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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

False Teachers and Persecution - the Battle is On

False Teachers and Persecution – the Battle is On
Jesus warns His followers: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you…If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:18 and 20b)  Conflicts will take place before Jesus returns. And if you love Jesus you will most likely suffer persecution.
On our side of the battle, we try to spread the Good News that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior.  That He died to take away our sins and rose again. That He is Life and Light.  And when we humbly open our hearts and believe in Him, we receive the gift of eternal life.  Jesus said:” I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.  No one come to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) The battle is all about Jesus and who He is.  And the battle is a spiritual battle.  
But on the other side, the false teachers- mock the believers and angrily deny Jesus to be the Savior and the Son of God.  Sometimes they pretend to be believers (wolves in sheep’s clothing) and try to water down our faith by considering Jesus to just be a great teacher who lived two thousand years ago. They are too smart to believe in the real Jesus of the Bible, and they work to keep everyone else from believing in Him too. They come into our churches to deceive people who are coming to Christ and to destroy Christian fellowship. Scripture describes them as “savage wolves.” (Acts 20:29) The battle is spiritual, and the battle lines have been drawn.  
Christ-followers have received the gift of God’s Holy Spirit which guides us into all truth.  (1 John 2:20-21) But the false teachers, or “antichrists”, want to destroy the truth and they mess with Jesus’ identity. (1 John 2:22-23) 
 Christ-followers believe what the Bible says about Jesus, and this believing - or faith - on our part opens our hearts for the Holy Spirit to come in and transform us.  (1 John 2:26-27)  It is truly a miracle! Scripture says: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31a)   and “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)  
Christ followers need not fear because God’s Holy Spirit holds fast to us. The Bible says that when we believe in Jesus the Holy Spirit “abides” (or lives) in us.  (1 John 2:26-27)   We are admonished to study the Bible (abide or live in God’s Word) and learn the truths in God’s Word so well that we can be able to distinguish the truth from the lies.
There is a spiritual battle going on – the battle between light and darkness, truth and lies, good and evil and as Christians we are in it.  But Jesus won the battle over sin and death at His resurrection.  And He will return in victory.  And we will be victorious with Him if we are His followers. (1 John 2:28)  
 God’s Word, the Bible tells us that since there are many false prophets trying to confuse us, we are to test what we hear before we believe it.  (1 John 4:1-6) The truth is that Jesus is incarnate (born and lived on earth as a man) and is the Son of God.  Anyone who teaches anything different about Jesus Christ is teaching falsehood, according to Scripture.  Jesus couldn’t be our Savior and Redeemer, giving us eternal life in Him, if He was just a man and not the Son of God!  False teachers always try to water down who Jesus is and that He is the only way to God the Father. You can count on that. 
Along with false prophets, we as believers also may face persecution in this spiritual battle here on earth.  Jesus sends a message or letter to the Christian church in Smyrna, one of the early churches that was going through heavy persecution.  The year was approximately 95 A.D. and Jesus gave this message to the John, the apostle to pass on to the church.  Here is Christs’ message to the church in Smyrna that was under heavy persecution at the time.
“These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and come to life.  I know your works, tribulation, and poverty, but you are rich.  And I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not but are a synagogue of Satan.  Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer, Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested and you will have troubles for ten days.  Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”  (Revelation 2:8-10)
Smyrna was one of the cities in Asia Minor (now Turkey).  In 95 A.D. Smyrna had built a large magnificent temple to the worship of the Emperor Augustus.  The people of Smyrna took great pride in the imperial cult. They worshipped the emperor as a god, and they insisted on zealous support from all the citizens.  History reveals that there was a law that once each year every citizen in Smyrna was forced to kneel before the statue of the Emperor Augustus and burn incense to him and worship him as his god. Of course, this caused a problem for the Christian church in Smyrna, since they (and we) are only to worship God and serve only Him. (Exodus 20:3) There are to be no other gods before Him.
Each person who bowed before the Emperor and burned incense to him was given a receipt for the year which allowed him or her to buy and sell their goods in the cities’ large marketplace for that year.  When the Christians in Smyrna stood up for Jesus and refused to worship another god, they were denied a receipt to buy or sell their goods. The believers in Smyrna were willing to give up selling their goods and receiving the money that those sales would bring.  They were willing to live in poverty for Christs’ sake.  And He sees their poverty.   
  Jesus tells them that He knows about their troubles and about their poverty.  He knows that they would rather be poor and needy than to forsake Him.  And He tells them that they are really very rich.  Rich toward God.  Spiritually rich!  Jesus tells the church in Smyrna that some of them would be thrown in prison for their courage in standing up for Him.  But that their troubles would only last a little while. And some would die.  But after death, He promises them a crown of life.
We have read the history of the Christian churches and we know that soon after 95 A.D. a large number of believers in Christ had to face prison, slavery, torture and death because of their refusal to participate in worshipping the Emperor.  Not to participate in emperor worship was interpreted as a lack of loyalty and friendship. The price of disobeying Roman law was death. Down through these last two thousand years there have been many martyrs for Jesus.  – people who refused to compromise with evil and deny Christ, even though it meant their death.
One of the early slanders widely circulated about Christians, accused them of being “haters of all mankind.”  When we Christians refuse to join in on some of the sins that our friends are involved in, some of the actions that are popular, when we don’t “fit in” with the lifestyle of the world around us, we are often excluded, laughed at and persecuted.  Are we willing to stand up for Christ even when we won’t ”fit in” with what most everyone else is doing.  Are we willing to take the heat?
What similarities can we see between the culture of Smyrna and our own?  Have we seen society’s pressure on Christians to compromise our faith growing?   Would we be willing, like our brothers and sisters in Smyrna, to not buy and sell – and to suffer poverty – in order to stay true to our Savior?
Let’s live today like it won’t last forever.  Not expect in this life to get everything that is promised to us in the next.  (Matthew 19:29) Lets’ pursue being rich toward God rather than being rich in this world.  (Luke 12:21) And lets’ remember that if you stand up for Jesus you can   know that He will stand up for you.  (Acts 7:55-56)                   




Wednesday, October 2, 2019

You Have Left Your First Love

You Have Left Your First Love
Jesus appeared in a glorious vision to his beloved disciple, John, (Revelation 1:9-20) and gave John letters to give to seven of the early Christian churches of Asia Minor. The year was approximately 95 A.D. and these messages to the churches are recorded in the book of Revelations in our Bible These seven churches were actual churches of John’s day.  But they represent types and conditions of churches in all generations.
Jesus’ first message was given to the church in the city of Ephesus.  Ephesus was (and still is) on the Mediterranean Sea.  And in 95 A.D. Ephesus was a large bustling commercial city and a major intersection for trade between the ancient nations. One of the seven wonders of the ancient world was (and still is) in Ephesus – that is the magnificent Temple of Artemis. 
  In 95 A.D. the people who lived in Ephesus, the Ephesians, worshipped the goddess, Artemis.  She was the goddess of the hunt, the moon, and chastity.  She was the protector of children and the goddess of childbirth.  Statues and idols of Artemis were sold in shops and stores all over Ephesus. It was a big money-making business – making statues of Artemis - since most of the city worshipped this idol.
 Paul had started the little church in Ephesus a few years earlier and these new Christians were surrounded by a hotbed of false teaching and idol worship. (1 Timothy 1:3-11, 4:1-9, 6:3-10) It must have been challenging to be part of the church in Ephesus where everyone there was worshipping and sacrificing to the goddess, Artemis. Ephesus the was “Sin-City” of Asia minor.  The new Christians in the church at Ephesus burned all of their idols and books that had to do with Artemis, in order to follow Christ.
This is the letter that Jesus gave to John to give to the church in Ephesus: “ To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands. (The “golden lampstands” represent the churches and Jesus is there walking in their midst.)  I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil.  And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not and have found them liars:  and you have persevered and have patience and have labored for My Name’s sake and have not become weary. 
Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen. Repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place – unless you repent.
But this you have that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”  (Revelation 2:1-7)
This was Jesus’ message or letter to the Ephesian Christians - the church in Ephesus. Jesus starts out by praising them for examining and rejecting false teachers.  And for their patience and for all their hard work. For all that they had given up to follow Him.  Jesus sees all that the church in Ephesus had done for His Name’s sake. And He is pleased. He praises them.  
 The fact that they hated the Nicolaitans and ran away from evil when they saw it, was something Christ gave them credit for.  The Nicolaitans were people who pretended to be God fearing but they were rebels and brought sexual sin into the church.  They were proud of their sexual misconduct and attended sexual orgies and idol worship and committed fornication and bragged about it. Jesus says He hates that.    The church in Ephesus stood firm against the Nicolaitans and against false teachers and evil.  And Jesus was pleased with them for that.
But still something was lacking!  An unloving attitude permeated the Ephesian church, perhaps as an outgrowth of their zeal to defend Truth.  It hadn’t always been that way.  The church in Ephesus had loved their Savior, their Jesus, with their whole hearts when they first believed!  But gradually they had drifted away from loving Him.  So much work, and so much evil to stand against.  Instead of worshipping the Great “I Am”, they were busy with the great “to do”.  They were up against so much evil that they didn’t take time to come apart and be with the One who overcomes evil – and the One who loves them so.
 Their lack of love was inconsistent with Christianity and it was deadly.   Scripture says: “Whoever does not love abides in death.” (1 John 3:14) The church of Ephesus had lost their first love and Jesus missed that so much. Is it possible in the Christian life to do everything right and still get it wrong?  When they worked so hard that they didn’t have time for Jesus, they were getting it wrong. Jesus calls them back to Himself. If they don’t have time for all of their good deeds when they take time to worship and love Christ, then they should put worshiping Christ first. 
Another time we read in Scripture of Jesus expressing His desire for His followers to take time to sit at His feet and love Him, even if they don’t get as much work done. Loving Him was more important than extra work. This is what He was expressing to the church in Ephesus! And He also expresses that same feeling to His dear friends, Mary and Martha.  Taking time to sit at His feet and love Him is all important.   
 One day, when Mary and Martha were preparing dinner for Jesus and His disciples, Martha complained to Jesus that she had many chores to perform in cooking and serving their dinner and Mary wasn’t helping her enough.  Instead Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to Him and loving Him.  Martha wanted Jesus to tell Mary to get up and go help out in the kitchen. And Jesus answered that Mary had chosen the best part and He wouldn’t take that away from her.  (Luke 10:38-42) Are we like Martha or like Mary?  Have we chosen the best part- sitting at Jesus’ feet?
The message Jesus is giving to the church in Ephesus is timeless – it is also a message for us today. Jesus wants to be our first love. He wants us to take time to listen to Him and to sit at His feet.  Perhaps set a time apart each day to be with Him. He wants to hear our simple words of adoration and He wants us to spill out our love for Him.  He wants our head and our hands and our hearts.  He wants us to want Him and to wait for Him. To be alone with Him.  And He also wants us to be more about our love for one another. To love with a sacrificial love as He does. He calls us to walk in love. – for Him and for others.   
Let’s answer Christ’s call.  Be intentional in loving Jesus.  Love Him first, afresh every day.  Take time. Love is a choice.  Let’s choose the best part. Let’s choose to love Him.      

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Fellowship with the Living God

Fellowship with the Living God
1 John 1:1-2:2
Amazingly, the Bible tells us that we can have fellowship with the living God.  Rich fellowship – bringing us “fullness of joy”. (1 John 1:3-4) When we believe in Christ, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit to live within us and teach and guide us. If we are willing to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, we can have fellowship with the Lord and our lives can be a continual feast!  
Scripture tells us that:” God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5b) And when we have fellowship with our good God, who is all light, Scripture says that we will be “walking in the light”.   (1 John 1:7) And when we walk in the light, or when we have fellowship with our God and Father, we have joy and peace.  Why don’t we Christians always “walk in the light” since it is such a joyful path?  Why do dark shadows so often creep in and follow us?  How do we get off the path so easily?
The Bible says that sin can get in the way of our fellowship with God.  Scripture says: “If we say that we have fellowship with God, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” (1 John 1:6) If we have believed in Jesus as our Savior and Lord, our sin isn’t going to take away our salvation.  After we believe in Christ, if we purposely continue sinning, we are still part of God’s family.  But our holding onto sin may take away our close fellowship with God. 
God has a plan.  Scripture says: “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (I John 1:9) Confessing our sins before a faithful and just God brings cleansing and forgiveness.  We will not be completely free of sin until we die and often, we don’t even recognize some of our sins.  The Holy Spirit is working on us, and when we do recognize a sin, we are told to confess it in prayer and turn from it.
 We often try to overlook our sin or make excuses for it. I have a problem loving some people. Especially people who treat me badly and people who try to tear down the Christian faith.  I make excuses for my sin of hating certain people.  But I can’t get around the fact that Scripture tells us to “Love and pray for our enemies” (Matthew 5:44) Without the help of the Holy Spirit, I find it impossible to love these folks.  So, I need God’s help in order to be able to obey Him.
 On many occasions, I have had to ask the Lord to give me His love for the person who was treating me badly or attacking the Christian gospel. And amazingly, He always answers those prayers.  (I may slip and have to ask Him for His love again and again!) But He always supplies it again if I want it. God calls His children to live a life of love and to pray for our enemies. And He calls us to let Him deal and judge the person who is giving us trouble.
We are called to confess our sins when we become conscious of them and not make excuses.  We humans sometimes boast that we can have fellowship with God while living in unrepentant sins.  But we are trying to lower God to the human (sinful) level.
 The Bible says that if we claim to be close to God while being determined to go on actively sinning, we deny the truth.  Scripture says: “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” (1 John 1;6) The Bible speaks often about the “truth”.  But what is this truth?  The Word of God, the Bible, is the truth.  When we study the Scriptures, we can discover what is good and what is sinful.  Our job is to trust and obey. That is the ticket!  When we trust and obey, even though we are sinners, we can have joyful fellowship with the Living God.     
But then there is another way we can mess it up.  We humans sometimes boast that we can have fellowship with God by living a sinless life.  If we can just be good enough, spiritual enough on our own, we can have fellowship with God.  But we are all sinners and the Bible says that claiming that we are without sin denies the truth and makes God out to be a liar.  Scripture says: “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us…  If we say that we have not sinned we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8 and 10)
It sounds confusing and impossible for us.  But the righteousness of Jesus uniquely suits Him for His role as our Helper when we have sinned.  Jesus is our eternal Advocate.  Jesus fills us with His Spirit and covers us with His righteousness, and Scripture says: “the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7b) His Spirit in us is changing us.  God’s offer is for us to confess our sins and a faithful and just God will bring cleansing and forgiveness. No other religion on earth offers us anything like this.  God is the real joy giver! There is no greater place to be on earth than in the presence of God.    





Monday, September 16, 2019

David and Goliath

David and Goliath
1 Samuel 17
The year was approximately 900 B.C. and the Israelites had gotten their very first king, King Saul.  The Philistines were neighbors and enemies of the Israelites during King Saul’s reign.  And the ruthless Philistines were always trying to pick fights and conquer the Israelites in order to enslave them.  So, King Saul’s men, were constantly fighting the Philistines. Sometimes they lost their battles with the Philistines and sometimes they won.  But whenever the Israelites trusted God for their victories, they won. 
During this time David was just a shepherd boy and too young to be a soldier. But three of his older brothers were soldiers in King Saul’s army. During one of the battles with the Philistines, David’s father, Jesse, asked David to go to the battleground and check up on his older brothers and bring them food.
 So, the next morning David left his sheep with a servant and took off hiking across the fields to find King Saul’s army and his brothers.  Scripture tells us that the battle was being fought in a valley between two hills.   The Philistines were camped on one hill and across the valley the Israelites were camped on the opposite hill.   Just as David arrived at the battleground, Goliath, a huge Philistine giant about 9 ½ feet tall, came stomping out from the Philistine army camp and stormed over to the Israelite camp shouting out curses at the Israelite soldiers.
Goliath, a champion of war, was wearing a bronze helmet and a heavy coat of scale armor. He had bronze shields on his legs and a bronze javelin slung on his back.  His spear shaft was heavy and long, and his shield bearer marched ahead of him carrying a heavy shield to protect him.
Every morning and evening for forty days now Goliath had been strutting up and down the valley shouting insults at the Israelite soldiers and daring one of them to be a man and come out and fight him!  Goliath is making fun of the God of Israel and mocking the Jewish soldiers for having a God that wouldn’t be able to save them from him and his might fighting power.
All the Israelite soldiers would run away each time Goliath would come out and bully them.   When David saw this he became very angry and he argued with his older brothers. David felt that one of the Israelite soldiers should trust God enough to go fight this giant. Why should Goliath be allowed to insult God?  Why didn’t one of King Saul soldiers trust God enough to fight this giant Philistine?  Eliab, David’s oldest brother, flew into a rage and told David to shut up.  He fussed that David was a stupid boy and didn’t understand. That Goliath, the giant and mighty man of war, with all of his armor would certainly kill any man who tried to fight him.  But little David insisted that God was bigger than any giant and someone, maybe he, should go fight Goliath in God’s Name. 
What David said was overheard and reported to King Saul, and the king sent for David to come to him.  David bowed before his king and said: “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine: your servant will go and fight him.”  (1 Samuel 17:32) King Saul insisted that David was just a boy and surely the giant would kill him.  But David insisted that the God of Israel would deliver him.  King Saul prayed for David and then tried to put his armor on David, but it didn’t fit.  So, David got five little stones from the creek bed and said that he would fight Goliath with his little slingshot. 
When David came out to fight, Goliath looked David over and saw that he was only a boy.  Scripture says that Goliath hated David and he said: “Am I a dog that you come at me with sticks? “Goliath cursed David by his gods.  Then he roared at David: “Come here, I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!”  (1 Samuel 17: 43-44)
And David replied: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the Name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will hand you over to me, … and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.  All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves: for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give all of you into our hands.”  (1 Samuel 17:45-47) 
Goliath in a fury ran to attack, and David ran to the battle line to meet him.  Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, David slung it and struck Goliath on the forehead.  The stone sank into his forehead, and Goliath fell face down on the ground.  When the Philistine army saw that their hero was dead, they all turned and ran away.
David grew up and was chosen by God to be Israel’s next king. (2 Samuel) Scripture says that David was a man after God’s own heart. (Acts 13:22 and 1 Samuel 13:14)   Why is that?  Let’s look at David’s life and see if we can find out why God was so pleased with David.  Why he was a man after God’s own heart!
 Even though David committed many big sins in his life, he was always deeply sorry and always quickly repented of them. David sincerely wanted God’s will for himself as well as for his country, Israel. God meant everything to David.  David loved God with all his heart, and he loved God’s Word and said that it was a light for his path. It is believed that David wrote many of the Psalms through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  
David was a humble servant. (1 Samuel 16:14-23) And a faithful and obedient son. (1 Samuel 16:1-13)   David wanted God and Gods’ Word more than anything else and he always gave God praise and honor and glory.  David was a victorious warrior.  He saw only the size of his God and not the size of the giant.
 Scripture says: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) David firmly believed and trusted in God and he believed that God would answer his prayers. His bold faith pleased God.  I believe that David’s love and faith in God are the reasons that he was a man after God’s own heart.  
How do we measure up?  Do we go after the “giants” in our lives trusting God to be with us and fight our battles?  Have we let the size of the giants in our lives overwhelm the size of our God?  Do we believe the scriptures that tell us that God rewards those who earnestly seek Him?  Do we love and trust God and want His will in our lives?  Are we willing to obey Him?  Oh that we could live our lives so that they would bring joy to God’s heart the way David did.


Saturday, September 7, 2019

Do's and Don'ts of Spirit Living

Do’s and Don’ts of Spirit Living
The Bible tells us that when we believe in Jesus as our Savior and Lord, the power of God – in the form of the Holy Spirit- is given to us as a gift!  The Holy Spirit is released into our lives and it is no longer we who live but it is Christ who lives in us and through us. (Galatians 2:20)
Without Christ, we humans are slaves to sin.  We are addicted to sin and we can’t free ourselves from sinning even when we try our best. But if we yield to Christ’s Spirit in us, we can be set free from being a slave to sin.  Christ has come to set us free - free from sin and death!  And His Holy Spirit in our lives is quietly changing and freeing us and re-making us in His image.
The Bible tells us that we are to “walk in the Spirit”.  I believe “walking in the Spirit” means living our lives allowing the Holy Spirit to be our guide. Scripture says: “Since we live by the Holy Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25)   But how do we physically “walk in the Spirit” or “keep in step with the Spirit”?   The Bible gives us some directions or concrete steps to help us to “walk and keep in step with the Spirit.”
First, we are to drop the ego!  Scripture says: “Let us not be conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”  (Galatians 5:26) Christians are to be humble.  Scripture says that:  Pride comes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.”  (Proverbs 16:18) As Christians we are told that we have been “crucified with Christ”.  (Galatians 2:20) Our old nature is on its’ way out and the new nature in Christ is maturing in us.  Let us keep in step with what the Spirit is doing in our lives and allow the Spirit to create a humble spirit in us.   
Second, we are to restore the fallen.  Scripture says; “Brothers and sisters, if anyone is caught in any sin you who are spiritual should restore him or her in a spirit of gentleness.  Keep watch over yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1) If a Christian is caught in a sin we are to pray for guidance and gently confront him or her.  We can humbly and lovingly show this person the Scriptures that condemn their sinful words or actions.  We are not to call good evil or evil good. (Isaiah 5:20)
Thirdly, we are to bear one another’s burdens.  Scripture says: “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) Burden bearing honors Jesus Christ.  We are to help one another.  Be generous and feed the hungry, care for the sick, give to the poor and rescue persons in trouble.  Pray for others and welcome the stranger.  Jesus said that if we do good to people in need, we are doing good to Him.  And Jesus calls everyone who helped the needy into His kingdom.  (Matthew 25:34-40) Jesus also says that those who refused to feed the hungry or give to the poor or care for the sick here on earth, that they actually refused to feed Him and He refuses to allow them into His heavenly kingdom.  (Matthew 25:41-46) 
Forth, in our quest to “walk in the Spirit” we are told to take responsibility for ourselves.  Scripture says: “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.  For each will have to bear his own load.  (Galatians 6:3-5) We ae to self- examine ourselves. Check out our attitudes.  Work and try to carry our own weight.
Fifth, take responsibility for doing your share to help your church or ministry.  Scripture says: “Let the one who is taught the Word, share all good things with the one who come to you with the Word.”  (Galatians 6:6) Look after those who are running your local church if you can.  We are in a battle for the Truth and we all need to do our part. 
Sixth, don’t mock God with your life.  Scripture says: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked.  For whatever you plant or work for, that you will also reap (or get back).  If a person works to build up his own ego and pride, he or she will get back corruption, but if a person works or plants to the Spirit, he or she will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8) We are not to ridicule God by the way we live our lives.  God wants us to live our lives for Him.
And last, we are not to tire of doing good.  Scripture says: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:9-10)
When we walk in the Spirit, we are to look for opportunities to bless people.  Let the Spirit lead us.  Do it all with love. God will give us what we need for the journey. As God has forgiven you, forgive others.  Place it all at God’s Feet.  God promises to give us the power to live wherever He puts us.  This is a list of some of the do’s and don’ts of Spirit living.  (Galatians 6:1-18)     






Saturday, August 31, 2019

Draw Near to God and He Will Draw Near to You

Draw Near to God and He Will Draw Near to You
I have had a very blessed life and my Christian faith has given me much joy.  But I have a sin or a fault that hangs onto my life and I have not been able to stop doing it no matter how hard I have tried.  This sin has haunted me for as long as I can remember.  My big sin is worrying.  And becoming very anxious in certain situations. 
Long ago I accepted the fact that sometimes I become very fearful and anxious.  It was just who I was, I told myself.  It was only normal for me to be fearful in this broken world.  There was nothing I could do about it since being anxious was part of my makeup, I told myself. I was always miserable when these anxiety attacks would come, but then what could I do?  I prayed and told the Lord that I had tried and tried, and I didn’t have the strength to get rid of my fears by myself.
All my life I have covered over my fears and pretended to the outside world that I was normal.  I would tell myself that someday in heaven Jesus would finally change me – make me into a new person in Him – and then these miserable panic attacks would finally be gone.
But then one day something happened!  A still small Voice inside my head spoke to me and whispered that I didn’t have to wait till heaven to get rid of my panic attacks.  That Jesus can start changing me now!  Start making me into that “new person” in Him now! He can give me His courage in the places where I have no courage of my own.  And that He can give me His peace, when I am fearful and have no peace!
Soon after that, a situation came along that made me anxious. As always, I again felt myself being gripped by my dark forebodings and fears. I had no peace of my own, just sick nervous fear.   Then I remembered that Jesus promised His peace to His followers and believers. (John 14:27) Shouldn’t I ask for what He has promised me? 
So, in the middle of my terrible fears, I started praying: “Jesus, give me Your peace.”  “Jesus, give me Your peace.”  This short little prayer seemed to be my lifeline.  I prayed this little prayer slowly over and over believing that He was giving me His peace right then, right when I needed it most.  I pictured Him, my Savior, bending over and lovingly and generously giving me His provisions – His courage and His peace. My fears seemed to lose their grip and His warm peace enveloped me. How safe and secure I felt in His presence.  What a victory!   
I wonder now why I spent so many years not developing a closer walk with Jesus.  And so many years trying on my own to stave off my worries and panic attacks.  And why I never learned to completely rest in His Presence or ask the Lord for His peace and strength, believing and thanking Him for giving them to me.  Scripture says that we will find the Lord when we search for Him with our whole hearts. (Hebrews 11:6b) Deuteronomy 4:29: Jeremiah 29:13)   
 Jesus has called us all to pursue a close walk with Him. He is always near and ready to strengthen and help us. But He wants us to really want Him. (Song of Solomon) When we walk with Him, Scripture says that He takes great delight in us. The Bible says:  ”The Lord your God is with you.  He is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
Scripture says: “For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning to Me and in resting in Me you shall be saved: in quietness and confidence in Me shall be your strength.” But you would not.”  (Isaiah 30:15) How sad when Israel would not take the time to worship and trust in their God.   Let’s not miss out walking closely with our Savior and Lord because we refuse to spend quality time before Him in prayer and worship and waiting on Him.  
I have always found great strength and comfort in standing on the promises in God’s Word.  But I have been guilty of not spending time waiting on Him in prayer.  Not closely walking with the Lord.  We need to do both of these things. 
Some of my favorite Bible Scriptures are: “My sheep listen to My Voice: I know them, and they follow Me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, no one can snatch them out of My Hand.”  (John 10:27-28)   And: “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for He (God) shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders.”  (Deuteronomy 33:12)
More favorite verses are: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end: they are new every morning, great is Thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23) And “The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.” (Psalms 145:14)  And: “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone: my hope comes from Him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation: He is my fortress; I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 62:5-6) 
 And: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”  (Philippians 4:6) And: “You show me the path of life, and in Your presence is fullness of joy: at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  (Psalm 16:11) “Casting all your care on Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
You have different needs than I do.  But Jesus knows just what you need and how to lift you up.  If we will take the time to pursue a close walk with Jesus every day, He will change us and mature us in Him.  He will give us the desires of our hearts if they are in His will.
 If we listen for His Voice, we will hear Him speaking to our hearts. He delights in disclosing Himself to us if we take time to open up to Him.  And sometimes He displays His unseen Presence in subtle ways.  Take time to find Him in the details of your day. Ask Him to use you where He wants to use you. Fill your heart and mind with Scripture because He reveals Himself to us through Scripture.  Draw near to Him, and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8)   It will be a glorious adventure.