Friday, April 29, 2016

Faith is the Victory

20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”
22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.                              Matthew 9:20-22

The woman was suffering. Scripture doesn't mention any previous medical treatment being sought, but her health problem had been with her for twelve years. She sought Jesus, and coming up behind him, touched the edge of his clothing. Speaking to herself about her healing she uttered, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed."  Just then, Jesus turned and saw her, and spoke the words she had longed to hear.  "Take heart, daughter. your faith has healed you."

Do you suppose many of the maladies and problems of the human condition could be remedied through such faith?  Do we really believe the words of the old song?

"Encamped along the hills of light,
Ye Christian soldiers, rise.
And press the battle ere the night
Shall veil the glowing skies.
Against the foe in vales below
Let all our strength be hurled.
Faith is the victory, we know,
That overcomes the world.

His banner over us is love,
Our sword the Word of God.
We tread the road the saints above
With shouts of triumph trod.
By faith, they like a whirlwind's breath,
Swept on o'er every field.
The faith by which they conquered death
Is still our shining shield.

To him that overcomes the foe,
White raiment shall be giv'n.
Before the angels he shall know
His name confessed in Heav'n.
Then onward from the hill of light,
Our hearts with love aflame,
We'll vanquish all the hosts of night,
In Jesus' conqu'ring Name.

Faith is the victory! Faith is the victory!
O glorious victory, that overcomes the world.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

God's Love...and Ours

From time to time we are going to be looking at Bible topics, especially to see what the Scriptures say about them.  There will be little or no comments made, and you are encouraged to just read the verses and let the word of God speak to you.  This weekend, I hope you come back several times and read each verse, then spend some time in prayer, asking God to further reveal His truth on these topics.  We are starting with the subject of LOVE.

The Bible view of love:  Read 1 Corinthians 13.  Pay close attention to verses 4-8. 

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. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

God's love for us:

John 3:16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Romans 8:37-39  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 5:8  But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
1 John 3:1  See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

Our Love for each other:

Ephesians 4:2 With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.
1 Peter 1:22  Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.
Galatians 5:13  For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

These are intended as a springboard for you to search for other verses that will teach about love. Have a great weekend. God bless your studies.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Prayer Time

One of the greatest gifts afforded to every Christian is prayer. For every discussion about prayer there will be varied opinions leading to discussions of prayers that have been answered, prayers which resulted in changed lives, or prayers that accomplished purposes for which there is no explainable  answer.  

Prayer is conversing with God. The Bible is filled with examples and stories about those who prayed. Even Jesus, during his earthly ministry removed himself from his followers and spent quiet times with the Father. The apostle Paul in his writings was insistent on Christians praying for him and for one another.  The early Christians which are the focus of the book of Acts, were always praying for each other and for those outside Christianity. 

The point is, God loves to converse with his people. He longs to be in such an intimate relationship with us that merits conversation with him. Almost every Christian will have a story about a situation where they prayed for some specific answer to a problem, and through the word of God, or through a nudging from within, or encouragement from other Christians, the answer came.

One of the blessings of prayer is that even when we do not know what to pray for, the Spirit of God which lives in us actually represents us before God's throne. It's nice to know that we humans have the presence of the Divine to assist us in our conversations with God. 

Those sections of scripture which we know as "The Lord's Prayer," were the result of people asking questions about how to pray.  There are some who do not prefer to pray publicly, but may be some of the strongest Christians through their personal and quiet times talking to God. 

Some would have you to believe prayer is like a magic wand God waves, giving us everything we want, or think we want. Still others will associate successful prayers with an accompanying donation of financial support.   When will we learn the simplicity of just carrying on a conversation with God, and a willingness to wait for his answer?   What about you?  What do you talk about when you pray to God?

Your prayers may be in the form of thanksgiving, thanking God for physical and spiritual blessings he has sent your way. You might even include prayers for others who are struggling with an illness, a death in their family, financial burdens, work related problems, rebellious children, etc. There are countless things going on in our lives, and God wants us to talk to him about them. 

Prayer is a time when we can really be ourselves because God already sees us as we are. It's not a time for us to remind him how good we are, but a wonderful time for us to thank  him for how good he is. It is impossible for me to know what is on your heart today. Praise, complaints, sins, problems, whatever it might be. Today is the day you can spend some time with God in prayer and pour your heart out to him. (More on prayer each day this week here in the blog.) 


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Wiser than my enemies....

From Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, comes these words from verses 97-100:

Oh, how I love your law!
    I meditate on it all day long.
98 Your commands are always with me
    and make me wiser than my enemies.
99 I have more insight than all my teachers,
    for I meditate on your statutes.
100 I have more understanding than the elders,
    for I obey your precepts.

In a story from a seminary class, students were asked to take opposite positions on a Bible topic. There were always those which could take a stance on one side of a Bible topic, explain their position, and wait for someone to have an opposing idea as to what the text meant.  Soon the friendly debate was on, the professor would sit back and listen to the arguments of the opposing views, then step in declare a winner, based on which side more accurately proved their point. 

After one such event, a Bible student wanted another chance to prove he was right and  the opposite side of the issue was wrong, including the professor.  Then the professor challenged those which opposed him and asked for a student to give chapter and verse which could prove his position. 

The student quoted the scripture above, from Psalm 119:97-100, with emphasis on verse 99, "I have more insight than all my teachers."

While this section of the Psalm means exactly what it says, I rather doubt the intended meaning from the psalmist had anything to do with winning seminary debates. Rather, the writer of these words is opening our eyes to one of the greatest blessings for the followers of God.

Note again, these verses explain the need for us to love the law of the Lord, with reverent meditation both night and day.  God's commands are always with us making us wiser than our enemies.  We will have more insight from God, even more than those who teach us, because we meditate on God's statutes.  Then, the last statement, we have more understanding than the elders when we obey God's precepts.

In this is the word picture of the will of God, and the blessing of "straining" issues through the power of God's will, and receiving the intended understanding.  It's our chance to see life, with all its challenges, as seen through the eyes of God. We could buy all the books (and I am not opposed to book learning), we could attend all the lectures (again, not opposed to lectures), but the point of Psalm 119 is this:  We gain the greatest wisdom......and insight......and understanding when we immerse ourselves with God's word while seeking and desiring the wisdom, insight and understanding from the Father himself.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Nurturing and Admonishing

I am guessing I have reached the age where I can reminisce about the good old days. Unlike my parents who could remember electric service spreading from the cities to country homes, and the advent of telephones to rural areas, I have been accustomed to them all of my life.  I do, however, remember the advance of television and the "glorious" days when black and white TV's became antiquated because of the switch to color TV. Try going into your local Wal-Mart or Best Buy store this week and ask a sales clerk to show you a selection black and white TV's.  

Most kids  growing up in the pre-WWII years knew how to use a hoe to chop weeds from a field of cotton or corn. They also knew how to pick cotton or "shuck" corn during harvest.  I cannot remember questioning mom during my younger years about how she knew how to process garden vegetables or make pickles or pear preserves.  Children of that era also knew how to milk a cow, gather eggs, load and unload hay, drive a tractor, feed pigs, and on rare occasions, shear sheep. 

Contrast that with the kids of today who spend a majority of their time on a computer, an iPad, an iPod, an iPhone and a flat-panel giant color TV screen, all at the same time.  I should add I am not being critical of today's kids, just making an illustrative comparison.  In fact, I am happy with the age of greater technology so I can enjoy the benefits of computing and even watching a TV that produces such a life-like picture.  Without the advance of technology in the past 50 years, I wouldn't be able to send a daily blog around the world. Today we can reach more people, in more locations, delivering more information, than ever before. The new advances in electronics alone give us greater opportunities to spread the good news of the gospel to just about everyone on the planet.

The contrast continues when we consider the parents of the children we have compared above.  Not many moms today are teaching their daughters things like sewing or baking or canning vegetables.  Not many fathers are teaching their sons about mending a fence or changing a tire.  In many families, the child's learning experiences come only from the electronic devices that were made to "enhance" lives. 

In Ephesians 6:4, fathers are encouraged to bring up their children "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." To nurture something is to promote its life of growth and maturity. So we can conclude from this verse of the Bible to nurture our children is to provide and supply them with every spiritual, emotional and physical need. Those are not my suggestions, they are God's expectations.

While I will admit there seemed to be more nurturing going on in the days of old, even today in the busy schedules of parents and kids, it can be done.  It must be done if we are going to have a part in preserving the quality, the morals, spirituality of future generations. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Living Disciplined Lives

What goes through your mind when someone mentions the term, "discipline?"   For the younger, there may be remembrances of time-out, or being sent to your room, or maybe even losing TV privileges.  Those of us who are older will possibly begin thinking of a personal reprimand or a time when someone confronted us with something amiss in our lives. 

Recent reading has brought me to some varied observations about those things we refer to as "Christian Disciplines."  Since the beginning of Christianity there has been teaching, supported by various Scriptures, which let us know the disciplined lives we live and the Christian things we do, are important  and life-changing.  Some churches will have training programs and take their teens through training in a group of six disciplines, while there are those which will add a few more and some that will have a smaller list. 

Perhaps we should ask up front, "What is a Christian Discipline?"  The answers are varied and most of the time similar, but all seem to have the same basic idea.  Henri Nouwen, in his book on the subject says, "discipline is the effort to create some space in our lives, so God can act."  That means we should not allow anything to fill us to the point where we have no time, and no room for God.  We can surmise from that definition, from the number of "things" we allow to occupy ourselves, a Christian discipline can be prayer, worship, scripture reading, fasting, or countless other things which will allow us to make some space for God to work in us. 

For the most part, we view Christian disciplines as acts which we do individually and personally.  It's a time where we can get close to God and consider priorities and seek God's ways, bringing us to make necessary changes as we try to be more like Jesus.  Lynne Baab, in her book, Joy Together, makes a push for us to consider going beyond the individual nature of the disciplines and in small groups or entire congregations focus on the benefit of Christian disciplines for the whole body of Christ.

Further we can visualize the effectiveness when two Christians, sharing similar needs, can help each other through praying together, studying together, or even visiting a hospital together.  Any number of chosen acts will be equally beneficial for the individuals and the church, as we are exerting the effort to allow God to work in us.  Such instances of these acts in pairs or small groups help us strengthen our lives while maintaining a sense of accountability to each other. 

Give all this teaching some thought.  It is by no means complete, but simply a springboard for us to see a need in our lives to make God more of a priority, and training ourselves to being open and receptive to his remedy for our weaknesses. 

So what is your weakness?  If, for example, you struggle showing a gracious spirit toward those who do not deserve it, start by confessing that weakness to God, then allowing yourself to be totally available for him to bring about the needed changes. That will require some time and effort on your part.  Make it a priority.  Remember always, we are on this journey to become more and more like Jesus. 


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Confronting Satan

Any confrontations with Satan lately?  He seems to be everywhere.  We don't even have to be looking hard to see his activity.  And worse, his activity often leads us to make poor choices, turning into bad results.

As a Christian, do you think about the devil and his influence often?  Do you consider the temptations which come your way as being his work to win in your life?  Have you thought of all the bad things happening in our world, and how happy he must be to see our world in turmoil?

There are some warnings which scripture gives us to help in remaining faithful in our Christian walk.  An important verse is found in 1 Peter 5:8.  "Your adversary the devil walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour."  Make no mistake about it.  As far as the devil is concerned, we Christians are the target of his lies, his attempts to weaken our faith, and his work to destroy us.

The good news is that no matter how hard he works on you, or how many tempting things he sends your way, you are never alone in the battle against his evil ways. God is ever present to help you, supplying the power we need to resist his temptations.

In addition, Paul wrote to the Ephesian Christians, letting them know they are equipped to fight Satan and his ways, when we "put on the armor of God."  Here is the entire scripture from the pen of Paul in Ephesians 6:10-18.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 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. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

We can defend ourselves and defeat Satan's every move when we learn to trust the strength of the Lord and his mighty power.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Praise be to God!

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. This inheritance is 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 in the last time. In all 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 the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—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 end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.  1 Peter 1:3-9

There is little discussion or commentary for the verses listed today.  Follow with me as we look at the description Peter gives, and see what is and shall be yours because you are a child of God.  We are truly a blessed people because of all God does for us. It is no wonder Peter begins his description of the blessings with words of praise.

1. He has given us new birth. 

2. The new birth brings us a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus. 

3. Add to that living hope, an inheritance which can never perish, spoil or fade.

4. Your inheritance is kept for you in heaven. 

5. We, through faith are shielded by God's power until our salvation is revealed. 

6. We can rejoice, even though for now we may have to suffer through trials.

7. Our faith is proven through these trials and becomes of great value.

8. The end result is in praising, glorifying and honoring Jesus when he comes again. 

9. This leads us to love him and believe him, even though we have not seen him.

10. We receive an inexpressible joy because we are receiving the result of our faith.

My Bible has paragraph divisions and subtopics written for the major themes. When I read these verses from 1 Peter, it is no wonder the title given to this section of scripture is, "Praise to God for a Living Hope."  Read the verses again and again while understanding the hope and promise belonging to us when we are God's children.