Women's bible study

June 11, 2021

Obedience: God’s Plan and Purpose for us

Esther 4:14 (NLT) – If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”

We have so often heard a part of this part of this passage from Esther quoted: “for just such a time as this. To me it means that God has put us on this earth at this time and has placed us where we are and with the people we are with for a reason.  

At the time that Esther’s uncle and mentor Mordecai speaks these words to the Queen the Jews still living in Babylon find themselves facing a certain death because of an enemy of the Jews named Haman. Haman convinced King Ahasuerus to issue a law calling for the annihilation of all the Jews. Mordecai and the rest of the Jews are distraught, and this leads Mordecai to ask Esther (who is also a Jew) to speak to the king on behalf of the Jewish nation. Queen Esther is concerned that this request for an audience with the king could have deadly results because audiences with the king were done at the king’s discretion of the king.  We know that Queen Ester takes the risk and by her actions the people were all spared.

Our lesson in obedience from Mordecai and Queen Ester draws us to an important aspect of obedience. By obeying God, we as believers acknowledge that we all have a calling, a specific purpose that God has set before each of us.  Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) confirms this call for us by telling us “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Maybe God has you where you are in life so that you can be an influence on the people that you work with and go to school with. Maybe He brought on a major life-change that you weren’t expecting or wanting because He wanted you to be somewhere else to influence someone else. Maybe He has you where you are so that you can be more involved in ministries or Bible studies to strengthen your Faith. He may be opening and closing doors in your life because He is leading you to bigger and better things. If we are patient and are open to His calling, we can realize the plans He has for us and for the people we will influence. This verse in Esther is talking about when a woman in the Bible named Esther was told that “you were born for such a time as this” and in your life, you can make a difference where God has placed you.

God has given each of us a job, position, resources, education and more. God has opened opportunities to optimize His kingdom purposes. He did not place you or me where we are so we could post pictures on social media all day.  He has placed us wherever we are because we are in a battle, a war. You and I are in the middle of an epic conflict involving good versus evil.

We must not miss the opportunity to obey God on our kingdom assignment because we’ve become too caught up in our personal kingdom. That would be one of the greatest tragedies we could ever face. Remember God spoke to Mordecai when he says to Ester if she did not act that God would find another path to salvation for the Jews. None of us should be satisfied when we fail to do the work that God has set before us/ Remember that an entire nation was grateful for how Esther responded to Mordecai’s rebuke. Their lives were spared. How many souls can be spared in our community where we live today when we choose to step up to service by obeying the calling that God has placed in our lives, even when that call for obedient submission involves sacrifice?

We may not see the opportunity now, but if we stay willing and open to obey God’s calling, we will find so much fulfillment in His plans!

Maybe we were born “for such a time as this.”  This is the moment in time. This is the stage of life.


June 4, 2021

Obedience is BETTER THAN SACRIFICE!

1st Samuel 15:22 (NLT) - But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.

Welcome to our June scripture theme for this month: Obedience.  We begin our month with this month with these words written by Samuel who the answer to his barren mother Hannah’s prayers, and was dedicated to the Lord when he was a very small boy. Trained by Eli, Samuel succeeded Eli as the high priest and judge of Israel.  Samuel, though counted among the greatest of the judges, like Moses, is also numbered among the prophets.

When Samuel wrote these words, He was speaking to Israel’s first king, Saul. Saul had a form of godliness, but he openly chose to disobey God by reinterpreting scripture. He set out to fulfill his own selfish ends, rather than obeying God's word, and relying on the Lord to lead and guide him, in the governance of God’s people, Israel.

Saul’s thoughts of partial obedience is much like that of a child who when given a task to do, does not start in a timely manner nor finishes with any enthusiasm for getting the job done.  So, Samuel calls Saul out here because Saul was only willing to obey God in part and not totally submit himself or the people to the command given by God. (See 1st Samuel 15:1-21)

As with so much that is recorded in Jewish history, there are many lessons for us to learn and so many reasons to honor the Lord, to listen to His voice and to obey His word. And Samuel teaches us an important lesson with the simple truth, that to obey the word of the Lord our God, is better than offering Him sacrifices, and to heed the voice of the Spirit of God is more important than offering the fat of rams.

Obedience is very important to God because it implies a right relationship with Him as our loving Father. We are constantly in a battle with what we desire and what God requires. Total obedience is impossible for humans because of sin. Ever since the garden of Eden, God has been simultaneously reminding his children about the seriousness of sin but giving them a substitute in the form of sacrifice. Sacrifices were never meant to be an end in themselves but pointed to the foretold coming of Jesus, who through his perfect life and sacrificial death once and for all made atonement for sin and empowered those born of Him to love, which represents the sum total of obedience to God’s commands and is also how we obey them. Because of his obedience, we can obey, offering our very lives as “living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” as our “spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1).

Jesus said to his disciples the book of John: “‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Elsewhere, John says: “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2-3). God’s commands are given because he loves us.

Listening to the voice of God, reading the Word of God and trusting completely in God’s leading is the obedience that God desires for His children.

There is a song written by Lynn Keesecker titled: “Yes, Lord, Yes.  The song goes like this.

I'll say, "Yes, Lord, yes"
To Your will and to your way
I'll say, "Yes, Lord, yes"
I will trust You and obey
When your Spirit speaks to me
With my whole heart I'll agree
And my answer will be, "Yes, Lord, yes"

As we continue to look at our call to obedience let the words of this hymn be daily reminder to us to say to the work of God, the will of God and the way of God: “Yes, Lord, Yes.” 


May 28, 2021

Godly Friends are Prayer Warriors!

James 5:16 (NLT) – “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”

It’s wonderful to have great friends who love to hang out, eat good food, share the joys and sorrows of life, and see you at your worst and yet love you.

But, in our study this month we are looking beyond these qualities and activities that we have with our friends.  God has inspired James to write to tell us to look beyond these qualities that go beyond the worldly bonds of friendship and to see that it is of the utmost importance to have a circle of friends that includes godly friends who are prayer warriors, because when you get to your breaking point, there are some things that only prayer can change. Here are some reasons that we must have godly friends who are prayer warriors.

We find it so helpful to have friends who are resourceful and can help us to fix, find and accomplish things that we might not otherwise get done, especially the things that cause us to feel stressed out. But no matter how many resources one has, at some point we all will face the kind of trouble that cannot be fixed or figured out in and of our own power. In these cases, a prayer warrior will know exactly where to go to get answers: they take their lead from Hebrews 4:16 and know when to go to the throne of grace and James says that the “earnest prayer of a righteous person produces great results.”  

Godly friends are led by faith. Notice that James says that we should confess our sins to each other as a part of the healing process that we all need.  But before this James tells us that: Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. you need someone who will trust the Lord and come into agreement with you. We do not want to connect to someone too small-minded, negative and pessimistic to encourage our faith. A prayer warrior will say, I believe with you too, and then, they’ll cover you in prayer.  

A consecrated person is dedicated to the Lord which makes them spiritually stronger and more in tune with Him. We call people like this “prayed up.” And one thing we know about prayed up folks is that they know how to get a prayer up. You can call them in difficult and desperate times, and they will always stand ready to intercede for you. Their prayers are effective because a consecrated person is in right-standing with God (James 5:16).

Godly friends know that we cannot be strong all the time.  Therefore, James says that when we are sick and too weak to pray that we need to call on the elders of the church (a godly friend in Christ because there are seasons when we will be too sick, grieved, depressed, lost or confused to pray. In such weak and vulnerable moments, you need a friend of God to call on who will hold you up in prayer and ask God to give you supernatural strength.

A prayer warrior is spiritually minded. They pray from a biblical perspective and positively influence your life choices. When we get too upset, discouraged, or feel like quitting altogether, they’ll remind us to seek God first and to obey His word, and they’ll pray on our behalf.

When James says the effectual or earnest prayer of a godly friend, he means that they will speak God’s Word over you. Our godly friends know that Scripture teaches us to know and fulfill God's will. Psalm 1:2 says that our godly friends meditate on the word of God day and night.  They maintain an open channel to God and can help us get back on track and stay on track because of their desire to see us lay ourselves at the feet of Jesus ad to know His heart.

We all need those friends that we like to call “prayed up.” And one thing we know about prayed up folks is that they know how to get a prayer up.  I pray that God leads each of us to desire and to pray for godly friends who are truly effectual, fervent prayer warriors. 


May 21, 2021

Godly Friends Keep It Real!

Romans 12:9-10 (NLT) - Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.  Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other.

We have so much fake stuff in the 21st century that is frequently passed off for the real thing. As a matter of fact we have coined a new phrase in the urban dictionary “knock off.” A ‘knock off’ is a copy of an original brand, often priced dramatically lower than authentic version. Commonly, the designs will have been altered a bit, or they will appear the exact same, but some small detail may prove they are not authentic. We pass off many things as real. But here in Roman Paul is saying: real love should not be one that substitutes for the real thing.

The five verses from Romans 12:9 to 12:13 contain 13 exhortations. As we look at our godly friendships, we look at five here today starting with: “Don’t pretend to love others.” Paul says that if it isn’t love then, it is hypocrisy. He said in 1st Corinthians 13:6 that love “rejoices with the truth.” But hypocrisy is all about falsehood, concealment, deceit, cloaking, misleading, hiding. Hypocrisy is the opposite of loving the truth. So, it is the opposite of love. So, Paul says, that we must love with a love that is genuine.

Love must be real – absolutely true. My dictionary states that “genuine” means “Not affected, or hypocritical; frank, sincere, true.” Paul says that a godly friend ditches flattery and speaks the truth in love not to hurt but full of compassion. Love cannot just be sentiment, but we must commit also to self-giving help and service to others and to pray for them. Love must be genuine!

Paul goes on to tell us that true love hates evil.  We must vehemently agree with God in what He condemns and pray for strength and grace never to do anything against God’s will. And if we would be like Christ, we must be forgiving and gracious to the sinner, only hating the sin, not the sinner; for which of us is not a sinner? Jesus set us the example on the cross when He poured out love on His enemies, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Then Paul says we are to hug the truth. This is a joyful instruction – doing this will steady our lives. We need to determine that what God has said is good for us, and because God knows better than we do, what He says is what we will do! For all that God has written in His Word teaches us what He considers “good,” and we are to treasure it, embrace it, cling tightly to it, hug all His commands to our minds and hearts, and discipline ourselves to actually do what He has told us to do. Friends who do this will guide us to wise choices and help bring us indescribable blessing from our Heavenly Father, and that include our salvation.

Then Paul’s last instruction in today’s verses, from Romans 12:10 says: “Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other. I love this command!!! It’s not something that we turn our attention to often enough! What would it mean to outdo others in showing them honor?  Godly friends always look for the good characteristics and behaviors and service of others and commend them for it.  It would mean that I would always encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ in all they do for our Lord – and help them if they need it. It would mean that I would speak well of my brothers and sisters in Christ, and praise God for their part in serving God.

Paul says that it is time for us to jump into loving our godly friends with a real love. Keep it real!


May 14, 2021

Godly Friends are there for Hard Times

Galatians 6:2 (NIV) - Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.

It is thought that in the United States that an estimated 18 million people are providing care for chronically ill relatives and friends. Those who shoulder the burden of caregiving know that it often feels like an impossible task.

How can we help each other when the load seems too heavy to bear? Paul gave these simple, straightforward instructions to the Christians at Galatia: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

What does Scripture mean when it tells us that we are to carry each other’s burdens? It means that we bear the weight that would be too great for a person who is already under a unbearable weight.  Paul says that when we are that person, we step in so that those who have been doing all the heavy lifting can find relief.  When we are aware of someone who must constantly be with a relative, we can take his or her place for an hour or even for an afternoon. Taking a caregiving buddy to lunch or a ballgame gives them a much-needed break and someone to talk to.

In Rosalyn Carter’s book Helping Yourself Help Others, the former first lady writes, “There are only four kinds of people in this world: Those who have been caregivers. Those who currently are caregivers. Those who will be caregivers. Those who will need caregivers. That pretty much covers us all.”

To “bear one another’s burdens” means to share another’s sufferings in a practical way. Fulfilling “the law of Christ” includes joyful, unselfish service of love.

Hang around Christians long and you’re likely to hear the word “fellowship.” It comes from the Greek word koinania, and in the New Testament it often denotes “sharing,” “close association,” or “mutual participation.” But what makes Christian fellowship distinctively Christian?

I believe that it is the way that we come together on one accord.  A Christian brother or sister understands that we are a community of believers and that as we are friends of Christ, we are also friends with each other in the body of Christ.  As worry and anxiety arise in our daily walk, we turn to God first and foremost for our strength. But within the body of Christ, friends and family have cared enough to help each other during a crisis. We realize that we do not have to go through these trials alone but could turn to their church and community.

We are like the plants in a garden. Some plants, like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, or green beans,  need extra support in order to thrive. Their flowers or fruits are usually too heavy for the plant to support, and sometimes that fruit could rot if it touches the soil or scald if not protected by foliage.

The solution to this is staking. A branch, a length of bamboo, or even a store-bought stake will work. Gardeners simply take a thin strip of cloth and, at intervals, tie the plant to the stake. Whatever staking system is used, the function is the same: provide extra support to the plant when its blooms and fruit are more than the plant itself can bear.

This is how it is when friends in the body of Christ bear one another’s burdens.  Take not that burden bearing is reciprocal.  No one is only meant to be a burden bearer because all of us will have trials. This is the beauty of the body of Christ in that no one is meant to bear their burdens all alone. Godly Friends are there for Hard Times. They come alongside another person, link arms, and take on some of the load. They are like the plants that need to be staked to hold up under the weight of the fruit that God wants them to bear. We are so much stronger together. Let’s look around and see who is weakening under the weight of a burden, and let’s carry it for them. It might be as simple as having dinner delivered to their door but the relief from carrying that burden will be unmeasurable. 

When we work together as a Body in this way, every need will be addressed and met!

 


May 7, 2021

A True Friend is Like Super Glue

Proverbs 18:24 NLT - There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 22:11 (GNT) If you love purity of heart and graciousness of speech, the king will be your friend.

We spent the month of April looking at some of the Biblical teaching on how God wants us to use our words not just to each other but to Him as our Father. Psalm 19:14, NLT: "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer" really lead us to consider the way that we speak.

As we have come to the month of May, I felt a pull from God to search Scripture on the topic of Godly friendship. We know that God created us to be in fellowship one to another. The Bible has a lot to say about godly friendships and why we should pursue them.

Friendships are important to living as God intended. It is important, however, to point out Scripture that helps us discern between good and negative types of friendships and how pursuing the wrong types of friends can pull us away from God. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not friends influence us whether we want them to or not. We should seek to have Most of us do not like the idea of accountability, but the truth is that we need it.  Every one of us needs a friend who will tell us when we are derailing out own spiritual train. You know how we have joking said that a person doesn’t have any real friends when we see them dress, speak, behave in a way that is contrary to the person that we believe they are on the inside.  We are saying that a true friend (another believer) never lets us go down a path does not also reflect our relationship with God. 

So, we begin with this tidbit of wisdom from the book of Proverbs that tells us that friends are rare. A goal in Solomon’s Proverbs is for us to grow in favor with God and men, which is a choice on our part to have desirable character and conduct. Solomon says in Proverbs 22:11 that it is only natural that a friendly person will attract friends but here he warns that because of friendliness it is possible to mistake acquaintances as friends, even those in high positions like the king. Solomon as king realized that all those that he was friendly toward were not true friends.  If true abiding Christian friends were common, they would not be so special. Solomon goes on in Proverbs 18:24 to give us one of the characteristics of a godly friend. He basically states that great friends are better than family, for they will stick closer than any mere blood relative. Our brothers or sisters did not choose us, but a true friend that comes along side us through the bond we have in Christ choose us for the best reasons. They will be with us and for us because they love like Christ loves. They do not move on without but rather move forward with us.

God knows that navigating this world can be hard.  He wants to provide us support systems that point the way to Him.  He knows there will be great sorrow and great joy and He wants us to not only walk with Him but also supply godly friendships to carry us through.

Friendships are such an important part of living a healthy life. We were created to be in community with others and to do life together. I pray that as we move through our Scripture this month that we will seek to be that friend and to value that friend who reflects God in our lives. I pray with you and for you that God brings you more godly friendships!


April 30, 2021

Believe It – Speak It

Mark 11:23 (GNT) - I assure you that whoever tells this hill to get up and throw itself in the sea and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.

There’s power in your words. When you speak words of faith, awesome things can happen. In Mark 11:23 when Jesus taught about faith, He stressed the importance of what you say. Real faith not only believes, but it speaks what it believes. The world would have us believe words are not that important. They think we can just say anything, and it does not matter, that "it's just talk!"

But the Bible teaches that our words are extremely important. Here are just a few verses on the subject. Proverbs 18:21 NIV 21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Matthew 12:37 NIV 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."

Romans 10:10 NIV 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

The question is how do we begin to speak words that are faith-filled.  It is a certainty that if we cannot speak in faith, we also cannot pray over our circumstances in faith. We must begin by seeing our circumstance through eyes of faith. The woman with the issue of blood, could see the end of her illness when she said the words: If only I can touch the hem of His garment. (Matthew 9:20–22, Mark 5:25–34, Luke 8:43–48). She had a vision in her mind’s eye where she was made whole by God’s touch.  Then she spoke to that vision.

Once we see something in our mind’s eye, it’s a lot easier to speak faith over it. So, if we can imagine it happening, you can speak it into existence. As children of God, and His representatives here on earth, all our words should also be in agreement with God's will (revealed in the Bible).

Scripture tells us that we, as Believers, have the same spirit, the same power, and the same potential as Jesus Christ within us through His Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit of Faith that lives within all Believers. What this means is that the faith that David, Samson, Daniel, Peter, and Paul had, you and I have the very same.

There are two parts to the Spirit of Faith. There is a believing part, and there is also a speaking part. You cannot have one part without the other. Scripture calls all Believers to speak, or proclaim with confidence and authority, the good news of Jesus Christ. Yet so often, some of us make Jesus our Lord and Savior and then stop there. But even Jesus told His disciples that we will do works even greater than the ones that they were witnessing. The problem is, nothing will happen if we do not proclaim the words, the promises, and the truths of God to every situation in front of us.

As we have read in Tuesday’s devotional thoughts, that we are called to say what God says about us. We are called to talk about our situation the way that God talks. We are supposed to speak in agreement with what God says. When we know that God is speaking to us and through us, we have been given with the gift to change and speak to a circumstance through the power of God working through us.  The best way for us to align ourselves with what God is speaking to us through prayer, worship, and reading His Word. When we read His word, meditate upon it, and ask His Spirit to reveal and speak to us, He does! When we reach out to Him, He will always be faithful to reach back. Through that, our faith grows, and we find our voice in Him.

Let our focus this week be to nourish the Spirit of Faith that is within us and begin to speak out His truths and promises over all situations we may face and the situations that others are facing as well. Believe it and speak it!


April 23, 2021

Speak Continuous Praise

Psalm 34:1 (NLT) – “I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. I will boast only in the Lord; let all who are helpless take heart.”

Praise is one kind of offering we bring to God, giving him the best of our heart and soul. It’s a way to give God our full focus and acknowledge he is the One we will follow and obey.

Praising God keeps our eyes fixed on him, instead of our problems. It allows God to step in to shelter us from the storm, fight our battles, and deliver us from our troubles. God’s glory shines brightest when we praise him, overcoming our enemies. 

It is a law of nature that our thoughts and feelings are encouraged and strengthened as we give them utterance. While words express thoughts, it is also true that thoughts follow words. If we would give more expression to our faith, rejoice more in the blessings that we know we have, like the great mercy and love of God, we should have more faith and greater joy. No tongue can express, no simple mind can conceive, the blessing that results from appreciating the goodness and love of God. Even on earth we may have joy as a source, never failing, because it is fed by the stream that flows from the throne of God.

So, let us educate our hearts and lips to speak the praise of God for His matchless love. Let us educate our souls to be hopeful and to abide in the light shining from the Christ’s work on the cross at Calvary. We should we forget that we are children of the heavenly King, sons, and daughters of the Lord of hosts. It is our privilege to maintain a calm resting place in God.

In Psalm 34:1-2, David gives us instruction on how we should be praising God. This Psalm was penned by David during the time he pretended to be insane in front of Abimelech, who sent him away. David’s sets for us the necessity of praise in all things and in all circumstances.

First David says that we should speak praise continually: “I will praise the Lord at all times.” Praise God through all times, the good and the bad. Praise him even when you don’t feel like it. Make praise a constant part of the spoken word of our prayers every day.

Then we are to praise God openly.  Speaking God’s praise is not just for you, but it is a declaration on our part about the goodness and faithfulness of God. Do not just praise God in private and then go out and speak words of complaint, blame, or despair. Let your praise so fill your heart that it spills out into your conversations. Praise God publicly and openly, even as you talk about the trials you are facing.

Then in verse 2 of Psalm 34, David says to praise God heartily: “I will boast only in the Lord.” Praise with all your heart and all your soul. Don’t just give lip service to your praise, reading a prayer or saying some words of praise. Let it permeate your soul so that you are praising with sincerity. Give all the praise to God, giving him the credit for everything. Do not just praise God on one side and then on the other give glory to yourself, your solutions, or other worldly gains. 

It is easier to praise God when life is going well, but how do you praise God on those days you don’t feel like it? How do you raise a hallelujah when life is hard? In Hebrews 13:15 it says that praise is a sacrifice:

“Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name.”  Praise is a sacrifice. It takes intention to give God your praise, so decide to turn your heart to continuous praise. As we do, our love for God will grow, and praise will be on our lips always!


April 16, 2021

Speak in Love and Truth

Ephesians 4:15 (NLT) – Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.  

We have heard it said that truth is the light of the world but is often used as a cover-up for speaking the truth in a way that is not always motivated by love. The same can be said for the phrase constructive criticism. These phrases suggest that we will be providing feedback in a manner that acknowledges both the positives and where there is room for improvement instead of solely focusing on the negatives. Yet there are times when we tell people the truth, no matter how kind we are, they don’t react well. We like to think people are objective and rational, yet when the truth steps on their pride, insecurity, or idols, watch out!

Here, Paul gives us a common quote among Christians: "Speak the truth in love." It is also one of the greatest challenges of being Christian. Even those unfamiliar with the Christian faith and this scripture verse battle with balancing truth and love. It is why the "white lie” a common tactic to avoid sharing unflattering truths to loved ones is so popular.

Paul says in verse 14 of chapter 4 that as we grow in our relationship with Christ, that we will “no longer be immature like children.”  When we speak in truth with love, we are on our way to reaching maturity.  We can decide to always tell the truth, but our words can be so harsh and unkind that others are crushed and lose confidence in wanting to share their ideas and gifts with us. On the other hand, we can be so fearful of hurting someone’s feelings that we never confront wrong behavior or tell people when they have made a mistake. Proverb 28:23 (NLT) states that, “In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery.”

So, what exactly does it mean for us to speak the truth in love? Many, if not all, of us have been on the receiving end of hurtful remarks made by a brother or a sister under the guise of speaking the truth in love. Does Ephesians 4:15 give us the right to hurt others with the things that we say just because they are true? Does it mean that we should always make the truth known in every situation and never remain silent under any circumstance?

If love is what is driving us to speak to others, we will, first, be concerned about how we speak. We will seek to watch the words that we use as well as the attitudes, motives, and tones of voices with which we speak them. We will strive not to give offense by the way we speak the truth. This is precisely what Solomon is talking about in Proverbs 15:1: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Second, if love drives us to speak to others, we will also exercise restraint in the truth that we choose to speak. We will recognize that “speaking the truth in love” sometimes means saying nothing at all, as it seems to on at least two occasions in the life and ministry of Jesus. Both Matthew 5:38–40 and 27:11–14 teach us that there are times when it is better for us to remain silent rather than to speak the truth, either because the individual involved is not yet ready to hear the truth or because saying it would do more harm than good.

Whatever the reason may be, the point is that love for others ought to cause us to think very carefully about what we say before we say it. We need to examine our intentions. Are we chiefly concerned for the best interest of the other person? Or is it a selfish desire to clear the air or get things off our chest?

No doubt, there are times when the best interests of others will require us to speak the truth in ways that may sting. But we need to be incredibly careful and very prayerful in those situations and in every situation to ensure, as much as we can, that we are motivated by love and not by selfish pride. Let the words of Paul in 1st Corinthians 16:14 (NLT) be our guide: “And do everything with love.” Jesus did everything in love and because He is our model, we are called to do the same! 


April 9, 2021

Speak No Evil Tell No Lies!

Psalm 34:12-14 (NLT) Does anyone want to live a life that is long and prosperous?  Then keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies! Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.

David writes to us in Psalm 34 about living the good life in God.  David begins this psalm with these words, “I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad” (v. 1-2).  Then in verse 8 David writes: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!”   All these words that David writes to us involve using our words for good, for praise, for glorifying God in the way that we speak to God about God and for God in all that we do. The David writes in verses 12-14 that the good life, the life that is full of good days is the life that remembers God, the life that is set on Him. 

So, the question here is how would you describe the way you talk? Are your words positive, constructive, comforting, supportive, and uplifting? Or are the words that come out of your mouth most often cutting, negative, and hurtful? To see good life, we should live lives marked by careful speech that is free from evil and lies. Christians are called to speak what is good and what is true.

God reminds us that our words and the way we use our speech greatly impact the quality of life we enjoy. Nothing cuts short a vibrant life like evil speech and lies we tell. They set loose a force of deception and damage that we cannot control. The power of these unleashed words not only damages those about whom and to whom we speak, but they eventually they act like a boomerang and come back and bring their deadly poison back into our own lives. Paul warns us in Ephesians 4:25-32 not to grieve the Holy Spirit in our speech: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.  And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” 

The Bible makes it truly clear in Matthew 12:36 (NIV) that we need to be careful about the things that we say: “I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words, you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

We all need to give a little more thought to what we say before we say it. “Speech acceptable to God (Biblical speech) involves applying God’s Word to our lives daily. For all believers, this means that we allow the principles of scripture to influence our words and how we use them. It means we build people up; it means we use words of challenge in loving ways, and it means we use words of grace.

Proverbs 21:23 (NIV) gives good advice: “He who guards his mouth, and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.” Griping, grumbling, or complaining does not accomplish anything. When we focus on engaging in this kind of talk, we distance ourselves from the good life and it almost always results in our feeling worse than we would have if we had not said anything.  

Then Titus 3:2 (NIV) instructs us “to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.”

My prayer is that we speak according to God’s Word, that our behavior and our words reflect our devotion to God. We need to pay attention to the way we conduct ourselves! Our words impact our lives, the lives of others, and our relationship with God. Commit yourself to studying God’s Word and applying his principles to your speech. May our words be acceptable to you God each day! 


April 2, 2021

Words Acceptable to God

Psalm 19:14 (NKJV) - Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my Redeemer.

Welcome to April and our scripture focus for this month: Words Acceptable to God.  We must consider that God weighs the very words that proceed from our mouth and examines the motives that are manufactured within our heart, for nothing is hidden from Him. How important it becomes that our speech should reflect all that God is to us in our daily walk with Him.  Our words should be seasoned with salt; full of grace and truth and glorifying to His holy name.

There is a story in the Bible of a centurion who had a sick servant who asked Jesus to heal him. He believed that Jesus only had to “speak the word” and his servant would be healed (Matthew 8:8). The Bible also says in Matthew 15:11 that “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

Many of us have suffered with Reverend Kirk Franklin as the profanity laced audio call between, he and his son were made public.  Rather than crucify Kirk, we all need to say to ourselves “there but by the grace of God go I” because we all know that there is the potential for Satan to sift our minds and shift our focus from godly meditation and the result of that momentary lapse can devastate us because we thought we had grown beyond that kind of knee-jerk reaction.  We have to do all that we can to guard the new being that we have become through Christ that could make those around us question our commitment to having our minds and heart fixed and focused on God.  

The only time that I have heard this in passage from Psalms used has typically preceded preparation for teaching or for preaching.  I have used this passage to remind myself and to call on God to not let anything come out of my mouth that God would not approve.  The words in this one verse should make us mindful of the words that come out of our mouths. It also reminds me of Proverbs 18:21 (NLT), “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.”

We all need to think about the key lesson of this verse that the Psalmist writes to us.  We need to think about the things that we are asking God for or the situations where we need God to act on your behalf. The Psalmist says that he is praying that the words that come from his mouth would be pleasing to God.  Think about how your words affect your friends, your co-workers, your parents, children, church members, your spouse.  Would God be pleased, or will your words only bring a selfish moment of pleasure for you and pain for others?

Then the Psalmist continues by telling us that the thoughts behind the words should please God as well. We are not to be pleasing just when we are meditating on the words of the Bible. But we also want the words that we use in traffic to be pleasing to God. Are our words pleasing when stewing over some wrong done to us, or to someone close to us? We are asking that our thoughts always be God honoring and pure. We must never let the words of our mouth negate our faith in God through the work of Christ Jesus.

If we read the first 13 verses in Psalm 19, we get instructions in how to accomplish this. Immerse yourself in God’s word. Let it fill you and root out the sin and error in your life. The Bible has great value for those who will dwell in it. Allow it to fill you. And then you will find that your words and thoughts will more and more be pleasing to the Lord.

Dear God, we pray that as we walk together in your Word in this month that we stay mindful of what is acceptable to You when we speak as Your children.  We pray God that this is the case not just in the words that we speak when we are gathered with the church but also, when we are socializing with friends, when we are talking about politics or other social issues, when we post on Social Media or when we are in debate, or dispute, with another person. May our words be filled with grace and honoring to you or Lord our strength and our Redeemer. Amen!


March 26, 2021

Keeping the Faith

2 Timothy 4:7 (NLT) - I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.

Paul has long used the illustration of running and completing a race.  There is an old saying that has been used and rebranded hundreds of times, and yet it still remains powerful; “Life isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon.” Sprints are about running fast, not about running for long periods of time. It’s all about getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Whereas marathons are about energy preservation. The focus is about crossing the finishing line, not the time in which it took us to get there.

For the believer, the Christian journey is much like a marathon. It is not done in sprints but like the marathoner in a race, we have to build slowly, train smart, stay spiritually healthy and maintain our pace, our regimen must include the right spiritual disciplines to remain strong in our relationship with Christ. Paul says that the key to success is that we remain faithful in this journey towards Christ and keep the faith until the end.

Paul writes this letter to his young protégé as he is nearing the end of his life, and after years of service to God, he looks back on his life and admits that even through the ups and downs of his journey he had remained faithful. He had kept the pace of faith and he had finished the marathon of life. Like life, faith is not a sprint. It is a marathon which requires us to set a sustainable pace.

We too, as followers of Jesus, are called to remain faithful in the journey of life. To find a pace of faith that is sustainable. And one of the best ways to do this is to make space for God in our lives. Because faith requires time. It requires space to develop and grow. And all too often, when we get busy in life, the first thing to go is our time with God.

One of the first things that we lose is this busyness of life is the time when we pray, read our bibles, listen for the voice of God, and just ponder the beauty of creation. When we get busy, we lose track of God, because there is so much that needs to get done, and so little time to do it all.

So, what does this all mean to us.  The sad truth is that we will often treat God like we do those around us. We will make plans to “to meet for coffee or lunch or I will call you: but in all honesty we do not set a time or place for this activity to take place and of course the result is that it generally does not happen.  There were no specifics. The plan seems tentative. There is ultimately nothing anchoring us to the plan, and so when something “better” comes along, we skip getting coffee altogether. “There’s always next time,” We think. The sad reality is that this is how we often treat our time with God. We set a time that eventually becomes more and more vague until it does not happen at all.  

We can see throughout the gospels, Jesus leaving the crowds, leaving his disciples, or leaving those he was spending time with, to go off and be by himself and pray. For example, in Matthew 14:23 (NASB), “After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.” Or in Mark 1:35 (NASB), “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.”

We need space to be with Jesus. We need to set a time and a place to meet with God daily like we a training for a marathon.

This journey of faith is no sprint. If we are not careful, we will treat it as such, and chance burning out. The journey of faith is a marathon in the direction of Jesus, and it requires us to stay faithful and keep the pace set before us. This means making space for God, prioritizing our spiritual development and growth towards becoming more and more like Christ. This is one way in which we set a sustainable pace that will help you run a marathon, not just a sprint.

Because one day, I hope we can echo the words of Paul, “I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.”


March 19, 2021

Faith in God’s Power

1st Corinthians 2:4-5 (NKJV) - And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words human of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

We have heard it said that sometimes we have to” fall back on” what we know. It is not a good saying for a believer. Generally, we are saying that we need to rely on our own know how.  Our basic human instinct is to rely on self. Paul who had an excellent reputation and standing with the Jewish leaders was well educated but all that did not keep from being humbled before God almighty.  Paul quickly learned that the wisdom of the world, which is so prized by men, is foolishness before God. Our physical abilities, human wisdom and mental capacities are of no account, before the omniscient power, of our holy and just God.

So, Paul says that none of us can base our service in the body of  Christ on human wisdom but we must be rooted in the manifestation of the Spirit and the faith that comes from the power of God. This was in evidence when Paul first arrived in Corinth, to preach the word, he didn't dazzle them with superiority of speech or amaze them with his articulate abilities. Paul did not floor them with persuasive words. But, being moved by the Spirit of God, he was determined to share nothing but other than Jesus Christ when he writes 1st Corinthians 2:2 (NKJV): “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” For Paul and for us it is all about Christ bearing our sins and our being raised with Him to eternal life.

To put even more emphasis on how worthless worldly wisdom is, Paul did not come preaching and teaching in the power of his own academic abilities, and articulate excellence. Paul says in verse 3 that he came to them in weakness, in fear and with much trembling.

We must remember that this is the example that Jesus taught us. Jesus laid aside His heavenly glory to teach us all those things that He heard from His Father, and so it is up to us to set aside the things that draw attention to us rather that the wisdom and faith in the power of God that we have received from the indwelling of the Spirit of God through Christ in us.  Through faith in Christ, godly wisdom is released in the believer. When we serve God, a hidden wisdom is available to the world, heavenly truths, that are only unveiled to believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.  

He wanted to show that there is a godly wisdom, that comes from above, and that God's servants should speak only those things that come from Him - a hidden wisdom that is unavailable to the world - heavenly truths, that are only unveiled to believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul knew that the wisdom of God appeared to be foolishness to the world but that did not prevent Paul from maintaining his dependence upon the power and wisdom of God, and his willing, to submit to the God’s authority over his life as he shared the simple gospel message. The message of the gospel is the power of God to save everyone who believes as Jesus Himself promised. The word ways that the Spirit of God would draw all men to the Lord Jesus.

The salvation of another person’s soul is not dependent on you or me. It is not tied to how many impressive words we use. We are simply entrusted to tell the truth of the glorious gospel of Christ. It is not our responsibility to 'save' someone. Salvation is the responsibility of the convicting work of the Holy Ghost in their lives. However, we who have been saved by grace through faith in Christ, do have a responsibility to share the good news with others as led by the holy Spirit, so that their faith and ours, does not rest on man's wisdom, but on the power of God, alone.


March 12, 2021

Blessed by Faith in the Unseen

John 20:27-29 (NLT) - Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.  Then Jesus told [Thomas], "You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me."

When I read this passage about the Apostle Thomas, I think of him in terms of a 21st acronym: FOMO, fear of missing out. I like to think that Thomas’ doubt may have been motivated by his anxiety at having missed the opportunity that others had to witness the resurrected Christ like to the two Mary’s, or Peter, and on the disciples on the road to Emmaus.  Thomas did not see the Resurrected Christ until a full week later.  Thomas had hearsay evidence of the risen Christ, but he had no firsthand knowledge.  So, we have often referred to Thomas as ‘doubting Thomas.’  But it was Thomas who cried "Let us also go, that we may die with Him” to the other disciples when they expressed their reluctance to go Jerusalem for fear of the Jews.  Thomas was also the disciple who prompted the Lord to say, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" when he questioned Jesus, by saying, "Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way?" So, we come to this passage today where Christ says that we who have not seen and have believed are blessed for still believing.

The approval and blessing of God is on the one who has faith in His Son, trusts His Word of truth, and believes the Holy Scriptures. We are to live by faith, not by sight or sense or situations. We are to live by trusting God's Word and believing His promises, not because of what we see or what we feel, and there is a special promise for those who have not seen the risen, ascended, glorified Lord Jesus but have believed on Him.

Whatever value we place on bodily senses or emotional awareness to stimulate and inform us, God's divine approval is given to those of us who are not influenced by physical senses, human emotions, or life's circumstances, but who simply trust His Word. "Blessed are they that have NOT seen, and yet have believed". 

One of the things I love about the Gospel of John is that we get to see Jesus specifically thinking about us, those who come after the generation of the apostles and those who walked with Jesus. We believe, but without having seen. For all who have changed their lives based on their conviction of Jesus' resurrection as our starting point we can take great comfort that Jesus looked beyond the apostles' ministry to our ministry in Him today and until His return. He saw those of us who would later believe without having seen him alive either before or after his crucifixion, and he gives us God's blessing!

Although God knows that on occasion our trust may be triggered by our senses, emotions, and daily living, He also knows those things can as easily be shattered into a thousand tiny fragments and sifted like wheat by Satan, if faith is not securely anchored to Christ as fact. No wonder the Lord Jesus in this gentle disciplining of His dearly loved disciple, who had walked with Him for three long years, was to explain the secure and better way, "Blessed are those that have not seen Me, and yet have believed in Me, for they will not be disappointed."

There may be times we wished we had lived in the days of the apostles and SEEN the Lord with our own eyes, and felt His gentle touch, but how blessed are we who have not seen Him in the physical realm but have SEEN Him with the spiritual eye of faith and are still able to cry as Thomas did, "my Lord, and my God."


March 5, 2021

Faith to Endure Suffering

Habakkuk 3:17–19 (NLT) – “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.”

Have you experienced times in your life where you cannot feel God’s presence? When the worst happens in our lives, while we do our best to cling to our faith, it is easy to question God. We ask where God is when a loved one dies far too young? Where is God in divorce, disease, and death? Where is He while the entire world battles COVID?  These questions have been asked for centuries, in the face of tragic times and continued to be asked today. It seems as if the world is on the brink of disaster, so we are left searching for God through all of it.

Habakkuk gives us a picture of faith in the face of hardships and not for a day, or a week or for months but for every day of our lives in Christ. When I read this passage here from Habakkuk, I thought of an old Gospel hymn, “It is Well with My Soul.” I did not know of the background of the lyricist Horatio Spafford. Prior to this song: his two sons died in the Chicago fire of 1871 and the rest of his family perished two years later when their ship crossing the Atlantic sank. Just as Habakkuk says Yet: Spafford even after all those things, he was able to write: “When peace like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.” This is what those who hold tightly to their Faith in God declare: It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Habakkuk lists all the evidence of emptiness and despair and sorrow in this world, a fig tree that does not bloom means no fruit and on the vines, the olive having no produce, the fields yielding no food, the flock being cut off from the fold. There is no herd in the stalls. It was just empty. Everything is empty and dry and barren in this world. This is the picture here, and then Habakkuk says, “Yet in the middle of the dryness and the barrenness and the emptiness of everything in this world, everything we look to in this world, we long for in this world, we need in this world, even food, in the emptiness and barrenness, He says yet, I will rejoice in the Lord. I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

Even in the middle of great sorrow and suffering, because of Christ conquering sin and death, we can take joy in the God of our salvation.

What a statement of faith that, when this world is totally empty, it is possible to still have joy, to rejoice. How is that possible? When we look to God? This is what Romans 5 means when Paul says, “We rejoice in suffering.” How do you rejoice in suffering? Here is how. Think about what suffering is.

Suffering is losing things in this world that we love that we desire, that are in many ways good for us and comforting to us. Like if we lose someone we love, that is suffering. When we lose our health and we are in pain or we are fighting cancer, that’s suffering. When we lose a job, when this thing in this world is taken away, this person in this world is taken away, this treasure even in this world is taken away, that’s where suffering comes in, but the beauty of those, all whose faith, hope and  trust is in God, then we have in God a joy and a satisfaction that supersedes even the best things this world has to offer us, that even when we lose great things in this world, great people in this world, and it’s not that the we will not shed many tears because we will.  The suffering is real, but we have in God a treasure that is far better, far greater, far more wonderful than good health.

Dear Sweet Jesus, we know that you have the last word, and we rejoice in you. We praise you. We exalt you, and we pray that you would help us to have Habakkuk 3:18 kind of faith in a Habakkuk 3:17 kind of world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.


February 26, 2021

Manifested in Guidance

Exodus 13:21-22 (NLT) - The Lord went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and he provided light at night with a pillar of fire. This allowed them to travel by day or by night. The pillar of cloud was always in front of the people during the day, and the pillar of fire at night.

This is what came to mind when I read this passage.  The Israelites had no need of a Global Positioning System (GPS) because the one true God was with them and led them everywhere, they needed to go. This is the principle of manifestation in the pillar of cloud and fire. The Great I Am is with us in our desert wanderings. Though it may not look good at present, He is here to guide and care for us in this moment. He is not just the God of the future promise, but the God of Today: what a way that travel!  When it is time to go somewhere, this cloud rises and starts moving. The interesting thing about the pillars was that they were present all day and all night.  It did not matter if it was day or night, God’s presence in the pillar of cloud and fire was always present. This is a great truth about the manifestation of God: even when we do not feel Him or see Him, God is always with us who have accepted His Son and now have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.

What a great picture of God’s loving leadership and guidance in the life of His people. He does not leave us to just figure these things out on our own. He personally provides direction, and guidance, and where to go, when to go there. Remember we said that God is not limited by time, space or distance.  God can use everything that He has created to influence us and bring us to “the plans that He has for us” (Jeremiah 29:11).   

When I think about the children of God as they journeyed through the wilderness, I think about all of us who believe in God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. What are we doing with God’s presence in our lives? I know that we all have decisions about the directions of our lives, the decisions that we struggle to make, and we wonder what God wants us to do. Sometimes we want to obey God, we want to follow His will, but we are not sure exactly what the right decision is to make in every circumstance. But here is the good news from Exodus chapter 13. God has shown us very clearly in His Word, that He does not try to hide His will from us. He wants to lead us. He wants to guide us, to direct us. Our steps, our every step, just like He did here. Now, you might think well, I wish I kind of had a pillar of cloud or a pillar of fire to lead me. We have something better. So much better. As a follower of Christ, you have the Spirit of God in you.

Meditate on God’s desire and ability to lead you.  We do not have the pillars of cloud and fire that we can look to, but we have the Holy Spirit of God living inside of us. You want to know how much God wants us to experience His will? He wants us to experience His will so much that He has come to live inside of us, to transform and direct our thoughts, our desires, our dreams, our plans, our decision-making. Jesus says, “I will give you the Comforter, my Holy Spirit, who will dwell in you. He is the helper. He’s going to live in you.” He is not going to give you directions on where to go, He is going to direct you daily. That is a glorious reality.

So, I just want to encourage all of us today, that as a follower of Christ, we have the Spirit of God in us. We understand the oneness of the Father, Son and Spirit that works in all things for us.  Because of God we have someone, something in that sense, better than a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. Let this be our prayer as we look to God and we pray, God lead on. By the presence of your Spirit in us, lead on. Lead us all day long. We pray, help us to stay in step with your Spirit. Help us not to wander from you into temptation and sin. We are so grateful that you God help us to be pure and holy. Help us to walk in obedience to you, your word, your commands. And as we do, we trust that you will lead us. You will guide us, and you will direct us, just as you have done for your people throughout all time.


February 19, 2021

The Glory of the Lord Departs

Ezekiel 10:18 (NLT) - Then the glory of the Lord moved out from the entrance of the Temple and hovered above the cherubim.

Ezekiel 11:22-23 (NLT) Then the cherubim, with the wheels beside them, spread their wings, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them. The glory of the Lord went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it.

In our previous passages on the glory of God, we have seen the presence of the Lord manifested to His people throughout Old Testament. We have read about the glory of the Lord in a pillar of cloud by day and as a pillar of fire by night, from a whirlwind, and manifested in angels and in men speaking as God.  We read in Exodus 40, that after the Israelites built the Ark of the Covenant that the Lord descended and resided with the people there.  Twice in Exodus 40:34-35 we read “the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle’” This is really significant. God’s presence in the cloud is descending on this tent means that God is showing himself to his people because He is their new neighbor. But here in Ezekiel, we have these verses that tell us that the Glory of the Lord departed the Temple.  We must understand what happened here in order to appreciate what God does for us in the coming verses from New Testament Scripture.

After God’s Spirit and glory left the temple in ancient Jerusalem the people could tell the difference. Life was not the same, something was missing!  When the people of Jerusalem started having problems, they asked their prophets for a vision and they went to the temple priests who worshipped idols and asked them for understanding and for the law of God, but Scripture says that the prophets and priests had nothing to give the spiritually hungry people.  And the elders who always gave good advice also lost their gift of counsel!  (Ezekiel 9:26b) It is scary!  Without God’s Spirit life goes flat!  The spark of life is gone!  

When we read Ezekiel chapters 8-11, we find that the Spirit of the Lord did not withdraw all at once. No, God gives us a chance to take stock and change by the power of His Spirit. We see even here that the Spirit of the Lord paused many times as He exited the temple. He hovered, covered and then reluctantly left His place among the people.  God is always waiting to see if anyone might care that He is leaving and repent and ask Him to return?  God removes by degrees away from a provoking people, but He would quickly return in mercy when we turn from our idols and worship Him.

We must understand that like the ancient people of God that the Holy Spirit does more for us than we realize!  Scripture tells us that the Spirit holds us together and keeps us on the right path.  (And all that time we thought we were doing that all by ourselves!) It is our call to be guided by the Spirit or not. Just like these passages today when God’s Spirit left the temple in ancient Jerusalem, today God’s Spirit can leave us humans when we rebel and stop worshipping Him.  Genesis 6:3 says that the Holy Spirit will not always strive with humans.   God will not force his Way onto us today against our will.

But we lose so much when reject and grieve the Spirit until He sadly leaves!  Scripture says that the Spirit helps us do what we need to do!  Sets us on the paths that we need to take!  Guides and teaches us to say what we need to say!  Gives us joy and peace and faith and truth and a gentle spirit! (Galatians 5:22)

Does this Bible story from so long ago have any relevance for us today?   Today God’s Holy Spirit still abides with his people, but in a different way!  This ancient story from the Old Testament happened nearly 600 years before Jesus came and died on the cross for our sins and sent our Helper the Holy Spirit.  Scripture says that the Spirit gives us strength and upholds us. (Isaiah 41:10) The gifts and blessings the Spirit brings us just keep on coming!  They are new every morning!  Having the Spirit in our lives is having the good life!     Holy Spirit we pray and ask that you come to rest, rule and abide in our temple.


February 12, 2021

God Manifested in the Storm

Job 38:1-2 (NIV) - Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: "Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?

Here in chapter 38 of Job, God speaks to Job from a storm or whirlwind from other Bible versions.  We know from Job’s story that he has been afflicted by Satan and has experienced terrible loss of material wealth and his loved ones.  So, we find in this first verse of chapter 38 that Job receives answers to his questions. It may appear to us that the answers are not to the questions that Job, and his friends asked but the thing that I note is that God manifested to Job in the middle of his storm.

There is this fact to remember: when we have questions, our level of satisfaction with the response – if it comes – depends a great deal on the one offering the response. When God speaks out of the whirlwind, he ends up giving Job a long list of questions, none of which can Job answer. In effect, he scores zero out of eighty-eight! Yet, Job seems greatly relieved that God has at least responded in some way.

How would you feel if the answer that you wanted does not appear to be the answer that you received? Well, therefore the Word of God is the voice in our whirlwind, storm or tornado. The answer in God’s word should be our great relief just like it is here for Job.  with great relief, we come to the Word of the Lord. What is the answer to the problem of suffering? What is the answer to all the problems and questions that Job, in his suffering, has thrown in the air and asked of his friends, experts, and of God? Where can we find an answer to human pain, degradation, viciousness, and mindless, apparently pointless evil? When God speaks the answer that we seek is not a what but a who. We must understand as Job comes to do here that the answer to our suffering is not what but who.  Remember that Job had wanted to speak to God because he had questions. God did just that!   God had heard enough from Job and his friends and was now going to remind His people that He was in control, that everything was in His hand.

God begins His answers by establishing that we do not have the answers. When God said in Job 38:3, “Now prepare yourself like a man.” He was telling Job to get ready for battle against Him. Most of us would not think of it that way, but that is exactly what is happening whenever we speak against God and His Word. We are issuing a challenge to God, setting ourselves up against Him as an opponent. God reminded Job, and us, that we are not able to judge God’s actions. God did not owe Job (or us) answers, and He did not need to explain His ways to him. But, since God does care about us, He gives us some answers in His word. Not all the answers, but enough to encourage us and sustain us, reminding us of His power and love.

God is not being cruel to ask Job such penetrating – and humbling – questions. Remember that scripture teaches us that these manifestations from God are meant to bring us to the place that God needs for us to be in order to be our best in Him. Here, He is bringing Job to the place that he needs to be to worship and to praise. God positions us in our suffering in a place to look up to Him in his suffering, not down at God in bitterness and anger and spiritual distrust.

Things happen to us that we cannot explain. We know that God has a purpose. This does not necessarily mean that we can discern what that purpose is. If you are struggling with accepting that what God is doing in your life is good, then let God speak to you out of the storm. Accept that not just what God knows is best, but who God is in himself is so much above your own comprehension that the only right response is amazement – and worship. 


February 5, 2021

The Manifestation of God

Exodus 3:1-5 (NIV) Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So, Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up." When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am." "Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground."

Welcome to February of 2021 and our new theme from Scripture: The Manifestation of God.  The Webster’s dictionary defines the word manifest as an occurrence that is evident, obvious, apparent, and plain for everyone to see. There is much in scripture that shows us how God has manifested himself to us just as he has done since He created mankind.

One of the greatest teachings of all of Scripture is that the God desires to have a personal relationship with his people. In His desire to establish a relationship with humanity, God does not always wait for people to come to him.

Throughout Scripture God takes the initiative and reveals himself to humanity. This manifestation of God is commonly known as a theophany (an appearing). The Old Testament contains many stories demonstrating God’s immense love for his creation and the extent to which he is willing to go in order to bring human beings into fellowship with himself. Manifestations do not always mean God appears in the form of a man as working through the prophets. We will look at times where God sometimes manifest Himself in fire or a tempest as in today’s passage from the burning bush. Let us look at how this revealing of Himself to Moses leads to bringing His people into the land that He has promised.

Moses shows us that we do not have to be engaged in some exceptional activity to get God’s attention. Moses was in the middle of doing what he always did—tending the sheep. An ordinary, everyday task was suddenly interrupted by the extraordinary! He sees that a bush was on fire, but it was not burning up. When he went over to the bush to see what it was, the Lord called out to him. God told Moses not to get too close. Was He concerned that Moses might be burned? No, He told Moses that this was a holy place, holy ground, and that he must remove his sandals. I have often wondered what the sandals represent. Perhaps the sandals represent all the places where our feet have tread—all the places where our shoes have gotten dirty and the filth of the world has soiled our lives. In order to stand in front of a holy God, they must be removed. Or perhaps the sandals represent our humanity—our sin that cannot stand before a holy God. We do not know for certain, but we do know that Moses obeyed and hid his face because He knew that this was a sacred place. We know that by this coming into God’s presence Moses was then commissioned by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and God promised that His presence would go with Moses.

We learn from this manifestation of God in this burning bush that God has a plan and a purpose for each one of us in His creation and that He is at work to bring all His creation back to himself: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).  The burning bush experience reveals to us that God’s Presence is not to be taken lightly; He is a holy God who is seeking to make us holy.

What is the burning bush that you face knowing that God is summoning you to follow His call? Just as He told Moses, God promises to go with you Exodus 3:12 (NLT): God answered, "I will be with you. And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain." 

God is not limited in the ways he reveals Himself to his creation. God takes the initiative of when, where, and to whom he will reveal himself. God’s revelation of himself is designed to help people become part of His redemptive purpose for the world.

When you know that God is present in your burning bush will you make sure that you are willing to accept God’s invitation to come to him?  Jesus said: “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). 


January 29, 2021

New Seasons

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT - For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:11a (NLT) - “God has made everything beautiful for its own time”

 

Life is full of contrasts. We go through mountains, and we go through valleys. We go through successes, and we go through failures. We have wins, and we have losses.

In weather, there are four seasons. But in your life, there are dozens of different seasons. And every season of life includes both good and bad times.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NLT) gives us a representation of all of the different seasons of life: “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven; A time to be born and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to harvest; A time to kill and a time to heal;  A time to tear down and a time to build up; A time to cry and a time to laugh;  A time to grieve and a time to dance; A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to turn away;  A time to search and a time to quit searching; A time to keep and a time to throw away; A time to tear and a time to mend;  A time to be quiet and a time to speak; A time to love and a time to hate; A time for war and a time for peace.” 

Life is a combination of contrasting seasons. My Pastor uses this quote: “All sunshine and no rain make a desert.” If you’re following God’s will, if you’re trying to live your life according to the way God wants you to live, then you’ll eventually see that these new seasons can have purpose and value in your life.

There is a song by Ray Stevens where the lyrics say that “everything is beautiful in its own way. We all know that this is not always true in life.  Terminal illnesses are not beautiful. Murder is not beautiful. Social injustice is not beautiful and child abuse is definitely not beautiful. But the Word of God in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes says it differently.  Ecclesiastes 3:11: “God has made everything beautiful for its own time” (NIV). That’s very different from “Everything is beautiful in its own way.” Because the Bible is saying that God can take even the bad things and, in the proper season, turn them around and use them for good in the way he intends.

Our seasons of life are like these seasons on the calendar. We all have favorite seasons but no season on the calendar or in life is wasted.  God acknowledges that we may experience seasons of great abundance or great loss. We can experience great joy or great pain. But the beautiful thing of all is this: is that none of these seasons or experiences is wasted; God can use everything we experience and make it beautiful. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) Here are a few wonderful promises to remember in our hard seasons: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4) What was meant for evil, God meant for good. (Genesis 50:20)

No matter what season you’re in; whether it is lack or abundance, remember that God is with you. He loves you and everything you experience is meant to grow you closer to Him and advance His kingdom. Cling tight to Him, whatever your season. There is a time and a season for everything under heaven.

Lord help us to not cling to seasons that are gone. Let us walk in faith to understand that our lives do not move backwards but are always moving forward and bringing us closer to You.  There is an old saying that says “Don’t look back, you aren’t going that way.” Help us also to see that by stubbornly refusing to move on we may be missing what our Almighty Father has in store for us in the future.

We cannot freeze time. That season you have enjoyed so much may end but that doesn’t mean the end of joy, just that joy may have a different shape. And more positively, that season of pain and sadness you endure will not go on forever. A new season will come.

We can’t refuse change. We can only trust in an unchanging God to help us not only bear the change but embrace the change.


January 22, 2021

Good News

Proverbs 15:30 (MSG) - A twinkle in the eye means joy in the heart, and good news makes you feel fit as a fiddle.

When I have had a lengthy storm pass through my life, I have often said that I don’t need my own good news to feel better.  I would gladly welcome second hand good news to give me a lift.  We have become too programmed for bad news.  We have our Smartphone’s set to light up when there is breaking news stories on the latest shootings, disasters, or some similar crisis. We see post after post from people asking if we would ride the next greatest roller coaster or take part in some other great adventure. Lately we have watched the attack on the capitol of our United States repeatedly.  Daily we have witnessed people around the world in their ICU beds who are suffering from Covid and are dying from this pandemic. We watch with fear and trepidation the preparation around the country for possible violence in every state capitol as we prepare to inaugurate a new president. We are all longing for something to cut through this endless assault on our senses, something to refresh our soul and something to bring hope to a world that has become stagnate in the midst of all of this chaos.  We need good news.

Here in the Wisdom of the book of Proverbs we read that good news brings fitness to our whole well being. Well there is good news for us every day and it is found in the Good News of the gospel. What if God’s gospel is big enough to comfort the lonely, set the captives free, minister to us in our despair, and mobilize a generation to push back against the evil we see in our world? Is the gospel big enough for all of this?

Yes the fact is that today's proverb tells us that this good news is a good thing - and that the wise man will fully embrace it.  Therefore it would definitely be good to understand just what this proverb speaks about - so that we can be blessed in this way.

This proverb is a "restated" proverb, meaning that each half restates the other.  Thus this brightening of the eyes - is similar to the good news that puts fat on the bones.  So we can know that the effect on the eyes here is from seeing good things.  What is fascinating though is looking at the word "twinkle" in the ways that it is used in other places in the Old Testament.  The overwhelming use of this word is in reference to the light of the seven-fold lap in the tabernacle of Moses.  The reason this is fascinating is because of the imagery that this picture.  The lamp was filled with holy oil - a picture of the ministry and work of the Holy Spirit.  The lamp was the only source of light in the Holy place.  It gave light to the table of showbread - which is a type of God's Word and to the altar of incense, which represents the place of prayer and worship.  Understanding these things, let's look at this proverb again. 

We can see that this news that makes us fit as a fiddle is the full measure of the light of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  We have Him opening the Word to us.  We have Him opening our hearts to pray and to worship God.  This would definitely make our hearts glad.  This is the best news of all - God is worthy - God wants us to make our requests known to Him - God wants to speak to us through His Word! 

This also makes wonderful sense when we see what the Hebraism, "fat-bones" means.  This particular Hebraism means a sense of prosperity.  When someone has fat on their bones - they are prosperous and blessed.  It is good news that does this.  Indeed there is a sense that this proverb can simple mean having eyes that are brightened by seeing good things and ears that hear good things - makes us glad and prosperous.  But there is also a deeper spiritual meaning that takes us to a different level.  When we hear and see the good news that the Scripture tells us about God - it brings joy to our heart and spiritual fatness to our bones. The gospel bears witness that we live in a kingdom, we belong to a king, and we have faith, hope and love at our disposal for every moment—big or small.


No doubt about it - it is a good thing to start our day with a quiet time where we seek the Lord - and submit ourselves to the Spirit of God as a teacher and guide.  Doing that will truly make us a twinkling-eyed and fit as a fiddle Christians!


January 15, 2021

A New Heart and a New Spirit

Ezekiel 36: 26-28 (NIV) - I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.

Ezekiel presents us with the promise of a new heart and a new spirit from God.  There are numerous OT and NT references to the heart in the Bible, because in Biblical times it was thought that our decisions, feelings and thought processes came from the heart. The heart in the Bible was thought to be a sort of “control center” from which all of our decisions were made.  So when we read about the heart in the Bible, it is about the place where you have your will, your attitude and intentions, and which is the source of your thoughts, actions and words. In 1st Kings 3:12 (NLT) we read: “I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have!” Then we read In Psalm 24:3-4 (NIV): “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? It is the one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false God.” This heart is seen as the core of who we are as a person. Our heart is, essentially, us in a nutshell.

So we know what God was saying when He promised His people, through the prophet Ezekiel, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you.”

This prophecy is in line with the new birth Jesus spoke about when He said, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3). We receive new birth, new life, through the Spirit of God.  Before Christ gift of new life, we had hearts and spirits that were dead to the things of God. But because of God sending His Spirit to fill us with new life, we are revived and given a new heart of love for God and all for people.

This new heart and new Spirit are at the core of God's promise to make a new people, a people with an undivided heart, a tender and responsive heart that moves us to be the people who God wants us to be. The things that human willpower and dedication and the old Mosaic Law could not do, God does by living in us. The Spirit is more than just the power that enables us to be God's people; the Spirit is also God's transformational grace that lives in us, unifies us, and leads us truly to be God's own.

This new heart and new spirit is something God will do, but it also requires some action from those of us who have heart and spirit that is cold and hard. It is a both case scenario: God does something, and we do something. The warning is that people whose hearts are still divided and devoted to other things won’t be transformed. Having a stone-cold heart is a miserable thing. It makes life harder than it has to be. Turning back to God can be a huge, courageous step, espe­cially if it means leaving old habits and attitudes behind. But the promise of having an undivided heart and God’s Spirit in a heart of flesh is definitely the better way. It’s what God desires for our lives. It makes a radical change in life worth every effort, and we can do it in God’s strength.

Paul writes concerning the work of God in the human heart that: "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come" (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Lord we pray that our new heart is prepared to yield every heavenly fruit to the honor and praise You oh Lord, and therefore delights in bringing you glory. Help us to know that a tender heart is the best defense against sin and the best preparation for heaven. Lord we thank you for giving us this new heart that reflects through us the image of the Living God. In the name of Jesus, Amen


January 8, 2021

One New People

Ephesians 2:15 (NLT) - For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.  Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.

The world we live in has lots of divisions among cultures, races, traditions, and even families. Some divisions are natural, but many of them, as we know, are painful and negative. Racism and other forms of ethnic strife have no place in the church, for we are all one body in Christ Jesus. Paul in Ephesians 2:11-22 speaks to the importance for all believers for tearing down the walls that separate believers. 

He speaks here to the church at Ephesus as they continued to insist that the Gentiles and the Greeks had to become or follow Jewish practices to become a part of those who were a part of the Body of Christ.  Paul makes the point that that they could not continue to use the Mosaic laws because Jesus came to bring salvation to all not to a select group of people. The Mosaic law established a moral compass for the children of Israel and it served the purpose of pointing to the Messiah, but Paul emphasizes to believers that they were to now to live by this new covenant that Jesus established that brings us all into one faith, one Baptism and the Holy Spirit and who works in us all to lead us to one path and purpose for the glory of God.

Christians are united into a new reality in Christ. The effect of God’s grace, as revealed in the good news of Jesus, is that Christ “is our peace, who has made the all believers as one.” And as Paul points out, we who are followers of Christ need to live by that sense of unity in Christ.

Let’s look at how we became one new man in Christ. First, through the cross, Christ reconciled us in one body to God, having put to death the power of trying to live blamelessly on our own (Ephesians 2:16).  The point is that Christ’s reconciliation is effective for all who follow him, so all believers in Christ are now united in him. We are brothers and sisters in Christ because of Him and are told there is one Christ for all.

Then Paul says (2:18), “through Him [Christ], we both [Jew and Gentile] have our access in one Spirit to the Father.” At the heart of the gospel is that we now have access to God, whom Paul here calls, “the Father.” This means that Christianity is not a religion of rituals. It is a personal relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit. We are one in the Spirit and we are one in the Lord.  There is no place for us to give another believer the side-eye because we think that because of whom we are that we are more important. Our access to God is because of Christ and outside of Him we are all nothing.

Christians are united into a new reality in Christ. Heaven will be a place of diverse people characterized by one thing: The effect of God’s grace, as revealed in the good news of Jesus, is that Christ “is our peace,” and His grace and mercy has made all who believe one mankind.  And as Paul points out, we who are followers of Christ need to live by that sense of unity in Christ. This means that if you are counting on getting into heaven because of your religion or your good deeds, you will not succeed. If you cannot respect those who are different from us in the universal Body of Believers, then you have entirely missed the message of unity that Christ came to bring to us.  Peace with God comes only through the cross of Jesus Christ. He paid the debt in full for all that believe in Him!

Heavenly Father, we pray today for forgiveness for any divisions that we have cause within the body of Christ.  Help us to not only speak against the divisions that cause weakness and divide believers but we pray that we look for ways to heal and to mend disunity that weakens our service to you.  Help us to live in the unity that Jesus has made possible for us. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

 


January 1, 2021

Bright Morning Star

Revelation 22:16-17 (NLT) - “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message for the churches. I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne. I am the bright morning star.”
The Spirit and the bride say, "Come." Let each one who hears them say, "Come." Let the thirsty ones come – anyone who wants to. Let them come and drink the water of life without charge.

John writes here in the last chapter of Revelation that, Jesus calls Himself “the bright Morning Star”. In Revelation 21:22-24, we read that there will be no need for the sun or the moon in heaven. Here in Revelation 22 Jesus’ declaration that He is the bright and Morning Star signals the end of night and the beginning of God’s perfect day. 

The bright Morning Star is an actual celestial occurrence that happens while the sky is still completely dark and just before the sun is about to rise. The Morning Star is actually the planet Venus and not a star at all. Science says that the time the time of utter darkness that Venus appears as a vibrantly bright light in the sky.  When we see this phenomenon, we know that the dawning of a new day will be near.  
This is a beautiful picture of hope in our darkest moments and the promise that if we continue to persevere in our faith in God in whatever we believe Him for, that Jesus will show Himself in our lives, encouraging our faith till the full light of day appears. Take note of this verse here in Proverbs 4:18, NLT: The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.

Revelation 22 signals the full light of day ahead. This passage has everything to do with Christ’s return. The prophetic words of God and His Son give us hope throughout all of Scripture. We have seen that the bright morning star rises while it is still dark, before the sun dawns, to give the hope of a coming new day. That is what this title means for us. Let's explore this: God promised to David that He would establish the throne of his kingdom forever and would never remove His love from him.  (2 Samuel 7:12–16). Then the angel Gabriel prophesied that Jesus would reign over His kingdom from the throne of His father David (Luke 1:31–33). But Jesus is also "the bright morning star." Malachi 4:2 promises Israel that the sun of righteousness will arise with healing in its wings. Revelation 22:16 identifies Jesus as "the bright morning star." Just as the morning star appears before the sun rises, so Jesus will come for the church before He returns to restore His church to himself.

What does this mean for us?  Because Jesus is our Bright and Morning Star, it means the rising of the morning star brings hope. It is hope for the coming the new day. When the Lord returns to take His people to their new home all of our greatest hope will be realized!

It means that even though we still have dark times here, we have a light (His word) that illuminates our path. But when the morning star arises in our hearts at His return we will have full light! Then we will know even as we are known. (1st Corinthians 13:12)

It also means that the rising of the morning star in our hearts will change us from the inside out.  In 1st John 3:2 (NLT) we know that this morning star will be transformational when we read: “Yes, dear friends, we are already God's children, and we can't even imagine what we will be like when Christ returns. But we do know that when he comes we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.”

Remember - Jesus is the morning star! He gave a promise to the true believers that He would give all who lived under 'the morning star' (Rev 2:28) the full realization of hope, full illumination and full transformation.  As you watch and wait for Jesus' return, take comfort and act to bring the glory of the Morning Star to all that God has given to do today.



December 18, 2020

THE TRUE LIGHT: JUST THE FACTS

John 1:9-11(NIV) – The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

Some of you will remember a weekly crime drama that aired in the 50’s and 60’s and wrapped up in 1970 titled “Dragnet.”  It was a precursor to our current NCSI: Los Angeles type investigative police shows. What I remember most about the show was the no-nonsense, poker faced police officer, Joe Friday and his signature to witnesses: “Just the facts, ma’am.  It was important to prove each case that only the facts be considered.   

Today we look at this passage of scripture on Light found in John 1 verses 9-11 where John is giving us “just the facts” on the true Light about the God-man, Jesus Christ.  Scripture has much to be said about this Light that has come into the world and for now John wants us to think about and examine “just the facts”.

John has always taken a simple approach in how he describes our Savior. John makes us see the simple and profound truth of this statement: “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.”  Let’s consider the word “true” which in Greek can mean genuine, real, valid and trustworthy.  John establishes for us that Jesus was in the world and part of the world that He helped to create.  As the true light John establishes for us that it is Jesus who gives the Light of Life and Truth to everyone who comes into the world.  In the New American Standard Version, the word enlightens is used.  Fact: for all who recognize Jesus as the true light receives this enlightenment.  Only Jesus can be the light to every person.  The true light came first to the Jews but then to us as well.  When we say that God is no respecter of persons, we are acknowledge that the light is not just for the wealthy or respectable but for every single person on the planet.  Isaiah 9:2 spoke of the coming Savior when he wrote: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned” and then Matthew tells us in 14:16 (NIV) that: “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned."  For all who wanted to receive the true light it was available. It is hard to imagine that someone would choose to deliberately live in the dark but that is the case.  When we choose to value anything and anyone over the True Light of a relationship with Christ, we put choose to sit in darkness. 

It is an unfortunate reality that some of us choose things in this world over the True Light of God.  John lets us know that this had to grieve God’s heart. Have you ever had spoken to someone and it was clear that they were ignoring you and your greeting. They treat you like a stranger.  When we do not come to embrace the True Light of Christ, we have essentially ignored what the relationship with Christ offers.   Paul says that even though we have knowledge of God but don’t honor Him, we have exchanged the life of glory in God for this worldly living.

Then in verse 11, John states the last fact of this passage. Even though Jesus came to His own first, they received Him not.  We are a people who have no problem exchanging and returning gifts that don’t meet our expectation. The people of Jesus’ day were no different.  Despite the announcements that surrounded His birth, His ministry to the people and the Truth of our Salvation through Him, He was not the Savior/King that the people wanted. We are the same because sometimes we just want the rescue not redemption. So we reject the gift because like the Jews, we want something else. Belief is a choice.  Let’s make sure we base our beliefs on facts, not just on our own personal preferences.

Only the Spirit of God can open our eyes to the true light. Only the Spirit of God can enable us to recognize and receive the truth of these words with joy: “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world”.  Just the facts at Christmas!

 


December 11, 2020

Be the Light in Your Community

Matthew 5:14-16 - “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

2020 has been the year that most of us just want to see come to an end. When we look at the news, we see violent crime on the rise as well as an alarming increase in the number of COVID cases across our nation.  Along with that, we are trying to maneuver our way through the darkness of the political landscape, a lack of social interaction with those that we love and school and work that does not resemble anything close to what we are used to doing. It has been tempting to ask what or where God is in all of this darkness. We know that God created light and that His light is the light that gives all believers the light that dispels our darkness. God has promised us light.  Well, Jesus says here in Matthew 5:14-16 that we too are the light of the world. We are a light in the world that should show Christ in the good deeds that we do.

We know that as Christians that we are waiting for Jesus’ return. We know that at His Ascension that Jesus didn’t take His light from us and that He didn’t put us into heaven immediately after saving us. Instead, He chose to put us on a stand to give light to the whole world. We are a hillside city glowing in an otherwise dark landscape. We are lamps standing in otherwise dark rooms.

In a world of darkness, we are to be the ones who have come from darkness into light and we are to reflect the light we have found in Jesus. But Jesus' point is that we are not just to shine our lights in our own little circle of influence, but we are to shine them so that every place of darkness is either brought to the light or is exposed for what it is. So how do we let our light shine both in our home (church) but in our community as well?

To be the light means in times of darkness Believers offer hope, encouragement, kindness and compassion. In times where others are struggling, we offer a way to help them to regain their glow and to shine. To see the good and the beautiful - it is in this that truth is re-established. To “Be the Light” may be to offer wisdom and guidance, or just to sit with someone, and be the presence they need. It may be offering strength to those that are in a moment’s weakness, or offering a smile and joy to someone in random parts of your day.

When I think of being the light, I think of a random hello or wave, and how it makes me feel. I think of the ways other people have helped my heart to glow even brighter than it has in the past, from a kind word that is said, through encouragement, through a smile that is given or joy that is shared.

Sometimes to “Be the Light” means to give of yourself in a new way to a situation or cause or relationship that we are in. It may also mean to just be still and show that nothing really needs to be said at a given time, until the time is right. “To be the light” is to foster peace and to show others the joy that is present. It also means that you try to protect your flame from being blown out so that you can be the light, and so that light remains. In all truth, beauty, and goodness, we are the light. In times of trial and struggle it means that we shine light on the wonderful blessings of God and the truth and wisdom of His Word.  This is not always an easy task because in our hard times we sometimes find it difficult to be the light, but, in these moments, when we focus on what God has poured into us, we are more able to be the light.

In reality, being the light means that we love despite flaws.  It may mean helping people through situations they do not know how to overcome; it could be empowering others to overcome whatever they are facing. It could be holding someone’s hand so they can feel love and know it to be real. It could be reaching out to that person you have not talked to in a long time, to let them know you care and that value them and want them to know they are not forgotten. It may be to radiate joy and celebrate the blessings that are present in life. It is all of these things and more for all of us who follow Jesus’ command to: “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Be a light in your home, in your church and in your community for the Glory of Him who brought the light into our life!


December 4, 2020

“Let there be Light”

Genesis 1:1-4 (MSG) – “First this: God created the Heavens and Earth--all you see, all you don't see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God's Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.  God spoke: "Light!" and light appeared. God saw that light was good and separated light from dark.”


For the month of December, we are going to look at God’s Word on the subject of light.  We will begin in the beginning with God’s Word here in Genesis on the creation of light.  By nature we humans have a natural love for light. It is no wonder, that light and all it represents was the very first thing that God introduced into His creation. Many of us can remember ourselves or one of our children or grandchildren being totally fascinated by flashlights.  I would read by flashlight long after I was supposed to be asleep and would think to myself that I was quite resourceful for being able to keep light shining long after the darkness had rolled in. 

We see here in Genesis verses 1:1-2 that God created heaven and earth and but this creation was formless, lifeless, and lightless and a watery chaos that God was preparing to develop in the following verses from Genesis 1: 1- 31.  We like to think of these verses as the six days of creation but think of this time as God enlightening, ordering, filling, and enlivening his creation and He begins this process with marvelous light.  Life could not be created without light.  God separated the light from the darkness and created order and from this order God created life. Not only is light marvelous, but light is our first introduction into the sovereignty of God.  So we note especially the power of God’s words: “Let there be light and the implications that it will have on all of creation. The beginning of creation is awesome to imagine.  There was nothing; no – thing and then God began to create.  The very first thing that God created was light. Let’s consider two things that we learn from the light.


First, light represents truth and wisdom from God.   Moses didn’t miss this. God’s prophet wanted us to get this: that light—and all it stands for—comes not from any created thing, but from God himself.  God is the source of illumination, wisdom, knowledge, and truth. By creating light three days before He created the sun, moon, and stars, he made this crystal clear. The sun is merely God’s tool, God’s torch. We could say that in the same way the moon dimly reflects the light of the sun, the sun dimly reflects the light of God. And that is why in the new heaven and earth there will be no sun, for it will have fulfilled its purpose: “They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light” (Rev. 22:5).


Secondly, we note in verses 1-4 of Genesis 1 that darkness cannot endure long before God flooded it with light. God is good, so everything that he makes is good. He is incapable of mistakes, of lying, of fumbling, of misdirecting, of mismanaging, of failing, of botching. This applies to history, and this applies to all of us.

It is a tremendous thing when we open the Bible and read in it the truth about light.  Light diminishes ignorance because it lets us see things as they really are. Light (wisdom) reveals our wrong thoughts as we are able through light to see things as God’s light gives us a complete view again and again of the person that we are becoming because of Jesus.  We will talk about the Jesus who is ‘the Light of the World,’ as we get closer to celebrating the birth of Christ. But right now God’s light should make each of us view our lives, reason in our lives and live our lives in this light that God our Father spoke into existence and the reason for this is that God Himself said that, “The light is good.”


Dear LORD Jesus, help us to come to the light every day.  Let your light shine in every corner of our room. Submit to the true light. 


November 27, 2020

The Gratitude of Contentment

Philippians 4:12 - I know what it is to be in need and what it is to have more than enough. I have learned this secret, so that anywhere, at any time, I am content, whether I am full or hungry, whether I have too much or too little.

Philippians 4:12 reminds us that as Christians that we are to learn the importance of contentment when he says that he is content no matter if he has much or little. Paul also instructs us along these same lines when he tells us in 1st Thessalonians 5:18 to “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God.”  When we look at gratitude and contentment during this season that we celebrate as thanksgiving we can conclude that gratitude and contentment go together like turkey and dressing. Giving thanks and finding contentment both depend on our measure of faith. When we are content we are grateful because we remember how God has so richly blessed us. In our contentment we should be overwhelmed by the generosity that God extends to us by His grace and mercy every day.  There is our salvation in His son Jesus for which I am eternally grateful. Since there is no way that I deserve God’s twin gifts of mercy and grace, I am grateful for the freedom from the penalty of sin and God’s forgiveness.  I know that I have a sin nature and the fact that God’s perfect love is poured out on me, I am grateful for the ability to love and be loved. I am grateful for the transformed living that I have in Christ.  I know that I am not perfect but I am so grateful that God continues this regeneration of my mind, heart and soul to become more like Him every day.  I am that God is to be trusted always and that His promises will always come to pass. 

All of this and more should make us know that Paul is telling us to not live for the stuff that is only temporary.  So whether we have much or little in possessions, there is the wealth that we in God through Christ that is covered by the Holy Spirit and that is more than anything that our hearts and mind can imagine.  

So the next time we find ourselves yearning for stuff, remember that a grateful heart will increase our contentment for the things of God. We may not have everything that we want, but in Christ we have all that is necessary. Take note of Proverbs 19:23 which says: “The fear of the LORD leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.”  Proverbs reminds us to rest in Christ, trusting He is in control. Circumstances, good or bad, are an opportunity for God to show Himself faithful. So, once we go to God in gratitude, we can live life in contentment knowing Christ is in control. Contentment is not passive and uninformed, but rather it is engaged and educated. It is not anxious. It replaces worry with work, pity with prayer, pride with humility, and grumbling with gratitude. Our peace and stability is the fruit of contentment, which grows out of the ground of gratitude. When we sow the seeds of prayer in the soil of gratitude and contentment, God will make His abundance abound towards us. We will be able to give a knockout punch over adversity because God will be fighting our battles for us if we just remain steadfast in trusting that He is doing what is best in all of our circumstances.

Contentment comes when we rejoice in the Lord. Think about your life right now. Can you learn to love what you have instead of what you don’t have? What you have in Christ is far greater than anything that you don’t have in life. You have Jesus. Therefore, you have everything you need for now and eternity. And Jesus has you. Gratitude helps us to see that this makes all the difference in the world. Psalm 103:1 reminds us to “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” Gratitude and praise bless the Lord. 


November 20, 2020

Establishing a Pattern of Intentional Gratitude

Colossians 2:6-7 NASV – “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude." 

Paul was never unintentional when he wrote his Epistles to the early believers. He had a pattern of greeting his brothers and sisters in Christ with love, encouragement and also in admonition for the wayward practices that did keep them rooted in Christ. His letter to the Colossians was no different.  Here in Colossians 2:6-7 Paul’s reminds the early church and us as well that we have all received Christ Jesus the Lord and that fact changes everything about our walk of faith in Him.  Our calling is to walk in Him. We cannot walk in Christ if we do not daily read God’s Word and then carry it out to the best of our ability in the path that God has planned specifically for each of us.  We know that each of us has a path and that some of us have more hardships and heartaches on our paths than others. But Paul let’s us know where God leads us He has equipped to walk boldly. Paul reminds us of this privilege that we have been given to be “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith.” I think that one of the things that sets us apart from the early believers is that we have the truth, instruction, and God’s revelation of Himself available in the Bible.  The early believers did not have all of Scripture available to them.  We have our bibles available on every smart device we own.  If we don’t want to read we are blessed to be able to listen to audio versions of the Bible.  To enhance our understanding, we have every version of the Bible available to us at our fingertips.  With all of that, we should be moving toward Christ like no one has done before.  Paul says that we have been given every opportunity to get close and personal to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  Paul ends verse 7 of Colossians 2 by telling us that we should be overflowing with gratitude because you are in Christ!

This Biblical gratitude that Paul speaks about here is much more than quick list of “counting our blessings” like we do with a to-do list. No Paul tells us that as we grow in faith we overflow with gratitude.  This gratitude will spill over not only to God but also for God in what we do for others.

Paul’s gratitude for the grace he received from God most assuredly fueled his fire and drive for his service to God and to others.  When Paul proclaims that we are to overflow with gratitude that’s how he saw the Christians expression of thanks for all that God has done for us.  The love of Christ so overwhelmed him that he could no longer live for himself but only for Christ. We too should be so deeply conscious of whom we are becoming because of the grace of God.

Let’s not only thank God for what he gives. Let’s also thank him for who he is. These are two distinct acts. We should be intentional about daily thanking him for both his character and his provisions for us. As we make this part of our mind-set, it will become second nature. What is starting to look like a lost art in our culture today will reveal that we are grateful children of the Most High God.

This attitude of gratitude towards our great God will spill over into our encounters with others — both believers and unbelievers. Remember, we are to abound in gratitude, so it’s not a small part of who we are. Model and teach those whom God has placed under your influence how you work hard to express gratitude for matters big and small. Realize that your simple expression of thanks accompanied by eye contact and a quick nod behind of our masked faces may be the bright spot of the day for so many who feel overworked and underappreciated. This is truer now than it has ever been before. I have never thanked anyone who said in return, “Please, stop. I am always hearing words like that, and it’s really unnecessary.” So let’s be intentional and show our gratitude by the way that we walk for Christ!



November 13, 2020

Grace is Certainly Worth our Gratitude!

2nd Corinthians 4:14-15 (NIV) – “because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Theses verses from 2 Corinthians 4:14-15 come in a chapter where Paul is describing his ministry to the believers in the Corinthian Church. Paul explains to the church here at Corinth of the challenges that come from working in ministry and he is explaining here that in spite of those difficulties the reason that he keeps doing it: “because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.” (2nd Cor. 4:4)

Paul reminds the Christians in Corinth and us that his primary motivation for continuing to endure so much hardship is so that he can continue to spread the truth and the light of Christ to more and more people.   Paul says that all of us have been raised up with Christ and will be presented to God the Father with Jesus.  

How many times do we have that nagging little thought (sometimes big and frustrating) that if God really loves us as He says He does, then why are we not shielded from so much pain and suffering? Shouldn't God prevent all of His trusted servants from experiencing so much pain? Paul's says that God does not spare those who serve Him from suffering, but that God provides for them through their suffering.  Paul declares that this service to the Corinthians is worth it, in part, because as more people believe in Jesus, more people will receive God's grace. The more people who receive God's grace, the more people who will give thanks to God. More and more glory will be brought to God. Paul is willing to endure anything, enabled by God's power, to achieve this outcome. So we should be ready to overflow abundantly in thanksgiving and faithfulness to God.

Let’s take a moment to think about thanksgiving in terms of our level of gratitude. A heart that is grateful understands the message that Paul writes about here. We want to always the child of God who can find God’s grace in the midst of the storm.  These are the people that know that God’s grace was with them when they could hold the hand of a loved one when they took their last breath. They see that God’s grace turned unemployment into making income from sewing masks. These are God’s children that are still rejoicing that they can tune all of their smart devices to a live streamed worship service.  Paul says show someone the grace that God has bestowed on you. Let’s apply ourselves to producing thanksgiving in other people by freely giving out the grace we’ve received from God through Christ.    There is a blessing for us in every storm when we are using the lens of God’s grace.

So as we move deeper into our Thanksgiving season, let these verses today push us a step further than we usually go as we think about giving thanks. Let it give us a uniquely Christian approach to thanksgiving and point us to the highest expression of gratitude toward the God of grace.


November 6, 2020

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT) – No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

I will admit that I have been guilty of not appreciating the instruction that Paul gives here in 1st Thessalonians 5:18. After a less than stellar day, I far from the ‘always be thankful’ that Paul’s says that as a believer I should be.  So I decided that there is more than meets the eye here in looking at an attitude of gratitude this month. It’s worth noting that Paul doesn’t instruct us to give thanks to God for every circumstance. Instead, he urges us to give thanks to God in every circumstance.

Paul’s words remind all of us that gratitude isn’t rooted in the ease of our days but it is anchored in the intimate relationship that we have with Christ.  The more we get to know God, the more reasons we have to thank Him.

Let’s face it gratitude is not be our first response when our circumstances are challenging or disappointing. But when we focus on who God is rather than on what He is doing, we discover that we can give thanks even from the middle of our mess.

If you remember the words of James 3:17 9(NIV) where we read that: “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”  In our difficult times, the wisdom that God sends helps us to know that even in the middles of our mess we understand that God’s motives toward us are to prosper us and give us a hope and a future.  When we have an attitude of gratitude, we can thank Him for His wisdom even when we don’t see the reason for His ways.  We can thank Him for His faithfulness even when our faith is faltering. We can thank Him for His peace even when our doubts are raging.

As we become familiar with keeping our hearts bent toward God's heart, we learn to trust the work of His hands, even before His work is finished.  What is your attitude? Is it one of gratitude? We are told when we stop to count our blessings they seem to rapidly increase. The flip side of this is that if we look at all the things we don’t have, it will appear that we never have enough.

Think of it: Always giving thanks for everything—no matter the circumstances! Thanksgiving for the Apostle Paul was not a once-a-year celebration, but a daily reality that changed his life and made him a joyful person in every situation.

Thanksgiving, the giving of thanks to God for all His blessings should be one of the most distinguishing marks of the believer in Jesus Christ. We must not allow a spirit of ingratitude to harden our heart and detract from the intimate relationship we need to have with God and with others in His service.

Nothing turns us into bitter, selfish, dissatisfied people quicker than an ungrateful heart. And nothing will do more to restore our contentment and the joy of our salvation than a true spirit of thankfulness.

I am  learning that not all days will be filled with good things, but as I keep an attitude of gratitude, praise, and worship, I can change my mindset from focusing on me and whatever is bothering me to focusing on the One, True God who has promised to provide for ALL my needs according to His riches in Glory. So fix your gaze on God’s faithfulness, and continue to seek His heart.  I’m certain of this: God is with you. And He is for you. And He’s doing more than your eyes can see.

 


October 2020


Numbers 6:24-26 (NKJV) – The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”


So far this month we have looked at a few of God promises to hear and answer our prayers.  We also saw the blessings that God promised to us in Jeremiah where we read that God rejoices in doing good for those who live for Him.(Jeremiah 34:4-41)   Then we had the promise from Jesus in the Beatitudes that promised us that know that we are spiritually bankrupt, that God has reserved a place for us in His kingdom. (Matthew 5:3)


Today we find our promised blessing from God in the Old Testament Book of Numbers (6:24-26) where God tells Moses: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”   


Here we find that the people of Israel had been camped at the foot of Mt. Sinai for almost a year since their ‘Exodus” from Egypt. Moses has received and presented God’s 10 commandments and God’s law. The Ark of the Covenant has been built according to God’s precise instructions.  Now, as the people of God prepare to move forward to take possession of the Promised Land with God as their guide, their protector and their provider, God commanded the high priest Aaron to pronounce this blessing over His people.  These verses show us the desire of God’s heart for His people. What more do we need?   If the God of the universe, the Creator of all things is favorable toward us then we need nothing more. God only wants the best for His children. His desire is to bless us in spite of us.  Because we hear these words recited so often in our Benediction, we can lose the awe that God promised to bless His people and us so  extravagantly. 


Let’s take this opportunity today to look at the ways that God promises to bless us so richly.  Numbers 6:24-26 (NKJV) is a spoken blessing demonstrating God’s will for our lives.  First God says that He is the source of every blessing. He did not say some but all blessings.  He will give us favor which includes increased prosperity and protection from harm.  God has promised to take everything that we encounter (the good, the bad and the ugly) and turn it in our favor.  God has been blessing us since He created mankind (Genesis 1:28.  The first thing that God did for Adam and Eve was to bless them.   God has proclaimed and commanded this blessing for us.


Then we know that God says that He will make His face to shine on us.  The word you here is use six times in these three verses and is used in its singular form.  God blesses us personally. In all the millions of believers in the world, God has chosen to bless us individually.  God sees us in the sea of all believers everywhere.  These words from this song by the Miami Mass choir sum it up:  “What God has for me it is for me.”  Nobody and nothing can stop what God has for you!


God is gracious to us. Because God is gracious to us, we have received His pardon.  He blesses us by releasing us from the punishment that we should receive and instead in all of His graciousness has provided for us a substitute, His unblemished Son, who took our suffering unto Himself and freed us to live fully in Him. 


God blesses as a father would bless to his child.  He lifts His countenance up to us.  These words paint a picture first of a father lifting his child in his arms: then of a father lifting up his child above him to beam into their face.  Just as that father lifts up his beaming face to that child, God shines His full pleasure, His full goodwill, and His full joy over us as His child.  God takes great pleasure in His children. 


As a final part of this promise of blessing, God promises us peace.  All of us want peace in our mind.  God’s peace is so much more than the absence of strife. The Hebrew word for peace, shalom, stems from the word which means restoration back to the original state. God’s peace means not just harmony, but completeness and wholeness, rest and welfare, soundness and safety.  This is the blessing that God sends to bless us. God’s blessing on us is that his face will be turned in our direction so that we will know peace with him.


We must remember that these are not wishes but blessings. In other words, they are true for us because of Christ. In Jesus Christ, we are kept, forgiven, and restored to peace with God.

Receive and believe God for His blessings today!


-Rev. Rita Bowman

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