HOW DO YOU LOOK AT LIFE?

Living life is not easy. We will find, if we want to be a participant and not just an observer, many of life’s problems, pains and pressures to deal with. For many facing these matters we respond as Moses did and say: “I am not able to bear (this burden I am given), because the burden is to heavy for me” (Numbers 11:14).

It is at this point we need the answer of Romans 8:28. We stop, speak with our Lord and trust that God’s plan will be carried out. Simply give it our best effort and keep God at our side.

It is important to remember that our Lord’s purpose for each of us is 3-fold. It was determined from the beginning of time. We are each called to participate and finally it will end in a glorified way. Our role is to share absolute love for God and one another out of which trust comes. We simply need to cast whatever burden we have been given on the Lord (Psalm 55:22) and He will strengthen us.

As mentioned earlier burdens come in many forms. Unnecessary rules and regulations that some in society deem necessary (Luke 11:46) when God gave His followers 10 to follow. Leave it to mankind to mess up God’s perfect plan.

Burdens are to be expected. They come out of the sin (Psalm 38:4) in which we are conceived. Our responsibility as redeemed followers of Christ is not only to manage our own but also bear the burdens of others (Galatians 6:2) such as shared by Christ in Matthew 25:35-36. If we do this we can proclaim with Christ: “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). The question then remains HOW  DO YOU LOOK AT LIFE?

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: God’s business is to help us bear our burdens.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Numbers 11:14 “burdens are to heavy for mankind alone”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord I need You by my side.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. Are you a participant or an observer in life?
  2. How has mankind messed up God’s perfect plan?
  3. When faced with a burden do you trust God enough to help?
  4. How do you look at life?

RELATED BLOG: From lemons make lemonade!

 

WHAT GOOD IS IT TO TRUST?

Angels are a fascinating subject. Heavenly beings created by God for a divine purpose. The subject reminds me somewhat of the movie ‘It’s a Wonderful life’ seen this time of year where that scenario is actually played out. In the realm of angels it seems to me that God has a personal  emissary sent out on special occasions. An example of this is Daniel 3:28 where God sent out His angel to Shadrach, Meshach and Abed Nego saving them from fire and so much more.

The angel of God as emissary has divine characteristics such as being able to deliver us from harm. This example of deliverance is also seen in 2 Kings 19:14-20, 35-36). Hezekiah’s prayers were answered in a dramatic fashion. If our love for God is great to the point of complete trust God does answer. The answer will come in the form of peace, protection or promise but it will come. The key is we must love God so completely that our trust in Him and His answer is without question.

An example of that is the angel of the Lord blessing Hagar with a ‘wild man’ for a son named Ishmael (Genesis 16:7-12). The effect of this ‘blessing’ continues to be played out today between Jews and Arabs drawing other nations into the spiritual conflict as well.

Finally we see the angel of the Lord as God’s emissary having authority over sin (Exodus 23:20-22). God’s personal representative is to help us stay on the path leading to that narrow gate into the Heavenly realm where a mansion awaits us. That is the relationship of love God desires to have with us. That is the answer to WHAT GOOD IT IS TO TRUST.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: The angel of God as ambassador is able to answer prayer.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Daniel 3:28 “God sends His angel”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord continue to strengthen my trust in You.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. What are examples of the power of prayer?
  2. What is the relationship between love and trust?
  3. Why did the angel of God bless Hagar with Ishmael leading to today’s turmoil?
  4. What good has come from your trust in God?

MARRIAGE IS NOT A BUSINESS DEAL!

The Bible tells us the two greatest commands for we who are Christian believers are first to love God and then our fellow man. We are in the midst of a Christmas season where we celebrate love in all its many forms. The verse that may best help us to understand this is Ephesians 5:25 where we see marital love between a man and a woman (the only type of marriage Scripture talks about) is like Christ’s union with the church. Marriage is not a business deal but unconditional love.

It is true that within Christ’s unconditional love for the church there were some rules but only such that built on the relationship. When understanding these rules, their purpose and the importance of love from the husband as Christ has for the church. It is then easier to understand Ephesians 5:22 where it speaks of a submissive wife.

Marriage where both husband and wife do not understand this Biblical relationship is why we often have breakdown in marriage today. When both the husband and wife are believers it makes for an easier understanding.

To understand marriage the Bible not only speaks of Christ in relationship with the church noted above but also God’s union with Israel (Isaiah 54:4-8). It is why I believe and have often spoken of our need not to promote a divided Israel or Jerusalem as politicians are so quick to do. The love of our Lord for Israel, the church and a proper marriage is undeniable. We must with that context in mind always remember that MARRIAGE IS NOT A BUSINESS.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Marriage is a  primary means by which God shows the meaning of love.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Ephesians 5:25 “marriage is like Christ’s union with the church”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord thank you for Your gift of marriage.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. What are the different ways we celebrate love during the Christmas season?
  2. How do you explain the need for rules within unconditional love?
  3. What is the relationship between a lack of Biblical understanding of marriage and the increase in societies divorce rate?
  4. How does Israel, the church and marriage all fit together?

RELATED BLOG: The perfect soul mate!

TRUE FORGIVENESS!

Can you imagine someone taking the life of a member of your family and then forgiving them completely. Not only forgiving them but pleading to have their sentence reduced and then hiring them to work for you. That has actually happened and the convicted murderer was hired to work for a foundation named for the person they had killed to speak against the violence they once were a part of. We also see this scenario played out by mothers who had abortions ending the lives of unborn children who then go to work for pro-life organizations to speak of their changed mind set.

The best example remains God whose Son’s life was taken by all mankind’s sin and yet that mere act of crucifixion carried with it forgiveness and an invitation for all of us to come and work for Him to share the message the life of Christ was meant for. God’s act of forgiveness was to show His righteousness (Romans 3:25-26) and serve as an example for us as well. God’s act is justified through the subsequent act of we the guilty coming to a faith in Jesus (vs. 26).

This act of forgiveness makes salvation real (Luke 1:77) and helps us understand what it truly means to love.  The magic of salvation becomes real in a forgiving heart. Indeed this is a foretaste of Heaven.

The key now is to be obedient to the words of Christ Jesus recorded in Luke 24:47. All nations must hear of this forgiveness. A forgiveness that bespeaks the love that is found in TRUE FORGIVENESS.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: forgiveness is the foundation of salvation.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Luke 24:47 “the significance of forgiveness is it must be preached to all”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord strengthen me to share the message of true forgiveness.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. How forgiving are you?
  2. Why is forgiveness critical to a loving person?
  3. What can you do to spread this message today?
  4. What is the end result of someone continuing in sin after the offer of forgiveness?

RELATED BLOG: It doesn’t seem right!

 

A WELL OILED MACHINE!

When something runs or goes smoothly we often refer to it as “a well oiled machine”.  When that continues in a permanent way we say that the situation has an abiding nature. God desires to abide in us in a permanent way. For us to become as Christians like a well oiled machine. This is best understood when applied to what Scripture refers to as ‘the three graces’ recorded in 1 Corinthians 13:13. It is there we read: “And now abide faith, hope, love”. Interestingly the focus is on love in that verse and the reason is underscored in 1 John 4:12 where we read that “if we love one another, God abides in us”.

This is what makes our life like a well oiled machine. God’s presence within us which grows with each loving moment we express to others. That indeed is what I believe Heaven will be like. Yet in addition to this we are told in Scripture that our knowing God comes from His Word which is with us forever. It is that Word which brings us to a born again experience where the Holy Spirit finds a permanent home in our heart to guide us through a life of love. It is God’s Word as found in the Bible that we cannot let the world diminish (1 Peter 1:23).

This world overcome with satan’s presence will one day pass away when Christ returns to take us to our eternal home. A home where when we abide in ‘faith, hope, and love’ doing God’s will we will abide forever (1 John 2:17). A place that in human terminology will run like A WELL OILED MACHINE.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Abiding in the Almighty assures us of abundance.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: 1 John 4:12 “God’s presence within us”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord abide in me.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. How can you show love to the most unlovable person you know?
  2. What do you personally need to run like a well oiled machine?
  3. What are you doing to get to know God better?
  4. What can we do to make sure Christian influence remains in this world?

RELATED BLOGS: That’s final!  and Where do you hang out?

 

 

LOVE ONE ANOTHER!

Recently in the Olympics the world’s attention turned to two runners who after falling down helped each other out. They could have ignored each other, gotten up and kept on running but they didn’t. Why did the television network focus on this? From the TV network’s perspective if I were cynical I would say that they knew a key to a successful show is capturing peoples ‘eyeballs’ or attention. An unusual act of love like this was one way to do it.

Truth be told this ‘act of love’ was something Christ would encourage. In speaking to His Disciples recorded in John 13:35 Christ shared that people will know His Disciples by their love for one another. If we desire to draw people to Christ we must in a contemporary sense ‘capture their eyeballs’ by showing love for one another.

We love because God first loved us. He showed this by sharing with us His Son Christ Jesus Who became our Savior and Who showed love and kindness toward mankind. In return we are to be a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7) giving to others not because it is expected but out of genuine LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Christian love toward others is showing God’s love for us.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: John 13:35 “Christ expects His disciples to love one another”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord may others see in me Your love.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. Why does love make the world go round?
  2. When someone has fallen do you pick them up?
  3. What today captures peoples attention?
  4. List the ways God show’s His love for us?

RELATED BLOGS: Love! and How did Jesus love?

A FREE GIFT!

Some of my favorite memories are attached to the kindness and generosity of others. For example the man who delivered water to our home always had some gum for us. My grandparents as so many do would have a coin or two or perhaps some candy. These acts of kindness did not lead to a life of feeling entitled but rather to an understanding of the word grace. A word that represents an action of unmerited favor.

For a moment we need to look at one of God’s Spiritual gifts which is given to all and that is the gift of grace. A gift that is free to us as someone else (Christ Jesus) paid for it. A gift that is great for it contains eternal value. Value that can not be measured in dollars and cents.

The only thing God would ask of us is that we receive it humbly (James 4:6) and share it with others. That is often where the difficult part comes in. Great at receiving it is harder to share unmerited favor with others around us. Most especially when I believe God would desire that we let people know our action or act of love is made possible through the greater love of God shown us. A gift that is readily available. A FREE GIFT.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Grace grows with each gift given.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: James 4:6 “Grace, a spiritual gift from God”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord strengthen me to show Thy grace.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. What free gifts were memorable in your life?
  2. What made these gifts memorable?
  3. What is it that causes some people to show more grace than others?
  4. What gifts have you received of eternal value?

RELATED BLOGS: Importance of humility! and Gifts from God!

WHY IS THE WORLD MISERABLE?

Some might challenge my saying that but in general I believe the statement is true. We are a people who are empty looking to fill the emptiness of our hearts with all kinds of stuff. We get our ‘highs’ from shopping, sports, drugs and numerous other physical and emotional pleasures all of which are short lived.

A few years ago a political candidate came along with the slogan of offering ‘hope and change’. Nothing new there as every election cycle political candidates offer the same but expressed in different fashion which is why I asked my topical question.

For me the answer is simple and it is summarized in Romans 5:5 where we discover the only true and permanent hope lies in the love of God when found in our hearts. In this verse we have summarized the 3 greatest gifts anyone can receive which we also call the Divine Virtues of faith, hope and love. With those gifts we can all have a feeling of thankfulness no matter the circumstance we are in. In fact if we understand God and His Word correctly it is the only place where we will never be let down or be ashamed (Psalm 22:5) for having given our allegiance. It is as one saying well expresses that “if God be for us then who can be against us”?

So what does God tell us are objects of hope. Naturally it begins with God Himself (Psalm 39:7) and in His Son Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:19). In God through His Son Jesus Christ alone we have the salvation and peace we all seek as clearly explained in Romans 5:1-5.

As it was for Paul in Acts 23:6 this knowledge of what we place our hope in (which is not man made or promised) leads us to the assurance of the resurrection of all who die in Him and have eternal life (Titus 1:2). We now simply wait for Christ’s return knowing that even in our waiting there is hope (Romans 8:22-25).

So the questions remains WHY IS THE WORLD MISERABLE or such a great part of it? I believe it is because they have not found the hope of Romans 5:5 and until they do and desire to further rather than hinder its truth this world will remain miserable searching for and finding in life only moments of short term happiness.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Our hope hinges on the truths spoken by our Heavenly Father.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Romans 5:5 “object of hope”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord my hope is in You.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. Why is the world miserable?
  2. How can you have joy in tribulation?
  3. How is it God can never let you down?
  4. In what all are you placing your hope?

RELATED BLOGS: I hope so!; Time of expectation! and Are you hope less?

ALWAYS HOLD ON TO HOPE!

Our world is broken and the reason is that the truth and understanding of God’s Word recorded in the Bible has largely been abandoned or ignored by non-believers and believers alike. Today I want to look at one example which is compassion (meaning to suffer with another and be willing to show mercy). This is perhaps best exemplified in the story of the prodigal son.

In this example we see two individuals who both had to swallow some pride and a father who continued to pray that a wayward son would one day repent and come back home. Before going further I think it important to remember that the father in this example ACCEPTED his  son’s right to choose the behavior he wanted (free will) but the father in his action showed he could not AFFIRM the sinful lifestyle. A lesson for us today when those entrapped in sin desire we accept and affirm their behavior.

This being said we go back to the prodigal story found in Luke 15:11-32 and see that when the son called the father (not unlike our calling on God the Father) he immediately forgave and loved on him like there was no tomorrow. At that point the father did not make a speech about conditions for acceptance but simply kept the fire of hope alive by welcoming him back no questions asked. William Blake once said we “conquer by forgiveness” and it would stand us well as believers to use this in all our relationships. In the prodigal example the Father forgave immediately. A long litany of confession was not necessary. As friends and parents we need to focus like God on only one thing which is the heart.

Regarding God’s compassion as our example we need to understand that it must be fully expressed such as seen in Psalm 78:38. No statement like “I can forgive but not forget” will do. In the eyes of God compassion must be full and complete always available and it is in knowing that that we can have hope (Lamentations 3:22-24) and serve as a beacon of hope for others. Today ALWAYS HOLD ON TO HOPE and as Luke 15:18-20 points out be ready to forgive willingly.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Compassion comes from knowing Christ and being in constant communion with Him.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Luke 15:21 “a display of willing compassion”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord fill me with Your compassion.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. How much compassion do you have?
  2. Can you forgive and forget?
  3. What does it mean for a Christian to accept but not affirm?
  4. What all is involved in holding on to hope?

RELATED BLOG: Be a little more affectionate!

HOW DID JESUS LOVE?

Our world today needs some spring cleaning. It seems no matter in what corner we look there is dirt brought by satan and his minions. In an effort, by we who call ourselves Christian, to bring a new feeling of spring like freshness to our surroundings the only item we need is as recorded in John 13:34 which is a love like Jesus had.

This verse presupposes that a new nature given by God helps us to love in the same way He did. In order for this to happen we have to have a ‘new heart’ (Ezekiel 36:26) and that can only happen when we receive His Holy Spirit into our lives (Ezekiel 37:14).

When this happens the Holy Spirit will write on our hearts God’s laws such as that of love and the world will begin to change. The manner it will change is told us in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and there we see how Jesus did love. We are told to conduct our lives in a fashion that we are to be as follows: kind, patient, not boastful or proud, and that we forget wrongs. In addition we are not to provoke but rather show trust, hope and always speak truth.

These are not easy personality traits to adopt and live out but that is exactly what Jesus expects of we His followers for it alone answers the question of HOW DID JESUS LOVE.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Christian love calls us to come out from a world that desires you be held captive to a character of sin.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: John 13:34 “love as Jesus loved”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord fill me with Your love.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. How can you align your life with the traits of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7?
  2. What are examples of Jesus love shown in His life?
  3. Do you have the gift of the Holy Spirit?
  4. Is there hope for our world?

RELATED BLOGS: What is love? and Love!