Difficult Times

James 4.jpgThere are many times in the life of a Christian that we go through difficult times, and sometimes it seems that at every corner we are being attack spiritual, and it is when we know that we are the words of James comes to my mind. James 4:8 Come near to God and he will come near to you, as well as Jeremiah 6:16 This is what the Lord says; Stand at the crossroads and look, ask for the ancient paths; and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. Instead of us running from our Lord we need to run as fast as we can towards him, to rest our tired soul. When we are feeling sad, Jesus wants us to anticipate feeling joyful again. This takes the sting out of our sorrows, because we know it is only temporary what we are going thru. Sadness tends to duplicate itself along the timeline-convincing us that we will always be unhappy. But that is a lie! Jesus is telling us to turn away from the lies we are hearing and to turn to him and more important to trust him and all that he has promised us. The truth is, all of his children have infinite joy ahead of them, reserved in heaven, guaranteed through-out eternity. No one can take this away from us, which is wonderful to know. While we are journeying towards heaven, our earthly path has many ups and downs. Through your down times are uncomfortable, they are not worthless. Pain and struggle can be highly productive when we trust Jesus in the midst of our sufferings. Our anguish is comparable to a woman enduring labor pains. Her suffering is very real, and she wonder how much longer she can bear this pain, and this is the way we truly feel at times. However, all this agony produces a wonderful result-a newborn baby. The memories of her suffering retreat to the background of her mind as she begins to focus on her child. While we labor through earthly afflictions we need to keep our eyes on the promised reward in Jesus, and the wonderful joy we do have in knowing him no matter what we are going thru.

Grace and Peace to you My Friends

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The Meaning of Agape!

Matthew 5.pngYou have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you. love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get” Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.                                              Matthew 5:43-48

 The Greek word agape is often translated “love” in the New Testament. How is “agape love” different from other types of love? The essence of agape love is goodwill, benevolence, and willful delight in the object of love. Unlike our English word loveagape is not used in the New Testament to refer to romantic or sexual love. Nor does it refer to close friendship or brotherly love, for which the Greek word philia is used. Agape love involves faithfulness, commitment, and an act of the will. It is distinguished from the other types of love by its lofty moral nature and strong character. Agape love is beautifully described in 1 Corinthians 13.

Jesus never said to love our enemies with the same love we have for our loved ones. It would be totally impossible and it wouldn’t be right. The essence of the word is different. This is quite another kind of love. For example, our love for our loved ones is different, we can’t help loving them. Then there is love that we describe as falling in love. We don’t have to go and look for this love. It comes to us and it is born from the emotions in the heart. But in the case of our enemies, love is not only something from the heart, it also includes something of the will. It is not something that comes spontaneously, we must will ourselves to do it. It is a victory and triumph over what comes to us instinctively.

Agape doesn’t mean the feeling of the heart, that which we cannot help and which is born without us asking for it. It is through determination of the mind that we want to demonstrate unconquerable good to those who wish to harm us. Agape is the ability to love those we don’t like and who don’t like us. We can only have agape if Christ enables us to overcome our natural tendency towards anger and bitterness.

So it is clear and explicit that the last thing agape or Christian love means is to allow others to do exactly as they please. This means that Christian discipline and punishment should not be aimed at vengeance, but at healing.

Love of God is the root, love our neighbor the fruit of the Tree of Life. Neither can exist without the other, but the one is cause and the other effect. (William Temple)

 

Prayer: Holy Spirit of God, help me to have the ability to love my enemies with Christian love.            Amen

Grace and Peace to You My Friends

Are You Listening!

1 Samuel 3.pngThe boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions. One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, Here I am. And he ran to Eli and said Here I am; you called me.” But Eli said, “I did not call, go back and lie down.” So he went back and lay down/ Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” My son, Eli said, I did not called; go back and lie down.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord. The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he called you, say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”                                          ( I Samuel 3:1-10)

Samuel said to the Lord, speak for your servant is listening. How often as Christians do we say these words to the Lord, Lord we are listening, and at times we are not truly listening at all, our minds are in too many other places. Perhaps the reason is that we have over commit ourselves in our lives. As adults when we begin to work, we go out with friends to have a good time because we feel with the hard work we have done we deserve some down time, some fun. On our journey in life we may get married and begin our own family and we still don’t seem to have the time to be still and listen for the voice of God. As our children start school with continue to be over worked, and over committed with all the extra school activities, as well as the many things we committed to do within our own church. And through our lives we as Christians forgot an important step we learn in the beginning of our Christian walk, which can be found in the book of Psalm 46:10 (one of my favorites) ‘BE STILL, AND KNOW THAT I AM, GOD” We have forgotten what it means to be quiet long enough to hear the voice of God in our lives. How can we possibly know what God’s will is for our own lives if we don’t become quiet. As parents or not when we have something  important to say to someone we ask them to be quiet to listen, correct!. So why doesn’t God deserve the same thing from us, and that is to be still and quiet. In the book of Isaiah 11:6 a young child shall lead them, Samuel was a young boy when he first heard God calling him, speak Lord your servant is listening. We need to slow down in our lives and just listen, just as you would listen to the birds singing, children laughing, because when we do we can truly know what God, the creator of our universe just might be saying to us. Are you truly listening for the voice of God today?

 

Grace and Peace to You My Friends

Joy-Filled Grace

Psalm 16.pngYou will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of Your presence and the pleasure of living with You forever.                                  Psalm 16:11

Our lives here on earth change constantly; new engaged in new experience and circumstances every day. We learn and grow  and move on. Sometimes there is a lot of sweat and hard labor, but little beauty and rest. Although we enjoy a measure of  success we also often taste failure, disappointment and pain. We mostly find human joy in relationships with friends. But even those are simply a mixture of highs and lows; they come and go, When we are happy and all smiles, when love is strong and warm, we wish that things could go on like that forever. But all earthly joy fades.

there is, however, one joy that is steady and eternal, and that is the presence of God. Many people shy away from God because they fear that He will make their joy disappear. They have the feeling that He will not approve of their lifestyles or that he will be shocked by their faults and the horrors of their sins. He does not, however, do that. But in striving after those temporary earthly pleasures they walk past the ingle greatest joy their is in life to know God and to live close to Him.

If you believe in Jesus Christ and follow Him faithfully, you will know that He does not in any way destroy earthly pleasures; He makes them richer and deeper. He adds a joy that does not fade with the passing years, a personal, tender and life-enriching friendship with Him! What is more, this joy is only the beginning of an even greater joy when this life comes to an end.

 

We man think God wants actions of a certain kind, but God wants people of a certain kind.                           C.S. Lewis

Grace and Peace to You My Friends

 

The Glory of the Mountaintop

Mark 9.pngAfter six days, Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.    (Mark 9:2-4)

Here we are at one of the mystical moments in Christ’s life. It is said about the transfiguration of Jesus took place on Mount Tabor. But Tabor is in the South of Galilee and Philippi far on the northern side. Tabor is only 1000 feet high and in Jesus’ time it had a fort on top. It is more likely that it happened on Mount Hermon, which is 9200 feet high and much closer to Caesarea Philippi.

We will never be able to say for sure what really happened. We can only bow in worship while we try to understand. The Gospel of Mark says that Jesus’ clothes became “dazzling white” At the end a cloud covered them. A cloud always featured when God spoke in the Old Testament: God spoke to Moses in a cloud; a cloud settled on the Tabernacle when God was inside, a cloud filled the Temple of Solomon when God occupied it.

Jesus’ transfiguration was something very precious to Him. He now knew He had God’s approval to continue on the road He had taken. But it was also a very special experience for the disciples. They were devastated by Jesus’ announcement that He was going to Jerusalem to die. They were shocked and didn’t understand. Jesus’ transfiguration gave them something to hold on to. They had the story of His transfiguration in their hearts and could tell it to everybody.

“To be in Christ is redemption, but for Christ to be in you is sanctification. To be in Christ is to be fit for heaven, but for Christ to be in you is to be fit for earth.  (Anonymous)

Grace and Peace to You My Friends

Reflecting God’s Love

Proverbs 27.pngTherefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothes yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 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. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through him.                                                 Colossians 3:12-17

The Apostle Paul was in a Roman prison when he wrote to the church in Colossae. False teachers were coaching the Colossians to worship angels, and follow special rules and ceremonies. Paul corrected this thinking through his letter, stressing that faith in Christ is sufficient for salvation and that nothing needs to be added to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

As we read these word today from Colossians I begin to think the reflection that you would see over a lake. One of green trees, and a beautiful sky with clouds, these and others are a reflection of God’s beautiful creation. But it also make me think and perhaps you as well, the Bible teaches us how to live by the example of Jesus Christ, He loved the poor, reached out to the sick, and forgave those who hurt him, even when he hung on the cross his words were “Father Forgive them” I ask myself why is it so hard to live like Jesus. Perhaps my soul becomes stress out in the heat of the moment, and instead of taking a moment to breathe in God’s grace and then breathe out praises, I just begin at times lashing out and not taking the time to stop and think.  When I stumble along my faith journey I try to remember to stop ask God for help, and the best way is just to stop and pray, simply talking with God. When I take the focus off of myself and turn to Jesus I see that my own way of thinking can be wrong and he will guide me back on course. And overtime my own reflection will be the reflection within my heart as I become more like Jesus.

Grace and Peace to You My Friends

God’s Gift Called Grace

Ephesians 2a.pngBut 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

John Wesley the founder of the Methodist movement, grace was the powerful process by which believes came to experience God and know God’s salvation. Wesley believed grace was ever present and influential in believers coming to repentance. He believed grace could lead believers to love God with all their being and to love neighbors and the world as they loved themselves. Mr. Wesley understood God’s grace as a unified piece, but teaching he defined grace as having three aspects; prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying.

Prevenient Grace: Is the grace that comes to us even before we know God. God showers it upon all people whether they are aware of it or not. Through prevenient grace, God takes the initiative in beginning a relationship with us. Prevenient grace is God’s way of showing us that no matter who we are or where we are, God is already there ahead of us, waiting for us. God’s prevenient grace precedes us wherever we go.

Justifying Grace: Brings a big change to the relationship we have with God. Through justifying grace we begin to realize and trust (have faith) that we are restored to relationship with God. We come to acknowledge our sinfulness and trust that we are forgiven by God’s grace. Just as justifying text in a document aligns it a certain way, (right or left-justified) justifying grace aligns us with God through Jesus Christ. This is when “God reaches out to a person with accepting and pardoning love.” This change includes feelings of peace, hope, and joy. Such as experience “may be sudden and dramatic, or gradual and cumulative. It marks a new beginning, yet it is part of an ongoing process.”

Sanctifying Grace: Prevenient grace is God meeting you at every corner. Justifying grace is God reaching out to you with love. When you say yes to the invitation of justifying grace, you turn a corner in your faith journey. One of the most controversial teachings of the early Methodist movement was that it is possible for us to realize Christian perfection in this life, perfect love, loving perfectly. Wesley called this process “going on to Christian perfection,” or sanctifying grace. This part of grace challengers believers to go deeper in faith, to love the world more energetically, and to keep growing in the knowledge and love of God. For Wesley, God’s sanctifying grace led believers to have their hearts “habitually filled with the love of God and neighbor. For you, this might mean coming to understand your life as more and more focused on living by faith. Faith becomes the center out of which you live. Little by little, God’s sanctifying grace uncovers more and more of God’s image in you. As one who has been forgiven, you become more forgiving. As one who is loved, you become more loving. Wesley emphasized that we are continually filled with God’s love, we are led more fully to acts of mercy and works of justice.

 

Grace and Peace to You My Friends npoty

No Compromise

Matthew 6c.pngOur God is a holy God, and He makes no compromise with sin, He doesn’t tolerate it at all! In this day and age, even the idea of punishment is becoming outdated. Children must not be punished anymore because it infringes on their personal right. But sin remains sin before God and we pay a high price for it. Now the sinful human grabs at straws. Is God not merciful? He is after all, love. But He is also just and holy! We must not play His holiness off against His love. Of course God is merciful, The fact that we are alive is proof of God’s mercy. But His love is by no means weak, it is strong and holy. It gives much but also demands much. God is merciful, but God is also just! God is just, but God is also merciful! Do you see the difference between the two concepts? Come with me to Golgotha, there the impossible became possible! There the tension was broken when Jesus was broken. Their righteousness and mercy flowed into one.

Jesus had to die for the sake of God’s righteousness. He paid the highest price so that we, the rebels, could be set free. He endured God’s wrath that we could experience His love. He was forsaken against by God so that we could know God, never to be forsaken again. He carried our curse so that we might be showered with blessings. The message of Golgotha is: God is righteous! God is Love! That is why Jesus teaches us to pray, “Forgive us our trespass, or sins or some Christians may say debts, it all means the same, we have all sin and have fallen short of the Glory of God. But through God’s love that he sent His one and only son Jesus into this world to die for all sinners (all of mankind) so that we will never be separated from God.

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Grace and Peace to You My Friends