Acts 8: 1b-5 A perfect example

1bA great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria. (Some devout men came and buried Stephen with great mourning.) But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison. But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went. Philip, for example, went to the city of Samaria and told the people there about the Messiah.

This is a perfect example of God turning something that is bad- persecution is bad- into something glorious.  God will do that with our pain.  He will take something tragic, such as a death and turn it into something glorious. The problem is sometimes in our grief, we are unable to see the good that is happening. Sometimes when it feels as if everything is running out of control, God is pulling it into control.  Ever hear the saying it is always darkest before the dawn?  Yep it is like that – Here we are, sitting in our grief, our sadness; and then we wake up and notice things are not so bad.  That is because while we are grieving and praying God is moving mountains. We do not notice because we are sad, or maybe it is because God is doing everything so we cannot see it. However, He is there. He is nudging this person, pushing that legislation. Next thing you know, your mountain has been moved. The obstacle is gone. 

 

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We work to be fruitful not to “win”

Salvation is free.  This is an undisputed fact.  Yet time after time, I find myself placing importance on works.  Jesus was the sacrificial lamb.  John 4:10 (to the woman at the well)Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” Here Jesus is saying it is a Gift.  Ephesians 2:7-9: So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.God saved you by his grace when you believed. In addition, you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

The big question is should we stop doing good works?  Absolutely not.  We do good things because Jesus did good things. We are living by his example.  The catch is we should not allow our works to become the focal point, Key word OUR. It is hard, because along comes the “I mean well” person and they give you positive attention, and award for the charity work you are doing. The attention feels good. The next thing you know, you want more attention. More accolades. This is the point where the works are being done for the wrong reason. Instead of doing good things for Jesus’ sake, to glorify God, we are seeking our own glory and in fact, we are seeking favor from God.  See Me God; See what I am doing for your kingdom.  However, Nehemiah 13:31b: Remember this in my favor, O my God. He is asking for God’s favor.  There are other examples in the Bible of people requesting God’s favor. Why is it wrong to ask for God’s favor? It is not wrong to ask for God’s favor in our lives.  I often pray that God gives us favor in this task or some other task. I do so because the task seems difficult. What I really should be requesting is strength. I should be requesting the financial resources for the task.  Well then, why did Nehemiah as God to favor him? The key is Salvation. Jesus had not yet died on the cross for our sins in Nehemiah’s time. You see with Salvation we do not have to ask for favor we have to ask Jesus to live in us. With Jesus, living in us the “favor” is automatically granted because we are children of the one true King. That is the big difference in the Old Testament people had to work hard at doing the right thing all the time- not that we do not have to work hard at doing the right thing; but it is not how we get into heaven. We have a simpler path. All we really have to do is give the invitation to Jesus. We do good works to help win other souls. Because it is through showing the love of Jesus to the world that, others see the Glory of Jesus through us. We are no longer trying to win God’s favor into heaven.

1 Peter 5:6-7: Giving it to God

This morning I woke feeling extremely grumpy.  It is never a good place when you don’t sleep very well.  Last night was the worst.  I was up till almost midnight with pain in my legs.  The doctor does not have a good explanation for the pain, it is in the middle of the thigh.  As if someone stuck a knife into my leg.  As a result, I was rather irritated all day long.  Nothing in particular wrong. Just Miss grumpy pants.  I have finally reached a place in my walk with God, where if I play the radio all day, where if I fix my eyes on Jesus; those grumpy moods don’t turn into jumping down everyone’s throat days.  Things went wrong, but I can honestly say that I can not remember growling at anyone. I am now exhausted beyond belief, yet sleep is no  where to be found.  Shortly after writing this short part, I fell asleep.  It is now the next day, I have slept; and do not feel like a grumpy pants.  See that is one of those nifty things about walking with God that I am learning. Confession, we think it has to do with sin.  And maybe it is the sin of pride- thinking it is okay, I can handle this- But confession to the Lord is not just about sin. It is also about the stuff we are having trouble handling.  After telling God about it, it becomes easier. Like last night, I wrote that I still had trouble with sleep- I gave it to the Lord- then BOOM, I am asleep.  This is what it means- Give it to God- to cast your cares to God – How many times did Jesus say “do not worry? 1 Peter 5:6-7:  So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 

Why do I feel so akward?

Do you feel as if you are out of place, a square peg in a round hole? All the time.  I walk into a store and feel as if I do not belong here, normal people belong here. But there is one place that I can go where I feel as if I belong, that this is one place on earth where I feel, hey I am like everyone else. I am bubbling with Jesus. That place is church. Sometimes I feel as if I wish I could live here, I wish I could see these people all the time. Then why is it that some Sunday mornings, I think oh why do I have to get out of bed?  Well, the evil one does not want you to go. He makes it terribly hard, to go to church. He fights us tooth and nail. So if he doesn’t want me to go to church, then why do I feel so out of place in the world? 1 Peter 2:6-7: Gives and explanation: As the Scriptures say,  “I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem,  chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in him  will never be disgraced.Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him. But for those who reject him, “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. We feel awkward, and out of place because Jesus, who lives inside of us; was rejected. Since he was rejected by the world, those who belong to him, who are marked by him, will feel rejected.

 

Salvation is free. HOW do you share it?

Romans 10:11-13:   11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”  12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  Whoever calls on God’s name will be saved.  It doesn’t say, only those who have a certain amount of money, it doesn’t say only those that make less than a certain amount of money. It doesn’t say only those that come to church dressed in a certain manner. It doesn’t say only those who pay their tithes. There are scriptures that say we are to help the poor. Psalms 72:12: He will rescue the poor when they cry to him; he will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them.  Job 31:18: No, from childhood I have cared for orphans like a father, and all my life I have cared for widows.  I could go on, the point is Salvation is for every single person on the planet. I know that there are what I like to call Christian snobs, I know I used to be one. It is rather sad, because I used to be the poor person.  As a young adult, I would wonder into church in short shorts and a tore up t-shirt. There was a church on the campus of our college. Most of the time the priest or pastor was very friendly- sometimes a little too friendly. At least that is how it appeared in my mind. But I was never turned away- okay, one church did turn me away- called me some really nasty names and told me to get off drugs. Nothing was further than the truth than those names. I was not a lady of the evening. I did not have a clue about drugs. The problem is that was a church that is supposedly known for helping people and they turned me away as if I were a disease. See the day I approached that church, I had been kicked out of my house because they did not believe me when I said I broke up with the crappy boyfriend. I was told break up with him or get out and was thrown out with just the clothes on my back and my bicycle. Oh and the stuff in my back pack.  I wore these tiny shorts to ride my bike up hill. It was raining, and I had been crying; so I looked a mess when I arrived at that church asking for help. I had never been on my own before and did not have a clue what to do. On that day when they turned me away, I figured that God was not what I thought and it took me years to return. I did not want anything to do with a God that would turn away a young girl. But it was not God that turned me away, it was men evil thinking men. God is always there with open arms. God is always waiting for us.  The question is this- Would you have turned me away?

 

Are we seekers of Wisdom?

Lately, I have been hearing the song “Courageous” by Casting Crowns on the radio.  In the background you can hear someone singing seek wisdom, seek justice… It all starts with wisdom and love of God.  Men and women of courage seek wisdom.  It is not easy in this world full of corruption. We are constantly faced with dilemma concerning do we do this and keep our job or earn the promotion; or do we keep to our Christian principles and do the right Godly thing.  It is a hard decision. In our family we have had to leave more than one job because the requirement was a line we could not cross. In Proverbs chapter 7 Solomon speaks of not following the harlot. Her path leads to death.  The harlot, can represent more than just sexual temptation. It can represent anything that puts you on the path away from God. Proverbs 7:10-23:  10 And there a woman met him, With the attire of a harlot, and a crafty heart.11 She was loud and rebellious, Her feet would not stay at home. 12 At times she was outside, at times in the open square, Lurking at every corner.
13 So she caught him and kissed him; With an impudent face she said to him: 14 I have peace offerings with me; Today I have paid my vows. 15 So I came out to meet you,
Diligently to seek your face, And I have found you. 16 I have spread my bed with tapestry,
Colored coverings of Egyptian linen. 17 I have perfumed my bed With myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. 18 Come, let us take our fill of love until morning; Let us delight ourselves with love. 19 For my husband is not at home; He has gone on a long journey; 20 He has taken a bag of money with him, And will come home on the appointed day.” 21 With her enticing speech she caused him to yield, With her flattering lips she seduced him. 22 Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, Or as a fool to the correction of the stocks, 23 Till an arrow struck his liver. As a bird hastens to the snare, He did not know it would cost his life.  But then we turn to chapter 8 and we see that Wisdom is there for the taking. Proverbs 8:1-2:  Does not wisdom cry out, And understanding lift up her voice?
She takes her stand on the top of the high hill, Beside the way, where the paths meet.

So men and women of Courage – I add women because we need to be courageous to stand as Godly women in our marriages, in our lives just as much as men do especially in this world where we can be placed on the front lines, just as easily as a man. Seek wisdom, use prudence when making a decision do so in prayer. Remember, it is worth it to live just a bit tighter to do the right thing. To honor God, and our families. Maybe our kids won’t go to the best schools, but Heaven is worth it. A happy family is worth it. Well adjusted kids make  adjusted adults. Trust me be courageous stand on your knees. It is worth it.

 

Jesus has made you a new person

Okay, I am saved Now What?  Sometimes it happens that a person becomes a new Christian and there is no one to guide them to help them through the process. Let’s face it, old habits sometimes die hard.  We have all heard the story, yesterday I was a addict and today I found Jesus and my desire for drugs is gone.  It happens, but for most of us, those old habits; most of us have to go through a process to remove them.  There are programs. But in my Bible study last night the subject came up, why can’t there be a guide?  True the Holy Spirit is there for a guide, but we have not yet learned how to hear our guide. It takes work. We said wouldn’t it be nice if there was a book to tell you what to expect- You know how the evil one will swoop in and try to cause doubt. How Satan will do everything he can to make your life miserable. How you can put on the Armor of God and fight him.  How you can lean on Jesus to fight him.  There are books there are plenty of books we just have to read them.  There is not a book handed to you when you are baptized, except some churches hand out a Bible. Because that is the guide book.  Take for example Colossians 3: 12-17:  tells us that we are the elect of God.  We need to be holy (throw aside the sinful things of our past). We need to be kind ( be nice) Then there is humility and meekness- which means don’t put yourselves above others, and be gentle or kind. We are told to be merciful, when someone irritates you, don’t jump down their throat. But more than anything else show the world the Love of Jesus through you.  12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.  No there is not a book that is going to tell you that life as a Christian is going to be hard. There will be hard parts. But we have to keep our eye on the prize Jesus. The more you learn about him- reading His word, and praying to Him, the easier it is to handle those yucky things that will come up. The easier it is to Say he Devil get away, you are not in charge. The more you get to know Jesus, the easier it will be to find peace even when the ocean roars.

The Gift of the Holy Spirit

In Acts chapter 2, the disciples were gathered together on the day of Pentecost and the day took a new meaning.  Originally, Exodus 23:16: “Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field. “Celebrate the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field.”  Numbers verse 26 places this festival 50 days after the 2nd day of the passover.  However, after the experience of the disciples in the upper room on the day of Pentecost; The Day of Pentecost now represents the start of the new church.  Some scholars say the disciples called themselves the way.  Whatever they called themselves is not important. The Day of Pentecost fulfills the  promise Jesus gave that he would send a helper an intercessor. (John 14:26).  Imagine if you could have been there on that day.  It would have been awesome to feel the Holy Spirit rush down upon you.  But on the day of your salvation, the day you accepted Jesus as the savior, you became filled with the Holy Spirit. Acts 2: 38-39: 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” the promise is for every believer.  We need the intercessor as much as we need Jesus. Because through him we can talk directly to God. We no longer need someone to intercede for us because Jesus lives inside us. This is why we can talk to God, and when we are in that quiet spot, because of the Holy Spirit, we can hear God.  But we have to be quiet and seek him. And it is all because Jesus made a promise and the promise was not just for the disciples or people with fancy degrees. It is for the average every day person in their every day lives. It is why we have hope. It helps us with faith. it is there you just have to reach for it. Because now we are the harvest. 

Does God talk to us?

Recently I listened to a sermon where the first thing I truly heard the pastor say is God does not talk to you, he does not send signs, … at this point I was like WHAT? what on earth do you mean God does not talk to me? I hear him all the time. Are you telling me that is just my voice in my head when I pray? you know that whisper that I hear?  Well not all the time, not every time I pray, mostly when I should pray for someone else, without even knowing why.  Like the other morning I had a dream about someone coming to my house saying they needed help. This was a person that I have not spoken to in some time. I wake up and realize I need to pray for that person.  Later that day I hear about something that person is going through that same day. I saw a post – made about the same time I was praying that they were requesting prayer. – That is not God??? It was not until I had to explain the sermon to someone else (my ladies Bible study group) that I realized what the pastor was saying. It took me a few days to figure it out.  What the pastor meant was that some people expect a sign like Gideon had- (the fleece on the ground dry one day and wet the next Judges 6:36-40).  Or like with Moses and the Ten Commandments- Exodus 31:18.  Maybe like Paul was blinded Acts 9.  You know open the skies with a big voice saying something like this is my son with whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:17).  We hear God as one of the ladies said- I kinda stopped talking for a second or two- because the meaning just hit me- when we seek him.  We read our Bibles, we pray.  As we read our Bibles we understand God. We start to understand how things work God’s way versus our way.  But as we pray and sit quietly before God, we start to hear that whisper.  See when God talks to us, through the Holy Spirit, the intercessor. (John 16:17), it is a whisper.  He waits for us to come to him. I have heard that it is okay to pray the “fleece”, ask for a sign, I have tried, it does not ever seem to work that way for me.  I generally tend to hear him in my sleep in a dream. sometimes, I am quiet enough in the day, when I am in prayer about something all day. eventually I am quiet enough that the answer kinda comes to me. So no God does not talk to you if you are seeking a miraculous sign it probably is not going to come- unless you praying for a baby or something of that nature. At least it is not going to come without some work for us. Take the new job. God is not going to plop it in your lap. But he will give you direction, concerning where to apply, what to say at the interview. My last interview really opened my eyes. I did not get the job, but I learned a lot about where I should be going. I am still slow on the work part. But I need to seek the job, I need to apply for the job, and then I need to do the interview. So seek God, read the Bible, and pray; you will find answers and The Holy Spirit, the intercessor will give you direction- ever been offered a job and you just knew you should not take it? But God is not going to open the heavens and say something like this is the job I want you to do.  YOU HAVE TO SEEK HIM.

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