“You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Remember who you are. Everyday there are plenty of opportunities to do wrong, but this one bit of wisdom can help refocus our lives. Because of what Christ has done for you, your life is no longer your own. You belong to Christ. He is yours. And you are his.
There are so many voices in our world today, telling us the opposite of Christ’s message: You’re not worthy. You are a failure. You are pathetic. Too often we listen to these voices, rather than God’s.
Whenever you find yourself battling against any kind of temptation, remember who you are. You are a child of God. You were purchased with the blood of Jesus. You are not your own. You belong to him. Because you are his, he will never leave you. You will never be alone. God is for you. God’s spirit dwells within you. Christ’s power is available to you.
So today, don’t let anyone or anything steal your true identity in Christ.
Remember who you are.
Remember whose you are.
Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, “Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses.
For 40 years they had lived beneath their privilege. For 40 years they had looked, hoped and dreamed about the other side. The land was theirs, after all, it had been promised to them.
Suspended by a river of fear, indecision and disobedience, they lived in the desert of bad choices.
There comes a day when God said, “It’s time to move in.” Fear, be gone! Indecision, be done! Disobedience, Stop! Under a new commander, God gave them their marching orders, and march they did!
Maybe today, you are finding yourself in the desert of your bad choices. You do not have to stay in that dry, dusty desert. Move out and move on. Say to the fear that holds you in bondage, be gone! To the indecision that paralyzes you, enough! And if there any disobedience getting in the way of God’s best, turn from it!
The other side of opportunity, discovery and new horizons awaits your first step!
Mark 12:13-17 (ESV)
“And they sent to [Jesus] some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. And they came and said to him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone's opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?’ But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, ‘Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.’ And they brought one. And he said to them, ‘Whose likeness and inscription is this?’ They said to him, ‘Caesar's.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.’ And they marveled at him.”
This story appears in Matthew 22:15-22 and Luke 20:19-26 also. It is almost the same in all three places—the tale of an encounter concerning the image on a coin.
I’m a big fan of the late Ravi Zacharius and listen to him fairly often. I heard him speak about this passage as part of a question and answer session he did at a secular university. This part about the coin impressed me strongly. But it was Dr. Zacharius’ follow up question he presented to his audience in which he asked in effect, whose or what image do people see when they look at you?
Wow! The Lord Jesus commanded us to give to GOD the things that are His. Are we giving ourselves to GOD (individually and collectively) in a way that others see His image in us—in our person, our social and cultural standings, in our finances, politics and sexuality?
I have room for improvement, how about you?
In the book of Daniel chapter 6 we read how Daniel had been trapped by those who did not care for his commitment to God. They devised a plan to have him killed, and it may have worked if not for his focus on God. He is delivered from the jaws of the lions by God and in turn is set free. His steadfast love and unwavering faith in God not only rescued him but brought King Darius to believe as well.
For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will NOT be destroyed,
and HIS dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders
in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of lions. Daniel 6:26-27
It may seem to some of us that we are gripped in the jaws of hopelessness and despair, and it may seem that this may never end. When we focus on God nothing can get in the way of our commitment and steadfast love for God for He will not allow anything to get in His way of taking care of us.
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not grow faint. Isaiah 40:28-31
In the darkest and weakest times in my life my faith, my desire, and my Love for God has always grown stronger. Allow the loving hand of the Father to rest upon you.
We walk by faith and not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7
Have an amazing day!
I recently took a road trip with my family and was reminded of just how much I rely on GPS to get to somewhere new. My wife and I discussed using an Atlas like we used to have to use before almost everyone carried a supercomputer in their pocket, but the GPS on our phone was just too convenient, and we quickly settled on using it for our trip. The way I understand it, a GPS needs three things to work: An accurate destination, to be working correctly, and for you to follow the directions.
The second chapter of First John (not to be confused with the Gospel according to John) offers a straightforward way to make sure that your spiritual GPS is calibrated correctly:
1. Make sure that your destination is set towards Christlikeness. (1 John 2:3-6) By focusing on Christ and the life and behavior He modeled for us and making that the path we follow, we will grow in Christian maturity and our witness for Christ will be stronger.
2. Make sure that your spiritual GPS is calibrated according to the standards Christ set
(1 John 2:7-11) As a mentor of mine was fond of saying: “Your beliefs dictate your actions and your actions show your beliefs.” In other words, what you truly believe will determine how you behave, and you can usually tell what a person truly believes by looking to see if their actions and their words line up. If your actions are in line with what Christ has said, then you can be sure that your GPS is properly calibrated on your journey to Christlikeness.
3. Accurately follow the directions your GPS is giving you (1 John 2:15-17) You can have the best GPS in the world, but if you’re consistently turning left when it directs you to go right, you’re still not going to get to your destination. Likewise, if you say that your faith is in Christ, but you are still consistently behaving the like rest of the world does, you’re not going to reach Christlikeness no matter how good your GPS may seem to be.
One Voice Among Many – a pondering by Holly Woodbridge
It’s gotten very loud in our world. There are voices all around us, directing, persuading, prodding and very often misleading. We watch throngs of people follow like sheep this way and that. Who are we to listen to? Who are we to believe?
We hear voices of fear that lead to despair. Voices of anger that lead to destruction, voices of protest that lead to division.
Voices everywhere- we watch as flocks of people follow this way and that, rarely stopping to consider, reflect or pray. We, too, get caught up. We, too, are directed, persuaded, and distracted.
What are we to do?
John 10: says, “The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 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. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. ”
There is ONE voice to listen to, ONE voice that really matters. The voice of our Good Shepherd. The voice that leads to life. He says,
“ I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
This voice brings hope from despair, light out of darkness, peace in the midst of madness, and unity from division.
So today, listen to the Good Shepherd. I encourage you to read all of John 10 and remember who our shepherd is.
Gentle Shepherd come and lead us, For we need you to help us find our way
Gentle Shepherd come and feed us, For we need your strength from day to day
There's no other we can turn to, Who can help us face another day
Gentle Shepherd come and lead us, For we need to you to help us find our way
So, if you’re gonna be a sheep, why not follow Jesus, our good and gentle Shepherd?
Raining Bread from Heaven
Exodus 16: (2-4)
In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.
The poet Wendell Berry wrote, “It may be that when we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go we have come to our real journey.” These are not just the poignant words of a poet. There are some real spiritual nuggets of wisdom here. Let’s take a quick look this morning shall we!
It didn’t take the people of Israel very long to realize how uncomfortable things would get before God was finished making them into the people He had intended for them to be since the beginning. Honestly, it might have been simpler for Moses and Aaron to lead them back to Egypt, maybe grab a beef burrito with some chips on the side! But if they did they would never take their true place as God’s community of light and love to the world.
The work of becoming who God is calling you to be leads very often to a place of pain. And yet when has God ever abandoned you to it? Your belly may burn, but God will sustain you with bread from heaven. When that happens to you, you’ll know you’re on the right track.
Lord, You taught us to pray for daily bread. May it be enough for us as we travel throughout 2020 in wilderness places. Sustain us as we live through the deserts of pain and hunger. Lord, help us not to get lost there. When it seems bleak, continue to call us toward the life and purpose you have for us. Amen!
As you know, The Lord’s Supper plays a central role on in our church. This Sunday, August 2nd, we will partake of the Lord’s Supper together in house and on line. Towards the end of our time together as we partake of communion, just follow the prompts in the service if you are watching on line.
If you don't have the pre-packaged elements you can use bread and juice from your home if you so desire.
Dear Church Family,
We think we are now ready for Phase 2 of our re-opening as a church body. Here is a snapshot of what that will look like.
On Wednesday, August 12th we will begin ministering to children, youth and life groups. There will be nursery available for those who wish to utilize it. Because of current county guidelines we will not be resuming the Wednesday evening meals. Those in attendance will be asked to wear masks or a face shield. (Note: this is a suggestion and hope, but not a mandate.)
On August 16th we will have our traditional 9:00 AM worship service. There will be NO nursery available for this service. At 10:00 AM we will resume our Sunday school classes for children, teens and adults. There WILL be a nursery available during the Sunday school hour.
We will have our modern worship service at 11:00 AM with our band and worship teams. Our children will enjoy Miss Holly in Children’s Worship during this 11:00 AM time period. Again there WILL be a nursery available for this 11:00 AM service. At this time there will be NO Sunday evening activities.
We are attempting to walk that fine line between Shawnee County guidelines and the desire of many of you who want to move to the next phase of re-opening. Please be patient with our leadership team as they prayerfully lead us toward a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.
In these uncertain times we are neither confused nor uncertain about God’s love and Lordship in our individual lives and our church as a whole. We are aware that one size does not fit all. For those not yet ready to re-engage in corporate worship, we will continue to live stream both the 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM services. WIBW will also continue to offer our worship service at 10:30 AM on Sunday on WIBW, Channel 13.2.
May God’s wonderful grace continue to bless, guide and comfort you, Serving Christ ~ Loving People.
L. D. Holmes
Did you ever stop to wonder why we can raise our hands, lift our heads and with our voices shout acclamations at sporting events and other worldly gatherings but we watch with granite like faces and folded arms with voices that remain silent at the proclamation of God’s Word?
We find in the book of Nehemiah that “Ezra blessed the Lord the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground”.
Have we become so callused by the world that we have hidden away our Godly heritage, whereby we now bow our knees in protest, and we exhibit a rigidity and un-yielding spirit rather than bow before God who is the Holy of Holies.
Therefore let us raise our hands, lift our voices, and bow our knees “in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him”.
May the divine power of the Holy Spirit rekindle within each of us a fire of revival that burns with such a fervent heat we can no longer sit quietly at the preaching of God’s Holy Word. May we proclaim with a loud voice Amen and Praises to the Lord! May we raise our hands to the heavens in love and honor of His glory! Then may we be found not just bowing a knee to God, but be found falling to our face before our Heavenly Father as we allow the Holy Spirit to cleans us, empower us and give us courage to proclaim with boldness that a relationship with Jesus Christ is the only key which can unlock the gates of Heaven; by which one day we may inter into the glory of God. For without it, the gates of Hell will surely be swung open wide awaiting our arrival.
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)
How to Live Outside My Comfort Zone
2 Corinthians 1:3-7 LNT
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.
I love comfort. I love comfortable clothes, comfortable shoes, a comfortable bed, sometimes comfort food. I enjoy a comfortable home, a comfortable bank account, and a comfortable car to drive. I just like being comfortable. But it seems lately this world we live in is in constant chaos and turmoil and for me that makes me very uncomfortable.
I know all of us strive for the illusion of comfort on every hand and we strive to control all the things that go on around us that make us feel more comfortable, but we forget one important truth. God is our only true source of comfort. Only God sees and knows what the future holds for our world today. Only He knows the trials we face and what lies ahead. He knows all about those bill that aren’t getting paid right now because of lost jobs and the un employment checks that don’t stretch far enough. He knows all about those other problems in life that makes for a life of chaos and He knows all about the school situation that families are facing right now. He knows all about the cancer that was just discovered and the loss of that loved one. He knows the comfort we all need! He is the great physician and the great provider. He is our comforter! He knows how to comfort us when we have lost our purpose for living. God’s plan for us is not always known to us but He knows.
God gave us the Holy Spirit to be our comforter. John 14:26
Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:4, Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.
In today’s verses not only does God promise to comfort us in our times of uncertainty and our times of troubles, but He wants us to comfort others around us that need comforting. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.
I know right now there are times when it doesn’t feel like God is there and it certainly isn’t very comforting to know that we can’t be in control of our comfort. But rest assured that comfort is coming! And as we comfort those around us that are feeling the same way we are right now and as we provide comfort to those who are hurting we will feel more comfortable too. God’s comfort might not look like what we think it should but we can be confident that He is working on our behalf and He is caring for us, even in these troubled times. The more we give of ourselves to others the more comfortable they will feel and the more comfortable we will feel also because we are being Jesus to those around us.
Lord, thank You for always being my comfort. Even when things seem to be totally out of my control, even when there is chaos all around me, You still give me comfort. Help me to seek out those around me that also need to be comforted and enable me to give them the same comfort that You give to me. Teach me how to be Your arms of love to those that need that extra hug and assurance that You are still in control of this messed up chaotic world! Amen
God’s Call To Be Holy
"Be holy, for I am holy." --1 Peter 1:16
We must continually remind ourselves of the purpose of life.
Never tolerate, because of sympathy for yourself or for others, any practice that is not in keeping with a holy God.
Holiness means absolute purity of your walk before God.
May God’s grace and love be with you today.
I just cannot wrap my mind around this world I’m seeing unfold in front of me. It’s utter chaos. I don’t know who’s giving me the truth. I am having trouble seeing what is honorable. I don’t know who’s right or who’s wrong. Where is the purity, where is the lovely? Nothing seems admirable. I can’t believe how some people are acting. I can’t believe the ugliness that’s coming out.
When I have met with small groups of Middle School students in the last couple of week I asked a few questions to get them thinking and talking. I asked them to tell me something silly or goofy they had learned during this Covid-time. Then to tell me something good they’d learned. And lastly something hard they’d learned. This led to some incredible conversations about where our students are in all of this.
I encouraged our students to remember where the TRUTH lies. To remember WHO they are in CHRIST, and to spur others on to such things. If I had one thing to tell people in all of this, that would be it. The TRUTH lies in Christ and His word. You are a child of the ONE TRUE KING. Be true to that, spur others on in their walk and encourage them to think on these things as well.
A former student of mine put a post out on Facebook a couple weeks ago that said, “Women 30 years or older: If you could give one piece of advice to a girl in her early 20’s, what would it be?” I wrote: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!!!! Find Him, love Him, serve Him, trust Him and the rest will fall into place.” That’s my advice to everyone, at any age.
In this crazy world, He is where I place my trust. I have found Him. I LOVE Him with all that I am. I will continue to serve Him and most of all I TRUST Him. The rest will fall into place. And this gives me so much peace. I refuse to let the things of this world get me down.
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8
Philippians 3:12-14 — Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Sometimes we can get very discouraged. If you’re like me, sometimes you have a clear vision of where you would like to be in life, but you can’t seem to get there. You have hopes and dreams, goals and plans, but then something happens—something out of your control—and it all just seems impossible. You know who you would love to become, but the journey just doesn’t seem possible.
Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I try to remind myself to simply do one thing that will move me toward the goal. Just one thing.
Think about it. Can you run a marathon today? Probably not. But can you walk one mile? Sure. And if you can walk one mile today, can you walk two miles tomorrow? Before long, you are growing in your endurance, and within months you may be running five or ten miles a day. The journey toward a marathon suddenly becomes reachable.
I believe this same applies to growing in our relationship with Jesus. One small step today paves the way for a journey down the road. If there is something you hope to accomplish, what if you told yourself, “I will do the things today that will enable me to do tomorrow what I can’t do today.” God will help you achieve your goal. One step at a time.
Back in the days before the dawn of the wonderful GPS, a traveler had to rely on a compass and or a map to guide them to their destination.
We were living in Texas at the time and had planned a field trip to the state of Oregon.
Because I am geographically challenged, we found ourselves often going in the wrong direction.
A K-Mart and a new compass seemed to provide the answer to my orientation problems. In selecting an appropriate compass, I assumed the more expensive the compass the more efficient it would be. Wrong!
As I was tearing open the packaging I noticed all this writing on the back. (Remember, I was in a place I had never visited before.) Here are the words that jumped out at me; “To adjust your compass travel due North”!
Life lesson: To get to any desired location, one must have good directions!
Road blocks, dead ends and detours will occur. How you handle them or allow them to handle you, will by and large determine you sense of joy and happiness.
Your direction not your intention determines your destiny; after all, the road to destruction is often paved with good intentions!
Without doubt, chaos is on the increase in our culture, sometimes breaking out into open violence. People are questioning, “Which side are you on?” Then groups form (political, economic, social, sexual) that are at enmity, even within mainstream Christian denominations.
What a contradiction to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ in John 12:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
In Romans 12:20 we are given direction about dealing with our enemy, "…if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." An enemy, according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, may be a professing believer who is a friend of the world, thus making himself an enemy of God, or someone who is opposed to Christ or to righteousness.
We are not told to take up arms against our enemies, but to feed them. Referring back to Strong’s again, the word “feed” in this verse means to feed by putting little bits into the mouths of infants or small animals. I fear that too often we try to feed steak to those who still need to be fed baby food.
We cannot expect nonbelievers and new, immature Christians to walk in the manner expected of a mature believer. We can, however, feed them a banquet of spiritual food, and should probably begin with the fruit of the Holy Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). We need to “feed” them with small bites, like we would for a little child. They will move into more solid food, but it takes time and patience. I believe people are hungry—that a lot of the anger, hostility and enmity we are seeing is because of spiritual hunger. They are starving, and many times are finding rejection and dissension from the very people who have been charged by God to love them.
Lord, may I be a fruit inspector today, checking to be sure that the fruit of my lips and my life are sweet and nourishing to the world around me. Please help me love – even my enemies – with the pure and holy love of God.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ -yes know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:7-11
My mother, who was a woman of great faith, lived her life in this passage. Every day for her was another day to glorify God by serving him in prayer or serving someone else. She had her hardships, in 1974 my parents buried a son who was killed in an accident, a few years later another son severely injured, and she watched a third son almost killed. Her faith never wavered and she would lay all her trouble down at the feet of Jesus. We all go through trials of various kinds and how we respond is critical to the kingdom work of God. I am certain that in our hardships we become the people that God has intended for us to be. My Mother and Father were very good at being the people God intended and living the life he had for them.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may become mature and complete, not lacking anything. James1:2-4
The enemy is doing all he can to get us to let go. Do not be deceived for our God is a mighty God, a sovereign God who is still on his throne and he will have the last word in the matter of our lives. In the book of Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 is mentioned a time for things in life 28 times. Not once does it say to quit! We must continue to seek the Lord in all we do as we watch the world around us crumble.
In 1985 my dear mother started a Thanksgiving dinner to feed those who had no place or no one to go to. Since then a Christmas dinner has been added and many come each year to enjoy this. We never give up and we leave a lasting impression on this earth that is a benefit to those around us.
Not that I have already obtained this, or have arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14
Have an amazing day!!!!
On behalf of my family I thank all who have reached out in prayer and with food to help Josh and his family. It is truly a blessing to know you all and be part of this church family.
I am a part of a group of people that strive to do hard things. In the last 15 weeks since I joined this group, I’ve done things I wouldn’t have otherwise like take only cold showers for a week, walk a mile barefoot and climb a tree, sleep in a hammock in my back yard, and hike 4.7 miles with 20lbs of sandbags in my backpack. People that have known me since I was young will know that I have never been the kind of person to seek out hard things, rather I was the person that sought to avoid them. The amount of personal growth I’ve experienced in the last several months as a result of living a more strenuous life cannot be overstated.
This got me thinking, however: When was the last time I did something hard for my faith? In Matthew 16:24, Jesus says: "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” In this short little statement, Jesus outlines 3 steps to Christian growth. Self-Denial, cross-bearing, and Christ-following. What part of that sounds easy or comfortable?
Self-denial involves giving up or turning away from that part of our selves that feels natural yet still is contrary to God’s will for our lives. To the addict, their addiction may be “just a part of who they are.” To the habitual gossip, talking about people behind their back may be “just in their nature.” To that, I would direct you to 1 Corinthians 2, where Paul refers to the sinful person as “the natural man.” Once we have decided to deny that sinful-yet-natural part of ourselves, we must continue to do so, and thus carry that part of ourselves that may lead to our spiritual destruction in the same way that Christ carried the implement of His physical destruction. And once we have begun to do so, then we are able to follow Christ. Easy to say, but have you ever tried to follow another driver in heavy traffic? It’s easy as long as we keep our eyes on the one we are to be following, but look at Matthew 14:29-31 to see what can happen when we take our eyes off of Christ.
My challenge to each one of us (myself included) is to be ready to do those hard things for your Faith, because we cannot grow when stuck in our comfort zones.
Our idea of happiness might be –
A Corona free world, the end of masks, hugs again (I miss hugs)
Bills paid, or better yet, a growing bank account,
Good weather, green lights, some peace in our streets
A hot mug of yum (tea for me!), a comfy couch, and a great movie
Our children cooperative, our spouse attentive, our boss appreciative
A predictable schedule, a good retirement plan, etc.
But then we read God’s Word: He says things like:
Proverbs 3:5 (ICB) Trust the Lord with all your heart.
Don’t depend on your own understanding.
Matthew 6:33 (ICB) The thing you should want most is God’s kingdom and doing what God wants. Then all these other things you need will be given to you.
James 1:2 (ICB) My brothers, you will have many kinds of troubles. But when these things happen, you should be very happy.
And we find that God’s ways are often different than our ways, and our real joy, our true “happy place” does not depend on our comfort or our circumstance.
So, we have to adjust our hearts, our thinking, our priorities. I know I do! It reminds me of a song we use to sing when I was a kid.
Happiness is the Lord!
Happiness is to know the Savior, Living a life within His favor,
Having a change in my behavior, Happiness is the Lord.
Happiness is a new creation, Jesus and me in close relation,
Having a part in His salvation, Happiness is the Lord.
Real joy is mine, No matter if the teardrops start,
I've found a secret, It's Jesus in my heart.
Happiness is to be forgiven, Living a life that's worth the livin',
Taking a trip that leads to Heaven, Happiness is the Lord!
Maybe this is the joy, the happiness, that should be bubbling in our hearts.
A pondering by Holly Woodbridge
Prayers and Jerusalem Jails
Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.” But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place.
The Lord performs an amazing prison break in Acts chapter 12. Peter gets freed by an angel of the Lord and the first thing he does is to go find his friends who have been praying for his release. The scripture reads more like a scene from a sitcom than a mind boggling answer to prayer from Jerusalem Jail! Here is Peter, who has been miraculously released from his bonds. He is now left twiddling his thumbs by the doormat. A living, breathing, answer to prayer - who could be reclaimed at any moment - is left in limbo, while those who are praying for his deliverance are engaged in a theological debate as to whether God could have answered their intercession!
The Church community has in one way displayed wondrous faith, praying passionately in the face of Peter’s likely death. In another way, they have displayed wondrous uncertainty when presented with victory through their prayers. Thankfully, Peter kept on knocking.
Thankfully, the Lord keeps knocking on the door of our lives as well. We are this mixed tapestry of faith and doubt, hope and despair, optimist and cynic. God, may we continue to persist in prayer even through the door of our doubts. God, may we continue to ask for the gift of faith knowing that You are the God who sets prisoners free. May we fully live into this prayerful benediction today!
Now unto 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 glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Faith, not Fear
I once heard it explained that we need to “act like you have faith, until you have the faith you act like you have”. Having a spirit of Faith can conquer our sense of fear.
Let me give you what was for me a real life example. As a new member of a Christian Frontiersman Camping group we were challenged by many spiritual and emotional conquests. One of which was having faith in God and others to lead us safely through life’s journeys.
This particular journey was to be blindfolded, naturally with my own socks; there is a new sensation for you and we’re not talking Fabreze. It was then explained the path I was to take in the dark, blindfolded, was to cross a plank path over a crevasse and by a miss step to either side could lead failure, injuries, death or in crossing to life. Facing the unknown darkness of what your minds imagination can produce becomes fear of enormous proportion.
The same was true for the disciples in the boat with Christ;
Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
Fear of the unseen, unknown is a deception of the devil that brings questions; doubts and the fear of failure, falling short, or loss all of which are satan's tricks. Peter urged us to “give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith”.
Faith is believing in the name of Jesus that He is with you, to guide and protect your salvation, walking beside you, upholding you by His righteous right hand.
The rest of the story: Though the challenge of crossing over that plank sent thoughts raging through my imagination along with the fear of failing to complete the challenge, as well as the smell of my socks, the time seemed like an eternity; though only a few minutes. And yes. I successfully overcame the obstacle, only to realize that in reality the plank was laying on solid ground and only 1” high and all the while I was crossing it my precious Christian brothers were walking close on both sides of me ready to protect me from harm. Likewise Christ is always there close beside us, interceding for us by the Holy Spirit with God the Father, for us to endure and overcome life’s challenges and to guide us into eternity in Heaven with Him if we simply believe in Him, asking for forgiveness of our sin and grasping hold of Him by faith, not fear.
God is with you, to guide and light the path for you follow. “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you…. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind”.
Matthew 28:19-20 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
My Comfortable World Isn’t Comfortable Anymore
I have always considered myself a pretty patient person. I feel like I can be very flexible if need be. I have great discernment about people and usually can see through most manipulations. I can put up with a lot but I really hate drama; especially if it isn’t needed. I guess I feel like I kinda know the ropes since I have lived through 14 children. I have survived fourteen teenagers and helped put ten of those through college. And now with 33 grandchildren and 13.75 great grandchildren there isn’t much I haven’t experienced in one way or another. I am a high energy person and an early morning person. I love to stay busy and I love people. I love structure and knowing where I am going and what lies ahead. I say all this to say; all of a sudden I am finding myself more and more frustrated with the world around me. What’s happened to my comfortable world? I hate to watch the news! I hate Facebook and all the stupid things people post! Who cares if you painted your kitchen… and the drama!!! I’m finding myself being very non patient and with an attitude!
After working from home for 10 weeks when all this Covid-19 started, I have to tell you at the end of the ten weeks I was MORE than ready to get back into the workplace where there were real live people. I found myself in a depressed state and found myself not really caring if I got up in the morning or not. And not really very patient about everything going on in what used to be my very comfortable world.
I questioned what was happening to me. Am I just getting old? Getting crotchety in my old age? Need a real vacation? What??? They did what???
I think I was and still am experiencing the disease called the “New Normal Coronavirus Covid-19 Syndrome.” Can’t go to the store or in public without a mask, don’t have to wear a mask, need to Clorox everything, don’t have to disinfect everything, can’t socialize with more than 45 people, can march in riots of 500 or more without a mask, can’t sing in church, can sing in church, can send kids to school, can’t send kids to school, can eat in restaurants, can’t eat in restaurants, don’t go down that isle because the arrow says you can’t, it’s alright if you don’t follow the arrows, and on and on it goes.
I see pictures of people purposing spiting in juice bottles on the shelves or biting into the fruit on the shelves and putting it back upside down. I hear of single parents trying to eke out a living working 3 jobs because they lost their factory job because of one person having the virus. I see people expressing their anger by rioting and burning buildings. I hear of people dying alone and of people having to go through surgeries alone. Sometimes I really questioned what in the world is going on in my world! I find myself still questioning what God is doing in all of this today. My comfortable world isn’t comfortable any more.
I don’t have the answers. The same issues are going on now in July that was going on in March. There are still debates over sending or not sending kids back to school. There are questions about all this being politically driven. There are still people getting the virus and dying from the virus. There is still the issue over the wearing of masks and threats of another shut down happening if we don’t. I find myself feeling like I am falling into this trap of the “New Normal” and I don’t like it.
Like I said I don’t have any answers, but one thing I do have is the assurance that God is still in control and that our hope is in Him. That the Word of God is still the absolute truth!
Am I tired of all this and nothing being normal? You bet I am. Does it try my patience more than anything my kids could have done? Yes! Do I have to put my attitude into check more often than ever before? Yes! But one thing is for certain, I have to always remember who I am! I am a child of God! And He is still Lord of all! He is still in control of my not so comfortable world! And I still need to be Jesus to a lost and dying world!
For the word of the Lord is right and true;
he is faithful in all he does.
The Lord loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of his unfailing love.
By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
He gathers the waters of the sea into jars;
he puts the deep into storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the people of the world revere him.
For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.
The Lord foils the plans of the nations;
he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart through all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people he chose for his inheritance.
From heaven the Lord looks down
and sees all mankind;
from his dwelling place he watches
all who live on earth--
he who forms the hearts of all,
who considers everything they do.
No king is saved by the size of his army;
no warrior escapes by his great strength.
A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
despite all its great strength it cannot save.
But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
to deliver them from death
and keep them alive in famine.
We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
even as we put our hope in you
LEAVE ROOM FOR GOD
"But when it pleased God. . ." Galatians 1:15
As workers for God we have to learn to make room for God - to give God "elbow room."
We calculate and estimate, and say that this and that will happen, and we forget to make room for God to come in as He chooses.
Would we be surprised?
That is the way to make room for Him.
Keep your life so constant in its contact with God
Let this be the day or time that you make room for God holy presence to come in as He chooses.
“For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”
Romans 1:20 NLT
I started this short study the other day and in it they take excerpts from Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love. It gave a short video that I just can’t shake. He talked about how familiar we can get with something and soon we lose the “awe” of it. In his case he went to a class reunion and some buddies said “Dude, that’s your wife?”He was a little taken aback as if to say do I really look that bad? He said he went back and looked at a picture of the two of them and tried to be as objective as possible and thought, it’s not that I’m that ugly necessarily; she just really was that beautiful. He’d gotten so familiar with her that he forgot how beautiful she was. He said it was like she just became “common”.
He went on to say sometimes those of us who’ve been in the church a long time can do that with God. We almost lose our sense of wonder at the greatness of Him, our sense of awe at the INCREDIBLE things he’s capable of, those things that we don’t even understand. For me one of those is...how did he make man out of SAND? How did he create these teeny tiny blood vessels, our heart so that it pumps blood without us thinking about it? How did he knit sand into the over 7 TRILLION nerves we have in our bodies? How did sand come together as synapses in our brains that are at rapid fire at this very moment inside of me to make it possible to type this devotional? Just the human body alone absolutely amazes when I think about it. That same God who created us, created our world...with everything we need contained within it. But more than that our galaxy and the millions of galaxies way out there in the depths of space!
I could write forever about the things I think are incredible about our God, but there are times when I just don’t think about it, I take it for granted, it becomes common for me. I’ll leave you with the questions Chan challenged his readers with:
How long has it been since you have merely meditated on the greatness and majesty of God?
What practice can you put in place to make this reverence and awe a part of your daily life?
Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)
One of the key positions of a follower of Christ is forward thinking and looking. When we keep our focus on the past, we inevitably end up in the wrong place. As I grow more and more in my walk with Christ, one of the key things I’ve learned is that when I focus on the problem, I ultimately end up giving it more power to invade my thoughts and lure me further into familiar temptations. The more power it has, the more I fail.
However, when I focus on Christ and the way he has overcome the power of sin and death in my life, the less power the problem has, and greater the victory in Christ. Yes, I understand how the problem started in my life, but greater still, I understand how it ends. Today, I challenge you to keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed.