Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Power of Love.

I was watching T.D. Jakes on TV today and he gave a sermon about the cross. He said it would be better not to study the "what" of the cross, but the "why" of the cross.

"For God so loved the world, he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not die but have eternal life." John 3:16

God so loved...

God so loved you...

God so loved me...

Jesus didn't stay on the cross because he was nailed there. He stayed for love.

When he was being arrested he said, "Don't you realize I could ask my father for thousands of angels to protect us and He would send them instantly?" Matthew 26:53

Jakes said,  "Love is the ultimate power in the universe." It took the power of love for Jesus to stay on the cross. If we want power, then we must love others as God loves us. Love is real power and God will fill us with it if we ask Him.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Godly Slave Girl.

"Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman's wife. She said to her mistress, "If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy." 2 Kings 5:2,3

Raiders from Aram had gone into Israel. They had probably killed people and destroyed houses and buildings. It was common for raiders to also steal people for slaves in order to sell them and get money.

This slave girl was taken in such a raid. Were her parents still alive? We don't know. If they were they must have been devastated. If they were killed, the girl must have been horrified. All in all, it was a tragedy for that household and city.

But Paul said, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

It is evil to raid, destroy and make slaves of people. But God can bring good out of even that!

The slave girl's master became a leper. This was a terrible blow to that family. And what did the slave girl do? Did she think, "Good, I'm glad he is being punished. He deserves it." No, she wanted to help him and his wife. She didn't want revenge - she loved her enemies.

The wife of Naaman must have been a nice person since her slave felt she could talk with her. The girl herself believed in God, for she believed in his prophet. She must have heard of all the healing Elisha had done. In her simple, beautiful faith, she was sure Elisha could heal Naaman.

Eventually, this is what happened and Naaman learned to believe in the only true God. Probably his wife did too. We don't know what happened to the slave girl after this. Perhaps she was given her freedom and could go home. I hope so.

Her example of love, forgiveness and faith is written in the Bible for all eternity. I pray I can be like her if something like this ever happened to me.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Secret of Contentment.

Paul wrote:

"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Philippeans 4:11-13

I used to think it would be easy to be content when you are not in need and living in plenty, but I was wrong. No matter how much people have they can still want more. They can be discontented. Even Lucifer became discontented in heaven itself! But Paul had found the secret of being content in any situation.

I'm sure Paul wasn't born with this capacity. He must have learned this through experience as we all have to. For myself, I find I can be content for a few days and then discontented thoughts come in to tempt me again. I think, "I wish I could do this," or "I wish I had that," or, "I'm bored with my life." In fact, I have even thought, "I hate my life." 

So, contentment is a struggle for me. Other people have other temptations but that one nags at me. When it does, I pray, "God, make me content with my life." And he does, until the thoughts come again and I pray again. For I have found it to be true what Paul said in verse 13, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." 

When I read these verses this morning, I had been feeling bored and at sea. I then remembered how Paul had been beaten, stoned, and imprisoned. He must have been bored in prison, perhaps cold and hungry. He wrote letters, and he was allowed visitors, but surely time must have dragged. Yet, he found the secret of contentment - through Jesus.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Chariots of Fire.

When Elisha was prophet in Israel, he used to tell his king the plans of the enemy, King of Aram. This king wondered how the king of Israel always knew what he was going to do. His advisors told him it was because of Elisha. So the king of Aram sent soldiers to kill Elisha. 

"When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. "Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?" the servant asked. "Don't be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them." And Elisha prayed, "Open his eyes, LORD, so that he may see." Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha."  2Kings 6:15-17

Elisha knew that God surrounded them. This is also true for us. God surrounds us every day with his chariots of fire. Nothing can touch us without his permission. I wish I always had the eyes of Elisha, who had such a knowledge of and faith in God that he was not afraid. 

There is a spiritual warfare which human eyes cannot see. Satan and his angels are against us; God and his army of angels are for us. But, as Elisha said, "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them."

Paul wrote, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 6:12

Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31,32

When we are going through hard times, let us remember that chariots of fire surround us.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Accepting Loss and Change.

Change is a part of life. We all go through different stages of life: childhood, teens, young adult, middle age and old age. Each stage brings change with it. For me, the hardest change has been old age. I am 63, which sounds soooo old to me, yet I don't feel old. My body does, but my heart doesn't.

My heart still wants to hike in the mountains, go on long trips, walk downtown, shop for hours etc. But because of physical limitations, I can't do those things any longer. It can be quite wrenching to lose your physical abilities. It wasn't something I planned for or even expected. Like any loss, it brings sadness but I'm trying to think of what I can do and not what I can't do.

We lose lots of things in life. We can lose a loved one, a job, a marriage, our looks, and our health. All of these losses are traumatic. Still, we need to move on with our lives. I was reading a book called, "Get Over It & On With It," by Michelle McKinney Hammond. She writes, "We lose the victory we could have when we refuse to accept change by focusing on what has been - what we no longer have or have never had. One tree-itis. Um hmm. That's what most of us have. We get stuck on the one tree we can't eat from."

Limitations. We all have them, even the most talented people in the world have limitations. They can only go so far and do so much. I remember a time I was asked to write for an online forum. It was an honor to be asked, but things started to go all wrong. I was getting involved in controversies and arguments with other writers. I cried out to God about the situation and a verse came into my mind, "...neither do I exercise myself in great matters or in things too wonderful for me. Psalm 131:1 God was telling me I was in over my head and there was no blessing in it. I stopped the project and felt happy and relieved though embarrassed.

But although there are things I cannot do; there are lots of things I can do. I'm looking into making mosaics, I'm writing this blog and writing a paraphrase of the book, "Consolation of Philosophy." There are books to read and of course, there is God. When you can't do much physically, you have lots of time for God and that has been my greatest blessing since retiring from babysitting.

I'll end with another quote from Ms. Hammond, "It is unhealthy not to embrace change and make the necessary transition.Now is the time to focus on an important issue: What do we do next?"

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Sealed by the Holy Spirit. were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:14

seal is a device for making an impression in wax, clay, paper, or some other medium, including an embossment on paper, and is also the impression thus made. The original purpose was to authenticate a document, a wrapper for one such as a modern envelope, or the cover of a container or package holding valuables or other objects.

Because seals are commissioned by individuals and carved by artists, every seal is unique, and engravers often personalize the seals that they create. The materials of seals and the styles of the engraving are typically matched to the personalities of the owners.

A photograph of a wax seal. The wax seal shows the Brodtkorb family coat of arms, 
by AndrĂ© R. Brodtkorb

Seals bear the name of families, like the one above, or a business or government for whom they are made.

The seal of God is the Holy Spirit. As a seal leaves an impression on wax or paper, so the Holy Spirit impresses God's image on us. God's name is on us - He has sealed us and called us his own. I love this image. Here are some more verses on our being sealed.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  Ephesians 4:30

And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee (a pledge). 2 Corinthians 1:21,22

But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” 2 Timothy 2:19

Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, "Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads." Revelation 7:2,3

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

God Understands You.

"...For the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts." 1Chronicles 28:9

Today, I told someone I couldn't go on long drives any longer because my fibromyalgia had become worse. The person I told this to rolled her eyes. I tried to defend myself and said, "It's just too painful." But, I could tell she didn't believe me.

It is hard to be misunderstood. It is hard to think someone doesn't believe you. This happens to all of us. My sister became too ill to work but her best friend didn't believe her. She thought my sister was being lazy. She was unkind about it and quit emailing and calling. The friendship was at an end.

My sister is in pain every day. She hardly has the strength to walk two blocks. She is sick. She wants to work. It was very painful to her when her friend didn't understand or believe her.

There may be no person on earth who understands us but we have a God who does. This brings me comfort and that is why I love the verse in Chronicles. God understands our pain, our hopes, our thoughts and everything we do.  

Monday, August 12, 2013

Christians and Sinning.

I was just reading an article where the author said that if we have trouble with sins we should just "reckon ourselves dead to sin" like the Bible says and that would help us stop sinning.

I'm sorry, but I don't believe it. I've never been able to stop doing something wrong without days, and sometimes years, of praying. The Lord has shown me lately that I am losing my temper. I wrote about that earlier. Since then, I've been asking God (before I get mad) to not let me get angry and lose my temper. I've noticed a vast improvement.

God is the only one who can keep us from sinning, and I sometimes think he lets us fall and sin so we will go to him more and more for help. Also, when we sin, we are humbled. We realize we are sinners and need God every moment of every day.

There is a fine line to walk with sinning. We must not become discouraged after sinning because that doesn't help. We must not think we are unworthy of Jesus' love because that is not true. We must not think of giving up because that would be the worst thing to do. Where else can we go but to Jesus? I gave up worrying about my sins long ago. I pray and leave them in Jesus' hands.

Then there is the other side of the problem. We must not think our sins are small sins and they are no big deal. We must not think that because Jesus forgives us every time that we can just go on doing the same things til we die. No, sin is serious, especially if we hurt people in some way.

So, it takes a little mental gymnastics to deal with sin in our lives - yet the remedy is simple. Pray about that sin every day, leave it with God, knowing He will deal with it in his own time and in his own way. I was a heavy drinker for 6 to 8 years (can't remember how long), but I kept on praying for God to take the drinking away. He did. It took a long time, which says more about me than Him: I only know when God took the desire away it was gone for good. The point is: Don't give up! Don't look at yourself and be in despair. God loves you just the way you are.

Another sin I had for years was gambling. I spent way too much money going to bingo halls and casinos. This was money we needed, or money that could have helped people. I wanted to stop but the temptation was so strong.

One day, I was praying and the thought came to me to make a sacred vow to God to stop gambling. I was surprised at the thought, which meant it was probably from God. I studied the Bible on vows and then prayed about it. A few days later I did make the vow and I can't tell you how freeing it is to know I can't go to the casino and bingo because I made a sacred vow. I know it is extreme but for me it was the answer.

When I made the vow, I said to God, "I vow not to gamble in my city or the cities around it and I vow not to gamble online. But I want to be able to gamble when I go on vacation." So, when I went to the U.S. awhile ago I did go in a casino. After an hour I was bored and left. Let me tell you, that has never happened before! I used to stay all day and half the night. But God took the fun of it away and I no longer enjoyed it! What a blessing.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Marriage Proposal.

I was reading a book about the life of Agatha Christie. Her husband was an archaeologist. One thing stood out for me in their wonderful relationship was why he proposed marriage.

They had met on a dig in Iraq and he had been driving her around to see the sights. The car broke down in the heat of the day and it took hours to fix. As he worked on the car, Agatha lay down on the ground in the shade to wait. He said to her later that it was at that time he decided to marry her because she never complained or made a fuss but was accepting of the discomfort. He had never met a woman like her.

I thought about how upsetting it is when people complain to me. It is hard to listen to and disheartening to the spirit. It makes me feel sad and upset. I then realize how my complaining must pain people.

 I looked up quotes on complaining and found a lot of good ones. Here they are:

"It is no use to grumble and complain; It's just as cheap and easy to rejoice; When God sorts out the weather and then sends rain - Why, rain's my choice." James Whitcomb Riley

"I look upon life as a gift from God. I did nothing to earn it. Now that the time is coming to give it back, I have no right to complain." Joyce Cary

"Say and do something positive that will help the situation; it doesn't take any brains to complain." Robert A. Cook

"The future rewards those who press on. I don't have time to feel sorry for myself. I don't have time to complain. I'm going to press on." Barak Obama

"Complaining not only ruins everybody else's day, it ruins the complainer's day, too. The more we complain, the more unhappy we get." Dennis Prager

"When people complain of life, it is almost always because they have asked impossible things of it."
Ernest Renen

"I was raised by a lady that was crippled all her life but she did everything for me and she raised me. She washed our clothes, cooked our food, she did everything for us. I don't think I ever heard her complain a day in her life. She taught me responsibility towards my brother and sisters and the community." Ernest Gaines

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Overcoming the World.

"For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" 1John 5:4,5

Overcome means: conquer, defeat, overthrow. This verse says if we believe in God and are His child then we will overcome the world. What a promise! Overcoming the whole world! And we do it by faith alone; faith in the conquering power of Jesus who said: 

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 13:33

What does overcoming the world mean? I am inserting a commentary from: Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

"I have overcome the world": Satan, the god and prince of the world, with all his principalities and powers, which Christ has led captive, ransomed his people from, and delivers them from the power of; and all that is in the world, the lusts and sins of it, their damning power by the sacrifice of himself, and their governing power by his Spirit and grace; and the men of the world with all their rage and fury, whom he has trodden down in his anger, restrains by his power, and causes the remainder of their wrath to praise him; in all which conquests he makes his people share, and even makes them more than conquerors, through himself: so that they have nothing to fear from the world; nor any reason to be cast down by the tribulation they meet with in it."

We have nothing to fear from the world, for Christ has overcome the evils of it and through him we are overcomers. 

I was surprised at how many verses there are with promises to those who overcome. They are beautiful promises that lift our hearts up and away from this world into the world of God.

 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God. Revelation 2:7

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.' Revelation 2:17

He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. Revelation 3:21

He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. Revelation 3:5

"He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. Revelation 21:7

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death. Revelation 2:11

He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. Revelation 3:12

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 1John 4:4

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

God is Always Working.

A friend of mine has a daughter (I'll call her Sara) who was in deep trouble. Sara fell in love with a drug dealer and started taking drugs herself. She gave him all her money and maxed-out her credit cards for him. He asked her to move away with him so she quit her job and did that. Her parents begged her to stop seeing him. They begged her to come home, but she was adamant - she loved him and wouldn't leave him.

Her mother called our family and asked us to pray for Sara. We were all together at the time, so we stopped and prayed. We kept on praying, and I remembered what Joyce Meyer said, "Believe God is working." We believed God was working and he was.

Yesterday, Sara left that man and came home. We are all so happy and thankful to God for his strength and help. Waiting for Sara to come home was hard, but it was a lot easier when we believed God was working. Her mother said she had peace after we had all prayed.

Jesus said, "My Father is always working, and so am I." John 5:17

God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are always working for us. Believe it.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary
2:1-4 When tossed and perplexed with doubts about the methods of Providence, we must watch against temptations to be impatient. When we have poured out complaints and requests before God, we must observe the answers God gives by his word, his Spirit, and providences; what the Lord will say to our case. God will not disappoint the believing expectations of those who wait to hear what he will say unto them.

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Psalm 37:7

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10

But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! Isaiah 30:18

Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD. Psalm 27:14

I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. Psalm 130:5

But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. Micah 7:7

II will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the descendants of Jacob. I will put my trust in him. Isaiah 8:17

But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. Romans 8:25

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. Lamentations 3:26

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Books Written in Prison.

How do you feel when you hear about a man who was imprisoned for years for something he didn't do? What if you were charged with treason, rape or murder and you were innocent; how would you feel if you were condemned? When I was young, I thought there could be nothing worse. Then I learned about Joseph.

Joseph was imprisoned for attempted rape. It was a trumped-up charge from a spurned woman. Joseph didn't deserve this treatment yet God allowed it. I've come to realize that God sometimes uses those in prison for his Glory.

I am reading "The Consolation of Philosophy, by Boethius. It is a wonderful book, written while Boethius was in prison. He writes about why God allows suffering. I thought about other great books written by prisoners. Here is a list of some of them.

Letters from Paul, the Apostle.

The Book of Revelation - The Bible
John, the Apostle.

The Consolation of PhilosophyBoethius

Letters and Papers from Prison. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Bonhoeffer was a theologian and worked against Hitler during the war. He was executed.

Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan 
Bunyan's allegory, narrating Christian's journey to the holy city, was written while he was incarcerated in Bedford jail for 12 years. He was imprisoned for refusing to cease public preaching. Where better than prison for a dissenting Protestant to write?

Letters from Birmingham Jail. Martin Luther King Jr.

King writes about nonviolent resistance to racism.

De Profundis by Oscar Wilde
Known for his witty and flippant literature, Wilde’s writing while in jail was markedly more somber and self-reflective. He was imprisoned for two years of hard labor for his indecency with men, particularly Lord Alfred Douglas. While in prison, Wilde wrote a letter to Douglas articulating the regret he felt for his ethical misconduct. Published posthumously, the apologia chronicles the journey of redemption and spiritual fulfillment that Wilde experienced in confinement. 
Conversations with Myself. Nelson Mandela
Mandela wrote this during his 27 years in prison.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
A powerful book written after Sozhenitsyn was in prison.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Fasting and Sin.

Fasting While We Sin.

If our hearts are not given to God, fasting is an insult to Him. It means you want something from God and think you can earn it by fasting and prayer. This is what God has to say about that:

 "For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?'

 "Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.

 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?

 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

 "If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Isaiah 58:2-11