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.

 lesson-from-mother-teresa

Posted in Learning from His Word, Seeking Him

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst?

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.  (Matthew 5:6, NIV)

 

As I was thinking about writing this blog, the subject of hunger brought back a memory I would like to share.  It was that moment in time when I finally understood the hunger of people around the world.

I was listening to the radio on the way to work one morning.  It was during a week when there was a campaign to introduce listeners to sponsorship programs for children around the world who live in impoverished communities.  Because my heart aches so at the conditions these families live in, we had already sponsored some during the past few years.  I was not planning on sponsoring anymore, but then I heard a field team member describe the time she saw a woman making what looked like cookies out of mud. The mother would form them and then let them bake in the sun.  When they were ready, she would feed them to her child. The field team member approached her and asked why she was feeding her child mud cookies.  The mother’s answer was, “I know that my child is starving because I have nothing to feed her.  She is going to die.   At least with these mud cookies, I can keep her from some of the pain she would feel.”

Bam! That hit me so hard.  As a mother of three, I cannot imagine living in such poverty that I would have to watch my children slowly die of starvation.  To make cookies of mud, just to ease the pain, would be a job filled with love and great emotional pain.

I’m sure you know by now that I ended up sponsoring another child.  God has provided the extra dollars needed each month, and we have been blessed to correspond with a child and his grandmother (who is raising him).  As is so typical of God, when he blesses one person, He often blesses another.

All this being said, Jesus is not talking about physical hunger when he says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”  Although he is not speaking of physical hunger, but rather spiritual hunger, much of the story I just shared plays out in the souls of people today.  People are starving, and are eating mud cookies to try to relieve the pain while their souls slowly die.

There is a hunger in all of us for something we just can’t put our hands on.  We cannot think enough, touch enough, smell enough, see enough, taste enough, or hear enough to find it, unless we are willing to consider that God might be what we are starving for.

If we can open up the door of our lives just enough to consider that God might be real, and begin to search for Him, then we have a chance of finding the food and drink that will satisfy our souls and bring as an amazingly full life.

Are you willing to allow God to feed you or are you going to keep eating the mud cookies that the world feeds you to keep you somewhat pain-free until you die?  In case you are wondering what mud cookies you might be eating, let me suggest it could be some that I ate for part of my life: packing my life full of activities and responsibilities so there was no time to really contemplate my loneliness and emptiness, addiction, wrapping my life up in my children and their sports, plays, concerts, groups, and activities while setting my life on hold, watching hours of TV (IPADs and tablets were not available then), striving for success as a business owner, and most of all searching for the all elusive feeling of being loved and wanted.  Those were my mud cookies, but when I hit rock bottom, and saw death as my only escape, the God I had ignored all those years, whispered to me  as I was planning my suicide, “What will happen to your small boys?”

I am lucky that God could pierce the darkness I had been living in, a darkness created by a soul craving for something and not knowing what it was, and so eating every mud cookie she could find to survive the pain.  He took this starving soul and fed me with the love and His word. He filled the emptiness with the Holy Spirit and new Christian friends.  He totally transformed my life.

I hope you do not have to starve to the point of death before you will open the door of your life to God.  I hope you will understand that when Jesus said, if you hunger and thirst for righteousness (living a God directed life) you will be filled.

Today I am filled with and abundance of joy, peace, and love.

My prayer is that you will be too.

God bless you my friend.

 

Posted in Learning from His Word, Seeking Him

Blessed are those who mourn? Really?

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

This particular passage in the Bible is one that most non-theologians do not understand.  I know that for years I struggled with this scripture.  Yes, I agree that those mourning will be comforted, but does that make them blessed? Take a parent who has lost a child, for example.  How would comfort from God or from friends move them to say, “We are so blessed”?

Yes, many have come through extremely sorrowful times, and have grown closer to God through that time, and so they are blessed.  But that is not the case for all.  There has to be something else, something different, something better that Jesus meant when he said made this statement.  And there is!

If you read the last post, Jesus referred to the “poor in spirit” as those who recognize their wretched state, how being in control of their lives has really been a disaster, and they finally turn to the One who was standing nearby ready to help when asked – God.

Today read the next thing Jesus said to the multitude of listeners, “blessed are those who mourn”.   It is meaningful that this statement is the second in the list of “blessed.”

First a person is blessed when they understand they are lost and need God.

Second, however, the recognition of that is followed closely by realizing what our sin has cost our God – the horrific death of His son on the cross.  We mourn because we realize it is our sin that was responsible for the 40 lashes that ripped the skin on his back wide open.  It was our sin that gave Jesus the crown of thorns that cut into his scalp.  It was our sin that made necessary the nails in his feet and hands.

Who crucified Jesus?  We did.  You and I, and when we let that sink in, we end up on our knees in sorrow.  The word “mourn” here came from a Greek word that meant a deep, heart-wrenching mourning.  It is the type of mourning that causes one to groan out loud as they bend over in anguish.    If we truly grasp the damage of our sin, we will enter that place of mourning.

But Jesus tells us we will be comforted.  Indeed we are, because we know we have a risen King, not one still in the tomb.  When Jesus broke free from the grave, he smashed the head of the snake, by ending death forever for those who believe in Him.  Our bodies will return to the earth, but our souls and spirits will go on to live forever with the King of Kings, our Lord, Jesus.

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For those of us who have lost loved ones, we also receive comfort in knowing we will see them again.

So yes, Jesus did mean that those mourning the loss of their loved ones will be comforted., but he meant so much more.  He meant that we, when we discover the cost of sin, our sin, will be comforted as well.

Thank you Jesus.

Amen

Posted in Living out our faith, Seeking Him

Praying the Scriptures

There are many types of prayer which can be classified into categories:

  • prayers of thanksgiving – thanking God in prayer,
  • confession – asking God for forgiveness
  • affirmation – agreeing with God, willingness to do his willonly-god
  • petition – personal requests
  • renewal – seeking God to work in us and through us during times of difficulty
  • adoration  – worship and praise
  • for a Christ-like character – to mold us into godly people, lights for the world
  • for wisdom and guidance – for direction and understanding
  • for intercession – prayers for the needs of others
  • prayers of surrender – giving up our fears, worries, problems, and/or lives into God’s control

During one of Jesus’ most documented sermons, known as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught on how we should pray.  Consider this section of the Sermon on the Mount….

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,      [prayer of affirmation]
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,      [prayer of affirmation]
your will be done,      [prayer of surrender]
    on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.      [prayer of petition]  

[“us” makes it also a prayer of intercession]

And forgive us our debts,      [prayer of confession]
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.      [prayers for Christ-like character]
And lead us not into temptation,      [prayer for wisdom and guidance]
    but deliver us from the evil one.”      [prayer of renewal]

                                            (Matthew 6:5-14)

A good book I recommend is Prayers for Today, a Yearlong Journey of Contemplative Prayer, by Kurt Bjorklund.  There are 260 days of prayer that follow a cycle of these ten types of prayers.  Kurt starts each page off with a prayer of God’s scripture back to him.  Here is an example that I think is meaningful as we come near to the New Year.

Day 138,   Prayers for Wisdom and Guidance
Lord, You give wisdom; from Your mouth come knowledge and understanding.

You store up sound wisdom for the upright; You are a shield to those who walk in integrity,

guarding the paths of thee just and protecting the way of Your saints.

Then I will understand righteousness and justice and honesty–every good path, for wisdom will enter my heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to my soul.

Discretion will protect me and understanding will guard me.  Proverbs 2:6-11 (pg 156)

As we movepray28c forward into a new year, I hope you will seriously consider a refreshed and more dedicated prayer life.  Make a commitment to meet God in prayer at a certain time of the day, and then make the effort to keep your date with God.  God will honor your commitment, even if you miss a few dates.  The fact that you care enough to embark on this commitment with a sincere heart, is a first step to a deeper prayer life, and more guidance from God.  He can only speak when we get close enough to listen.  Start drawing closer now.

God bless you and yours.

Posted in Learning from His Word, Seeking Him

A cute story to be told, but this famous birth is so much more!

Just to review from Monday’s post, here is what I started it with….

I was amazed this past weekend as I shared a cute Jesus birth trivia game with the women in our Bible study.  I had taken the quiz a couple of years ago, and was surprised how many questions I got wrong.  After all, I read my Bible daily, and I must have read the Matthew and Luke versions of this story hundreds of time.  Here are some of the questions.  Without opening your Bible to look, answer these for yourself, and then look up the stories in Matthew 1:18 -2:18 and Luke 2:1-39.   Let me know how many you missed.  Don’t be embarrassed, I’ve already taken the embarrassment award.

If you did not read the questions, just stop and read them, then come back.  I am going to share the answers, and a discussion on what this means for you and I.

Here are the answers:  1. – Bethlehem,  2.- None of the above (no innkeeper or inn was even mentioned),  3. – None  (no mention of any animals at all),  4. – No one really knows (all we know from the Bible is that they had to go to Nazareth.  We are not given any details on the trip.), 5. – We don’t know (most people think it was three because there were three gifts given, but the actual number or wise men, themselves, was not mentioned.), 6. – In a house – (the Bible actually tells us the wise men found the family in a house in Bethlehem.)   7. – The star moved ahead of them and then stopped.  (This actually happened.  For an interesting study on this go to http://www.BethlehemStar.com, or you can see the video about his research on YouTube.  Just search for “Bethlehem Star”.), 8. – Caesar Augustus wanted a census done.  So, each family had to return to the city of the father’s birth.  In Joseph’s case, this was Bethlehem.)

It was humbling to see how many I missed.  I would have considered myself pretty well-educated on the birth of Christ, but now I have come to realize that without realizing it, I have allowed the world’s version of Christ’s birth to override the Biblical version.  Sure I understand that it was very likely that Mary rode something to Bethlehem.  She was 9 months pregnant after all.

In the effort to make the story of Christ’s birth into a cohesive story, we have given it a full, audience satisfying story with a beginning, climax, ending, and having an antagonist and a hero both, and finally adding some sparkle for entertainment purposes. Out of this school plays have been performed in and out of churches, movies have been made, and all sorts of television shows have been made.  The story of Jesus’ birth sells when the story line is filled in.

What is really important here?  Is it important to know how Mary and Joseph got to Bethlehem or that the birth of Christ there met the conditions of one of the prophesies.

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
    one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
    from ancient times.”  (Micah 5:2)

Is it important that we know what animals were in the stable, or that there ever were animals, or is it more important to know that the king, of whom the prophets had spoken hundreds of years before, had been born.

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Is it important to know Jesus was found by the wise men in a house, or is it more important to know that he was born in Bethlehem, was taken to Egypt when Herod was killing the baby boys in Bethlehem, just as the prophets foretold?

Just as the mothers of Israel and Judah watched their sons be killed or taken as captives, mothers in Bethlehem watched their babies be killed.

This is what the Lord says:

“A voice is heard in Ramah,
    mourning and great weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children
    and refusing to be comforted,
    because they are no more.”  (Jeremiah 31:15)

Joseph, warned by an angel to flee to Egypt to escape the killing of Jesus, fled there and remained there until Herod had died.  He then returned from Egypt with Mary and Jesus and resettled in Nazareth.

 “When Israel was a child, I loved him,
    and out of Egypt I called my son.”  (Hosea 1:1)

There are over 324 prophesies fulfilled by Jesus, and according to Peter Stoner, in his book, Science Speaks, the probability of that almost beyond our comprehension.  It is so like God to do things in such a way, that we cannot explain how it is possible.  Here is just a taste of the information found in his book.

The chance of one single man fulfilling only 48 Messianic prophecies found in the Tantkh (Old Testament) would be 1 in 10ᶺ157 – to understand, that would be like the chance of finding, on the very first attempt, one specific electron out of all the electrons in all the known mas of the entire universe!  I followed by 157 zeros.  Yeshua however, fulfilled not just 48 Messianic prophesies – he fulfilled more than 324 individual prophesies written by the prophets concerning the Messiah!

So, while we make the story of the birth of Jesus Christ of Nazareth into a cute story, and dramatic movies, let us not forget that it was a miracle of God’s own making, and humbly kneel in prayer, praising and thanking God for the only gift that really matters both now and for eternity.

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”  (Luke 1:3-33)

Praises to God Almighty.

We lift up our prayers of thanksgiving.

We bow down before the throne that started as a manger.

We share the good news of your Son, our Savior, with all the world.

Let your peace, love, and joy fill the hearts of people everywhere this Christmas.

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Posted in Learning from His Word, Seeking Him

How much have we let culture re-write the Bible?

2014-12-22-06-06-07I was amazed this past weekend as I shared a cute Jesus birth trivia game with the women in our Bible study.  I had taken the quiz a couple of years ago, and was surprised how many questions I got wrong.  After all, I read my Bible daily, and I must have read the Matthew and Luke versions of this story hundreds of time.  Here are some of the questions.  Without opening your Bible to look, answer these for yourself, and then look up the stories in Matthew 1:18 -2:18 and Luke 2:1-39.   Let me know how many you missed.  Don’t be embarrassed, I’ve already taken the embarrassment award.

  1. Joseph was originally from (Bethlehem, Nazareth, Hebron, Jerusalem, none of these choices)?
  2. What does the Bible say the innkeeper said to Mary and Joseph (“There is no room in the inn.” “I have a stable you can use.” “Come back later and I should have room.” “both the first and the second statements” or “none of these”?
  3. Which animals does the Bible say were present at Jesus’ birth (sheep, and goats, sheep and a donkey, camels, sheep, and a donkey, or none)?
  4. According to the Bible, how did Mary and Joseph get to Bethlehem (camel, donkey, walked, Joseph walked and Mary rode on a donkey, horse-drawn cart, or who knows)?
  5. How many wise men came to see Jesus (3,6,9,12, we don’t know)?
  6. Where did the wise men find Jesus (In a manger, In a stable, In a house, In Nazareth, or none of these choices)?
  7. The “star in the east” that the wise men followed… (stayed in the same place during their entire journey, disappeared and reappeared, moved ahead of them and stopped over the place where Jesus was, or none of the above)?
  8. Who told (made) Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem (an angel, Mary’s mother, Herod, the shepherds, Caesar Augustus)?

If you don’t want to look up your answers, I will provide them in Wednesday’s blog, along with a discussion about what this tells us about ourselves.  Hope you will come back and check in on Wednesday.

“Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

 

Praying for love, joy, and peace to fill your life this Christmas and beyond, through a deeper love and faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Posted in Learning from His Word, Seeking Him

Living Life God’s Way

It was a while ago that I sank to rock bottom.  Everything I had a hand in was a mess, my marriage, my business, and my children’s lives.  For years my husband had been blaming his drinking on something I said or did, and I had absorbed all that into in-those-darken-moments-it-was-then-that-i-held-you-close-and-carried-youmy identity as I scrambled to fix what I had done or said wrong.

I was at a point where I could not fix anything, and everything seemed to be crumbling around me.  Since I was worthless as a wife, business owner, and mother, why keep living?  I had resolved to kill myself, and was in the process of determining how I would do so.

One morning, my last morning I was hoping, I was in the laundry room putting wash into the dryer.  As I was doing so, I was deep in thought, mulling over my choices, when a thought broke through my concentration, “What will happen to your three young boys?”

Well that stopped me in my tracks.  Where did that thought come from?  Even as I wondered, I knew without a doubt it was from somewhere outside myself.  In micro seconds many thoughts ran through my mind, but the end of it was this question, “Could that have been God?”

I screamed into the silence, “If you are real God, I need you.  I don’t know how to live one more day!”  I collapsed in tears.  And then, I felt a warmth lift me to my feet, and I knew, really knew, God was not only real, but He had heard me.

And help me He did.  It would be too long of a story to tell you all the amazing people He put in my life, who guided me in my infant faith, but there were many.  I am eternally grateful for each and everyone of them.

Fast forwardhebr1022c to today, I am now leading a woman’s Bible study helping others in their faith walk, and I blog.  I have two blog sites, this one, and MoriahsMusings.com.  Here at After Emmanuel I write about Christ seeking, following, and living.  Jesus came, taught, died, and rose again all to give us an opportunity to know God and God’s will.  I am continually studying the Bible, and seeking the Holy Spirit to open my mind and heart to understanding more and more about how I, as a Christian, can best live my life to reflect that.

This is the journey you will read about if you follow my blogs.  It is a journey that I hope you will interact with, sharing your own spiritual growth as God leads you.  In sharing we can all grow more in our own faith.

Therefore, welcome, my new friend.  I look forward to growing with you and along side you.

Blessings,

Marsha