Children Are A Gift from God

pregnancy2aGenesis 33 “Children are a Gift”

This week marks the 40th anniversary of Roe vs Wade here in America. It has been a long journey fraught with ups and downs and often hostility. No one has won in this war and the losses have been extreme for all.

When Esau met Jacob to reunite with him his first question was: “Who are these people with you?” Note Jacob’s answer: ““The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” And that is how we are to see these precious ones that we bring into the world. Children are indeed a gracious gift from God. The psalmist knew that as well: “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward.” [Ps 127:3] May we honor each life in this way and pray for those who carry these lives to full term.

This week stop and pray for the Pregnancy Clinics/Centers in your city. Honor and pray for them to have wisdom as they seek to help young women see that the life they carry is precious.

All scripture is taken from the FREE online Bible Study Tool Lumina from Bible.org 

 

Advertisements

Grieving

Romans 9 griefaI have spent the better part of the morning crying and not just crying but grieving deeply. It matters not for the “what” but it does matter that I grieve with Paul over the loss of loved ones that refuse the gospel message. So here’s my question: What brings grief to your heart? Is it the loss of a loved one to death without hope? How about the loss of a job? How about the loss of a home due to flooding?  How about the loss of a nation or a people group?  Grief is a very real and present emotion. We are even now watching from the sidelines as Syria is a battle zone. But, Paul is speaking in the first century and his heart grieves for the loss of his people as they continue to deny Christ and salvation. “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.” Is this my grief too?

Temporal losses of a job are tough but there is always hope to find another. You can lose a home and its contents but you can build a new one. But you cannot bring back a loved one or restore a nation to wholeness. Grief takes its toll and some never recover. But, the deepest grief is when those you love die and enter a Christless eternity. Paul is grieving and we too should also grieve when this occurs.

It is because of that we must earnestly contend for the faith. We must “go and make disciples.” We must pray for our loved ones who do not know Christ.  Paul was willing, just as Moses, to forgo his eternal salvation so that the lost might be saved.

How deep is our grief for the lost?

 

“Talking to Yourself…”

 

psalm 34 assurance2How many times today have you caught yourself talking to yourself? Are you rehearsing the words of the accuser of the brethren? He says “you cannot be assured of your salvation.” You are not alone my friend. Before David was crowned king he faced many difficult and challenging circumstances and often if truth be known, they came about because he was blameshifting, not taking ownership of his own sin of unbelief in God. We too often go this route and fail to see God’s graciousness in spite of ourselves. It is important when God reveals this to us that we stop and testify to who God is and who we are.

Jesus reminded us “the mouth speaks what fills the heart.” [Matt 12] Therefore, we must fill our hearts with the inspired Word of God that we might resist the devil and tell him to “Go away.”  His desire is to make you doubt but God’s word is true: NO ONE or NOTHING can snatch us from the Father’s hands where our names are engraved upon his palms. Speak the words of Jesus and Satan will flee from us and in that moment, the Illuminating Holy Spirit will come and refresh our spirits.

If you want assurance, hold fast to your confession. Confidently approach the throne of grace. Cling to that which is good. “STAY, PRAY and WATCH.”  It is then that you will see the truth of John 3:36 “The one who believes in the Son “HAS,” eternal life.

The Original War Room

mark 14 war room2 A recent movie reveals the spiritual battle that all believers face, but the original War Room was in Heaven and played out on the screen of the Garden of Gethsemane. The screenplay revealed the tool of temptation, the submission of our Savior and the power of prayer.

Only Luke reveals to us what took place just after the Last Supper on the way to the Garden. The prophecy of Zechariah would be fulfilled but Jesus revealed that  a battle for the disciples had already been waged in the heavenlies between Satan and God just as it had been for Job. “Simon, Simon, pay attention! Satan has demanded to have you all, to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.”

What was it that Satan wanted? He wanted to prove that Simon’s faith was chaff, not wheat. He would fall for the temptation. That is why Jesus implored the disciples three times: “Stay, Pray, Watch” for the “enemy is prowling about seeking whom he can devour.”[1Pet 5]  Satan’s three weapons are; “Steal, Kill, Destroy”—BUT Jesus had prayed. Satan’s weapons are not flesh and blood but spiritual forces of evil. Prayer is our weapon.

The disciples did stay. The disciples slept not prayed. They failed to watch and thus when the accuser, Judas, arrived they were caught off guard. Satan stole their confidence, killed their words, and destroyed their weak faith—-But Jesus prayed.

Jesus is imploring us: “Stay, Pray, Watch.” What are we doing? Are we prepared?

Serving Along Sanctification Highway

1cor 4 sanctification3aThe Corinthian church needed an ‘overhaul’ of their priorities and who better than the father of this church, Paul the Apostle. He encourages the Corinthians to imitate him as he follows Christ, the ultimate example of servant-hood as he washed the feet of the disciples.

No man is an island but we journey towards the celestial city as a Body. it is when we have reached our destination that God will reveal what is hidden and as well as the motives of the heart which we are unable to do.  Until then along the highway of life both in and outside the church we are to be servants and stewards of the doctrines that the church upholds.We must offer these gifts in humility not judgment.

Rather than spinning our wheels looking for whom we can judge or elevating one person above another–seek to imitate Christ. Instead of seeking to one-up-man-ship begin to ask how we might help others along Sanctification Highway. We journey not alone but as pilgrims traversing together. Our compatriots have been blessed with every perfect gift from above, for God  is the Father of lights and with him there is no shadow of turning. Thus may we view the leadership over us and the members of our Body as gifts from God. Praise God for those in leadership and pray for them. Pray for those with whom you fellowship. Look and find the gifts they have to enrich your life. Look beyond yourself and follow the model of Jesus as you serve in the Body of Christ for it is God’s will that we be sanctified – set apart for His use.

Hurry Up God!

Psalm 69 70 hurry up god2How often are we weary in a trial and we just want life to return to normal. But what is normal? Is it a stress free lifestyle? How many of us are really stress free? How many of us face trials hoping to see God at work? How many of us live like we truly understand God is at work even while we are not aware of His intended purpose? How many of us see life as a beautiful tapestry being woven? Probably if truth be known, not many of us. King David wanted his trial to end. He just wanted life to return to normal. How did he handle it? Peek into his private journal and see his thoughts.

Psalm 69-70 God are you paying attention? 
The psalmist uses hyperbole to talk about his situation. His first picture is that of drowning, second is in quicksand and although he cries for help he finds none. He is exhausted, and his voice is raspy and hoarse. He is in despair;  Is there no hope? He is weary of looking for God’s help because those who hate him are so numerous.
The haters: more numerous than the hairs on his head…[really???  a bit of over-exaggeration here in my estimation, but how often is this how I see a trial?]
His prayer Please God don’t let others be disgraced because of me. Don’t let them carry my shame as he suffers humiliation for God’s name’s sake, and is in fact disgraced even in the family (short memories here: remember when David went to where the Israelites were fighting and how his brothers taunted him..go home little shepherd—these are those same brothers–lesson for us is this: how quickly we forget how God has worked in the past) 
 And so he once again turns to his only hope: God. Again he uses a picture of drowning, and the pit …he is dying physically. He implores God to not turn a deaf ear to his cry, Do not ignore me, Father, don’t you see…I am in deep trouble. I need a rescue plan.(Note God: I need Your rescue plan!) He asks: God can you see my life?  insulted, humiliated, disgraced, a defeated heart? Seeking sympathy and empathy he finds none.
How does he react: vengeance!  let those who are doing this be ensnared even as they sit down to eat. Let them be blinded! Make them have epileptic seizures! God pour out judgment upon them, hold them accountable for their sins. Don’t vindicate them, wipe them out. [Is this how I pray? Is my trial so grievous that I pray for my enemies to face certain death? I hope not! instead may I pray that their hearts be softened and repent] 
Finally after a long diatribe he relents and turns to God for his relief and in that moment of time he begins again praising God, thanking God for he knows that God hears his heart, and this will all be righted in the end at the throne of God and those who are loyal will be found righteous and blessed. His bottom line is this:Hurry up God! Let’s get this trial over so my life will return to normal. 

Time to ponder these thoughts from David’s journal and ask: how do I face trials of life? Do I count it all joy; remain steadfast and learn contentment? Do I remember that trials are given to prove my character and to nott be astonished as if it were some strange phenomenon. Do I petition persistently as the widow did before the unjust judge? And lastly:  “Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God.” [Phi 4:6] trusting the truth that “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” [Rom 8:28]

It all boils down to trust and that is what God asks me to do even when I do NOT understand.

Responding with Optimism!

What temperament are you? Are you an optimistic person or are you easily defeated? Today’s post also found here: https://www.facebook.com/bible.org is all about being optimistic even in dire circumstances. How do we live in a world that has gone astray or prepare ourselves for the inevitable persecution? How I love my dear friend JoAnn I. who taught me a wise principle and it is this: learn the lesson God wants you to learn or you may have to do another lap around the wilderness. And when we have learned the lesson we can respond appropriately in any circumstance.

phil 1 began a good work in you2Many of us, if truth be known, are prone to whine and beg God to reverse our fortune when we find ourselves in unfortunate circumstances. We forget that the gospel message is far more important than our comfort and fail to see it as part of God’s plan whether we like it or understand it. Therefore we should be praising not whining! Do those who threaten us see that we are convinced so strongly of a glorious afterlife that they too are convicted to accept Christ? Each of us is part and parcel of the plan that God will one day reveal for “the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Isn’t it ironic! Here is Paul in prison and yet God has brought the unsaved to him! Even the imperial guards are chained to him so that they have to listen to him pray! Don’t you just love it when you can see God’s sense of humor in using what the enemy means for evil to turn it to good! This is why Paul can be optimistic about the future. It matters not if he is released or remains imprisoned—what matters is that God’s gospel message is being sent forth. And that is why he pours out his joy for all of these precious believers back in Philippi as his way of encouraging them to stand firm, be blameless and sincere.

Are you optimistic or defeated? Oh Beloved—Pray and ask the Spirit to open your eyes to see God at work.

Also see this here: https://www.facebook.com/bible.org

A fantastic Bible Study tool: https://lumina.bible.org/bible/

Praying for Leaders of the Flock

1peter 5 pray 4 pastoraAs a fellow elder, Peter exhorts the elders to be shepherds of their dispersed flock. They need to be shepherds that are alert, watching over and leading the flock step by step away from the adversary the devil who is busily prowling around seeking whom he can devour. They are to be exercising their position voluntarily and doing it eagerly as well as be an example. Pray for them to be humble, sober and that they can resist the devil whose allure of the world is tossed before them.

Beloved, if ever there was a time it is now that we must be praying daily for our church leaders as they work to fulfill these huge tasks. Pray for their study time that it be quiet and undisturbed. Further the 23rd psalm gives us ideas on how to pray:

Pray for them as they seek those green pastures where they can lead their flock to find respite from the cares of the world; to have wisdom to help the flock find the quiet waters where they can be refreshed; and pray that they know how to guide the flock in the paths of righteousness. The enemy has placed lions in the road and seeks to undermine the elder’s work and ours as well. That is why we must be interceders and in a mode of prayer for our elders and leaders of our flock.

People of the Cross

acts 19 crossThis image has gone viral across the internet. The words of ISIS reverberate across our consciousness and the question arise: Are we really the people of the Cross? It is then that I recall the words of Joseph: “Gen 50:20 As for you, you meant to harm me, but God intended it for a good purpose….” What good can come out of something like this? It is this that OM Harris a blogger friend recently wrote: “We have a mandate to live in anxious anticipation, and in so doing I preach a gospel of repentance” Am I living in anxious anticipation? Do I really believe that God’s good will come from this?  That is what a true “people of the Cross” do.

This is the same message Paul left with the Ephesian elders as he met with them for the last time. “testifying …about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus….But I do not consider my life worth anything to myself, so that I may finish my task and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace.” [vs 21/24]. Later Paul would write: “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith!” [2Ti 4:7]

But the race is not over! Until then we are the “people of the cross” with the message of truth: Jesus alone is The Way, The Truth, and The Life!  We are to be busy about testifying about the gospel message even when the wolves rear up. Remember this promise:  Indeed, the Lord who commands armies has a plan,” and it will be fulfilled. [Isa 14] Listen to these words: “Obedience is better than crumbling to the fears of speaking out.” [O.M. Harris]  Be faithful to pray that God release his angelic legions, miraculous signs and wonders so that the wolves’ mission of destruction is hindered; that they may have dreams that will convict and turn them from unbelief  to the true Messiah.  And how do we pray for ourselves? We must pray that we remain steadfast as the “people of the cross” and join Paul in saying: “I do not consider my life worth anything to myself.”

Are we truly the “people of the Cross?” That is the question of the day.

Steadfast Confidence

ImageHow do you react in times of difficulty? Are we confident in the God we say we believe? If so, are we living so that others may ask how we are facing life’s circumstances?

As Paul wrote this second letter to the church in Corinth he shared from the heart the burdens he was carrying and the love he had for them. His ministry was not without a cost however and in this letter he openly bears his soul to them that they may learn from him how to handle adversity. As we read we want to keep our eyes open to what he faced: conflicts, fears, sufferings. Then we want to transition to ask: are they similar to mine? Am I persevering as Paul did? What lessons can I learn that I can use later for others?

Question 1: Who is God to you when you face adversity? Is he as Paul notes: the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort? Is he a god who can comfort us in all of our troubles? Do we see our troubles as God’s open door for us to in turn minister to others? These are the questions we need to address as we read 2Cor.

Principle 1: One purpose in suffering is that we may in turn comfort others when they face similar circumstances.  vs 4 God is the God of all comfort; vs 6 if we face affliction/suffering/adversity it is that we may be in turn be able to comfort and empathize with others.

Principle 2: We can be confident and trust that God is involved in our circumstances vs 7 And our hope for you is steadfast because we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you will share in our comfort. Vs 9 we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.

Principle 3: Be steadfast, immovable in whatever circumstance you find yourself vs 10 We have set our hope on him – on God alone

Principle 4: Our prayers that are being offered are useful for ourselves and others. 1:11 as you also join in helping us by prayer, so that many people may give thanks to God on our behalf for the gracious gift given to us through the help of many. John Bunyan wrote: “In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”

What adversity are you facing today that you can implement these same 4 principles? Perhaps you may have faced a similar adversity. Thus the question is: How may I pray for you in this time?

Know this: God is not only a God of all comfort but He is a God of love! Image