Receiving the Holy Spirit

“If you love me, you will do the things I command. I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper. He will give you this Helper to be with you forever. The Helper is the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him because it does not see him or know him. But you know him. He lives with you and he will be in you.”

John 14:15-17 (ICB)

We are told to follow Christ Jesus’ example. This includes the act of baptism, as Jesus did in Matthew 3:13-17. When He was baptized, the Spirit of God came down in the form of a dove as God pronounced that Jesus was his own Son. We too, will receive the Holy Spirit when we are baptized. We may not see it as a dove lighting on us, but we are told that we will gain the Spirit if we obey.

Peter said to them, “Change your hearts and lives and be baptized, each one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38 (ICB)

We need to accept the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is a part of the Trinity, the Godhead, and the Comforter who intercedes for us and speaks to God on our behalf.

According to Jesus, the Holy Spirit will help us understand God’s will for us and will help us remember the words of Jesus so that we can fight temptations (John 14:26). The word of God is called the “Sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17); with it and the rest of the armor mentioned in Ephesians, we can defend ourselves against temptation and defeat the demons which try to condemn us. We can don this armor only when we have the Spirit within us. When we compare the spiritual armor mentioned in Ephesians 6 with the description of the Holy Spirit that Jesus gives us in John 16:7-14, we can see that we need the Holy Spirit to protect us and strengthen us in our walk with God.

“So stand strong, with the belt of truth tied around your waist.” Ephesians 6:14 (ICB)

“…when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you into all truth… and will tell you what is to come.” John 16:13 (ICB)

“…on your chest wear the protection of right living.” Ephesians 6:14 (ICB)

“When the Helper comes, he will prove to the people of the world the truth… about being right with God… He will prove to them that I am right with God, because I am going to the Father. You will not see me anymore.” John 16:8, 10 (ICB)

“…on your feet wear the Good News of peace to help you stand strong.” Ephesians 6:15 (ICB)

“The Spirit of truth will bring glory to me. He will take what I have to say and tell it to you.” John 16:14 (ICB)

“…also use the shield of faith. With that you can stop all the burning arrows of the Evil One.” Ephesians 6:16 (ICB)

“When the Helper comes, he will prove to the people of the world the truth about sin… He will prove to them about sin, because they don’t believe in me.” John 16:8, 9 (ICB)

“…Accept God’s salvation to be your helmet.” Ephesians 6:17 (ICB)

“When the Helper comes,  he will prove to the people of the world the truth about… judgment, because the ruler of this world is already judged.” John 16:8, 11 (ICB)

“…take the sword of the Spirit- that sword is the teaching of God.” Ephesians 6:17 (ICB)

“I have many more things to say to you, but they are too much for you now. But when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you into all truth. He will not speak his own words. He will speak only what he  hears and will tell you what is to come. The Spirit of truth will bring glory to me. He will take what I have to say and tell it to you.” John 16:12-14 (ICB)

In the next few weeks, my family will be doing a study series on the Holy Spirit. Lacy and I will bring our study notes to our Monday blog, focusing on who the Holy Spirit is and what He does for us.

“Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.  Matthew 28:19-20 (ICB)

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The Trinity Does Talk and Minds Do Think – Norman Vincent Peale Changed The Way I Think

Couple days ago, Mom held out her hand to give me a paper pamphlet found in the home library.  I recognized it as one of those little books the elderly carried with them in their pockets, at the old Church of Christ when I was a child, many of the pamphlets seen neatly placed in a wooden shelf at the building’s entrance. (Do churches still do that?) I was about 6 or 7 years old. I always wondered about them, since they were read almost religiously, but I wasn’t much of a reader. I liked drawing and playing with friends.

Mom told me why she recommended it now, after all this time. “Norman Vincent Peale was always an inspiration to me when I was young. Read his writing and see if you can get something out of it.” Oh well, no problem, I thought.

Peering down at the pamphlet, my eyes saw the cover. Within purple and blue stripes was the title, “Thought Conditioners, Silver Anniversary Edition” and “by Norman Vincent Peale”. The copyright, written in that old style, “MCMLI, MCMLXXV” aka Roman Numerals for 1951, 1975.

Peale outlines how by conditioning our thoughts, we can create happiness. “Since happiness and effectiveness depend upon the kind of thoughts we think, it is absolutely impossible to be happy if we think unhappiness-producing thoughts. One of the wisest men who ever lived was Marcus Aurelius, who said, ‘A man’s life is what his thoughts make of it.'” Peale continues to write that by letting negative thoughts come into your mind, you will have an attitude of negativity, and by thinking fearfully, you will, as consequence, be afraid. Great ideas. But immediately my mind felt a sense of cognitive dissonance.

Norman acts like I can control the thoughts that come into my mind. Sure my mind thinks, but I can’t “put into my mind thoughts”, as he suggests. Rather, perception just happens. My thoughts respond to what I perceive: I either agree or disagree to events as they unfold. Personality is most of who we are, and we are what we are. Yes, my thoughts possibly induce fear and anxiety, even a panic attack or sweaty palms or hyperactivity, but like the commercials for antidepressants say that side effects may cause suicidal thoughts, bad events in my life cause negative thoughts, while good events caused positive thoughts. It can’t be changed…

I kept reading though, giving him the benefit of the doubt, not only because I was curious, but because I respected his age and generation. Mr. Peale was in his early 50’s when the book was first copyrighted, in 1951. He was my age in 1926. That means he suffered through the Great Depression. He witnessed World War I and II. He was alive before technology took over, and before TVs were in every home. Maybe he knew a secret I didn’t…?

I continued to read. “…if you fill your mind with spiritual words so that they sink from your conscious to your unconscious mind by a process of spiritual osmosis, you will so condition your personality with spiritual power and sensitivity that God’s will can operate in you, and every great value of this life, the ones that really matter, shall be yours.”

The wind of confidence in his tone nearly blew me over! According to him, you can change your personality by filling your thoughts with spiritual words, which of course, he as a minister, means the Holy Bible. I can’t believe that my mind sat here like a wimp trying to justify my lack of willpower, saying personalities are what they are, while he states we have the power to change our very selves, to meet the standards of God and His will!

Often I hear the argument that God’s standards are too high, too strict. Therefore He cannot exist or somehow He is less valid. For example, one modern day problem with the Bible is that homosexuality is among the sins that are practiced by people who cannot enter the kingdom of heaven, so if the Bible indeed says that then never mind, it is not a valid doctrine, it surely cannot be truth, or if it is, it’s rejectable. However, if what Mr. Peale writes is true, then our personality can be conditioned, and if our personality, then our attitude towards gender roles, our likes and dislikes, our prejudices, and eventually, are very character and the way our mind is oriented. The same goes for anyone and any sin.

Society (maybe even scientific studies) might back up my argument that personality is set in stone and we are not responsible for our mental wanderings, but the Bible backs up Mr. Peale. Romans 8 is a Bible passage explaining the human mind’s struggle, between what is spiritual and what is selfish (some versions say “fleshly”, or “sinful”). The first verse gives us hope saying “there isn’t any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”, but that shouldn’t fool our brains into thinking we can let our minds run like a wild mustang without a master, and Jesus cannot condemn us. For it continues to say:

People whose lives are based on selfishness think about selfish things, but people whose lives are based on the Spirit think about things that are related to the Spirit. The attitude that comes from selfishness leads to death, but the attitude that comes from the Spirit leads to life and peace. So the attitude that comes from selfishness is hostile to God. It doesn’t submit to God’s Law, because it can’t. People who are self-centered aren’t able to please God.” (Romans 8:5-8, CEB)

Do you notice how it says, “because it can’t”? The “I can’t change” attitude my brain has is the one beholden to selfishness. In order to submit to God you must first believe that you can.

So then, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation, but it isn’t an obligation to ourselves to live our lives on the basis of selfishness. If you live on the basis of selfishness, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the actions of the body, you will live. All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters. You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as his children. With this Spirit, we cry, “Abba, Father.” The same Spirit agrees with our spirit, that we are God’s children. But if we are children, we are also heirs. We are God’s heirs and fellow heirs with Christ, if we really suffer with him so that we can also be glorified with him.” Romans 8:12-17, CEB

According to Romans, God the Father is the holy standard we must try to learn from, the Holy Spirit inside us is what says “Abba, Father” and gives us the will to change, and Jesus Christ is the one who makes it possible for us to do so.

It seems I was wrong and Peale was right. You can and should condition your thoughts. In order for the Spirit to dwell, He needs spiritual-thought-processes, rather than usual self-thought-processes. That means I’ll have to learn which of my thoughts are selfish, which are spiritual, and if I still feel like my thoughts are side effects to things around me rather than something that can be controlled, well, I need to figure out what I let be in my life and whether I can cut off the bad influences.

For example, my Ipad can be a tool for good or evil. I may carry it to have the Bible with me, but if I find myself using it for immoral research on things I don’t need to know – for example, I look up how to write a better love scene to improve my writing, but I shouldn’t even be thinking about that kind of intimacy much less writing it – then I may need to stop carrying it with me and instead read from a paper Bible where temptation won’t be. That will certainly condition my thoughts, even if I do get a few stares or critical comments.

In “Thought Conditioners”, Norman Vincent Peale stresses that memorizing Scripture is the key to altering your personality. Now this is something our technology-hungry-world almost doesn’t have the ability to do. I personally have trouble memorizing Scripture, especially since it is so tempting to use the ‘Search’ option on Google or look at the Bible app and compare versions. But what if someday Google doesn’t exist or the government blocks copies of Bibles? (That’s how it is in some countries.) The ability to zero in on a text and think about it repeatedly until it is able to be recalled feels like an ancient custom, but it is perhaps the highest form of intelligence to prepare the mind, if ever should calamity strike, conveniences disappear, or future events remove what we see now as everyday habits but are actually privileges capable of being destroyed by a sudden new development.

Here is a good THOUGHT CONDITIONER that Norman Vincent Peale wrote that I will share:

“‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ Romans 8:31

“Imagine yourself as actually looking at all your difficulties like an army lined up against you.

“Then realize you have a backing that can overcome them all. As you face these enemies of yours: discouragement, frustration, disappointment, hostility, weakness, ask yourself, ‘What shall I say to these things?’ And the answer is ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’

“Now spend a minute realizing that God is for you and say this affirmation, ‘God is with me. God is for me. God is greater than all these things.’

“Then visualize these enemies of your peace and happiness as retreating, giving way before God’s power.

“Personalize the text by saying: ‘If God be for me, who can be against me?’

“The repetitive use of this text will give you an enormous sense of God’s presence and a powerful feeling of victory.”

Always remember: You CAN do it!!!!

Final note: After all this time! I understood thanks to Kat, my lovely sister, why the elders passed those pamphlets around like they were the latest craze. Ha. It’s cool. Kat explained, “Back in that day, it wasn’t convenient to carry the whole Bible around, and it was easy to carry these around in the pocket of a jacket.” She took the pamphlet from me and imitated the way an old man wore a suit, pulling back her imaginary jacket and tucking it away in a refuge, next to her heart. “See, this was their way of taking Scripture or self-help writing with them, so they could think about it throughout the day.” Imagine that! They had no phone, no car radio, no laptop, no distractions other than face to face conversations with people, and oneness with nature!

Perhaps it was easier for writers in the past to condition their thoughts and fill their mind with the Spirit, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible today. It just means we’ll have to do a lot less conforming, and more converting!

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Self Control is a Pineapple

“You are all children of light, and children of the day. We don’t belong to the night, nor to darkness, so then let’s not sleep, as the rest do, but let’s watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep in the night, and those who are drunk are drunk in the night. But let us, since we belong to the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and, for a helmet, the hope of salvation.” 1 Thessalonians 5:5-8 (WEB)

If you’ve ever brought a whole pineapple home, you might have wondered how to peel the fruit and eat it.  With the hard spiky skin and the tough leaves on top, it might be intimidating to sink your teeth into. And the truth is, you don’t just bring it home and eat it like you do an apple or a pear.  You have to cut the top and outer skin off before slicing the pineapple into pieces you can eat. The meat of the fruit is protected, and if you’ve ever tried to grow a pineapple plant from the top part that you cut off, then you’ll know that the leaves of the plant are razor sharp and painful to brush against.

Mastering the art of self control will give you a suit of armor that can withstand any temptation.  But today, self control is a foreign concept.  People think they have to have what they want when they want it.

Have you ever seen cartoons or old movies where the character would have an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other?  Each would whisper into the character’s ear, argue with each other, and try to win the person to their side.  Good versus evil.  The character had a choice.

But as Christians we can’t afford to have a choice: we need to be holy.  Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:13-21 that we need to “prepare our minds for action, be sober, and set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ- as children of obedience, not conforming yourselves according to your former lusts as in your ignorance, but just as he who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all of your behavior…”  Because we weren’t bought with gold or silver, but with the precious blood of Jesus, the Son of God.

Like the armor on a pineapple, self control can be a complicated fruit to enjoy; but it is not impossible to achieve.  In Christ, we are new creations, and our old selves are dead. (2 Corinthians 5:17) After baptism, our sinful desires and habits should be cut away and discarded.  We should have no part in sin anymore.  But like the rotting corpse zombies that break out of their graves in modern fiction, the dead sin will fight to come back to life and govern our lives.  Sin does not want to let us go!

Sin changes the way our brain works; it puts us into a completely different paradigm of thought. Christians will never be understood by people in sin.  Titus 1:15 tells us that “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.”  That is why self control is so important in our lives.

But don’t lose hope, if you have a friend who is in sin. Remember Ephesians 5:8-16 when it says “…you were once darkness,  but are now light in the Lord. Walk as children of light, for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth, proving what is well pleasing to the Lord. Have no fellowship with the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but rather even reprove them. For the things which are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of. But all things, when they are reproved, are revealed by the light, for everything that reveals is light. Therefore he says, “Awake, you who sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Therefore watch carefully how you walk, not as unwise,  but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore don’t be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”  With God’s grace, your friend can still be pulled out of the paradigm of sin and be saved.  Pray for them!

Self control is best achieved when the trait is developed as a child. Joseph was taught self control when his father Jacob rebuked him for telling his prophetic dreams to his father and brothers (Genesis 37:5-11), and because of the discipline that he received as a child, he later was able to flee the evil of Potiphar’s wife and also hide his true identity to his brothers despite the strong emotion that welled within his spirit.  That’s why it’s so important to discipline your child with punishment when respect is not given or a wrong deed is done.

But what about those of us now, as adults, wish to master the art of self control? The book of Titus explains what is expected of us as Christians, but we can also learn valuable lessons from Joseph and other key figures in the Bible.

Flee From Evil: The Story of Joseph (Genesis 37, 39-45)

Joseph always kept his words, his thoughts, and his actions focused on God. This allowed him to flee the evil that confronted him. He also saved many people with self control, and had the wisdom to deal with his brothers when he saw them again.  If Joseph had given into his lusts or temptations even once, it would have weakened his self control.

Before acting, always ask yourself this question: “Can I dedicate this to God?”  If the answer is no, think again before you do it.  Does the Bible speak against it? If so, don’t do it!

For example, if you’d like to watch a movie, then that may be fine; but if the movie has nudity or bad language then it would be better to spend your time doing something else.

Listen to godly advice: The Story of Boy Samuel (1 Samuel 3)

Samuel was ready to minister to Eli, but he didn’t think it was God Almighty who would call him.  When the priest Eli realized what was happening, he advised the boy on how to respond if called again.  Samuel followed the advice, and it opened a life of service to God.  Samuel was respected as a great prophet of God, and followed His commands faithfully.

If you don’t know whether God would approve of what you want to do, then seek advice.  Ask a godly friend or a church elder or deacon what the Bible says on the issue at hand, and ask them if they think it’s a good thing to do. Even if the issue is embarrassing or something you’d rather not confess, you need to find someone to ask advice from.  Don’t try to work it out yourself.

For example, if your work group is going on a skiing retreat and they’ve asked you to come;  Men and women will be occupying the cabins and alcohol will be served, though it is optional… You’d like to go, but you may need to seek advice if you don’t know what God would think.

Live for God: The Story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 1, 3)

Daniel and his 3 friends begin their story as they are taken from Judah and placed in the king’s palace to work.  They honored God by refraining from eating the royal food and wine, instead eating only vegetables and drinking only water.  The self control that these men showed in chapter 1 of Daniel is tested severely in chapter 3. When the king Nebuchadnezzar called for everyone to bow down to the great golden statue, it would have been easy for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to bow down along with everyone else- but they didn’t. Instead, they had already dedicated their entire lives to God, so they were able to stand firm on their belief and as a result, God’s greatness was glorified.

Know what’s expected of you.  Read the Bible daily and learn the laws of Christ. Study with a church family. Memorize scripture so that you can combat against the sinful habits that try to ensnare you.

For example, it may not be a sin to eat an extra piece of pie at dinner, but if you’re trying not to eat so much then remember Matthew 5:33-37, which says “…But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No’…” and keep your word, even to yourself.

Live in prayer: The Story of Daniel (Daniel 1, 6)

We already know Daniel dedicated his life to God along with his 3 friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  While the others found themselves in a fiery furnace after Nebuchadnezzar’s decree, Daniel found himself facing a sentence in a lion’s den because he would not give up his relationship with God.   King Darius’s decree was for no one to pray to anyone but him, and Daniel could have simply prayed quietly for no one to see. But Daniel’s public prayers to God were too important to him.  His self control wouldn’t allow his faith in God to be hidden.

Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Have a personal relationship with God.  Talk to Him, and allow yourself to open the Bible so that He can respond back.  Seek His will for you, and strive to live it.  If you’re always in prayer with God, then sin has a hard time sneaking back into your life.

For example, you’ve got a juicy bit of gossip that you know your neighbor would love to hear, but the gossip will hurt the local celebrity’s reputation if the word gets out.  Next time you greet your neighbor across the fence, be sure to ask God to give you the wisdom to speak only words that will edify the neighbor and glorify God- not words that will slander anyone else.

Admit When You Do Wrong: The Story of Eve (Genesis 3)

Eve is often criticized for eating the forbidden fruit of Eden and then passing the blame off to the serpent.  And although that could be true, we cannot ignore the fact that she did admit her fault.  “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” God punished her for eating the fruit, not for playing the blame game.

Admit when you’ve done something wrong.  You can keep a prayer journal where you write down your prayers to God- write in your pages that you’ve done wrong and you need forgiveness.  Or find a godly friend that you can trust, and tell that friend whenever you do something against God.  Have your friend pray for you, right there on the spot if he or she is willing.

For example, if someone has done something against you and you feel hatred towards them for what they’ve done, then go to that person and tell them what you feel about what they’ve done.  If the person is unapproachable, then confess to a godly friend or church elder or deacon and ask them to pray for you.

Recognize Your Demons and Rebuke Them: The Story of Jesus Rebuking Satan (Matthew 4:1-11, Matthew 16:22-24)

When Jesus told his disciples that he was going to have to die, Peter was quick to reply by saying “Far be it from you, Lord! This will never be done to you.”  After all, Jesus is the son of God, so Peter couldn’t dream that He could have such a tragic fate.  This is the Lord who can call angels from heaven!  Death would never come to Him!

But Jesus recognized Peter’s words as from Satan himself- perhaps it reminded him too much of the temptations He had met with in the desert, when Satan told Jesus that he would give the Son of Man all the kingdoms of the world and their glory if He would just fall down and worship him.  The temptation in the desert received the response: “Get behind me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and you shall serve him only.”  Just like the response which Peter now received: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, for you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of men.”

Jesus wasn’t afraid to call the demon for what it was; He wasn’t just responding to his friend Peter,  He was responding to Satan speaking through Peter. Satan was telling Jesus that ‘You don’t really have to die.  You have the power to stay alive. Don’t leave your friends here on earth.  They need you.’

Split your mind into two personalities.  The demon on one shoulder and the angel on the other.  There’s a difference between your mind and sin’s thoughts.  Learn –through knowledge of the laws of Christ- what sin’s thoughts sound like.  Once you can hear the demon’s voice for what it really is, you can argue and fight for God’s truth instead.

For example, when you’ve got a moment to spare and you decide to pass the time, you may automatically move to enjoy some indecent pictures.  Catch yourself in the act and ask yourself, “What are you doing?” Your brain will surely try to justify your actions and give you good reasons for why you’re doing it, but if you know Matthew 5:28 (CEB) which says “But I say to you that every man who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart,”  (Don’t be fooled by sin my friends, this applies to men as well as women) and Romans 7:5 (ERV) which says “In the past we were ruled by our sinful selves. The law made us want to do sinful things. And those sinful desires controlled our bodies, so that what we did only brought us spiritual death,” then you’ll be on your way to arguing your demon’s voice in the same way Jesus did in the desert.  (Also, read 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Peter 4:1-6, and Colossians 3:5-8 for more arguments against your demon of lust.)

“Be sober and self-controlled. Be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Withstand him steadfast in your faith, knowing that your brothers who are in the world are undergoing the same sufferings. But may the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.”  1 Peter 5:8-11 (WEB)

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Zazzle: Forgive but don’t Forget

 

Our new follower on Twitter, @ZacKent96, tweeted a saying I like: “Forgiveness doesn’t mean you excuse the crime. It just means you’re no longer willing to be the victim.” I agree with it, in part, regarding my “job” as Zazzle designer, and believe I should cautiously apply it, if I see Zazzle improves their business.

On January 6th  I wrote the entry Zazzle is Smudgey Business. Not too much has changed on the Zazzle website since then, and I have not added new products, seeing that my attitude continues to be miffed and leery. However, after Kat and I made the difficult decision to lower our prices, by lowering all royalty rates to 5% store-wide, I’ve been watching the status of my catalog to see if the number of sales would grow. They have, actually.

It could be anything from US economy growth, to how Zazzle is shifting, to the choice we made in lowering prices.

I know the daily views my products get have about tripled, ever since the DOW hit the 20 mark, so maybe business is looking more positive this year, and shoppers are ready, with their wallets, to browse and buy.

Not only that. According to Northern Nevada Business Weekly (NNBW), Zazzle is moving their business from California to Nevada this year, not only because manufacturing is a hard business in the state of California, but also because the college, small town appeal of Reno in Nevada attracted the executives. (Read the full report here.) Chances are Zazzle is making a promising shift, too, one that will result in more sales and hopefully lower overall prices, giving designers the ability to either higher their royalty percentage or at least gain more because the number of sales are more.

All in all, Autumn Angel Art has sold 4 products this year without advertising or promoting our products. So that means our sales came from either 3rd party promotion, Zazzle ads, or shoppers browsing the Zazzle marketplace, in other words, not generated by our own efforts. The combined total that customers paid was about $87 (subject to variance due to foreign currency conversion), and our royalty earnings were $4.40. This seems very small and impossible to make a living from. The question that remains is, if a designer labored to create a catalog of 40,000 products, would he/she be able to eventually make a living, or would something go awry? With our AutumnAngelArt store having 432 products and a meager average of 18 sales per year, can we continue to make more products and expect our sales to go up, or is the entire business a gamble?

As a result of such doubt, we shall not place our future in the hands of Zazzle, even though we enjoy creating products. Yes, it’s a very relaxing and enjoyable trade. But even though we forgive we shall not forget, nor shall we allow ourselves to become the victims of fraudulent dealings. I willingly strive for the ability to do-it-myself or else find a better way to advance my trade. In the meantime, mercy is appropriate. Because manufacturers all across the United States have been failing, and the economy is only this year looking up for everyone, it may be that a little grace is all Zazzle needs to succeed, and they will in return show compassion to their designers, rather than getting unfairly rich from artists’ hearts and souls.

 

Faithfulness is an Apple

“What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead.” Hebrews 11:1 (TLB)

God expects faithfulness from us. He expects us to trust Him, to believe in Him, and to live knowing that His promises are real.  Whatever He tells us, we need to believe that it’s going to happen.

Faithfulness is like an apple: after you bring it home from the market, the fresh juicy bite is crisp and new. But as it sits for days, weeks… sometimes even months in the fruit basket… the skin wrinkles and the apple dries… but it’s still good. You can still enjoy the benefits of the “apple a day”. Whether you cut it up in a salad or you bake it in an apple crisp or pie… it’s still good.  An apple will last until you need it.

Hebrews 11:6 “Without faith no one can please God. Whoever comes to God must believe that He is real and that He rewards those who sincerely try to find Him.” (ERV)

Confession time: This past week Lacy asked me for some Godly advice; the matter of the subject isn’t important. The lesson I learned is what I’d like to focus on in this blog.  When Lacy asked me, I decided to check the various Bible scripture apps that I like to use on occasion.  It’s often the way I seek God’s counsel when I find myself in need of His guidance.  The result was overwhelming for me.

First I checked the YouVersion Holy Bible. The verse of the day was Romans 12:12, which says to “Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer.”  (CEB)  “Oh good,” I thought.  “That’s what I’m doing now- devoting myself to prayer.” So I thought about the issue at hand… and realized that these past few weeks have been pretty discouraging for Lacy and me.  We haven’t had inspiration for our work. When we tried to work anyway, every time our attempts seemed to crash and burn into troubles, always ending in failures. It made us want to give up.  And that’s not exactly being ‘happy in hope’ or ‘standing your ground’, since it almost felt like all of our dreams were coming to an end.

I recognized that something needed to change, so I opened my next app, the Bible Gateway: Isaiah 55:8-9. My plans aren’t your plans, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My plans than your plans. (CEB) Lacy and I often get this verse as God encourages us in the dreams and promises that He’s given us; it’s a reassurance that what God promised may not happen in the ways that we expect, but He’s in charge and He is faithful. With that in mind, it brought my thoughts to the dreams that -lately- we’ve been struggling with.

I always try to stay level-headed.  “God’s plans are for all to be saved through Christ Jesus,” I reasoned with myself, 2 Peter 3:9 in mind. “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (NIV) So… “what do I do next?” I asked myself.

1 Timothy 2:1-7 (MSG): The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.  He wants not only us but everyone saved, you know, everyone to get to know the truth we’ve learned: that there’s one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us-Jesus, who offered himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free. Eventually the news is going to get out. This and this only has been my appointed work: getting this news to those who have never heard of God, and explaining how it works by simple faith and plain truth.

After asking myself what in my life today is helping God further His kingdom, I realized that our discouragement is NOT the answer.  I opened another app, the Inspirations app, to see another verse: Psalms 16:1-2. Preserve me, God, for I take refuge in You. My soul, you have said to the LORD, “You are my Lord. Apart from You I have no good thing.”

“Seriously… no good thing?” I wondered as I contemplated the verse that I was given.  Ecclesiastes tells us that all things in life are futile and meaningless- so that could be true, I decided.  After all, God is love. What, aside from love, is good?

So I pondered, how can I possibly bring God further into my life?  Lacy and I are writing a religious blog every week, I write in my prayer journal daily, and I strive to read the entire Bible in a year’s time…   what more can be done?

While questions filled my head, I came to my last scripture app, Jesus Speaks.  I like this app because it always shares scripture in which Jesus is speaking, sometimes to His apostles, sometimes to the Pharisees, sometimes to the church or to the multitudes who followed Him.  I like to imagine myself sitting at His feet, listening to His words as I read the verses given in this app.

This time, the verse given in the app spoke loudly to me.  Revelations 2:1-7 (NET Bible) said:  To the angel of the church in Ephesus, write the following: “This is the solemn pronouncement of the one who has a firm grasp on the seven stars in his right hand – the one who walks among the seven golden lampstands: ‘I know your works as well as your labor and steadfast endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have even put to the test those who refer to themselves as apostles (but are not), and have discovered that they are false. I am also aware that you have persisted steadfastly, endured much for the sake of my name, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you: You have departed from your first love! Therefore, remember from what high state you have fallen and repent! Do the deeds you did at the first; if not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place – that is, if you do not repent. But you do have this going for you: You hate what the Nicolaitans practice-practices I also hate. The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers, I will permit him to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.”

I sat back in my place. “What does that mean, God?”  I felt convicted, as though God were speaking directly to me when the verse said ‘I have this against you…’ “What have I done, to depart from my first love? How do I come back to it?”

When Jesus told this to the Ephesians in His letter, He meant that their love for God and their neighbor had left them.  It doesn’t mean that they weren’t doing their work for God, or that they weren’t kind when they did it, or that they had stopped caring for His laws.  But as much as they were doing for Him, their excitement was gone. Possibly, they didn’t believe in what they were doing anymore.  They were losing their faithful fervor for God.  They needed to do what they did in the beginning: be excited to do God’s work.

The book of Hebrews talks about faithfulness, and how we need to stay faithful to God.  In chapter 3, we are told to think of Jesus and be like Him, because He was “faithful to God who appointed Him High Priest.” (v.2) We need to be faithful to God, but what does that mean?

Hebrews 3:12-15 “Beware then of your own hearts, dear brothers, lest you find that they, too, are evil and unbelieving and are leading you away from the living God. Speak to each other about these things every day while there is still time so that none of you will become hardened against God, being blinded by the glamor of sin. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as we did when we first became Christians, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.

But now is the time. Never forget the warning, “Today if you hear God’s voice speaking to you, do not harden your hearts against Him, as the people of Israel did when they rebelled against Him in the desert.”

“If we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as we did when we first became Christians…”

We need to have faith in miracles.  It’s our faith that allows God to work in our lives, and if we don’t believe, then we remove God’s ability to show us His awesome power.

“Today if you hear God’s voice speaking to you, do not harden your hearts against Him…”

If we’re willing to listen, then God speaks to us, and warns us when we’re doing wrong. Like His telling me that “you have departed from your first love”, He will correct us and lead us back to righteousness.

Hebrews 12:4-8 (TNIV) “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as children? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his child.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined-and everyone undergoes discipline- then you are not legitimate children at all.”

God’s message to me: He wants me to keep believing in His promises.  Not only the promise of everlasting life with Him, but also the promises He’s made to me, personally in my life.  The promises of success, and of meaningful friendships, and of general happiness in the hope of Jesus.  He wants me to continue what I’m doing, but He wants me to dream again; dream the dreams that He’s given me. Reset my attitude.  Reinvent my faithfulness. Feel the same way that I felt in yester-years, full of enthusiasm and life.  Be like an apple- though I may be wrinkled with weariness and age, He can use me in a sweet pie and I’ll be just as delicious as I ever was, because I stayed faithful to Him.

To end my story and conclude my lesson of the day, I’ll mention that I humbled myself and asked God to forgive me for the terrible discouragement that was poisoning my attitude. The next morning, I received a notification reminding me to daily read in Jesus Speaks. This is the verse that Jesus spoke to me through the app:

Luke 15:17-20 (NET) “But when he came to his senses he said, “How many of my father’s hired workers have food enough to spare, but here I am dying from hunger! I will get up and go to my father and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired workers.” So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way from home his father saw him; he ran and hugged his son and kissed him.”

God is faithful. He wants to treat us like His children. He wants to discipline us, and He wants to hug us and kiss us when we come back to Him, too.  But we have to realize, we cannot receive God’s mercy if we don’t hold fast and stay faithful to Him.  That is why God wants us to have faith.

Romans 12 (WEB) “Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace that was given me, to every man who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think reasonably, as God has apportioned to each person a measure of faith. For even as we have many members in one body, and all the members don’t have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us, if prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of our faith; or service, let us give ourselves to service; or he who teaches, to his teaching; or he who exhorts, to his exhorting: he who gives, let him do it with liberality; he who rules, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor that which is evil. Cling to that which is good. In love of the brothers be tenderly affectionate to one another; in honor preferring one another; not lagging in diligence; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; enduring in troubles; continuing steadfastly in prayer; contributing to the needs of the saints; given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless, and don’t curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Don’t set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Don’t be wise in your own conceits. Repay no one evil for evil. Respect what is honorable in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as it is up to you, be at peace with all men. Don’t seek revenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to God’s wrath. For it is written, “Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.” Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing so, you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

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