God Wants To Bless You

God Wants To Bless You

 

“We have been made right in God’s sight by faith…” Romans 5:1

 

            Bethel Church sat on a quiet road on twelve acres of well-tended land. Across the parking lot was a very nice parsonage. There were six primary families who had the vision for Bethel and saw to it that their vision became a reality. In the process, they confused building the church with “owning” the church.

            As the head elder Bud would say, “We have the responsibility to keep an eye on the pastor just to make certain sure he don’t go down any wrong trails.” They took their jobs very seriously. So far six pastors failed to make the grade. A seventh was about to find the door out.

            An emergency meeting had been called to discuss the pastor. A young believer sat in the meeting, astounded by the petty, ridiculous accusations leveled at the pastor. He knew him to be a man of love; a man who guided his young life to trust in the Lord. With tear-filled eyes he stood and reminded the people of God’s desire for believers to walk in love, to practice forgiveness and pray for healing. Instead, one of the founding fathers smiled and said, “Well son, we know you mean well but you’re young yet. Some day you will understand. Now let’s have the vote so we can start looking for a new pastor.”

            The next morning, the pastor called the young man over for coffee and a little help in preparing for the move.

            Laying his hand on his Bible the pastor said, “Son, God’s Word will never fail or let us down. He has seen to it that the answers to all our problems can be found between these pages. Let me show you an important section in the book of Romans.”

            Romans 5:1-2  Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

            “What a wonderful set of promises,” said the Pastor. “You will notice that it does not say anything about having perfect conditions or a place of prominence. These promises are based on our decision to believe in Jesus Christ; in spite of any problems we might have. And they have nothing to do with our performance. Notice the word undeserved!

“We can’t stop reading there. To fully understand how God works, let’s keep reading.”

            Romans 5:3-5  We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

            “Now, let’s look at some verses spoken by Jesus in the book of Matthew.

           Matthew 6:9-15  Pray like this:  Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

            “Here is a powerful prayer given to us by Jesus Himself. Look at what he says about forgiveness, ‘forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven…’ As we pray this, we are agreeing with God to put a condition on our forgiveness. We are saying, forgive me in the same way I forgive others who have sinned against me. You see how it plays out? If we don’t forgive others He can’t forgive us. Now that is a place I do not want to be in with God.

“So, when I consider these verses, I have no choice but to believe that God was not taken by surprise when our tenure here was cut short and that He has another place for us to go. What God considers most important is how I react to this trial. Do I allow Him to change me by this or do I stomp off mad, pouting in a corner somewhere? We mustn’t forget the words of James either.”

            James 1:2-4  Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

            “And as I read James last night, the Holy Spirit reminded me of Matthew as well.”

            Matthew 5:11-12  God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.

            “Son, I fully believe all the words that God has placed in our Bible and I have placed my life in His hands. I understand your feelings of hurt and outrage over what happened to me but you’ve got to go to His word and see what He says about life. The Bible is not buffet style, where we pick and choose which verses we consider important or relevant for today. If you want to follow the Lord, you must give it all up to Him. Believe me, you will never regret it. Never.”

 

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Treasures

Treasures

 

“Storing up treasure as a good foundation for the future…” 1 Tim. 6:19

The hotel conference room was filled as the anxious crowd anticipated words of financial wisdom from a well-known Christian financial advisor and he did not disappoint. He carefully explained ten of his “secrets” for investing that have proven successful over the test of time. The crowd was beaming as they imagined building their prosperity.

And then he surprised everyone with a story that seemed out of place. He told of a Bible teacher who taught a class of 25 people, all of whom were solid Christians. On this day, he passed out a questionnaire. They were to simply answer a question regarding the verses on the page: Do you think these verses are literal? Do they apply to Christians today? Are we to live by them? The verses were: *Matthew 6:19-34.

At this point he paused and said, “For those of you who may not recall those verses, here they are,” clicking his remote and splashing them across the screen. Again he paused, giving them time to absorb the Scriptures.

“I can see I’ve thrown a bit of cold water on most of you. But think about it with me. First I gave you excellent, proven methods to increase your wealth. Now I am simply reminding you what Jesus said about that wealth and where your treasures should be. Money and the accumulation of it is worthless and usually detrimental to our lives. Giving to those who need help, with the money we’ve earned is Biblical and pleasing to the Lord.”

“In this context, you will see white buckets at each door as you leave. They are there to accept contributions for the aid of widows and orphans. Allow me to give you this reminder as you leave:

“May God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace by means of your faith in Him, so that your hope will continue to grow by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

*Matthew 6:19-34   “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

22 “Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. 23 But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!

24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.33 Seek the Kingdom of God[a] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

What is this treasure?

2 Cor. 4:1-7  This is why we don’t get discouraged, given that we received this ministry in the same way that we received God’s mercy. 2 Instead, we reject secrecy and shameful actions. We don’t use deception, and we don’t tamper with God’s word. Instead, we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God by the public announcement of the truth. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are on the road to destruction. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of those who don’t have faith so they couldn’t see the light of the gospel that reveals Christ’s glory. Christ is the image of God.

5 We don’t preach about ourselves. Instead, we preach about Jesus Christ as Lord, and we describe ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6 God said that light should shine out of the darkness. He is the same one who shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

7 But we have this treasure in clay pots so that the awesome power belongs to God and doesn’t come from us.

Col. 2:1-3  I want you to know how much I struggle for you, for those in Laodicea, and for all who haven’t known me personally. 2 My goal is that their hearts would be encouraged and united together in love so that they might have all the riches of assurance that come with understanding, so that they might have the knowledge of the secret plan of God, namely Christ. 3 All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in him.

Can we claim not to love wealth more than our brothers and sisters in Christ when we see them hurting and do not sacrifice what should matter to us less than their need? While many of us pursue status symbols that television suggests are “necessities,” evangelical ministries to the poor claim that forty thousand people die of starvation and malnutrition daily. That means roughly twenty-seven a minute, twenty of whom are children under five years old. ~InterVarsity Press New Testament Comment

Happy New Year – 2017

Happy New Year – 2017

Some say “the universe”, some say “fate”, some say “karma”, some say “luck”, some just shake their heads and say “whatever, it’s all good”. But the absolute truth is that God, who created everything with His spoken Word, sent His Son Jesus, the Christ, to live and then die as a sacrifice for our sins. The death of Jesus has opened the door for eternal life for all who believe in Him.

You may scoff, roll your eyes or secretly think I’m a whacko but the only resolution that can actually change your life forever is faith in Jesus Christ. I love all who read this because Christ gave me the power to love you. Nothing in all the world is as important as having faith in Christ as your Savior.

To sum it up, when I think of wishing everyone a Happy New Year my thoughts run to the singular most important decision we can all make as outlined in the New Testament, in the Book of Romans, chapter 10 verse 13: “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved!” 

Forever Secure

Forever Secure

 

“I write these things…so you may know you have eternal life” 1 John 5:13

Many years ago after accepting Jesus Christ as my Savior, I learned an important verse found in Psalm 119:11 “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” I have determined that this nugget of truth forms the foundation of a secure and unwavering Christian life.

Hiding God’s word in our hearts consists of earmarking those verses that calm, assure, build up, strengthen and encourage us and form the pathway to His peace. During spiritual attack and temptation, His word is our only hope. As Satan fires his condemning, lying, fiery darts, our shield of faith—forged from His word hidden in our hearts—extinguishes those lethal darts.

Jesus Christ did not die on the cross, freely shedding His own life’s blood for us, so our sins could be forgiven most of the time or, almost always. Our forgiveness is once and for all. We are eternally forgiven based on His death and resurrection, not on our worth or works. If you feel you are not totally forgiven, it is a lie from satan, not the truth. We cannot be plucked out of God’s hand.

John 10:27-29 ~“ My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.”

John 11:25-26  ~ “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. Do you believe this?”

John 10:10-11 ~ “I came that [you] may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

1 Peter 1:3-5 ~ “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.”

John 6:35-40 ~ “Jesus replied, I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me. However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.”

1 John 4:4 ~ “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.”

Romans 8:38 ~ “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”

2 Corinthians 5:17 ~ “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

2 Corinthians 4:18 ~ “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”

God has a plan for our salvation and that plan cannot be thwarted by ANYONE, including you or me. Our salvation  is eternally secure in His hands, not based on our worth or performance. However, when we FEEL unworthy or depressed, we can call upon His Word that we’ve hidden in our heart or open the Bible to find those verses that renew our faith and encourage our souls.

What’s Past Is Past

What’s Past Is Past

 

“Do not call to mind the former things”  Isaiah 43:18

“How time flies,” he said to himself as he sat alone on the deck of his favorite restaurant, overlooking the river. “I had so many plans and ideas; so many ways to show God’s love and mercy through stories, articles and a few books too. What happened? Did I just throw my life away because of laziness or fear?”

   At that point the server brought his dinner which forced him to come back to the present, not dwell in the past. And then it hit him, or rather, the Holy Spirit reminded him; life is lived in the present, the here-and-now, not in the past. “I guess I’ll have to get a to-go container for this food,” he said as he shoved his dinner across the table and grabbed his smartphone and the notepad he always carried. Time for a refresher in God’s word.

   Isaiah 43:18 ~”Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past.”

   2 Corinthians 5:17 ~”This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

   Ephesians 4:21-24 ~”If you have really heard his voice and learned from him the truths concerning himself, then throw off your old evil nature—the old you that was a partner in your evil ways—rotten through and through, full of lust and sham.

   Now your attitudes and thoughts must all be constantly changing for the better. Yes, you must be a new and different person, holy and good. Clothe yourself with this new nature.”

   Romans 6:4 ~ “Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.”

   As always, delving into the Bible brought answers, relief, encouragement and “peace that passes human understanding.” Imagine, in the same way that Jesus was raised from the dead by God’s glorious power, we may now live new lives! Not by our power or  mind-over-matter, but by His glorious power our lives can be transformed minute by minute. What a relief!

   Romans 7:6 ~”Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.”

   Romans 12:2 ~”Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think. Then you will learn from your own experience how his ways will really satisfy you.”

   Ephesians 2:10 ~”For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”

   Philippians 3:13 ~Brothers and sisters. . .I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me

   Colossians 3:10 ~”You are living a brand new kind of life that is continually learning more and more of what is right, and trying constantly to be more and more like Christ who created this new life within you.

   There, it happened again, reading God’s Word had brought peace and hope; assurance that God has paved the narrow path with His love and guidance. These verses are promises from God Himself; a perfect series of reminders that the past is just that, past. He has already prepared the way to live our lives for Him as we fully trust in Him, relying on the Holy Spirit. He’s done the impossible part, we are to do the human part. Living in the past is not an option.

Today My Neighbor Died

Today My Neighbor Died

My wife and I were in the living room of our third-floor apartment when she heard the low rumblings of an emergency vehicle in the drive. In a flash we were at the window. Who? How bad? Is there hope? “I think they’re headed for Glenn and Arlene’s place. I better be with Arlene.” She headed out. Seconds later, an ambulance arrived, pulled out a gurney and headed for the same apartment. Within fifteen minutes, the paramedics reappeared, guiding the gurney to their vehicle with Glenn wearing an oxygen mask, covered with a blanket, strapped to the gurney. He seemed out of it.

My wife helped Arlene into the ambulance and told her we would talk tomorrow. If she needed anything to call. Small, seemingly insignificant words perhaps but to Arlene, they were words of love and compassion if she remembers them at all. No calls that night. Arlene spent the night beside her husband, sleeping very little. At 77, that’s a sure-fire way to sap one’s strength.

The next morning our phone rang at 7:30. Arlene calling. “Please call my daughter and my niece. Glenn is in pain. They are giving him morphine. It seems to help. He’s not talking, just mumbling a bit. The doctor said they may have to prepare him for emergency surgery. His body is failing. Heart rate 60/40.

Last night, and since we awoke this morning, we’ve been praying for Glenn and Arlene. But what does one pray? God heal Glenn and make their lives good again? Really? So we pray, “God please reveal your perfect will for this couple. You know them and have a plan for them. We pray for the best possible outcome! In the name of Jesus we pray.” Although I believe in God and the efficacy of prayer I must admit to feelings of helplessness in times such as this. “God, I know you hear but I don’t know what you will do.” Glenn and Arlene trust God with the outcome. Actually, what else can you do at a time like this?

Leann makes the calls and we head-out for the hospital. Arriving we find Arlene alternately sobbing and looking confused. Who wouldn’t be? Is this it? Will he live or die? Can he understand me? Will he forgive me for that snippy remark I made last night? Will I forgive myself? God help me.

A young doctor attempts to describe Glenn’s condition and the possible surgical procedure. He fails. We are dumb. He knows and walks slowly away, wishing he was a better communicator. “Ok folks (four of us now, including the 53-year-old daughter), we’re moving Glenn and Sally will take you to the second floor waiting area. A doctor will be there shortly to explain everything.”

Time slowly passed as we talked aimlessly, trying humor which fell flat, remembrances which brought sadness and tears until a middle-aged doctor arrived to introduce himself. I got off the two person padded bench for him but he motioned for me to sit beside him. I think he wanted the contact. What he had to say was not easy but necessary. I felt his compassion and love. It was evident to see. I patted his back from time to time. He didn’t object.

Using wonderful, caring descriptions this man, this surgeon helped Arlene and her daughter understand that Glenn’s body would not recover. He was shutting down. Surgery would not be possible. Too much risk. Not much chance for satisfactory recovery. Finally he said, “Sometimes, when the body is shutting down, the heart reflects that change by slowing down accordingly until finally…it stops beating.” Tears filled his eyes. “Believe me I understand your feelings. Today I had to admit my 93-year-old mother and there’s not much chance she will return home.” Those tears overflowed from his eyes and streaked down his worn face. We all cried.

We were told to join Glenn around the corner in a cordoned off area where his bed had been situated. A wonderful, loving nurse softly explained what was happening and how important it was for us to talk and pray with Glenn. She found country music (his favorite) on her phone and set it near him as she gently caressed his face asking how he felt, making certain he was as comfortable as possible. “He knows you are here,” she told us. “It’s good if you talk to him and touch him. It will help you too.”

Shortly, Arlene asked us to leave and thanked us for all we did to help. “I will never forget what you’ve done,” she tearfully said. “Never! It meant everything to me.” Funny how much it meant to her. We did nothing unusual or admirable. Perhaps we were following the command of Jesus to “love your neighbor.” I hope so.

Arlene called within two hours. Glenn had passed from this life to the next. Now he was at peace and without pain.

Promises

Promises

“I promise. It will be ok!”

“Don’t worry. I promise I won’t do that anymore!”

“I’ll be there by 5 p.m. to pick you up, Son. I promise!”

“I promise, I’ll never hit you again!”

“I am so sorry I hurt you. I’ll never do that again. I promise. Just don’t leave me!”

“I am so, so sorry I took the money. Believe me, it will never, ever happen again. I promise!”

These are empty promises—words without power or substance, uttered in moments of fear, shame, control. If you’ve heard them spoken to you, you understand the frail hope that they mean it this time. You can remember the times of sadness and sorrow…sometimes of pain.

If you’ve uttered them to someone, usually a friend or loved one, you remember feelings of shame, guilt, fear of exposure or worse, control. And if forgiven, you begin the cycle of dread, knowing you’ve no power to stop or change.

Years pass and we learn to forge ahead, looking for friends or lovers who won’t be promise-breakers, but finding that we are somehow desensitizing ourselves, missing out on true friendships and love as we construct impregnable walls of protection. Walls that kill hope and dilute love.

Life does not have to be lived inside a walled city of dulled emotions and shattered love. There actually is an answer that will release and protect our inmost desires and pent-up feelings; an answer so powerful and true that rewards us with new life, hope and love. This is a never-failing, all encompassing, deeply loving answer supplied by the lover of our soul…our Creator and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Whispering down through the hallways of time and eternity, His “still, small voice” may be perceived in our hearts as we rearrange the furniture inside our city of refuge. A voice birthed in the perfection of servanthood; a voice of sacrificial love and obedience; a voice refined by scorning, mocking, testing, betrayal, torture, and death. And a voice perfected by the earth-shattering victory over death…Resurrection.

And now, sitting at His Father’s right hand, speaking up for us, He whispers, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

He knows how difficult it will be to leave the security of our walled-in existence so He comes to us, penetrating our defenses, to build us up hope by hope, comfort by comfort, assurance by assurance. His eternal, forgiving love transcends all our frailties, sins, fears and guilt. “Don’t be anxious about anything,” He explains, “but in every situation, present your requests to Me and I will give you, in place of all your uneasiness, the peace of God to guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.”

He cannot lie. He will not lie. He gave His life for you and me because His love was so strong for us. He was willing to face a painful death to set us free and give us a new life…a life outside the walls.