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Posted in Living out our faith

My Rock

I have so many times needed to remember that God is my strength, my support, my protection, and a strong mountain from which I can view life. Thinking of God as my Rock has always given me the strength and courage to press on. This is a great blog and I wanted to share it with you.

wordsfromeliah

I was about to pray the other night when the Lord put a verse on my heart. It was Psalm 18:2. It reads “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” I live by that verse. It is my motto and my go-to-verse in times of trouble. Do you have a go-to-verse? Do you have a verse you can pull out of your emergency box anytime you need it? I want to encourage you today to find those scriptures you can always rely on and that will always lift up your spirits. There are so many verses to pick from but some of them speak to us more and give us just what we need. Let me tell you what this verse does for me.

We…

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Posted in Learning from His Word, Living out our faith

Oh yes, insults are a certainty for the blessed!

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” Matt 5:11-12.

Today, in America and the Western World, the insults have begun.  Christians in America and Europe have had a time of relative peace, and I do not believe that was a good thing.  The majority of Christians either became comfortable and complacent, letting the days, weeks, and yeacandles_13426cprs go by without dedicating a part of their day to prayer and studying God’s word.  That meant, of course, that we lost sight of our primary focus – following Jesus, and seeking to do the will of God.

What is the will of God, you might ask?  To draw near to Him. To learn from Him. To worship Him. To believe in Jesus.   Then to go out and serve Him.  Be a light of hope and love in a dark world.  The ways we can serve God are many, and as we study His word they become obvious.  No matter which service we dedicate our lives to, in the end it will be pleasing to God.

But we have fallen away, intrigued and enticed by modern technology and our ability to hear the world, see the world, while picking what excites and stimulates.  However what excites and stimulates us seems to be something that must continue to be fed a stronger and stronger diet.  We increasingly need to see more violence, more sex, and more evil.

The results have been that we have become more and more angry at life, empty inside,  filled with pride, and control freaks.  More and more of us are turning to drugs and alcohol to fill that emptiness and to get the “good feeling” that seems to elude us.

Interestingly, however, there is what I will call a growing remnant of Christians in the US and Europe who are turning back to God, and in Him are finding the joy that can only be found in Him, the peace that can only come from Him, the a love that overwhelms us.

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This flies in the face of the proud, those who need to be in control, and those who don’t believe in God, let alone Jesus.  And since they cannot find the joy, peace, contentment, and love that we have – they strike out.

This is why we see a rise in insults that fly across the social media sits day in and day out.  This is why we see good, decent, quite, unassuming Christian people abased in public.

Jesus clearly told us that as followers of Christ we would be insulted and so much more.  And we are only at the beginning of what is to come.  Darkness cannot stand even a spark of light because it reveals the ugliness of the dark world.  And Christian, who are serving God, are lights in the ever darkening world.

I take heed to this message in the book of Jude, the last book in the Bible before the book of Revelation.  It is a powerful book with only 25 verses.   I invite you to read it sometime soon.  For now, I close with this….

A Call to Persevere

17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ forsmile_7209cetold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

Doxology

24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

Posted in Living out our faith

More Spiritual Knowledge (2)

I thought this blog was worth sharing. Prayer is vital to a Christian. There can never be too much said about it. Enjoy!

PneumaWord

“But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:4 KJV

Background: After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit who gave the disciples power to witness (Acts 1:8) at Pentecost in Acts 2, there was a massive influx of people into the Church, who devoutedly followed Jesus as they were taught by His disciples (apostles); i believe this is why Acts 6:1 KJV describes it this way “…the number of disciples was multiplied…” Not surprisingly (as with any crowd presence), problems began to ensue because a certain group felt their widows where being neglected. The apostles understood this as a crucial need, but not important enough for it to take priority over the mission Jesus gave them in Matthew 28:19-20 and Mark 16:15-18. So, they laid out some criteria for seven men to be selected that would oversee the fair distribution of food…

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Posted in Living out our faith, Seeking Him

Persecution is a blessing? Sort of….

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Matt 5:10.

There is a war going on between the righteous and the unrighteous.  Who are the righteous?  Righteous are those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and have their lives forever changed by that belief and trust.  Jesus, whether you presently believe it or not, did actually die for our sins.  Jesus’ death on the cross was the only way for the loving part of God to be merged with the justice of God.  You see, he loved us so much that he provided a way for us to be with him, in a sinless state, after we die.  We are incapable of living sinless.  We hurt others with our words, with our looks, with our actions, and with our inaction. We will continue to do that until we die.  I wish it were not so.  The difference between a righteous person and an unrighteous one, is that with our lives transformed by the sacrificial death of our Lord and Savior, and the acceptance of that by faith, we gradual sin less and less, hurting others less often, and helping others more often.  The longer we walk with Christ, the more loving, less judgmental we should become.  Anyone who claims to be a Christ-follower and is not moving in this direction, probably has not put their faith in Christ and turned their life over to him.

Many people are persecuted, we read about it all the time.  However, Jesus says that those who are persecuted because of their righteousness will be given the right to enter the kingdom of heaven.  As we have seen we can only be righteous if we are sinless.  We cannot be sinless without someone, without sin, bearing the punishment (justice in action) for our sins.

I know we squirm when we think of justice from God, or punishment from God.  After all, isn’t He a loving God?  Can a loving God send people to hell, or even ban them from heaven?

Yes, and He is the only One who can.

Yes, and He is the One who can not keep from doing so.

Yes,  He is a loving God.

But a loving God without being just, would be irreconcilable .

Let me explain.  If you, like a friend of mine, came home to find your mother murdered and then her house burned down around her to hide the murder, would you demand the murderer be found and punished?  I am pretty sure you would.  My friend would agree with you.  Most important of all, God would agree with you.  In his Ten Commandments we find this, “You shall not murder” Exodus 20:10.  And God says this, “‘Do not accept a ransom for the life of a murderer, who deserves to die. They are to be put to death” Num 35:31.

In my last post, I spoke about a God who wanted to teach us how to live in harmony and peace, but there can be no peace, no harmony when someone intentionally murders a person.  There is no forgiveness strong enough to make life seem normal or harmonious every again.  We can forgive in hopes that our insides will eventually heal, but we can never heal if the murderer continues to live his/her life as though nothing happened.  The demand for justice is a driving force.  It is only when justice has been served, that our internal healing can begin.

If that is so with us, how much more so would it be true of God.  He watches people succumb to evil every day, billions of people. Before you think of yourself as too good to have to worry about sin, let me assure you that in God’s eyes gossip is sin, lying is sin (even those little white lies), cheating o a test is a sin, convincing a friend to do something you know is not right is a sin, blaming others for something you did or said is a sin, and so much more.

The evil can range from purposely taking property from work home, a seemingly unnoticeable deed, to taking a life from a family.  All are evil in God’s eyes, and all required a punishment.

God is just, and debts must be paid, but He is also love.  How can he love and be just at the same time?  He came down in earthly form lived the kind of life He has been trying to teach us how to live, and then taking all our sin, past, present, and future to the cross.   AND HE DID THIS FOR EVERY HUMAN BEING WHO HAS EVER LIVED.  That means YOU too.

Now, since God has given us free will to decide, for ourselves, how we want to live our lives, and how we want to spend eternity, God presents Jesus, the sacrificial lamb, and gives us the choice to accept Jesus and live (and become righteous), or to reject Jesus and accept an eternity separated from God.

Therefore, we are blessed if we are righteous, even though that means we will be persecuted,  and we are cursed to an eternity without goodness, light, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, giving to help others, and every other quality that comes from a good, good God.

Outside of where God is there will be constant, unabated evil, addiction, darkness, hate, suspicion, misery, wars, fighting, anger, impatience, hurtfulness, agitation, taking from others, and so much more that can only exist without control when God leaves those who chose to live without God, with that choice for eternity.

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Posted in Following in His footsteps, Living out our faith

Are you making peace? Do you try to keep peace?

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“Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God” Matt 5:9.

Most of the time when we think of “peace” our thoughts immediately go to world peace.  There is so many news stories about fighting and killing in countries around the world, and here at home, that just thinking of “PEACE” hurts.  We feel so helpless to be a peacemaker.  We feel to small and insignificant to be a peacemaker.  If we have any heart for people beyond ourselves and our families, than it hurts to see, read about, and think of the savagery which seems to run rampant in our world.

But maybe, just maybe, Jesus was intending these words to focus much less on world peace, and more on peace close to us, individually.  For example, peace within ourselves, peace within our families, peace with our friends, peace with our co-workers,  and peace with our neighbors.  Think about it with me for a moment.

  1. This type of peace is something we can do something about.
  2. If we could begin to live in peace within our self, our family, our friends, our work environment, and our neighborhoods, others might learn to do the same.
  3. If we taught our children the same and they taught theirs….
  4. As the families grow and spread out, into new place, new work environments, new neighbors, new friends, more family, peace grows.
  5. And as it grows, the results could really change the world.
  6. It all starts with us, with our own homes, families, friends, co-workers, and neighbors.

This is what Jesus meant, and it becomes a reality in our lives as we grow in god-likeness, starting with realizing we need Christ in our life, cry out and confess falling away from, or never seeking God, humbly accepting change and giving our lives to Jesus, hungrily seeking to live and serve in a Christ-like manner, seeing others as God sees them, and serving and giving to others without seeking anything in return.  And all of this is what Jesus was teaching at the beginning of his very first teaching of his ministry.

You know Jesus said,  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” Matt 5:17.  Note, this statement is found in Matthew 5:17, the Beatitudes, which I have been pondering with you over the last several blog posts, are found in Matthew 4:3-10.

Keeping that in mind, let me mention the laws of the Old Testament that Jesus was referring to.  There are the 10 Commandments, which I previously mentioned match this series of Beatitude statements.  There are also a great many small, and in modern eyes, seemingly irrelevant laws, especially found in the book of Leviticus.  May I boldly tell you that not one of them is insignificant for us today, or irrelevant.  I’m not kidding.

Let me explain.  God, in his great love for people, provided them with directions on what to do and not to do in order to live safely, free of illness and disease, and in harmony with each other.  Yes, some of those directions such as foods we should not eat, are no longer applicable to our lives due to the progress in processing foods, and the prevention taken against contamination.  What is applicable, however, is that we note what is important in these directions is not that God was burying his people in rules and laws, but rather that he was setting up guidelines that would enable them to:

  1. stay faithful to Him as the only true God
  2. turn to Him in times of need
  3. seek His protection and help in the battles they faced
  4. seek His strength when they were facing overwhelming obstacles
  5. live in peace with themselves and their neighbors
  6. know how to peacefully resolve disputes
  7. know how to protect themselves from diseases
  8. and much, much more

God wanted His people to live in harmony, and he explained exactly how that could be accomplished.  We should be slower to scoff at this, and more careful to consider the details of life that our God is willing to be involved in.  There is nothing too small that he would not help with, if (and this is a big IF) we would only let Him.

Maybe it would be good to stop and think about how we can become peacemakers.  It just might start wi43sca02cth turning to God and asking for His help.  With His help we can keep create and keep peace in our families, even settle disputes and disagreements in a way that keeps peace.  With His help we can create and keep peace with our co-workers, our neighbors, and our friends, even settle disputes and disagreements in a way that keeps peace.

Peace can prevail, but only when the people who are called by His name, decide to be peacemakers, with His help.

Posted in Learning from His Word, Living out our faith

How pure is your heart?

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” Matthew 5:8.

So far we have read five of the nine “Blessed” statements Jesus presented at the very beginning of his first public teaching.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
 Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.”  (Matthew 5:3-7

Note how each of these speaks of a part of our inner character followed by the positive results we receive when we are open to a molding process which will develop these qualities within us.   Notice also how the first statement focuses our work almost solely on our own selves.  There is not outward reach involved.  In the third we begin to see our character changes affecting the world and people around us. The work of God within us will begin to make a difference outside of us as well.   The impact of our “Blessedness” increasingly affects the world as we grow into and onward from one Beatitude (“Blessed are..” statement) to the next.  This process of moving our focus from loving God, to loving ourselves, and then on to loving others.  In the process we continue to be blessed internally because that is just what the love of God does within our souls and spirits.

Amazingly, we once again see how all the teachings of Jesus fit together into the laws given to Moses by God during the Israelite journey from Egypt to the promised land (what we know now as Israel). This is what Jesus meant by “All the Law” when he answered the religious leaders of his day when they asked, “What is the greatest commandment?”

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  (Matthew 22:37-40)

To love God with all our heart, soul, and mind fulfills the first four commandments, and to love our neighbor as ourselves fulfills the last six.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” Matthew 5:8.

This declaration by Jesus gets to the real motive behind our interactions with others whether by word or deed.  As we are moving from loving ourselves to loving others, Jesus cautions us to watch  our motives.  They must be pure, unmixed, and unsullied.

This is only possible once we have truly become humble and meek (see previous posts).  Once we have our eyes off of ourselves, and are looking at others through God’s eyes, only then might we speak and act with our motives pure, without any ulterior motive, without any need for a thank you, without any need for self-approval, or without a need for the approval of others.  Is our service to and for others something we do for Christ or for our own prestige?  Is our prayer and Bible reading time done to spend time with God, to grow closer to Him, to listen to Him, or is it read_7203cdone a duty, to build ourselves up, or as an example for others, “look at me!”?  To quote William Barclay once again, “Is our religion a thing in which we are conscious of nothing so much as the need of God within our hearts, or a thing in which we have comfortable thoughts of our own piety?”

Can we measure up?  Based on where one is in their spiritual maturity, there can be a growing number of moments when our heart is pure, but we can claim only moments of pureness, not a lifetime.

“Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin’”?  (Proverbs 20:9)

This is a tough one.  Stop and consider your own life.   And yet Jesus makes it even tougher when he says only those pure in heart will see GodOuch!

Thank you God for not leaving us in a state of hopelessness.  It is important to understand that the purity Jesus is speaking of here would be impossible without the grace of God. It is through Jesus that God’s grace cleans our impure hearts through which we can see God.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” Psalm 51:10.

God bless you as you continue to seek Him and follow our Lord Jesus Christ.

Posted in Following in His footsteps, Living out our faith

Seeing people through God’s eyes

mercy_2406cI was amazed as I read William Barclay’s The Gospel of Matthew, Vol One to find confirmation of a life experience of mine so clearly taught by Jesus, but so missed by people, even Christians who read the Bible faithfully.  I, personally, never knew what Jesus was saying when he said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” Matthew 5:7.

I always thought this was one of the beatitude statements that was easy to understand…..If I show mercy to others, (compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm. Oxford Dictionary), and God will show mercy to me.  That is not always easy, but it is something we can all do.  It also seems like a theme of Jesus, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” Luke 6:31.  “Forgive, and you will be forgiven” Luke 6:37b.

However, this simple statement about mercy says much more than one reads on the surface; it has a much more powerful meaning.  As I learned today, the Hebrew word for “mercy” is “chesedh” which does not mean just compassion for another, or the willingness to forgive someone who has harmed you, but it means, as Barclay puts it, “to get right inside other people until we can see things with their eyes, think things with their minds, and feel things with their feelings.”  What Jesus is telling us is that we need to look at them through God’s eyes so we can know what pain, hurt, suffering, of misguided moments in their lives caused them to do, say, or act the way they do.

“Impossible!” you might say.  “Not so,” is my answer.  Difficult at times, but not impossible if we are willing to let go and allow ourselves to begin to see people through God’s eyes.  God knows what is behind the hurt, the pain, the thoughts of each person.

I know this for certain, because it has been my own, personal, experience.  I worked in a small office with 5 other women and a supervisor.  The supervisor liked to play mind games with her staff.  She even admitted to another supervisor, in my presence, that she stayed awake at night thinking about how she would move the pawns around on the game board the next day.  She would always use us as her protection when things in our department did not go right.  Even if it was her decision that caused the problem, one of us would be blamed.

Oh, how I began to hate her.  It wasn’t just because of how she treated me, but I could see how she was hurting those I worked with as well, and it tore me apart inside.  One day in my prayer time, God told me to pray for her.  “Pray for her God,” I immediately thought, “I can’t pray for her. I can’t stand her.”  “Pray,” was God’s only reply.  I must confess, I didn’t, but God did not relent.  Everyday I heard the same words from God.  Finally, one day, I said, “Ok God, I will.”  But all I could get out that day was, “Dear God, Louise.”  That was it.  That was all I could get out, my hatred was so strong.   The next day I tried again, and the next day, and the next.  Each day it got a bit easier, and I even got to praying a whole sentence.  I continued each day, struggling with what to pray.

An amazing thing happened.  I began to see Louise through different eyes.  I began to hear her hurt and pain as she’d briefly speak of something that had happened to her.  All the things she had said and done, even her placing the blame on us for her failures, began to be bearable as I began to understand her more and more.  It did not make what she did right, fair, or justifiable, but it did make it understandable, and that, in itself, took away my anger and hatred.  Louise did not change, but I did, and it was a change experience that has made a tremendous difference in my life.  For the first time, God allowed me to see someone not through my own eyes, but his.  I began to love Louise even in all her ugliness. I began to pray for her because I wanted to, not because God told me to.

At some point in the last year, I began to pray for God to allow me to see all people through His eyes, even total strangers.  Little by little, as I kept up this prayer, God began to open my eyes.  Now I know my godly vision is not fully clear yet.  It is still a bit blurry.  But I do know that most little thoughts, the quick judgements, I used to have about people who I meet for the first time, or those I just see as I am out shopping, or the guy that passes me on the berm during rush hour traffic, are gone.

I do not consider myself especially judgmental, but my eyes were opened when I realized how often I did make quick little judgments about others.

With time, as I continue to ask God to open my eyes to see each person as he does, I will be able to see them as the beautiful souls that God loves, just like Louise, and I will be able to see feel their hurt, their insecurity, and know their need.  Then I will be in the best position to truly be merciful.

“Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” (Matthew 18:33)

Be blessed!