Cure for the Guilty Conscience

Paradox of Matthew 5

“What joy of those who mourn…”

Matthew 5:4, paraphrased by Ted Kell

In Matthew 5:4, Jesus tells us that we will be blessed when we mourn. He’s not talking about the mourning that comes with a tragic event or with anxiety of tomorrow.  Nor does he refer to the despairing sorrows of the world or morbid self pity.  There’s a special kind of mourning that Jesus speaks of that brings us blessings.

It’s human nature to want to run away from something that you know you’ve done wrong.  Maybe you want to hide from it or brush it away and try to ignore it as best as you can.  But as Christians, we are called to mourn for our sins.  We mourn because we realize that we will never be perfect.

We are told in Hebrews 12:14 to “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (NIV).  We must live a holy life to be an example for the people around us; but to be holy one must reach perfection, and it is impossible for us to live a perfect life, so we mourn because we fail our calling.  Like David when he wrote Psalm 38:17 & 18, “For I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me. I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin…” (NIV) and Isaiah in Isaiah 6:5 when he declares that ” ‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty…” (NIV) we must recognize our sinfulness and we must mourn for it, because it’s our sins that lead to our death.

2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that in Christ we are a new creation: “…the old has gone, the new has come!” (NIV) But when we sin, we return to our old sinful nature, and so we mourn.  We mourn because it is our sins that sends us to death, but Jesus took our place.  He was nailed on the cross for our sins.  We can never be perfect the way that He was perfect.

“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.” Psalm 32:1

In our mourning because of how sinful we are, God sees our grief and He forgives us.  We can take comfort in His forgiveness and be joyful: our sins are erased and we are made alive when we believe in Christ and accept Him as our Lord and Savior.  (Ephesians 2:1-10) Our sinful death has become a merciful resurrection.

A letter from Paul to the church in Corinth, concerning godly grief and forgiveness (2 Corinthians 2:5-11,NIV; 7:2-16, ESV):

“If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent — not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.  Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven — if there was anything to forgive — I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.  (2:5-11, NIV)

Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together I am acting with great boldness towards you: I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. 

For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn — fighting without and fear within.  But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more  For even if I made  you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it — though I did regret it, for I see that the letter grieved you, though only for a while.  As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting.  For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.  For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. Therefore we are comforted.  

And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. For whatever boasts I made to him about you, I was not put to shame. But just as everything we said to you was true, so also our boasting before Titus has proved true. And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.” (7:2-16, ESV)

 

Girls with Swords, Week 8

(All of the following Scripture is taken from the New International Version Holy Bible.)

God is love.

“Do not those who plot evil go astray?  But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness.” (Proverbs 14:22) ~ “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” (Proverbs 3:3) ~ “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” (Proverbs 10:12) ~ Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) ~ “Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.” (Proverbs 21:21) ~

God Loves you.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so,  but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:1-8) ~ “Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” (James 2:5) ~ “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12) ~

Love all people.

“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39) ~ “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is a fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10) ~ “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48) ~ “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all that I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) ~

 

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)

“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.” (James 2:8)

 

Lisa Bevere’s workbook, the Fencing Manual, made the statement: “For far too long the Word has been interpreted rather than proclaimed.” Then it asked the question: “What is the difference?” Lacy’s written reply was,
“Interpreting Scripture is when someone tries to grasp its meaning, with bias that overcomes willingness, and so the Scripture is read with the bias as absolute truth, rather than God’s word and meaning.  Contrastingly, proclaiming is when Scripture is read in context, read cover to cover, and shared.” -quote from Lacy’s fencing manual

“The language of God is LOVE.  That needs no words at all.  Wouldn’t it be something if the church just… stopped talking for a change and just… ACTED on love, instead of speaking?” -quote from Kat’s fencing manual

Girls With Swords, Week 7

“Then Eleazar the priest said to the soldiers who had gone into battle, ‘This is the requirement of the law that the LORD gave Moses: Gold, silver, bronze, iron, tin, lead and anything else that can withstand fire must be put through fire, and then it will be clean. But it must also be purified with the water of cleansing.  And whatever cannot withstand fire must be put through that water.” Numbers 31:21-24, NIV

The Israelites had just gained victory over the Midianites, and they brought back the spoils of battle.   Since the Israelites were God’s holy people, they were required to follow strict rules to not defile themselves or the rest of their camp.  To protect themselves from defilement, God gave them this command: purify all the spoils with water and fire.

The Bible uses the example of the refinement of gold and silver many times in the Bible.  Job used the idea first, in Job 23:10.  “…he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.

This act of refinement is compared to God’s testing of our hearts.  Daniel received a vision in which he was told of the testing: “Those who are wise will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered. When they fall, they will receive a little help, and many who are not sincere will join them. Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.” (Daniel 11:33-35. NIV)

Some of the wise will stumble so that they may be refined… God allows his people to make mistakes so that they can grow in character and learn from the mistakes.

“For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath; for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you, so as not to cut you off.  See, I have refined you, though not as silver. I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.” (Isaiah 48:9-10, NIV)

We are tested in the furnace of affliction.  To refine gold and silver, a smithy melts it down it a very hot fire, and the fire burns away any impurities in it.  This causes the precious metal to become more pure.

But according to Isaiah, God tests us in the furnace of affliction.  We are made pure by passing through the fires, surviving the trials that God tests us with.

“Therefore this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘See, I will refine and test them, for what else can I do because of the sin of my people?  Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks with deceit, with his mouth each speaks cordially to his neighbor, but in his heart he sets a trap for him. Should I not punish them for this?’ declares the LORD. ‘Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?’” (Jeremiah 9:7-9, NIV)

God must refine and test His people to reveal their intentions.  If they are true to Him and striving to be good, then they will become pure from the affliction; but if they are with evil plans, then God will surely punish them like He did with Israel once Israel and Judah split into 2 nations, and Israel grew corrupt.

“Son of man, the house of Israel had become dross to me; all of them are the copper, tin, iron, and lead left inside a furnace. They are but the dross of silver. Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘Because you have all become dross, I will gather you into Jerusalem. As men gather silver, copper, iron, lead and tin into a furnace to melt it with a fiery blast, so will I gather you in my anger and my wrath, and put you inside the city and melt you. I will gather you and I will blow on you with my fiery wrath, and you will be melted inside her. As silver is melted in a furnace, so you will be melted inside her, and you will know that I the Lord have poured out my wrath upon you.” (Ezekiel 22:18-22, NIV)

“Praise our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping. For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.” Psalm 66:8-12 (NIV)

God judged his people in the old testament, but where do we fit in?  We, God’s chosen people, can read some wonderful news in the book of Malachi.  (2:17-3:5) “You have wearied the Lord with your words. “How have we wearied him?” You ask.  By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them,” or “Where is the God of justice?”  “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple: the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years. So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerer, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty.”

Jesus is the Master Refiner.  We are made pure through Him!  1 Peter 1:3-9 explains it like this: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed at the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of  your souls.”

As all impurities are burned away from gold in the refinement process, our imperfect deeds will be burned away to reveal our pure intentions.  I Corinthians 3:11-18 says “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.  It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.  Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.”

When we do our works according to God’s wishes and dedicate our lives for Him, then we will surely receive the inheritance which Jesus is preparing for us.

“In the whole land,” declares the Lord, “two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it. This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, “They are my people,” and they will say, “The Lord is our God.”  (Zechariah 13:8-9, NIV)

(Example of a time you “traveled through flames”) “Not literally, but that time Kathryn got sick with the [ovarian] cyst and had surgery, I was pretty afraid for her. I didn’t eat for days and lost 20 pounds during that time. I thought death was around the corner…” -quote from Lacy’s fencing manual

(Example of a time you “traveled through water”) “We had just gone to Germany. I was still new. We had barely been there a week.  That Sunday (our first Sunday at GK) all the youth were going to camp. I was in new territory. I only knew Kristina from letter writing once or twice.  And yet, I was swept up to join the youth group, to go to Camp Gemunden.  I didn’t want to go to camp [because I was a shy girl], but it was good for me. It was fun, and it strengthened my friendships while I was in Germany.” -quote from Kat’s fencing manual

Girls With Swords, Week 6

“Good men must not obey the laws too well.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

In this week’s study, we were given this quote and asked to explain what we thought it meant.  I really had no clue what to imagine the quote meant, but finally came up with this answer to the challenge:

“It needs context. I went and tried to read a little bit of the essay that the quote is from, and it’s generally about government.  In more entirety, the quote actually says ‘Every actual State is corrupt. Good men must not obey the laws too well.’ The essay also argues the ‘government’ between Laban and Jacob; how Laban and Isaac are the keepers of the land, [and are in charge of making decisions on matters concerning their land, and though Jacob lives there too, he must simply earn his keep.  He has no power over what happens to the land.]  So from the little that I read, maybe it means that there is no HUMAN state that is flawless.  Only God’s state is really Good.” 

Later, my dad shared a new thought with us, a sermon that he had heard spoken, and it cleared my understanding of Mr. Emerson’s quote. It dealt with the story in John 5:1-18. In the story, Jesus was healing a man who couldn’t walk.

When Jesus saw the man and knew that he had been sick for such a long time, Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be well?” The sick man answered, “Sir, there is no one to help me get into the pool when the water starts moving. While I am coming to the water, someone else always gets in before me.” Then Jesus said, “Stand up. Pick up your mat and walk.” And immediately the man was well; he picked up his mat and began to walk.” (verses 6-9, NCV)

According to the laws of love, Jesus did a wonderful thing.  He healed a man who had been trying to reach an angel’s healing touch for 38 years.  Who could have possibly been against such a good act of kindness?

“Because Jesus was doing this on the Sabbath day, some evil people began to persecute him.” (Verse 16, NCV)

As wonderful as was the kindness that Jesus showed to the cripple, the Jews weren’t happy with his work because it was on the Sabbath, which was their holy day of rest.  According to the Jewish laws, no one was allowed to work on the Sabbath.  Jesus, however, never allowed the laws of the Sabbath to stop Him from doing a good deed.

“But Jesus said to them, “My Father never stops working, and so I keep working, too.” This made them try still harder to kill him. They said, “First Jesus was breaking the law about the Sabbath day. Now he says that God is his own Father, making himself equal with God!” (verses 17-18, NCV)

There are many stories where Jesus healed people on the Sabbath (Mark 1:21-31, 3:1-6; Luke 13:10-17, 14:1-6; John 9:1-16).  Jesus was hated for His work.

“Every actual State is corrupt.  Good men must not obey the laws too well.”  Jesus matched the quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson perfectly in this story: He is a good man, the only good man on earth, but He didn’t follow the Jewish laws perfectly.  Instead He followed God’s flawless law: love and mercy.

 “Jesus answered, “Why do you call me good? Only God is good.” Mark 10:18 (NCV)

Amen, Lord Jesus!

“Our Warrior-King is beautiful. His very image is beyond compare. The wondrous span of creation captures a mere fragment of his beauty. The mighty ocean, soaring skies, and majestic mountains declare the powerful, immeasurable, enduring beauty of his strength.  Each and every living thing-from plants to animals- is an irresistible revelation of the fact that our God is gorgeous! He lovingly formed his sons and daughters to carry more of his majesty, glory, and beauty than any other creation.  We are his masterpiece.” –Quote from Lisa Bevere, Girls with Swords

“Being kind to people who see no kindness, or little of it anyway, [moves me].  Also being reliable. I am moved by quality, whether it’s quality of life, writing, behavior- perhaps I have high expectations, but…”    -quote from Lacy’s fencing manual

“Read the Psalms.  All over the place, [the scriptures can bring you perspective when you’re anxious or afraid], it calls God “a fortress”, “a shield”, “my strength”.  I never really understood the concept of the Psalms until we came up with Belaedria, and Escaping the Lair.  Taliesan [our fictional character] is always impressed by the Psalms.  He convinced me that God really is our shield!” -quote from Kat’s fencing manual  

Prayer of the Faithful

A prayer with the words of Albert B. Simpson (Hymn: What will you do with Jesus?) , Eliza E. Hewitt (Hymn: Who will follow Jesus?), and King David (Psalms 25 and 26).

Jesus is standing in Pilate’s hall, Friendless, forsaken, betrayed  by all; Hearken! What meaneth the sudden call? What will you do with Jesus?

Jesus is standing on trial still, You can be false to Him if you will, You can be faithful through good or ill: What will you do with Jesus?  (Simpson)

O Lord, I give my life to you. I trust in you, my God! Do not let me be disgraced, or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat. No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced, but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others. (Psalms 25:1-3, NLT)

Who will follow Jesus, standing for the right, holding up His banner in the thickest fight?  Listening for His orders, ready to obey, who will follow Jesus, serving Him today? (Hewitt)

Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow.  Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me.  All day long I put my hope in you.  Remember, O Lord, your compassion and unfailing love, which you have shown from long ages past.  Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth.  Remember me in the light of your unfailing love, for you are merciful, grapes
O Lord. (Psalms 25:4-7, NLT)

Who will follow Jesus, in life’s busy ways, working for the Master, giving Him the
praise; Earnest in His vineyard, honoring His laws, faithful to His counsel, watchful for His cause? (Hewitt)

The Lord is good and does what is right; he shows the proper path to those who go astray.  He leads the humble in doing right, teaching them his way.  The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all who keep his covenant and obey his demands. (Psalm 25:8-10, NLT)

Will you evade Him as Pilate tried?  Or will you choose Him, whate’er betide?  Vainly you struggle from Him to hide: What will you do with Jesus?

Will you, like Peter, your Lord deny? Or will you scorn from His foes to fly, Daring for Jesus to live or die?  What will you do with Jesus? (Simpson)

For the honor of your name, O Lord, forgive my many, many sins.  Who are those who fear the Lord? He will show them the path they should choose.  They will live in prosperity, and their children will inherit the land. The Lord is a friend to those who fear him.  He teaches them his covenant.  My eyes are always on the Lord, for he rescues me from the traps of my enemies.  (Psalms 25:11-15, NLT)

Who will follow Jesus when the tempter charms? Fleeing then, for safety, to the Savior’s arms; trusting in His mercy, trusting in His power, seeking fresh renewals of His grace every hour? (Hewitt)

Turn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress. My problems go from bad to worse.  Oh, save me from them all! Feel my pain and see my trouble.  Forgive all my sins.  See how many enemies I have and how viciously they hate me! Protect me! Rescue my life from them! Do not let me be disgraced, for in you I take my refuge.  May integrity and honesty protect me, for I put my hope in you.  (Psalm 25: 16-21, NLT)

Who will follow Jesus, in His work of love, leading others to Him, lifting prayers above?  Courage, faithful servant! In His word we see, on our side forever will this Savior be. (Hewitt)

Declare me innocent, O Lord, for I have acted with integrity; I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.  Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me.  Test my motives and my heart. For I am always aware of your unfailing love, and I have lived according to your truth. (Psalms 26:1-3, NLT)

Who will follow Jesus? Who will make reply, I am on the Lord’s side; Master here am I?(Hewitt)

Don’t let me suffer the fate of sinners. Don’t condemn me along with murderers.  Their hands are dirty with evil schemes, and they constantly take bribes.  But I am not like that; I live with integrity.  So redeem me and show me mercy.  Now I stand on solid ground, and I will publicly praise the Lord. (Psalms 26:9-12, NLT)

“Jesus, I give Thee my heart today! Jesus, I’ll follow Thee all the way, Gladly obeying Thee!” will you say: “This I will do with Jesus!”  (Simpson)

Trust in God: Be Not Disappointed

My mother has an amazing green thumb, though she’s bound not to agree.  She always points out all the plants that she cannot grow, but to tell the truth, she makes our backyard a paradise for wildlife. With cardinals and mourning doves and house wrens and mockingbirds and hummingbirds and blue jays, butterflies and bugs of all kinds, Texas spiny lizards and small geckos and squirrels, time spent sitting in our back yard truly ministers to the spirit and soul.

Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think about these things.  Philippians 4:8 (WEB)

“Our Iris is blooming Kathryn.  You thought you could get out of it,  but you’ve got to go out and take a picture of it,” Mom teased after our worship was over. It’s all right, I thought to myself. Maybe I can get a picture of another sphinx moth to go along with my blog entry.  We had gone out yesterday to see a pretty yellow butterfly flitting around the yard, calling with a wave of its delicate wings for us to join it in the sun.  While we were out, we witnessed a big green caterpillar crawling along our swing bench that we were sitting on.  At first we thought it was a tomato hornworm, but upon further investigation we discovered that it was the waved sphinx caterpillar.  With that (and a prayer) on my mind, I was ready to go outside again today.

WavedSphinxCaterpillar

The sun was bright, the breeze was nice.  The shade of the ash tree cooled us from the spring heat of the sun.  Trigger (our Australian Kelpie) was chasing lizards under our lawn chairs, and today he actually caught one.  It was a Texas lizard, the type that we try to protect because Mom loves them so much. Luckily, Mom saw it immediately and she made Trigger drop the lizard.  It was unharmed.  I helped Mom hold Trig back and, after the shock wore off, the lizard quickly climbed up my pants leg and clutched on, knowing that I was a safe haven for it to hide while the angry dog tried to attack it. (Trig wasn’t really angry, he was just trying to protect his people from the lizard that he had found hiding under our chair.) After the lizard escaped, I calmed Trig down and Mom took him back inside.

Like what Mom and I were doing for the lizard in protecting it from Trig, God wants to protect us from the vicious dangers in our life.  He wants us to trust in Him and to cling onto Him, so that He can hold us in His arms and protect us from harm.

But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives. In the end, he will stand upon the earth. Job 19:25 (WEB)

While we were outside, I was looking for something amazing to take a picture of. The day was still and quiet, aside from the children playing next door.  As my gaze skimmed the yard, I drew my attention to the roof of our house, to a spot where the shingles are missing.  We’re getting our roof replaced this week, so I was using my telescopic lens on my camera to get a good look at the damage to the roof.  I gave Lacy the camera so that she could see the spots on the roof too, and when she looked into the lens, I suddenly caught a glimpse of something  big buzzing around the roses.  “Oh quick! Give it to me!” Lacy immediately handed me the camera, but it was too late. The small creature had finished its business at the roses and flown on past the house.  From the distance that I was at, it looked like a hummingbird, but bigger and bulkier; it must have been a sphinx moth making a quick stop at the flowers in our yard before moving on.  It was the very moment I came outside for, but I had missed it.

Roof-worries

The message God gave me at that moment was loud and clear. When we decide to focus on the worries of life, we miss the beautiful moments that God tries to bless us with. Lacy and I were focused on the roof of the house- something that is completely out of our hands.  We could do nothing about the missing shingles or the rains that we’ve been getting lately.  All we could do was trust that God will protect us from harm and wait for the roofers to do their job, scheduled later this week.  But because I had decided to think about my worries and God’s concerns, I missed a moment that God had given for me to enjoy.

Who knows if I could have gotten a picture of the sphinx moth before it flew away. I was disappointed that I had missed the chance to try, but Lacy reassured me later that we’ll have more chances in the future.  The sphinx moth is usually seen in May to July, so no worries.  Maybe next time.

God heard my prayer of repentance, and although he didn’t send the moth back around, he answered another prayer of mine instead; I had wished for a chance to take a picture of the dragonflies and damselflies that we have in our back yard. That taught me another lesson: With a missed opportunity, God will always open a new door.

damselfly

Hear my cry, God. Listen to my prayer. From the end of the earth, I will call to you when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been a refuge for me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will dwell in your tent forever. I will take refuge in the shelter of your wings. Selah. Psalm 61:1-4 (WEB)

Live by the Spirit

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who don’t walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1 (WEB)

This week’s Bible reading has been focused on the book of Judges, Ruth, and the start of 1 Samuel.  It’s amazing to see the Holy Spirit direct and empower God’s chosen people in the Old Testament.  There were especially 2 people who stood out to me as I read this week: Samson and boy Samuel. They were both raised from birth as Nazirites, and were supposed to be set aside for God’s purpose.

…A man or a woman might want to promise to belong to the Lord in a special way. This person will be called a Nazirite. Numbers 6:2 (ICB)

Nazirites had special rules that they had to follow.  As long as they followed the rules of the Nazirite promise, they would be filled with the Holy Spirit.  But if a rule was broken then they would become unclean and the Spirit of the Lord would leave them.

Like the Nazirites, Christians are also called to live in reverence to God’s laws. Every Christian has his or her own relationship with God, and not all Christians feel called to take a drastic Nazirite-like promise to dedicate their life to God. Even if they don’t take drastic measures to declare their faith, all Christians should at least create for themselves a standard to live by; one that allows a place in their hearts for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Once anointed by the Spirit, the Christian will be empowered with God’s truth. After truth is received, strive to walk in the life that you dedicated to God.  Don’t let yourself fall for temptation. If it’s too hard, then you may have to re-prioritize.  If just 1 glass of wine will lead to 2, then 3 and 4, maybe you should skip that first glass all together.

TRUST the Spirit to teach you what you need to know.

“but the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and will bring to your remembrance all the things which I have said to you.” John 14:26 (DARBY)

The Spirit is a witness.

“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes forth from the Father, he shall bear witness concerning me;” John 15:26 (DARBY)

The Spirit convicts the world.

“When he has come, he will convict the world about sin, about righteousness, and about judgment;” John 16:8 (WEB)

The Spirit speaks the words of God.

“However when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak from himself; but whatever he hears, he will speak. He will declare to you things that are coming.” John 16:13 (WEB)

The Spirit tells you what is true.

“I am in Christ, and I am telling you the truth. I do not lie. My feelings are ruled by the Holy Spirit, and they tell me that I am not lying.” Romans 9:1 (ICB)

Be FILLED with the Spirit.

“And when they had prayed, the place in which they were assembled shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and spoke the word of God with boldness.” Acts 4:31 (DARBY)

The Spirit empowers you to succeed.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. You will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (WEB)

The Spirit guides you to God’s will.

“And the Spirit said to Philip, Approach and join this chariot.” Acts 8:29 (DARBY)

The Spirit calls you to do God’s work.

“As they served the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Separate Barnabas and Saul for me, for the work to which I have called them.'” Acts 13:2 (WEB)

Be RECOGNIZED by the Spirit to receive God’s blessings as His children.

“And the Spirit himself joins with our spirits to say that we are God’s children.” Romans 8:16 (ICB)

The Spirit lives in you if you are Christian.

“But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if it is so that the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any man doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ, he is not his.” Romans 8:9 (WEB)

The Spirit leads you into a relationship with God.

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the children of God.” Romans 8:14 (WEB)

If we are God’s children, then we will receive the blessings God has for us. We will receive these things from God together with Christ. But we must suffer as Christ suffered, and then we will have glory as Christ has glory. We have sufferings now. But the sufferings we have now are nothing compared to the great glory that will be given to us. Everything that God made is waiting with excitement for the time when God will show the world who his children are. The whole world wants very much for that to happen. Romans 8:17-19 (ICB)

GROW in the Spirit and be COMFORTED.

“So the assemblies throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace, and were built up. They were multiplied, walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 9:31 (WEB)

The Spirit will help you and pray for you when you are weak.

“In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weaknesses, for we don’t know how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which can’t be uttered.” Romans 8:26 (WEB)

The Spirit will speak to God on your behalf.

“God can see what is in people’s hearts. And he knows what is in the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit speaks to God for his people in the way that God wants.” Romans 8:27 (ICB)

The Spirit provides hope in every circumstance.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, in the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (WEB)

RECEIVE GRACE and be FORGIVEN with the Spirit.

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and of death.” Romans 8:2 (DARBY)

The Spirit restores life.

“If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans 8:10-11 (WEB)

My brothers, I am sure that you are full of goodness. I know that you have all the knowledge you need and that you are able to teach each other. But I have written to you very openly about some things that I wanted you to remember. I did this because God gave me this special gift: to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the non-Jewish people. I served God by teaching his Good News, so that the non-Jewish people could be an offering that God would accept- an offering made holy by the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:14-16 (ICB)

The Saints Should Never be Dismayed

“Each one of you is part of the body of Christ, and you were chosen to live together in peace. So let the peace that comes from Christ control your thoughts. And be grateful. Let the message about Christ completely fill your lives, while you use all your wisdom to teach and instruct each other. With thankful hearts, sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. Whatever you say or do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, as you give thanks to God the Father because of him.” Colossians 3:15-17 (CEV)

The saints should never be dismayed, nor sink in hopeless fear; For when they least expect His aid, the Savior will appear.

William Cowper was a poet and hymnist living in 1731-1800.  He suffered from severe depression, so much that his friend John Newton asked him to co-write the hymn book Olney Hymns with him.  Cowper wrote many songs that mirrored his extreme melancholia, including “Far from the World, O Lord, I Flee”, “Heal Us, Emmanuel”, and “O for a Closer Walk with God”.  In the song that he wrote titled “The Saints Should Never be Dismayed”, he encourages Christians to never give up hope, no matter how impossible the circumstances are.  The song gives 3 different stories that we can take hope in.

This Abraham found, he raised the knife, GOD saw, and said, “Forbear;” Yon ram shall yield his meaner life, behold the victim there.

God asked Abraham to sacrifice the son that had been promised to him.  Through Isaac, Abraham would become the father of many nations, and yet God had asked him to place his son on the alter and sacrifice him.

Abraham could have lost hope in the circumstances. Why would God ask him to do that?  But Abraham trusted in God, and in his complete obedience God saved Isaac and praised Abraham for his faith.

And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built the altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of Jehovah called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thy hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him; for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt-offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of Jehovah it shall be provided. And the angel of Jehovah called unto Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said, By myself have I sworn, saith Jehovah, because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” Genesis 22:9-18 (ASV)

Once David seemed Saul’s certain prey, but hark! The foe’s at hand; Saul turns his arms another way, to save th’ invaded land.

When David heard that Philistines were attacking a city, he asked God if he should go and save the city, and God’s answer was yes.  He asked twice when his men were afraid to go because they were being hunted by King Saul.  They knew that the city wasn’t safe for them, but God told them to go and defeat the Philistines, despite the fear they had.

When Saul heard that David had come to Keilah to protect the city, he thought that God had given David over to him.  He quickly went to Keilah to find David; but David hid in the wildernesses of Ziph and Maon and God protected David. Saul did not find him that day.

“And Saul went on this side of the mountain, and David and his men on that side of the mountain: and David made haste to get away for fear of Saul; for Saul and his men compassed David and his men round about to take them. But there came a messenger unto Saul, saying, Haste thee, and come; for the Philistines have made a raid upon the land. So Saul returned from pursuing after David, and went against the Philistines: therefore they called that place Sela-hammahlekoth [the rock of divisions] . And David went up from thence, and dwelt in the strongholds of En-gedi.” 1 Samuel 23:26-29 (ASV)

When Jonah sunk beneath the wave he thought to rise no more; But God prepared a fish to save, and bear him to the shore.

Jonah had fled from God’s calling for him, and when a storm hit and it seemed the boat would be lost, Jonah knew that God’s judgment had come for him and he couldn’t get away.  He was ready for death by drowning; embracing the judgment of his sin, he told the sailors to throw him overboard.  How could he have known that a fish would come and save him from the deep waters filling his lungs and ending his life?

And Jehovah prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”  Jonah 1:17 (ASV)

Blest proofs of pow’r and grace divine, that meet us in his word! May every deep-felt care of mine be trusted with the Lord.

The Bible shares other stories where the impossible causes circumstances to seem hopeless. In these stories, God shows his proof of power and grace divine.  We can have faith that our deep-felt care can be trusted with the Lord.

Think of the time Jesus met a widow who was burying her son. Her son had died, and she didn’t think there was any way out of her troubles.

When Jesus came near the town gate, he saw some people carrying a dead body. It was the only son of a woman who was a widow. Walking with her were many other people from the town. When the Lord saw the woman, he felt very sorry for her and said, “Don’t cry.” He walked to the open coffin and touched it. The men who were carrying the coffin stopped. Jesus spoke to the dead son: “Young man, I tell you, get up!” Then the boy sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.” Luke 7:12-15 (ERV)

Or also when Jesus and his disciples were out at sea, and a great storm blew over the sea.  Waves were filling the boat with water, and no doubt the men inside feared that the waters would overtake them. They didn’t realize the power that their Lord Jesus had over nature.

“When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a violent storm arose on the sea, so that the boat was being covered by the waves; but Jesus was sleeping. And the disciples went and woke Him, saying, “Lord, save us, we are going to die!” He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was [at once] a great and wonderful calm [a perfect peacefulness]. The men wondered in amazement, saying, “What kind of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” Matthew 8:23-27 (AMP)

Possibly the most amazing proof of God’s power to change circumstances is the story in John 20.  Mary Magdalene weeps because Jesus’s body is missing from the tomb, but her weeping quickly turns to joy as God shows his grace divine to mankind once again.

“Then the followers went back home. But Mary stood outside the tomb, crying. While she was still crying, she bent down and looked inside the tomb. She saw two angels dressed in white. They were sitting where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and one at the feet.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

She answered, “They have taken away my Lord. I don’t know where they have put him.” When Mary said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there. But she did not know that it was Jesus.

Jesus asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Whom are you looking for?”

Mary thought he was the gardener. So she said to him, “Did you take him away, sir? Tell me where you put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

Mary turned toward Jesus and said in the Jewish language, “Rabboni.” (This means Teacher.)”

John 20:10-16 (ICB)

Wait for his seasonable aid, and though it tarry wait: The promise may be long-delayed, but cannot come too late.

Wait on the Lord.   He will come to your aid in His perfect timing.

How to Pray

We are so diminutive; so small in the universe.  Think about it for too long and it will surely start to feel like we’re insignificant in God’s realm, because he is so BIG.  But through Jesus, we have been given the gift of prayer; the ability to talk to God like He’s our best friend.  We don’t have to wonder “How do I do this?” or feel awkward that He’s not here or not listening.  To pray, just talk as if you’re talking to your parents or sister or brother or friend.

Jesus gives us an example of a prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. “So when you pray, you should pray like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, we pray that your name will always be kept holy. We pray that your kingdom will come.We pray that what you want will be done, here on earth as it is in heaven. Give us the food we need for each day. Forgive the sins we have done, just as we have forgiven those who did wrong to us. And do not cause us to be tested; but save us from the Evil One.’ [The kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours forever. Amen.]” (ICB)

When you pray, make sure your heart is genuine and true.  Talk to Him in all sincerity, because through the Holy Spirit, your heart speaks.

“Our Father in heaven, we pray that your name will always be kept holy.”

1. Acknowledge how great God is.

Begin your prayer by telling God that you know how great He is, and you  cannot begin to compare to Him. Acknowledge the power that He has, and how His power applies to your prayer.

“The voice of Jehovah is powerful; The voice of Jehovah is full of majesty.” Psalm 29:4 (ASV)

  1. In Suffering: “Lord God, only you can help me.”
  2. In Thanksgiving: “Mighty God, you are great! Thank you for the grace and mercy that you are willing to extend.”
  3. With a Request: “Heavenly Father, please listen to my prayer. You alone are holy, and you have the power to make this right.”
  4. In Sorrow: “Oh Lord, my heart is breaking! It hurts to breath. But I know that You care, God. You care about me. Mend my broken heart, and lend me Your strength. You are strong enough to overcome and outlast anything.”
  5. With Repentance: “God. You know everything. There is nothing I can do, say, or think that You will not know. I cannot escape your presence.”

“We pray that your kingdom will come. We pray that what you want will be done, here on earth as it is in heaven.

2. Give your life to God.

There’s an old American Folk Hymn that sings  “Would you be poured out like wine upon the altar for Me? Would you be broken like bread to feed the hungry? Would you be so one with Me that you would do just as I will? Would you be light and life and love My Word fulfilled?” The second verse responds to God’s call in the first verse, saying “Yes, I’ll be poured out like wine upon the altar for You. Yes, I’ll be broken like bread to feed the hungry. Yes, I’ll be so one with You that I would do just as You will. Yes, I’ll be light and life and love Your Word fulfilled.”  Express it in your prayer.  Let God know that you want to be ready to do His will, no matter what it is.

“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.” Romans 12:1 (ASV)

  1. In Suffering: “I don’t understand what You want from me, but I am trying to do your will.  Please show me what You want me to do.”
  2. In Thanksgiving: “Use me God! I want to be a part of your awesome plans.”
  3. With a Request: “I want to do Your will, but I need Your help. Whatever it is, help me to do it. Help me know what to do.”
  4. In Sorrow: “God, how can you want this? Help me understand Your will. Help me understand what you want from me, so that I can carry it through as you wish.”
  5. With Repentance: “You have a plan for me. Sometimes I don’t go along with what You have planned, but I’m trying Lord.  My spirit is willing, but my  body is so weak. Tame my rebellious spirit, oh Lord.”

Give us the food we need for each day.

3. Make your request.

Let God know what it is that you want from Him.  He takes delight in your requests.  He wants to bless you.  All you have to do is ask.

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you,” Matthew 7:7 (ASV)

  1. In Suffering: “I’m having trouble Lord, and I need Your help. Please help me understand how to remove this thorn of suffering, or if it’s Your will for me to struggle with it, then help me learn to live with it and grow in faith because of it.  Show me Your ways, oh God. Give me understanding.“
  2. In Thanksgiving: “These earthly blessings that you provide are all momentary, but please help this joy that I feel last beyond today. Help me feel this strength and happiness in You, even when I find myself in harder times tomorrow.”
  3. With a Request: “God, I come to you now with a request, heavy on my heart. I know you will listen to me, and I know you will respond. I wish for your will to be done, Lord; but if there is any way, then could it fit into Your divine plan, for…(continue by stating your request)”
  4. In Sorrow: “Stop the pain, Lord. You are the Father of Comfort; please share your peace with me.  It’s too much for me to handle on my own.  This night is too dark.  Please shine your light on me again.  Help me feel Your joy, so that I can live again.”
  5. With Repentance: “I’m sorry. I’ve sinned against you God.  You know what I’ve done. I’m ashamed of the way that I acted. (Admit to Him what it was that you are sorry for.)  Please forgive me, God.  Help me be better.”

Forgive the sins we have done, just as we have forgiven those who did wrong to us.

4. Acknowledge that you are a sinner, and you need His forgiveness.

Humble yourself.  Tell Him what He means to you. Be sure to thank Him for the forgiveness He extends to you.

“For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God;” Romans 3:23 (ASV)

  1. In Suffering: “You know that I am not perfect. I cannot help myself, Lord.  I shouldn’t even have the ability to speak to You, because of my sins;  but because of Jesus’ sacrifice for me, You listen. Thank you for listening, Lord.”
  2. In Thanksgiving: “I am a sinner, I am not worthy, and yet here I am, before You, able to talk to You as a daughter or son can speak to their father. Thank you God, for this amazing ability to talk to you. Thank you for forgiving my sins, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  All I have to do is ask.”
  3. With a Request: “I don’t deserve what I’m asking. I know that.  But I come humbly before you Lord, as a sinner looking for grace.  Please hear my plea, and remember Your own Son’s sacrifice. Forgive me, so that I may be redeemed and worthy of my request.”
  4. In Sorrow: “I am nothing more than a wild sparrow; no one cares about the sparrows Lord. I feel like I could die today and no one would notice. But you do, Lord.  You care, and you know my pain.”
  5. With Repentance: “I strive to be perfect like you, God; but I’m not. I’m far from perfect.  There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t sin against you, whether in lusts or in lies or in doubts or complaints. I’m sorry, Lord.”

And do not cause us to be tested; but save us from the Evil One.

5. Acknowledge that you are weak, and God is your strength.

Admit that you are weak, and that you need Him.

“Jehovah is my strength and my shield; My heart hath trusted in him, and I am helped: Therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; And with my song will I praise him.” Psalm 28:7 (ASV)

  1. In Suffering: “I am weak. Please be my strength.  I fail You every day, please carry me through this hard time.”
  2. In Thanksgiving: “Tomorrow I may stumble and fall, but You’ll be there for me. You are my fortress, my hiding place.  I know that I am safe with you, God.”
  3. With a Request: “I will never be worthy without you, God. You are the one who lifts me up and helps me conquer my weakness.”
  4. In Sorrow: “Please give me strength. I am weak, so weak.  I can’t stop crying. Help me through the day.”
  5. With Repentance: “I can never be right; I fall short every time. God, help me cross the finish line.  Help me reach our end goal, I want to finish the race with You.  I don’t want to be anywhere but with You.”

“The kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours forever.

6. Praise God for his awesome power, and be assured that you are heard.

Thank God for hearing you, and believe that he has listened.

And this is the boldness which we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he heareth us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him.” 1 John 5: 14-15 (ASV)

  1. In Suffering: “Thank you for caring about me. Lord, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.  You are with me. Thank you for being with me. God.  Thank you for listening to me. Deliver me soon.”
  2. In Thanksgiving: “You are always there. And you listen, even to me! Thank you, thank you.”
  3. With a Request: “But I have nothing to fear, because You are with me. You know my heart, You know what I want.  You also know what’s best, Lord. You are omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. I trust you.”
  4. In Sorrow: “I feel so alone, but I believe You’re here, with your arms around me. Help me believe, Lord!”
  5. With Repentance: “Thank you. You will never leave me.  You forgive me, no matter what I do or how many times I mess up.  You are so great.”

Amen.

7. End your prayer with the name of Jesus, so that God can be glorified.

Be sure to end your prayer in Jesus name.

And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” John 14: 13

“In Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.”

Understanding the Concept of Love

Habakkuk 3:17-19 (ICB)

“Fig trees may not grow figs.
There may be no grapes on the vines.
There may be no olives growing on the trees.
There may be no food growing in the fields.
There may be no sheep in the pens.
There may be no cattle in the barns.
But I will still be glad in the Lord.
I will rejoice in God my Savior.
The Lord God gives me my strength.
He makes me like a deer, which does not stumble.
He leads me safely on the steep mountains.”

Take joy in life. No matter how disappointed you are of the turns that life takes, always be grateful that you are alive.

Life isn’t fair. It won’t always go the way we plan, and sometimes it feels more accurate to say that it never goes the way we plan. But even when things take a turn that we don’t expect, possibly even for the worse, we can still glorify God. He’s with us in the good times and the bad times. In fact, it’s when we’re struggling that we notice His presence and call out to Him. So don’t lose hope; God hears the prayers of those who love Him and strive for His commandments.

If you want a truly fair life, then visit Romans 12:9-21 in your Bible.  It doesn’t fail to  tell you what a “fair life” looks like to God and His people.

1. Your love must be real.

This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.

“My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.” 1 John 3:16-20 (MSG)

2. Hate what is evil, and hold onto what is good.

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.

“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.” Galations 5:16-24 (NLT)

3. Love each other like your brothers and sisters.

You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you. And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity. The peace that Christ gives is to guide you in the decisions you make; for it is to this peace that God has called you together in the one body. And be thankful. Christ’s message in all its richness must live in your hearts. Teach and instruct one another with all wisdom. Sing psalms, hymns, and sacred songs; sing to God with thanksgiving in your hearts. Everything you do or say, then, should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, as you give thanks through him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:12-17 (GNT)

4. Give each other more honor than you want for yourselves.

“‘We are allowed to do all things.’ Yes. But not all things are good for us to do. ‘We are allowed to do all things.’ Yes. But not all things help others grow stronger.  No one should try to do what will help only himself. He should try to do what is good for others.’” 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 (ICB)

5. Do not be lazy but work hard, serving the Lord with all your heart.

“Now as to the times and dates, brothers and sisters, you have no need for anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know perfectly well that the day of the [return of the] Lord is coming just as a thief [comes unexpectedly and suddenly] in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety [all is well and secure!]” then [in a moment unforeseen] destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains on a woman with child, and they will absolutely not escape [for there will be no way to escape the judgment of the Lord]. But you, believers, [all you who believe in Christ as Savior and acknowledge Him as God’s Son] are not in spiritual darkness [nor held by its power], that the day [of judgment] would overtake you [by surprise] like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We do not belong to the night nor to darkness. So then let us not sleep [in spiritual indifference] as the rest [of the world does], but let us keep wide awake [alert and cautious] and let us be sober [self-controlled, calm, and wise]. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we [believers] belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope and confident assurance of salvation. For God has not destined us to [incur His] wrath [that is, He did not select us to condemn us], but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died [willingly] for us, so that whether we are awake (alive) or asleep (dead) [at Christ’s appearing], we will live together with Him [sharing eternal life]. Therefore encourage and comfort one another and build up one another, just as you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (AMP)

6. Be joyful because you have hope.

Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:2-5 (NLT)

7. Be patient when trouble comes.

“Brothers and sisters, be patient; the Lord will come. So be patient until that time. Look at the farmers. They have to be patient. They have to wait for their valuable crop to grow and produce a harvest. They wait patiently for the first rain and the last rain.”  James 5:7 (ERV)

8. Pray at all times.

If any of you are suffering, they should pray. If any of you are happy, they should sing. If any of you are sick, they should call for the elders of the church, and the elders should pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. Prayer that comes from faith will heal the sick, for the Lord will restore them to health. And if they have sinned, they will be forgiven. For this reason, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous person is powerful in what it can achieve. Elijah was a person just like us. When he earnestly prayed that it wouldn’t rain, no rain fell for three and a half years. He prayed again, God sent rain, and the earth produced its fruit.” James 5:13-18 (CEB)

“We don’t want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation—I don’t want you in the dark about that either. I can see your faces even now, lifted in praise for God’s deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part.”  2 Corinthians 1:8-11 (MSG)

9. Share with God’s people who need help.

What should you do then, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each person has a vital role because each has gifts. One person might have a song, another a lesson to teach, still another a revelation from God. One person might speak in an unknown language, another will offer the interpretation, but all of this should be done to strengthen the life and faith of the community.” 1 Corinthians 14:26 (VOICE)

10. Bring strangers in need into your homes.

“Don’t forget to extend your hospitality to all—even to strangers—for as you know, some have unknowingly shown kindness to heavenly messengers in this way.” Hebrew 13:2 (VOICE)

11. Wish good for those who harm you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemies.’ But I say to you, love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you. If you do this, you will be true children of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on good people and on evil people, and he sends rain to those who do right and to those who do wrong. If you love only the people who love you, you will get no reward. Even the tax collectors do that. And if you are nice only to your friends, you are no better than other people. Even those who don’t know God are nice to their friends. So you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48 (NCV)

12. Be happy with those who are happy, and be sad with those who are sad.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is the Father who is full of mercy. And he is the God of all comfort. He comforts us every time we have trouble, so that we can comfort others when they have trouble. We can comfort them with the same comfort that God gives us. We share in the many sufferings of Christ. In the same way, much comfort comes to us through Christ. If we have troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation. If we have comfort, then you also have comfort. This helps you to accept patiently the same sufferings that we have. Our hope for you is strong. We know that you share in our sufferings. So we know that you also share in the comfort we receive.” 2 Corinthians 1: 3-7 (ICB)

13. Live in peace with each other.

“Wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and everything that is evil. What of the wisdom from above? First, it is pure, and then peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good actions, fair, and genuine. Those who make peace sow the seeds of justice by their peaceful acts.”  James 3:16-18 (CEB)

14. Do not be proud, but make friends with those who seem unimportant.

“Then Jesus noticed that some of the guests were choosing the best places to sit. So he told this story: “When someone invites you to a wedding, don’t sit in the most important seat. They may have invited someone more important than you. And if you are sitting in the most important seat, they will come to you and say, ‘Give this man your seat!’ Then you will have to move down to the last place and be embarrassed.

“So when someone invites you, go sit in the seat that is not important. Then they will come to you and say, ‘Friend, move up here to this better place!’ What an honor this will be for you in front of all the other guests. Everyone who makes themselves important will be made humble. But everyone who makes themselves humble will be made important.”

“Then Jesus said to the Pharisee who had invited him, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, don’t invite only your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. At another time they will pay you back by inviting you to eat with them. Instead, when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, and the blind. Then you will have great blessings, because these people cannot pay you back. They have nothing. But God will reward you at the time when all godly people rise from death.” Luke 14:7-14 (ERV)

15. Do not think about how smart you are.

“Where are the wise? Where are the legal experts? Where are today’s debaters? Hasn’t God made the wisdom of the world foolish? In God’s wisdom, he determined that the world wouldn’t come to know him through its wisdom. Instead, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of preaching. Jews ask for signs, and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, which is a scandal to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. But to those who are called—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom. This is because the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:20-25 (CEB)

16. If someone does wrong to you, do not pay him back by doing wrong to him.

“And now this word to all of you: You should be like one big happy family, full of sympathy toward each other, loving one another with tender hearts and humble minds. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t snap back at those who say unkind things about you. Instead, pray for God’s help for them, for we are to be kind to others, and God will bless us for it.

“If you want a happy, good life, keep control of your tongue, and guard your lips from telling lies.” 1 Peter 3:8-10 (TLB)

17. Try to do what everyone thinks is right.

If your brother is being hurt or offended because of food [that you insist on eating], you are no longer walking in love [toward him]. Do not let what you eat destroy and spiritually harm one for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what is a good thing for you [because of your freedom to choose] be spoken of as evil [by someone else]; for the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking [what one likes], but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For the one who serves Christ in this way [recognizing that food choice is secondary] is acceptable to God and is approved by men. So then, let us pursue [with enthusiasm] the things which make for peace and the building up of one another [things which lead to spiritual growth]. Do not, for the sake of food, tear down the work of God. All things indeed are [ceremonially] clean, but they are wrong for the person who eats and offends [another’s conscience in the process]. It is good [to do the right thing and] not eat meat or drink wine, or do anything that offends your brother and weakens him spiritually. The faith which you have [that gives you freedom of choice], have as your own conviction before God [just keep it between yourself and God, seeking His will]. Happy is he who has no reason to condemn himself for what he approves. But he who is uncertain [about eating a particular thing] is condemned if he eats, because he is not acting from faith. Whatever is not from faith is sin [whatever is done with doubt is sinful].” Romans 14:15-23 (AMP)

18. Do your best to live in peace with everyone.

The servant of the Lord must not participate in quarrels, but must be kind to everyone [even-tempered, preserving peace, and he must be], skilled in teaching, patient and tolerant when wronged. He must correct those who are in opposition with courtesy and gentleness in the hope that God may grant that they will repent and be led to the knowledge of the truth [accurately understanding and welcoming it], and that they may come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” 2 Timothy 2:24-26 (AMP)

19. Do not try to punish others when they wrong you.

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on one cheek, let him hit the other one too; if someone takes your coat, let him have your shirt as well. Give to everyone who asks you for something, and when someone takes what is yours, do not ask for it back. Do for others just what you want them to do for you.” Luke 6:27-31 (GNT)

20. Do not let evil defeat you, but defeat evil by doing good.

“Keep on being brave! It will bring you great rewards. Learn to be patient, so that you will please God and be given what he has promised. As the Scriptures say, “God is coming soon! It won’t be very long. The people God accepts will live because of their faith. But he isn’t pleased with anyone who turns back.”

“We are not like those people who turn back and get destroyed. We will keep on having faith until we are saved.” Hebrews 10:35-39 (CEV)

“Through these he [Jesus] gave us the very great and precious promises. With these gifts you can share in God’s nature, and the world will not ruin you with its evil desires. 

“Because you have these blessings, do your best to add these things to your lives: to your faith, add goodness; and to your goodness, add knowledge; and to your knowledge, add self-control; and to your self-control, add patience; and to your patience, add service for God; and to your service for God, add kindness for your brothers and sisters in Christ; and to this kindness, add love. If all these things are in you and are growing, they will help you to be useful and productive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But anyone who does not have these things cannot see clearly. He is blind and has forgotten that he was made clean from his past sins.

“My brothers and sisters, try hard to be certain that you really are called and chosen by God. If you do all these things, you will never fall. And you will be given a very great welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:4-11 (NCV)