Simple Friday

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Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He 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, and nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.  He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.  Like one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.  Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

(Isaiah 53:1-6 NIV, emphasis added)

For centuries, mankind (with the devil’s influence) has made a complicated mess of the meaning of Salvation. By adding silly man-made doctrines; deleting important information; inserting bunny rabbits and new dresses; making sure unscriptural protocols are adhered to; and keeping people in the dark about the simplicity of God’s Salvation, many souls go unsaved.

God created man. Man sinned. God initiated the process, through which, He would redeem man. God emptied Himself of His Glory and entered His Creation in the form of a Man – Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ did exactly what God said He would do through the Prophets. Jesus walked the earth, He taught and He healed. He lived a sinless life! He was persecuted and crucified for your sins and mine. He bought our eternal Salvation with His precious blood.  On that Friday afternoon, over 2,000 years ago, Jesus was nailed to the Cross for us; for all of mankind throughout the ages. Good Friday is a commemoration of the Day God accepted His Son’s sacrifice for the sins of all. It really is that simple.

Jesus was not extraordinary in His appearance. He did not live a complicated life. His Salvation is simple; just believe! Don’t let the world complicate the most wonderful gift God will ever give you – just accept it and own it. Celebrate this Good Friday in prayer and give Glory to God for the simplicity of this Holy Day.

Prayer: Father in Heaven, please help those who do not know the Glory of your gift of Salvation. Help us who do know, to be your Light in this dark world that others may see. Thank you, Father for the simplicity of the Gospel and for the promise of Eternal Life in Your Kingdom. Amen.

Cultivating Peace

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Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.

(Philippians 4:8-9 NIV)

‘Peace’ as we understand it is very hard to come by in this world where evil runs amok, however, it an essential ingredient to living a fruitful life in Christ. When Jesus stated, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34), He was referring to so-called worldly peace. This elusive kind of peace is in things of this world; having everything in your life the way you want it and being able to make sense of the chaos that surrounds you. Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth was not to give us a material peace in our surroundings, but to stir up the Spirit and persuade us to fight the evil that exists in all aspects of our lives.  There will be conflict in our relationships, family, work and communities; we are to distinguish the cause of the hostility, fight the evil and cultivate the good. It is easier said than done, because we fail to recognize that our own bitterness and anger can often be the root of the problem. We will not find worldly peace, so we must seek godly peace.

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 NIV)

The peace Jesus gives us is a deep, abiding peace that sees us through when the evil around us persists. It is peace in knowing that even though the storm is raging, He who rules over all Creation resides in you. It is the wisdom to know how to navigate the storm; the strength to face the wicked circumstances and it is the courage to hold fast to God’s Word and His promises. The peace that Jesus gives us is not malleable, fragile or temporary; it is unbendable, unbreakable and it is eternal. Seeking worldly peace will only bring frustration. Seek God’s peace and know what peace truly is.

In order to cultivate God’s peace in your soul, you must be willing to pursue it. The Apostle Paul gave us the fuel to ignite that pursuit. Make it a daily habit to think about what is true, noble, pure, lovely and admirable; be willing to practice excellence; and live your life in a praiseworthy manner. Our thoughts, words and actions emanate from what is in our hearts, so it is imperative to cultivate that which is good and weed out that which is evil. Look past the circumstance and be thankful. A heart filled with gratitude for God’s endless mercies and providence is a heart filled with peace.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

(Philippians 4:4-7 NIV)

Prayer: May God fill us with His peace as we face each storm this evil world brings our way. And, may He give us a steadfast spirit to encourage others to walk in His peaceful Light. Amen.

 

Faithful Growth

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.

(1 Corinthians 1:18 NIV)

Ten years ago, I published my first book, Ponder the Possibilities. I wrote it to try to encourage people to seek a deeper faith in Jesus Christ. Even though the book was not all that good (honestly, I think the publisher wants too much money for it), it was the foundation for this blog and the writing that I feel compelled to do. My views have not changed since the book was published, but my faith has grown and matured. There have been times when I have felt stagnant and that my faith was weakened by circumstances, but even in the darkest of times, I have not given up; God always shelters me from my worst enemy; me.

In a recent conversation, I remembered a paragraph that I wrote all of those years ago:

It is unfortunate that we live in a time when mass media has inundated us with the philosophies of many different religions. This complicates and confuses our focus on Jesus Christ. There are a lot of people who try to add a little of this religion and a little of that to come up with a sort of spiritual soup that leaves the soul hungry for some missing ingredient.  The only ingredient necessary for a satisfied soul is Jesus. (Ponder the Possibilities, Chapter Two)

When too many ideologies work their way into what should be simple faith, the confusion that ensues is a delight for Satan. Hitting a rough patch in your walk with Jesus is bound to happen, and when it does well-meaning family, friends and fellow church members may try to step in and give you all sorts of helpful advice. Some of that advice may, indeed, be helpful, but be wary of anything that would draw you away from Scripture. The strength, courage and wisdom you need in all stages of your walk with Jesus can only be found in His Word. If you start looking for answers to life’s tough questions in a yoga class, horoscope of psychic, you are allowing false teachings to pollute your faith. A pure faith is uncomplicated. There is only ingredient necessary and that is Jesus.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

(Colossians 2:8 NIV)

Growing in your faith requires letting go of clutter and focusing on Jesus (period). You can join a different church, become a member of a committee, feed the homeless, be a missionary, do street evangelization or any other ‘spiritual’ work, but it won’t help you grow in Christ. So, if you are feeling stagnant in your faith, look back and see where you were a few years ago; look at the here and now and then open your heart in prayer. Pour out your concerns before God and let Him handle it! Turn to Scripture and listen to Him speak to your heart through His Word. You don’t need anything else to grow your faith.

The purpose of my writing is always to encourage those who read my feeble words to seek Jesus. That said, let every word I write or speak be carried by the Living Water to those who thirst. May God bless you, and thank you for reading this post.

 

What Would Jesus Do?

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to Him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’.”

(Matthew 4:1-4 NIV)

The coming of a New Year brings with it a lot of things. We reflect upon the year that has just passed, and we look forward to the year ahead. 2015 was a tumultuous year, and 2016 looks to be much the same. For every bit of joy that has been or will be, we also have to deal with evil. The current culture chastises us for praying and persecutes us for believing in God. The times we live in are precarious and we must be steadfast in our Faith in order to survive the onslaught of evil that has invaded every aspect of our lives.

The phrase ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ has become somewhat cliché’.  Unbelievers and nominal believers will pull the phrase out and invent all kinds of strange ideas to suit their personal agendas.  These people are confused by their own self-serving pride. To those of us who know Jesus, the answer to the question is simple: Jesus would call upon God’s Word to fight the devil.  When Jesus was being tempted in the desert, every response He gave to Satan began with, “It is written…”  God gives us the instructions for life in His Word; knowing Scripture and living in the Word of God is the only way to defeat Satan’s evil plan for our lives.

In the coming year, I encourage you to spend as much time as possible reading and studying the Bible. Time in prayer and Scripture is a conversation with God. This is how we gain the wisdom to know what to do, the strength to do it and the courage to see it through.  When Satan shows up in politics, the workplace, your family, your personal relationships, your decisions, your church or anywhere else in your life, it is imperative to be prepared.  When you wonder what Jesus would do in any particular situation, look to His Word and the answer will be there. Ask God to direct your path, and know that He will guide you. When you come across someone who wants to quarrel about your faith, remember:

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.

(1 Corinthians 1:18 NIV)

In the coming year (and always) be prepared for anything and everything Satan will throw at you! Immerse yourself in the Holy Word of God and know His joy and peace in your heart. Be not afraid, for He is with you.

And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.  What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.

(Romans 8:30-33 NIV)

What would Jesus do? Jesus would rely on God! So should we.

Prayer: Father, please give me a steadfast spirit to rely on You, and You alone. Strengthen my Faith and guide my path. Draw me to read your Word and to live it. Amen.

Happy New Year, Dear Reader. May God bless you with good health and great Faith!

Merry Christmas!

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

(Isaiah 9:2 NIV)

Our current culture has greatly disturbed the meaning of Christmas. If you watch television, listen to radio or go into a store this time of year, you are bombarded with images and sounds of what has become a secular, retail season.  Don’t get me wrong; I like the festive atmosphere, but there are some aspects of Christmas marketing that no one should have to put up with. They push ideas onto the populace that have absolutely nothing to do with Christmas. For instance, Christmas is not about elves, toys, jewelry, cookies or parties; it isn’t about romance, getting stuff on sale, vacations and it certainly is not about sex. Christmas isn’t even about family and warm-fuzzy feelings. Christmas is about Jesus Christ, and He alone.

People all over the world have their Christmas traditions and protocols. Some are beautiful, some are quirky and some are just wrong. There are even Christians who think that celebrating Christmas is blasphemous (yeah, I don’t understand that either).  The problem is that too many people get caught up in the traditions and become overwhelmed with supposed protocol. In order to really celebrate Christmas, one must get real. Jesus is God Incarnate. He emptied Himself of Glory; was born into this world; He lived a sinless life and died for our sins; He rose from the depths on the Third Day and He Lives so that we may have Eternal Life with Him. Not one thing in Scripture tells us to celebrate His Birth – we do it because He gives us Salvation. I don’t know about you, but I think being saved from my sins is worth celebrating.

So, here are a few things to ponder this Christmas: When you look at the pretty lights on the tree, remember, “In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” (John 1:4-5)  And when you see a stack of gifts or a man in a red suit, consider, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7) A gift isn’t something mandated by a day on the calendar. Finally, remember the most important gift of all, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (John 3:16-17) God gave us His Son; He gave us Himself. In order to have the fullness of Jesus in our hearts, we must accept that gift, open it and own it.

Dear Reader, I pray that your Christmas is Christ-centered, so that you may know the fullness of joy and peace only He can offer. Enjoy your gatherings, the decorations, the food and the fun, but focus on Jesus, first. Invite Him to join you and rejoice with the Angels at His Presence.

Merry Christmas and God bless you, always.

Gloria in Excelsis