5 Common Misconceptions of What a PEACEMAKER is:

  • a PEACE WISHER is a person who wishes for world peace: they imagine a world where all people are at peace.  Though they can see the image in their own mind’s eye, they do not act on these wishes.  James 4:17 says that “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” (NIV)  Also, James 2:16-17 says “If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (NIV)  To make peace, we must act on the deeds that we know is true and right.
  • a PEACE BENDER is a person who believes they are an expert at knowing how to make peace with other people, and so they insist that everyone must gain their understanding and live by the standards that match what they know peace to be. Matthew 7:15-17 tells us how we can recognize a peace bender: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” (NIV) If a person does not try to pursue peace and be at peace with all people (1 Peter 3:8-12), then their actions will portray their spirit. They are not an expert on peace, but are actually a peace bender instead; they bend the definition of peace to match their own ideas.
  • a PEACE MARTYR is a person who would willingly sacrifice anything to keep the peace.  They are willing to sacrifice their integrity, their happiness, and even their salvation in order to keep the peace with their friends and relatives around them.  Philippians 4:6-7 reassures us with these words: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with 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.” (NIV)
  • a PEACE YIELDER is a person who believes that peace on earth means no more wars will ever be fought.  They are ready to fly the white flag of surrender in order to “keep peace”, and they protest war and speak against people who would attack evil to subdue it. Though that may sound like a peaceful concept to the untrained Christian mind, our own Savior Jesus, the Prince of Peace, reminds us in Matthew 10:34-36 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” 
  • a PEACE HOARDER is a person who is content with life.  He has everything he desires, and lives life only in the comfort of his own circle.  He will not share the peace that he has, whether it’s out of ignorance or out of selfishness. Jesus says in John 16:32-33 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)

Life on this earth will not be easy, and there will be many times when it will feel like our life lacks peace.  But blessed is the PEACEMAKER who sees all the hostility and the unfairness in the world and yet works to spread God’s word anyway.  The truth about peace is this: Peacemakers are soul-winners! They are the people who pray for others, who volunteer at food pantries and in relief groups, who invite their friends to church meetings or camps.  They’re the ones who live as Christ-like examples and are unafraid to declare Jesus’ name to the world (and to their friends!).  It’s only through Jesus that we can find peace.

“…since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith in his promises, we can have real peace with him because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be.

"We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:1-5 (TLB)
“Peter, an apostle (special messenger, personally chosen representative) of Jesus Christ,

To those [elect—both Jewish and Gentile believers] who live as exiles, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia [Minor], and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father by the sanctifying work of the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace [that special sense of spiritual well-being] be yours in increasing abundance [as you walk closely with God].”  1 Peter 1:1,2 (AMP)
“Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you.  Hold them in the  highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.  

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.  

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

Brothers and sisters, pray for us. Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss. I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28
“And now there is one more thing to say before I end this letter. Stay away from those who cause divisions and are upsetting people’s faith, teaching things about Christ that are contrary to what you have been taught. Such teachers are not working for our Lord Jesus but only want gain for themselves. They are good speakers, and simple-minded people are often fooled by them. But everyone knows that you stand loyal and true. This makes me very happy. I want you always to remain very clear about what is right and to stay innocent of any wrong. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The blessings from our Lord Jesus Christ be upon you.”  Romans 16:17-20 (TLB)
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Guardian of Your Heart

“God blesses those people whose hearts are pure. They will see him!” (Matthew 5:8, CEV)

Do you want to see God? The sixth Beatitude says we should have a pure heart to see God. What is the heart? If nothing else, it is those feelings we associate with the red shape drawn on our Valentines cards, with two rounds at the top and a point at the bottom… Right?

Nah, the heart is more than that. Like the Trinity is God –Father, Son, Spirit – thinking, saying, and acting the same, there are also 3 organs that “speak” to each other a special way inside your body: the heart, the brain, and the stomach. Did you know that according to research, all three organs have their own neurons and neurotransmitters, meaning the heart can communicate to the brain feelings of pain and emotion? Likewise, the stomach can communicate hunger and digestive feelings. Some websites say different things, implying the heart and stomach can “think” on their own, but then others say they can’t. Really, though, what is “thinking”, and what is “feeling”, if not a collective effort of the body’s functions?

Think about a scenario: a man is waiting for his wife to stride downstairs donned in her little black dress for the date –wouldn’t his heart be racing as he envisions the dinner and car ride home? How about another: a kid walks in the bedroom while her parents are watching a midnight horror film and catches a glimpse of blood and gore – wouldn’t her heart be pounding when she runs back to bed and feels monsters underneath? In the same way, your stomach grumbles and you think, I’m hungry. It’s all feelings, and feelings are the government of your thoughts.

To be what God intends for us to be, you and I need to give our brain the role of guardian. Imagine that your organs are a family, your heart and stomach being dependents (children), while your brain is the independent (parent). They come to your brain with emotions of anger, fear, an adrenaline rush, or a lack of appetite. Your brain executes a plan determined by surroundings. For example, someone is walking nearby in the street, at the same pace as you, oh, but maybe a step or two quicker; immediately, an adrenaline rush begins to occur and your mind works out the facts of whether you have a stalker. Is the person suspicious looking? Is he armed, strong, and are you alone? Then suddenly, he crosses the street and heads towards the other block. Your reasoning grows serene at the realization he is a mere stranger.

In the example above, the heart was an influence to your thoughts. How? A pumping heart can affect your thoughts, making your brain scramble to keep calm.

But whether or not the heart’s neurons can grow fearful or the brain itself does the “feeling” and the “thinking” does not matter for this discussion. We can wait until later for science to discover the details. Right now, whether he means the Valentines heart or the muscly organ, Jesus has our answer in Matthew 15:16-20 regarding the role of the heart:

“Don’t you understand?” Jesus asked him. “Don’t you see that anything you eat passes through the digestive tract and out again? But evil words come from an evil heart and defile the man who says them. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile; but there is no spiritual defilement from eating without first going through the ritual of ceremonial handwashing!” (TLB)

The Old Testament also speaks of the heart. Jeremiah 17:9-10 says:

“The heart is the most deceitful thing there is and desperately wicked. No one can really know how bad it is! Only the Lord knows! He searches all hearts and examines deepest motives so he can give to each person his right reward, according to his deeds—how he has lived.” (TLB)

That’s why the heart needs a guardian, because it needs to stay dependent on the brain to make sense of things, and connect with the knowledge of the Lord and His Word. There may be neurons in the heart (estimated to be 40,000), but there are billions more in the brain and the brain is where laws, principles, logic, solutions, and memories are kept.

“For whatever God says to us is full of living power: it is sharper than the sharpest dagger, cutting swift and deep into our innermost thoughts and desires with all their parts, exposing us for what we really are…” (Hebrews 4:12, TLB)

Meanwhile, the stomach (where an estimated 100 million neurons are!) is temporary to this life, and probably sends signals to keep us alive, but does nothing for our spiritual walk. As Jesus said to Satan when he was starving in the wilderness, to keep temptation away,

Jesus answered, “The Scriptures say:

‘No one can live only on food.
People need every word
that God has spoken.’”

(Matthew 4:3-5, CEV)

Paul also makes the argument, in the context of sexual immorality and how wrong it is, that the stomach and the body is temporary and that the body should therefore be used for God’s purposes instead of man’s whims.

“Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.

And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.”

(1 Corinthians 6:13-14, KJV)

Therefore, the mind should become the guardian of the heart and stomach, watching over them from a leader’s perspective. The mind is where the higher intelligence of Jesus Christ and his gospel is stored, along with steps on how to get to heaven, saving a person from the “second death”:

But those who are cowards, who refuse to believe, who do evil things, who kill, who are sexually immoral, who do evil magic, who worship idols, and who tell lies—all these will have a place in the lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8, ICB)

We must stay on the “road of right living” to stay safe:

“The road of right living bypasses evil;
watch your step and save your life.

First pride, then the crash—
the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.”

(Proverbs 16:17-18, The Message)

It takes smarts to decipher “right living”! However, it’s not too hard a concept: even Abraham was considered righteous because of his faith, which is the same as it is now, with faith in Jesus Christ.

Genesis 15:6: “And he [Abraham] believed in the Lord, and He [God] accounted it to him for righteousness.”

In conclusion, with the smartness of your brain, the knowledge of Christ, and the grace of God, you can make your heart pure and keep it clean and fearless in the sight of God.  You’ll find a beautiful treasure waiting! Your pure heart will become the loving kindness behind the logic – the brain’s benefactor – and compassionate intuition will aid your deed doing.

 “So let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith. We have been cleansed and made free from feelings of guilt. And our bodies have been washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22, ICB)

 

 “…Everything about us is bare and wide open to the all-seeing eyes of our living God; nothing can be hidden from him to whom we must explain all that we have done.” (Hebrews 4:13, TLB)

 

”No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God [Jesus], is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.” (John 1:18, NLT)

 

“By the power of your hand, O Lord,
destroy those who look to this world for their reward.
But satisfy the hunger of your treasured ones.
May their children have plenty,
leaving an inheritance for their descendants.
Because I am righteous, I will see you.
When I awake, I will see you face to face and be satisfied.”

(Psalm 17:14-15, NLT)

“You can either doubt God and think he is in no part of your life, or you can believe God and think he is in every part of your life - everything changes.” ~Lacy Andrews

 

Hymn of the Day: Blessed Assurance

Blessed assurance!  We are given a promise of redemption and salvation!

Isaiah 43:16-21 says: I am the Lord, who opened a way through the waters, making a path right through the sea. I called forth the mighty army of Egypt with all its chariots and horses, to lie beneath the waves, dead, their lives snuffed out like candlewicks.

But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I’m going to do! For I’m going to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Don’t you see it? I will make a road through the wilderness of the world for my people to go home, and create rivers for them in the desert! The wild animals in the fields will thank me, the jackals and ostriches too, for giving them water in the wilderness, yes, springs in the desert, so that my people, my chosen ones, can be refreshed. I have made Israel for myself, and these my people will some day honor me before the world.” (TLB)

God will give us new life.  We are His new creation.

Hebrews 6:10-12 says: “For God is not unfair. How can he forget your hard work for him, or forget the way you used to show your love for him—and still do—by helping his children? And we are anxious that you keep right on loving others as long as life lasts, so that you will get your full reward.

Then, knowing what lies ahead for you, you won’t become bored with being a Christian nor become spiritually dull and indifferent, but you will be anxious to follow the example of those who receive all that God has promised them because of their strong faith and patience.” (TLB)

God will not forget all that we do in His name!  We are blessed with the assurance of His promises.

Hebrews 6:13-20 says: “For instance, there was God’s promise to Abraham: God took an oath in his own name, since there was no one greater to swear by, that he would bless Abraham again and again, and give him a son and make him the father of a great nation of people. Then Abraham waited patiently until finally God gave him a son, Isaac, just as he had promised.

When a man takes an oath, he is calling upon someone greater than himself to force him to do what he has promised or to punish him if he later refuses to do it; the oath ends all argument about it. God also bound himself with an oath, so that those he promised to help would be perfectly sure and never need to wonder whether he might change his plans.

He has given us both his promise and his oath, two things we can completely count on, for it is impossible for God to tell a lie. Now all those who flee to him to save them can take new courage when they hear such assurances from God; now they can know without doubt that he will give them the salvation he has promised them.

This certain hope of being saved is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls, connecting us with God himself behind the sacred curtains of heaven, where Christ has gone ahead to plead for us from his position as our High Priest, with the honor and rank of Melchizedek.” (TLB)

Since God is the righteous judge, we can be assured that His promises will be kept. 

Mark 5:35-36 says: ”While he was still talking to her, messengers arrived from Jairus’s home with the news that it was too late—his daughter was dead and there was no point in Jesus’ coming now. But Jesus ignored their comments and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just trust me.” (TLB)

 

2 Samuel 7:22  “How great you are, Lord God! We have never heard of any other God like you. And there is no other God.” (TLB)

Purity of Heart

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”

-Matthew 5:8

What does it mean to be “pure in heart”?

 

Pure in heart is being “unmixed” from sin, and without blemish.

Psalm 119:1-3 (ASV)  “Blessed are they that are perfect in the way, who walk in the law of Jehovah. Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, that seek him with the whole heart.  Yea, they do no unrighteousness; They walk in his ways.”

John 12:3 (WEB) “Mary, therefore, took a pound of ointment of pure nard, very precious, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment.”

Pure in heart is being morally clean.

 “Who may climb the mountain of the Lord and enter where he lives? Who may stand before the Lord? Only those with pure hands and hearts, who do not practice dishonesty and lying. They will receive God’s own goodness as their blessing from him, planted in their lives by God himself, their Savior.” Psalm 24:3-5 (TLB)

Proverbs 30:11-14 (NIV)  “There are those who curse their fathers and do not bless their mothers; those who are pure in their own eyes and yet are not cleansed of their filth; those whose eyes are ever so haughty, whose glances are so disdainful; those whose teeth are swords and whose jaws are set with knives to devour the poor from the earth and the needy from among mankind.”

Romans 12:1-2 (ASV) “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

Pure in heart is being ceremonially undefiled.

Malachi 1:7-10 (AMP) “You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, ‘How have we defiled You?’ By thinking that the table of the Lord is contemptible and may be despised. When you [priests] present the blind [animals] for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and the sick, is it not evil? Offer such a thing [as a blind or lame or sick animal] to your governor [as a gift or as payment for your taxes]. Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you graciously?’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘But now will you not entreat God’s favor, that He may be gracious to us? With such an offering from your hand [as an imperfect animal for sacrifice], will He show favor to any of you?’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘Oh, that there were even one among you [whose duty it is to minister to Me] who would shut the gates, so that you would not kindle fire on My altar uselessly [with an empty, worthless pretense]! I am not pleased with you,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘nor will I accept an offering from your hand.’”

Mark 7:14-23 (TLB) “Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. ‘All of you listen,’ he said, ‘and try to understand. Your souls aren’t harmed by what you eat, but by what you think and say!'”

“Then he went into a house to get away from the crowds, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the statement he had just made.

“’Don’t you understand either?’ he asked. ‘Can’t you see that what you eat won’t harm your soul? For food doesn’t come in contact with your heart, but only passes through the digestive system.’ (By saying this he showed that every kind of food is kosher.)

“And then he added, ‘It is the thought-life that pollutes. For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts of lust, theft, murder, adultery, wanting what belongs to others, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, pride, and all other folly. All these vile things come from within; they are what pollute you and make you unfit for God.’”

 

Why is a pure heart important?

A pure heart brings glory to God.

1 Peter 2:11-12 (ICB) “Dear friends, you are like visitors and strangers in this world. So I beg you to stay away from the evil things your bodies want to do. These things fight against your soul. People who do not believe are living all around you. They might say that you are doing wrong. So live good lives. Then they will see the good things you do, and they will give glory to God on the day when Christ comes again.”

Colossians 1:6-8 (TLB) “The same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world and changing lives everywhere, just as it changed yours that very first day you heard it and understood about God’s great kindness to sinners. Epaphras, our much-loved fellow worker, was the one who brought you this Good News. He is Jesus Christ’s faithful slave, here to help us in your place. And he is the one who has told us about the great love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you.”

A pure heart is the reason Jesus died.

Hebrews 10:8-10 (WEB) “Previously saying, ‘Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you didn’t desire, neither had pleasure in them’ (those which are offered according to the law), then he has said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will.’ He takes away the first, that he may establish the second, by which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

Ephesians 5:25-27 (TLB) “And you husbands, show the same kind of love to your wives as Christ showed to the Church when he died for her, to make her holy and clean, washed by baptism and God’s Word; so that he could give her to himself as a glorious Church without a single spot or wrinkle or any other blemish, being holy and without a single fault.”

A pure heart determines a righteous character.

Titus 1:15-16 (The Message) “Everything is clean to the clean-minded; nothing is clean to dirty-minded unbelievers. They leave their dirty fingerprints on every thought and act. They say they know God, but their actions speak louder than their words. They’re real creeps, disobedient good-for-nothings.”

1 Peter 2:18-25 (ICB) “Slaves, accept the authority of your masters. Do this with all respect. You should obey masters who are good and kind, and you should obey masters who are bad. A person might have to suffer even when he has done nothing wrong. But if he thinks of God and bears the pain, this pleases God. If you are punished for doing wrong, there is no reason to praise you for bearing punishment. But if you suffer for doing good, and you are patient, then that pleases God. That is what you were called to do. Christ suffered for you. He gave you an example to follow. So you should do as he did. ‘He did no sin. He never lied.’ (Isaiah 53:9) People insulted Christ, but he did not insult them in return. Christ suffered, but he did not threaten. He let God take care of him. God is the One who judges rightly. Christ carried our sins in his body on the cross. He did this so that we would stop living for sin and start living for what is right. And we are healed because of his wounds. You were like sheep that went the wrong way. But now you have come back to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

 “Meanwhile, friends, wait patiently for the Master’s Arrival. You see farmers do this all the time, waiting for their valuable crops to mature, patiently letting the rain do its slow but sure work. Be patient like that. Stay steady and strong. The Master could arrive at any time.

“Friends, don’t complain about each other. A far greater complaint could be lodged against you, you know. The Judge is standing just around the corner.

“Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.” James 5:7-11 (The Message)

A pure heart will be judged as pure.

2 Peter 3:10-16 (TLB) “The day of the Lord is surely coming, as unexpectedly as a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the heavenly bodies will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be burned up.

“And so since everything around us is going to melt away, what holy, godly lives we should be living! You should look forward to that day and hurry it along—the day when God will set the heavens on fire, and the heavenly bodies will melt and disappear in flames. But we are looking forward to God’s promise of new heavens and a new earth afterwards, where there will be only goodness.

“Dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen and for him to come, try hard to live without sinning; and be at peace with everyone so that he will be pleased with you when he returns.

“And remember why he is waiting. He is giving us time to get his message of salvation out to others. Our wise and beloved brother Paul has talked about these same things in many of his letters. Some of his comments are not easy to understand, and there are people who are deliberately stupid, and always demand some unusual interpretation—they have twisted his letters around to mean something quite different from what he meant, just as they do the other parts of the Scripture—and the result is disaster for them.”

Romans 2:4-16 (TLB) “Don’t you realize how patient he is being with you? Or don’t you care? Can’t you see that he has been waiting all this time without punishing you, to give you time to turn from your sin? His kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.

“But no, you won’t listen; and so you are saving up terrible punishment for yourselves because of your stubbornness in refusing to turn from your sin; for there is going to come a day of wrath when God will be the just Judge of all the world. He will give each one whatever his deeds deserve. He will give eternal life to those who patiently do the will of God,seeking for the unseen glory and honor and eternal life that he offers. But he will terribly punish those who fight against the truth of God and walk in evil ways—God’s anger will be poured out upon them. There will be sorrow and suffering for Jews and Gentiles alike who keep on sinning.  But there will be glory and honor and peace from God for all who obey him, whether they are Jews or Gentiles.  For God treats everyone the same.

“He will punish sin wherever it is found. He will punish the heathen when they sin, even though they never had God’s written laws, for down in their hearts they know right from wrong. God’s laws are written within them; their own conscience accuses them, or sometimes excuses them. And God will punish the Jews for sinning because they have his written laws but don’t obey them. They know what is right but don’t do it. After all, salvation is not given to those who know what to do, unless they do it. The day will surely come when at God’s command Jesus Christ will judge the secret lives of everyone, their inmost thoughts and motives; this is all part of God’s great plan, which I proclaim.”

A pure heart is the key to seeing God.

1 John 3:1-3 (AMP) “See what an incredible quality of love the Father has shown to us, that we would [be permitted to] be named and called and counted the children of God! And so we are! For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, we are [even here and] now children of God, and it is not yet made clear what we will be [after His coming]. We know that when He comes and is revealed, we will [as His children] be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is [in all His glory]. And everyone who has this hope [confidently placed] in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (holy, undefiled, guiltless).”

Hebrews 12:14 (The Message) “Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God.”

How can I be pure in heart?

 “Anyone who says he is a Christian but doesn’t control his sharp tongue is just fooling himself, and his religion isn’t worth much. The Christian who is pure and without fault, from God the Father’s point of view, is the one who takes care of orphans and widows, and who remains true to the Lord—not soiled and dirtied by his contacts with the world.” James 1:26-27 (TLB)

Live every day with honorable intentions.

James 4:1-3 (The Message) ” Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.

You wouldn’t think of just asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way.”

Live every day with honest words.

Matthew 5:33-37 (TLB) “Again, the law of Moses says, ‘You shall not break your vows to God but must fulfill them all.’  But I say: Don’t make any vows! And even to say ‘By heavens!’ is a sacred vow to God, for the heavens are God’s throne. And if you say ‘By the earth!’ it is a sacred vow, for the earth is his footstool. And don’t swear ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the capital of the great King. Don’t even swear ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. Say just a simple ‘Yes, I will’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Your word is enough. To strengthen your promise with a vow shows that something is wrong.”

Live every day with a desire to be worthy of Jesus’s life.

1 Peter 1:22-23 (ICB) “Now you have made yourselves pure by obeying the truth. Now you can have true love for your brothers. So love each other deeply with all your heart. You have been born again. This new life did not come from something that dies, but from something that cannot die. You were born again through God’s living message that continues forever.”

Live every day with real faith.

Hebrews 11:6 (AMP) “But without faith it is impossible to [walk with God and] please Him, for whoever comes [near] to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He rewards those who [earnestly and diligently] seek Him.”

James 5:15-16 (NIV) “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

 

2 Chronicles 30:17-20 (TLB) “Since many of the people arriving from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun were ceremonially impure because they had not undergone the purification rites, the Levites killed their Passover lambs for them, to sanctify them. Then King Hezekiah prayed for them, and they were permitted to eat the Passover anyway, even though this was contrary to God’s rules. But Hezekiah said, 'May the good Lord pardon everyone who determines to follow the Lord God of his fathers, even though he is not properly sanctified for the ceremony.' And the Lord listened to Hezekiah’s prayer and did not destroy them.”

 

 

Hymn of the Day: Let Us Break Bread Together

When I opened my hymn book to “Let Us Break Bread Together”, I saw it was a Negro spiritual song, which means the song was written by an American slave. Immediately, my heart strings were struck as I read the lyrics:

VERSE ONE

Let us break bread together on our knees;

Let us break bread together on our knees.

REFRAIN

When I fall on my knees,

With my face to the rising sun,

O Lord, have mercy on me.

VERSE TWO

Let us drink wine together on our knees;

Let us drink wine together on our knees.

(Repeat REFRAIN)

VERSE THREE

Let us praise God together on our knees;

Let us praise God together on our knees.

(Repeat REFRAIN)

“I don’t know this song, but let’s sight-read it,” my mother said, and sang alone, first, to show us the sound of tones. Interestingly, when a hymn book provides shape notes (i.e. ‘Do’ is a triangle, ‘La’ is a square) even amateurs can sing! And how blessed to have sung it! The tones rose and fell so sweetly – yet they were powerful! – and the lyrics were equally so.

As I sang, my imagination wandered to the picture of a slave woman, falling to her knees at the start of a new day. Before she even began her work, she was tired and weary from the bondage she faced: the bondage of inequality.

Extraordinarily, the slaves from American history put their hearts on a plate and served it to God in spirit and in truth. How did they do that? The same way Job from the Bible did. Quoting Job, he said,

“Do not mortals have hard service on earth?
    Are not their days like those of hired laborers?
Like a slave longing for the evening shadows,
    or a hired laborer waiting to be paid,
so I have been allotted months of futility,
    and nights of misery have been assigned to me.
When I lie down I think, ‘How long before I get up?’
    The night drags on, and I toss and turn until dawn.”

Job 7:1-4 (NIV)

To honor and respect today’s hymn, I selected many different arrangements of “Let Us Break Bread Together”. Truly, let’s break bread together, each of us with our unique ways of showing worship.

Something else moved me today – with the news of protests happening in America, and Vice President Pence’s statement about the Colts game he walked out on, it is important for each American to understand heritage, and how different each American is because of the unique heritages. Many Americans don’t know their original ethnicity, saying “I’m a quarter” this and that, or 1/10th, or 1/20th, or “going back, on my father’s side”.

Makes one wonder, does heritage matter? Sure. How peoples’ lives are framed comes partly from the traditions their ancestors passed on, privileges earned, and struggles faced. There are countless heritages, and endless beginnings, which made America. It is through diversity that America grew strong. It is through respect that America will stay strong.

Pains of Heritage

By: Lacy Andrews

America for all!

Americans, free.

Whilst they try to remember,

The pains of their ancestors.

 

I soberly wonder

Surely! By this time,

We can forgive and forget,

Perhaps, if we give respect.

 

History roots go deep,

In the hearts of men,

Pilgrims came, died, and conquered

Slaves served, were sold and tortured.

 

Native tribes were ruined,

Spaniards came to save.

Puritans fled government,

And Chinese came for profit.

 

Indians were farmers,

Dutch came as merchants.

Russians fled from poverty,

Syrians were refugees.

 

America for all!

Americans, free.

Yet they try to remember,

The pains of their ancestors.

 

I somberly ponder

Even at this time,

We can’t forgive or forget

Unless we learn to respect.

 

Every race overcame,

The trials of men.

Englishmen settled, peaceful.

Africans became equal.

 

Native children lived on,

The Spanish flourished.

Puritans made Jamestown,

The Chinese made Chinatown.

 

Indians fought for rights,

Dutchmen fought in war.

Russians fought persecution.

Syrians fought omission.

 

America for all!

Americans, free.

Whilst they try to remember,

The pains of their ancestors.

 

I quietly wonder,

If ever in time,

Will we receive forgiveness?

Or forget respectfulness?

 

24 Natural Depression Beater Tips:

  1. Don’t pressure yourself to be happy. No one solution will keep you happy forever, or even for the rest of the day.  You have to constantly work against your depression, and it’s a battle that you will never stop fighting.  But find as many lifter-uppers as you can so that you can have plenty of ammunition against the sadness that threatens your mood.
  2. Realize that every depression beater will not work every time. Each day is a new day, different than before, and so you may require many tips in order to successfully beat depression in your life.
  3. Live in the moment. Don’t look back, and don’t look forward.  As long as you’re sad, looking outside the moment that you’re in will spur you to think pessimistically of the world around you.  When you’re feeling depressed, focus on surviving each second itself.
  4. Stop and breathe. Just feel the air enter and leave your lungs.  Mentally force yourself to breath in and out for as long as you can.  While you’re breathing, don’t let your mind think of anything else.
  5. No matter how you feel, stop and make a meal for someone who loves you. Their compliments will make you feel better, in the moment.
  6. Go outside and let the sunshine brighten your skin. Take a walk, or just sit on your porch or in your backyard.  Watch the bugs crawling across the dirt or the leaves rustling in the wind.  If you live in a place where it always rains, then sit outside in a dry place and watch the puddles ripple under the rain or the water wash off the leaves or petals of flowers and trees in your yard. Again, don’t think; just watch.
  7. Find a plant or baby tree to take care of, and learn how to tend to it. If it’s an indoor plant that needs water, then make sure to water it.  If it needs misting or if it needs sunlight, make sure to tend to it.  Or, if you’re an outside person, then start a vegetable, flower, or herb garden in your yard.  If you like to cook, then I suggest a good herb garden which will make you step outside to trim the leaves and gather your fresh herbs for cooking.
  8. Listen to music. Discover what type of music will beat the depression in your life.  Everyone has different preferences; some people listen to sad music to help soothe their souls, while others need upbeat and peppy music to keep them from falling deeper into their sadness.  Also note that when you’re depressed, each day may wear a different mood; some days you may need sad music, while other days you’ll need to listen to dreamy or happy music instead.  Feel free to change your station or playlist to match your mood.
  9. Get off Facebook. Often, social media makes you compare your life with what other people have, and other times you just feel judged and condemned by what your friends are expressing on their own walls.  This gives your mind a “bully voice” that worsens your bad moods and depression.

If you require Facebook for your job, because you are the administrator of a page or group and you cannot pass the responsibility to someone else, then create a new profile for yourself and close out your other personal account.  Only like what encourages you, and don’t befriend anyone from your former friend list; if you do then your brain will begin to bully you for playing favorites or for not befriending someone else, too.  If your friends are true friends, they’ll understand why you got off Facebook, and they’ll support your decision to do so.

Also, if you administrate a page or group, don’t let yourself become distressed by Facebook stats.  Try not to worry about whether someone un-likes your page or comments rudely.  If you find yourself getting too invested in the stats of your page or group, temporarily unpublish the page and consider finding someone else to run it instead.

  1. Keep a daily journal. Write down the activities of your day and how you felt about it.  If something upsets you, express your feelings on the pages of your journal.  But don’t pressure yourself into writing.  Some days you may write no more than half a page, while other days you could write 10 pages.
  2. Let yourself cry. Don’t force the tears, but if they come then welcome them.  You’ll feel better if you let yourself express your emotion. Cry for as long or as short as you need, then take a breath and continue your day.
  3. Take a steamy shower. The warm water and steam will comfort, and if you feel like crying in the shower then allow yourself to cry.  After the emotional shower is done, you may feel tired or even exhausted, but it will feel good to be fresh and clean.
  4. Get a 52-card deck, shuffle the cards, and set up your favorite game of solitaire. You’ll have to work your mind on the technical rules of the card game, and your brain will busy itself with the game instead of bothering you with everything you’ve done wrong in the past week.
  5. Read the Bible. Psalms is a good book to read when you can’t seem to get happy. The books John, Romans, 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 Peter, and 1 John are also good books to read when you are feeling depressed.

Also, there are many versions of the Bible, so feel free to compare each version to find the one that is easiest for you to read.

  1. Buy an “adult coloring book” and a batch of colored pens, markers, crayons, or colored pencils and spend some time coloring.
  2. Re-read your favorite book. If your mind can’t focus on reading because of your depression, then try reading a graphic novel instead.  The story-telling with art will give your mind visuals to focus on rather than words to read.
  3. Drink a hot cup of tea or coffee.
  4. Wrap yourself in a warm blanket.
  5. Hug a stuffed animal or teddy bear.  I find that the bigger (16 inches is a great size) and softer the bear, the better.
  6. Look up something (a movie, game, or event) that you’re excited about and looking forward to.
  7. Buy a gift for your best friend, but only if you can afford it in your budget. Otherwise, gift them with a hug or a compliment, instead.
  8. Know your limits and your boundaries. Don’t force yourself to do something that will make you embarrassed or too uncomfortable.  This will give your critical mind ammunition against you.
  9. Re-watch your favorite feel good movie or tv show. If you already know the ending and it’s your favorite, then there won’t be anything to surprise you or depress you more.
  10. Pray. Maybe even find a church community. Despite how you feel, you are NOT alone.

 

The Social Gospel

Do you hear the word “unbiased” often? Many people, especially millennials, strive to be unbiased in their viewpoint. I myself have heard the word a lot in conversations with friends when we talk about politics, education, and religion. It seems that the more a person learns, listens, and observes, the more unbiased she or he becomes.

First, let’s get the dictionary definition of unbiased:

Dictionary.com:

Unbiased (Adjective) - Not biased or prejudiced; fair; impartial.

English Oxford Dictionary:

Unbiased (Adjective) – showing no prejudice for or against something; impartial.

Merriam Webster Dictionary:

Unbiased (Adjective) – 1. Free from bias; especially: free from all prejudice and favoritism: eminently fair; an unbiased opinion

To be unbiased means you are able to understand opinions other than your own; your opinion is tolerant, because your mind reflects other opinions, and you believe the other person’s worldview to be acceptable and pure despite being different from your own.

Contrarily, a biased person is seen as someone who takes a stance FOR or AGAINST a view. Being unbiased, however, means to take a neutral stance, neither for nor against a view. For example, if you are having a discussion about politics, and you are talking to a biased person, he or she would obviously argue in favor of a certain candidate, and if you didn’t agree, then you are wrong; but if you talk to an unbiased person, he or she would stay neutral and would never take a view, instead listening to your point of view and debating the candidates without loyalty to a side, and with a broad outlook on pros and cons.

There are both qualities and flaws of unbiasedness: the qualities are sound judgement, ability to see all sides, and knowledgeability; the flaws are a sense of apathy, nonchalant impression of outcomes, and never being a team player.

I desired to be that, until I learned that living my life trying to be unbiased (as a rule of thumb) was a trap secularism set for me – the trap we shall call The Social Gospel – which swayed me to avoid righteous action and stop from speaking truth. Don’t get me wrong, the dictionary definition of unbiased is ok, or using the word in a sentence, or being unbiased accidentally on occasion, but when you try and live by the principle of it, it becomes the antichrist!

 “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” 1 John 4:2-3 (NIV)

What is the Social Gospel, you may ask?

The Social Gospel defined is the life principle of caring about others’ views and teaching God’s love, while refusing to care about their souls, their sinful habits, or the possible descent into Hell they may endure.

It’s not easy to say this, but being unbiased is a dangerous trap that can lead to numbness of character and lack of obedience. By reading the Old Testament, we can see how passionate God’s people were as warriors, prophets, and kings, and it can be a hard pill to swallow for a person who sails through life trying to stay neutral. Even in Romans, there’s a warning: don’t seek after self-contentment; seek the truth of God’s wrath and judgement toward evil, realizing that you can grow haughty in your pursuit of open-mindedness.

“But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done.’ To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.”  Romans 2:5-11 (NIV)

The Righteous Alternative

Avoid The Social Gospel. Utilize that unbiased attitude in a different way than what secularism teaches: be unbiased for God, being willing to listen to and accept God’s word, will, and way in a fair and tolerant manner.

Hmm, if you’re like me, you might have been told, “Christians are more biased than secularists” but that’s not true, because you have been called to imitate God, and God is the #1 most impartial, fair, merciful, and just judge that ever lived!

“Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.'” Acts 10:34-35 (NIV)

 

Psalm 103 (CEB)

Let my whole being bless the Lord!
Let everything inside me bless his holy name!
Let my whole being bless the Lord
and never forget all his good deeds:
     how God forgives all your sins,
heals all your sickness,
     saves your life from the pit,
crowns you with faithful love and compassion,
     and satisfies you with plenty of good things
so that your youth is made fresh like an eagle’s.

 The Lord works righteousness;
does justice for all who are oppressed.
 God made his ways known to Moses;
made his deeds known to the Israelites.
 The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
very patient, and full of faithful love.
 God won’t always play the judge;
he won’t be angry forever.
 He doesn’t deal with us according to our sin
or repay us according to our wrongdoing,
     because as high as heaven is above the earth,
that’s how large God’s faithful love is for those who honor him.
 As far as east is from west—
that’s how far God has removed our sin from us.
 Like a parent feels compassion for their children—
that’s how the Lord feels compassion for those who honor him.
 Because God knows how we’re made,
God remembers we’re just dust.

 The days of a human life are like grass:
they bloom like a wildflower;
     but when the wind blows through it, it’s gone;
even the ground where it stood doesn’t remember it.
 But the Lord’s faithful love is from forever ago to forever from now

for those who honor him.
And God’s righteousness reaches to the grandchildren
         of those who keep his covenant
and remember to keep his commands.
 The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.

 You divine messengers,
bless the Lord!
You who are mighty in power and keep his word,
who obey everything he says,
bless him!
 All you heavenly forces,
bless the Lord!
All you who serve him and do his will,
bless him!
 All God’s creatures,
bless the Lord!
Everywhere, throughout his kingdom,
let my whole being
bless the Lord!”

Hymn of the Day: Almighty by Wayne Watson

Multifaceted Mercy

"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." Matthew 5:7 (NIV)

The world is full of people who are self-driven: as long as they aren’t in pain or in some sort of discomfort, their lives are just fine.  Their own happiness, reputation, and enjoyment are what’s important. They would rather watch and laugh at other people’s misfortunes instead of lending a hand.

"The earth, O Lord, is full of Your mercy; teach me Your statutes." Psalm 119:64 (MEV)
"This is what the Lord Almighty says... show mercy and compassion to one another..." Zechariah 7:9 (NIV)

We are to show mercy… but what is mercy? It’s surely not something that comes naturally for us, because it’s a trait of God Almighty, but it’s a trait that all Christians must learn to imitate.  It’s part of God’s statutes.

"So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For he who has shown no mercy will have judgment without mercy, for mercy triumphs over judgment." James 2:12-13 (MEV)

Showing mercy is… being able to cry in another person’s skin; it’s feeling their pain, being concerned about their wellbeing, and having a strong desire to do something to help out.  We were put on this earth to show God’s mercy to the people around us.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)

Showing mercy is… realizing that we are no different than our neighbor, and reaching out to show kindness to them.  Before receiving God’s grace, we were the same as those who aren’t saved.  It’s only by God’s mercy (the same mercy that we are required to imitate) that we are set apart.

"...you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the age of this world and according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among them we all also once lived in the lusts of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and we were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)," Ephesians 2:1-5 (MEV)
"At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life." Titus 3:3-7 (NIV)
"If your brother sins against you, rebuke him. And if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turns to you, saying, "I repent," you must forgive him." Luke 17:3-4 (MEV)

It has been said that the difference between grace and mercy is that grace is giving us what we don’t deserve, while mercy is not giving us what we do deserve. That’s true, but only partially true.  Actually, the difference is that grace takes away our faults, while mercy takes away our pain.

Showing mercy is… knowing when to rebuke a person who is wrong and when to allow the person to have the final word; it’s also knowing how stern or soft to make the rebuke, when you are called to give one.

"But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned." Titus 3:9-11 (NIV)
"Brothers, if a man is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, watching yourselves, lest you also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galations 6:1-2 (MEV)

Showing mercy does NOT… always follow the moral standards of the rest of the world. Worldly common sense would tell you to give a homeless man a 20 dollar bill to pay for his meal. But mercy would tell you not to buy him a meal. Rather, teach a man how to work and then he can feed himself.

"In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: 'The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.'  

"We hear that some  among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.  

"Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer." 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 (NIV)

Sometimes showing mercy must take an extreme stance: it may require to dis-fellowship a brother or sister in Christ who does not try to follow God’s laws.

"Now if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, then take with you one or two others, that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every word may be established. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile [or pagan] and a tax collector." Matthew 18:15-17 (MEV)
"It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father's wife.  And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this.  So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

"Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch - as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 

"I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people - not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case  you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. 

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. 'Expel the wicked person from among you.' " 1 Corinthians 5:2-23 (NIV)

Most of all, showing mercy calls us to… pray for those who we see living in sin, because “This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. So if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have whatever we asked of Him.” 1 John 5:13-15 (MEV)  

As long as we continue to pray for the people we know, God won’t give up trying to reach them to save and to grant them eternal life.

 Today’s Hymn: One Day

“On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.” Acts 20:7 (NIV)

One day, when I was about 8 years old, it was a beautiful Sunday morning, and my Bible class teacher announced that we would do our class in the church building’s kitchen.  Luckily we didn’t need to move far because our classroom, which was actually the same room that potlucks (or “dinner on the grounds”) were held, was adjacent to the kitchen.

So my teacher Mrs. Born took the class, which consisted of 2 kids, my best friend and myself, to the kitchen and she showed us how to make the communion bread for the worship that morning.   She explained that it was important for the communion to be unleavened bread and also that it was to be taken weekly because we needed to begin each week with our minds on Jesus Christ and on the sacrifice that he gave to save us from our sins.  I watched as she mixed the oil, water, and flour into a bowl. She let my friend roll the dough onto a cookie sheet, and I was allowed to prick lines into the dough with a fork to keep bubbles from forming in the dough.

CommunionMemory“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20 (NIV)

Now that I’m grown, my family holds worship and communion every week.  It’s my responsibility each Sunday morning to make sure we have the communion bread and grape juice that we need.  As I prepare the Lord’s supper for our small service, I remember Mrs. Born and the lesson that she taught me as she baked the communion bread years ago.

The teaching that I gave you is the same teaching that I received from the Lord: On the night when Jesus was handed over to be killed, he took bread and gave thanks for it. Then he broke the bread and said, “This is my body; it is for you. Do this to remember me.” In the same way, after they ate, Jesus took the cup. He said, “This cup shows the new agreement from God to his people. This new agreement begins with the blood of my death. When you drink this, do it to remember me.” Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you show others about the Lord’s death until he comes.

So a person should not eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord in a way that is not worthy of it. If he does he is sinning against the body and the blood of the Lord. Everyone should look into his own heart before he eats the bread and drinks the cup. If someone eats the bread and drinks the cup without recognizing the body, then he is judged guilty by eating and drinking. That is why many in your group are sick and weak. And some of you have died. But if we judged ourselves in the right way, then God would not judge us. But when the Lord judges us, he disciplines us to show us the right way. He does this so that we will not be destroyed along with the world.” 1 Corinthians 11: 23-32 (ICB)

The hymn that we sang today in worship, “One Day” by J. Wilbur Chapman and Charles H. Marsh, tells why we take communion weekly.  It’s encouraging to find so many Christians all over the world feel the same way that my family does.

“…so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” Hebrews 9:28

recipe

Stop Bad Habits, Start Needing God

Just about everybody has a quirk or flaw about themselves they don’t like. If you’re like me, you have a couple of really bad habits you want to change, but it’s hard. It’s maybe impossible to, and sometimes, you know God wouldn’t approve of the bad habit since the Bible calls it sin.

So the other day, I tried to find a brain hack for my bad habit. Literally. I was emerging out of dreamland that morning, and something made me roll over in bed and punch the ‘Home’ button on my Ipad to wake it up before even I was awake.  I went to Google and searched what part of the brain’s functions governs habits, such as over-eating, smoking, lying, etc.  In a nutshell, this is the facts research tells us:

There is a place where cells are located, at the center of your brain, called the bed nucleus. That cell group sends signals through the stria terminalis, which looks like a cable connecting and transmitting info from part to part. Also, the amygdala (another part) is connected to the stria terminalis, and it releases emotions. If you have a craving that says “I want a hot dog”, emotion is sent from the amygdala to the bed nucleus, where the nuclei send the reply, “Go to Sonic and buy one!”

(Disclaimer: my research is only from scouring various medical writings, and is not doctoral advice.)

I sat up from bed as I rubbed my eyes, wondering how I could stop my bad habit after learning the facts. There’s gotta be SOME way to apply the knowledge and stop sinning, I thought to myself. How?  I pondered throughout the day, but sheesh, I’m no neurologist! I can’t engineer a new way to cure cravings (can I?)! So I gave up on that idea of solving the problem, until late the next night…

…I was going to bed and got that bad-habit-craving again. My thoughts were filled. It was impossible to not think about the craving…

….That’s when a new character entered the scene for the first time ever: RATIONALITY. If my brain was a movie script and there were three characters, RATIONALITY was the new guy in town, breaking the endless cycle. The thought process went like this:

CRAVING: You want it! Get it. Let’s move it, move it.

SELF: I shouldn’t! God says I shouldn’t, so I shouldn’t.

CRAVING: Ok, yeah you’re right... NOT! (shoves SELF) Let’s move it, move it.

SELF: No! I want to please God, not you. You’re not my boss!

CRAVING:  Oh yeah? (scoffs) I won’t let you go to sleep until I’m happy. You will have insomnia, stress, anxiety, and depression.

SELF: ...you’re blackmailing me?

CRAVING: (shrugs) Uh... yeah! That’s what people call it, but why be so technical? Come on! It’ll be fun. Let’s move it, move it. You like it.

SELF: (follows CRAVING)

RATIONALITY enters and stands protectively between CRAVING and SELF, defending SELF.

RATIONALITY: I couldn’t help but overhear. CRAVING is pressuring you right now, SELF; if you give in, you will only regret it later and wish you had avoided it. So you might as well not temporarily reward yourself when the guilt lasts a lot longer than the pleasure. What is there to gain in a reward that you’ve already experienced and know, when you could gain so much more by denying CRAVING and doing what you want – what God wants you to want – instead. CRAVING will always pester you, but you have the power to look into the future, see the consequences, and choose to say ‘NO’.

That was the moment in Wizard of Oz when Scarecrow got an honorary degree of T.H.D. from Oz, and started reciting a complicated equation! It was the moment in Labyrinth when Sarah told Jareth, “You have no power over me”. It was the moment in Anastasia when Anya said “Dasvidanya!” to Rasputin and angrily crunched his glowing vile of life-giving energy under her shoe, breaking it and ending the demon. It was the moment my brain got itself in order, and I could think straight long enough for the craving to fade away. Rationality entered the scene, and Self had the chance to decide before Craving dominated.

I don’t consider what happened a cure for my bad habit, or something that can be engineered to work for everyone, but the neurological research helped me, in that moment, rationalize my brain’s activity, the sending of signals back and forth. That gave me a chance to think about the pros and cons of my craving. Sometimes, a chance to wait out the storm is all you need to say ‘NO’.

Unfortunately for our souls, we live in a world where Craving is the hero instead of Rationality; sexuality is exploited and honored, money is power, and addictions are legal. Love is skewed to mean pleasure not sacrifice; virtual reality governs actions; phones feed our cravings and keep us empty of affection; brains therefore develop into a complicated system of iniquity and we no longer recognize who God is or if he even exists. We live in a world where skeptics doubt a God they can’t see, while sending messages to friends 4,000 miles away in 5 seconds which is easy to grasp because it’s somehow normal and explainable.

Well, I’m here to explain God for 100 more words of your time:

Jeremiah 23:5 says, “I will raise unto David a righteous Branch” which is Jesus Christ, the Messiah we now have access to through the historically proven Bible and prayer. To be right with God, to be righteous, we must program our brains to need Christ (1 Peter 2:2, Psalm 37:7). In the Bible it’s known as being thirsty. Read the story about Jesus and the woman at the well (John 4:4-42) for understanding. If you become thirsty for righteousness, Christ will bring you contentment.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for God’s approval.
They will be satisfied.”  -Matthew 5:6

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