Friday, April 24, 2015

Understanding Suffering

but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; (1 Peter 3:15 NAS)

Understanding Suffering
As a digital media coordinator handling the website and social media for a Christian organization and writer of a Christian blog, I sometimes receive feedback and comments that put into question the faith, the authenticity of the Bible, the loving care of God, among many others. While I am able to direct some of the questions to the relevant parties to answer the enquirer while at work, I stand with God and His word alone when it comes to defending the faith in replying to comments on my Christian blog.

One of the longest discussion I had with a person who commented on the blog was on the topic "Why would a good God allow suffering?" None of us, in actuality, is alone in our sufferings, for Christ Himself had suffered. Since Christ had suffered in the flesh, then all the more we should arm ourselves for this same purpose because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. There is hence no need for the one to live the rest of the time in the flesh for evil human desires, but for the will of God. Anyone who suffers as a Christian do not need to be ashamed, but should glorify God for bearing the name (1 Peter 3:18; 4:1-2, 16).

Although suffering did not exist until after the fall of man, it is not entirely bad in our present condition. Without suffering, many would live lives as they deem fit and not know when to turn around to seek God. In a sense, suffering is one of the many ways man can be molded and be brought to the realization of a God who cares. Instead of complaining about our sufferings, therefore, we should learn to bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort. He is the One who comforts us in all our affliction, and we who suffer much will also receive much comfort through Christ, so that we may in turn comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

In our suffering, let us sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts that we might be always ready to make a defense to anyone who questions our faith and hope, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15).

Dear Lord, You know and understand the sufferings we are going through, for You have also suffered for our sins once for all time to bring us to God. Grant us Your strength to go through the trials we are to learn from, and bring us to triumph. In our affliction, comfort us and grow us up to love You even more. Put in us a heart like Yours to comfort others in their sufferings that they may experience Your love for them, just as we have experienced and known Your love for us.

Friday, April 17, 2015

He is Near

The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. (Psalm 34:18-19 NKJ)

He is Near
So often, when our heart is broken, we feel that the Lord is far away, but just the opposite is true. He promised that in our anguish, He is near us. We do not always feel like the Lord is there, but when we look back, we can see His hand upon our situation all along. When we reach Glory with Him, in eternity, we will surely see the days of our lives and how the Lord has been active and present and ever helping us in every aspect of our lives. 

I can honestly say from personal experience, that if not for the comfort of the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, I do not know where I would be. So often I hide from the fact that God loves me so much and that He is there to comfort me in times of trouble. It seems too good to be true. However, God IS good, and so are His truths and promises. He is infinitely good and faithful and everything about Him benefits us. 

Another thing He promised is that the righteous will be afflicted, and often, to boot ... can I get an "oy vey"?? Haha. However, He did say that He would deliver us out of ALL our trials. God is not a "sometimes, maybe, when I feel like it God" He is eternal and so is His help. There is only one thing God cannot do-fail. And He will never fail to help us. 

Unfortunately, I, as well as others, I am sure, fail to realize this, and the more we doubt God the deeper we dig ourselves into a pit ... a pit of doubt, self pity, and unnecessary pain. I've been a Christian for five and a half years and every time I have doubted God the results have been the exact same-pain, fear, and anguish. And whenever I turned back to Him again, there has always been a renewed hope in my heart. It's inevitable. 

When your heart is broken, its easy to give up, and give into the hurt. Often, it even seems like the only solution. However, when we fall into the arms of He who loves us, who IS love, He will catch us and hold us close until it is over. This verse promises that He is the Deliverer. When troubles come, call upon the Deliverer. Let Him fight your battles, He is more able to handle them than we are. Jamie Glaser

Friday, April 10, 2015

H.U.G.S.!

More than anything, keep loving each other actively; because love covers many sins. (1 Peter 4:8 CJB)

H.U.G.S.
Have you figured out yet that this life is all about relationships? The Relationship Expert Himself wrote an entire Book about this matter of relationships. The First Four Words of The Ten (Commandments) He gave us had to do with relating to Him … and the Last Six Words had to do with relating to everyone else!

What I'm trying to say, folks, is that it matters to our LORD how we deal with one another ... yes, even 'Sister Scouring Pad' (the one known for her abrasive qualities).  Did you know that our (horizontal) relationships are the TELLING FRUIT of our most vital (vertical) relationship to the Father ... the ROOT?  We are able to know the true condition of how our Heavenly Father views our relationship with Himself simply by examining our relationships with the 'one another' in our lives.

We all have at least one relationship in need of His healing touch, don't we? 1 Peter 3:8-12 describes a process of His sanctification in us through friction with others …'it is to this we have been called that we might receive a blessing'. We receive this blessing as we do things His way and give up the right to ourselves.

Recently, I had the privilege of sipping some very expensive coffee (as in 'Venti fat-free hazelnut latte, please!') across the table from a new friend. We both shared our strange love for acronyms. You see, the LORD gave me a brain that can be easily confused, so I have found that acronyms serve me well in remembering what I should do in a complicated situation. Sometimes I do not have time to grab my Bible and look up the appropriate responses. Perhaps this is why His Spirit instructs us to 'hide (the Word) in our hearts that we might not sin against Him'!

H.U.G.S. is surely one great acronym to commit to memory in dealing with inevitable conflict. The definition of conflict is 'to come into collision or disagreement; be contradictory, at variance, or in opposition; to clash'. Has this ever happened to you? John records these words from Jesus: "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

We have tribulation because sin resides in every human heart. But let's not kid ourselves - even if you or I were the only one on this earth, we'd still have our issues! Therefore, we can look at conflict as an event and H.U.G.S. as appropriate God-honoring, Christ-exalting responses to a brother or sister. Until the LORD comes back, His Spirit will be teaching us all about His blessed grace and giving us ample opportunity to grow in it and extend it to others.

What would our relationships look like if we dealt in the following manner with each other?

  • H - Honestly (Proverbs 24:26; Romans 12:9-10)
  • U - Understandingly (Proverbs 14:29; James 1:20)
  • G - Graciously (Colossians 4:6; Proverbs 11:16; Ecclesiastes 10:12)
  • S - Simply (Matthew 5:37; Proverbs 10:19; Ecclesiastes 5:7)

Jesus said that the world would know we are His disciples by the love we have for one another (John 13:35). This ahava (Hebrew: 'love') is the first attribute listed of the Spirit's fruit because it is from this 'ahava' that the remaining Kingdom fruit flows. Ahava, at its core, is a heavenly action displayed through an earthly vessel. It is His very love flowing through us.

Because HUGS are a very SUPERnatural response, they are able to soften the edges of even the harshest Sister (yes, even Sister Scouring Pad or Brillo Britches … whichever you prefer). Carmen Schroeder

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Blessed Easter 2015

Blessed Easter 2015

He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said.

~ Matthew 28:6a (NAS) ~

He is Risen
 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday 2015

Good Friday 2015

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, 
He was crushed for our iniquities; 
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, 
And by His scourging we are healed. 

~ Isaiah 53:5 (NAS) ~

Good Friday 2015

God’s Awesome Grace

God's Awesome Grace
Is there anything in your past that you are ashamed of or unhappy about? Do you feel like it is something that others would look down on you for or do you feel like it is so bad that God would even be shameful of you?

I enjoy reading or hearing about an individual who was at a very low point in their life, a point where they felt their life couldn’t get any worse. They felt ashamed, and even embarrassed of their past. But because of God’s love, and because they had repented and accepted a personal relationship with Jesus they began to live a changed life and were able to let go and learn from their past.

In Acts, chapters 8 and 9, a man named Saul persecuted the church. Acts 8:3 says, “But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.” In chapter 9, he continues on the same course until Jesus asks Saul in Acts 9:4, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” God caused Saul to lose his sight for a short time, but eventually regained it and dedicated his life to serving the Lord. Jesus said in Acts 9:15, “ This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.”

This sinful man became the apostle Paul. He was a man with a horrible past, but because of the Lord’s grace he was a changed man. In 1 Timothy 1:14-15, Paul says, “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”

God’s awesome grace is available to us all. No matter what decisions we have made or what has happened in our lives, God is still there waiting for us. We just have to confess our sins to him and believe in our hearts and say with our lips that Jesus is our Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9). God forgives our sins and transgressions. They are gone. Psalm 103:12 says, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Now that is awesome grace! Jeff Hertel

Friday, March 27, 2015

God's Steadfast Love

Your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me! (Psalm 40:11b ESV)

God's Steadfast Love
Throughout various events we experience we don't always comprehend what is happening in our lives. Life changes. Situations change. People come and people go but God remains God. It seems our lives are always changing and we are always having to adjust to the situation at hand be it job changes, new beginnings, births or someone going home to be with the Lord. 

Unbelievers experience frustration and set backs just as believers do. Everybody has challenge and struggles to deal with. Recent reports indicate that persons who pray regularly appear to have a different security than those who do not. They seem to have a hope and a confidence with peace of mind when they are struggling with problems. Why is that?

It would seem to me first and foremost that Christians seek God's hope and security in good times and bad. And, hopefully, a Christian will realize that whatever befalls them God already knows how to show us how to live by faith knowing God has a plan for us in this situation. For the Christian who practices dependence upon the Lord there are certainties in their approach to life:

  • God is in control
  • He does not waiver
  • He is faithful
  • He loves us
  • He gives us refuge and hope in times of trouble and despair
  • He will never leave us or forsake us

Struggling in life allows us to draw on God's strength and peace. It shows us that our situation, no matter how it appears to us, will provide us more opportunity to know our Lord's caring touch is upon us. Throughout our struggle, whatever it is, we can know God is our refuge and our beloved Father. And, as a father watches over his children, our Lord watches over us with every breath we take and every step we make. God truly and genuinely cares for each of us and He is faithful to keep us as we turn our faces towards Him and seek His guidance. 

Oh, that I would strive to be as faithful to the Lord as He has been to me. Oh, that I would not doubt or fear but that I would completely trust Him in whatever comes my way. Oh, that my faith would expand and enlarge until I would not fear when I am shaken by life's trials and hardships. 

But the Lord is faithful and He has mercy on me and you Christian friend. Even when we fear, there is no reason to fear. Even when we feel alone, we are not alone; for He is our steadfast hope, our reason to rejoice, our peace, our love, and our Redeemer no matter what comes into our lives. Frances Loftiss Carroll

Thank you Lord. I give thanks to you in all things and praise your holy name. Thank you Lord for the gift of salvation through your grace. Amen.

Friday, March 20, 2015

God is Limitless

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV)

God is Limitless
Anytime I come across this passage, whether it be for a personal devotional reading, preparing for a sermon or teaching in a small group study, I am always reminded how often I limit God. I certainly teach and encourage others that God can work in amazing and mysterious ways, but often I fail to believe that myself. Sometimes, it’s much easier encouraging others than actually living it out myself. I’m reminded that I need to also believe that God can and will do things in life that are beyond our comprehension.

Don’t we so often limit what God can do? We often say, “Oh, that will never happen.” God is never bound by limitations. He is so far beyond us and far greater than anything we could ever think of. Look at the words, “immeasurably more”. Our God is an awesome God who is capable of so much more than we could ever possibly understand. He works in mysterious ways that we most often never see and didn’t think would happen. 

I’m encouraged by Paul’s words to the church in Ephesus about how God works in amazing ways and beyond our understanding. I hope you are encouraged by his words as well. Not only can God do amazing things beyond our imagination, but He also works amazing ways within us. He does great things all around us as well as working through our lives and changing us in ways we never thought possible. 

I have to admit that I’m ashamed sometimes at how I limit what God can do in my life. I often doubt and see things only from a certain perspective and forget that God is above my thoughts and ideas. I have to constantly remember that God is not bound by limitations that we sometimes want to put on Him. He is beyond us and is greater than we could ever imagine. I hope we are all thankful to serve a Heavenly Father Who is so great, awesome and beyond our understanding! Zach Wood

Friday, March 13, 2015

God in a Box

My thoughts are completely different from yours … And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. (Isaiah 55:8 NLT)

God in a Box
Amos wasn’t happy but my daughter was. I guess I wouldn’t be happy either if someone boxed me up and took me from my familiar surroundings. But such is the life of a pet hamster.

Amos made his disgust known as soon as we got in the car. As my daughter held the box, a hole appeared and then teeth. Amos was on a mission to escape. He was so intentional I had to stop the car, put his cage together and insert him in it.

Amos wasn’t a fan of boxes. God isn’t either. God states his thoughts and ways are far beyond our imagination. To paraphrase, Don’t try and figure me out. The only certainty is that God will act according to his nature of love and holiness. Beyond that, we can’t hem him in. He will escape every time.

Amos and God remind me of the vintage child’s toy, Jack In The Box. Jack was in a metal box waiting for a handle to be cranked. Turning the handle made Jack pop out. Just when I thought I had him pegged, he would pop out unexpectedly.

God does the same. We build up philosophies of how we think God should or will act and he surprises us by doing something totally different. He answers a prayer unlike we want or think he should. I pray for instant healing. He lets the illness hang on a few days. I pray for extra money and expect help momentarily. God gives me time to consider decisions I’ve made and to let my faith increase.

God is a God of surprises who will not be boxed in. He will, however, always act in our best interest whether his answer makes sense to us or not. Martin Wiles

God, enable me to let You be God. Help me be still and know that You love me and will care for my needs in ways that will amaze me and others.

Friday, March 6, 2015

God has a Better Way

Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials. But Daniel said to the overseer, please test your servants for ten days and let us be given vegetables and water to drink, then let our appearance be observed in your presence. So he listened to them in this manner and tested them for ten days. (Daniel 1: 9, 11-13 NAS)

God has a Better Way
The rules in Nebuchadnezzar’s court are unchangeable. He has a certain way of achieving his goals, some of which involve breaking God’s laws; written on the hearts of Daniel and his friends.

What do you do when those over you try to force you to violate your conscience in order to achieve their goals? This may not be a common occurrence but it does happen especially in countries ruled by tyranny.

Daniel gives us an example of what to do in such a situation. First he prayed for wisdom. Second God gave him favor with the man in charge. (This speaks of the importance of gaining respect by behaving properly). Third Daniel offered an alternative solution that would accomplish the same goals without disobeying God.

God in his mercy took charge and brought about these results:

  • Healthier bodies
  • Greater wisdom and understanding
  • A personal audience with the king
  • Promotion in the court (resulting in a longer occupation)

God’s way is always the best way, and while we may not experience the same results as Daniel, God will bring about one tailored for you. Henry Jaegers

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