Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Reason For My Hope

"But honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you." 1 Peter 3:15, HCSB

Constantly fearful—that’s how I describe my life before trusting Christ. The fear was an overshadowing, consuming fear that enveloped and surrounded me; it was my constant companion.

I was no stranger to church as a child and had actually "walked the aisle" at six-years of age. I had no idea what I was doing. It was only as I grew older and the Holy Spirit began to deal with me and convict me of the sin in my life did I realize something was missing. I had no inner peace, joy or hope in my life. Through the prompting of the Holy Spirit I began to realize I was desperately in need of salvation.

As I moved into adolescence, my family’s church attendance became sporadic. But when a new pastor and his family came to minister at a church near my home, my younger sister became friends with one of the pastor’s daughters. My sister began to attend church regularly and I followed her lead.

The summer I came to know Christ as Lord and Savior I was 15 years old. That summer my sister and I attended a church camp in East Texas. I remember all week long the weather had been terrible; one severe thunderstorm after another. The stormy weather just served to exacerbate my longstanding anxiety.

One night in particular during that week I was deeply convicted of sin. My pastor’s wife stood beside my bed, counseling me and praying over me. As she walked away from my bed that night I begin to pray, very urgently, "Lord, I know I’ve done wrong things; I know I’m a sinner. Please forgive me, Lord. I need You. Please come and live inside my heart forever."


I don’t recall if the weather cleared but I do know this; the storm within me disappeared. When I gave my life to Christ, the peace that passes all understanding came into my heart and life, (Philippians 4:7). I gained inner peace and joy that I had never experienced before. You too can know the hope, peace, and joy that only Christ can give. Won't you invite Him into your heart today?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Song

This year I’m reading through the Holman Christian Standard Study Bible. It’s a great Bible, full of commentaries, cross-references, word studies, maps, charts, etc. In fact, it is so full of study aids and helps; I don’t think I’ll make it through the entire Bible this year.

Last week, in my reading, I came to the Song of Songs or the Song of Solomon. It is a very short book but it is accompanied by tons of commentary in the HCSB Study Bible. But still, I dug into it and came away with a revelation I had not noticed before when reading through the book. God is so good and I’ll get to that part of the story in just a moment.
As many of you probably know, the Song is a love poem between Solomon and the Shulamite maiden, who was believed to have been Solomon’s first wife. The Song is a celebration of romantic love, as God intended it to be. Much later the writer of Hebrews, in chapter 13, verse 4, would pen these words: “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”
Also, from the New Testament, the Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her”, NKJV. In the same vein, the Song of Solomon is thought by many to be an allegory of God’s love for Israel and/or Christ’s love for the church. The HCSB Study Bible comments in the introduction of the book say that it “reflects God’s desire to form within us a pure and a devoted love…that there is a bliss in married love that is reflective of the greater love believers experience as the bride of Christ”.
Reading all this has given me a new appreciation for the Song of Solomon. However, what touched me greatly when reading through the book this time that I had never noticed before was the revelation that the Shulamite maiden who married the great King Solomon, was a commoner, an obscure nobody. The maiden worked in the vineyard for her brothers who had rented the vineyard from Solomon (1:6 and 8:11).
Why is this so exciting and beautiful to me? You think I’ve lost my mind don’t you? But dear friends, this is a reflection of us—Christ reaches out to us in divine, perfect love. We are nobody! We have nothing with which to recommend ourselves to the King of Heaven! Yet in His grace and mercy and love, He seeks us out; He reaches down to us in the muck and the mire; our own righteousness as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).
Who am I that Christ would notice me and love me? Who am I that God would love “the world in this way: (that) He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life”, John 3:16, HCSB.
Dear friends, I am nobody but somebody that God loves and furthermore, “We love Him because He first loved us,” 1 John 4:19. Is that not beautiful? Now can you get excited with me about that? I am nobody but somebody that Christ loves and so are you! If you haven’t already done so, open your heart to Christ today. Confess your belief in Christ; repent of your sins; invite Him into your heart to live forever and become a child of the King.
If you do know Christ as Lord and Savior, then celebrate with me that, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved,” Ephesians 5:4-6, NKJV.
God bless!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Prayer of Jesus

Recently I was reading John 17, which I absolutely love. This is the real “Lord’s Prayer” as opposed to the model prayer which Jesus taught His disciples (Matt. 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4). Jesus’ prayer in John 17 can be divided into three parts—Jesus’ prayer for Himself in verses 1-5; His prayer for His disciples in verses 6-19 and His prayer for future believers in verses 20-26.

In verses 17-19, Jesus is praying about the disciples and speaks of sanctification. "Sanctify them (the disciples) by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth."
John MacArthur's commentary (The MacArthur Daily Bible) on the verse 17 says sanctification means the setting apart for a particular use or purpose. Jesus was set apart—He was in the world but not of the world. And if the disciples hadn’t realized it before, they would learn quickly following the death and resurrection of Christ that they were in the world but not of the world too. They would learn the world hated them just as it had hated Jesus.
Believers learn through the process of sanctification that we are in the world but not of the world—Jesus says we are set apart by the truth of the word of God. The apostle John would write in chapter 20, verse 31, “but these (words) are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” Yes, set apart because of grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Of course, I love the verses in John 17 where Jesus is praying about me—verses 20-26. Just think, all those many years ago, Jesus prayed about me—and not only me but also about all future New Testament believers. He prayed, "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word (the disciples—re-read John 20:31 above); that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have love Me."
Wow; perfect unity with God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, and other true believers. Now that makes my heart sing with joy! And I sincerely pray that it makes your heart sing too!

Friday, May 18, 2012

King Jesus

“And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” 2 Samuel 7:16, NKJV

This morning I was reading in the book of 2 Samuel 7. If you are a Bible scholar, (I am not), you should automatically think, “Davidic Covenant”. The Davidic Covenant is God’s irrevocable promise, (all God’s promises, are, of course, irrevocable!) that a king from the line of David would rule forever. This king, King Jesus, would later be described by the prophet Isaiah in these way:
For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:6-7, HCSB
Reading this makes my heart jump within me! Can you imagine how David must have felt when Nathan, the prophet revealed to him the Lord’s words? He was excited; he was humbled; he was awed; and he was thankful. 2 Samuel 7:18-28, NKJV, tells us that “King David went in and sat before the Lord” to pray.
David begins by saying, “Who am I, O Lord my God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far?” What humility! David recognizes that man is not able to make such promises, only God, who is Sovereign, can make such promises. Further, David recognizes the blessings of God in the revelation, itself, of the promises.
Then the praises begin! “You are great, O Lord God. For there is none like you, nor is there any God besides You.” “You redeemed for Yourself”, Israel, for “Your very own people forever” to show Your “great and awesome deeds.” “So let Your name be magnified forever.” “O Lord God, You are God and Your words are true”.
What a wonderful passage and the blessing revealed is beyond comprehension—King Jesus! “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16, HCSB
Do you know Him? If not, do not delay…He’s waiting for you, right now. EVERYONE (that includes you) “who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”
God bless!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Unashamed

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16, HCSB

Many months ago, perhaps as long ago as a year or more, I read something about a new internet outreach program by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). The program, (http://peacewithgod.jesus.net/), is set-up so that those searching the internet for answers to difficult-life-questions such as, “Does God exist?”—“Who is Jesus?”—“How can I find peace in my life?” are introduced to the Gospel and pointed toward hope in Jesus Christ. Reading more about the program, I saw volunteers were needed; this piqued my interest and I requested further information.
Sometime later I received an email from BGEA saying the response for volunteers had been well-received and that I would hear more from them in the future—I did not. Occasionally, I would check the website again and even resubmitted my contact info—still nothing. I remember thinking that, while I was interested in the ministry, it must not be where God was leading me to serve at the moment.
Yesterday, I received an email from an internet site to which I subscribe, Jesus.org, with the subject line, “An internet outreach for you”. Excitedly, I opened the message to find an ad for the BGEA internet outreach program! I thought, “I’m still interested in volunteering, but what if this is not God’s plan for me?”
I find many times I must stop and ask myself, “Is this God’s will for my life or is this just my own desire?” I know I must be on-guard for this backwards, prideful, attitude. I pray for God to open doors that He wants me to walk through and that He will close others securely where He does not want me to go; I pray almost constantly for that particular wisdom and discernment. I also ask that I be able to recognize His small, still voice and that I obey His word quickly, sweetly, and completely.
Having said all that, I did once again submit my name to the program and yesterday afternoon I received a link leading to an application to participate as a volunteer. This morning, as I was walking, I was praying specifically about the possibility of being a volunteer with the program when a familiar, well-loved song began to play on my ipod—it was Starla Harbin, singing, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel; it’s the Gospel of Jesus Christ…;” the song brought tears to my eyes. What a privilege to be able to share with others the precious gift I have received; “I love standing up for my Jesus ‘cause of all that He’s done for me…”!
Dear Lord, I pray I always speak boldly in Your name when given the opportunity to share Your Gospel with others. Amen.
God bless!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Spiritual Fitness

“Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God,” Romans 12:2, HCSB.

Our bodies are designed for activity—physically and mentally. Activity keeps the cob-webs at bay and helps us function more efficiently and effectively. Activity is to our bodies and minds what lubricant is to machinery.
An article entitled, “Why is Exercise Important”, on www.healthdiscovery.net, states if we don’t use our bodies, our muscles become weak and flabby, our heart and lungs won’t function efficiently and our joints will become stiff and more prone to injury. An April 25, 2012 article from www.sciencedaily.com, “Protecting Your Brain: ‘Use It or Lose It’, says “those who are more mentally active or maintain an active cognitive lifestyle throughout their lives are at lower risk” for dementia.
If activity is of such great importance for the fitness of the body and brain, which have a limited lifespan, then how much greater should be the attention given to the spiritual fitness and well-being of the Christian life when the consideration of time is eternity. What activities can we as Christians, undertake for spiritual fitness?
Certainly, without daily prayer it would be impossible to be spiritually fit. Paul admonished the Thessalonians, “Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, HCSB.
Through prayer we commune with God; through prayer we offer praise, adoration, and worship to our Lord; we thank Him for our many blessings; we make our requests known to Him; and through prayer we confess and repent of wrongdoing, (Matthew 6:12). Dr. Charles Stanley has written, “Salvation makes a way for us to enter God’s presence, while regular confession and repentance keep the pathway well maintained and free of obstruction.”
“If I had been aware of malice in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. However, God has listened; He has paid attention to the sound of my prayer. May God be praised! He has not turned away my prayer or turned His faithful love from me,” Psalm 66:18-20, HCSB. Daily prayer is certainly necessary for spiritual fitness and our daily walk of faith.
Another essential in pursuit of God and a life of spiritual fitness is reading the Bible daily. God’s Word enables us to face the difficulties of life; it is our firm foundation in all circumstances. Through the Scripture we learn about the character of God, His will, His way, His promises—through study and application of Biblical truths we gain spiritual maturity; godly wisdom, and spiritual discernment.
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping Your word. I have sought You with all my heart; don’t let me wander from Your commands. I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You. LORD, may You be praised; teach me Your statutes,” Psalm 119:9-12, HCSB.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work,” 2 Timothy 3:16-17, HCSB.
Also crucial to spiritual fitness is fellowship with other believers. “And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near,” Hebrews 10:24-25, HCSB.
Through unity with other believers we find support, friendship, encouragement, and love; through fellowship with others we discover opportunities to share, serve, mentor, and minister to others. We also have the opportunity to be ministered to and the opportunity to learn from other believers.
While I believe the above are absolute necessities to spiritual fitness, it is certainly not an exhaustive list. Each of us has certain things we do regularly to maintain spiritual vitality. My own routine each morning is to pray, read my Bible, and then walk while listening to contemporary Christian music. I value this time in the mornings alone with God; just praising and worshiping Him. It sets the tone for my entire day.
I’d love to hear what you do for spiritual fitness. Please share with me your favorite activities for staying in good shape spiritually.
God Bless!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Duck Test

You may be asking yourself, “What is the duck test?” Well, the duck test is an inductive reasoning assessment that goes like this: If you see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then the bird must be a duck.

Unfortunately, the duck test is not completely accurate. As you well know, hypocrisy runs rampant in our society. We see it in the spin of the news media; we see it in the faux promises of politicians; we see it in job-seekers embellishing their resumes—I’ll stop here because giving you a comprehensive list of examples would take too long. For the sake of brevity, I’ll simply give you the definition of hypocrisy, (please forgive me for insulting your intelligence).

From the internet web-site http://www.dictionary.com, hypocrisy is defined as a pretense of having a virtuous character, moral or religious beliefs or principles, etc., that one does not really possess; or a pretense of having some desirable or publicly approved attitude.
No surprises there and it is also no surprise that Jesus preached against hypocrisy during His ministry on earth; the Pharisees being particular targets. Just one example of this is found in Matthew 23:17, HCSB, where Jesus says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity.”
People appearing to be what they are not.
The parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:1-13 is another example of people appearing to be what they are not. The five wise virgins not only looked the part, they were also prepared. The foolish virgins also looked the part; in fact, they looked exactly like the wise virgins; however, when it came time to meet the groom they were not only unprepared, but it was also discovered they were not even known by the groom—they were imposters!
In Mark 11:12-14, Jesus cursed the barren fig tree for not providing what its appearance promised—fruit. Since the tree was already full of leaves, Jesus went to see, “if perhaps He would find something on it”, (Mark 11:13). Finding no fruit, He cursed the tree.
Jesus says we are recognized by our fruit. In John 15:5-8, He tells us if we remain in Him and Him in us, we will produce “much” fruit and that the Father is glorified by this. Furthermore, by this we are proved to be His disciples…not imposters, but true Disciples of Christ!
As Christians we should daily invite the Lord to examine our hearts and motives to see if there is any offensive way within us, (Psalm 139:23-24). For you can be sure others are watching us to see if we are truly what we appear to be; if we are truly what we profess to be. In other words, if you say you are a duck; then be a duck and don’t get caught acting like a goose! After all, we are ambassadors of Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:20.
Make Your ways known to me, LORD; teach me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation”. Psalm 25:4-5, HCSB
Precious Lord,
You see our hearts, You know our motives; give us clean hands and a pure heart to know and walk in Your ways, to obey You—quickly, sweetly, and completely; to worship and glorify You, and to serve You always; in Jesus’ name. Amen.
God bless!