Friday, August 16, 2019

What Does It Mean to Love?

What Does It Mean to Love?
John 14:15 ESV
If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

John, the writer of the Gospel of John, wrote the book with this one thought in mind.: “… these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31 KJV). 

The value or worth we put on someone we love gives us a connection with this person and is the foundation of our relationship. God is our Creator, Redeemer, Provider, and Friend. As a Christian, we have a personal relationship with Him and therefore, we are greatly influenced by His love for us. “We love him, because he first loved us” (I John 4:19 KJV). Jesus is teaching the disciples that no amount of obedience is the true source of love. Genuine love comes from the Father, a gift of love. For by grace you have been saved through faith…not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). 

We have believed that our obedience is the proof of our love for Christ and that our obedience will gain us the love of the Father but, unfortunately, obedience does not gain us the love of the Father. His love is a gift given to us when we believe and trust in Him as our Savior. Our obedience flows from this supernatural gift of love that God has given to us. 

I John 2:3-5 says, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments…whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected…”  Receive Me, follow Me, believe in Me, love one another, trust in Me and rest in Me are some of His commands.  His commands are not burdensome, but trying to keep them perfectly is. Our focus is on our love for Christ as a truly extraordinary gift because we, as fallen people, cannot obey God perfectly.

Lord, thank You that Your commands are not burdensome.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Persecution, Is It a Blessing?

Persecution, Is It a Blessing?
2 Thessalonians 1:1-5 
“…We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring…”

As we read through the book of 2 Thessalonians, we see that there are only three chapters in the book with three main issues. The first issue mentioned was the increasing persecution of the church during the time of the Apostle Paul and others that were following Christ. The second issue was Eschatology the part of theology known as “The End Times,” or the “Day of the Lord.”  Chapter Three, speaks of vocational enthusiasm or the lack thereof. There were misconceptions about why they should continue to work if Jesus is coming back soon.

Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica to encourage them to stand firm in their faith and look to God for strength during times of persecution. In 2 Thessalonians 1:3, Paul exhorts them to continue to love one another and to grow greater in their love and dependence on each other. These mistreated people were growing in their faith. They were commending other Christians to endure persecution without wavering while bearing their oppression and abuse patiently.

How should we view persecution? We, as Christians, don’t like persecution but know that it does bring us towards maturity and that it is an honor to be considered worthy to suffer for His name. “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:41). Persecution does bring blessings and proves God’s righteous judgment that these early Christian missionaries could hope in Christ and in what He was accomplishing through them. 

Lord, persecution is a blessing.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Do We Really Believe This?

Do We Really Believe This?
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 KJV
For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Do we really believe what we say we believe? Do we endure the hardships of life and grow through those hard times? Are we secure in the fact that even though our physical bodies change, our spiritual life in Christ is renewed day by day?  We who have the immense privilege of knowing Christ, need not lose heart, quit or give in, for we who endure, gain strength by renewing the inner man.

Your troubles and trials, along with the pain and difficulties of life are contributors to your inner strength. It may well be in the trial of your physical life you will undoubtedly be lead to find spiritual strength. You can endure the testings of this world when you hold them in the highest regard of the spiritual over the physical. You will persevere when you treasure the eternal over the temporal.

What does the eternal weight of glory mean? It means we will praise, worship, serve, and give glory to God more than ever before. The only suffering that generates this eternal weight of glory is that suffering for Christ’s sake and that which brings honor and glory to His name. What it doesn’t mean is that it is for every illness, or pain in life we endure. The suffering which comes as a result of living the Christian life to the glory of God is the eternal weight of glory

Lord, help me to see beyond the physical pain that I may praise and worship You with passionate love, an eternal weight of glory.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Depression, Is It Sin?

Depression, Is It Sin?

Is depression sin? Are there reasons for depression that we aren’t aware of and yet we believe it’s sin? Can we detour the unfortunate situations in our lives that cause depression or are they out of our control? Job suffered circumstances that overwhelmed him and physically impaired him. Was he in sin?  If someone suffers from a health issue that is debilitating and becomes depressed due to medication, are they in sin? Do we try to understand what a person is going through and with love and compassion walk with them in their path of depression and pain?

If a person that is suffering from depression is a Christian, we may find Gal 6:2 an important  Scripture to read and obey. “Bear one another's burdens . . .” The death of a loved one or illnesses that are irreversible can cause depression. Accidents leaving a person disabled can cause a person to become depressed. Some people don’t recognize their depression because they’ve blocked it out of their mind. Why? People have been taught that depression is a sin. Not all depression is caused by unconfessed sin. Most depression is from physical or emotional atrocities which have had devastating effects.

Sometimes, we believe that Christians are free from all despairing situations but this is not true. We are fallen men and women and sometimes we simply struggle with life. We live in sin scarred bodies and in a sin-cursed world. Depression is not caused solely by our sinning, but because of life itself. If a person has not dealt with their sin, they can suffer from depression. But, to say that all people suffering from depression are in sin is damaging. The Apostle Paul said, “we despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians 1:8).  In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Christ said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul’s reply, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 

Lord, may I have compassion on those who are in depression. 

Friday, July 19, 2019

A Heart of Bitterness

 A Heart of Bitterness
Ruth 1:19-20 
So they both went until they came to Bethlehem. And when they had come to Bethlehem, all the city was stirred because of them, and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.”

As Naomi enters Bethlehem, with Ruth by Naomi’s side, the people of the city begin to move about asking, “Is this Naomi?” Ten years have gone by since Naomi lived there, and they didn’t know the overwhelming effect that bitterness had produced in her heart. To those standing near, Naomi bitterly replied, “Don’t call me Naomi, which means, pleasant, but call me Mara, meaning, bitter, for the LORD has brought me home to Bethlehem empty.”

Satan wanted Naomi to focus on the negative, those areas of weakness where unforgiveness, anger, feelings of bitterness lived and would breed discouragement. She couldn’t think clearly when she focused on the lies of Satan. His lies divided her mind and caused her to shift the blame to God and of course, to others. Naomi’s bitterness was an attitude of deep discontentment that poisoned her soul and destroyed her peace. A sour Christian is one of Satan's greatest trophies and why the Bible says, "See to it…that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:15). If we continue to live in bitterness, this harmful condition will eventually be passed on to others causing immense negative effects. 

How do you handle bitterness? Do you confess your bitterness to God, and seek His forgiveness and help? “Yes!” Christ took upon Himself every sin you ever committed—including your bitterness when He died on the cross. Whatever the cause, commit your bitterness to God, crucifying the flesh with its passions and desires. Through faith in Christ, walk by the Spirit not gratifying the lust of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). 

Lord, forgive my bitterness and fill my heart with the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5).

Friday, July 12, 2019

"Thy Will Be Done"

“Thy Will Be Done”
Matthew 6:9-10 KJV

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 

Our Lord instructed His disciples on prayer and gave them an example to follow not as a magical formula, but to commune with God. This prayer is short and to the point never mentioning the time of day in which to pray, how long to pray, or the position in which one is to pray. But, we are instructed to, “Pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer usually comes from a heart which is truly committed to Christ generating thankfulness for all He has done. 

Prayer demonstrates our faith and trust in God in discerning His will for our lives. There are some who are fearful of God’s plan. The thought of surrendering to His will is overwhelming and at times even terrifying. These dear people are sure that if they were to yield to God, they would suffer painful, uncertain times in some distant and dangerous place. They can imagine themselves wasting away in solitude while being miserable in their existence. Psalm 33:11 says, “The counsel (plan) of the LORD standeth (endures, stands firm) for ever, the thoughts (intentions) of his heart to all generations.” 

They must understand that the plan or will of God comes from an expression of His heart. I John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” The will of God works in our lives to bring about His highest goal, glorifying Him through His unchangeable love for us. Our prayer should be that God, by His grace, would transform us making us willing and able to know and obey His will. And may we ever be mindful, that God designs His will, from His heart.

Lord, I pray “Thy will be done” in my life, to bring glory to Your name.

Friday, July 5, 2019

I'm Troubled, but Not in Despair

I’m Troubled, but Not in Despair
Psalm 143:4,8,10 
Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me; My heart is appalled (greatly dismayed) within me... Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; For I trust in You... Teach me the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift up my soul; Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God;

David was seeking God for deliverance in a time of a great trial. For us to know that through God’s faithfulness we are guarded on every side and that He will guide us through our times of trouble is a refuge to us. Sometimes, our “feelings” get in the way and we are “overwhelmed” within. David wrote; “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? (Psalm 42:11). Our feelings can sometimes govern our ability to think right and we lose sight of what God is doing in and through us. 

David asked for forgiveness and was seeking God’s mercy and deliverance from his many enemies. With troubled feelings, he pleaded for the light of God’s countenance to shine upon him and for God to give him wisdom and understanding. As Christians, we too should be seeking God, asking for His mercy to deliver us from those whose aim is to hurt and ruin us. In the New Testament, Paul wrote, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair”; (2 Corinthians 4:8). Paul, like David, was showing that in the conflict of soul and endless suffering, he was not crippled or cast down, but strengthened through Christ (2 Corinthians 12:9). 

Maybe, it’s not an enemy that seeks to cause pain, but a friend or a loved one that has brought despair and heartache. This can cause tremendous suffering, agony, and torment to the soul. Ask God to teach you how you should walk through this time of distress and trust Him to do His will in you. 

Lord, I trust You with my troubled soul.