Can God? God Can!
God Can Walk the Stormy SeasMatthew 14:24-2524But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.
25And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.In Matthew 14 we read about Jesus walking on the stormy sea. That's a miracle I'm sure we all would've loved to see. I'm mean Jesus was walking on top of those crashing waves. But something that I'd missed before came alive for me the other night when I was studying my Bible. This wasn't the first stormy sea that Jesus had walked that day.No, He hadn't physically walked on any other body of water, but emotionally, He'd faced a storm, and He'd walked that stormy sea as well. You have to go back to the beginning of Matthew 14 to see a bit about what I'm talking about. We'll start in verse 10:"10And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison.
11And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother.
12And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus.13a When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart:"So Jesus had just received the news that John the Baptist was dead, murdered by a wicked king. This was the man who had proclaimed Jesus throughout his ministry. This was the man who had baptized Jesus. This was Jesus' family.So Jesus went apart from the crowds into a desert place. I'm sure we all would've wanted a little alone time if we heard news like that. But the crowds found Jesus. Check out these verses from Matthew 14:"13b ...and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities.
14And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.
15And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.
16But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.
17And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.
18He said, Bring them hither to me.
19And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
20And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.
21And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.
22And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away."Now Jesus could have begged for the crowd to give Him some time. He could've told them that He had just lost a dear friend. He could've said His emotions were too raw to help them.But He didn't. He looked at the crowd of needy people and had compassion on them. He didn't plea for their compassion. He saw their needs and He met them. And when the disciples said it was time for the people to go home, Jesus wouldn't allow it. He performed a miracle and fed thousands of people with the lunch of one small boy. I don't know about you, but I would say that Jesus had faced a pretty stormy day. A day filled with sorrow. A day filled with stress. But Jesus wasn't overtaken by this emotional storm. He walked the stormy emotional sea, just as He walked the physical stormy sea later that night. I think the most awesome thing is that not only did Jesus walk the stormy seas, but He enabled His disciples to walk the stormy seas as well. As long as they were looking to Jesus for strength they were able to walk. After all, some of Jesus' disciples had been John's disciples at one time. John the Baptist wasn't just a name to them. He was a person. A person who had led them to Jesus. But Jesus' strength through the situation helped them to have strength.When it comes to the raging seas of my life, there is no way that I can walk on those stormy waters unless I keep my eyes on Christ. And you can't either. We need to rely on a God who CAN walk the stormy seas. Because it's only through His power that we will be able to make it to the other side of every trial!
Labels: God CAN
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Can God? God Can!
God Can Make a Sin-sick Heart CleanToday I'm going to start a series on the things God can do. This springs from the services we had at church yesterday. During the morning service my dad sang a song called "I Know a Man Who Can" and it was requested for him to sing it again in the evening service. The song isn't a new one to me. I've heard it all of my life, but the words are just so powerful. So, based on my inspiration from the song I'm going to start this series.Today I'm going to talk about how God CAN make a sin-sick heart clean. Amazing to think about isn't it? Whether you are a sinner who has never confessed to God, or a Christian who has failed Him, your sins can be forgiven and erased. AS IF THEY NEVER HAPPENED.Over the past few weeks I've been painting my bathroom. A process that would be speedier if I was a brilliant trim painter. Anyway, since I've been painting I've been spending a bit of time cleaning brushes. I rinse them out and rinse them out and try my hardest to remove all traces of paint from those brushes. However, no matter how hard I try, I can't remove all the paint. The white tips on my brushes are still stained a wine color and a sage green color. I can't erase the fact that the brushes have now been used. Just as I can't remove all the paint from the brushes, I can't remove all the sin from my own life. There is nothing that I could ever do in my own power to make my heart clean. No, God has to do that. David talks a bit about this in Psalm 51:1-10:"1Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
2Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
4Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
5Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
9Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
10Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me."David goes through this elaborate confession to God. He admits that he is a sinner. He admits that he was born that way. He knows that the only way to overcome his sin is to have God completely recreate his heart.We all need that recreated heart. We were all born sinners. And whether the sin is telling a white lie or murdering someone, there is nothing we can do to cover it. We can't even wash away the smallest sin from our lives. The Life Application Bible has this note:"Because we are sinners, our natural inclination is to please ourselves rather than God...we must ask God to cleanse us from within, clearing our hearts and spirits for new thoughts and desires. Right conduct can only come from a clean heart and spirit.""Right conduct can only come from a clean heart and spirit." And a clean heart and spirit can only come from God. Otherwise, why would He have sent His only Son to die for us? His Son's sacrafice was our only way to be made pure. Paul liked to use the word blameless (I Thessalonians 5:23). Think about it. No matter what you've done you can be called blameless. All that you have to do is confess your sins, and He will forgive your sins and make you new. Check out this verse from I John 1:9:"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."Cleansed from all unrighteousness. That's how He wants each and every one of us to be. He offered His forgiveness to all men. We just have to accept it and claim it.God CAN make a sin-sick heart clean. The question is can you trust Him to cleanse you?
Labels: God CAN
Build Your Altars - The Altar of Love
Have you ever really thought about how important love is in your life? Whether it's love for God, or love for others, or love for self. Love is what motivates each and every one of us.If we love God, and I mean truly love Him, our life's goal will be to serve Him. We serve Him by following His commandments. Jesus spoke about this in John 14:15:"If ye love me, keep my commandments."The point is that if we are motivated by our love, we will have no problem following the instructions laid down for us in God's Word. If we love Him, we won't look at the Bible as a book of "dos" and "don'ts". Rather we will see it as a book of instructions on how to please the God we love. And He deserves our love and service. I mean think about what He did for us in His love. Think about this verse from John 3:16:"16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."He gave us His only Son so that we could be saved. That's some pretty amazing love. Don't you think that a God who loved us that much deserves our love in return? I sure do.But it isn't enough to say that we love Him. We must show our love. First off we must show our love by building a relationship with Him.If I said that I loved my brother and sister yet never spent any time with them, pretty soon they'd begin to doubt my love. Relationships grow stronger by time spent together. If we never pray and speak to God or read His Word to hear what He has to say, pretty soon our relationships will be in a bad place. We must show our love by keeping those lines of communication active.Secondly we can show our love by applying what we've learned. We must allow God's Word to change us because we know that in His love, He would never ask anything of us that would be for anything other than our good. Thirdly, we must allow our love to lead us to service. Do you remember Jesus' talk with Peter in John 21? Jesus kept asking if Peter loved Him?Peter said, "Lord, You know that I love You."Jesus' response to Peter's assurance of love was this, "Feed my lambs."If we truly love Jesus the way that we say we do, we will do His work. Whether that means teaching a Sunday School class, or singing in the choir, or preaching, or going to the foreign mission field, the list could go on and on. Each and every one of us has some ability that we can use for Him. The question is do we love Him enough to use those abilities?The altar of love is important to each Christian life. We can look back to that altar to remember all that God did for us in His love, and it will inspire us to do more and more out of our love for Him.
Build Your Altars - The Altar of the Wilderness
I'm going to go a little different route today in my altars series. Actually God sent me a different route. I had fully intended to speak on the altar of love today, but He showed me so much last night that I decided to change my topic.Today I'm going to talk about the altar of the wilderness. I know that so far in this series I've been talking about character traits, things that each of us should have. Obviously "the wilderness" isn't a character trait, but it is a place that builds character. Now, if you're like me, when you think of the wilderness you think of the children of Israel. It's so easy to judge those people. I mean look at all God did for them, yet they chose to remain in the wilderness rather than claiming His promise. But though it's easy to judge them, I find myself in the same rut so many times. And God has carried me through so much, but as I said here it's often easy to take our eyes off of God's goodness and focus instead on our circumstances.If there were ever to be a Biblical book about my life, I'm sure that the people reading it would find it very easy to judge me as well. But the point is that some of the children of Israel made it through the wilderness while others did not. Some saw the promised land while others died on the edge of promise.What was the difference? They had all seen the same miracles. They had all heard the same promises. They had all eaten the same manna. The difference was their focus. Those who focused on God and His promises made it through.Look at Deuteronomy 8:18:"But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day."Moses was telling the children of Israel who were about to enter the land to remember the LORD because He was the reason they were entering the land of promise. He was the one that had brought them through the wilderness. He's the only one who can completely change the situation we are in.The psalmist talks a bit about this in Psalm 107:35:"He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings."Did you catch what it said there? He will turn the wilderness into standing water. It doesn't say He always removes us from the wilderness. He makes the wilderness bearable. He changes the way we view our circumstances.I've said before that I used to wonder as a child why God didn't just pick the children of Israel up in Egypt and place them in the promised land with their enemies soundly defeated. But since that time in my youth, God has shown me that the children of Israel needed to go through the wilderness because they needed to learn that He would provide for them even in the hardest times of life. And they needed to learn to praise Him during those times.After all, it was in the wilderness when God first introduced the tabernacle and gave specifics for the sacrafices the children of Israel were to make. The wilderness is a place for us to grow.Jesus faced a wilderness as well. He faced the wilderness of temptation. In Luke 4, Jesus went alone into the wilderness to fast and to pray. Satan came to Jesus during this time because he felt Jesus would be weak.However, Jesus was prepared for the wilderness. He was ready to give an answer to Satan's every temptation. We must prepare for the temptations of our life as well. We must focus on learning and knowing God's Word during the best times of life so that we can use His Word as a stronghold during the harder times of life when Satan is fighting us on every side.If we trust in the Lord and focus on His Word during the wilderness times, He will send us just what we need when we need it. In Acts 8, the Ethiopian Eunuch was in a desert, literally. He was in the middle of nowhere, but he was reading God's Word, and he needed someone to help him understand it. God sent Philip by the Ethiopian Eunuch's way at just the right time, and Philip explained God's Word to the man.Just like the Eunuch we will face times in our life when we just don't understand, but if we will focus on God's Word, He will send the right answer at the right time. We just have to know that He is there with us even in the wilderness.
Build Your Altars - The Altar of Faith
Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."This verse from Hebrews 11 is known as the definition of faith. It tells exactly what faith is all about. So since today's altar is the altar of faith, I'm going to break this verse down a bit.First of all, look at that very first word. The word "now." We don't have to wait twenty years for our faith to mean something. Our faith has substance right now. Substance is the actual matter of a thing or reality. So right now our faith is a reality. In other words, as soon as we put our faith in Christ, our sins are washed away. At that moment we become a child of the king and a resident of heaven.We've never actually seen our eternal home, and we've never actually seen Jesus face to face, but our strong faith in Him is the evidence that one day we will see all that we know to be true.Faith is essential to the Christian life. After all, without faith, we could never have salvation. Faith is our way to peace with God, as Paul stated here in Romans 5:1:"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:"We must have faith in all that Jesus did for us in order to be made just. But faith isn't something that we forget about after we pray the prayer of salvation. Faith is something that carries us through our entire Christian journey. We must have faith that the same Jesus who saved us from our sins will carry us through every trial we meet along the way, even when it seems that the odds are totally against us. When I think about building an altar of faith, I can't help but think about Elijah in I Kings 18. He built a literal altar of faith before the prophets of Baal that day. Elijah knew long before he offered the challenge to the false prophets that God was able to send fire from heaven. He'd never seen it happen, but he had faith that his God was able to do anything. So when he offered up the challenge he never once doubted that God would give the victory.Fire did fall for Elijah that day, and Baal was shown for what he was, an idol. A god made of stone with no power to help those who called on him. Our God is a God who hears us and answers our prayers. We just need the faith to call on Him.And it doesn't take much faith. Look at what Jesus said in Matthew 17:20:"And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you."Jesus told his disciples that nothing would be impossible to them if they had the tiniest bit of faith. A mustard seed is barely bigger than a grain of sand, but if we have just a speck of faith, we can move mountains.The point is that our whole life should be motivated by our faith. After we are justified, we are to live by that faith that made us just. This is a standard that was set forth in the Old Testament in Habakkuk 2:4b:"but the just shall live by his faith."Paul quoted Habakkuk's words several times in the New Testament in Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11. The writer of Hebrews also repeated these words in Hebrews 10:38. So God inspired the writers of His Word to say these words four different times. Must be pretty important. I think it all goes back to those words in Hebrews 11:1.Faith must be our substance. It must shape our reality because it is our reality. If we are saved, we are on our way to our eternal home. This world is just a stopping place on the way to our heavenly home. The faith in that reality must guide us each step of the way!
Build Your Altars - The Altar of Contentment
Well, God hit me yesterday morning again in Sunday School. My aunt taught on contentment and all through the day yesterday I thought about the topic. And last night I got my Bible out and studied up about contentment. I guess the best way to start this topic is to talk about why we as Christians should be able to build this altar of contentment. I think the number one reason we can be content is mentioned in Hebrews 13:5:"Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."We can be content because we have a God that will never leave us or forsake us. No matter what happens in life we can rest assured that God will provide our every need. Psalm 37:25 talks a little bit about this:"I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread."David said he'd never seen God fail his children. Never once from his youth until he was an old man. Now, I'm not exactly old, but I am OLDER than I was at one point in my life, and I can tell you that I stand by David's testimony here. God has NEVER failed me.Yet, though I know God will provide for me, there is still that constant inner struggle with wanting more. Wanting a promotion. Wanting a bigger paycheck. Wanting a nicer car. Wanting a new house. The list could go on and on.Of course the struggle with contentment isn't a new struggle. Obviously it plagued Eve. Otherwise why would she have eaten the forbidden fruit? It plagued Joseph's brothers who weren't content with being their father's second favorite. It plagued David when he peeked over to Bathsheba's roof.Discontent leads us to sin. It leads us to gain things outside of God's perfect will for our lives. We see a little bit about this in the life of a man named Gehazi.Now, you may not know much about Gehazi. He was Elisha's servant, and he was mentioned in II Kings 4-5. Gehazi had the privelege of working for a great man that God allowed to perform wonderful miracles. He even saw Elisha raise a boy from the dead in II Kings 4, but Gehazi's desire for earthly gain got the best of him in II Kings 5.In II Kings 5 Elisha healed a man named Naaman from leprosy. Naaman offered treasures to Elisha to show thanks for his healing, but Elisha refused the gifts. Gehazi decided that those gifts shouldn't go to waste, and he ran after Naaman and claimed that Elisha had need of the gifts after all. So Naaman gave the silver and raiments that he had offered Elisha to Gehazi.Gehazi thought he had done this in secret, but God had revealed Gehazi's sin to Elisha. Elisha was disappointed with Gehazi, because he wanted Gehazi to realize that God would reward his servant in His own time. Gehazi's desire for instant gratification ended up costing him greatly. Gehazi lived the rest of his life as a leper, and all of his generations faced the same fate.Seems like a pretty steep price to pay for wanting a little bit of silver doesn't it? I think it shows just how serious God is about wanting us to rely on Him rather than on the things of this earth. We need to realize that earthly treasures can't bring satisfaction.I mean think about it. Even if Elisha hadn't found out about Gehazi's little escapade, what good would the silver and raiments have done him? He had to keep them hidden because he wasn't supposed to have them. Gehazi's treasure brought him nothing but trouble. Proverbs 15:16 talks a bit about this topic:"Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith."Had Gehazi feared the LORD, he never would have gone against Elisha's wishes and taken the gifts from Naaman. He respected earthly treasures more than he respected the God of heaven. Gehazi didn't see things from God's point of view. Think of how great Gehazi could have been had he focused on God's provision rather than on earthly want. Elisha was a servant of Elijah, and when Elijah was taken up to heaven, a double portion of his spirit fell on Elisha. Had Gehazi followed God's will, he may have been chosen to be Elisha's successor.I guess hindsight is always 20/20, but I can guarantee that had Gehazi had the chance to do it all again, he never would have taken the treasure. He would have been content in his situation simply because he knew that God was providing. Paul looked back over his own life in Philippians 4:11:"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."Paul didn't start out as a poor man. He had power, position, privelege. But when he met Christ on the road to Damascus, he realized that none of that mattered nearly as much as sharing the Gospel of Christ with as many people as he could. So he gave up the life of great position and became a missionary who earned his living making tents.Yet Paul said that he was content. He'd seen the wealthy side of things, and he realized that earthly gain didn't satisfy. Only Christ could satisfy. So Paul was content.But the thing that hit me most in this verse is the word, "learned." Contentment isn't natural. It's a learned thing. And where do we learn it? From the Holy Spirit. He guides us into the paths that we should go. He teaches us to seek God's kingdom (Matthew 6:33) and not to worry about the things of this world. Yes, the altar of contentment is an important altar to build. Discontent always leads to the path of disaster. And for some, like Gehazi, it's too late before they realize what happened.
Build Your Altars - The Altar of Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving. This is an altar that seems easy enough to build. But it's an altar that we constantly have to look to because everyday won't be full of sunshine. We won't always sail on smooth waters. And in those hard times of life we need to look back and remember that the same God that blessed us in the easy times is with us in the hard times, and we can praise Him even in the storms.When we build an altar like this, we will be able to have an attitude like Paul's when he spoke to the Colossian church. Check out this verse from Colossians 1:24, "Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church:"Paul rejoiced in his sufferings? Why, because through his sufferings he had been able to lead members of the Colossian church to Christ. Our sufferings can bring us to a place where we can offer an understanding ear to others facing problems in life. So rejoice in your trials because God is using them to make you stronger.Paul wasn't the only one who offered praise in the time of trial. If you look back to Genesis 8:20, you will see Noah's response to suffering:"And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar."Now, you might be saying, well, Noah had reason to be grateful, and he did. After all, God had saved Noah and his family from the world-wide flood. But think about it, Noah still had a long road ahead of him. He and his family had to rebuild the earth. EVERYTHING had been destroyed. He could have looked at the huge task before him and been discouraged, but instead he offered God praise. Why?Because Noah knew that the same God who had carried he and his family through the storm would help them pick up the pieces after the storm. He knew that God was worthy of his praise. God hadn't asked Noah to offer a sacrafice, but Noah did, and he was rewarded with God's promise. Check out verses 14-16 from Genesis 9:"14And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:
15And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.
16And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth."Had Noah gone straight to the work, he may have missed out on hearing God's promise. Many times we miss blessings by not stopping to give God praise for what He has done.Such is the case of nine of the ten lepers in Luke 17. See, Jesus healed all ten of the lepers. He didn't take back His healing from the nine that didn't come back to thank Him. But the tenth leper that came back to praise Him was given more of a blessing. In Luke 17:19 Jesus says, "Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole." The tenth leper learned that hearing Jesus' words wasn't enough. It was the faith in those words that had healed him and his leper friends. His decision to offer thanks to Christ allowed him to hear a lesson about faith from Jesus Himself.God never demands our praise. He wants us to offer our thanks out of our own will. But when we do offer praise, we will be rewarded for it. He will use our times of thanksgiving to teach us more about Himself.So praise Him today and everyday. An altar of thanksgiving in your life can lead you into a relationship with Christ beyond anything you ever imagined.
Build Your Altars - The Altar of Forgiveness
Part Two - Our Need to Forgive OthersAs I said yesterday forgiveness is a very important altar in the life of a Christian. It's important, of course, because without God's forgiveness to us, we would be eternally lost. But it's also important because our forgiveness to others shows our relationship with Christ. Check out these verses from Matthew 6:"14For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."I don't know about you, but I think those are pretty serious words. Does that mean that refusing to forgive someone makes us lose our salvation? I don't think so. I think it should make us question if we were ever truly saved at all.The Life Application Bible has a good note about this:"We can't earn forgiveness by forgiving others. But when we withhold forgiveness from others after having received it ourselves, it shows that we don't understand or appreciate God's mercy toward us."Jesus never taught that we could earn our salvation. He repeatedly told us that He alone was the One Way to the Father. I believe He was saying that all men are undeserving of God's forgiveness, yet God wants to forgive us anyway. If we are truly repentant, we will realize how undeserving we are of God's mercy. The fact that we have been accepted in spite of being so unworthy should soften our hearts towards those who have asked our forgiveness. Because no matter how much they have hurt us, it could never equal up to how we ourselves had hurt God in the past.The Life Application Bible has another good note about this:"As we come to understand His mercy...we will want to be like Him. Having received forgiveness, we will want to pass it on to others. Those who are unwilling to forgive have not become one with Christ, who was willing to forgive even those that crucified Him."Did you read that last part. Yeah, the part where Christ was even willing to forgive those who crucified Him? That's a pretty huge amount of forgiveness isn't it? Now you might say that Jesus was God, and on this earth we will never reach that level of forgiveness, but it is possible. There are several examples of Christ-like forgiveness in God's Word.David showed this kind of forgiveness hundreds of years before Christ was ever born. Now David was under the law, not under grace, but I believe that David knew much about God's love. After all, he was called a man after God's own heart. And I think that his forgiveness toward Saul in II Samuel 1:11-12 may be part of the reason he earned that title.Take a look at these verses from II Samuel 1:"11Then David took hold on his clothes, and rent them; and likewise all the men that were with him:
12And they mourned, and wept, and fasted until even, for Saul, and for Jonathan his son, and for the people of the LORD, and for the house of Israel; because they were fallen by the sword."Now David doesn't actually say the words, "I forgive Saul" in these verses. But I think it's pretty obvious that he held no ill-will toward the man who had made him live as a fugitive, constantly fearing for his life. Saul would have killed David at any opportune moment, yet David rent his clothes and wept at the news of Saul's death. That's a forgiving heart.Then in the New Testament we see another example. You remember Paul that we talked about yesterday. Well before he became a Christian he stood by while men stoned a preacher named Steven to death. Steven showed Christ-like forgiveness until the end. Check out his last words in Acts 7:60, "And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.""Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." Such awesome words of forgiveness. I've never faced physical persecution, but I pray that, if I'm ever in a situation like Steven, I will show Christ's love until the end. Christ-like forgiveness isn't easy, but it is possible if we will remember that we are all sinners. There is not one of us that is perfect. A note from the Life Application Bible says it this way:"When we don't forgive others, we are denying our common ground as sinners in need of God's forgiveness."If ever I have a problem with holding a grudge, I remember that Jesus loved that person enough to die on Calvary. And my love is supposed to mirror His love. After all, they will know we are Christians by our love (John 13:35.)So build that altar of forgiveness in your life. And if you ever have problems with forgiving someone, simply to look back to the place where God forgave you.
Build Your Altars - The Altar of Forgiveness
Part One - Our Need For God's ForgivenessIn yesterday's post I mentioned that today I would be talking about the Altar of Forgiveness. Like the Altar of Submission, this altar is an absolute necessity to the Christian life. The two go hand in hand. First, we must submit to God's way of thinking and realize that we are sinners. Second, we must bow before the altar of forgiveness.I think that once you realize you are a sinner in need of forgiveness, it's hard to believe that a perfect, holy God would actually forgive you. But He will. He's shown us time and again in His Word how He has forgiven others.Take David for instance. In II Samuel 12, David learned that his sin had been discovered. You can't keep a sin hidden from God. God knew that David was an adulterous murderer, and for that sin, God took the child that had been conceived in David and Bathsheba's adulterous relationship.But God forgave David. In II Samuel 12:13, David asked for God's forgiveness, and it says that God had put away David's sin. It was no more in his sight. And in II Samuel 12:20 David went into the house of the Lord and worshipped. He had a restored relationship with God. Another example would be the Apostle Paul. When we first hear about Paul, his name was Saul, and he was an active participant in the killing of Christians. In Acts 7 he just watched as men stoned Steven to death for preaching the Gospel of Christ. In Acts 9 he asked the high priest for a letter to the synagogue in Damascus. That letter held the threat of death to anyone preaching the Gospel. Fortunately that letter never reached Damascus because God stopped Saul on the Damascus road. Saul repented of his murderous ways, and he became one of the greatest missionaries of all time. He wrote 12 and possibly 13 books of the Bible.God can use anyone if only they will come to Him for forgiveness. We just need to realize that God WANTS to forgive our sins. He wants us to have a restored relationship with Him. He just wants us to come to Him. I John 1:9 says it this way, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."Confession. That's all it takes. And He will cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness. I don't know about you, but I'm thankful I bowed at the altar of forgiveness, the cross.Come by tomorrow to read how God's forgiveness to us should lead us to forgive others!
Build Your Altars - The Altar of Submission
For the next several posts I'm going to attempt my first "series." God put this on my heart yesterday morning in Sunday School. My aunt Cherie teaches the class, and she said something that really hit home with me. She said, "You need to build your altars long before you are in the middle of a problem." In other words, you need to have a place where you meet with God on a daily basis. You need to have a place where you can hear His voice. That way when the storms come, you already know that you have a place to run.So over the next several days I'm going to go over several "altars" that you need to have established in your life. Today's altar is the first altar you must build in your life. Without this altar you will have no foundation to build upon. Today's altar is the altar of submission.This altar is found very early in God's Word. Adam and Eve learned a lot about submission. They learned that refusing to submit to God's command will only end in disaster. For them it ended in death. Spiritual death. Of course we know that God sacraficed animals in order to give Adam and Eve coats, and we know that pointed to the need for blood to cover sins, but we'll talk more about that when we talk tomorrow about the altar of forgiveness.Today we're going to focus on the point of submission. Now you would think that the consequences of Adam and Eve's failure would have kept their children on the straight and narrow. But in Genesis 4, we see again disaster brought on by a failure to submit to God's commands.In Genesis 4:3 Cain brought a sacrafice to God. He brought a sacrafice of the fruit of the ground. Now I don't think that Cain gave the rotten fruit and vegetables. I'm sure that he brought the best. However Cain's best was not what God had requested. God had requested a blood sacrafice. Cain had refused to submit to God's standard, and God rejected his sacrafice.In Genesis 4:4 we see how Abel, Cain's brother, brought a blood sacrafice. God accepted Abel's sacrafice.This angered Cain. You see, Cain wanted God to accept him, but he wanted to come in his own way. He wanted to bring his own good works to God and be accepted for them. But in spite of all his good work, Cain still needed a blood sacrafice to cover his sin. And his refusal to submit brought God's disapproval.We never see God telling Cain that he couldn't offer another sacrafice. Cain could have humbled himself and brought another sacrafice. An acceptable sacrafice. But in his pride he refused to submit and instead decided to kill the innocent Abel. God punished Cain by cursing him to roam the earth and by making the earth unfruitful to him. (Genesis 4:11-12) But the worst thing of all was that he was driven from the presence of God. (Genesis 4:16) Cain's failure to submit led him to an unbearable punishment. (Genesis 4:13)A refusal to build an altar of submission can be costly to us as well. First of all we have to submit to coming to God in His way. The only way. And that way is through the sacrafice of His Son Jesus Christ. (John 14:6) If we refuse to submit to God's way of salvation, we will pay the cost of eternal death.Secondly after we have submitted to God's way of salvation, we must submit to follow God's will for our lives. A Christian who refuses to follow God's commands will be miserable. Think of where it led Jonah. His refusal to submit to God's will about preaching to the Ninevites put him into the belly of the whale.Yes, the altar of submission is very important. A must have in every Christian life. I pray that, if you have not submitted to God, you will do so today. It's a choice you will never regret!
Take The Blindfold Off
Last night in youth we did a little excercise showing how much we need direction in our lives. I put a blindfold on a girl, and she attempted to put together a puzzle with the blindfold on. Now this wasn't a 1000 piece Thomas Kinkade puzzle. It was a 5 piece preschool level puzzle, but she couldn't get the puzzle together because she had the blindfold on. We had a few laughs about it.But when she was given some direction by someone who could see, she could put the puzzle together, and obviously when the blindfold was removed she was able to put the puzzle together in a matter of seconds. After we'd had some fun, I got down to the buisness of the lesson. The point was that we all need direction in our lives. And that if we don't follow the direction given to us, we may as well be walking around with a blindfold. One of the examples given in the bible was from the book of Numbers chapters 13 and 14. This is where Moses sent 12 spies into the promised land. 10 spies came back and reported that the task was impossible. The land was a great land, but there was no way they could defeat the giants that lived there. Joshua and Caleb had a different opinion, though. They saw the land for what it was, a PROMISED land. They looked at the abundance of the land as already being theirs. Why? Because God had promised them the land, and they trusted that God would fulfill His promise.Now, the other 10 spies had heard God's promise. They just blinded themselves to seeing God's promise and saw instead only problems. Too many times in life we forget God's promises. We allow ourselves to be blinded by the problems that surround us. But we've already been given the victory over our problems. We all know that due to their lack of faith, the children of Israel was sentenced to 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, but then they were given the promised land. Some cities just fell to the ground, and others they battled for. But they battled knowing they would be victorious because God had already promised them the victory. God has also promised us victory. He has promised us peace in the midst of our storms. He has promised us love in the midst of loneliness. He has promised us joy in the midst of sorrow. And most of all he has promised us an eternal home when we leave this world. So as Christians, we have our directions. They are spelled out in God's Word. All through His Word we find that He is trustworthy. He always kept His promises then, and He always will.The question is, will you follow His direction or put on a blindfold and go your own way?
Ripples and Tidal Waves
Over the last two days I've spoken to two friends who are struggling right now. They are both great Christians, and they are both seeking God's will, but right now they are in the midst of testing. And as I spoke to both of them, the same passage of Scripture came to mind. It was this passage from James 1: 2My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.Verse 2 can be a tough verse to swallow. Count it joy when you fall into temptations? How is that possible?It's possible because trials allow us to see that the Spirit is working in our lives. He uses these times to work patience into our hearts. And when allow that patience to rule our lives we will become the mature, whole Christians that we were meant to be. Now sometimes those trials or temptations are gonna be little ripples on the sea of life. They may not be huge things but they hit us again and again, never allowing us to sail on smooth seas. Those small ripples prepare us for what's ahead. They build our faith in God and our patience in times of trouble. They prepare us for the tidal waves we are going to face.And we are going to face tidal waves. They will be different for each of us. Some will face the tidal wave of sickness. Some will face the tidal wave of death. Some will face the tidal wave of marital stress. Tidal waves will hit, and when they do, we are to remember the lessons we learned while we faced those small ripples. We are to remember that the same God who sailed us through the small problems of life will sail us through the major storms. And we should praise God through it all, knowing that on the other side of every storm we will be the stronger Christians that God wants us to be.
Where's Your Treasure?
Christmas was just a few weeks back, but for most kids, the toys they received are distant memories. There are now commercials for new toys, new games, better systems. Something better is always just around the corner it seems. Satisfaction is rarely attained. Unfortunately kids aren't the only ones living unsatisfied lives. As an adult I too face the monster of discontentment. I long for the satisfaction of owning my own home. I strive for a better paycheck.Those things aren't necessarily wrong, but they shouldn't be my treasure. Why? Because the things of this earth don't last. Check out these verses from Matthew 6:19Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.An earthly home won't last forever. It could burn to the ground and destroyed. A paycheck isn't something I can build a foundation on because at any time my job could be lost. Like I said, these things aren't evil, but all of my strength and efforts shouldn't go to building an earthly kingdom. Those things won't last. My efforts should be going to build Christ's kingdom. Winning souls to Him should be my highest desire.If my focus is on my heavenly home, I won't be disappointed when the plans of this earthly life fall through. Because this earthly life isn't the most important thing.I'm working on building up heavenly treasure. How about you?
Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz
For the past week I've been battling the flu (my excuse for not posting!) Before you fuss, yes, I had my flu shot. Apparently that's not a fool-proof plan. Oh well!Anyway, I've been trying a variety of drugs from Vicks Vapor Rub to Thera-flu trying to fight the nasty germs invading my respiratory system. The thing I found that seems to work the best is Alka Seltzer Cold and Flu relief. You guys all know the song, "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is." It's not the wonder drug the commercials claim it to be, but it works pretty well. When I got back to work this morning, I logged in to find this verse as the verse of the day on www.bible.com:James 1:22, "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves."I thought about how true that verse is. It doesn't do me any good to just hear theWord, I have to apply it.The plop, plop, fizz, fizz commercial would have done me no good if I hadn't gone out and bought the Alka-Seltzer and actually taken it. The message of the commercial couldn't cure my flu symptoms. I had to get the medicine into my system in order for it to unstuff my nose and stop the achiness.God's Word is just like that. Simply reading a verse hear and there, or to listening to a sermon every once in a while won't help. I have to apply those verses to my life. I have to let those sermons to change me. I have to let it get inside of my heart and do the work it was meant to do. My post from last week was about letting things go and allowing God to control my attitude and my situation. I think this goes right along with that. I have to look to God when I delve into His Word. I have to ask Him to use His Word to change my heart. Only then will my life be bettered by it!
It's a Numbers Game
Happy New Year, everybody! I haven't been around blog-land in over a week. I spent some time away from the computer as I shared the holidays with my family. It was a nice break, and I think I'm once again ready to share with a less muddled mind!I must start the New Year with a confession. I almost ended the year on a very bad note. See, for the past several weeks I've been harboring some things against someone. Some things real, some things imagined. And it was making me miserable. Grudges have a way of doing that.On Sunday morning my grandpa preached a profound message about the things we are to remember as we went into the New Year. Of course, it's what we are to remember everyday, the Message of Christ. But the thing that kept pricking my conscience was how we are to remember the message of Christ's love. See, Christ's love didn't hold grudges. He didn't say, "Well, I'll forgive everybody else, but that guy that nailed me to the cross can forget it." He didn't say, "Those Pharisees that started a conspiracy against me better not even think of coming to me for forgiveness." No, He said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."That "them" included each and every one of us. And He did that because He loved us. By the end of the sermon I couldn't hold back. I had to get to the alter and confess my bitter attitude to the Lord. Then I had to make things right with a few people and offer up a few apologies. Did my apology change that person? No, but regardless of what that person has done in the past or may do in the future, I'm going to show Christ's love. Because Christ's love isn't conditional, and Christ's love has no limit to it's forgiving power. So, though the last few weeks of 2006 were not my brightest moments, I've handed everything over to Christ, and 2007 started out on a bright note. This verse from Psalm 90:12 is one that I'm going to keep in my heart this year, "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."None of us knows the number of our days. Only God does. So, I want to try to spend me days focusing on God's wisdom rather than the petty issues of this world!How about you?