February 25, 2011

Zephaniah 3:17

The LORD your God is with you, 
   the Mighty Warrior who saves. 
He will take great delight in you; 
   in his love he will no longer rebuke you, 
   but will rejoice over you with singing."

Zephaniah 3:17

Mighty to Save

Everyone needs compassion
Love that's never failing
Let mercy fall on me
Everyone needs forgiveness
The kindness of a Savior
The hope of nations
[ Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/r/reuben_morgan/mighty_to_save.html ]

Savior
He can move the mountains
For my God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever
Author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave

So take me as You find me
All my fears and failures
Fill my life again
I give my life to follow
Everything I believe in
Now I surrender

Shine Your light and
Let the whole world see
We're singing
For the glory of the risen King
Jesus

Reuben Morgan

God IS for you

God is for you. Turn to the sidelines; that's God cheering your run. Look past the finish line; that's God applauding your steps. Listen for Him in the bleachers, shouting your name. Too tired to continue? He'll carry you. Too discouraged to fight? He's picking you up. God is for you.

God is for you. Had He a calendar, your birthday would be circled. IF He drove a car, your name would be on His bumper. If there's a tree in heaven, he's carved your name in the bark…

"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?" God asks in Isaiah 49:15. What a bizarre question. Can you mothers imagine feeding your infant and then later asking, "What was that baby's name?" No. I've seen you care for your young. You stroke the hair, you touch the face, you sing the name over and over. Can a mother forget? No way. But "even if she could forget…I will not forget you," God pledges(Isaiah 49:15).

Max Lucado

In the grip of grace

February 22, 2011

Sweet Revenge

The Worldview

Around 120 A.D., a Roman satirist named Juvenal wrote these words:

Indeed, it's always a paltry, feeble, tiny mind that takes pleasure in revenge. You can deduce it without further evidence than this, that no one delights more in vengeance than a woman.


 

John Milton wrote in Paradise Lost:

Revenge, at first though sweet,
Bitter ere long back on itself recoils.


 

Written by William Congreve in The Mourning Bride of 1697

"Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned

Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned."


 

Nikita Khrushchev, Soviet statesman, wrote in 1971

"We had no use for the policy of the Gospels: if someone slaps you, just turn the other cheek. We had shown that anyone who slapped us on our cheek would get his head kicked off."

God's command

38 "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'[a] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Matthew 5:38-42

 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay,"[a] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

   "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; 
   if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. 
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."[b]

 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:17-21

Why? Why God? Why can we not take revenge on those who are so incredibly evil and maliciously hurt us? WHY??????

I have asked this question repeatedly over the past year and God always shows me the answer. Jesus talked many times about the character of those who follow Him. He says that our righteousness has to be genuine-not just in our actions but our attitudes as well.

When someone has hurt me, my natural reaction is to payback. I want to hurt them and make them hurt the same way that they have hurt me. I want to get even and "settle the score". "Settling the score" and "getting even" are never enough, and instead leave me wanting to add a little bit more to their pain. Even if I were to stay within the bounds of the "punishment" that the "criminal" who has hurt me deserves, I am in sin.

Typically, our justification for justice is a product of a serious condition, a problem called revenge and it is a heart issue not to mention a sin.

Jesus says in such a simple way that the point cannot be missed,

[5:38] "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' [39] But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person.

In other words He is telling us, "DO NOT fight back."

The word "resist" in that verse means, "to oppose, set one's self against". The idea is not about non-resistance but more about not facing off. It speaks against us taking personal retribution against those that hurt us. It encourages us diffuse instead of "getting even". "Getting even" only intensifies the situation. We are to endure and forgive but for us, this does not come as a natural response.

Romans 12:17-21 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.

When everything inside of me SCREAMS to "get even", my heart is pulled in the direction of do not do evil just because someone has done evil to you. I feel the tug at my heart and the voice of the Holy Spirit saying "YOU do the right thing." AGGHHH!! It is horrible! I don't want to do the right thing. I want to defend myself! I want the world to know what he has done. It is a horrible feeling to have someone you thought loved you, belittle you and lie about you. To completely betray you in every way possible and to to not fight back. To stay quiet when the world would say fight. Not fighting back is one the hardest things I have ever had to do and truth be told, deep down, I HATE IT! I want to curse him (the one who has hurt me so deeply) and shout to the world all the evil and ugly things he has done to me but I know it will not solve anything. It might make me feel better for a day or two but then I would be back to scheming new ways to bring him down as he is doing to me. So the choice must be made. When he chooses to do the wrong thing, I have to choose to do the right thing.

It ends up sounding a lot like something I have said repeatedly to my kids. It is sad that I am having to live this out in my adult life with another adult.

The younger one hits the older one. So the older one hits them back.

Then the younger one complains to mom and dad.

"Mom, Charlie hit me."

Mom says, "Charlie, did you hit your little sister?"

"Yeah."

"Why would you do such a thing?"

"Because she hit me first."

So typically, my response is "You take care of you and I'll take care of your little sister. You just need to make sure that you
are doing the right thing and do not worry about what your sister is doing. I'll take care of her."

That is the key to the entire thing. I have to make the choice to stop focusing on his bad choices and trust that God will take care of him in His own time. Instead, I must focus my attention on doing my best to live in obedience according to what God has for me. I cannot get involved in trying to get even because that is God's job and I am learning that He is SO much better at it than I am.

"[18] If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

Sometimes I think to myself, "if I don't put a stop to this now, he will continue to do the things he is doing and will continue to hurt not only but many others as well". This may be true but again, God has an answer to my valid concern.

[19] Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.

God will take care of justice. It may not be when I want to see it happen or even how I want it to happen but He promises me that the evil done will be repaid. I just have to leave justice and revenge in the hands of God. My response to evil should always be good. I have to be careful not to set a trap for myself by becoming so wounded and hurt by the evil that I end up choosing an evil path as well. I have to say honestly that I have witnessed at times, that when I have chosen good rather than evil, the results to the person who hurt me were quite devastating. I do believe God's word. I do believe His justice and revenge are much more severe than mine are but it is still so hard.

However, learning to rethink my approach I am able to overcome evil. I overcome the evil- Not by fighting it. Not by punishing it. Not by stamping it out. Instead, by smothering it with kindness and generosity until it can no longer breathe.

Some examples of answering evil with kindness and generosity are found in Matthew 5.

[5:39] If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

In Jesus' day, being struck on the right cheek meant a slap across the face with the back of the hand and it was a terrible insult. This verse does not mean I do not defend myself or that I ask to be hit again but instead I do not retaliate. I choose not to strike back. I choose not to fight back. I choose not to insult. I choose to let it go and forgive. It means that it would be much better for me to take another slap to the face than to stoop to the same level as the person who struck me. In other words, be kind and generous even to those who verbally or physically assault me.

Another example is in verse 40:

[5:40] And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.

The tunic was a shirt, the garment worn closest to the body. On top of that, you wore a cloak, which was almost like a blanket. Jewish law permitted a person to sue someone for their shirt because the cloak was protected by law and could not be taken away.

The lawsuit talked about in this verse might be a legitimate case, but I think there is also an overtone in this passage that suggests that it might even be an unfair settlement. Once again, the idea is not that because I am a Christian I am some wimp. It does not mean that if I am unjustly sued that I cannot put on a defense or automatically give the plaintiff all he is asking for and more. Instead, the idea is that I choose not to get even. It is choosing not to stoop to the same level as the one who is cheating you.

Jesus knows that justice is important to us all and He knows that it hurts when we have been wronged but this is where we must be careful. We must never allow our thirst for justice to turn into a quest for revenge. For the moment, we may find the revenge sweet but in the end, no good is accomplished. Leave everything to God and allow Him to repay the evil.


 

February 21, 2011

Do you REALLY believe His promises?

31 "Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will wear for clothing?' 32 "For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things ; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 "So do not worry about tomorrow ; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Matthew6:31-34

I woke up early this morning with the thoughts of how different passages of scripture define your life at that moment. At this time in my life, no passage could be more fitting than this one from Matthew. It is my reminder that I have no need to worry about those things that I cannot control around me because God if faithful and will provide.

Maybe if I had not experienced all that I have over the past couple of years, I would find it much harder to cling to this verse. It is amazing how scripture can come to life when your eyes are turned upward. I am at a place where I truly believe His truth and am choosing to live according to His ways. Because of this choice, He is beginning to transform my life from the inside out.

When our lives are transformed, worry and anxious thinking begin to lose their grip on us. When we seek security in worldly things, money, jobs…- we will only find that we are filled with even more anxiety. Stress enters into our lives in a number of different ways and is something that we will never be free from in this life. How we handle our stress and worries greatly reflects our spiritual walk. If we allow our anxieties to dominate us, we are held in bondage and left to feelings hopelessness. We have to choose to believe what Truth says about God's faithfulness and loves for us.

We have to fight the urge to question whether God really cares and instead believe His promises.

"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?"

Matthew 6:26

If God takes care of even the birds, why would He not provide for His most precious creation- His children? I believe our value is much greater to God than the birds.

Making God our number one priority means that we obey His instructions. We submit to whatever situation He uses to transform us into being more like Him whether it is hardship, suffering or relief. It is not about being sinless because that is not possible but instead it is having the desire to live according to God's will for your life and to become more like Christ.

We often get ourselves worked up over things that we have no control over and end up feeling out of control. We do not have the power to change some our circumstances but we have the Creator of the Universe who holds everything in His hands- including all of those situations that feel totally out of control. For this reason, we have no worry to fear tomorrow.

When we are fearful or we worry, it is because we are not trusting in God and His promises to us. Anxiety is simply no more than unbelief. Scripture is full of promises of God's faithfulness to provide. If you can trust His promises for your eternal salvation, why can't you trust Him for your daily needs?

When we make the choice and commit to the goal of submission, the Lord promises that He will provide for whatever we need. That doesn't mean that we will get everything that we ask for but instead those things that HE knows that we need.

The benefits of living in God's will are limitless. He does not just provide for our spiritual needs, but our physical needs as well. There is no need to worry for anything because God is faithful to His word and we can trust Him to stick to what He says.


 


 


 

February 18, 2011

The Woodcutter's Wisdom

by Max Lucado

Once there was an old man who lived in a tiny village. Although poor, he was envied by all, for he owned a beautiful white horse. Even the king coveted his treasure. A horse like this had never been seen before—such was its splendor, its majesty, its strength.

People offered fabulous prices for the steed, but the old man always refused. "This Horse is not a horse to me," he would tell them. "It Is a person. How could you sell a person? He is a friend, not a possession. How could you sell a friend?" The man was poor and the temptation was great. But he never sold the horse.

One morning he found that the horse was not in the stable. All the village came to see him. "You Old fool," they scoffed, "we told you that someone would steal your horse. We warned you that you would be robbed. You are so poor. How could you ever hope to protect such a valuable animal? It would have been better to have sold him. You could have gotten whatever price you wanted. No amount would have been too high. Now the horse is gone, and you've been cursed with misfortune."

The old man responded, "Don't speak too quickly. Say only that the horse is not in the stable. That is all we know; the rest is judgment. If I've been cursed or not, how can you know? How can you judge?"

The people contested, "Don't make us out to be fools! We may not be philosophers, but great philosophy is not needed. The simple fact that your horse is gone is a curse."

The old man spoke again. "All I know is that the stable is empty, and the horse is gone. The rest I don't know. Whether it be a curse or a blessing, I can't say. All we can see is a fragment. Who can say what will come next?"

The people of the village laughed. They thought that the man was crazy. They had always thought he was a fool; if he wasn't, he would have sold the horse and lived off the money. But instead, he was a poor woodcutter, an old man still cutting firewood and dragging it out of the forest and selling it. He lived hand to mouth in the misery of poverty. Now he had proven that he was, indeed, a fool.

After fifteen days, the horse returned. He hadn't been stolen; he had run away into the forest. Not only had he returned, he had brought a dozen wild horses with him.

Once again the village people gathered around the woodcutter and spoke. "Old Man, you were right and we were wrong. What we thought was a curse was a blessing. Please forgive us."

The man responded, "Once again, you go too far. Say only that the horse is back. State only that a dozen horses returned with him, but don't judge. How do you know if this is a blessing or not? You see only a fragment. Unless you know the whole story, how can you judge? You read only one page of a book. Can you judge the whole book? You read only one word of a phrase. Can you understand the entire phrase?
"Life is so vast, yet you judge all of life with one page or one word. All you have is a fragment! Don't say that this is a blessing. No one knows. I am content with what I know. I am not perturbed by what I don't."

"Maybe the old man is right," they said to one another. So they said little. But down deep, they knew he was wrong. They knew it was a blessing. Twelve wild horses had returned with one horse. With a little bit of work, the animals could be broken and trained and sold for much money.

The old man had a son, an only son. The young man began to break the wild horses. After a few days, he fell from one of the horses and broke both legs. Once again the villagers gathered around the old man and cast their judgments.

"You Were right," they said. "You Proved you were right. The dozen horses were not a blessing. They were a curse. Your only son has broken his legs, and now in your old age you have no one to help you. Now you are poorer than ever."

The old man spoke again. "You People are obsessed with judging. Don't go so far. Say only that my son broke his legs. Who knows if it is a blessing or a curse? No one knows. We only have a fragment. Life comes in fragments."

It so happened that a few weeks later the country engaged in war against a neighboring country. All the young men of the village were required to join the army. Only the son of the old man was excluded, because he was injured.

Once again the people gathered around the old man, crying and screaming because their sons had been taken. There was little chance that they would return. The enemy was strong, and the war would be a losing struggle. They would never see their sons again.

"You Were right, old man," they wept. "God Knows you were right. This proves it. Your son's accident was a blessing. His legs may be broken, but at least he is with you. Our sons are gone forever."

The old man spoke again. "It Is impossible to talk with you. You always draw conclusions. No one knows. Say only this: Your sons had to go to war, and mine did not. No one knows if it is a blessing or a curse. No one is wise enough to know. Only God knows."

The old man was right. We only have a fragment. Life's mishaps and horrors are only a page out of a grand book. We must be slow about drawing conclusions. We must reserve judgment on life's storms until we know the whole story.

I don't know where the woodcutter learned his patience. Perhaps from another woodcutter in Galilee.
For it was the Carpenter who said it best:

"Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself." (Matthew 6:34)

He should know. He is the Author of our story. And he has already written the final chapter.
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February 17, 2011

Authority, Loyalty and Faith

When I find myself doubting, God is always there for me. He is there to reassure and remind me of His truth. He is there to remind me that He is the only One who knows my situation, my heart and my motives. He is the only One who matters.

Here are a couple of devotions from my week that have served as excellent reminders.

The first was in regards to the promise of God's authority.

"In the LORD's hand the king's heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him." Proverbs 21:1

It reminded me that everyone and everything is under the authority of God. Satan may author the evil acts that surround us but ultimately God sets the boundaries. There is NO power outside of God's plan. His plan will always be accomplished. Even through the most wicked of hearts, God IS the final authority.

So much evil is occurring right now but God has promised good through the heartache. He will use the wickedness of others for His good.

I am recognizing that His good for me may be different from what I would consider good for my life. What I mean is that His plans are so much better for me than my own. What I thought I needed, He knows better and though it may hurt that He has taken things away, ultimately it is for my good.

The second devotion was on the importance of love and encouragement in relationships and one that I needed.

"And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself."

1 Samuel 20:17

I used to believe that I had close friends and family who loved me and would support me. I have learned a hard lesson over the past couple of years.

This devotion caused me to take a step back and re-evaluate the people that were in my life. Were they godly? Were they relationships that honored God? Did those I surrounded myself with choose to live with one foot in the world?

Someone made the comment to me that perhaps God was using my situation to reveal to me those relationships that were unhealthy. Those it is hurtful to be betrayed and abandoned, I am realizing that it was for my good. I have spent time examining my relationships through a microscope and realizing that they did not meet up to God's requirements. In order to have meaningful, life-long and intimate relationships, they have to be centered on God.

True friendship produces love but it is not the only fruit. Real friendship consists of sacrifice as well. It is the ability to put another person's needs, desires and wishes above our own. It is about loyalty. Loyalty is something that I just did not think existed anymore until God shined a light on those in my life right now that have walked this road with me. They have been beaten down and bruised for me. They have supported me through thick and thin. They have been loyal.

A loyal friend is one who takes your defense before others and will not talk about you when you are not around. True and loyal friends stick up for one another and they do not bale when the road gets rocky. They stay and fight with you and for you! They allow you to be yourself no matter what "self" may look like in that moment.

This kind of intimate friendship consists of love, sacrifice, loyalty and freedom. For months I have mourned the loss of relationship but this morning I find myself becoming aware of those couple of people (and you know who you are) that have been exactly what
Jonathon was for David .

I ended with a devotion on the story of Jesus healing the blind man.

7 "Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means "Sent"). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

John 9:7

This is a story about faith. It means having faith in Christ to do exactly what He tells us to do even if it doesn't make sense. When Jesus calls us to do something, we need to pay close attention to all of the details. We have a tendency of putting God in a box and limiting His power based on our own assumptions of what He is capable of doing. We have to have faith in His promises and follow His lead.

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:9-13

The world would have us believe three lies about God:

  1. That God's love for us depends on how good we are. That our positive and negative behavior influences His love and affection for us.


     

    Truth says that the Lord's love never changes. It is constant.


     

  2. Acceptance by others has to do with performance, not who we are in Christ. This mindset leaves us to the constant approval of others.

    Truth says that God has adopted every believer in to His family and we are fully accepted.

  3. Security comes through social status and material things. This kind of thinking leads to manipulation and anxiety.

    Truth says that Christ is our only source of true security.


     

    Each of those lies represents a "hidden enemy of love" because godly affection cannot flourish with attitudes that are immature and childish. We have to replace such beliefs with TRUTH and trust God's promises!!!

February 16, 2011

Who is the real Jesus?

By Geoff Surratt


Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” John 9:39 (NIV)

Why is a real relationship with Jesus so difficult? Why is it so challenging? It is because we tend to create a quasi-relationship with a made-up Jesus.

We create a version of Jesus in our minds, one who makes few demands on us. This made-up Jesus basically does what we expect, and then leaves us alone.

Here’s the problem, this made-up Jesus doesn’t care about us. He doesn’t care if we succeed or fail, if we’re blind or able to see, if we live or die.

But the real Jesus cares deeply about you. He loves you passionately. He’s been pursuing you since the day you were born. You can ignore him; you can curse him; you can refuse to believe he exists. But Jesus he passionately pursues you.

Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (NIV).

He loves you passionately. He doesn’t want a relationship of rote prayers, rule keeping and formulas. As the apostle Paul says, “May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God” (Ephesians 3:19 NLT).

This is a messy, uncomfortable, passionate relationship. It’s rich and deep and ultimately fulfilling. That’s why Jesus won’t leave you alone, because he wants you to experience real and eternal life.
This real relationship is with the real Jesus who hung on a cross for you.

Picture him there, looking across through time and into your eyes saying, “I love you. I’m willing to die for you. I’m willing to give everything so that you can know me and have a real life of passion, love and eternal life.”

Where are you at? Are you content to live the life that you’ve lived? Or are you ready to cross that line to live a passionate, messy, real relationship with a real Jesus who loves you?
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February 15, 2011

Fire by Hell

“The Tongue also is a fire, a world of evil amoung the parts of the body.  It Corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell”
 
James 3:6
 
This was written for those who have suffered because of the wickedness of gossip.  
 
Flames of destruction can be used to describe the devastation that slander and gossip create within the church.  The Above verse is a strong rebuke as to what God’s word says about those that would use their words to harm another.  Whenever We choose to use our words to tarnish the character of someone or to speak in a negative way, we allow our spiritual life to be consumed with a force of evil.  An Evil that can only be stoked by the flames of hell.
 
“Make A tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.  You Brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good?  For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.  The Good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.  But I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken.  For By your words you will be acquitted and by your words you will be condemned.”
Matthew 12:33-37
 
So after reading this passage, do you think it becomes safe to say that those whose speech is filled with negativity and who are harsh and aggressive have good in their heart?  Personally, I think that the scripture is quite clear.  
 
Slander and Gossip are definitely found within the church.  Even The “greatest” Christians have fallen to the sin of gossip.  

Are these sins wicked? Let’s investigate this question together.
 
First to define:

Slander: utterance of false charges or misrepresentation, which defames or damages another’s reputation

In the legal world, the term used is libel.
 
Summed up, if I say something about you that may be true to me….as far as my opinion is concerned….but may not actually be true and causes damage to your character, that is slander.
 
What about gossip? Gossip is even more vicious than slander.  It Is basically the same thing as slander only it is done in secret.  The Greek word used for gossip in the New Testament defines gossip as a secret slanderer.
 
Scripture is quite clear in saying that if my speech is not pure, then neither is my heart.  So Is it wicked?  ABSOLUTELY!  A gossip gives their opinion in a secret and cowardly way while the one who slanders, does so aloud.
 
Gossip may begin with “you didn’t hear this from me” or “just keep this between the two of us”. They want to keep their sin in the dark and use others as their tool to camouflage their wickedness.
 
One of my favorite (said jokingly) is when we, in the Christian world, use super spiritual language like “we are concerned and need to pray” in order to say negative things about someone’s character, intentions or motives.   Slander and gossip become wicked when we present it as a “prayer request” or maliciously disguise it as coming from “a heart of concern”.  Using Those things as a prayer request DOES NOT make it any less devilish.
 
“And Just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things of worthy of death, they not only do the damage, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
 
Romans 1:28-32
 
 
 
Here it is…if you have EVER made a secret comment or had a “secret conversation” about someone else without their knowledge, chances are you committed the sin of gossip.

These next five questions are things that you should ask yourself before repeating anything.

1. Would I want someone in my church to overhear the comment or conversation?
2. Am I 100% sure that what I am about to say is 100% true?
3. Have I said what I am about to say to another person TO that person?
4. If not then why? What is my motivation?
5. Will the statement lead me and those I am involving into a closer walk with Christ?
 
Ouch!  I think we all have fallen to the sin of gossip at one time or another.  In My personal opinion though, I feel that if you deny you have committed this sin, you are even more wicked and dangerous than those that at least acknowledge this sin.
 
It always amazes me how righteous we think to ourselves that we are yet, verbally will profess aloud to others that we are a sinner. That would be known as false humility and it too is a sin.

We are quite capable of seeing the sin in others but are often blind to our own sin. We often think that people need to change more than we do.  
 
Back to Matthew (6:3)

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
 
No matter how hard we try, we cannot and do not have the insight to see into the implications of someone else’s sin.  Only God has that knowledge.  We Do however have the ability to look into our own lives and see our own sin and rebellion against God impacts our own life. We don’t however do this because it is much easier to point out the sin of others than to acknowledge our own.
 
Someone who has truly experienced the presence and forgiveness of God will not feel righteous.  Instead, They will feel like they are “ruined”, for lack of a better term.  They Are able to clearly see the “plank” in their own eye and consider themselves the worst sinner of all.  They Don’t have the, “well I have not sinned as bad as they have attitude”.  
That is a scary place to be and that attitude of righteous thinking can lead us into the deep sin of slander and gossip.  We Become unaware of that huge plank sticking out from our own eye and begin beating everyone else us with it.
 
Scripture says that the Holy Spirit is grieved(Ephesians 4:30) by our unwholesome talk.  Unwholesome Talk comes from a place of bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  (Ephesians 4:31)  Instead, we are to be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  (Ephesians 4:32)
 
That is somewhat hard to do if we are talking about someone else behind his or her back.  Right?  Do We not understand that it breaks the heart of God when we disrespect or gossip about His children? We recognize that gossip may hurt the person.  The Question becomes, do we recognize that God is hurt as well?  
 
God is not honored when we gossip.  He Considers it a wicked sin.  Gossip Causes division amongst believers and whether you are the one spreading the gossip or the one who listens, it is wrong.  To Man, it may seem to be a small sin but it is detested by God and when we participate, we hinder God’s blessing for us and can very much expect His discipline. “The Tongue also is a fire, a world of evil amoung the parts of the body.  It Corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” James 3:6
 
I believe that the Bible is quite clear as to the wickedness of gossip and slander and that we each should test our hearts.  “If Anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” James 1:26
 
Something to remember:
Those who gossip to you, gossip about you.
 
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February 14, 2011

Wrapped in peace

Unshakeable Peace

Philippians 4:6-7

Anxiety is the enemy of a peaceful life. People go to great lengths to get rid of stress: travel ads promise that vacations will sweep you away from it; gyms offer to help you "sweat it out"; and popular magazines suggest ways to lessen it by adjusting schedules or habits. The problem is that no one can adequately shift circumstances to achieve total freedom from heartache, burdens, or trouble.

However, we can have unshakeable peace during anxious times. Jesus said to seek peace in Him because He has overcome this troublesome world (John 16:33). The key is to shift our focus from the scary problem onto God, who lovingly provides whatever we need from His limitless resources and power (Ps. 50:10; Rom. 8:11).

Serenity can't be manufactured—it's a gift from our heavenly Father. The Holy Spirit produces a sense of calm in believers who seek the Lord's protection against anxiety (Gal. 5:22). The Greek word translated as guard in today's passage literally means "to garrison about." God wraps hearts and minds in peace, effectively safeguarding both against all-consuming worry or fear. Notice that He doesn't make problems go away—we may still be under pressure or prone to weep, but we're cushioned against anxiety and surrounded by peace instead.

Today's verses tell us to pray rather than give in to anxiety. These words are Paul's orders for doing battle against the stresses and troubles of this world. Prayer keeps your mind and heart garrisoned with peace. Keep trusting in God so that your defenses are strong and anxiety cannot slip in. 

Author unknown
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February 10, 2011

Never say never

As they walk, a stranger comes up behind them.  It is Jesus, but they don't recognize Him. Disappointment will do that to you. It will blind you to the very presence of God. Discouragement turns our eyes inward. God could be walking next to us, but despair clouds our vision.

Despair does something else. Not only does it cloud our vision, it hardens our hearts.  We get cynical. We get calloused. And when good news comes, we don't want to accept it for fear of being disappointed again. That's what happened to these two people.

Later on they say these words:

"And today some women among us amazed us. Early this morning they went to the tomb, but they did not find His body there. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels who said that Jesus was alive! So some of our group went to the tomb, too. They found it just as the women said, but they did not see Jesus."
Luke 24:22-24

When reading scripture we can't always tell in what tone the words were spoken. Sometimes we don't know if the speaker means to be jubilant or sad or peaceful. This time, however, there is no question about what they're thinking: As if it's not bad enough that Jesus was killed, now some grave robber has taken the body and duped some of our friends.

These two followers aren't about to believe the women. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Cleopas and his friend are putting their hearts in a shell. They won't take another risk. They won't be hurt again.

Common reaction- isn't it? Been hurt by love? Then don't love. Had a promise violated? Then don't trust. Had your heart broken? Then don't give it away. Do like P.T. Barnum. Settle the score by blaming the world and hardening your heart.

There is a line, a fine line, which once crossed can be fatal. It's the line between disappointment and anger. Between hurt and hate, between bitterness and blame. If you are nearing that line, let me urge you, don't cross it. Step back and ask this question: How long am I going to pay for my disappointment? How long am I going to go on nursing my hurt?

At some point you have to move on. At some point you have to heal. At some point you have to let Jesus do for you what He did for these men.

Know what He did? First of all, He came to them. I know we've already mentioned that, but it's worth repeating. He didn't sit back and cross His arms and say, "Why can't those two get with the program?" He didn't complain to the angel and say, "Why won't they believe the empty tomb? Why are they so hard to please?"

What did He do? He met them at their point of pain. Though death has been destroyed and sin annulled, He has not retired. The resurrected Lord has once again wrapped Himself in flesh, put on human clothes, and searched our hurting hearts.

Max Lucado
He still moves stones

I was talking to a friend about this very thing last night and woke up this morning to read about it.

I know this place. I know the darkness of despair and discouragement. I have been to the place where I wanted the world to feel the same pain I was feeling.  A place where I had decided that I would hate those that had hurt me until the day I died. I would show them all that they could no longer hurt me.

Amongst all of the heartache and pain, I had reached a place where I had decided that I would never trust or love again. I would never let my guard down for anyone ever again. I would not be duped!

When people don't do what we want, it's not easy. It is even harder if we feel like God has let us down and not done what we wanted. It's not an easy thing to accept. It never will be. Faith is the conviction that God knows more than we do about this life and that He will get us through. 

Disappointment comes from expectations that go unmet but is cured when those same expectations are revamped. 
When we find ourselves disappointed, we need to hear that God IS in control and that it's not over until HE says it's over. We need to hear that our tragedies and storms are not a reason to bail out but instead, a reason to hold tight to God's truth.

Corrie ten Boom used to say, "When the train goes through a tunnel and the world gets dark, do you jump out? Of course not. You sit still and trust the engineer to get you through."

That was just what I did and God showed up. At first I didn't recognize Him. I was blinded by pain and doubted my faith. What amazes me though is that He didn't give up on me. He didn't walk away. He did the exact opposite and ran right towards me.

He began revealing Himself in subtle ways and suddenly, the dark was not as dark. There was a small spark. A light at the very far end of an incredibly long tunnel. There was hope. Though I didn't recognize Him right away, I did recognize the warmth of His love.  That is what I chose to cling on to and trust. And that was the moment my faith was restored and my hope returned.

I'm learning to never say never. Praise God that He grabbed a hold of me before I crossed that fine line. He got a hold of me before my heart became hardened to the point of no return. He reminded me to not give up and to be patient. He reminded me that He is still in control and "it ain't over till it's over."


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February 9, 2011

Fearless

Sometimes I get so caught up in my own troubles that I forget how blessed I am. As I was looking at status updates on Facebook tonight, I came across one that led me to a blog. (sadandchara.blogspot.com) The story I found was devastating. The strength that flowed through the words of the writer was amazing! A strength that can only be found when we are being held.

God's grace IS absolutely sufficient. We truly cannot grasp how great God is until we are standing in the middle of the unknown and wondering how in the world we arrived at the place in which we find ourselves. It is true that only the strong survive. Truth is though that only those whose strength is found in God are able to endure with such peace and courage because our inadequacies allow God's power to be made more obvious in our lives.

I am constantly in awe. Moments come of hopelessness and defeat but God always shows up. He is always aware of my fears and concerns and is there to place something in front of me to restore my hope. He is there to remind me that He is in control. He is there to remind me that nothing passes through His mighty hands without His ok and knowledge. He is there to remind me that all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

How great is our God! How awesome to be His child! How incredible to live under His protection and love! God IS love and without His love, nothing else in life can make sense.

Once He pursues us with His love, we are forever changed. We live in God and His love and He lives in us.

Once He lives in us, we are a new creation with a new heart. A heart that is Bold! A heart that is Fearless! A heart that is Confident! His love becomes our driving force, our strength and our confidence.

Each day we are renewed. We may experience troubles and storms but these times are preparing us for eternal things. Though we cannot see ahead into the future, our faith that God IS in control and loves us unconditionally allows us to have confidence in His plan for our lives.

"There Is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."
1 John 4:18

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all."
2 Corinthians 4:17
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February 8, 2011

Encourage

Just the Right Words
Renee Swope

"A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver."
Proverbs 25:11 (NIV)

Devotion:
Has someone ever spoken words that helped you see something valuable or unique about yourself that you had never seen before?

That's what happened between Jill and Leanne. They met when Jill was coaching a basketball team and Leanne's 13-year-old daughter, Shelby, was on her team. Years later, when she was in high school, Shelby got seriously injured and Jill reached out to her with encouragement, prayers and notes that spoke just the words Shelby needed to hear.

One day, Leanne sent a letter thanking Jill for the difference she was making in her daughter's life. She described the great qualities she saw in Jill and called her a "bright light" that shined in many lives, including theirs.

Leanne didn't know that months later Jill would go home to an empty apartment one night plagued with doubts, questioning her purpose in life. Battling clinical depression and living under the weight of feeling worthless, Jill contemplated suicide. That night as she pondered her fate, Jill opened her journal to write and a note fell out. As Jill opened the note, she read Leanne's words again.

God used Leanne's words to show Jill she did have a purpose and that life was worth living. Just the right words at just the right time.
When another woman speaks encouragement into our hearts, the course of our lives can be changed forever. And when we believe in someone else, God uses us to build confidence and security in a heart that may have otherwise been paralyzed by doubt and insecurity.

I'll never forget my friend Janet thanking me for words I'd penned from my heart to hers in a thank you card. To me it was only a thank you, but it was more to her. God touched her heart deeply through something I said. And in response, she encouraged me to write more than notes. Her prayers and confidence inspired this insecure young mom to eventually write a Bible study.

God used that tiny Bible study, written over 10 years ago, to uncover His plans and develop the future writer in me. He used a woman who believed in me more than I believed in myself to help me take the first step.

Just the right words at just the right time.
Perhaps you need to hear them today. If so, let God speak them over you through His promises:  

·         For you are a chosen [woman], you are a royal priest, a holy [daughter]. God's very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV)

·         "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine....you are precious and honored in my sight, and I love you."
Isaiah 43:1, 4 (NIV)

·         For [you] are God's masterpiece. He has created [you] anew in Christ Jesus, so [you] can do the good things he planned for [you] long ago. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

·         In all these things [you] are more than conqueror through him who loved [you]. Romans 8:37 (NIV)

Just the right words at just the right time.  

Let God's promises settle into those places in your heart that need for encouragement today. And then ask Jesus how you might share them. Perhaps there is someone in your life who needs them now more than ever.  

Dear Lord, I need Your encouragement each day. Lead me to promises in Your Word that will strengthen me when I'm weary and build me up when I feel torn down. Help me see and believe what You see in me, and then share it with others. I pray You will give me just the right words at just the right time. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
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February 6, 2011

Worry

People Who Don't Know God Worry
by Jon Walker

What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works.
Matthew 6:31-32 (MSG)

"Do you believe that if you follow Jesus, you will lack nothing?"
When we worry, we reveal the places in our lives where we are trying to do things on our own as opposed to trusting Jesus to do what he promised.

This means we can view worry as an opportunity to increase our faith. Rather than worry, or feel bad about our worry, we can take the things we worry about and bring them to the feet of King Jesus. We can say, “Jesus, I’m having trouble with this one. It keeps me worried. I’m giving this worry to you and I’m going to trust you to take care of this.”

Then, we have to take thoughts captive, just as the Apostle Paul teaches. What that means is, when we start to worry, we have to take that thought and send it to Jesus. “Jesus, I am worried about the mortgage, but I am sending my worry to you because you have promised to take responsibility for providing for my needs.”

This simple transfer, in and of itself, will strengthen your faith because it requires you at a very basic, yet intimate level, to acknowledge the sovereignty of God. It is a simple step of faith that will help you clearly see when and how Jesus provides.

Jesus says worry is characteristic of people who don't know God and the way he works. And because of their ignorance, they fuss over things. They have no idea that God knows their needs and so, as Pastor Tom taught yesterday, they try to do for themselves what only God can do.
“But You know both God and how he works,” Jesus says.

Jesus always brings us to a choice: ‘Do you believe that if you follow me, you will lack nothing?’ If your answer is yes, then why do you worry? If you answer is no, then what keeps you from trusting Jesus?

Jesus died so you could be free from worry. Worry is a choice, but you can choose instead to trust in Jesus and walk in the wonderment of how God provides.


This devotional is by Jon Walker, editor of the Daily Hope Devotionals and author of Costly Grace.
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February 5, 2011

I do not have internet which means that I will not be posting for a while. I will however post things from my phone when I'm able. Today I am posting an excellent sermon that if you have the time, is worth listening to.

You will need to go down to the music player and pause it in order to hear the video player.