Saturday, June 30, 2018

Note to everyone studying here.....

..... I must apologize for my lack of tech-savvyness (is that a word?). I'm trying to figure out how to have people comment. I don't know what it means about Google plus comments, but I enabled it for a bit. Then I tried to reply to someone's comment and realized it could be a problem, so disabled it. Now the comments are gone.


I hope we can get this worked out. In the mean time, I hope you will bear with me and study here when you are able.

God bless!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Friday slowdown

From the highest of heights to the depths of the sea
Creation's revealing Your majesty
From the colors of fall to the fragrance of spring
Every creature unique in the song that it sings
All exclaiming

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God
All powerful, untameable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God

Who has told every lightning bolt where it should go
Or seen heavenly storehouses laden with snow
Who imagined the sun and gives source to its light
Yet conceals it to bring us the coolness of night
None can fathom

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name
You are amazing God
All powerful, untameable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God
You are amazing God

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Trust and stand

We often use the term "trial by fire" because it does seem like we are walking through fires when the crises come to we conclude our study of I Peter, there is a powerful truth in these final verses:
With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.13 She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark. 14 Greet one another with a kiss of love.
Peace to all of you who are in Christ. (I Peter 5:12-14)
We go through suffering with other believers. There are several relationships mentioned in these final verses.
Peter commends Silas, who must have been acting as his secretary, and who probably carried the letters to the churches we studied in chapter one. Silas was faithful, and had served with Paul on what we call the second missionary journey. It was Silas who had sung hymns with Paul at midnight in the jail in Philippi. Their backs had been whipped and their feet were in the stocks, but they sang praises. Silas was no stranger to the persecution of the gospel, and he is continuing to serve Peter.
What an encouragement it is, when we are going through trials, to have the comfort and company of faithful believers who have "been there" themselves!

Peter also sends greetings from "she who is in Babylon, chosen together with you." Commentaries tell us that this probably refers to the Christian church in Rome. They were enduring the fires of Nero's persecution, and Peter probably used "Babylon" as a code word. Much like the icthus, or icthys symbol, that allowed Christians to safely identify each other, words could be used to identify but still protect believers. The symbolism would use Babylon as the easily identifiable place of wickedness and opposition to God. In the center of that evil, God had planted His church, and by these letters, the church in Rome was linked with these churches in Asia in the great cause of the spread of Christ's gospel.

Peter also mentions Mark, and calls him his son. Mark wasn't his physical son, but had become like a son to Peter as they served Christ together. Years earlier, Mark had been afraid of persecution, and had deserted Paul and Barnabas. Now he'd grown into a faithful man of God, ready to endure hardship for the gospel.

Peter concludes by encouraging the church members to give the customary kiss on the cheek, as is still practiced in some cultures today. We don't need to adopt this literally, but we definitely should be warm and welcoming as we greet other believers, and non-believers, too.

When we go through trials, it is easier to trust and stand when we support one another as family in Christ. When we stand firm together, we support those who need encouragement. We also provide accountability..... Peter says we need to stand firm in God's true grace.  We can look in Jude 4 to see what "false grace" is:
For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 4)
False grace is what portrays the Christian life as a "everything's cool, be tolerant of everyone, go with the flow" sort of faith. True grace teaches us to be holy, even as God is holy.  False grace whispers that the Christian life should require no effort, things should come easy, life is easy street. True grace reminds us that we need to be active; we need to exert ourselves to stand firm. It tells us that we need to trust and stand, enduring hardship as we live righteously in an unrighteous world.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Trust and stand

We've been talking about putting things in perspective.....often we are guilty of looking at things incorrectly in our lives. Like a child who draws a house, and then draws the people the same size, we will sometimes make things more or less important in our thoughts.... it is sometimes because we are stressed about things, so we "blow them up" in proportion to other things.

Once we put our trials in perspective, and we put God's grace and strength in perspective, too, then we can consider another factor in trials.....
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.13 She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark. 14 Greet one another with a kiss of love.
Peace to all of you who are in Christ. (I Peter 5:10-14)
God called us, and has a purpose for our lives. Putting this in perspective, Peter says that God called us "to His eternal glory in Christ."
We didn't come to Him by our own goodness.
We, who are believers, were called by Him:
And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:6)
We were called; we didn't come to Him by our own strength.
The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. (John 10:3)
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (I Timothy 6:12)
We will dwell in His presence throughout eternity! In our trials, we must trust and stand, looking ahead to what God has promised for those He has called....He will bring us through.

We also need to put His purpose for our trials into perspective. Peter says that God will "perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish" us. We've talked before about how God can use things in our lives to burn away the "dross" and refine the "gold."  Here in this verse, Peter uses the word "to perfect," and that means to equip, repair, or complete. The same word was used when Peter was mending his nets:
Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. (Matthew 4:21-22)
The word Peter uses that is translated "confirm" means to fix, set fast, or strengthen. Jesus told Peter that after he was restored (after his denial of Christ) he would strengthen his brothers in the faith.
The scholars are not sure how the second use of strengthen is different, but we all know what he means by establish, right?  It means to lay a firm and secure foundation, like when Jesus used that word in the parable of building a house on sand or on rock:
The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. (Matthew 7:25)
We can trust Him and stand firm.... He will use our trials to establish us in our faith, and also to equip us to serve others in His cause.
More on this tomorrow.....

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Verses that inspire

I admit it.

I'm an organizer.

A do-er.

I don't do "relaxing" very well.

But God has planned for our bodies to receive rest from our work. We can't labor all the time. He even set an example for us.....
He is all powerful -- created everything that we see in this world, from nothing! He definitely had no need of a "time out" after that. It's not like He said, "Wow, all this creation stuff has tired me out!" And then took a nap.

No, He knew that even though we are created in His image, we are "a vapor," and frail. We need rest sometimes.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. (Genesis 2:2)
I'd like to challenge all of us to rest some this week. Grab a card with a memory verse that we are trying to learn, and put our feet up. Maybe sit on the porch with a cup of tea.

Read over our verse, and then let our minds wander. Enjoy the sounds of nature that we hear. Relax. Turn our thoughts to all of the blessings that He has given us, and thank Him for those, slowly, one by one.  We're not in a hurry, here.

I bet that we will rise from our rest period with a renewed joy and a sense of wonder about all that He has given us!

If a verse or passage has inspired you recently, won't you share it with all of us?

Thank you!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Trust and stand

We're almost at the end of this fabulous book. I hope you have enjoyed our studies in I Peter as much as I . . . I have learned so much!

Here are our verses for this week:
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.13 She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark. 14 Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ. (I Peter 5:10-14)
Let's take a little side trip, shall we?
Let's go back to when we were small, and we were perhaps in a kindegarten class. We had a lovely sheet of construction paper and a wonderful crayon - our favorite color, if of course, Petty Penelope hadn't snagged it first. (Grin) You'll see where I'm going in a minute.
Our assignment?
Draw a picture of our family. House optional.
We painstakingly drew, and switched colors, and drew some more.
When we were done, we might have had something that looked like the picture above.
Hmmmmm. How do those peeps get into that house? (Grin)
A child's drawings usually lack something called perspective. The dictionary says this is "the art of representing three-dimensional objects so as to give the right impression of their height, width, and position in relations to each other."
The next definition is the one that we need today: "a true understanding of the relative importance of things; of how they interrelate..."

In the verses that led up to our passage for today, Peter has stressed that we should do several things:
         1. Be firm in our faith
         2. Trust our Lord
Peter is reminding us that God hasn't forgotten us when we go through trials. He is not unaware. He isn't even distracted! He is the God of all grace, and He called us to His glory in Christ in the first place! So, we can truly trust Him to use the trials for His purposes in our lives.....He is the sovereign Lord.
But trusting God has fallen on hard times in Christian circles. People are unfortunately sucked in to sermons that promise us soft clouds to float on, golden harps to strum, and cushy times while we are still here on earth. On the other hand, many are having their "ears tickled" by secular books that promise awesome results if we just employ these five steps and cultivate our own powers and confidence. Oy vey. Where is Christ in all that?
If another believer comes to us with a crisis and we say, "I think you should trust God," they may walk away thinking that we've given them worthless advice -- when we really have said the same thing that we read from the front cover to the back in our Bible......the Word extols the practical benefits of putting our trust in the living God as the way to deal with our problems.

I'm well aware of how tough it is to do that, when in the middle of a problem. So familiar. Yet, the times that I have been successful in trusting Him, and not trying to solve the problem solely with my own brain and muscle, have been times of awesome blessing and He has resolved the issues for me!
I would venture a guess that one thing Peter is trying to tell us to put our trials in perspective. To view them accurately, to see how they interrelate with the rest of our lives.
We know they will only last for a little while.
A little while?
I've been suffering with this problem for years!
I've been praying for such a long time!
I know, right?
But put in perspective, our lifetime is just a short while, compared with eternity.
Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should. (Psalm 90:12, TLB)
How do you know what is going to happen tomorrow? For the length of your lives is as uncertain as the morning fog—now you see it; soon it is gone. (James 4:14)
For man is but a breath; his days are like a passing shadow. (Psalm 144:4)
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  (II Corinthians 4:17-18, NIV)
Another thing to put in perspective is that God is the God "of all grace," and that He is the God of  all strength, too. He doesn't have a little grace for us. He doesn't have some grace for us. He has ALL the grace that is needed -- for each and every one of us! It's like the ocean; it's a limitless supply. However, we've read in the Word that God withholds grace from the proud, and gives it to the humble... to those who are willing to admit that they are totally needy of His blessings. If we are in trials, we must simply trust Him and stand, waiting for His grace to meet our needs.
And He absolutely will! He is mighty to save His people, His children. He will save us from our trials, and He will save us from eternal destruction. Nothing can separate us from His love and care.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Friday, June 22, 2018

Friday slowdown

I found these lyrics recently and then listened to the's just right for this week's study!

Resist the devil clap your hands in songs of praise To the One who draws you to the everlasting ways. Keep striving higher to the place where the righteous dwell And, get the devil back, Get the devil back to hell! Oh, the devil's a slick one, don't you know? He's got glory and glitter linin' the sides of his roads. And, he'll make you feel so sweet ridin' down his broadened streets As he helps you not to see where you're gonna go! Oh, the devil's the smoothest guy around. He can get you lost in places you never before found! And, he's always trying to buy your soul with his lovely lies. But, you'd better not compromise if you're gonna be glory bound.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Resist the devil .... hunting that lion

Yesterday, we studied the verses where Peter tells us to be self-controlled, to be alert, to resist Satan, and to stand firm in the faith.
We noted that there are three main ways that people use to hunt lions in the wild.....maybe those three ways can tell us how believers can resist the lion, Satan, and make him run!
The first method we discussed was "spot and stalk." In the wild, the hunter watches carefully to find a lion, and then grabs the biggest gun possible, in order to kill the lion with one shot HAS to do it, because the lion is exceedingly dangerous. If he is only wounded, he will attack wildly and ferociously, and the hunter is in terrific danger.
Well, resisting Satan is no different...... we must resist him with all that we have, once we spot him. If we allow him one inch in our lives, he has an open invitation to wreak havoc in our lives, our relationships, even our mental health. His lies and innuendos will fester and blister us and grow. His half-truths will cause us doubt, and tear holes in our faith.
Paul said:
...and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:27)
What a very short verse, with such a potent message! Paul also told us:
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. (Ephesians 5:3)
Not even a hint!
That's why when we are resisting Satan, we must get rid of the temptation, the sin we are faced with, with one shot.
Do we have an addictive personality? Does addiction run in our family? We must avoid completely any situation where we know there will be drugs, alcohol, or gambling.  Are we plagued with depression? We must avoid completely certain kinds of music, and concentrate on positive, uplifting songs.  Are we tempted sexually by a coworker or acquaintance? We must avoid them as much as possible, or at least avoid being alone with them.
Our children and grandkids must see our example, for their souls' sakes, to completely avoid the temptations that would cause us to fall.
We must resist Satan with all of our Bible knowledge, spiritual willingness, prayer, and common sense  --  so that when he comes around, we can get rid of him with one shot! We don't want him to only be wounded, and stay around, more ferocious than ever.
The second way to hunt lions that we noted yesterday is the one called "baiting." A hunter is high in a tree, or in a specially constructed hunting blind. That's an enclosure that is camouflaged to conceal the hunter's presence, so that he can be safe from the wild animal he is hunting. Even being "upwind" from the animal will help keep the hunter safe.
Resisting Satan can be much the same..... to do this, we must first have a blind. We need a safe place to be while we are resisting the devil. I believe the church is a good place to fit this need; we can be safe instead of being exposed to the roaring lion.
Luke wrote in Acts:
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:46-47)
The writer of Hebrews said:
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23-25)
Coming to church and worshiping recharges our spiritual batteries so that we can resist the devil. It also allows us to serve others and exercises our gifts, making us stronger. Coming to church gives us a chance to dig deeply into the Word -- more ammo in our spiritual "gun." Fellowship with other believers gives us more strength. And participating spiritually creates a barrier between us and Satan.

The third way of hunting lions in the wild is the one called "hounding." A large number of specially trained dogs are used to track and immobilize the prey - to put him out of action. Making sure that the encounter is not one-on-one; having back up means you can keep the lion at bay.
It can be that way with resisting Satan, too. This would mean that we surround ourselves with believers in Jesus who will pray with us, and will keep us accountable. It's easy to fall into a "lone ranger" mentality and think that we are just fine on our own. It's also difficult sometimes to open up with other people who may ask, "How is your relationship with God?" Many of us resist that, and feel it's a pretty private question.  But that's not correct. Having a few godly believers around us who support our close walk with Christ is more resistant to Satan than almost any other strategy we might try.
Accountability to each other is in the Bible, too!
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (I Corinthians 12:27)
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. (Colossians 3:16)
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3:13)
At the start of this study, we mentioned some lions.....the cowardly lion, the lions in "Lion King," and others.....not very intimidating, eh? But Satan is not that kind of lion. He is a lion that is prowling around, hunting us, roaring....he's looking for the exact right time to pounce.....he is searching out our weaknesses......his claws can dig in where it hurts most....
Peter tells us to be self-controlled and alert. To resist the devil. We can do that by being watchful, and getting rid of temptations in one shot. We can do that by being active in a community of believers. We can do that by asking for prayer and accountability from trusted believers.
And we can do that by trusting the Lion of Judah to help us.
Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. (Revelation 5:5a)
But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. (II Thessalonians 3:3)
Thank you, Lord!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Resist the devil.....hunting that lion

Last time we gathered here, we said we'd be focusing on these verses:
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (I Peter 5:8-9)
I guess we are pretty far removed from thinking that a lion is intimidating.....after all, we are surrounded by images that are not too ferocious! There's the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz, there's the lion in the MGM logo (who sometimes is replaced with a kitten), and then there are Mufasa, Scar, and Simba, and even Alex in the "Madagascar" movies. Not very spine chilling, you might say.
The people of Peter's time, though, knew what fierce beasts lions really are. God created them to truly be the "kings" of the wild, and their muscles, claws, teeth, and instincts make them extremely skilled hunters in the wild. Some of the folks listening to Peter's letter might have had friends or family that met their death in the Coliseum, torn apart by lions in the appalling displays that the Roman rulers arranged.
Here in the ending lines of his letter, Peter has built on the foundation that he laid earlier, talking about suffering for Christ here on earth, and he now is giving us some practical instructions for life. He is focused on living authentically for the Lord.
He mentions two characteristics that we should strive for, and he has personal experience with the need for these..... makes it more real when someone has "been there, done that" doesn't it?
First, he says to have self control. Jesus told Peter that before the rooster crowed one day, that He would deny the Lord. Peter protested, but what happened? He lost his self control, fell into temptation, and denied Jesus.
Second, Peter warns us to be alert. Remember when Jesus asked His disciples to "stay here and keep watch with me"? Jesus withdrew to pray. What did Peter do? Was he alert? Nope. He fell asleep.

So, Peter knows quite well that we Christians face an enemy, and that we need self control, and we need to be alert. He warns us that our enemy is the devil, and that he prowls around like a roaring lion. I don't know about you, but I get a mental picture of a lion hunting us, stalking us. To be totally honest, he isn't even sneaky about it -- he's roaring so that we will fear him and possibly panic.

Let's take inventory here....
Peter says that it's the devil who is prowling around us.
We are being hunted by one who rebels against God.
We are being hunted by one who is called the "father of lies."
We are being pursued by one who wants to destroy in us what Jesus has given us.
We are being tracked down by one who wants to steal our joy and our peace.

What do we do?
"Resist." "Stand firm."
Now, resisting the devil is not just something Peter thought up. He saw this modeled by Jesus.
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’" (Matthew 4:10)
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matthew 16:23)
Ouch, that hurt.....Jesus said that to Peter, himself. Remember that? Paul said to resist the devil, too:
Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. (II Corinthians 2:10-11)
And James:
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  (James 4:7)
Over and over again, the right approach to that roaring lion, that devil that pursues us, is defined for us by Jesus, by Paul, James, and now Peter, too.
But how do we "resist" him?
I don't know about you, but I'm not a very experienced hunter. I can trap mousies when we don't have a cat in residence, and I can admire the deer and turkey in our pasture, but hunting? Not so much. People who hunted lions in the recent past were termed "big game hunters," right? I can't think of bigger game, I don't think, than that ole devil!
A little research netted some interesting results.
One way to hunt a lion is to identify the lion in the wild (spot him) and follow him with a native tracker (stalk him). It's a pretty action-packed hunt, and the hunter must be extremely accurate and kill the animal with one shot.
Another way (which didn't seem very sportsmanlike to me, just sayin') was called "baiting." A carcass of some kind which is desirable or palatable to lions is hung up, and the hunter lies in wait for the hungry lion to get interested and stop to eat.
The third way was called "hounding" and the description seemed a lot like the fox hunts in the movies of yesteryear. A pack of dogs that are trained for the lion hunt are released, and they will track the lion and hold him at bay until the hunter can get there and shoot the lion, who is distracted by all the dogs.

What do these things have to do with resisting the devil?
Join us tomorrow, and we'll find out!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Prayer requests

 But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded. (II Chronicles 15:7)
These words were spoken by the prophet to Asa, who became king of Judah and implemented many momentous reforms in the land. He destroyed idols, and rebuilt the altar so that sacrifices could be offered. He took away his grandmother's fancy title and power, because she had made an offensive idol and did not worship Yahweh.

We may not face the tasks that Asa did, or that Zerubbabel did, in his time (we talked about him in one of our studies), but we all have God-given tasks, and we have talents to use for Him.

We can rest assured that if we ask for His strength to complete our tasks, and if we don't give up, we will be able to complete the jobs we've been given. And what's more, our work will be rewarded. Maybe not today. Perhaps not next week. But we will receive a reward for our faithfulness.

However, as it is written:“What no eye has seen,    what no ear has heard,and what no human mind has conceived”     the things God has prepared for those who love him—
10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. (I Corinthians 2:9-10a)

Does it seem that our prayers are unanswered? We must keep on praying.
Does it seem that our good works and kindnesses go unnoticed? We must keep on working.
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)
Let's not grow weary in well-doing......
If you would like to share a prayer request or a praise, please feel free to leave a comment.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Resist the devil

Before we dive in today, I'd like to apologize to anyone who has left comments that I've not responded to....I'm doing my best to check back and see if peeps have commented. Used to be, I would get an email and could respond directly to you, but that doesn't happen any more. I've tried my best to fix it, but no luck!  Looks like other bloggers are experiencing the same issue....I will keep trying. Until then, please bear with me, and know that I do value each and every one of you that leaves comments or feedback. I love you all, and wish God's best for each of you!

Remember that our friend, Peter, has an impulsive streak a mile wide? I can just imagine that after he's gotten us to relax, by casting our cares on the Lord, that he suddenly hollers, "Wake up! Be alert!"
And then, "There's a lion on the prowl, and he's going to eat you up if you aren't careful!"

Here are our verses for the next few days:
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (I Peter 5:8-9)
Have you ever noticed, that when it comes to the devil, believers often go to one of two extremes? Some see Satan behind every bush, and behind every tree. Some ignore him altogether.  I guess there are more people that see him everywhere.....they say they believe that he causes the common cold, their latest car trouble, and much more. I firmly believe that he can indeed cause emotional and mental anguish and trouble for believers and unbelievers alike. But I wonder sometimes if he gets blamed sometimes for things that stem from our own sins and mistakes? (Grin)
At any rate, Peter does tell us to resist him, and we need to pay attention. After all, Satan is a pretty powerful and unseen foe -- he is so powerful that the archangel Michael didn't pronounce judgement on him, but said to him, "The Lord rebuke you." (That's in Jude.) I guess we don't need to get on our high horses, as my grandma used to say, and take him for granted..... if we don't believe he's powerful, and prepare and resist him, he is perfectly willing to make "short work" of us.
On the other hand, though, Satan isn't omnipotent. And, he is not omnipresent. Even better for us, he is a defeated foe! The cross of our Savior spelled his doom and then Christ's resurrection sealed Satan's fate. So we can resist him, and know that he will flee from us:
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
Peter describes Satan as "your adversary, the devil." Adversary means our opponent, our attacker, accuser.  In Revelation, he is described as our accuser in chapter 12.
Oh, that wily devil..... the strategies he will use!
Sometimes he will hit us when we are under some intense trial, and suggest "Are you sure that God is strong enough to deliver you?" Or, "He must not care. Why are you following Him, if He treats you like this?"
Or if we have fallen into some sin, and confessed our sin to Christ, the devil will say, "Some Christian YOU can you imagine that you can be forgiven for that?"
He will even make us think that we're all alone in the world. Look at the end of verse nine. The devil would like for us to think that we are the only ones in the world that are going through the kind of suffering that we are experiencing. No one else understands! But Peter says, "No, you are not alone .... your Christian brothers throughout the world are going through similar trials."

We must not forget that verse 6 comes before verse 9. We must bow before God before we stand against the devil. And many believers are vulnerable to Satan's attacks because they are not alert to spiritual danger. I'm betting that if a nearby zoo reported a missing lion, we probably would not go for a stroll and admire the flowers.....but how many Christians watch filth on television or in movies, and allow their children to do the same? Is there any wonder why some believers have trouble staying interested in spiritual things?

Many believers are going through trials, and they grumble and complain. They don't realize that they are playing into the devil's hands! Their faith will be weakened and the goodness of God is discredited..... As God's children, we need to be careful to speak well of our Father! Even when He is taking us through trials. To grow, to handle suffering, and to resist the devil, we must humble ourselves and be alert.

Next time, we will look at some thoughts on hunting lions. Hope you will join us!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Don't worry - be happy! (Conclusion)

In our focus passage this week, Jesus next draws our attention to the lilies, the flowers in the fields. I always love to see the wildflowers in our pastures; there's such a wealth of color and beauty there. The flowers nod and sway, and the butterflies happily swoop about - even the honeybees sound happy as they visit each bloom!
God made all that beauty possible; he designed them to look like that -- they didn't do it themselves, no matter what some people may say! (Grin) They didn't accomplish it on their own, and it didn't happen by chance, or a random process. The richest king of the world in his time, Solomon would have had the most beautiful and fanciful clothes ever -- and his designers' and tailors' work couldn't compare with the flowers in the fields.
God uses his flowers to clothe the meadows and the pastures of this we really need to worry about whether we will have clothing to wear? (Or food, or whatever.)  ......then Jesus adds, "oh you of little faith.....
Now, He is not referring to their (our) trust in Him as their Savior. He doesn't mean our faith in Him as their Redeemer. He is talking about our faith that God will look after our needs in our lifetime here on earth. So often we are guilty of being people of so little faith.

We trust God to save us from our sins and guilt through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross -- but do we trust His Providence? His ways of working out things in the areas that we cannot control? Now, He may or may not work things out in the way we think that He should.....we have to remember that He is all knowing, and we are not....and He knows the ultimate end of each pathway or decision, and we do not! When we do not trust in Him, and give our worries over to Him, we are revealing that we are "of little faith."
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. (v 31-32)
In verses 31 and 32, we see people who are in a panic. They are "running after" the things they need. The picture that Jesus paints for His listeners is that of a believer who doesn't need to run after the things needed; he or she is able to be calm and at peace, assured of the loving Providence of the heavenly Father. Unbelievers may think that their future is in the hands of fate; they may only think about "karma." Believers know that our future is in the hands of God!

Then Jesus tells us what we should do:
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (v 33-34)
After we receive the righteousness that He provides, we can seek to glorify God in every aspect of our lives. Try to glorify God in our relationships with other people. Seek to act and react according to the way Christ would wish for us to. Try to glorify God in our work as we do it as unto God, not trying to please other people. If we seek Him in all of the different areas of our lives, we will allow Him to rule and reign, and He will be the main focus of our minds. Then worry will take care of itself; it will fade away because we are trusting Him to take care of our needs.

Lastly, Jesus tells us to make sure we don't allow the struggles of today to make us worry about tomorrow. God will give us grace for each day.
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,    for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning;    great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
There is no guarantee that we won't have problems tomorrow. But when we live one day at a time, we are trusting Him to keep each day in His all powerful hands. We can rest in the fact that He cares about us, and that fact will help us avoid worry. We can make sure that God is first in our lives, and that focus will crowd out worry. We can deal with the struggles of life one day at a time, and know that God's grace is available to us.....

All of these truths will help us to not worry.....and be happy!