christ and the right relationship with him." Our freedom extends only as far as we are personally able to control our actions and words. And because we are controlled by sin, we are not truly free until we abide in Christ and He abides in us. Jesus said "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:34-36)

This freedom that Jesus provides is a complete package that includes eternal salvation, freedom from sin, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." (2 Cor. 3:17) So we can be assured that if Christ is the Lord of our life, then the Holy Spirit dwells within us providing true freedom from the oppression and slavery of sin.

Jesus also provides eternal freedom from death. Romans 8 says "therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." (1-2) This does not mean that we will have immortality on earth, but will be eternally alive with Christ in the kingdom of God. Those who believe in Him will not die the second death and be cast into the lake of fire for all eternity. (Rev 20:14-15) Jesus said "If you hold to my teachings, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32) If we live by the teachings of Christ and in the will of God our Father, we will truly be free from sin. This does not mean that we will never sin again, but that we are dead to the sinful nature and it no longer controls our destiny in this world or our eternity. The Holy Spirit will lead and guide us so that we may be representatives for Christ in all we say and do. Peter wrote "for it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants for God." (1 Peter 2:15-16) So by becoming a true servant of Christ, we are set free. These two ideas don't typically co-exist, for humans understand that if you are a servant, you are not free. But in God's kingdom, the servants are free and the slaves are condemned to a life of misery in sin and Hell.

So while we celebrate our independence in this fair country and the freedoms that go along with our government, let's not forget that Jesus Christ provides the only true way to personal freedom. "For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace." (Romans 6:14) God is our Master and we are His servants, and Jesus is the only way to Him. For Christ said "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except by me." (John 14:6)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sanctification

"Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." Colossians 3:2-3 (NIV)

Sanctification is an interesting word that Christians hear, hopefully, all the time. But what is it really, and do we understand its true meaning? Nelson's New Christian Dictionary defines sanctification as an act, process, or experience of consecration and purification by which a person is made holy and acceptable to God through the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit. It also involves separation from the impurities and pollution of the world and a renunciation of sin. The Greek word for sanctification is hagiasmoas which is a "state of purity." All that being said, sanctification is basically being set apart by God for His good works and service to Him. Once you are sanctified by God, you are no longer a slave to sin and the impurities of this world.

Before Christ, God chose the people whom He sanctified by sending the Holy Spirit upon them and their adherence to the Law set them apart. David wrote "know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord will hear when I call to Him." (Psalm 4:3) God could also take away His Holy Spirit, therefore turning one back over to the sins of the world. He removed His Spirit from Saul when he sinned against God and replaced him with David as king. After David sinned with Bathsheba and had her husband killed in battle, he knew that his actions were unacceptable to God. His repentance recorded in Psalm 51 is indicative of the fear he held that God would remove him from His favor. "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me." (Psalm 51:10-11)

After Jesus came to Earth, He died and rose again in order that He would defeat death and it would no longer control those sanctified through Him. Paul writes to the Galatians "are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?" (3:3) The ideas of Christianity and sanctification were fairly new to the Galatians, who were traditionally a pagan, non-Jewish group of people. The ideas of being "set apart by God" was very appealing to them but they were being confused by the Judaizers of the day telling them that they must abide by the Law of Moses to be sanctified. Paul wanted them to understand that they could not be sanctified through human measures but only by the Holy Spirit, and that is why God sent Christ to die in the first place. For if we could be sanctified by our works, there would be no reason for Jesus to have come to Earth.

Romans 8 says "therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit." (1-4) This is the ultimate understanding of sanctification, that we are dead to sin through Christ and alive to God through the Holy Spirit. We must live according to the Spirit in us and not according to the worldly definition of what is good. For our "righteous acts are as filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:4) and the only good in us is the Holy Spirit which was placed there by God through Christ.

This is sanctification, that we are set apart by God Himself as His elect so that we may do His good works here on Earth and live eternally in His glory. We are free from the bondage of sin and the death, inherent in a life not sanctified by God.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Fathers

"As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust." Psalm 103:13-14 (NIV)

As we approach Father's Day, I pondered just what being a father is really all about. I once heard a preacher say that we often interpret God in the image of the father we grew up with. If our earthly father is absent, we often find God to be absent. If our earthly father is unavailable, we struggle with God's constant love and availability. If our earthly father is a loving and kind leader of our family, we will find God to be loving, kind and approachable. And so it goes, that God is everything our earthly fathers should be, and our earthly fathers are what we perceive God to be unless we understand the unattainable magnitude of God our Father.

Fathers are protective. They keep us from harm and make sure that we are taken care of in our everyday needs. In Genesis 35, Jacob set out on a journey and the terror of God fell upon the towns all around them so that no one pursued them or harmed them. There are more occurrences of God's protection in the Bible than can be written about here. His constant provisions of food, shelter, clothing, good harvests, prosperity in times of famine and want, and on an on...a good father is protective of his children.

Fathers are generous providers. A father would give all he has to his children to make sure they are never in want for anything. In Genesis 31, Jacob's flocks are increased in spite of Laban's plot to cheat him out his labors. No matter how obscure the offspring of the flocks Laban promised to give to Jacob, somehow the Lord always made sure of Jacob's prosperity. And so it goes from beginning to end, God was always providing for His children who love Him.

Fathers are counselors. A father will counsel his children in the way they should go. David counseled Solomon on his deathbed to be a good man and ruler and to love God. "As David's time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying 'I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man. Keep the charges of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies...'" (1 Kings 2:1-3)

Fathers love God. The ultimate test of the father in the Bible probably comes when God asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, after he waited so long to have a child. Abraham obeyed God and took Isaac out to slay him as a burnt offering to God, but the Lord stopped him and sent a ram in Isaac's place. How deep a father's love runs for his child, but his love for His Holy God must run deeper. God understood how painful that sacrifice must have been for Abraham, for He later sent His only son to die for the transgressions of humanity. How undeserving we are of this Father's love.

Fathers are teachers and disciplinarians. Ephesians 6 says "father, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." (4) The ultimate gift an earthly father can give is the understanding of God and His amazing sacrifice and love for the human race. The writer of Hebrews says it like this, "Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirit and live!" (12:9) Rules and guidelines are given to us as children of God and children of men. We should take this information and live by it so that we may prosper on earth and understand that our actions will lead to either destruction or life everlasting.

Fathers are very important. They are protectors, providers, counselors, teachers, disciplinarians, and they love us beyond measure. We owe our earthly fathers our respect and love, and we owe our Heavenly Father our eternal fear and praise. Isaiah writes of the coming Messiah "he will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (9:6). We have an Everlasting Father sitting upon His throne in Heaven who is preparing a place for us. He wants to protect and provide for our every need. He counsels and teaches us through His Word. He disciplines us with the Holy Spirit when we are out of His will and He loved us enough to send His only Son, our brother Christ, to die for us that we may live and reign with Him forever. Tell your earthly father Happy Father's Day and how thankful you are for everything he has done for you and don't forget to tell your Heavenly Father, too.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I AM the WAY

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." John 14:6 (NASB)

Why does society think that the idea of Jesus as the only way to Heaven is bad? It thinks that God is selfish by providing only one way. My question then is why is one way so bad if you know what it is? Seems we can buy books and CDs and watch television shows to tell us about how to do something and that is not bad. If you opened a cookbook to get a recipe for a dish and there was only one recipe, would you curse the writer of the book for only giving you one way to prepare Chicken a la King? If you then added ingredients that were not part of the recipe, would you expect the same dish to come out of the oven?

For further reflection, let's say you were traveling to an island for vacation. This was touted as the most beautiful place on earth and there was only one bridge available to get you to it. Would you curse the town on the island for only building one bridge or would you take the one bridge to get to there?

The same is true for Heaven, there is only one road. Jesus is our bridge to Heaven. He laid down his life on the cross to establish that roadway for us to get to that beautiful place with streets of gold where He has gone to prepare mansions for each of us. (John 14:2) Why would you not accept His gift of grace and accept the offer to live eternally in a beautiful place? Does the idea of "having to" worship God seem unfair for the glory of eternal life?

It seems Satan would have us to believe these days that we are all good and worthy of going to Heaven, if we so deem ourselves better than the next guy. Since when did God make this a competition to compare ourselves to other humans? He never gave us the life of a "regular old human" as our precedent, He sent us a sinless lamb to be slaughtered as our benchmark. Since we can never attain those standards, we must accept His grace. We are constantly feeling as though we "deserve" so many things in our lives: civil rights, the right to choose and live as we please, the right to say what we want, and on an on. Why then, is it so hard for us to accept that we are given the most wonderful gift in the world yet we refuse to accept the giver as having good intentions. Why is it that God is so unfair if He asks you to accept His gift to you as truth? Is it because He only sent one gift and we were expecting a huge party full of gifts from which to pick and choose? Would we be so bold as to refuse the wedding gift from the Father of the Bridegroom?

These are just some things to consider for today. We must begin to understand the joy of worshiping a God which we were created to worship anyway. Being a servant to the Almighty is a much better job that being a slave to Satan and sin.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Faith and Works




"But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves." James 1:22 (NASB)

Sometimes I wonder about some of the Christians who are always in church and involved in activities, yet they really do not know much about what they believe or how to support it. So many believers rely on the truth that Christ came to live and die for their sins and they are saved through His selfless sacrifice. (John 3:16) But believing that Jesus died for you and you will be saved is just the beginning, yet it is the end for so many people. The Bible goes on to say that true Christians will learn and understand Jesus's teachings and abide and live by them daily. Jesus said "therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to the wise man who built his house on the rock." (Matthew 7:24) We may have learned as children in church about the house built on the rock versus the house built on sinking sand. We even sing about it in hymns today. Jesus goes on to say in Matthew, "everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand." (7:26) If you have ever watched the Weather Channel in hurricane season you know how foolish it is to build your house on the sand. No matter how deep the pylons are driven into the sand, the houses that rest on the beach always end up getting completely annihilated by the terrible storms. These are the "storms of life" which will erode and destroy your belief system if you do not build it on the teachings of Jesus, which is the Bible.

So we know that we are supposed to read and learn from the Bible, but what does it say we are supposed to do with our knowledge? James writes "even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, 'you have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works'." (2:17-18) We know that we cannot "work" our way to Heaven, for the Jesus said himself "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) But our faith must lead to the desire to do good works, being selfless and humble before God and man. James writes "pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." (1:27) So we should want to work because of our faith, not to secure our place in heaven.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Desires of Your Heart

"Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4 (NIV)

What are the desires of your heart? Is it filled with desires for good or for bad? Whatever they are, be assured that the Lord will either fulfill the good ones or will allow you to fulfill the bad ones on your own. If we delight in the Lord, we will long to be pure in heart and righteous before Him. But Satan will make sure that we remember the evil desires of our hearts, even after our salvation is assured. John MacArthur writes "Satan will take all the garbage out of your past and try to drag it back through your mind so that you relive it." (The Vanishing Conscience) And the book of Romans says "for although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Therefore, God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator-who is forever praised. Amen." (1:21, 24-25) Jesus preached against the evil of the sinful mind. He told the Pharisees that they were as whitewashed tombs, beautiful on the outside but filled with uncleanliness and rotting flesh on the inside. (Matthew 23:27-28) The sins of our hearts are as bad or worse than the sins of our action, for they have no accountability other than God and our own conscience. MacArthur writes "do you realize that the difference between a sincere, Spirit-controlled, devoted, godly, obedient Christian and a defeated, weak, struggling Christian is what takes place in the mind?" (The Vanishing Conscience)

So what fills the mind of a godly and devoted Christian? The Bible says clearly that a true Christian delights in the Lord and the ways of Christ. Second Timothy says "flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." (2:22) Matthew Henry writes "the more we follow that which is good, the faster and the further we shall flee from that which is evil. The keeping up the communion of saints, will take us from fellowship with unfruitful works of darkness." (Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary) We must be ever reminding ourselves of how our actions and our thoughts are affecting our personal relationship with God. If we are as the Pharisees and "appear" to be holy yet our minds are filled with sinful thoughts, we are as guilty as the one who openly and publicly sins. Peter writes "but in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord." (1 Peter 3:15) If we set apart Christ as Lord in our hearts as well as in our minds, we will flee from all transgression. Our goal should be "keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." (1 Peter 3:16)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Charges to Believers


Here are a few "charges" to Believers that God put in the Bible. May these be reminders of His grace and mercy and our responsibility to praise Him daily for our great rewards.

"But you are to hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now." (Joshua 23:8)

Do not stray from the Lord's ways, he will guide you daily on His path and lead you in the way you should go.

"So be very careful to love the Lord your God." (Joshua 23:11)

Let us not take God's love for us for granted. We must be very careful to remember that He is constantly providing for our needs and we are to be ever praising Him. Would you receive the greatest gift in the world and not say "thank you"?

"Sing to the Lord, you saints of His; praise His Holy Name." (Psalm 30:4)

Lift up your voice in praise and in song to God. He delights to hear your voice and wants to spend time with you each day, establishing a close and personal relationship with you.

"Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!" (Psalm 32:11)

May we rejoice in our salvation and praise God continuously for all His gifts and provisions. Sing unto the Lord, for He doesn't hear your earthly voice, He hears the voice of one of His children calling out to Him with thanksgiving and praise.

I hope you will find some joy in these verses today. I am always reminded of God's goodness and grace when I read the Bible's charges to be joyful and grateful for His gifts! Praise His Holy Name!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Lord will Provide

"I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?" Jeremiah 32:27 (NIV)

We have all heard the old expression, "God will provide," but have you ever really considered it to be true in your life? Have you ever just leaned back and thought about all the serendipity and divine interventions that you have noticed, let alone the ones you haven't? More and more lately, I have noticed the Lord's hand in all aspects of my life and in the lives of others as well. He truly will provide. Psalm 37 says "the days of the blameless are known to the Lord, and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty." (18-19)

There are many instances in the Bible of God's provision. The provisions of manna and quail to the Israelites in the desert for 40 years, the protection given to Daniel in the lion's den, the protection given to David from Saul's evil schemes, rain for the crops, water for the people, the parting of the Red Sea, and on and on it goes. The Bible is a veritable broken record of God's provisions to His wayward and sinful creation. Jesus said "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?" (Matthew 6:25) God also uses other believers to provide for each other in times of need. Paul wrote "this service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God." (2 Corinthians 9:12) Remember that as many times as God provides for you, He is also using you as a provision for others' needs. If we are selfish and accept God's gifts but do not pass them on in favor, He will discontinue our blessings.

But our ultimate provision is our salvation available through Christ. We are lost in a sinful world with no will of our own and God extends His mighty hand to us that we might take it and walk with Him. The blood of Christ covers us and allows for communion with the Almighty. The Bible says "for we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing." (2 Corinthians 2:15) Do not takes God's gifts and provisions for granted as achieved on your own. You may gain many riches in the world, but only He can make you truly peaceful and truly filled. Jesus said "what good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36)

We were watching a show the other night on TV called Earth 2100. It was focused on the environment and what the people of the earth should do to protect it from disaster by the year 2100. They kept mentioning all these disasters and changes that were going to occur if we didn't change our evil ways of handling our planet. By the year 2100 the earth was virtually destroyed and nearly uninhabitable. I turned to my husband and said, "they left one thing out...God." God made this world for himself and for man, and He will return again one day to reclaim it and remove theevil and the damage we have done.

There are those who believe that global warming and environmental issues are the Devil's way of drawing our attention away from important Christian issues like abortion, gay marriage, and the like. I personally believe it is God telling us to remember that He can turn, and in many instances has turned, us over to this world of sin. We must be careful what we do with His creation. The sins of man will be accounted for at the end, but our earth is the only home we have until the glorious appearing of our Lord. It is our responsibility to be good stewards of God's provisions and resources. Meanwhile our ultimate goal should be to spread the gospel of Christ. So let's all remember that yes, God will provide, as long as we are using His gifts for His glory. But once we begin to abuse them...well, let's just don't...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Grace


"But the Lord God called to the man, 'Where are you?'" Genesis 3:9 (NIV)

From the beginning when God created the Heavens and the Earth, He chose man to be his special creation in his own image. From Adam until now, God wants a relationship with man. He never intended for creation to be filled with sin, but in order for man to have free will, it had to be made available. Otherwise, we would be emotionally void of choice and would be like the animals. After Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God banished them from the garden. "And the Lord God said, 'The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.'" (Genesis 3:22) Before the fall, Adam and Eve would have happily lived in the Garden of Eden taking daily walks and communing with God forever. But after the introduction of sin and knowledge, they now had a choice between good and evil and could easily choose the latter. Since God cannot tolerate sin, man was banished from His presence.

But our God is a God of Grace and He does not long to see us suffer. "For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!" (Ezekiel 18:32) For as evil as we are, we have this amazing capacity to commune with the Holy God. And above that, He actually wants us to! He has given us the ultimate gift in His Son, Jesus Christ. We now have a way to get back into the presence and glory of God our Father. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23) "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.'" (John 11:25-26)

We who trust and obey in the Jehovah God, Creator of the universe, will now be allowed to spend eternity in Heaven with Him. So we will certainly see increased suffering and sin in our world right now, for it is controlled by Satan himself. But if we believe in Christ and choose to follow His way here on this earth, we will go on to live in a place where there is no more suffering and pain. James wrote, "Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." (4:14) Since our time here is short, but the promise of life with the Father is for eternity, wouldn't we want to make sure that no matter what happens tomorrow, we are sure of where we will be when this earthly life comes to an end? May we seek God here on earth with all our hearts, and get just a brief glimpse of our eternity. His grace is magnificent and beyond comprehension, but it is ours for the asking if we lay down our lives and follow Him.

Friday, May 29, 2009

What's Your Plan?

"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8 (NIV)

If Christianity is so easy, why doesn't everyone do it? Well, I don't really think it is that easy, but most preachers and modern day "prophets" would have you to believe that all you do is recite the sinner's prayer and you have automatic "fire insurance." But God goes a good bit further in what he requires of us beyond just believing in Him or in Jesus. The demons know and believe in Jesus. (Matthew 8:29) He wants us to relinquish our own will for that of His. We must give up ourselves and make Jesus the LORD of our lives. Psalm 49 says "no man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him-the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough-that he should live on forever and not see decay." (7-9) Only the sinless Son of God could afford to pay the price for our sins. We owe Him our lives, but most people do not want to give up the sinful nature. We write it off as an "illness" or a "mental disorder" or "poor self-esteem"-we just have emotional problems, not sin. Sin is bad and makes us feel bad about ourselves, and we certainly don't want to feel bad about ourselves since we are basically "good people"... "The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one." (Psalm 14:2-3) John MacArthur writes "we are by nature enemies of God, sinners, lovers of ourselves, and in bondage to our own sin." (The Vanishing Conscience) We must understand that our hearts are impure and our minds are cluttered with worldly information. We must fill ourselves with the love of Christ and our minds with His Word.

Malcolm X wrote "if you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything." The entire world has fallen for the Devil's lie that we don't need God or Jesus, we can fulfill our own needs and make it on our own through hard work and determination. Or worse, the "prosperity gospel" proclaims that all we have to do is "name it and claim it!" There is nothing wrong with being rich, or beautiful, or having more stuff than the next guy-we deserve that...and don't Christians deserve it more than most because the are "good people?" All you have to do is tell God what you want and sit back and wait for it to be delivered like your slushy at the Sonic. But Paul writes "for although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened." And Jesus said "Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" (Matthew 7:22-23)

Paul charges us in Philippians "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." (1:27) And Jeremiah 29 says "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your hearts." (11-13) I don't know about you but it sounds like God's plans are much more promising that anything I could come up with. Due to His inability to lie, I believe that His promises are obvious. He has plans to prosper and not to harm, and to give me hope and a future all if I will come and pray and seek Him with all my heart. Christianity may not be easy enough for the masses to embrace it like the latest low carb fad diet. But it is a lot like the old time diet- push back from the table sooner, move your body, and after a while you will see yourself transform into the person that you always knew you could be on the outside. If you earnestly seek God, read His Word daily, and follow the principles of Christ, you will become the person God always intended for you to be on the inside.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sin and Degradation

"All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." Isaiah 64:6 (NIV)

I have been very interested lately in the degradation of our bodies, minds and hearts caused by the fall of man after the original sin. Seems we went from immortal beings to experience mortality, from clear understanding to cloudy thoughts, and from praising and communing with God to being filled by evil, all in a single misstep in the Garden of Eden. Will humanity reach a point where we can degrade no more? Is this to be the time of the Lord's return, when our bodies can no longer be defiled any further by the sins of this world? Satan could not be more pleased that God has turned the world over to his rule for a while. (John 12:21) It makes it much easier for him to infiltrate our hearts and minds. We become much more susceptible to false prophecy through the ideas of "wisdom, knowledge, and science."

Just as buildings and cars begin to decay and fall apart through neglect, so do our bodies. Sin has degraded us to early death. The mutation of genes that spread and cause our demise also affect our offspring and beyond. Our souls long to be repaired and maintained through worship and spiritual cleansing. If we do not cleanse our hearts and minds through prayer, repentance, and the study of God's Word, they will grow dark and mired with sin. Like arteries clogged by years of poor diet, soon the precious blood of Jesus no longer flows in our hearts. Instead of igniting the Holy Spirit to burn off the impurities of our life, we quench it. Jesus said "I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." (Mark 3:28-29) We fill our hearts and minds with creations of man and sinfulness of this world.

Humanity is degrading. Everywhere is sickness, cancer, high cholesterol, mental illness, obesity, heart disease, and more maladies that I care to list. Never before has so much infirmity spread through the human race and touched so many lives. We are creating new and powerful strains of mutated illness that strike the world as a plague in a matter of days instilling fear in the hearts of young and old. We feed our bodies with highly processed foods that have no nutritional value. And we feed our minds with worthless information that has no spiritual value. We must feed ourselves with the Bread of Life. (John 6:35) These earthly vessels are sure to pass away, somehow and some day. But our spirits shall remain forever in Christ our Lord and we will receive new bodies that are no longer plagued with sickness or infirmity. (2 Corinthians 5) But while we are here on this fallen earth, we must make Jesus the Lord of our life and remember that our body is a tabernacle of the Holy God. (1 Corinthians 6:19)

We would never invite company into a dirty house filled with filth and rotten infrastructure. So we should keep in mind that our bodies are home to the Holy Spirit. He fills our minds and our hearts. He cannot exist in darkness and filth, so we must be ever mindful of what we bring into our holy home for God. I have neglected my holy vessel before, but now I understand the old saying "cleanliness is next to Godliness." Having a clean mind and heart for God is like cleaning your home when company is coming. Don't just hide the clutter by stuffing it in a closet, move it out to the curb so that you can breathe easier knowing you have room for the gifts that your Holy Visitor will bring: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

In the Morning


"In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation." Psalm 5:3 (NIV)

The Lord waits to hear our voices cry out to Him when we wake in the morning. I can think of no better way to start the day than speaking directly to God, and neither can He. There are so many references to the saints of God rising early to seek His will for their day. Abraham, Moses, Job, Isaiah and David all speak of rising early to go into the presence of God. Psalm 119 says "I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your words." (147) And Isaiah proclaims "my soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you." (26:9) Psalm 46 says "God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day." (5) Isn't it a comforting thought to know that God wants to be the first one to greet us in the morning? It is like rising to someone standing beside your bed smiling with a cup of coffee made just the way you like it and the first words out of their mouth are "I am glad you are awake and I love you so much!" Even Jesus began his days talking to His Father. Mark writes "very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." (1:35)

So is it a surprise to us that Jesus calls himself the "Bright Morning Star?" (Rev 22:16) He was faithful to rise early and speak to the people in the temple (Luke 21:38). And John says "at dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and sat down to teach them." (8:2) The Lord has so much to share with us all day long, but He longs for us to start the day off right with Him early in the morning. He is the "Bright Morning Star" that greets us first thing from our slumber with the dawn of the day. Even the birds and animals rise from their rest to sing his praises early in the morning. In fact, this morning at 5:30 with the cool breeze wafting in through the open window, several birds began loudly praising the dawn of day. I wasn't quite ready to join them at that point, but I remembered that the Bible says "let everything that has breath praise the Lord!" (Psalm 150:6) The birds were simply being obedient to God's commands, so why is it so hard for the rest of us? Lamentations says "they (compassions) are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (3:23) So remember "do not love sleep or you will grow poor..." (Proverbs 20:13) God is faithful to share his riches every morning, we only need to meet him and ask. May we grow richer every day through His bountiful gift of our Bright Morning Star.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Misplaced Priorities

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)

Have you ever stepped away from the will of God for just a moment to make a decision? Not taking time to kneel at His feet and ask what the right and true answer is to your question or dilemma? I have many times. We sometimes get lost in our own humanity and make decisions based on our own knee jerk reactions or what we believe to be right based on how we "feel about it." God wants us to look to Him for our every need. When we choose to live without Him, He will become silent until we return to Him with humility for redemption. Job says "for I have been allotted months of futility, and nights of misery have been assigned to me." (7:3) The Lord will sometimes test us by not revealing himself to us in a situation. David cried out "O God, do not keep silent; be not quiet, O God, be not still." (Psalm 83:1) Even the man "after God's own heart" made mistakes and asked God to continue to reveal himself. Nothing could have been more painful for David than for God to remove His presence from his every move. We should feel the same way today, but over time sin has degraded our relationship to the Lord, and Satan has weaved himself into the very fabric of society and our beings.

When we trust in our own intuition and knowledge, we will often make mistakes that affect not only us but the people around us. What we know to be true is worthless because of our humanity and sometimes misguided priorities. "Let him not deceive himself by trusting what is worthless, for he will get nothing in return." (Job 15:31) Satan is counting on us trusting in our own knowledge and priorities. That is the way that he can get into our heads to cause strife in our lives and we will become our own worst enemy. When the first negative thought or deed comes into your heart or mind and you feel the conviction of the Lord, humble yourself quickly so that you will not fall prey to the Devil and your decisions and reactions begin to spiral out of control. James says "humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up." (4:10) We cannot lift ourselves up, only God can do that. Trusting in ourselves is like eating, never to be full-our desire to be ruler of our own lives will result in travesty and separation from God. "You will eat and not be satisfied; your stomach will still be empty." (Micah 6:14)

When Abram and Lot decided to divide the land and each go to his own part, Lot chose the fertile land that appeared to be the best choice. Abram relented and allowed him to have it while he took the rocky slopes of Canaan. But what we see as a perfectly clear and right choice made outside of the will of God will often result in travesty just the same. "Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the Lord. He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like the smoke from a furnace." (Genesis 19:27-28) Ultimately Lot's decision to go for the obvious choice ended in travesty and destruction. Abraham's choice to follow God and allow Lot to take the fertile land was rewarded even though it seemed unfortunate at the time. So may we never take our lives for granted and become ruler of our own little universe. Only God can give us what is good and right and we must constantly remember that our wayward decisions that appear to be without fault will often result in destruction and heartache for us and our brothers and sisters around us.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Back to Basics

"And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man's envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind." Ecclesiastes 4:4 (NIV)

There have been a lot of commercials lately about "getting back to basic." We even pray for it in our church services. In our tough economy, seems people are having to give up some of the creature comforts that they once considered "necessities" and the businesses are taking a hit. They are all now trying to convince us that they are a "basic" need and there is no reason to give up whatever service they are providing whether it is expensive blended coffee or an extended warranty on your car.

So what is really our basic need? Jesus said "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?" (Matthew 6:25) Seems that our "right" to a certain lifestyle is ultimately limited to our life in Jesus Christ. Each of us is entitled to trust Him and become heirs with Him in the Kingdom of God. Isaiah predicts "in that day the Lord will snatch away their finery..." (3:18) All the valuable things of this world are worthless compared to finery that we will don when we are clothed in the glory and majesty of God. The gold and priceless stones we covet on this earth are used to pave the streets in Heaven. Would you collect asphalt from the roadway to wear around your neck?

So I began to look around at what the Bible says about getting back to basics. Not much, really. The word "basic" lead me to the word "foundation" which lead to the word "building." I Corinthians 3 says "by the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ." (10-11) That lead me to the conclusion that getting "back to basics" meant getting "back to Jesus." For He is our rock and our cornerstone. If we build our lives upon Christ, all of the important things are achieved and the worldly possessions and necessities don't really seem that important any more. Suddenly what the Jones have is nothing compared to the treasures that are waiting for us in our Heavenly mansion.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Be Thankful for His Many Gifts

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; His love endures forever." Psalm 107:1 (NIV)

Would you receive a wonderful gift from someone and not say "thank you"? In these days of constant obligation and expectation, I have sometimes given gifts that were not received with gratitude. In my human nature, I decided that if one was not thankful for my thoughtfulness, then they would not receive any other gifts in the future. For nothing is more discouraging that to thoughtfully select, prepare, and give a gift that is not appreciated or acknowledged. The same is true for actions. Imagine a spouse who works diligently for years to care for and honor their mate, only to never be appreciated. How discouraging the thanklessness of others can be.

Aren't we glad that God is faithful to continue to love us in our thanklessness? He feeds us with the Bread of Life, satisfies us with Living Water, and clothes us in righteousness. Yet we forget to thank Him and praise Him and we fall away from His ways. Psalm 107 speaks of God's amazing righteousness and forgiveness, "Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains, for they had rebelled against the words of God and despised the counsel of the Most High. So He subjected them to bitter labor; they stumbled, and there was no one to help. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress." (10-13) Aren't we glad that God doesn't think like us! " 'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord." (Isaiah 55:8) For if God did not continue to give us gifts even during periods when we do not appreciate them, we would be eternally filled with gloom and despair, never again to receive a blessing.

So let us not forget to be grateful to God today and every day for His amazing gifts! He sent Jesus to save us from eternal damnation if we believe, He fills us with the Holy Spirit to guide our ways, and he makes our path straight because of our oppressors. (Psalm 27:11)

I humbly thank you Father for all the gifts that you have bestowed upon me. I praise your name for all that you are and all you have done for me! Thank you for Jesus and for my salvation. I pray that You guide me in paths of righteousness for Your Name's sake so that I may have a crown to cast at Jesus's feet when I get to heaven. Amen.