Friday, December 27, 2013

A Reflection of Christmas Past


A Reflection of Christmas Past
 Romans 15:1-4
We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

Far to the north in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow reflected on the day, and Christmas days past. The season had held no joy for him for the past three years — not because of the war, but the tragic death of his wife Fanny in the summer of 1861.  She was the love of his life, and they were splendidly happy, but on July 9, 1861, while sealing a letter with paraffin, Fanny dropped the match on her summer dress, which burst into flames. Henry heard her screams and ran to help. He immediately tried to extinguish the flames with a small rug, and when that failed, he threw his arms around Fanny to smother the flames, causing him to sustain serious burns on his face, arms, and hands. His heroic act did not suffice, and Fanny died the next morning of her injuries. Longfellow was unable to even attend the funeral. Photographs of Longfellow taken or made after the fire usually show him with a full beard, since he was no longer able to shave properly due to the burns and scarring.

The coming of the holiday season in the Longfellow house became a time of grieving for his wife while trying to provide a happy time for the children left at home. It was during Christmas 1862 that he wrote in his journal, “A ‘merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.” He had also suffered another disappointment when his oldest son, Charles Appleton “Charley” Longfellow, quietly left their Cambridge, Mass. home, and enlisted in the Union Army much against the wishes of his father. 

In mid-March, Longfellow had received word from Charles, saying, “I have tried hard to resist the temptation of going without your leave, but I cannot any longer.”  The determined young man continued, “I feel it to be my first duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down my life for it if it would be of any good.” He was 17 years old and went to Capt. W. H. McCartney, who was in charge of Battery A of the 1st Mass. Artillery, asking to be allowed to enlist. McCartney knew the boy and knew he did not have his father’s permission, so he contacted the senior Longfellow to see if he could obtain it on his behalf. Longfellow conceded and acceded to the request.

It was only a few months later that Charley came down with typhoid fever and malaria and was sent home to recover, not rejoining his unit until August 15, 1863. Following the Gettysburg battle, which Charley had fortunately missed, the conflict made its way into Virginia, and it was at the Battle of New Hope Church, in Orange, VA., part of the Mine Run Campaign, that the young Lt. Longfellow sustained injuries, which seriously disabled him. He was hit in the shoulder and the ricocheting bullet took out some portions of several vertebrae. It was reported that he missed being paralyzed by less than one inch.  Longfellow traveled to where his injured son was hospitalized and brought him home to Cambridge to recover.

The following spring, Longfellow's lifelong friend Nathaniel Hawthorne passed away unexpectedly in his sleep. These had been difficult times for the poet; but sometimes it is only through great adversity that the promise of hope makes itself felt most strongly. Longfellow began to write:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day, 
Their old familiar carols play. 
And wild and sweet the words repeat
 Of 'peace on earth, good will to men.’

I thought how as that day had come
 The belfries of all Christendom 
Had rolled along th' unbroken song
 Of 'peace on earth, good will to men.’

And in despair I bowed my head:
 "There is no peace on earth," I said, 
"For hate is strong and mocks the song”
 Of 'peace on earth, good will to men.' 


It appeared for a time that Longfellow, in his heartache, had lost hope. Christmas was not joyful nor peaceful for him and the promise of hope had diminished. The inspiration of this Christmas song assures us that through this time of great despair he did find serenity, tranquility, and solace. The Civil War brought wounds to the heart and minds of the American people and they needed hope to prevail in this long journey. In his plight for peace and joy, Longfellow, penned these words that touched the heart of a war torn nation giving them hope in God. 

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: 
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
 The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, 
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

 Till, ringing, singing on its way, 
The world revolved from night to day, 
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
 Of peace on earth, good will to men.

The poem was put to music by Jean Baptiste Calkin in 1872, and became the familiar carol "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” by James S. Robinson; Free Republic Browse


Thought: My dear friend in Christ, please do not lose hope. When we have confidence (believe) in Christ we obtain great hope and peace. Though troubles may come and perhaps you will struggle in times of deep despair, remember, “God is not dead, nor does He sleep.”  Trusting God with all things will give you the hope you so long for and the peace you desire. Romans 15:13 ~ Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

Friday, December 20, 2013

No Guarantees


No Guarantees
Proverbs 22:6
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

For years I looked at Proverbs 22:6 as a promise from God. I believed if I taught my children the truths of the Word of God, they would turn out right and never rebel. I have known parents that have done just that, “Trained their children in the ways of God,” and yet, they rebelled! The Book of Proverbs is not a collection of promises or prophecies, but as the name suggests, a book of proverbs. Proverbs are the collected observations of the wise on the way the world operates. We must remember that by definition a proverb is a rule of conduct, a concise general truth, not a promise. 

Why do we have the book of Proverbs and this particular verse, if it is not a promise? May I suggest that it is an encouragement to parents to take seriously their responsibilities towards the young, since (in general) the road they start out on is the one they will end up following. Early training and discipline is incredibly important and there are people who give praise to God for their parents godly example and instruction. But parents are seriously flawed by sin and if the child’s salvation depends on the parents ability to start them off right, then he or she is certainly doomed? God’s grace works in spite of our great sin and His mercies are new every morning.  It is God that moves and works in the heart of a child and not the parents abilities to train or discipline the child. What the proverb does do is to hold us accountable for our responsibility to give our children training in the ways of the Lord. God has not guaranteed our success as parents, but He has given us a great responsibility to train our children to know Him. 

The teen years are a time of transition between childhood and adulthood. It is a time when the child must decide or determine whether he or she will hold to the Faith of their parents or rebel. Parents should seek to maintain a biblical standard of conduct in the home to protect their child but not force their child into an external conformity or Christianity. When a child shows outward signs of rebellion, it may mean they are revealing an unconverted heart. Thank God for this rebellion even though it hurts, then pray they will realize that rebellion is a dead-end street. Remember, God is sovereign and He is in control even when a child is out of control. Don’t try to manipulate a child to get them to return to the Lord. As parents, release your child to the heavenly Father’s care, knowing that He is fully capable of bringing your son or daughter to repentance.

Rebellion is a choice and all children have a propensity to sin and rebel. You, as a parent, must understand that you are not held accountable to God for the sins of your children. “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4b). Parents will be held accountable for their own sins, including their sins in parenting, but they will not be held accountable for the sins of their children. Rebellion is our enemy and we need to know how to respond to it in everyday life. Realize that Christ is glorified when we trust Him in our trials, knowing He will use them for our good. When we worry or fret, it dishonors Christ because every situation comes through the loving and sovereign hands of God. When we become anxious we should confess it as sin and thank God for the trial, praying that God will give incomprehensible peace–––guarding the heart.

Ask yourself these questions:

Is God’s love evident in my life and in my home? Am I kind and patient or prideful and easily provoked? 

Do I bring Christ into my home through natural sharing of what God is doing in my life? Do I read the Word and discuss it with my child (children)? 

Am I too busy to spend time with my child (children)? Are other things more important?

Am I too much of an authoritarian? Teenagers need space to think for themselves and room to fail. They need to be respected as individuals. Parents can sometimes be overbearing, critical, and intolerant––––limiting communication and openness. 

Are you seeking to portray a false sense of perfection? Are you trying to make it look like you don’t struggle with sin in your life? Do you think the young person in your home picks up on that kind of hypocrisy? Are you approachable?

Thought: We are instructed to deal with our own sin before we can see the sins of others around us (Matthew 7:1-5). If you’re a parent with a rebellious teenager, take to heart the things that have been said and seek forgiveness from your child for any wrong doing that you may have done. You are responsible for asking for forgiveness and modeling a forgiving spirit but not for how your child may respond. Allow God to transform you through the extremely hard times of your life. What better way for God to teach you as a mother His kind of love than to give you a child that is hard to love in the midst of pain and shameful behavior. This changing process will not be comfortable. It hurts to be broken and shaped and molded. God has never promised an easy road, “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Commit to obedience and remember not to be controlled by passing feelings but abide in God’s Word daily–––proving to be a true disciple and bringing glory to God (John 15:8).


*Thoughts taken from the book, “Women Helping Women” by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Carol Cornish




Friday, December 13, 2013

A Cherished Possession



A Cherished Possession

1 Peter 1:18-19
Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;  But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

Satan has lied to us in the down times of our lives, in times of doubt and despair, when we’ve been the most vulnerable and susceptible to physical or emotional attack.  He lies to us about our worth in this life and whether we are valued by those we love most. The sad part is that we have listened to what he says and allow our hearts and minds to dwell on them, eventually persuading ourselves to act upon these lies.We are all guilty of feeling defeated, stressed out, lonely, and fearful from time to time, and are guilty of replacing the truth of God’s Word with the harmful lies of Satan. This puts us in bondage. If we are listening to Satan’s lies, and not to the Word of God, we miss the joy, confidence, peace and the radiant life Christ offers.

Christ came to set the captive free and He loves us without expectations or conditions placed upon us. We don’t have to work to earn God’s love and we can feel confident that He has our best interests at heart. There is nothing we can do to make Him love us any more or love us any less. God proved His great love towards us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He manifested His love for us in giving us His Only Begotten Son and promising us eternal life through Him. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Nothing can separate us from His love, for we are secure in Christ. What a great Friend we have sitting at the right hand of God making intercession for us. Why? Because He loves us.

We cannot for one moment receive our worth from the world, the news, the TV, magazines, books, jobs, friends or family. Our worth comes from what Christ did for us on the cross and not what we can do for ourselves or for one another. We have been bought with a price, ransomed by the payment with an overwhelming cost, then lifted from the bondage of a life filled with emptiness and dread.

Psalm 49:6-8 ~ They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:) Needless to say, those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches, can ransom no one, nor give to God the price that is owed for one soul. The ransom of their life is costly and to buy freedom for one in bondage of sin can never be sufficed. We are His cherished possession, purchased by His precious blood–––– the price paid to a holy God to redeem us from the overwhelming burden of sin.

Thought: Can you see that you are worth something to God? His promises are trustworthy, His blessings abounding, and His merciful love, He has lavished upon you. Every day you can take pleasure in His Grace that He has given you and indulge yourself in His magnificent love, an immense benefit of your so great salvation. You are a cherished and precious possession to God and in knowing this, you must realize, if God be for you (us) who can be against you (us)? (See Romans 8:31). God loved you in your darkest hour, when you needed Him the most. He lifted you up out of the pit of destruction and put your feet upon a rock making your steps secure.  He put a new song in your mouth to give praises to Him. Trust that He cares and loves you, for He has mercifully and compassionately rescued you.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Loneliness


Loneliness
Isaiah 40:28-29
Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.  He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. 

God has created us as social creatures. We naturally have the desire and capacity for fellowship with other people. We, as human beings, cannot be truly happy unless the basic need of friendship or companionship is met. Many people become extremely lonely during the holiday season leading them down the road to depression and hopelessness. Loneliness often has two aspects and will not be solved unless both of these aspects are considered. The problem of loneliness often has a human and a divine dimension. The feeling of loneliness can stem from a deeper problem––––it may happen because a person does not have or maintain a proper relationship with God and with other people. Some people are hurt deeply from those that can help encourage, edify and befriend, but choose not to leaving people feeling rejected, unloved and lonely.  

Loneliness is often associated with a poor relationship to God. But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). What kind of relationship do you have with God right now? Are you struggling with trusting God with your future, or letting go of your past? Do you regard sin in your heart–––spoiling the comfort of prayer?  Your relationship with the Lord needs to be filled with gratitude and thanksgiving towards Him for His mercy and privilege of eternal hope. God, in His grace and mercy, does restore sinful, alienated man to Himself by making peace through the blood of His cross (Colossians 1:20-22).

Loneliness is also associated with a deficient relationship to other people. There are some qualities and behaviors that hinder good relationships with other people. Think about the behaviors that could be present in your life and the ones that may be contributing to your feelings of loneliness:

Fear of not being good enough, or being rejected by someone, even those you love.
Being impatience or irritable, and fearful of someone taking advantage of you.
Having educational and social barriers that may prompt excessive dependence upon other people or provoke a smothering or demanding personality.
A selfish––self-centered attitude that displays a critical complaining spirit causes people to feel alienated. 
Gloominess, perfectionism, gossiping, and deceitfulness will isolate you from your friends and family members making you extremely vulnerable and lonely.

Assess your relationship with others and with God. Have you been an example or a stumblingblock to the people closest to you?  Have you been faithful and loyal to your friends and family or unfaithful to those who matter most?  Have you communicated that you are sincerely interested in other people and not only interested in what they can do for you? While it is Biblical that the church exists for the purpose of worshiping God (I Peter 2:9) it is equally true that the local church exists for the mutual edification of each believer. Look at the kind of relationship the early Christians had with each other.  Acts 2:44-47 ~ And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,  Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.  Notice the deep involvement and concern they had for one another and what the early believers did to and for each other.

If a person is to overcome the problem of loneliness, he must first of all establish and maintain a proper relationship to God through His Son Jesus Christ. One’s relationship to God is maintained by studying and meditating on the Word of God, through prayer, by obedience to the Scriptures, and through Christian fellowship. But also, if one is to overcome the problem of loneliness, he must seek to establish good relationships with other people. These two dimensions of the problem can be summarized and solved by obedience to the words of Jesus when He said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:37-39). 

Thought:  For those of you who have tried to reach out to the lonely in your own time of need, but have been rejected in your attempt to encourage, love or be a friend, remember John 15:17 which says: “These things I command you, that ye love one another.”  Love then, rejoice in the Lord with them and for them. Aim for restoration gaining a friend, and bear each others burdens fulfilling the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). Continue comforting one another, living in peace with one another; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Who better to comfort the lonely than the Great Comforter. He knows and understands what it means to be rejected and the pain that comes from being forsaken. Isaiah 53:3 ~ “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”





Friday, November 22, 2013

Surviving Troubles


Surviving Troubles
Philippians 4:6-9
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.  Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

"The art of living is the least learned of all arts. Man has learned the art of existing, of getting by somehow with the demands of life, of escaping with half-answers, but he knows little about the art of living with all its demands." Quote by E. Stanley Jones.

Most people can't cope with life because life to them is just existing or filled with too many problems. Some people believe life is a horrible experience and they will let you know that in an instant, if they are given the opportunity. Some of these miserable people don't like their families, they don't like the one they're married to and, they don't like their jobs, their income or themselves. They live an unhappy life with nothing ever changing for them.

Job said, "Man is born into trouble, as the sparks fly upward (Job 5:7). Everyone has problems but the question is, how do you deal with your problems? Do you break down or fall apart when things happen to you that you don’t understand? Do you get angry, or pout inwardly when hard times come? Have drugs, alcohol, overeating, or other things been your way of escape? The Biblical answer would be for you to work through the trouble and come out victorious before God. Philippians 2:12,13 says, ... work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. It is God who is at work in you to do His will for His good pleasure. 

Paul, in Philippians 4:9 said, Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. Paul was brave enough to give himself as an example of coping with life in a godly manner. You may think this sounds prideful or that he was boasting but he was doing neither. Paul was saying, "Now you watch me and the way I do it, you do it." He learned the secret of surviving trouble and the secret to victory. He was so secure in knowing that God was in control he could sing in jail and stand boldly before the Greeks on Mar's Hill declaring his faith without hesitation. Paul stood in confidence before Felix, Festus, and Agrippa with his life in their hands and did so fearlessly.

What are the things that Paul taught that would help you through hard times? Philippians 4:6 teaches that you are to pray about everything and pray specifically with a thankful heart. When any burden arises, you are to ease your mind by prayer, seeking wisdom and direction to lead you through the trial victoriously. Prayer is making not only your desires known before God, but also your hurts and pains. Not that God needs to be told about your trails or wants, for He knows them better than you do, but you need to express your total dependence upon Him for everything. This, in the end, will give you peace or as Paul writes, “will keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). It will keep you from sinning during your trials and from sinking under the load of them. Peace is a calming affect without confusion or anxiety and brings satisfaction to your soul. Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee (Isaiah 26:3).

Thought: We are exhorted to have a good name before God and man and have a high regard for the truth with our words and behavior. Paul encourages us to “think” on things that are true, honorable, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise. We as Christians should walk a virtuous life before men that they may see our good works in our difficult times and glorify God through them. We should not only survive troubles but grow and mature in them  with a renewed mind to, prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2b).

Friday, November 15, 2013

Who Is Your Hero or Heroine?


Who Is Your Hero or Heroine?
Dictionary definition: a man/woman of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his/her brave deeds and noble qualities. a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal.

Many men and women may come to mind as we ponder the question posed, “Who Is Your Hero or Heroine?” The men and women of our armed forces, who have fought for our freedoms throughout the many wars, were recently remembered and honored for their valor, courage and willingness to go into battle. We thank them for their bravery and dedication, and to those who gave the final sacrifice, we are especially thankful, and cherish the freedoms we hold so dear. May we never forget those who have given their all, that we may have the privilege of liberty for all.

Throughout the Word of God, we find the most unlikely men and women whom God used to be the heros of our faith, and accomplish great things for Him. One unlikely person is Rahab, the harlot, as the Bible describes her, a most unusual woman of faith. As we recall the story of Jericho, we remember, they were instructed to march around the city for six days. Seven priests would carry seven trumpets of ram’s horns before the ark, then on the seventh day they would march around the city seven times and the priests would then blow the trumpets. When they heard the trumpets sound, all the people would shout with a great shout and the walls of the city would then fall down flat and the city of Jericho would be overtaken. Rahab, before that great day, was promised safety along with her household because by faith, she hid the spies that Joshua sent earlier. She believed in the true and living God and she believed fully in all the revelation that was available to her. She was a courageous woman to show such faith during very dangerous times and was rewarded for her faith and obedience by the great God of Israel. By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace (Hebrews 11:31). 

Gideon, in Judges chapter 6, is again, one of those most unlikely people that God will use to accomplish great things for Him. We find Gideon beating out the wheat in the wine press when the angel of the LORD appears to him and says, “The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.” Gideon then says to the LORD, “If the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us?” Meaning, “Why is Israel oppressed by Midian?” We know through Scripture that Israel did that what which was right in their own eyes and evil before the LORD and God gave them over to the hands of the Midianites for seven years. 

God provided Israel with judges who were men and women elevated to a place where their leadership and their wisdom put them in a ruling position somewhere in the life and the land of Israel. Gideon was chosen by God to be one of those judges and through God’s power, he was asked to fight against an enemy of God, the Midianites. Gideon was asked to chose only 300 men out of 10,000 soldiers by having them drink from the water as a dog, scooping water with their hands, as a dog uses its tongue. There was nothing special about the way they drank, it was just God’s unique way of choosing soldiers for the task. With 300 men against thousands of Midian soldiers, God would receive the glory due His name and Gideon would be assured that they, the Midianites, were given into his hands. The battle tactics were not militarily what man would have considered but God, in His Wisdom and Strength, gave Gideon courage to fight. The men held trumpets and torches concealed within clay pitchers. When they threw the clay pitchers down and the torches were seen the impression caused by this blasting noise, along with the shouts of the army of Israel, and trumpets sounding, woke the sleeping giant, the Midianite army.

Confused by the lights and noise, the sleeping army awoke to what they thought were thousands of soldiers ready to overtake them. Panic followed shock and every soldier was on his own, in the darkness of night and with crashing sounds they believed an incredible host had moved in against them. These soldiers could not distinguish between friend or foe and by their own swords made a way of escape by killing their own men Judges 7:22-23.

Thought: The power of God is most certainly incredible and when the obedience of a man or woman proves to be in harmony with what God has ordained, it is an remarkable feat. Gideon obeyed God and with a small army of 300 men, overturned the Midianite army. Rahab, by faith, trusted God to save her and her family through dangerous times. Rahab’s name is found in Scripture many years later naming her in the lineage of Christ (Matthew 1:5). God does use the most unusual circumstances along with the most unlikely people, to bring glory to His name and perform the most extraordinary and unbelievable deeds. 

Who is to be the Hero of all Heros? Our LORD and Savior, JESUS CHRIST. He is the Hero of our faith. Though God may use and name unusual men and women, He is still the Hero of the story and without His inexhaustible love and immeasurable mercy and grace, we are without hope and are men and women most miserable (I Corinthians 15:19). 

I want to give thanks to my LORD and Savior, the Captain of my faith, and Defender of my soul, for the ultimate sacrifice He so freely gave. And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:8). Christ is the Hero of my faith for which I will be eternally grateful. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Measuring the Strength of Your Faith


Measuring the Strength of Your Faith
James 1:12
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. 

True joy is an attitude that is characteristic in the life of a genuine believer, even in the darkest of trials. My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations (James 1:2). In other words, count every trail as a joyful event knowing that the trying of your faith employs patience and that the testing of your faith produces an unwavering devotion to God. True faith will persevere because trials can never destroy true faith, or alter God’s eternal design. Therefore, we can find joy in the midst of any trial. 

In James 1:3, the Bible says, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” This verse is actually saying, “You must go into this trial with an understanding mind that the trial or testing of your faith produces endurance.” This is the power you need to endure, to stay, and not give up. You might even say, “Let the trial come and bring with it the endurance I need to grow in knowledge–––producing spiritual maturity. Without trials, we cannot be strengthened to persevere, for in a trial the true measure of our faith is evident.

During the hardest trial of your life, allow God to do what He wants to do. Let this trial humble you and teach you the value of God’s richest blessings. Don’t fight against what God is trying to do in your life–––it is the pathway to strength, endurance and maturity. Trials come to make you into the image of Christ and enables you to help others that are undergoing similar trials in their lives as well.

Are you going through a trial right now and trying to do your best to keep a joyous attitude, but having difficulty really grasping what's happening? You might be saying to yourself, "I want to have a right attitude, but I’m lacking the wisdom and power to remain joyous through this trial. I am struggling to keep my heart right and struggling to be submissive to this trial. I need some help. What do I do?"

When you're going through a trial, wanting to understand, wanting to know how to be joyous, wanting to be willing to endure the trial, you're not going to find the answers you need in human reasoning. You need to seek after and ask for God’s wisdom. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally (generously), and upbraideth not (without reprimand); and it shall be given him (James 1:5). When you're going through a trial, don't lean on your own understanding; “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:5-7).

Trials drive you to your knees and make you realize how bankrupt you are in your own human reasoning. The supernatural wisdom that only God can give helps you to understand that in the trials of life answers are not readily available in the world around you. When you go through a trial, the best place you can go is to the Lord. One of the greatest promises God gives in His Word is that you can go to Him and ask for His wisdom. What more could we want than the divine insight to understand and respond properly to every trial of life?

Thought: Whatever the trial is, you are to have a trusting heart that God allowed it for His purpose, and that He will give you the wisdom you need to endure it. Realize you will be better than you ever could have been, if you had not endured that trial. When you go through a trial and do not turn away from God and His will for you, you prove your salvation to a lost and dying world and to other Christians–––measuring the strength of your faith.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Don't Violate Your Conscience


Don’t Violate Your Conscience
Acts 24:16
And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.

Have you taken great pains to have a clear conscience before God and man? Or, have you allowed the culture we live in to train you to ignore your guilt feelings–––making your conscience weak? This is a dangerous position in the life of a Christian. If you have found your conscience to be contaminated by this fallen world, you are certainly not alone. Many just like you have come out of all kinds of sinful backgrounds, and praise be to our God and Savior, He has "cleansed your conscience from dead works to serve the living God" (Hebrews 9:14).

As a Christian, you have the capacity to walk before God with a clear conscience, your daily privilege and joy. God graciously implanted something powerful within you to aid you in the battle against sin. He gave you your conscience, and that gift is the key to bringing you joy and freedom. Examining your guilt feelings in the light of Scripture and then confessing and forsaking your sin will cleanse your conscience. This is an on going characteristic of the Christian life and it is important that you deal with the sin God’s Word reveals–––immediately.

Sometimes people put off dealing with their guilt, thinking their conscience will clear itself over time. This won’t happen. Procrastination allows the guilt feelings to become infected generating depression, anxiety, and other emotional problems. Guilt feelings may persist for long periods of time and could show up in other areas of life making people feel guilty and not knowing why. This could be a signal that something is very wrong spiritually. Titus 1:15 ~ Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.

A weak conscience that is easily grieved is a result of a lack of knowledge of the Word of God. Always respond to your conscience, even if it's weak, and continue to learn from God's Word so you and your conscience can begin to function in the light of Scripture. Never ignore your conscience and don’t live on feelings only. If your conscience looks at only your personal feelings, it can accuse you wrongfully. Discouraged or melancholy feelings will provoke unnecessary doubts and fears in your soul when not kept in check by a conscience that is well-advised. The conscience must be influenced by the Word of God, not by your feelings.

The conscience is a precious gift that God has given every living soul. So, don’t violate your conscience! To violate your conscience means you are willingly doing what you think to be wrong. The conscience is a voice that speaks deep within you. It cries out when it’s being spoiled by sin. With a bad conscience, your faith becomes withdrawn or damaged, causing doubt to manifest itself along with insecurity and fear.

Many who were once among us, but today find themselves a part from God and fallen in the world, rejected their conscience, because "...the spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron..." (1 Timothy 4:1-2) With a good conscience, we have conviction to enter the "Holy of Holies" (Hebrews 10:19-22), like we also have the conviction to: "... proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound," (Isaiah 61:1).

Thought: What is your conscience saying to you? Can you say with Paul, “I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day” (Acts 23:1) or, “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 9:1)? Christian, fight to keep a pure conscience, by sanctifying yourselves every day, in order to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth. (2 Timothy 2:15).



Friday, October 25, 2013

Trusting God in the Hard Times


Trusting God in the Hard Times
2 Corinthians 1:3,4
Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. 

How many times have you thought, “Why this trial, Lord? Why the broken heart or painful illness? Why has the one who called me, friend, rejected me and turned his/her back on me? Why am I being slandered or wrongfully accused?” Unfortunately, God does not ask you how or when you want to grow. You, Christian, must understand that through adversity you will grow in some way for your own good and for His glory.

The book of 2 Corinthians was written by Paul in defense of his integrity, and his apostolic authority. He did not write it for his own gain, or popularity, but for the protection of the church and the truth. Behind the scenes of this letter, was a strong and growing assault on the Apostle Paul in an effort to destroy his credibility and undermined his message. There were false teachers in Corinth and they wanted to preach another Jesus and bring another gospel. False teachers were doing everything they could to destroy Paul’s reputation and discourage the church.

The city of Corinth was filled with immorality and the church itself was battling with such prevalent sin. The false teachers questioned Paul’s authority and they said he was a self-appointed apostle. They questioned his honesty, his purity and accused him of doing what he did for sexual favors from women. They questioned his love and affection for the church. They used every imaginable angle to attack his character. They even accused him of embezzling the money that was given for the poor and putting it into his own pocket. (Remember the old adage, “Don’t tear someone else down so you can build yourself up?” That is exactly what they were doing. False teachers, hypocrites, were afraid of loosing their authority over the people in the church and were doing anything to keep their influential, self-appointed, positions while preaching another gospel.

These false teachers, false apostles were attacking Paul and portraying him as a sinner who was suffering for his sin and claiming that God was pouring out His wrath upon him. During this onslaught of attacks upon Paul’s character, there were divisions among the people at the Corinthian church. Paul hears of this and pens what is known as the “severe letter” and sends this letter with Titus to Corinth. Paul was very anxious to hear about the response the Corinthian church would have towards the letter he sent with Titus When he hears that the majority of the Corinthian church had repented of their rebellion against him, he expressed joy and relief. Paul then pens 2 Corinthians to portray God as the merciful comforter in times of severe tribulation.

The Greek word for “comfort” is related to the word paraclete, meaning, “the one who comes alongside to help.” The word paraclete is also another name for the Holy Spirit, our Great Comforter. Paul used this word in saying that God came to comfort that we may also come alongside and be comforters to others as well. The Corinthian people had taken Paul’s heart and stomped all over it yet, Paul knew that God was allowing him to suffer and then be comforted by the God of all comfort. He also understood that he could come to the Corinthian people and comfort them when they went through the same suffering. 

Thought: Do you see how all of your sufferings enable you to minister to another? What a partnership in suffering to know you're not out there on your own. When you represent the Lord Jesus Christ and suffer persecution or suffer rejection in your family, at your job, in school, wherever it might be, that persecution you receive for the sake of Christ and not for your own sin, God will enable you to comfort others and in return they will be able to comfort you. Paul was willing to suffer for Christ. It was his afflictions that would mold and shape him into the man that God intended him to be. When we share in Christ's sufferings, we partake in His abundant comfort as well. Sufferings and afflictions make you into the person God wants you to be and strengthens you for the work of the ministry in sharing Christ with a lost and hostile world.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Holding on to Grudges


The Problem with Holding on to Grudges 
A grudge is "a strong, continued feeling of hostility or ill will against someone over a real or fancied grievance." (Webster).

Ephesians 4:31
Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking (slander), be put away from you, with all malice:

If we carry a grudge, it means we are unforgiving and unloving, leading us to bitterness, wrath, and hatred. Anger is the fuel from which grudges spring up and hatred is put into action. Grudges in a Christian's life are evidence that the old man is not “put off.” Colossians 3:8-9 ~ But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.  Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds. Grudges promote gossip and slander and the repeating of a matter is typical of a person who holds a grudge showing neither love or forgiveness.

Holding grudges can disrupt the unity of friends, family, and the church. Relating to the family, in the Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:25-30), the older son, symbolizes the Pharisee, the hypocritical religious person, who has no interest in repenting sinners. This son’s self-righteous behavior was more socially acceptable than the younger brother’s sinful debauched life, but was equally dishonoring to the father and also called for repentance.

When a grudge continues in the church and Christians continue to assemble under one roof, there is division. Such division dampens the enthusiasm and hinders the work. The closeness that should exist is destroyed. Sometimes the division is so bad one will leave and go elsewhere, and sometimes some will pull others off and begin a new congregation, not for need, but for the sake of a grudge. These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren (Proverbs 6:16,19).

A grudge means we are not committing things to the judgment of God. Some Christians want to know, “Must I forgive, if a person wrongs me and doesn't repent?” “Yes!” We must have a forgiving spirit no matter what the offense, and judgment must be committed to God. There is no room for grudges or bitterness in the Christian's life. Satan is looking for a gap in our life or opportunities to stir up anger, producing bitterness or a life long grudge. This violates the instructions given to us in Romans 12:17-21. We are not to repay evil for evil or take our own revenge, but we are to overcome evil with good. If it is at all possible, we are to live peaceable with all men, which does not always come, because it also depends on others’ attitudes and responses.

Harboring a grudge may mean that someone is not truly born of the Spirit of God. A Christian, bearing the name of Christ is to be like Him, having the same mind as Christ. While on the cross  suffering for our sins, Christ said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” We have noted that those who hold grudges have bitterness and hatred in their heart, they are unforgiving and unloving, they sometimes gossip and disrupt the unity of friends, family, the church, and they fail to submit to God's judgment. How can one violate so many commandments of God and claim the name of Christ?

Bearing grudges can rob us of happiness and steal the joy we are to have as Christians. How can one be joyful when he knows he is at odds with God and his fellowman? How can one who is a Christian be at peace when he fails to be Christ like? I rather think that some who bear grudges and say they are happy are only pretending, and they can pretend only so long before true feelings erupt. We are to be imitators of God as His dear children and walk in love as Christ also loved us––––the supreme example of self-sacrificing love for sinners (Ephesians 5:1-3).

Conclusion: What do I do now? Each one of us needs to look deep into our own heart and ask, "Is it I, Lord?" Take a good look around you, does the sight of someone bring hostile feelings to the surface? Do you avoid someone just to keep from having to speak to them? Can you think of others that are not here for which you have these emotions and treat them in this fashion? You need to rid yourself of any grudges you bear while there is time.

Jesus did not hold a grudge against those who crucified Him, nor does He hold a grudge against you now. God's instructions are given to help you rid yourself of grudges or to prevent them from being carried out. To put off the old man is a picture of stripping away the filthy old clothes and putting on the righteousness of Christ, the new man. The renewal of the mind in salvation brings a transformation from the old life to the new (Ephesians 4:22)!  We are to put off, lay aside or lay down the old man and be renewed in the spirit of our minds portraying a loving, tender heart––-forgiving one another.

My friend, lay aside the grudges that steel your joy and with the mind of Christ, forgive, press forward, and forget those things that will hinder you from spiritually maturing as you walk in the love of Christ. 

Ephesians 4:32
 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

Ephesians 5:1-2
Be ye therefore followers (imitators) of God, as dear children;  And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.

Read Matthew 18:21-35 and Matthew 5:21-26