Friday, March 30, 2018


I'd like for us to contemplate the words of this old, old hymn -- and then listen to the worshipful singing below as we enter the wonderful weekend that we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and our Savior, Jesus Christ!

Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior,
waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord
Vainly they watch his bed, Jesus my Savior,
vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!
Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Savior;
he tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!

Up from the grave he arose;
with a mighty triumph o'er his foes;
he arose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Not taking things for granted!

We've been thinking this week about things that have to do with our faith....God's grace, our salvation, the joy that comes from knowing Him....
We've noticed that sometimes we believers take these things for granted.

But what about the people that don't know these things?
What about the people that don't know that God came to them. They think they need to somehow climb up to God. They think they have to raise themselves out of the pits and the jungle. They must clean themselves up. They must make themselves worthy of the gift God wants to give them.
They don't know that all they have to do it confess and believe in Jesus -- so they never have done that.

Well, everybody knows that!
They don't know.
And how can they know, if no one has told them?
Someone needs to tell them of their need for the Savior:
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)
Someone needs to tell them that in spite of their need, there is a free gift available to them:
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
We may know the rest of the Romans Road, but do they know? We must familiarize ourselves with the verses we need to tell others the gospel.
Why is witnessing important?
We were told, and we can they know if no one has told them? How can they believe in Jesus if they are not told about Him?
Don't take for granted that someone else will tell them!
Every single one of us has that responsibility. Let's share it with a world that has not been told of these things.
Especially this year, as I hear of unbelievers who are chuckling about the fact that Easter has "landed" on April 1st....traditionally a day for jokes and pranks.
Becase of this, many of them are saying that Christians are gullible and have believed in something that is not true.....
Truly, Jesus meant for us to witness to them:
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37-38)
No excuses, now!
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth.  (Jeremiah 1:7-9)
for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say. (Luke 12:12)

Let's spread the news of the joy of the gospel! It will be the best Easter time that we have had! And those who come to know Jesus will never be quite the same!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Let's not take things for granted!

I'm afraid that many times Christians are also guilty of taking for granted the miraculous gift of salvation. Remember what Paul wrote?
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9, NIV)
"Seriously?" we may think.
Is it really that simple?
It really is.
God doesn't require that we study and work and pass theology tests. He doesn't ask that we perform any great tasks. He doesn't require that we prove ourselves with magnificent deeds.
We believers sometimes make this more difficult than it really is. It's simple -- we are sinners, and because we are, we are facing condemnation. What is condemnation? Webster says this: reprehensible, wrong, evil, guilty, unfit, sentenced to punishment ......
The Bible says this: 
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:18, NIV)
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, (Romans 8:1)
The punishment? The complete separation of ourselves from God. Not just now. Not just tomorrow. But to the end of time. For eternity. 
They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might  (II Thessalonians 1:9)
We Christians take that simplicity for granted sometimes. We add things to it, and make it harder than it really is. Rituals like baptism and confirmation and the like are wonderful ways to celebrate and show in real life the new life that we have in Christ.....but they are not required. The person who accepts Christ just before drawing his or her final breath is just as saved as the person who accepts and is baptized.

Truly, God's grace in giving us salvation through Jesus' death and resurrection is amazing! He gave His only Son to die for us, and He could ask any price at all to receive the gift. But all He wants is for us to repent, and be saved, and have a relationship with Him.

We also sometimes take for granted the joy of our faith. Don't we? I see you nodding, just as I am nodding my head, too.
God came to us! And through faith in Christ we can know the Father God!
That is truly a joyful thing.
But many of us forget about that joy! Shouldn't we be excited about it?
Remember back in I Peter, chapter 1?
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. (I Peter 1:8-9, NIV)

 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.  (John 16:22)
 and those the Lord has rescued will return.They will enter Zion with singing;    everlasting joy will crown their heads.Gladness and joy will overtake them,    and sorrow and sighing will flee away. (Isaiah 35:10)
We have something to shout about!! Every single person who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved!
That means you!
And me!
We should be totally excited about it!
Have we experienced the amazing grace of God?
Do we believe that Jesus is His Son and that He rose from the dead?

Yes!! Then, let's act like it! (Grin) Don't take it for granted......

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Verses that inspire

Some verses to ponder and rejoice over this week: 
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Luke 24:45-47)
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried,that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (I Corinthians 15:3-9)

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6:5)
I know that my redeemer lives,    and that in the end he will stand on the earth. (Job 19:25)
Amen! And Amen!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Are we bored? Taking things for granted?

We take so many things for granted in our lives, don't we?

Sometimes it's our families. Do we feel like our husbands and kids take us for granted? Do we feel like our relatives, or those we take care of each day, just feel like we will always be around? Do we feel like they don't treat us as well as they could?
Are we, ourselves, guilty of taking family members for granted?
We live with them, day in, and day out. We just assume that they'll always be here.

Sometimes we take life itself for granted. It takes horrific events like the bombings in Austin, Texas, or in Isis-held lands, to shake us out of the doldrums. As someone who has been spending more time "on the road" recently, life has been something that I think that driver in the next vehicle high on marijuana or dope? Is that why they are weaving a bit? Am I going to be able to thread the needle between that semi and the pickup truck, all the while going down a steep grade? Am I going to make it home to spend more time with my grand-kids, or not?

Sometimes we take this gorgeous world that we live in for granted. We stop seeing the beauty and miss the joy of the daffodils nodding in the spring breeze. We don't really look at the pear trees, shedding their white blooms in a snowy avalanche as we walk under their branches. We fuss about the late spring snowstorm, and miss the quiet that descends with the flakes of snow.
Some people take things for granted, but then have an experience that gives them a new appreciation for life.
And sometimes we do that with our faith!
Especially if we were raised in a church. We grow so accustomed to our faith that we fail to appreciate the beauty and joy of it. We simply take it for granted.

This week, leading up to Easter, I wanted to pause and think along these lines.....
In his letter to the Romans, Paul felt it beneficial to remind the Christians in Rome about the basics. These people that he was writing to were already Christians. Some of them had been Jews who grew up in devout homes, practicing faithfully the laws of Moses. Others had lived their whole lives paying homage to the Greek and Roman gods. But all of them had come to know the Lord Jesus Christ. They all knew the truth, but Paul felt it necessary to remind them.
So, let's look at a few things that we may be taking for granted.....

Paul, like some of his Roman readers, was trained as a Pharisee. As such, he thought that righteousness before God was achieved by keeping all of the commandments. And that was pretty much a full time job!
But Christianity teaches us something completely different. Instead of our having to achieve righteousness, our faith tells us that righteousness is given to us -- it's a gift of grace.
(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:15-17)
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:4-9)

Do we also take for granted the fact that we don't have to "be" any certain type of person to reach His hand? We don't have to climb to heaven to reach Him. He came to us! We have access to Him....
In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12)
No more need for the high priest. No ritual of tying a rope to him with a bell, as he goes into the holiest area of the temple, and intercedes for us. Most Christians know that they can turn to God at any time. We simply can pray. Some of us take that awesome privilege for granted. Look again at this verse we mentioned last week:
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,    and his ears are attentive to their cry; (Psalm 34:15)
We cannot take his mercy for granted, either, but daily remind ourselves of His compassion for us:
We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. (Daniel 9:18b)
We'll look at these concepts more this week. Hope you will join us!

Friday, March 23, 2018

I Peter 3:8-12, conclusion

Today we will look at how the good life results from healthy relationships -- and they result from doing good in our talk!

Wait a minute....we've already covered our walk. Isn't our talk just the confession to others that we have a Savior and Friend that they need to know?

Hang in with me!
Let's look at verse 10 of our passage, in fact, let's zero in on the latter half of the verse!
 For,“Whoever would love life    and see good daysmust keep their tongue from evil    and their lips from deceitful speech. (I Peter 3:10)
Well, whatdya know? Peter is talking about how we "do good" in our talk!
We usually think of our walk backing up our talk.....Peter is reversing it here. Our lips must back up the good deeds in our lives if we want to enjoy the good life.

How do we do that?

Well, first off, we are not going to retaliate when we are verbally abused.  Verse ten supports what Peter told us in verse nine....not to retaliate when we are insulted, but rather to give a blessing instead. To speak well to the other person, or to bring good to them.
Whoaaaaa! Does that run in the opposite direction of what the world says? I think so! The world tells us, "If someone abuses you verbally, you should stand up for yourself! Assert yourself! Let them know that you have more self-respect than that! In fact, if you can think of something worse to say about them, go for it!!"
But God tells us, "If someone insults you, bless them. Say something kind to them in return." Jesus said, "Bless those who curse you; pray for those who mistreat you." (Luke 6:28) And I can tell you from experience, it AIN'T EASY!!! But it IS what God commands us to say.
Now, please, hang in there with me; Peter is not talking here about clarifying misunderstandings through reasoned conversation. There are needful times for us to state our points of view and speak the truth in a calm way.
We're talking about the kind of situation when a person is being purposefully mean and abusive. He or she is trying their best to pick a fight. Or to bait us into losing our cool. Peter says:
1. Don't respond to abuse with more abuse.
2.To try to "top" the put-down or the insulting words.
3. Don't call them names because they called you names.
4. Don't be even more sarcastic than they.
Instead......respond with kind words.
Kind words heal and help;    cutting words wound and maim. (Proverbs 15:4, The Message)
The next thing Peter tells us to to stop our lips from speaking deceitfully. The word translated there means to "bait or snare." It refers to when we say something that is calculated to deceive, mislead, or to distort the facts. Deception is a barrier to healthy relationships, because it destroys trust. It may be a deliberate attempt to "bend" the facts to suit our side of the story. Or perhaps we leave out certain facts so the person gets a slightly skewed view of what happened. (We don't need to pat ourselves on the back and say, well we didn't lie. It's still deceitful!)
There are always going to be situations where it is TRULY HARD to be honest. Do we tell a dying relative about their condition? That's pretty serious, and will require prayer. Do we tell our friend about their new dress that doesn't really flatter them? That's not as serious, and may just require some tact and some diplomacy.  We need to pray for wisdom and pray for the Spirit to lead us!

So, we know now that we should NOT retaliate against people picking fights, and we should NOT be deceitful. Two negatives......
Here is the positive: doing good in our talk means blessing others with words that build them up. We should speak well of others and to others -- giving a blessing. Look at these verses:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. (Romans 14:19)
Wow! If we would apply this in our homes, and in our churches.....not trading insults, not deceiving, but speaking words that build up the other person.....well, there wouldn't be much need for marriage and family counselors, would there!!
Seriously, let's think about our speech in our families this past week -- how much of what came from our lips was critical or angry, or even sarcastic? How much was aimed at blessing and building up the family members?
I know that in some families it's considered OK to kid around, to use humorous jokes and digs, to banter back and forth. But I think, even in jest, trading put-downs is not building up the other person. (Just sayin'....)
Are you thinking....."wait a minute! You've been telling me to deny myself, not retaliate, bless those who insult me, and then on top of all those, you want me to be harmonious, sympathetic, kindhearted, and humble! Who's going to look out for me? It's a jungle out there! Who is going to protect me if I act that way?"
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous    and his ears are attentive to their prayer,but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (I Peter 3:12)
He will.....the Lord and Creator will. His eyes are on the righteous, and His ears don't just hear, it says they are attentive to our prayers. Some synonyms for attentive are "watchful," "vigilant,".... and if we look at "vigilant," it means "on guard." Our responsibility is to please the Lord by doing good in our walk and in our talk. It is He Who is responsible for guarding us, for protecting us and for answering our prayers.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.     He makes me lie down in green pastures,he leads me beside quiet waters,     he refreshes my soul.He guides me along the right paths    for his name’s sake.  Even though I walk    through the darkest valley I will fear no evil,    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,    they comfort me. (Psalm 23:1-4)
But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.  (II Thessalonians 3:3)
The good life?
That comes from having healthy relationships.... first, a relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ. Then, having good relationships with the family and friends that God has blessed us with, here on earth. Thirdly, having good relationships with acquaintances and unbelievers, and having the opportunity to witness to them.
Keeping those relationships healthy and balanced, and in His will -- all of that is at the center of the "good life." It's essential if we desire to glorify God, and to enjoy His blessings.
Perhaps this passage (I Peter 3:8-12) is a good one for us to memorize. Then we will remember it all our days, and we'll find ways to apply it to our relationships.....
......and that's how to live the good life!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

I Peter 3:8-12 Good days, good life

We are studying a "gem" of a passage this week, aren't we? Here it is again:
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For,“Whoever would love life    and see good daysmust keep their tongue from evil    and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good;    they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous    and his ears are attentive to their prayer,but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Don't ya love it when we can get truly practical instructions from the Word? Peter says that there are five character qualities that go along with our "doing good" in our walk..... and he packs them all into verse eight!

First, "like-minded." I can think of some synonyms: harmonious, unselfish, considerate. A harmonious person seeks to get along with others; we won't be self-willed and we won't demand our own way. And we also won't judge others who don't go along with us! We are to be team players -- to consider the other person's perspective and give others room to be different. If we are harmonious, we will accept people as Christ accepts them. We'll pay attention to biblical absolutes, which cannot be compromised, and we will realize that there are areas where there's latitude for difference. We'll give people time to grow in Christ, and not look down on immaturity. When believers are seeking to conform their lives to the Word, we will have the same outlook and interests, and we will have harmony.

Second, "sympathetic."  What a great example our Savior gives us:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
Our Savior sympathizes with our weaknesses, so we, too, should enter into what others are feeling. Paul told us to rejoice and to weep alongside other believers:
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. (Romans 12:15-16)
We should be sensitive to how we would feel, if we were in the other person's place. We need to do all that we can to make him or her feel accepted and loved.

Third, "love one another." The word Peter uses is "philadelphoi" in the Greek, and means brotherly love. It is reminding his hearers that as believers we are members of the same family. But we must also show love to those outside the family of God, and seek to bring them into fellowship, for we are all members of the human family.
From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ (Acts 17:26-28)
Often an opportunity to be brotherly toward another person opens the door for witness about our Lord Jesus.

Next, Peter mentions "kind-hearted." Some synonyms could be: tender-hearted, compassionate. The idea is to have genuine concern for another person. I guess it's not much different from "sympathetic," but both concepts reveal an emotional element needed in our Christian behavior: we need to truly be caring, and going beyond what we may think our "duty" is toward another person. They should be able to sense that we genuinely care for them from our hearts....

Lastly, "humble" in spirit.  This quality was not seen as a virtue in Bible times, and it certainly isn't seen as a positive by many people today! It was the early Christians who followed Christ and who elevated it as a virtue.
In our day, even Christian writers and counselors seem to have reverted to the old ways, since almost every book dealing with relationships says that we must learn to love ourselves and boost our self-esteem before we can love others. But the Bible says something quite different. Don't take my word for it, though:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)
Hmmmmm. Did ya know that there is not one verse in the whole Bible that commands us to love ourselves? There are several verses that affirm that we do love ourselves and that command us to love others as much as we do love ourselves! (Obviously, I'm not addressing the situation of some folks who have difficulty accepting and loving themselves, and need the love of God and believers to assist them in seeing themselves in a positive light. They need to be loved and told that they are indeed special, children of our Father God, and that they have talents that only they can contribute to our world.)
What I AM saying is that many times pride and self are sources of conflicts, and that we should be considerate and loving, as Paul urges the Philippians to be. The Bible tells us that harmony can come when we work on our humility, not on pumping up our own self-esteem!

These five qualities can help us to develop healthy relationships with believers and unbelievers alike. Doing good in our walk can bring us an awesome result: the good life!
Tomorrow we'll look at "doing good" in our talk......