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Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Power of Prayer


The Power of Prayer
 
I believe that prayer is the greatest privilege of our lives.  It is fellowship with the Unseen God.  We can share our hearts with the living God and listen for His Voice.  And He promises to hear and answer our prayers. We come to God our loving Father through Jesus our Savior.
 
Prayer is simple.  It was not meant to be complicated. Charles Spurgeon, who was a great evangelist and theologian said: “When we pray, the simpler our prayers are, the better.” Prayer is simply talking and listening to our loving heavenly Father. Praying should be as natural as breathing.  We can go to God praying in faith, boldly and freely and confidently.  He promises to give believers in Christ what we ask for if it is in His will.  Scripture says: “Ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24) e He H
 
 
Jesus said: “When you pray, do not heap up words repeating the same words over and over as the Gentiles do, for they think they will be heard for their much speaking.”  (Matthew 6:7)  I don’t believe Jesus was saying that it is wrong to pray long prayers, if we feel like it.  But I think He was telling us that we don’t need to repeat long prayers over and over thinking that God will answer them quicker because we have spent so much time speaking.  God is looking at your heart, not your eloquent words.  Just be yourself when you pray. 
 
We can be as close to God as we want to.  Scripture says; “Come near to God and He will come near to you.” (James 4:8) We come closer to God by wanting to obey Him and by trusting Him.  And when we love and trust God we have a dynamic and vibrant prayer life.  God desires our love and our trust.  He loves it when we praise and thank Him. When we worship Him. He wants a relationship with us.  Scripture says: “For the eyes of the Lord search throughout the whole earth to find those whose hearts are committed to Him so He can strengthen them.”  (2 Chronicles 16:9)
 
Scripture says: “The earnest prayer of a righteous person makes tremendous power available.” (James 5:16b) You may be thinking that your prayers aren’t working because you are not righteous.  But Scripture says that if we believe in Christ as our Savior and Lord we are righteous.  We may not do everything right, but we are still “righteous” because Jesus has covered us with His righteousness!  Scripture says: “For God made Him(Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (Jesus).” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Righteousness describes our position before God because we are covered with Jesus’ righteousness!  Isn’t that awesome?
 
The Bible tells us to pray in every circumstance.  When we are afraid, when we are sick, when we are glad or thankful.  Philippians 4:6-7 says: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petitions, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, and the peace of God, which transcends our understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  I am anxious about so many things: and this Bible passage has helped me remember always to pray instead of being anxious.  
 
For the last couple of days, I have been anxious!  Anxious about a baby bird, just three weeks old with a broken wing.  Day after day this bird with its long green legs and fuzzy baby face wandered back and forth in our front yard and around our neighbors’ tree right next to our yard. Sometimes the baby stood huddled in the yard not moving. This bird – a heron- with its hurt wing, couldn’t fly back up in the tree to its nest with the other baby birds at night to roost. The nest was on the top branch high up the tall tree. The poor little baby just slept alone in the dirt under the tree night after night with it’s wing flopping by it’s side. When the others flew off this little bird was left alone.
 
 Cats run around our neighborhood and coyotes roam our streets at night looking for a meal. We were afraid this baby with it’s drooping wing would be killed since it couldn’t fly away from a predator. We prayed for God’s guidance as to what to do for this hurt bird. And then we went to the internet and  found a bird doctor.  We called the bird doctor who promised to take care of the bird’s wing the next day if we could catch it.  The neighbor ran out and bought a net from a sporting goods store.  We would catch the bird in the net and put it in a box and take it to the bird doctor the next morning.
 
But when we woke the next morning all ready to catch our bird,the little bird was gone! Hours passed by and we feared the worst!  My neighbor drove around the neighborhood anxiously  looking for the bird.  And I walked around searching in every bush and under every rock but to no avail. My neighbor came back from her search crying . We stopped and both prayed together and asked God to save this silly bird. 
 
More hours passed by and then as the shadows of night were falling, without warning the baby bird was back again.  It just appeared under the neighbor’s tree just when the other baby birds were flying back to their nest for the night.  We sprang into action.  Caught the bird with the net.  Put it in a box and drove it down to the bird doctor.  Today the bird is having it’s wing operated on and in a few weeks it should be able to fly.  
 
I am telling this little bird story to get the point across that even a hurt little bird is worth holding up before God in prayer. We can pray short prayers about every situation that comes our way.  Ephesians 6:18 says: “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. “ We can pray for people that cross our path each day. Pray God’s blessing on people that He leads us to pray for. And thank God and praise Him for the blessings and help He gives us each day. Ask Him for strength and help.  And worship Him in His holiness. If our first response to every problem or joy or illness can be to pray, we will experience major breakthroughs in our lives.
 
I believe that God wants us to live a lifestyle of prayer. He wants us to talk to Him every day and listen for His words and guidance.  He longs for our praise and prayers of thanksgiving and  worship too.   Prayer could possibly become  boring if we think of it as a chore or an obligation.  But we can ask the Holy Spirit to lead us in our prayers.  The Holy Spirit is full of creativity and life. Letting the Holy Spirit lead will bring freedom to our prayer lives.
 
Prayer opens the door for God to work.  We can pray when we need the power of heaven to come into our lives and bring guidance and help and breakthrough.  We are ordinary people with extraordinary power when we pray, and natural people who are living supernatural lives because we can pray. Down through the ages until now, people have experienced the power of prayer.  Prayer is the greatest power in the universe.   
 
Many of the ideas from this blog were taken from Joyce Meyer’s book, “The Power of Simple Prayer.”    
       
      
 
 
 
    
 
 
 
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 

 
 
 
    
 
 
 
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

   
 
 
 
 




Saturday, June 17, 2017

Living in the Shetler of the Most High God



Living in the Shelter of the Most High God
Psalm 91
 
The ninety-first Psalm is an old favorite.  It is a glowing testimony to the security of those who trust in God.  A writ of protection for all believers.  A great truth laid down for all those who  love God . The word “shelter” is sometimes translated “secret place”.   All those who love God are living in this wonderful secret place – this shelter of God’s protection.   
 
Let’s read Psalm 91 now. “The person who stays in the secret place of the Most High will rest under the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.”
 
“Surely God will save you from the fowler’s snare, and from the deadly pestilence.  He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge.  His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”
 
“You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day.  The pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.  A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand.  But it will not come near you.  Only will you observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.”
 

If you make the Most High your dwelling even the Lord, who is my refuge, then no harm will befall you.  No disaster will come near your tent.  For He will command His angels concerning you.  To guard you in all your ways.  They will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.  You will tread upon the lion and the cobra.  You will trample the great lion and the serpent.” 
 
“Because he/she loves Me,” says the Lord, I will rescue him/her.  I will protect him, for he acknowledges My Name.  He will call upon Me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble.  I will deliver him and honor him.  With long life I will satisfy him, and show him my salvation.”  (Psalm 91:1-16)
These great promises of protection from God are sure for all those who make the Most High their habitation.  Whatever happens to them, none of it shall hurt them. (Romans 8:28)  God will be their Protector.  One of God’s many Names is “Jehovah Jireh”, which means “God provides”.   You may be questioning this.  Don’t those who love God have terrible accidents?  Aren’t their prayers sometimes left unanswered, at least for a long time? Believers die in battles and endure serious illnesses. Where is the God of Psalm 91 when these tragedies come? 
 
God promises His children total victory through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.  But we will not see the complete fulfillment of this amazing victory until after we die.  God promises that He will in due time deliver His children out of trouble. (Psalm 91:14) He will be with us through our troubles and deliver us out of all of our troubles.  (But full deliverance happens after we die.) (Psalm 91:15)
 
 God promises that if we call upon Him, He will answer our prayers. (Psalm 91:15) But sometimes we have to wait long years for the answer. Abraham and Sarah were promised a child, but they had to wait until they were very old for their promised son, Isaac, to be born.  Was God testing Abraham and Sarah’s faith?  Does He test our faith?
 
 Our faith perhaps grows stronger with patience?  Is something else happening behind the scenes that we don’t understand when our prayers are not answered as quickly as we would like?  Our timing may not be God’s timing.  We don’t see the whole picture that God sees. God gives His children grace and strengthens their faith while they are waiting for His answers. Perhaps we would not develop a strong resilient faith if we never went through troubles. And our faith in God is worth so much! 
 
 St. Paul had a “thorn in the flesh” and he prayed three times that God would remove this painful thorn.  We don’t know whether this “thorn” was a physical illness or a real thorn or an ugly problem in his life. But it seemed that his prayers concerning the removal of this dreaded “thorn” were still not answered for a long time.
 
 Paul asked God why his prayer had not been answered?  And why he still had his “thorn”?  And God answered Paul with these words: “My grace is sufficient for you for My power is made perfect in weakness.” ((2 Corinthians 12:9)  It would seem that  God gave Paul special grace to live with the thorn and also promised that His power in Paul would be perfect or strong for his weakness (thorn).  Can we trust God’ promised protection during the times when we don’t understand His reasons for waiting to answer our prayers?  Can we ask for His grace during our trials and believe that His strength can be made perfect in our weaknesses?  Can we keep trusting Him like Abraham and Sarah and Paul did even when His answers were long in coming? 
 
God has lessons for us to learn and spiritual gifts for us to receive. Often He calls us to follow Him through the wilderness before we get to the promised land.  Obey His Word and stay on the narrow path. We will be rejected by the world because of our faith.  Persecuted and laughed at. But when things get difficult and we tread on the lion and the serpent we are to remember that our God is right here with us and He will rescue us. He is our Refuge and our Fortress.  He will save us from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.  And He will cover us with His wings.
 
 Remember we are living in the Shelter – the Secret Place- of the Most High God and we are resting in the shadow of the Almighty.  That promise is to all those who believe.  To those who stay the course. To those who have faith in God.  Hold on to that precious faith in God and never let it go!      
 
 
 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Bible's Strong Woman


The Bible’s Strong Woman
Proverbs 31
 
Recently in Manchester, England, a concert with Ariana Grande that attracted girls and young women was subject to a terrorist bombing and tragically twenty-two young women were killed.  It was reported that the terrorists might have targeted this concert because one of the purposes of Arian Grande’s concert was to empower young girls to become strong good women.  To send a message to a new generation of girls that they can “do it all.”  Since the terrorists seem to believe that all women should be uneducated and kept “in their place”, were these terrorists threatened by this dangerous message?  We will never know.
 
Western women today are struggling to break through barriers that have usually been in place in the past. Down through the generations there have been leadership positions and certain professions that usually only men were allowed to fill. But now women are working to change all of that.  Women have made some changes in society for the good, but perhaps have lost some along the way.
 
Sixty years ago, a woman’s place was in the home: cooking, cleaning and taking care of children.  She worked outside the home if she needed or wanted to but usually her husband’s pay check covered all the household expenses. Back then men and women were expected by society to marry and have children and most people followed those expectations.
 
 Sixty years ago, most women and men deeply wanted to find their “true love” and marry! Romance was always in the air!  Nearly all the themes of the movies and popular music were about love lost or found.  The ideal of a man and a woman being in love for a lifetime was everyone’s dream and most men and women actually found love and trust in their marriages which nourished and blessed their lives and the life of their community.  When you read the obituaries today you will find many men and women who lived out their lives enjoying the blessing of “true love” in a good 50-60 year marriage. It was the norm.
 
 In past generations women and men most often believed Scripture - that their marriage vows before God should not be broken unless there were very serious problems in the marriage like adultery, abandonment or mental cruelty.  So long loving marriages were the rule in a by-gone day.  
 
But now modernity has changed all of that!  We have questioned Scripture and tradition and now we march to a different drummer. Our music and our media reflect the beliefs of our society and today we have an individualistic society.  No longer do we have “romantic” music or movies about love and trust and no longer do we seem to value lifelong commitment or “true love”.  It seems our true love is to ourselves, our wishes.  We must be brave and strike out.  Make our own mark and insist on doing life our own way!
 
 Marriages are not as stable as in days gone by.  Today many women (and men) choose to remain single. Couples live together without getting married. And many children are raised by single parents. Abortion and child abuse are rampant with many couples choosing to remain childless.
 
There is a fear of commitment today with many afraid of marriage.  Even married persons want to be fluid and move on if they have grown apart or if the marriage partner hampers their freedom to be their own selves. We have lost the vision of “true love” today and we give many reasons why we believe that good marriages were never really a reality in the past. We have replaced our vision of “true love” with no vision at all! Depression and suicide rates are rampant. We will never know how much we are missing.
 
It seems that when women’s roles change, all of society changes!  Let’s read about what the Bible has to say about how a good woman can change her family and her society around her.  We find a definition of a good woman in Proverbs 31:10-31. “Where can one find a woman of noble character?  Such a woman is worth far more than rubies.  Her husband has full confidence in her and never has to be concerned.  She brings him good and not harm all the days of her life. 
 
She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.  She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.  She gets up early and provides food for her family and portions for her workers.  She considers a field and buys it.  Out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
 
She sets about her work vigorously: her arms are strong for her tasks.  She see that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hands she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. 
 
When it snows, she has no fear for her household, for all of her children are clothed in scarlet.  She makes coverings for her bed, and she is clothed in fine linen and purple.  Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.  She is clothed with strength and dignity.  And she can laugh at the days to come. 
 
She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue.  She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.  Her children arise and call her blessed: her husband also, and he praises her:  Many women do noble things, but she surpasses them all. 
 
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting: but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.  Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”  (Proverbs 31:10-31)
 
This ideal woman from antiquity described here in Scripture can be any woman from any generation.  This woman with her big heart and open arms.  She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction. (verse 26)  She is strong and not afraid of problems because she trusts in God.  She prepares ahead of time for problems and is enterprising. She works hard and enjoys life.
 
 She blesses her family and her community with her produce. She gives to the poor and needy and cares about those around her. She is not living just for herself since her whole life and work revolve around her family and community. She thrives in being productive and helpful to those around her.
 
You notice that this good woman depicted in Scripture has a husband that completely trusts in her.  And I doubt that she would work so long and hard for their household if she didn’t trust him in return. Her husband also blesses her with his work and love. They have a strong trusting caring marriage and probably a great love affair like so many couples have. She considers a field and buys it.  (verse 16) It doesn’t say that her husband had to approve of this bold move.  She seems to manage her own business. 
 
I believe this strong virtuous woman’s secret to her good life and strength is in verse 30.  It reads “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting: but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”  With God’s help, she could “do it all.” This strong good woman from the Bible fears the Lord and that is her secret!  That is her joy and strength. And that has been the secret of many millions of strong women who have lived in every generation!  “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting: but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”  It’s as simple as that!     
 
  
 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Scriptures Foretold Jesus' Coming


The Scriptures Foretold Jesus’ Coming
 
Jesus said that all the Scriptures foretold His coming. Down through the ages God spoke to His people through the prophets promising the coming Messiah and showing and telling Israel what their Messiah and Savior would be like.  We read in Luke where Jesus reminded his disciples that He would fulfill all of the ancient prophecies.  “Jesus said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms.”  (Luke 24:44) 
 
Let’s read some of these prophecies that we find in the Psalms and more in Isaiah.  Portraits of the long-expected Messiah and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Many of these prophecies were written down in Scripture over a thousand years before Jesus was born. And God’s promises of the coming Savior were taken seriously by those who tried to obey God’s laws.
 
 Righteous Jews and other Gentile followers of God were watching and waiting for the promised Savior to come.  Remember the wise men from the East who followed the star to Bethlehem to worship the baby Jesus?  They were “wise” because they had known the Scriptures and were looking for their coming King.  When they saw the star in the sky they wondered if that might be a sign of the promised Savior.  And they were right! Wise men and women still follow Jesus!
 
 We will start with God’s Word to the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 52:13-53:9) concerning the then future Savior, who was revealed to Isaiah as a Suffering and Glorious Servant.  Here in Isaiah 52 and 53 God’s people were given a picture of what their future Messiah and Savior would look like and be like.  Let’s read this amazing prophecy picturing the crucified and risen Christ, from Isaiah 52 and 53.  
 
“See, my servant will act wisely.  He will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.  Just as there were many who were appalled at Him.  His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man.  And His form marred beyond human likeness.  So will He sprinkle (with His cleansing blood) many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of Him. For what they were not told, they will see.  And what they have not heard, they will understand. “ (Isaiah 52:13-15)
 
“Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?  He (the coming Savior) grew up before him like a tender shoot.  And like a root out of dry ground.  He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him.  Nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.  He was despised and rejected by people.  A Man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.  Like One from whom people hide their faces.  He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.”  (Isaiah 53: 1-3)
 
“Surely He took up our sins and infirmities and carried our sorrows.  Yet we considered Him stricken by God.  Smitten by Him and afflicted.  But He was pierced (His hands and feet) for our transgressions (sins).  He was crushed for our iniquities: And the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him.  And by His wounds we are healed! “(Isaiah 53:4-5)
 
All we, like sheep have gone astray.  Each of us has turned to his own way.  And the Lord has laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed and afflicted.  Yet He did not open His mouth.  He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.  And as a sheep before her shearers is silent, So He did not open His mouth. (Jesus didn’t talk back or argue with His judges and murderers) By oppression and judgment, He was taken away.  And who can speak of His descendants?  For he was cut off from the land of the living.  For the transgressions (sins) of my people He was stricken.  He was assigned a grave with the wicked.  (Jesus was put to death with and between two criminals.) And with the rich in His death, (Jesus’ body was put in a rich man’s grave.)  though He had done no violence.  Nor was any deceit in His mouth.”  (Isaiah 53:6-9)
 
But then God gives Isaiah, the prophet, another picture of His Son; a picture of the risen and victorious Lord Jesus Christ.  “After the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life,(the risen Christ)  and be satisfied.  In His knowledge, My righteous Servant will justify many people and He will bear their sins.  Therefore, I will give Him a portion among the great.  And he will divide the spoils with the strong.  Because He poured out His life unto death.  And was numbered with the sinners.  For He bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the sinners.” (Another picture of Jesus taking our sins upon Himself and praying for us) (Isaiah 53 11-12)
 
We find many hints and prophecies of how the coming Messiah will suffer and die in the Psalms.  Psalms 16:10b says, “Nor will You(God) allow your Holy One (Jesus) to see decay.”   One of many prophecies that hints that Jesus will rise from the dead before His body decays.
 
 Psalms 22:14-16a give several short portraits of Jesus on the cross: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.  My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth, (Jesus cried out that He was thirsty while He was on the cross) And also, “You lay Me in the dust of death.  Dogs have surrounded Me: a band of evil men has encircled Me.”
Psalms 22:16b-17 continues “They have pierced My hands and feet. (nails were driven through Jesus’ hands and feet)  I can count all my bones:  People stare and gloat over Me.  They divide my garments among themselves and cast lots for my clothing. “(the Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus cast lots to see who could keep His robe and clothes) And Psalms 69:21 shows more of the agonies Jesus endured on the cross: “They gave Me gall and vinegar for my thirst.”  (New Testament Scriptures say that Jesus was given gall and vinegar when He was on the cross.)
 
Psalms 118:19-22) describes Jesus bringing salvation. And He is also referred to as the “Cornerstone that holds up the whole building.  “Open for me the doors of righteousness: (Jesus is the door) through which the righteous may enter.  I will give You thanks, for You answered me:  You have become my salvation.  The Stone the builders rejected has become the Cornerstone. (One of Jesus’ many names is the Cornerstone) The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.  This is the day that the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”    
 
And Psalms 72 also describes the coming Savior as the glorious King of Kings.  “All kings will bow down to Him, and all nations will serve Him.  For He will deliver the needy who cry out and the afflicted who have no one to help.  (vs. 11-12) And: “May His Name endure forever: May it continue as long as the sun.  All nations will be blessed through Him and they will call Him blessed.  Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel.  Who alone does marvelous deeds. Praise be to His Glorious Name, forever: may the whole earth be filled with His glory.  Amen and Amen.”  (Psalms 72:18-20)  
 
 
 
.  
The Scriptures Foretold Jesus’ Coming
 
Jesus said that all the Scriptures foretold His coming. Down through the ages God spoke to His people through the prophets promising the coming Messiah and showing and telling Israel what their Messiah and Savior would be like.  We read in Luke where Jesus reminded his disciples that He would fulfill all of the ancient prophecies.  “Jesus said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms.”  (Luke 24:44) 
 
Let’s read some of these prophecies that we find in the Psalms and more in Isaiah.  Portraits of the long-expected Messiah and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Many of these prophecies were written down in Scripture over a thousand years before Jesus was born. And God’s promises of the coming Savior were taken seriously by those who tried to obey God’s laws.
 
 Righteous Jews and other Gentile followers of God were watching and waiting for the promised Savior to come.  Remember the wise men from the East who followed the star to Bethlehem to worship the baby Jesus?  They were “wise” because they had known the Scriptures and were looking for their coming King.  When they saw the star in the sky they wondered if that might be a sign of the promised Savior.  And they were right! Wise men and women still follow Jesus!
 
 We will start with God’s Word to the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 52:13-53:9) concerning the then future Savior, who was revealed to Isaiah as a Suffering and Glorious Servant.  Here in Isaiah 52 and 53 God’s people were given a picture of what their future Messiah and Savior would look like and be like.  Let’s read this amazing prophecy picturing the crucified and risen Christ, from Isaiah 52 and 53.  
 
“See, my servant will act wisely.  He will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.  Just as there were many who were appalled at Him.  His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man.  And His form marred beyond human likeness.  So will He sprinkle (with His cleansing blood) many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of Him. For what they were not told, they will see.  And what they have not heard, they will understand. “ (Isaiah 52:13-15)
 
“Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?  He (the coming Savior) grew up before him like a tender shoot.  And like a root out of dry ground.  He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him.  Nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.  He was despised and rejected by people.  A Man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.  Like One from whom people hide their faces.  He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.”  (Isaiah 53: 1-3)
 
“Surely He took up our sins and infirmities and carried our sorrows.  Yet we considered Him stricken by God.  Smitten by Him and afflicted.  But He was pierced (His hands and feet) for our transgressions (sins).  He was crushed for our iniquities: And the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him.  And by His wounds we are healed! “(Isaiah 53:4-5)
 
All we, like sheep have gone astray.  Each of us has turned to his own way.  And the Lord has laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed and afflicted.  Yet He did not open His mouth.  He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.  And as a sheep before her shearers is silent, So He did not open His mouth. (Jesus didn’t talk back or argue with His judges and murderers) By oppression and judgment, He was taken away.  And who can speak of His descendants?  For he was cut off from the land of the living.  For the transgressions (sins) of my people He was stricken.  He was assigned a grave with the wicked.  (Jesus was put to death with and between two criminals.) And with the rich in His death, (Jesus’ body was put in a rich man’s grave.)  though He had done no violence.  Nor was any deceit in His mouth.”  (Isaiah 53:6-9)
 
But then God gives Isaiah, the prophet, another picture of His Son; a picture of the risen and victorious Lord Jesus Christ.  “After the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life,(the risen Christ)  and be satisfied.  In His knowledge, My righteous Servant will justify many people and He will bear their sins.  Therefore, I will give Him a portion among the great.  And he will divide the spoils with the strong.  Because He poured out His life unto death.  And was numbered with the sinners.  For He bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the sinners.” (Another picture of Jesus taking our sins upon Himself and praying for us) (Isaiah 53 11-12)
 
We find many hints and prophecies of how the coming Messiah will suffer and die in the Psalms.  Psalms 16:10b says, “Nor will You(God) allow your Holy One (Jesus) to see decay.”   One of many prophecies that hints that Jesus will rise from the dead before His body decays.
 
 Psalms 22:14-16a give several short portraits of Jesus on the cross: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.  My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth, (Jesus cried out that He was thirsty while He was on the cross) And also, “You lay Me in the dust of death.  Dogs have surrounded Me: a band of evil men has encircled Me.”
Psalms 22:16b-17 continues “They have pierced My hands and feet. (nails were driven through Jesus’ hands and feet)  I can count all my bones:  People stare and gloat over Me.  They divide my garments among themselves and cast lots for my clothing. “(the Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus cast lots to see who could keep His robe and clothes) And Psalms 69:21 shows more of the agonies Jesus endured on the cross: “They gave Me gall and vinegar for my thirst.”  (New Testament Scriptures say that Jesus was given gall and vinegar when He was on the cross.)
 
Psalms 118:19-22) describes Jesus bringing salvation. And He is also referred to as the “Cornerstone that holds up the whole building.  “Open for me the doors of righteousness: (Jesus is the door) through which the righteous may enter.  I will give You thanks, for You answered me:  You have become my salvation.  The Stone the builders rejected has become the Cornerstone. (One of Jesus’ many names is the Cornerstone) The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.  This is the day that the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”    
 
And Psalms 72 also describes the coming Savior as the glorious King of Kings.  “All kings will bow down to Him, and all nations will serve Him.  For He will deliver the needy who cry out and the afflicted who have no one to help.  (vs. 11-12) And: “May His Name endure forever: May it continue as long as the sun.  All nations will be blessed through Him and they will call Him blessed.  Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel.  Who alone does marvelous deeds. Praise be to His Glorious Name, forever: may the whole earth be filled with His glory.  Amen and Amen.”  (Psalms 72:18-20)  
 
 
 
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Saturday, May 27, 2017

How do We Keep the Peace when War is All Around?


How do We Keep the Peace when War is All Around?
 
Most of us start out in life with so many dreams and ideals!  Dreams and ideals for our children, our families and our mission in life.  But then we watch our dreams crumble one by one and we become hurt and angry.  A close friend’s beloved child turns to drugs and they watch helplessly as this daughter is lost in another world.  Caught up in her alternate world the daughter harms her children and tears up other lives.  Another friend dedicates his lifetime tirelessly serving as a fireman, but then he finds when he is old and used up that his promised retirement fund has been stolen by the city he spent his life protecting.  Now his family has nothing to live on in their old age.
 
 Our workplaces, homes and communities are riddled with conflicts, fights and arguments.  Many of us find ourselves upset and angry at the unfairness.  We soon become prejudiced against other persons or races or groups.  And we have good reasons it seems. Jesus has called us to peace, but our hatred for another person or group can soon take that peace away.   And many of us find ourselves angry and upset.  And our hearts are not at peace but are shaken by war. What do we do about this? 
 
When we have a conflict or an argument we want a solution.  And the solution we want is for the person or group that is troubling us to change.  To do things our way. We often dig in our heels and justify our position.  Our position is right and the other position is wrong.  We tell the enemy how wrong they are. And how much they have made us suffer.  We complain and insist that they change and agree with our opinion.  We try to teach the offender the right way. Then we nag and badger them.  And then we wonder why they are so unreasonable when we haven’t convinced them that they are wrong!
 
We often don’t see the enemy as a person or try to see the conflict we are having with him  through his eyes.  We see the enemy as an object that is in our way. He or she is a bad person messing up our world. A person who has robed us of our peace.  Made us a victim. And has no right to do what he/she has done. And when we dehumanize the enemy long enough we have no trouble hurting him or her.  We can take our enemy to court and sue or we can gossip about him/her and ruin reputations. In our eyes our enemy is a looser. When we play these games, we are inviting the very thing that we are fighting against – a solution.  We have taken the argument from peace to war. 
 
Yes, we so often are choosing war.  We seem to have a need for war.  Being mad is invigorating.  We gather others around us to agree with our side and we all agree that he/she is a monster. We feel so superior and we go to extremes proving to others that we are right and good and he/she is wrong and bad. Inwardly our hearts are not at peace but at war.
 
Even though we humans have developed good strategies for negotiating conflicts, we still are often unable to settle disputes on our own.  Too often we build walls instead of bridges.  Without God’s supernatural help, we may often remain stuck in disputes, battles and arguments indefinitely.  But with God, all things are possible.     
 
Scripture tells us how to handle our conflicts and arguments. And God’s ways are not our ways.  God’s way for us is forgiveness. Our heavenly Father commands us to forgive others who have hurt us.  Forgiveness is a gift given to those who do not deserve it. God has freely forgiven us of our sins. Even when we didn’t deserve it. (1 John 1:9, Hebrews 10:17, Psalms 103:12) And because God has forgiven us, we are commanded to be children of our heavenly Father and follow His ways and freely forgive others. (Matthew 6:12, Mark 11:25, Matthew 18:21-22, Luke 6:37, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 2 Corinthians 2:7-11)  
 
Unforgiveness is a poison.  It poisons us if we hold onto it, causing us to become bitter and resentful. We cannot have good emotional health while we hold unforgiveness, resentment and bitterness in our hearts!  Our heavenly Father wants us to live out our lives with big warm  hearts full of love and peace and joy.  Not hard angry hearts full of unforgiveness and bitterness. We cannot be full of love and hate at the same time. 
 
But we cannot do what God asks us to do in our own power!  We will need to ask God to give us the power to love and forgive, especially when the enemy is truly evil.  So, we must learn to follow the leadings of the Holy Spirit.  Scripture says that: “God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5) We are to be “rooted and grounded in God’s love” (Ephesians 3:17-19)  
 
 Are we receiving God’s love?  We can’t give away what we don’t have!  We need to be filled with God’s love in order to pass it on.  We can pray for the Holy Spirit to give us a revelation of God’s love. The Holy Spirit has been given to believers to be our Teacher and Guide and Helper and God will answer that prayer and give us more love.  Also, perhaps we can memorize Scripture that describes God’s love for us and hide it in our hearts.
And if forgiving our enemies isn’t enough, we are called to go even further.  We are told to not only forgive those who harm us but to pray for our enemies and to bless them!  Let’s read these passages for ourselves: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  (Matthew 5:44)   Bless and pray for those who curse you, implore God’s blessings upon those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:28) And: “Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them.” (Romans 12:14) We may see our enemies in a different light when we pray for them.  
 
We followers of Christ are also commanded not to take revenge on a person or group who has harmed us.  Scripture says: “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.  And again, the Lord will judge and determine and solve and settle the cause and the cases of His people.” (Hebrews 10:30.)  The Bible also says: “Judge not, lest you be judged…”  (Matthew 7:1-3) God in heaven is a God of love but also a God of justice and it is His to judge and to punish rebellious people.  Not ours. We are in over our heads when we try to do what only God can do. 
 
Jesus promised His followers peace.  “My peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  (John 14:27) Jesus also told us that if we followed Him, we would be persecuted and have problems and troubles in this life.  But we were not to be afraid or troubled.  We would have His promised peace. 
 
When troubles and conflicts and battles come our way, let’s try to resolve them God’s way - with love and patience. Let’s listen to the other with understanding but never give in to evil.   Let’s take the high road and forgive and pray for our enemies as God has commanded.  And let’s hold on to that wonderful peace that Jesus left us.  Even when there is war all around.
 
Some of the Scriptures and ideas in this blog have been taken from Joyce Meyer’s book, Beauty for Ashes”    
 
 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Basic Beliefs that All Christians hold in Common

Basic Beliefs that All Christians hold in Common
 
Last Sunday our Sunday School class had a special speaker, a respected retired Methodist minister, a kind sweet man who had taught our class in the past and had blessed us with his teaching. So we all relaxed and settled in looking forward to the lesson he had for us. 
 
Our Methodist minister first started out by mentioning that he was a changed man from when he had taught our class earlier. He told the class that he was more liberal now in his faith. And then without warning, he loudly began announcing to the class in a dramatic way while pounding on the lectern that Jesus did not die for our sins.  That He is not our Savior.  That logically such a notion didn’t make sense. That God gave Jesus to us as a great teacher, an example. That God would be a terrible father if He were to send his son to die for us.  I was shocked beyond belief.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. 
 
Before we could stop this man, he denounced the Bible as the Word of God and assured us all that we were all good enough on our own and didn’t need a Savior, insisting that God was too loving to be bothered with the sin problem.
 
 I felt like this minister’s forceful words hit me in the gut and for the rest of the day I felt physically ill. This minister did not preach the beliefs of his church.  The Methodist Church believes that Jesus died for our sins and that He is the Son of God and Savior. Methodists, as well as all other Christian churches regularly observe the Lord’s supper where we take the bread and drink the wine to remember that our Lord’s body was broken for us and His blood was shed for us.  On nearly every Christian church we see a cross, reminding us of the sacrifice our Savior has made for us. In fact, believing that Christ is our Savior and Lord is the cornerstone belief of our Christian faith.  Everything else is built on this Cornerstone. If we remove our faith in Christ as Savior, we are not Christian.       
 
We Christians may disagree on many minor issues.  Whether we have infant baptism or not.  Whether we believe in the primacy of the Pope or not?   Evolution or creation?   Should we have liturgical church services or an informal church services? Do we have a high view of Scripture or a low view? We don’t have to agree with our brothers and sisters in Christ on these or many other issues to still be One in Christ.  But there are several basic beliefs of the Faith that all Christians believe. And these issues are non-negotiable.
 
So what are the beliefs that define the Christian faith?  Down through the ages the Church has always had to contend and fight for the Faith. There have always been people like our minister on Sunday who have tried to change the Faith around to their liking. In the third century, the leaders or bishops from all the Christian churches came together and with much fasting and  prayer and God’s guidance, these bishops agreed on the basic beliefs of the Christian Faith.  Together they wrote down the basic Christian beliefs in a document which is named the Nicene Creed.  And now for nearly the last two thousand years all the Christians around the world have adhered to this Nicene Creed.
 The central belief in this creed is the belief that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior and that He died for our sins.  These are the churches or denominations of Christians around the world that hold to the beliefs spelled out in the Nicene Creed: the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, the Lutheran Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Baptist Church, the Pentecostal Church and the Methodist Church.  Many smaller denominations and churches also adhere to the Nicene Creed.  The Mormon Church, the Jehovah’s Witness Church and the Unity and Unitarian Churches do not believe in Jesus Christ as Son of God and Savior and they do not adhere to the Nicene Creed so they are not part of the worldwide Christian Church. 
 
Here is a copy of the Nicene Creed:  We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.  We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father, through Him all things were made.  For us and for our salvation He came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit He became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and became truly human.  For our sake, He was crucified under Pontius Pilate: He suffered death and was buried.
 
On the third day, He rose again in accordance with the Scriptures: He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.  He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.  We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father.  Who with the Father is worshipped and glorified, who has spoken through the Prophets.  We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.  We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.  We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.  Amen.    
Scripture is full of warnings about false teachings, false prophets and wolves in sheep’s clothing.  (Matthew 7:15) Our minister last Sunday insisted that the belief that Jesus died for us was not logical and didn’t make sense! 
 
Scripture says: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the Wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. (1 Corinthians 1:18, 23-25) 
 
We come to Jesus not through logical reasoning but through faith.  And only with faith are we able to see Him!  And when we believe that Jesus is our Savior a miracle occurs! The Holy Spirit comes into us and nothing is ever the same again!  We are born again! Jesus is ours!  What a foretaste of glory divine!   But there will always be those who come around and tell us that our Savior isn’t real.  Make sure you never listen to those folks.  
 
 
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