Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Want to be here?

David, in Psalm  84, was feeling excited about where he was.  He was so excited about where he was because he says, "I'd rather be right here for one day, than anywhere else for a thousand days."

He had started in the early verses of Psalm 84 with a phrase which used some terminology we may not have heard from other biblical writers.  Look at verses 1 and 2:

"How lovely is your dwelling place,  Lord Almighty!   My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. "

David was so pleased to be in the dwelling place of God that he says that is the source of blessing for his life.  He even attributes his strength as a blessing because he knows it is from God.  This, then, is the reason David makes his proclamation:

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;  I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God  than dwell in the tents of the wicked.  For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.   (verses 10-12)

For David, and for us, we should see the desire of God to have us in his presence.  David recognized that and the importance of confidently trusting God.  He is the example for those who become so wrapped up in this world, they have no time for God.  He is also the example for those who are not totally and completely devoted to living for God.

David knew one day dwelling with God was better than a thousand days elsewhere.  The real message for us is how much God is longing to dwell inside us, living in the hearts of those who trust in Him. 


Monday, February 8, 2016

The Holy Spirit

We have received a couple of replies to the blog in recent weeks, both of which were asking about the Holy Spirit. While the questions were not that much alike, they basically were asking about the role or the actions of the third person of the Trinity.  From a previous study of the Holy Spirit, I came up with a list of what the Bible attributes to the role of the Spirit.  There may be some others, but this is the list I discovered.

He speaks:  Revelation 2:7; Acts 13:2
He intercedes:  Romans 8:26
He testifies: John 15:26
He leads:  Acts 8:29; Romans 8:14
He commands:  Acts 16:6-7
He guides:  John 16:13
He appoints:  Acts 20:28
He can be lied to:  Actsm5:3-4
He can be insulted:  Hebrews 10:29
He can be blasphemed:  Matthew 12:31-32
He can be grieved:  Ephesians 4:30
He can be quenched:  1 Thessalonians 5:19
He is eternal:  Hebrews 9:14
He is all powerful: Luke 1:35

Pray and research these scriptures as you open your mind and heart to receive all that God has for you to understand. As always, continue to thank and praise God as his truth becomes a part of your learning and experience. .

Friday, February 5, 2016

Forgiven and Forgiving

Perhaps one of the hardest things God calls us to do is to forgive others....that is, unless we learn the blessing of being a forgiving person.  The importance of forgiving someone else probably doesn't cross our mind until something happens and we are hurt, offended, treated unfairly or misrepresented.

The process of forgiving doesn't have to be so difficult.  After all, since we are  human and involved in a battle against sin, we know how important  it is for us to be forgiven by God.  But the fact still remains, the lesson of being a forgiving person ourselves, is often painful.  It's painful because we are the injured party and in the driver's seat with the tendency of wanting to set the rules and conditions of forgiving others. It would be so easy for us to tell someone they are forgiven but the real test comes when the genuineness and sincerity of forgiving someone is examined.

Human nature comes into the picture when we, the injured party, are hurt by someone and we want to hurt them back.  We prefer making them simmer in the guilt of what they have done, making them suffer a little, before we decide if we are going to forgive them. When that happens, we are actually attempting to take care of God's business and have gone beyond what God should expect of us.  Paul warns us, "Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. (Romans 12:19)

One Christian writer explained it this way.  "Forgiveness is a choice we make through a decision of our will, motivated by obedience to God and the commandment he give us to forgive."  In fact, the Bible even instructs us to forgive others, as God has forgiven us.

Lewis B. Smedes wrote in his book, Forgive and Forget, "When you release the wrongdoer from the wrong, you cut a malignant tumor out of your inner life. You set a prisoner free, but you discover that the real prisoner was yourself."

Read carefully what Jesus says in Matthew 8. Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.  That tells me forgiveness could be a continuing thing.  We may have to keep forgiving over and over again.  But then, isn't that the same way God deals with us when we keep offending and hurting him, over and over again?

Numerous scholars agree the best way to forgive others is to start praying for them.  That helps us to see them as God sees them.  It allows us to appreciate they, too, are important and precious to God.  If he extends grace to us, by forgiving our wrongdoings, then we should be extending grace toward those who hurt us.  And yes, we need to consider these things even more, when we are praying for those who offend us.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Wearing Signs

Jesus said it.  My loyalty and devotion and faith have been pledged to him.  That puts me into a place of living according to the things Jesus said.  Carrying that responsibility can be demanding and often time-consuming, but it's always the way we should conduct ourselves.

Now this question, "What if Christians could wear some kind of sign to designate their loyalty to Jesus, and everyone else could go without the sign, and the world would know who belonged to God and who didn't?"  That would not only let everyone know we were Christians, but it would also be a reminder to us to live more like we should.

Would it surprise you to know there is a biblically based sign we really can wear?  It's the real proof we are genuinely the people of God, followers of Jesus.  Here's you sign.  By this all men will know that you are disciples if you have love for one another.”  John 13:35

Yes, Jesus says the way the world will know I am a Christian, is by the love I have for my brothers and sisters. That's the sign you and I carry in our hearts as we show love for each other.

Can you handle more than one sign at a time?  There is one more we are called on to carry, to be the proof to the world that Jesus came to us from God.  John's gospel also contains this prayer of Jesus. "that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." John  17:21-23

This one really carries a tremendous responsibility for you and me.  Sometimes I have trouble with the first sign, that of loving one another.  Now comes the tender plea of Jesus for us to be in unity.  Jesus tells God, "just as you and I are one, may they be one in us."  That can take some work, and practice, and prayer.  God didn't make everyone as lovable as me.  Oh wait, sometimes I am not lovable either.

So here we are, with our imperfections and flaws, taking larger and larger steps every day to be the person God wants us to be.  His word gives us our sign of loving each other as proof we are the disciples of Jesus.  His word gives us our sign of being one in Him, as proof that Jesus came from God.  Think of the example we can be through the church and through our individual lives if we really become God's people of love and unity.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

You're Connected

As much as I learn about computers I continue to be amazed at the things I do not know.  Granted, some of those computer issues I learned long ago, but didn't remember how to remedy a situation when the issue repeated itself. Of all the things I do on my computer, I still don't know how it all works, and sometime I wonder if it will ever work again. This one thing makes me smile....when I power up the laptop to do some work or surfing the web, there is a little box in the lower right corner of the screen and it says, "You're Connected."

Recently there was a fiber optic line severed in a nearby town.  That was the line which fed computer service to most of the internet providers in our community, and it took over 10 hours to repair.  I could not understand why my computer told me I was connected, but could not make the internet work.  Then I remembered the message telling me I was connected, only meant I was connected to my router, but the router wasn't connected to the internet.  There is bound to be a lesson here, and maybe more than one. Just because that little box on my screen says, "You're Connected," it doesn't mean I have full connection to the internet. 

It started me to thinking about how easily I might be fooled by other messages on this contraption.  I  prefer having more of a sure thing.  I like to be able to trust the messages I receive and send.  And when my computer gives the "message sent" indication, it would be nice to trust that to be true.  And it's the same trust I have learned to expect when God makes a promise to his children.

Here are some instances of God's promises which you can know are true for you.  Read them and come to experience God's loving provision designed specifically for you.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."  Jeremiah 29:11

"And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:19

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord."   Romans 6:23

Spend some time in your Bible looking for more promises.  They are for you, and are God's gifts to you.  Isn't it nice to know, along with his promises, you are always connected?

And here's a verse from an old gospel song:

Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call
Resting in my Savior as my all in all,
Standing on the promises of God.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Your Baffled Friends

"Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ."  Acts 9:19-22 

Saul had just been converted to Jesus. That conversion experience is one of the most exciting series of events in the first half of Acts 19.  In the verses above, his life is changed. He is associating with the disciples. He is preaching in the synagogues.  He is sharing the good news about Jesus. 

Everyone that heard Saul speak about Jesus became somewhat perplexed. Saul had been the man  stirring up all the trouble for Christians. He wanted them all dead or imprisoned. That was his intended purpose in traveling to Damascus. Now we read of his new birth and his growth and power in proving that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. 

Isn't it amazing the way God works?  He actually takes the strongest and most powerful enemy of the cross, and turns him into the strongest and most powerful messenger of the gospel.  What a change! This is Saul, that we come to know as the Apostle Paul, letter writer to churches, servant for the cause of Christ, diligent laborer for Christianity. 

God is longing to make changes in your life too. The power of the cross can make a huge difference in you, just like it did it Saul. Your past is just that.....the past.  In spite of all that, God wants to be in a loving and forgiving relationship with you, and watch you grow strong and powerful in his service. 

You think your friends will be baffled?  Probably no more baffled than those Jews living in Damascus,  when they heard Saul "proving that Jesus is the Christ. "


Monday, February 1, 2016

Three Verses

1 "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love."  (Psalm 103:8, ESV)

2.  "Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love."  (1 John 4:8, ESV)

3.  "So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him."  (1 John 4:16, ESV)

Three verses......about God loving you and me.

Evidence of God's love for us abounds, perhaps with the greatest example in another verse which explains, "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."  When we can fathom that Bible truth, who can doubt God's love?  The world has taught us otherwise.  Where temptation comes, where days of illness visit, where evil seems to be larger than good, comes the natural man doubting God's love.

On the other hand, there are those who experience and believe God's love is an unconditional gift, explaining while God hates sin, he continues to love the sinner.  That may be hard for us to grasp but it's true.  Human nature finds it difficult to believe since we are part of a culture that teaches its children something like, "God doesn't love you when you do bad things."  We just cannot seem to get the idea of God's love for sinners.  Our favorite Bible verse may be John 3:16, "For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but inherit eternal life."  Our problem in this is simple......we haven't learned to love like God loves.   And it does require a learning process. 

We have a tendency to love those that love us, yet we draw the line when refusing to love those that are unlovable. People say or do things that bring hurt to us, causing us to withhold our love for them.  But then we learn that God's love includes things like grace, mercy and forgiveness, and those are the areas where God's love trumps ours. 

Try this if you consider yourself as one loved by God.  Know that you are a sinner, but God still loves you.  If you really believe that, how can you classify other sinners as unforgivable or unloved?  When you can say aloud, "God loves me!" and know every other sinner can make the same proclamation,  then you are closer to understanding His love.  For some, it comes with tears, while others respond with rejoicing. It's something that humbles the strongest among us, when we learn God loves us.

Perhaps that's why God chose to teach us the lesson of his love, by telling us about our responsibility to love each other. Remember what Jesus said when asked about the greatest commandment. And one other verse speaks volumes on this subject....."By this shall all men know you are my disciples, if you love one another."