Monday, December 31, 2012

Where is God in My Suffering?

God's grace is poured out into our life when we need it the most. After a loss, when someone has a prolonged illness, when a pregnancy does not go as planned, when a teenager rebels, when we inadvertently offend someone, His grace is unique, powerful and timely. His grace sustains us through the hard times, even when we do not realize it. His grace allows us to find joy even in suffering (James 1:2). His Word is full of rich comfort and wisdom, which sustains us through the lonely times and allows us to help others in their time of need.
 
We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. God justified us through our faith in Him
(Galatians 2:16). His grace enables us to stand firm on the Rock of Christ through all of our storms, troubles and trials. We rejoice in our hope of the glory of God, which is being revealed in us little by little, bringing hope in the midst of our suffering. This grace produces perseverance, which gives us the power to walk in the Spirit in spite of what is occurring in the natural world all around us  (Romans 5:1-3).

When our children grow up and move away from home or when we lose a loved one or a treasure we hold dear, we lose part of our identity. We are unsure of who we are, because loss dramatically changes us. We may even doubt God’s loving kindness, because He allows such shattering events to alter our life. We struggle through the murky gloom of the trial, until we see the light, which God shines into our darkness (Psalm 139:12). Then we allow God to envelop us with His loving arms, which sustain us through all of our troubles (Psalm 23:4; Isaiah 43:2).

We find our true identity in Christ, regardless of what we lost or what we still have available to us. We do not categorize our self by the role we play in life, but by our relationship with our eternal God. He is the vine and we are connected as branches to His life-giving source. We remain in Him regardless of our struggles or losses in life. In Him we bear much fruit, and apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5-6). Even when we cannot see Him, Jesus is right there within us, giving us the wisdom, strength and grace to overcome the obstacles in our life.

Expecting God to grant the cravings of our heart is not the secret to a happy life. We find no peace, joy or contentment by getting what we want. God sees the entire forest; we only see the trees right in front of our eyes. God knows the end from the beginning, and He knows what we truly need to live fulfilled lives (Isaiah 46:10; Ecclesiastes 3:11). God’s will is for our ultimate good now and throughout eternity. Job lost his wealth, health and family all in one day; yet, God gave him more than he lost both here on this earth and also in eternity.

I have seen hurricanes sweep through a city, and all the Christians I know regained power to their home within minutes, they have minimal damage to their homes, and they do not lose a family member or suffer any great setback or hardship. However, sometimes Christians do suffer loss. God is not impotent when we do, and He is not unkind or vindictive if He allows us to feel pain and devastation (Job 2:10). We eventually come to the understanding that God causes all things, even catastrophic things, to work together for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28). As in the case of Job, God will give us back more than we ever lost (Job 42:10).

Prayer:
Father God, thank You for your mercy on us. We cry out to You for help, because You are the Most High God. You fulfill Your purpose in the earth and You send the Holy Spirit to help us (Psalm 57:1-3). We trust You for protection and provision. Remind us to hide beneath the shadow of Your wings until the storm is past. Remind us that the Son is always shining in our life regardless of our circumstances.

Thought for the Day:
The measure of God’s goodness is not determined by the trials in our life, but by the way He walks through them with us.





Thank you, Gracie Hill, for the use of your photo.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Light in the Darkness

Read: Matthew 5:13-16

The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” – John 1:5

As I watch our grandchildren develop, the fact that every one of them is born with a sinful nature is so evident. No one taught them how to throw a temper tantrum, or how to be picky with food, or to unroll all the toilet paper or how to get grouchy when they are tired. It all comes naturally. I am happy to say that they eventually learn social skills as they mature. They also learn self-discipline, so eventually their parents do not have to discipline them.

We are hopelessly lost in darkness without Christ in our life, until the Holy Spirit comes to our rescue (John 1:5). As baby Christians we also have some bad habits and we retain some carnality that needs discipline (Romans 1:29). Actually, it is God who gives us both the desire and the will to live for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). He conforms us a little more each day, through His sanctifying process, until we start to reflect the character of Christ in our lives (Romans 8:29).

The problem baby Christians often encounter is that some of those who profess to be Christians are actually more sinful than people who live in the world. These pretenders have a false hope of going to heaven because of a prayer they prayed, and they are oblivious to their real need for Christ in their life (Jude 4). They drink, use foul language, live immorally and fail to serve God with full devotion. They are poor examples to new Believers, and they often encourage these babes in Christ to live in habitual sin as well.

However, as true Believers come to know the Truth we walk away from sin. We follow Christ’s example in life and share it with others just like Jesus did when He came to destroy the works of the devil. Therefore, it is impossible for us to continue sinning when we are truly born of God (1 John 3: 6-9). Instead we live for God’s glory and we submit to the Holy Spirit as He transforms our behavior from carnal to Christ-like. God calls us to live as light in the world of darkness and to spread the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ to anyone who will listen (Matthew 5:13-16). 

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, as we draw closer to You each day, we walk away from any behavior that leads to personal gain or unholy activities. As we study the Word, we learn more about You and what You expect from our lives. We also learn more about Your character and how You want us to act and think. Help us to choose to live lives without compromise, so that we can be salt and light in the dying world around us.

Thought for the Day:
No one who lives in Christ Jesus keeps on sinning, and no one who continues to sin has any concept of who Jesus really is.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Whole New Life

Read: Romans 5: 6-10

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself." - Luke 10:27

You may be experiencing the worse that life has to offer. Maybe you lost your home, your mate, your child or your job. You may be devastated right now with your stomach in knots, confusion ambushing your mind and no resources to depend upon. Do not attempt to get through these distressing and demoralizing times by yourself. You may put a bandage on the problems, but this is simply a temporary and superficial healing.

There is a Friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). He will walk with you and guide you through the depths of your grief, suffering and uncertainty. There is no other friend that compares to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (1 John 3:1). In Christ, the healing from your loss will be total and complete. If you do not have the Lord Jesus Christ in your life, I want to encourage you come to know Him as your personal Savior. His love will never let you go.

You may think that God could never love you because of all the wrong actions and decisions you made in your life. There are numerous accounts in the Bible where God forgave vile sinners. God loves each person the same. You can be confident of His unconditional love for you (John 3:16). All He wants is for you to believe and cease your sinful behavior (Matthew 21:32). Then, He will reach down his Father’s arms and pick you up and hold you until your fears and pain are gone (Psalm 68:5). The Holy Spirit will restore your life to sanity, stability and order if you will follow His leading moment by moment throughout your day.

Have the courage to completely release the shredded remnants of your existence and embrace His will for your life. He hears the prayers of the afflicted (Psalm 10:17). He encourages us and listens to us when we cry out to Him (1 John 5: 14-15; Psalm 54:2). He keeps every one of our tears in a bottle and records them in His book (Psalm 56:8). He defends the fatherless, the oppressed and the widow. He removes the terror from our life (Psalm 10:17-18). Surrendering your life to Christ is the first step of faith. If you sincerely pray to release control over your life to God, He will immediately act upon it. The words of your prayers are not as important as your heartfelt motives.

At just the right moment, when we were powerless over sin and our ungodly ways, Christ died for us. While we were still sinning, God demonstrated His love for us by sending His only begotten Son to die in our place. Jesus justifies us by His blood and saves us from God’s wrath. Even when we were still God’s enemies, Jesus reconciled us to God by His death and saved us through His life (Romans 5: 6-10). Once we repent of our sins, God remembers them no more (Romans 8:1; Hebrews 8:12).

Jesus is the only way, truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him
(John 14:6). We cannot enter heaven through our own good deeds or morally upright behavior. We cannot go to heaven by joining a church, getting baptized or living in a Christian home. Salvation is a free gift from God and there is no way we can boast about it (Ephesians 2: 8-10). Eternal life is free, but only those who believe in and surrender control of their lives to Jesus will receive it (John 3:36).

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, I turn complete control of my life over to You. Thank You for forgiving me of my self-centered lifestyle. Thank You for adopting me into Your family. Hold me, protect me, nurture me and comfort me. Reassure me that You have everything under Your control. Thank You for plucking me out of my old lifestyle and giving me this wondrous new life in You. I will live each day in Your will with the knowledge that You already secured for me my eternal destination. Thank You for all you do for all of us each and every day.

Thought for the Day:
God’s love for us defies description, because it is more than we can comprehend.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Benefits of Obedience

Read: Luke 15: 8-10

Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” – Matthew 3:8

So often in life we fail to accomplish some goal we set for our self, or we fall short of getting that pay raise or promotion we worked so hard to attain. When we try in our own efforts to succeed, we often fail to achieve the desired results. The disciples gave us a great example of obedience, after they fished all night without any success. As they returned the next morning, Jesus called from the shore and instructed them to go back out and to throw in their nets on the right side of the boat.

When they obeyed, they had to get help hauling in all of the fish they caught (John 21:6). The disciples were successful only when they obeyed the Lord. They followed His instructions explicitly and reaped the rewards. God does not receive pleasure or praise in the results of the humanistic efforts of our plans, goals and accomplishments. Instead, He only delights in our obedience to His will (1 Samuel 15:22).

Humanity considers God’s laws restrictive and oppressive. We want the freedom to sin against others, but we blame God when others sin against us. God’s judgment is not mean or vindictive. It is His loving attempt to draw us away from sin and back into His protection and abundance. Even in judgment, God gives His people every opportunity to repent and to return to Him (Jeremiah 15:19). In the end, these same people that give God the most grief through their hatred, give Him unrivaled joy the instant they humble their self, repent, trust in Him and obey the leading of His Spirit (Luke 15:7).

However, the multitude of humanity that fail to take advantage of the opportunity He gives us to live in His joy and peace on earth, will spend eternity suffering more than they are ever hurting now. Incalculable anguish and desolation is inevitable in this life as well as in the next, whenever we live outside of God’s will. Sometimes, people give up after making a few attempts to follow God’s will because they miss out on some imagined blessing that they counted on receiving (Ecclesiastes 5:1). If they only waited a little longer and walked with God a little further, the effort of their obedience would bring more lasting rewards than reaping the results they are looking for (1 Samuel 13:13).

Sometimes, we cannot see how the task God gives us fits into His overall plan until years after the event. At other times, we will not even know the effect of our obedience until eternity dawns and God opens the eyes of our understanding. This is not important, however. Delayed gratification provides a way of gaining assured pleasure in the future. It is like making deposits into our savings account. We bring God glory with every obedient step we take, regardless of the outcome. God wants complete devotion to Him from a dedicated heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:33). Sometimes, that is the only result He is looking for.

Prayer:
Father God, help us to take our eyes off the results of our efforts and to realize that obedience is what You are looking for from us. Help us to love You with a heart of full devotion, not distracted by the temptation of worldly pleasure, praise, glory or benefits. We want to do Your will in everything we say and do each and every day of our life. We give You the glory for every positive consequence we receive from our efforts in life, and we return all the praise we receive back to You.

Thought for the Day:
God prefers obedience to sacrifice, a humble spirit and repentant heart rather than accomplishments from our own efforts (Psalm 51:17; Ephesians 2:8-10).






Thank you, Joshua White, for the use of your photo.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Meeting at the Cross

Read: John 3:16-18

“All creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.” - Romans 8:19

Jesus Christ left His divine habitat in heaven and shed every vestige of privilege in order to live as one of us for thirty-three years. Then, in the prime of His life, He willingly gave Himself as a ransom for the penalty of our sins. He loved us while we were still lost in our sins. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus faced the terrifying dread of what He would suffer on Calvary’s cross (Matthew 26:42-44). He spared Himself no pain, however, to guarantee that we receive the best not only in life, but also in eternity.

In today’s society there are still people who volunteer to sacrifice their life as terrorist, fighting for their greater cause. They willingly blow themselves up in order to kill as many people as they can. Their cause is misguided and their intentions are evil. It is the character of sin to destroy and wound. They do not have a heavenly home awaiting their arrival. Such tragedies cause many to reel from the grief of these assaults. However, God collects the tears of everyone who is devastated by these acts of injustice in His bottle and He records these travesties in His journal (Psalm 56:8).
 
Jesus, the Man of beauty, infinite goodness and boundless love made a way for everyone willing to open their heart to Him. If we choose to turn our back on temporal distractions, He will draw us closer to Himself on a daily basis. He asks us to meet Him at the cross and to lay our life down in service for Him (Matthew 16:24). Jesus showed relentless compassion and sacrificial love when He considered us over His own need. His final burden was His separation from His union with our Father, something that had never been broken prior to the cross (Matthew 27:46; Psalm 22:1).

People blame God for the suffering in the world; however, He actually gave His life to end suffering for all time. Mankind suffers from our own selfishness, greed, corruption and hypocrisy; yet we blame the one Being who loves us more than life itself for all of the suffering in the world. No one is more deserving of gratitude and love, and no one receives more misguided animosity, bitterness and denunciation than He does.

We, who are reproachable and defiled in every way and undeserving of forgiveness, judge God as lacking because He does not live up to our standards of what is right, fair and good. Yet, God in His infinite patience waits for our response of genuine love for Him. He requires nothing of us against our will, but He asks us to submit our will to His for our ultimate good. He took the sin of the world on Himself in order to heal mankind of our physical and spiritual wounds (John 1:29).
 
Jesus did this so that we can renounce the subtleties of sin in our life, and instead, seek a union with our triune God. Once we give our life to Him, we feel the pain of what hurts Him, we see the injustice that blames Him and we defend the Christian brother and sister who live in His honor. Jesus alone is worthy of all of adoration and praise; yet, He receives the most ridicule and misunderstanding.
 
Jesus forfeited His power and authority in heaven to take on the form of a man, and He tolerated the abuse of the crucifixion to save us all from the penalty of our sins (Hebrews 2:14; Matthew 4:4). Without Him our life is full of pain, disappointment and tragedy. He alone makes our life on this earth abundant and full of mercy and truth (John 16:33). God desires to use us to help Him to alter the destiny of our friends, relatives, associates and neighbors from everlasting destruction to eternal bliss by sharing with them what God does for us on a daily basis (2 Timothy 4:2).
 
Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You accepted our degradation in our place. You gave us Your spotless perfection in exchange and prevented the need for us to suffer for our willful disobedience to our Holy God. We confess our sins and ask You to be our Savior. We look forward to walking with You every day of the rest of our life and to joining You in the new heaven and the new earth for all eternity (Romans 8:20-22.)

Thought for the Day:
Everything Christ did in His life and death, He did for you and for me.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Power of Our Choices

Humanity often resents God for requiring that we allow His involvement in our life; yet, when tragedy strikes, we resent Him for not getting involved enough to prevent it. We want the freedom to live in sin; but when the sinful behavior of others inconveniences our life, we rail against God for not stopping others from living in sin. We scream at God to prove Himself, yet we ignore the proof of His existence all around us in the earth, the sky and the sea (Romans 1:20).

Most God-haters live under the weight of some immense pain that they blame on God. They rage over the hurt they feel, but they excuse the pain they inflict upon others. They consider themselves morally superior to God and speak disparagingly of Him with no respect for His holiness. Many people live outside of the boundaries of their own seared conscience and contrary to the ways of God; yet, then they blame God when they reap the destructive consequences of their own behavior.

We hesitate to give God the benefit of our doubt, but we readily accuse Him falsely without a moment’s hesitation. We blame injustice on God, but we fail to live within the realm of His justice, and we even rail against Him for maintaining His justice. God’s judgment is His loving attempt to draw us away from sin and back to Himself. God never sends judgment without a warning. He always gives people every opportunity to repent and to turn to Him before He brings His justice to bear.

At this time in God’s economy, He chooses not to rule with His power and authority. He allows mankind the freedom of choice. God gives us the power to love, but also the freedom to hate. We can take the high road and gain honor and blessing for our choices, or we can prefer to live the low life and reap the negative consequences. Many heartaches experienced on this earth can be traced to rebellion against God’s will on someone’s part. However, God is full of tender mercy. He gathers our tears in His bottle and writes the cause of them in His book. He will exact revenge for each one of them, if we leave it in His hands (Romans 12:19).

The power of our choices is infinite in either bringing good or abuse to our life and to the world around us. Some people choose to trust God through their grief and to forgive those who hurt them, just as Christ did while hanging on the cross. Others hang onto grudges for years, and end up hurting no one but their self. God’s desire is for no one to perish in darkness, but that everyone will live for eternity in His Light (2 Peter 3:9; John 3:19). All of our transgressions nailed Jesus to the cross. He paid the penalty of our sin, which His righteousness demanded. He did this because God longs to bring us blessings and not suffering all the days of our life.

Prayer:
Father God, in Your economy even the emotion of hate is as heinous to You as murder, and lust is equivalent to the crime of adultery (1 John 3:15; Matthew 5:27-28). You lived the perfect life in Christ’s bodily form, which was necessary to atone for mankind’s rebellion against You throughout centuries of time (John 8:56-59; 17:5). You practiced what You preached by feeding the multitudes, living a life of poverty, turning the other cheek when struck, experiencing the mangling of Your physical body without retribution, and ultimately forgiving Your persecutors. We thank You for suffering in our place, and for ultimately ending all suffering in Your Kingdom to come.

Thought for the Day:
God put His laws into place in order to protect us, not to restrict us.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Jesus' Birthday 2012

Read: Matthew 1:18:25

I will also appoint him my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth.” – Psalm 89:27

The fledgling church of the New Testament did not consider the birth of Jesus as significant as His resurrection. In fact, only Matthew and Luke wrote about it briefly. We have no exact date for Christ’s birth. Therefore, the first recorded celebration did not transpire until a few centuries after His birth. Then, in the year 336 AD, the Catholic Church enmeshed the celebration with a Pagan holiday occurring on the date of December 25th.

No matter what date we choose to celebrate His birth, the fact remains that Jesus, who is the Word of God, and who was with God and was God, came to live on the earth (John1:1). He took on the nature of a servant, and lived a humble life (Philippians 2:7). He dwelt among us, and eventually willingly gave His life to pay the penalty of our sins and to allow us to live with Him now and for eternity (John 1:1,14). One day, possibly very soon, He will return as the King of kings and the Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16).

Christmas is the day to remember the Nativity of Christ. The commercialism, which puts families in debt and makes them desperate to provide the latest toys for their children, detracts from the joy of the day. Stringing popcorn and cranberries, making gifts for one another – no matter how impractical or unattractive, spending time as a family to read the Christmas account (Matthew 1:18:25; Luke 2:1-19), sharing a special meal with family and friends, taking a walk in nature, playing a board game as a family…these are treasures that will remain in our memories forever. The gift of our time is the most valuable commodity our children need from us.

Jesus never told us to celebrate His birth, but to remember His death. We commemorate His sacrifice for our sins by regularly observing communion (1 Corinthians 11:24). Since His death, our focus is now on His imminent return. Due to the fact that Christians heralded the return of Christ for centuries of time, people now dismiss it as irrelevant and impossible to ever happen. Atheists adopt slogans such as “Keep the Merry. Dump the Myth" and "You know it's a MYTH. This season, celebrate reason."

However, all of their unbelief does not negate the fact that Jesus did come and is coming again. The false prophets who claim to know the date of His return anesthetized the world into unbelief, so that people actually scoff at the thought that He will ever return. Jesus said, “No man knows the hour or the day” (Matthew 24;36), but the fact remains that He is certainly coming again, on a day and at an hour when we least expect Him. When He does, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11).

If you are interested, here are a multitude of verses proclaiming His eminent return (Matthew 16:27, 23:39, 24:27-42, 26:64; Mark 8: 36-38, 13:26-37, 14:61-62; Luke 9:26-27, 17:28-30, 18:8, 21:25-28; John 14:1-4; Acts 1:11, 3:19-21; 1 Corinthians 1:7, 4:5, 11:26, 15:23-24; Philippians 1:10, 3:20; Colossians 3:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:9, 2:19, 3:13, 4:15-5:4, 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 2;1, 2:8; 1 Timothy 6:13-16; 2 Timothy 4:1-2, 8; Titus 2:12; Hebrews 3:7, 9:28, 10:25; James 5:7-9; 1 Peter 3-5,13, 2:12, 4:13, 5:4; 2 Peter 1:16, 3:3,8-10; 1 John 2:28, 3:2; Jude 1:14, 21; revelation 1:4,7, 3:11, 16:15, 22:12, 20-21.)

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Your mother Mary cherished the events of your life and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19). May we do the same thing, especially at this season of the year. We will rejoice with the angels and shepherds (Luke 2:20) over your first advent to the earth and look forward to your soon return for Your Bride. May everyone we love and cherish come to this saving knowledge in their lives as well, so they too will join us in Your presence for eternity.

Thought for the Day:
Celebrate Christ in Christmas with a heart full of gratitude for all He does for us every day.





 

Monday, December 24, 2012

God Turns Mourning into Dancing

Read: Psalm 52:8-9

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.” – Psalm 13:5

God will turn our mourning into dancing. He will remove our burden and pour out His joy upon us. Although our heart may fail us for fear about the future or grief over the past, as we look to God, our heart will sing joyfully to Him and not be silent, because of all the wondrous things He does for us every day. We will give thanks to our God forever, and in turn help others with the wisdom He imparts to us during this time of recovery (Psalm 30:11-12). However, it often takes planning on our part to open our heart to His healing love.

If we wait until the week before Christmas or some other holiday or anniversary, our negative emotions may overwhelm and debilitate us. It is wise to come up with a plan of action prior to special days and holidays, and not to wait until they trigger our feelings of grief and loss. Plan a party and set a place for your loved one. A friend of mine put a rose on an empty place setting for his deceased mother during his wedding reception. Or you can get together with others who experienced loss in their life and find comfort talking about your loved ones, sharing photos and stories and praying with one another.

God gives rest to those who are weary and heavy-laden (Matthew 11:28). He is our rock and fortress, our deliverer. We can take refuge in Him. He is a shield, which protects us from the darts of depression, and He is our stronghold and salvation (Psalm 18:2). He comforts us in our affliction and revives us when we can barely breathe, or hold our head up or even get out of bed (Psalm 119:50). As we follow a routine of daily Bible reading, devotion and prayer, we can bless our God and Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, for the mercies and comfort they give us during our affliction.

Our confidence in God does not disappoint us, because He pours out His love in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives within us (Romans 5:5). We rest our faith, knowledge and eternal hope on God who cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 7:19; Acts 26:6). God knows exactly how we feel and He cares even if people do not. When our soul is sad, downcast and disturbed within us, we can put our hope in God and praise our Lord and Savior, even in the negative circumstances of our life (Psalm 42:11, 43:5). We wait expectantly for our blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus, the Messiah (Titus 2:13; Acts 24:15).

Prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father, great is Your mercy and grace. You gave us a new birth with a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. You are our future and our inheritance, which can never perish, spoil or fade away (1 Peter 1:3-4). You know and care about what we have lost (2 Corinthians 5:11). We place our faith and hope in You, because You raised Christ from the dead and gave Him great glory (1 Peter 1:21). We share in His inheritance with all the Saints of God (Romans 8:15-17). Dear God of Hope, fill us with all joy and peace, as we trust in You.

Thought for the Day:
We will overflow with hope by the power of God’s Holy Spirit within us. - Romans 15:13

Sunday, December 23, 2012

God Haters are Misguided

Since the beginning of time, people have hated God, or at the very least, mistrusted Him (Truth: 1 Samuel 2:2). They prefer to go to hell and some even say they look forward to spitting in God’s face (Truth: 2 Peter 3:9). They blame Biblical, as well as current atrocities on what they consider God’s sadistic nature (Truth: Ezekiel 18:32; 2 Peter 3:9). They believe that God manipulates people, that He is a mass murderer, a rapist (Truth: Luke 1:38), and that He ordered the ethnic cleansing of Old Testament countries (Truth: Joel 3:2; Nehemiah 13:18). They consider the wrath of God as an archaic and obscene emotion (Truth: Revelation 15:1). They insult God’s justice and ridicule the concept of His holiness (Truth: Isaiah 5:16; Isaiah 30:18).

They believe that God inflicts the world with AIDS, cancer, starvation, rape, murder, abuse, genocide, etc without a second thought (Truth: Romans 5:18). Due to the fact that Christians heralded the return of Christ for centuries of time, they dismiss it as irrelevant and claim that it will never happen (Truth: Matthew 24:36). Added to their excuses to continue their rejection of God is the fact that Christians cannot agree on the truth, because of the various doctrinal differences among us (Truth: 1 Corinthians 1:10-13: John 17:20-21). They describe God as unconscionable and intrinsically evil and wicked, in spite of His claims to be love personified (Truth: 1 John 4:7-21).

In actuality, every evil deed we see in the world stems from a decision made by some sinful person, not by our Holy God. What God haters forget is that God Himself became man, Immanuel, and died to pay the penalty of our sins for us (Matthew 1:23). Sin entered the world when Adam and Eve chose to believe Satan over God. God did not create mankind’s penchant for evil; He just gave us a free will to choose whether or not to use it. God has only our best interest at heart (Jeremiah 29:11). The power of God is displayed every day throughout the universe (Romans 1:20). However, this phenomenon is so commonplace in our modern world, that people take Him for granted (Ecclesiastes 3:11). The fiery fury of the sun is mild compared to the wrath of our holy and just God, but people tend to either malign Him for it or they ignore Him as impotent of any consequential power (2 Thessalonians 2:11).

These misguided people are blinded by Satan (2 Corinthians 4:4), and they forget that God’s original plan for mankind was Paradise. He did not want sin and its consequences to touch His precious creation. He wanted peace and blessing for us, not war, greed, hatred and the evil brutality perpetuated by mankind. He preferred that we enjoy the idyllic life He created for us. However, the first couple decided that God was holding something back from them, an omniscience that Satan was readily offering them. They believed Satan’s lie rather than God’s truth, and people have been doing this same thing ever since (2 Thessalonians 2:10).

One wonderful day, however, every knee in heaven, on the earth and even those under the earth – who are already tormented in the flames of hell - will bow to the Lordship of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:10). When Christ is revealed, all of the puzzle pieces, which the Word revealed to us over eons of time, will fit into place. Then the magnitude of God’s glory will astound our finite mind.

God gives us many wondrous blessings every day, which we take for granted. For instance, consider the stellar universe, the perfect tilt to the earth’s axis, the sunrise and sunset, the earth’s exact distance from the sun, a canopy of ozone to protect us from radiation, a perfect mixture of oxygen from plants and trees for us to breathe, carbon monoxide from our breath for the plants to use for photosynthesis, intricate body parts - which function optimally if we do not misuse them, and Biblical precepts on which to base our life.

God sets us free from the law of sin and death by the law of the Spirit of life (Romans 8:2), which are as real as the laws of nature and science that God put into motion! God looks forward to us living for eternity in His presence. He does not choose for anyone to go to hell (2 Peter 3:9). God does not condemn us (John 3:17; 12:46-48). We condemned ourselves by our unbelief (John 3:18). Those who accept Christ as their Savior are the only ones freed from this condemnation (John 3:16-21).

This eternal relationship starts the moment we accept Jesus as our Savior (Romans 6:23). Those who live in the realm of the body and soul, and whose spirit is dead in trespasses and sins, consider the message of the cross as foolishness (Ephesians 2:1, 5; Colossians 2:13). They are perishing and will get their wish to spend eternity in hell. However, to us who are being saved by the power of God, this gospel story makes perfect sense (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, we trust in Your tender loving kindness, awesome goodness and infinite mercy. We look forward to the eternal manifestation of the Your Kingdom on the earth. We will serve You as You reign over all of the nations to the ends of the earth. Your work in us will be complete and we will finally be one with You and our Father. Magnify in our hearts the reality of Heaven and Hell, so that we will constantly share with other people the option not to spend eternity in Hell.

Thought for the Day:
Jesus Christ sacrificed His life to heal and restore, giving His all to forgive even those who hate Him.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Recovering from Loss

Read: 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us…” - 2 Corinthians 7:6

We are usually not given a choice when we experience a loss. Someone or something else took away what we cherish so dearly. When we experience a loss in our life, we may go through several distinct periods of grief. Originally, we may think we are finally over it, until some event triggers the tears and sorrow all over again. This grief is typical and essential for our total healing. Closure from our crisis is unique and distinctive to each one of us. But also, many of the feelings and experiences are common to everyone who suffers a loss. These emotional milestones provide wisdom and consolation to us, which we can share with others during their times of grief.

Whenever the dull ache of loss arises within us throughout our lifetime, the Lord gives us comfort and support through His Word. When we grow weary of the pain and tears, we can put the timing of our healing into God’s hands. However, there are some keys available to unlocking the grief in our heart and to releasing it little by little. Recognizing our grief allows us to process it better. We do this by disclosing to someone else what we lost and talking about it rather than keeping it bottled up inside of us. A grief support group is a great place to find people who understand your loss. Divulge these needs to the Lord also. He truly understands the needs of your heart (1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Peter 5:7).

Some people may not understand why it is taking you so long to finish grieving your loss (Hebrews 4:16). You may be stuck on one aspect of healing. You may need to ask for or to give forgiveness. Do you recognize bitterness or resentment growing in your soul? These negative emotions will poison your whole spirit, soul and body if you do not identify them and forgive the people who caused them. What are your spiritual, emotional, mental, psychological and physical needs right now? Make a list and then organize it into categories.

Once you list and verbalize your needs, allow others to help you to meet them in a tangible way. Tell your story to someone else. Be honest with yourself and find a sympathetic friend, family member, Christian counselor or a Grief recovery group where you sense support and care. People may act preachy or impatient with you at times. You may think it’s easier to bottle up your grief, over-schedule your activities and pretend to have no grief at all. It is good for you to share your troubles, however. Healing occurs much quicker when it is shared (Philippians 4:14). God will reward your willingness to actively move toward healing.

We can turn grief on its head! We can make a commitment to our self to heal rather than to turn inward with our grief. As you thank God for providing for the needs He already met in you and for you, He will guard your heart and mind and bring healing to your soul (Philippians 4:6-7). As we lighten the load that others carry, it lightens our load as well. We receive encouragement as we give encouragement. Comfort others with the comfort you received (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). Spend time alone with God. Pour out your heart, journal your feelings, list your prayer requests and put the date next to them as God answers them. Trust God to direct your steps into the future. God provides for widows and widowers abundantly as we trust in Him (2 Kings 4:1-6).  

Prayer:
Father God, You have our success already incorporated into Your plans for our life. My loss is no surprise to You, and it is part of Your change of direction for my life. You know us better than we know our self. You know exactly what we need. Open my eyes, ears and heart to hear Your Spirit’s direction. Anoint my mouth to speak Your oracles to others who are also grieving. I choose to hope in Your abundant future for me even though I have no idea what the future holds (Jeremiah 29:11). I also choose not to listen to satanic lies to the contrary. Please, shine Your light into the darkness of my days and dispel the grief as only You can. As I embrace my grief rather than resist it, I will experience Your true healing from it. I put myself into Your care, because I know that You abundantly care for me (1 Peter5:7).

Thought for the Day:
We can move forward in life through any adversity, because of God’s abundant life within us.  

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Gift from God

The Bible is the perfect gift from God that gives us everything we need to live a fulfilled life in a godly manner, through our knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter1:3). The Word of God is the sharp, two-edged sword of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 6:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). The profound revelation of the nature and wisdom of God written within its pages builds our faith and guides us through life. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us His truth (2 Peter 1:20-21). We can feed our body with the grain of the earth, but our spirit needs the nourishment that is found only in the Word of God (Matthew 4:4). 

The Bible allows us to recognize what is wrong in our lives by correcting us and teaching us the right course of action to take. It equips us with everything we need for success (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Since the Bible endured through the centuries of time and because it is such an encouragement to us, it gives us hope (Romans 15:4). Believers do not draw our nourishment from secular advice, but from the Spirit and the Word, which give us true life (John 6:63). The Word of God is full of life-giving power. It acts as a surgeon’s knife and dissects our innermost beliefs and feelings and exposes our true motives and desires (Hebrews 4:12).

As Believers, we come to the Father and make Him our home. If we neglect the Word, it proves that we do not love the Lord (John 14:23-24). If we love the Lord, we will cherish His Word. If we continue in God’s Word, we prove that we are His disciples. We learn the Truth, and His Truth sets us free (John 8:31-32). We meditate on the Word night and day, so we can carefully live what it teaches. This discipline allows us to flourish and thrive in life (Joshua 1:8). The wonderful words of the scripture build our faith and teach us about our inheritance as the Bride of Christ (Acts 20:32; 2 Corinthians 11:2).

Even Jesus used the Old Testament verses. After His forty day fast in the wilderness, He defeated the devil by quoting scripture and standing upon God’s Word (Matthew 4:11). Our finite thoughts often confuse and throw a shadow on the wisdom of God’s truth. Even doubts, which Satan whispers to our mind, cause us to wonder at times. However, these are counteracted by the comfort, direction, rebuke, instruction and admonition, which we receive from the Bible. We can trust in the absolute truth of God’s Word. Even when we are not aware of it, God is working behind the scenes to prove to us the truth of His goodness and His faithfulness to His children.

The writers of the Bible refer to it by many different titles:
The Book of the Lord (Isaiah 34:16)
The Law of the Lord (Psalm 1:2)
The Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms (Luke 24:25,44)
The Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17; 11:13; Acts 13:15)
The Scripture of Truth (Daniel10:21)
The Scripture (Mark 15:28; John 7:38; 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
The Scriptures (Luke 24:27,32; John 5:39; Acts 17:11)
The Holy Scriptures (Romans 1:2; 2 Timothy 3:15)
The Lively (living) Oracles (Acts 7:38)
The Oracles of God (Romans 3:2; Hebrews 5:12; I Peter 4:11)
The Promises (Romans 9:4-5; 15:8)
The Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17)
The Old and New Testament (Luke 22:20; 2 Corinth 3:6-15; Hebrews 9:15)
The Word of God (Mark 7:13; Romans 10:17; Hebrews 4:12)
The Word of Christ (Colossians 3:16)
The Word of Life (Philippians 2:16)
The Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15; John 17:17)
The Gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16)
Gods Word and Statutes (Psalm 119:16)
A Lamp unto our feet, Light unto our path (Psalm 119:105)
(Partially taken from: The Dake Annotated Reference Bible)

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, we stand upon Your Word. We use it as a lamp to light our way in this dark and dreary land in which we live. It gives us courage, peace and strength to do Your will with our life. We want to thank You for not leaving us alone on this earth, and for giving us Your Spirit and Your Word to encourage us and to give us hope.

Thought for the Day:
God's Word is alive; and the more you read it, the more it empowers your life.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

There is a River

"Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.- Revelation 22:1-2

Coming from the throne of God is this river of delights (Psalm 36:8). It comes from springs of life giving water (Revelation 7:17). The streams of this river provide for the inhabitants of the city of God, and it is situated in the holy place where the Most High dwells (Psalm 46:4). Water from this river will continue to flow on into the new world, when New Jerusalem descends from heaven (Revelation 21:2). Before the throne, there is also a sea as smooth as glass and crystal clear (Revelation 4:6).

God’s love also flows like a river from His throne, out into the nations. While our spirit was still dead in unholy living and sin, God loved us so much that He became man to pay the penalty of our sins on Calvary’s cross. He does not want anyone to perish in hell, but to live gloriously and eternally with Him instead. God’s mercy planned that Jesus’ death would restore our relationship with Him forever (Acts 15:11). We did nothing to earn this privilege (Ephesians 2: 8-9). It is a free gift (Romans 3:14; 6:23).

Yet, some people never repent of their sins. Therefore, they condemn themselves forever, because of their stubborn, insistent unbelief (John 3:16-18; Romans 5:8). It is only by God’s grace that we are saved, through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8). Out of our love for God, His Agape love flows out of us to the rest of the world. Jesus proved His love by His actions. We also carry on that witness by allowing God’s river of love to flow through our life as well. We go out into the world living the example of who Jesus is and what He did for us all.

We never judge a person by their conduct in the moment, because God is their judge (Romans 14:4). We do however, have discernment to know whether someone is living by the Spirit of God or not (1 John 4:1; Matthew 7:151 Thessalonians 5:1; 2 Peter 2:1; 2 John 1:7). We pray for our friends, relatives, associates and neighbors constantly. We are ready in a moment to give an accounting to them of our faith and the reasons behind our beliefs (1 Peter 3:15). 

Jesus example is the only life we should follow. Everyone else, even those in our church family, are merely sinners and not very good examples on which to base our life. However, Jesus teaches us to love our neighbors and church family with the same sacrificial love that He gave us when He laid down His life on Calvary’s cross (Matthew 22:37-39; John 13:34). Some of us are better at this than others. Some people never even take the time to get to know their neighbor’s name. How can we win them for Christ unless we have a relationship with them?

God puts us in people’s lives to be able to help them in their time of need. If we care for a person’s physical and emotional needs, they will be more open to us when we tell them that Christ is the answer for their spiritual needs. Jesus also referred to this river as the moving of His Spirit (John 7:37-39). If we take time each day to drink of the living water of the Word and the Spirit, we will thirst no more and have the Spirit of God living within us, guiding and encouraging us throughout our life (Ephesians 5:26).

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, whomever drinks of natural water will thirst again; but whomever drinks of the water or Your Spirit and Word will never thirst again. Remind us to read Your Word and to be led by Your Spirit; so that we will become in You a fountain of water springing up and flowing out into the world around us. Help us to drink of and to share Your living water with everyone You bring our way. (John 4:13).

Thought for the Day:
God’s love, His Word and His Spirit in us are all part of God’s river of life to the world.