Friday, September 4, 2015

Hoodwinked

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; (Ephesians 5:6-7 NAS)

Hoodwinked While visiting Huangshan in China, we were brought to a jewelry shop by the tour manager. A rectangular piece of raw jade interest me, but having no knowledge how to see or check the quality of jade, I sought the help of the tour manager. He assured me all items in the shop were of good quality because the shop had been endorsed by the tourism board. Back at home, I took the piece of jade to a jewelry shop to make into a frame pendant, but the jeweler told me it would not be worth my while because the ‘jade’ is a fake.

As tourists, many of us have been deceived by promoters into purchasing things of little worth. More often than not, by the time we discover the real worth of what had been purchased, it was already too late for us to go back to the place we made the purchase to seek a refund.

The Bible warns us not to let anyone deceive us with empty words or be partakers with those who deceive others for dishonest gain, for because of such things God’s wrath has come upon the disobedient (Ephesians 5:6-7).

As businessmen, entrepreneurs, employers, employees, bread winners or one trying to earn a living, have we been partakers of dishonest dealings? Do we frequently or infrequently oversell our or our employer’s products or services to close a deal and earn our share of the profit? Do we sometimes speak a lie or half-truth just in order to secure a purchase?

Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies last only a moment before getting exposed. If we devise evil, deceit is in our hearts, but joy fills those who plan for peace. If we live amid deception, in deceit we are refusing to acknowledge God. Like a coating of silver dross on earthenware, the smooth words from lips speak deceit from a wicked heart. If our lips disguises the truth, we are not much different from those who hate and lay up deceit within the heart (Proverbs 12:19-20, 26:23; Jeremiah 9:6).

No one who practices deceit will dwell in the house of God and no one who speaks lies will stand in His presence. Hear, therefore, what the Lord Almighty is saying, for behold He will refine and test us (Psalm 101:7, Jeremiah 9:7).

Dear Lord, forgive us for the times we fall short in telling the whole truth, just in order to gain a sale or close a deal. Help us never to be dishonest in our dealings with other people and to forgive those who deal dishonestly with us. Refine and test us whenever we have in mind and at heart to lay up deceit, that we may in Your guidance and love be directed to the right path.


Friday, August 28, 2015

If My People

If my people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14 KJV)

If My People
When the tiny word “if” is spoken in a sentence it gives the meaning that something "could" happen. “If” is strictly a word based on a condition or stipulation. Here in this part of the country, we might say if we do “thus and so” then “this and that” just might happen! 

But as far as God is concerned, there’s a lot hinging upon the little word “if.” God says that if His people will humble themselves in prayer, seek His face and turn from their wicked ways, He will forgive their sins and their land will be healed. All of a sudden, the little word “if” seems to have graduated from a tiny word to a big stipulation. 

Beloved, the floodgates of heaven are bursting at the seams, but our nation must come to repentance before great things can happen. Repentance has to be done before this land can be healed and blessings to flow. To put it in simple terms, the slates of our hearts must be wiped clean and it can only be done through humbling ourselves before Almighty God. Our nation needs to repent because our sins are many.

What is repentance? It’s simply asking God for forgiveness from all sins and wrongdoing. It takes only simple, uncomplicated words that even a child can say. Repentance is not a suggestion, but a command. In fact, Jesus preached repentance on a regular basis (Matthew 4:17). 

Romans 10:9-10 gives us instructions on repentance: 

(9) That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (10) For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved."

Repentance is the first step to take at the time of salvation. Without it, trying to be a Believer, will not and cannot happen. Believing with your heart brings justification, and then confessing with your mouth that you are indeed saved and that you believe it.

One religion teaches that as long as you do good works it makes up for all wrong deeds. There’s another religion that says you must fast to make up for all sin, but we can look at Scripture and see clearly what God’s way is and that we're not saved by our own works, but by grace.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)

We must go to the Father and ask for forgiveness and He will be faithful and just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Have you ever thought how repulsive sin truly is? Are you appalled by the sin and evil that is so evident in our nation? Evil is increasing in our land on a daily basis and seems to be more rampant as time goes by. The newspapers and newscasts are full of one report after another of murders, child molestation, rapes, robberies and many other crimes.

Sin tastes terrible. It smells disgusting. It looks despicable. Nothing feels good about it. Nothing “is” good about it. Sin has an allurement for a season and from there spirals down into darkness. The enemy will set a trap to snag his prey. If we could see from a spiritual standpoint how sordid sin truly is, we would never touch it and would be so repulsed by it, that we would run from it every time it rears its ugly head. Scripture tells us we're to avoid every type of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22).

The Apostle Paul said to turn to God in repentance and have faith in the Lord Jesus (Acts 20:21). We must turn away from all evil and seek God to help us walk down the path of righteousness, doing our best for Him every day.

For me personally, I want the Master Potter to mold and shape me like never before. In order for the Holy Spirit to do that, He must reveal my secret sins. If I feel the wooing of the Holy Spirit revealing things He sees in my heart not pleasing to Him, I must confess them. If I hold off and do not humble myself before God, I will not go further in my experience with him. I could become cold and possibly lose out with God. With that thought, I have to say as the Apostle Paul did: “God forbid!”

It’s important to remember that we must not quench the Spirit when sin is pointed out to us (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Never think for a moment that the Holy Spirit stands over us with a whip, but gently in His infinite love, points to those things not pleasing. When that happens in my life, I’ll have an overflow of tears. Those times usually come in quiet moments when it’s just God and me.

We have a High Priest, Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of the Father, waiting to hear us call upon His name in prayer. He longs for us to come, humbling ourselves in repentance so He can cleanse us and make us pure. If you have never done so, run into His arms now! He is waiting for you.

May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Danna Appleby

Father, we come to You humbly repenting of our sins. We sometimes do things, have thoughts and say things that are not what Christ would do or say. Cleanse us and make us pure and holy in Your sight. Make us into the one You want us to be as we look full in Your wonderful face. Father, purify us so that we can serve You with our whole heart. We give ourselves totally to You and run into Your arms this moment and are grateful for Your forgiveness and mercy. Where would we be without it? Heal our land now Father, heal our land. We cry for mercy and ask that you forgive this nation for sins that are overtaking us and ask You to change the hearts of our people. Help our nation to turn back to God. In Your Son’s name. Amen.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Top Tourist Attractions

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:20 NAS)

Top Tourist Attractions
Top holiday destinations around the world have been named and renamed almost every year. Of the world’s 50 most visited tourist attractions, Las Vegas Strip, New York City’s Times Square, Central Park and Grand Central Terminal, the Niagara Falls and DisneyWorld Orlando were among the top ten listed in an article of February 26, 2014 at HuffingtonPost.com.

A number of years before that, the Pyramids of Giza, Big Ben in London, Roman Coliseum in Rome, Eiffel Tower in Paris, Grand Canyon in Arizona, Statue of Liberty in New York City and the Niagara Falls were ranked the top ten, according to an article of March 28, 2012 at TheMost10.com. Notwithstanding that Niagara Falls often come in top ten of tourist attractions list, it is no wonder visits to the American Falls and Canadian Falls are popular with tourists.

Like many tourists, among the first things my wife and I would do when we arrive at the hotel of our holiday destination is to find out the local attractions of the place. Given that they are tourist attractions, there is almost always no chance to have private moments to admire the place or to take photographs without the crowd in them. All we could do is just to appreciate the experience in our hearts and minds, although on occasions we may perform a little magic with the help of photo editing applications to lift off unwanted objects from pictures.

When we travel to our holiday destinations, do we ask ourselves the reason for our travel? Are we on a holiday to catch some rest, to cover as many tourist attractions as possible or to admire the works of God? Is our holiday a time to free ourselves from God and man, or a time to renew our spirit to appreciate more of God’s handiwork and the God-given works of people who made artifacts of wonder?

Visiting places of natural wonders like the Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon can help us liberate our minds not to limit what God can do (for us). Seeing and understanding artifacts like the pyramids, Big Ben, Roman Coliseum, Eiffel Tower, and the Statue of Liberty help us not limit ourselves to what God can do through us when we work together for His purpose. For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen and understood through what has been made (Romans 1:20).

Rather than keeping away from God or trying a little magic of our own to avoid or stay away from people during our holidays, let us with renewed minds see beyond the invisible attributes of God. If we would just pay a little more attention, we would see His handiwork and the works of the God-given.

Dear Lord, thank You for the many tourist attractions around the world that declare Your handiwork and showcase the works of the God-given. Your amazing works have opened our eyes to see greater things are yet to come, and opened our hearts to trust You to lead us beyond our own abilities. You alone are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive all glory, honor and power, for by You all things were created and because of Your will, they existed. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

I've Got A Mansion

I've Got A Mansion
If you have ever had to live in an unfinished house or “live out of boxes”, you know it is a frustration. It is a trial that requires a great deal of patience.

What a wonderful thought to me as one who has done the “box thing” and lived in “unfinished” housing. Jesus said He has gone to prepare a place for me. It is a promise from the Savior’s lips. When it is ready for me, he’ll call me home. I won’t have to pack. Everything I need will be there. Everything will be completely finished and furnished. I remember, too, that He said there are many mansions. I’ve got an address. I have a reservation. Yes, beloved, that is a comfort (John 14:1-6).

Thomas, as always, showed some doubts. He didn’t know where Jesus was going … so how could he know the way.

Jesus said, lovingly, “I am the way.”

There is that echo that came from the Sea of Galilee when He called His disciples … He was saying once again, “Follow Me."

There is a precious story of a little boy who got lost in the city streets. Darkness was beginning to fall and the child became afraid. An old gentleman stopped to help and asked the child, “where is your home?”

The little boy replied, “I don’t know, I’m lost. But if you can just take me to the corner where the church is with the big cross I can find my way home.”

Dear One, the Cross of Jesus always points toward home. What a comfort. What a joy. What a promise. E.J. Swanson

Father, it is a comfort to know that someday we will be able to dwell with you. We know that because of the loving sacrifice of your Son, Jesus, this is possible. The cross helped make it possible for me to get home. Thank you, Father. “Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Weekend Getaway

For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. (Hebrews 4:10 NAS)

Weekend Getaway
A public holiday on a Friday. That’s an extended weekend break!

Alfred thought to himself, his heart leaping for joy as his mind started planning.

"Honey, let's get away over the weekend," Alfred suggested to his wife.

"Not unless our grandchildren are taken care of," Sue answered.

"Don't worry about them, Mom," said Gail with her husband by her side. "Tom and I will take care of the kids."

Not wanting to travel too far away from home, the older couple decided to just leave the busy city to a small town—Corning, in Steuben County. Besides visiting the famed Corning Museum of Glass, exploring the picturesque Finger Lakes region, and enjoying the fabulous food of various cultures, Alfred and Sue found rest during their weekend away.

Rest is what all of us need. A break from our routines to spend time to rest, refresh and refocus can do a lot more good than we realize. Regardless how busy we are, we must make time to rest.

The Epistle to the Hebrews mentioned a rest for the people of God. All of us who have received Christ Jesus as our Lord and Savior have been given that rest because of our Lord’s finished work on the cross. We ought therefore to be diligent to enter that rest so that we might not fall (Hebrews 4:9-11).

Are we finding it hard to rest because we are too busy trying to do so many things by our own effort? Are we casting our care on the Lord and committing everything we do to Him?

God’s word exhorts us to cast our anxieties to the Lord who will sustain us. Commit to the Lord whatever we do, and He will establish our plans (1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 55:22; Proverbs 16:3).

Dear Lord, thank You for giving us rest through Your finished work on the cross. Help us not overwork ourselves trying to prove our worth through works, for we know it is not by our effort but by Your grace and unmerited favor that You have chosen to bless us. We commit to You all that we do and cast all our anxieties on You, for You are the One who establishes our plans and have given us rest.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Fond Memories

I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your doings; I muse on the work of Your hands. (Psalm 143:5 NAS)

Fond Memories
Fond memories are often all that is left after visiting a place faraway that we have no intention to revisit. The only few things that help keep our memories alive of such a place are photos and souvenirs.

There was a time I used to fill up my closets with photo albums before the digital camera was popularized. Till this day, my wife and I have showcases and containers of the many souvenirs we purchased during our vacations and family retreats. All these photos and souvenirs are fondly loved by all of us in the family because of the precious memories we treasure of the fun time we spent together.

In a sense, the word of God is like a souvenir given by God to help us remember His teachings and what He had done for us. Like photos of imagery in our minds, God’s word showcases His expressed love to us through the scenes of the Old and New Testament, the works our Lord had done to save us, and the future that awaits us.

God’s word exhorts us to remember the days of old, to meditate on all His doings, muse on His deeds and the work of His hands, and to understand His precepts. We are to treasure God’s word in our heart that we might not sin against Him (Psalm 143:5; 77:12; 119:11, 15, 27).

Do we treasure God’s word like the way we cherish our photos and souvenirs? Do we love the word of God enough to spend time to meditate on it and refresh our minds with what we learn from within? Are we keeping and treasuring God’s word in our hearts to muse, meditate, and understand the precepts of God? 

God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. In His word is where we gain understanding of His precepts. Let us not forget the word of God but open our eyes to behold wonderful things from it (Psalm 119:104-105, 16, 18).

Dear Lord, thank You for the Holy Scriptures that You have placed in our hands so we might remember the days of old to meditate on it and muse over Your doings so we might know You more intimately. Your word is eternal and stands firm in the heavens, a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. We treasure Your word in our hearts that we might not sin against You.

Friday, July 24, 2015

If

If
Tough economic times try our patience, reveal our priorities and test our faith … Families minimize frivolities, count and roll pennies and try to stay in the black … Business declines, stocks fluctuate and consumers hesitate to make major purchases. Yes, we personally know the meaning of the tight squeeze and it does not refer to squeezing from the top or bottom of the toothpaste roll.

We do have financial needs and feel the strain of meeting them; it would be irresponsible to ignore them. A loving parent wants to put bread on the table and ability to pay creditors; is money pulled from thin air; what are they to do? The Father above tests our faith; Satan tempts our soul. His tactics have changed little since his one-on-one with Jesus in the wilderness.

“And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. And the devil said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread. But Jesus answered him, saying, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God (Luke 4:2b-4 NKJ).” Jesus was hungry; Jesus understands our temptations to satisfy hunger and need, yet opens our eyes to the greater sustainer of life.Pam Ford Davis

Heavenly Father, forgive me for listening to Satan’s twisted taunts; if Jesus was the Son of God he would do this and that to prove it. Keep me focused on reality and my urgent need to slice the bread of life. In Jesus name. Amen.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Idols of the Heart

Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. (Ezekiel 14:3 NIV)

Idols of the Heart
By definition, an idol is anything regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion. In Exodus, God is very clear that we are to put nothing before him; no idol in the form of anything. Jesus said we are to love the Lord with all our hearts, souls, and minds.

Most of us would not form an idol of materials and worship it with adoration and devotion. But what about our hearts? What things in our lives do we regard with adoration and devotion? For each of us it will be something different. For some, sports and entertainment may have become a form of idol worship, coming before their worship of God. For others it may be money, material things, or family. But what about deep in our hearts? Are there things we put before reading and studying God’s word? Have we replaced a consistent prayer life with the busyness that often consumes us? Sometimes it is the “little” things that become idols in our hearts keeping us away from a close relationship with our Lord.

In Ezekiel 14:8, God tells Ezekiel what he will do with the person who sets up idols in his heart, "I will set my face against that man and make him an example and a byword. I will cut him off from my people. Then you will know that I am the Lord." (NIV)

We need to search our hearts and demolish any idols established there. God will not be mocked. Sharon Dow

Friday, July 10, 2015

More than a Silhouette

More than a Silhouette
In 18th century Europe, the art of silhouette cutting began as a form of entertainment for the royal elite.  With the grand Lords and Ladies as his subjects, the artist would use scissors to sculpt a head-and-shoulders profile from black paper. The finished portrait would usually be mounted against a white or light-colored background. These were completed quickly, within a matter of only a few minutes. This beautiful art form showed the outline of the subject but not the detail.

Many people have a similar relationship with God. They know who God is and what He can do, but they don’t have a personal, “one-on-one” relationship with Him. The intimacy that God desires to have with them is missing. They have a silhouette of God, but there is no detail.

Once we accept Jesus as our Savior, however, we begin the best relationship we will ever experience.  When we talk to Him, He listens. When He talks to us, we should listen. Any close relationship requires an investment of our time. Spending time with the One who loves us best and most brings “detail” to our silhouette portrait of God. Denise Ferrell

Lord, help us to spend time with you, getting to know you, and talking to you throughout every day.

Friday, July 3, 2015

More Than Worth It

More Than Worth It
“That’s not fair!” shouted my seven year old daughter. She was right. It wasn’t fair that her brother had taken the last Nutty Bar, when I had told her she could have it. But it’s also not fair that some children go to bed hungry every night. It’s not fair that couples who want a child are unable to have one. It isn’t fair that tornadoes and hurricanes, mudslides and earthquakes, forest fires and floods level towns and villages throughout the world, devastating people’s lives. It isn’t fair that soldiers are wounded and killed every day. It isn’t fair that some of us are diagnosed with cancer. Sometimes life isn’t fair. Sometimes it’s hard and painful and overwhelming. 

My Dad has a poster that reads: “I never said life would be easy, only that it would be worth it,” signed God. God has promised He will be with us always. Always. No matter what we face. He promises He will never leave us, never forsake us, regardless of our circumstances. He has promised to work all things for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Despite how we feel, in spite of our circumstances, God promises us hope for today, and eternity for tomorrow. It isn’t our circumstances that make life worth living. It’s God.

Jesus tells us in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.” The apostle Paul adds, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17) 

In 15 years of marriage, my husband and I have faced a few trials, some we kind of expected—broken bones and stitches; a few took us by surprise—my husband’s job loss and relocation, twice; the death of my brother, my father-in-law, and several other close family members; a seriously ill young child; an auto accident and permanent injury, and a diagnosis of early-stage breast cancer. It’s been quite an adventure, but when I look back, it’s not pain or fear, heartache or loneliness, sorrow or anger I remember, but hope. Every step of the way, through every unexpected circumstance, God continued to grow and shape and refine us; to strengthen and deepen our faith; to encourage us and give us hope; to make Heaven very real; and to teach us to trust Him more.

When change happens, we can either fear the worst and focus on what isn’t fair, or we can step back, slow down, breathe deeply, and accept what God has allowed into our lives. The hottest fire refines the purest gold. The toughest trials teach us the greatest lessons and change us most profoundly. For in the midst of pain, we learn to persevere, our perspective is changed, and our faith deepened as we begin to understand the depth of pain Christ endured, the amazing price He paid for our salvation. Then can we begin to say with conviction, “Life isn’t fair, but because of God, it’s more than worth it.” Cindee Snider Re

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