Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Dead in your sins....

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.
                                                                                          Colossians 2:13-14

Think back to your life before you became a follower of Jesus.  Did you feel alive?  Of course you did.  You felt like just about every other living and breathing human being.  You breathed, you ate food, you slept.  Just to look at you, people would consider you a "normal" person.

According to the scripture above, Paul informs the Colossian Christians they were dead in their sins, but God had made them alive in Christ.  Paul is letting them know here, they were at one time absent from God's forgiveness, and deserving condemnation.

But the verse continues and lets us know it is God who makes us alive with Christ.  We have been forgiven of our sins and God has canceled all charges against us. I love that last line ....."he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross."

Without the cross and all the events surrounding it, we would still be dead in our sins. Without Jesus taking all that condemned us and "nailing it to his cross," we would be left with the debt of our sins and no way to pay it.  We stood with what Paul called the "charge of our legal indebtedness." 

At the cross, with his dying breath, the penalty for our sins was placed on Jesus.  He took our place in dying, he became all that separates us from God, and our debt was paid.  That's why we call him our Savior. He saved us from the condemnation we deserve.

Read the verses above several times and let them sink in.  Stand in awe as Jesus takes your sin and death sentence on himself.  The more I read the verses, the more I understand my need to bow at the foot of the cross and daily offer praise and thanksgiving to God for the gift of his Son.

Monday, May 2, 2016

She Gave So Much

Some day we will be telling our grandchildren how we can remember when Wal-Mart had a greeter at every entrance. Those days are past, but I reflected on a story today about a lady who was a greeter. She would show up for work daily, bringing smiles and greetings from her fellow employees. Then, stationed at her post at one of the front doors, she would happily greet every visitor to the store, and offer them a shopping cart. Other store workers were amazed at how often they heard compliments on the happiness and joy spread by this little lady. Most did not know the lady had lived as a widow for a lot of years. Her meager income barely supported her through the later years of her life.

Another compliment to her life was the numerous people who recognized her faithfulness to God, her family, and her church.  She also seemed to have a couple of cookies for the kids which routinely showed up at her door.  She helped as much as possible with people who were sick.  She spent off-time making doilies to give as gifts. 

As I read her story, I began to think of the story of the widow in Luke 21.

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

Isn't it amazing how God can take so little and turn it into so much?  The scripture is filled with the stories of the unpopular, the lonely, and those who seem insignificant,  being used by God to accomplish great tasks.  We may find it strange that two copper coins in a collection plate could ever be significant.  But the real answer to the significance of our story is found in that last verse above"

"All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."

When we are faithful in our dedication to loving God and loving others, it's amazing what he accomplishes with even the smallest of gifts. He still blesses the life that smiles, expresses joy, and becomes the hands and feet of our Lord.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Faith is the Victory

20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”
22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.                              Matthew 9:20-22

The woman was suffering. Scripture doesn't mention any previous medical treatment being sought, but her health problem had been with her for twelve years. She sought Jesus, and coming up behind him, touched the edge of his clothing. Speaking to herself about her healing she uttered, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed."  Just then, Jesus turned and saw her, and spoke the words she had longed to hear.  "Take heart, daughter. your faith has healed you."

Do you suppose many of the maladies and problems of the human condition could be remedied through such faith?  Do we really believe the words of the old song?

"Encamped along the hills of light,
Ye Christian soldiers, rise.
And press the battle ere the night
Shall veil the glowing skies.
Against the foe in vales below
Let all our strength be hurled.
Faith is the victory, we know,
That overcomes the world.

His banner over us is love,
Our sword the Word of God.
We tread the road the saints above
With shouts of triumph trod.
By faith, they like a whirlwind's breath,
Swept on o'er every field.
The faith by which they conquered death
Is still our shining shield.

To him that overcomes the foe,
White raiment shall be giv'n.
Before the angels he shall know
His name confessed in Heav'n.
Then onward from the hill of light,
Our hearts with love aflame,
We'll vanquish all the hosts of night,
In Jesus' conqu'ring Name.

Faith is the victory! Faith is the victory!
O glorious victory, that overcomes the world.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

God's Love...and Ours

From time to time we are going to be looking at Bible topics, especially to see what the Scriptures say about them.  There will be little or no comments made, and you are encouraged to just read the verses and let the word of God speak to you.  This weekend, I hope you come back several times and read each verse, then spend some time in prayer, asking God to further reveal His truth on these topics.  We are starting with the subject of LOVE.

The Bible view of love:  Read 1 Corinthians 13.  Pay close attention to verses 4-8. 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

God's love for us:

John 3:16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Romans 8:37-39  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 5:8  But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
1 John 3:1  See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

Our Love for each other:

Ephesians 4:2 With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.
1 Peter 1:22  Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.
Galatians 5:13  For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

These are intended as a springboard for you to search for other verses that will teach about love. Have a great weekend. God bless your studies.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Prayer Time

One of the greatest gifts afforded to every Christian is prayer. For every discussion about prayer there will be varied opinions leading to discussions of prayers that have been answered, prayers which resulted in changed lives, or prayers that accomplished purposes for which there is no explainable  answer.  

Prayer is conversing with God. The Bible is filled with examples and stories about those who prayed. Even Jesus, during his earthly ministry removed himself from his followers and spent quiet times with the Father. The apostle Paul in his writings was insistent on Christians praying for him and for one another.  The early Christians which are the focus of the book of Acts, were always praying for each other and for those outside Christianity. 

The point is, God loves to converse with his people. He longs to be in such an intimate relationship with us that merits conversation with him. Almost every Christian will have a story about a situation where they prayed for some specific answer to a problem, and through the word of God, or through a nudging from within, or encouragement from other Christians, the answer came.

One of the blessings of prayer is that even when we do not know what to pray for, the Spirit of God which lives in us actually represents us before God's throne. It's nice to know that we humans have the presence of the Divine to assist us in our conversations with God. 

Those sections of scripture which we know as "The Lord's Prayer," were the result of people asking questions about how to pray.  There are some who do not prefer to pray publicly, but may be some of the strongest Christians through their personal and quiet times talking to God. 

Some would have you to believe prayer is like a magic wand God waves, giving us everything we want, or think we want. Still others will associate successful prayers with an accompanying donation of financial support.   When will we learn the simplicity of just carrying on a conversation with God, and a willingness to wait for his answer?   What about you?  What do you talk about when you pray to God?

Your prayers may be in the form of thanksgiving, thanking God for physical and spiritual blessings he has sent your way. You might even include prayers for others who are struggling with an illness, a death in their family, financial burdens, work related problems, rebellious children, etc. There are countless things going on in our lives, and God wants us to talk to him about them. 

Prayer is a time when we can really be ourselves because God already sees us as we are. It's not a time for us to remind him how good we are, but a wonderful time for us to thank  him for how good he is. It is impossible for me to know what is on your heart today. Praise, complaints, sins, problems, whatever it might be. Today is the day you can spend some time with God in prayer and pour your heart out to him. (More on prayer each day this week here in the blog.) 


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Wiser than my enemies....

From Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, comes these words from verses 97-100:

Oh, how I love your law!
    I meditate on it all day long.
98 Your commands are always with me
    and make me wiser than my enemies.
99 I have more insight than all my teachers,
    for I meditate on your statutes.
100 I have more understanding than the elders,
    for I obey your precepts.

In a story from a seminary class, students were asked to take opposite positions on a Bible topic. There were always those which could take a stance on one side of a Bible topic, explain their position, and wait for someone to have an opposing idea as to what the text meant.  Soon the friendly debate was on, the professor would sit back and listen to the arguments of the opposing views, then step in declare a winner, based on which side more accurately proved their point. 

After one such event, a Bible student wanted another chance to prove he was right and  the opposite side of the issue was wrong, including the professor.  Then the professor challenged those which opposed him and asked for a student to give chapter and verse which could prove his position. 

The student quoted the scripture above, from Psalm 119:97-100, with emphasis on verse 99, "I have more insight than all my teachers."

While this section of the Psalm means exactly what it says, I rather doubt the intended meaning from the psalmist had anything to do with winning seminary debates. Rather, the writer of these words is opening our eyes to one of the greatest blessings for the followers of God.

Note again, these verses explain the need for us to love the law of the Lord, with reverent meditation both night and day.  God's commands are always with us making us wiser than our enemies.  We will have more insight from God, even more than those who teach us, because we meditate on God's statutes.  Then, the last statement, we have more understanding than the elders when we obey God's precepts.

In this is the word picture of the will of God, and the blessing of "straining" issues through the power of God's will, and receiving the intended understanding.  It's our chance to see life, with all its challenges, as seen through the eyes of God. We could buy all the books (and I am not opposed to book learning), we could attend all the lectures (again, not opposed to lectures), but the point of Psalm 119 is this:  We gain the greatest wisdom......and insight......and understanding when we immerse ourselves with God's word while seeking and desiring the wisdom, insight and understanding from the Father himself.