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James 4:4-5 (NKJV) 4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, �The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously�?
The terms adulterers and adulteresses in verse 4 refers to those who are faithless towards God. They have turned their back on God to be friends with the sin of the world; therefore making themselves opposed to God. James goes on to say that God is jealous over us when He sees our preference for worldly ideas and thoughts. It is God�s desire for us to turn to Him and fellowship in righteousness with Him.
The following is a except of the lyrics from the song How He Loves, by the David Crowder Band.
He is jealous for me, Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy. When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, And I realize just how beautiful You are, And how great Your affections are for me.
And oh, how He loves us, oh, Oh, how He loves us, How He loves us all
God is jealous of us in a good way in that He would rather we fellowship with Him in righteous than to follow the world in sin. God loves us deeply and wants the best for us. God loves us so much that he gave His only son Jesus Christ to die for our sin. Knowing Christ died for our sin, let us be willing to live for Christ - demonstrating God�s love and glory to the world.
Psalm 94:18-19 (NLT) 18 I cried out, �I am slipping!� but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. 19 When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.
The psalmist and the people there were under persecution and oppression. The psalm is an appeal to God to appear against their enemies. In the verses above we see the psalmist at times feels as though he is slipping away, but God pulls him back from the despair and gives him hope.
In a recent news story, Antoinette Tuff hailed as �true hero� for handling Georgia school gunman, [Greg Botelho, Vivian Kuo, and Josh Levs, www.cnn.com, August 22, 2013.]
A man slips behind someone else into a packed elementary school with an AK-47-type weapon. He goes into the office and shoots at the ground, then darts between there and outside to fire at approaching police.
So what do you do?
If you're Antoinette Tuff, who works in the front office at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy just outside Atlanta, you don't run. You talk. You divulge your personal struggles to the gunman, you tell him you love him, you even proactively offer to walk outside with him to surrender so police won't shoot.
And then the nightmare ends with the suspect, later identified as Michael Brandon Hill, taken into custody and no one inside or outside the Decatur school even hurt, despite the gunfire.
"Let me tell you something, babe," Tuff tells the dispatcher, Kendra McCray, at the end of the dramatic 911 call that recounts her minutes of valor and terror. "I've never been so scared in all the days of my life. Oh, Jesus."
I listened to Antoinette�s story as she told it. She was scared and said she was praying through the entire ordeal. The Lord held her firm as she comforted and reassured the young man with the gun that he was loved and that many people went through difficulties. God was supporting her and even through doubts may have filled her mind that anything could happen she was renewed with hope and cheer as she was able to persuade the young man to lay down his weapon and peacefully give himself up to authorities.
The psalmist reminds us, I cried out, �I am slipping!� but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.
Romans 12:4-5 (NLT) 4 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5 so it is with Christ�s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
The apostle explains that all the saints� work together to make up the body of Christ, with Christ being at the head of the body directing and leading. Not everyone performs the same work, nor does everyone have the same authority; for each are unique individual members of the body working as a whole to perform the functions for Christ. We must all work in love and harmony with each other so that we can perform all the functions necessary for the church. We work together, supporting one another, encouraging one and motivating each other to do what is right.
Coach Carter is the true story of Ken Carter (Samuel Jackson), a successful sporting goods store owner, who in 1999 became head basketball coach for his old high school in a poor area of Richmond, California.
Dismayed by the attitudes of his players and their dismal performance on the court, Carter sets out to change both. He immediately imposes a strict regime that includes respectful behavior, a dress code, and good grades as a prerequisite of participation. One particular player, Timo Cruz (Rick Gonzalez), initially refuses to accept the coach's demands and quits the team, only to return later with a desire to be reinstated. Timo asks Coach Carter what he has to do to play. Carter informs Cruz that he must complete 2,500 push-ups and 1,000 suicide drills by Friday? A task even the coach calls "impossible."
By Friday, Timo is short of both goals. Coach Carter, though impressed with what Timo has done, asks him to leave the gym. He has failed.
Suddenly, one of Timo's teammates, Jason (Channing Tatum), who previously had a personality conflict with Timo, steps forward saying, "I'll do push-ups for him. You said we're a team. One person struggles, we all struggle. One player triumphs, we all triumph. Right?"
As Coach Carter stands speechless, Jason drops to the floor and begins doing push-ups. One by one the entire team begins to join in to help Timo reach his goal.
[Coach Carter (Paramount Pictures, 2005); directed by Thomas Carter; submitted by Van Morris, Mt. Washington, Kentucky]
The Christian life is working together as one body. When one member gets weak then another member helps in the place of the other person. When one person is discouraged, another member encourages. As Christians let us stand firmly together, helping one another so that we can do the work of Christ, not by ourselves, but as a body of believers with a common goal in purpose.
Hebrews 10:25 (NLT) 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
It was the will of Christ that His disciples would gather either in private or public to encourage each other and the people to which they ministered. They were to watch over each other, warn each other of sin, and motivate one another to stay firm in their faith of Jesus Christ. Christ had warned them that as the time for His return came closer there would be trials and tribulations they would face. Working together as one body for Christ they could help each other face the difficulties ahead.
Years ago I started writing short devotionals as a way to encourage a friend. He was facing some hard times in life and I wanted to help give him some hope and let him see how much God loved him. He shared those devotionals and then I got requests to include others on my devotion list.
Most of the time I write about events that are affecting my life, because I know if I am facing a trial in life there are others facing the same trial. Through my devotions I have learned I was not alone. Often people write back and say, �How did you know I was facing this problem�? I didn�t know, but I knew I had faced the problem. God was using me to speak to others about the problem I faced so I could encourage them and give them reassurance that God was with them.
God has a way of taking the pain in our life and using it for the benefit of others. For instance Alison Arngrim, the child star of Little House on the Prairie, was molested as a child. Instead of that event defeating her, Alison helped found an organization aimed at the protection of children from abuse and molestation. Alison has been able to encourage others and help others through their pain.
Kathy Ireland the well-known model and business woman has talked about some of the struggles of entering modeling as a young woman. Kathy managed to keep a strong faith in Christ and she often shares that faith to encourage others.
Tyler Perry the actor and director talked about his childhood abuse, but he didn�t let it keep him down. When Whitney Houston died, Tyler encouraged others by telling others about the salvation the Lord Jesus Christ provides. Tyler did not let his troubles turn him from Christ, but instead he found hope and faith in Christ.
Jennifer O�Neil who went through many trials in her life gives time to encourage others in the faith of Christ. Jennifer went through an abortion after a divorce. She grieved for years and now she reaches out to other women to give them hope and options to keep them from the same grief she faced.
Actress Leah Remini has faced some opposition after leaving the Church of Scientology. I have read about those who have reached out and encouraged her about her decision. I pray Leah would know the true love of God and that she would be encouraged and that others would encourage her.
May God encourage each of you as you encourage one another! Let God�s love abound in your life. Look to God for hope and know that God is with you. God loves you greater than you can even imagine. Encourage one another!
John 6:26-29 (NLT) 26 Jesus replied, �I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. 27 But don�t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.� 28 They replied, �We want to perform God�s works, too. What should we do?� 29 Jesus told them, �This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.�
The day before Jesus had fed over 5000 people with a few fish and few loaves of bread. The disciples and Jesus had now moved to the other side of the shore and some who had seen Him the day before came seeking Jesus. When they found Him - Jesus told them the reason they had followed. It was not because of the works He performed or who He was, but instead it was because they had been fed. They replied they wanted to perform God�s works and Jesus replied that all God desired from them was to believe in the one God sent.
There are people who try to work their way into heaven. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us this, �For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.� Let�s think of it this way, if any person were able to be as holy as God they would end up boasting they were like God themselves. Therefore it would seem impossible that we could perform any work that would equate us to God.
I like to use an illustration where I draw a scale from 1 to 100 and place God at the 100% mark of holiness. Then I ask people to place those they know at various points on the scale. Usually there are some religious leaders placed close to the 100 percent mark and others below them. I have never had anyone place anyone other than God or Christ at the 100% mark. Intuitively we all know we are sinners and can never measure up to God. The Bible even tells us, �For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.� Then I point out if God cannot tolerate unrighteousness how can we ever be close to Him.
It is then we can remember that God forgives all our sins through Jesus Christ His Son. By placing our faith in Christ we receive a free gift salvation. It is not a gift we have to work for, but instead a gift that works through us. For when we accept Christ on faith we have a desire to follow Him and become more like Him.
Jesus let the people know that this is God�s desire when He said, �This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.� Our duty is to place our faith in Jesus Christ who will then dwell in us, convicting us of sin and show us how to live our lives.
Galatians 3:2-4 (NLT) 2 Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. 3 How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? 4 Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it?
The apostle here addresses the Galatians who have placed their faith in Christ, but still continued to seek justification by works according to the Law of Moses. He questions them as to when the Holy Spirit was received, was it when they performed works or when they came to faith in Christ? It was through Christ that they received the Holy Spirit into their lives to lead them and cry out to God for them. The apostle wanted them to realize it was their faith in Christ that justified them and that it was Christ who would show them a new way to live.
It's easy to blame others (and thus justify ourselves) for our disobedience. But in the following quote, Thomas Merton identifies the key reason why we fail to experience the freedom and joy Christ offers believers:
It is not that someone else is preventing you from living happily; you yourself do not know what you want. Rather than admit this [and ask for God's help], you pretend that someone else is keeping you from exercising your liberty. Who is this? It is you yourself. [Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (New Directions, 2007), p. 110]
God has given us directions on how to live our lives, but most importantly the Holy Spirit of Christ dwells within those who have placed their faith in Christ to guide and direct their lives. Jesus said in John 16:13-14, �When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, �The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.�� So our guidance on how to live our lives comes through Christ by means of the Holy Spirit.
We all need to learn to put aside our own ways and listen as the Holy Spirit directs us. Having a relationship with Jesus Christ, talking with Him, asking for help from Him, and letting Him lead us is some of the most important things we can do.
In John Chapter 6:28-29, the people asked Jesus a question and He responded, �28 They replied, �We want to perform God�s works, too. What should we do?� 29 Jesus told them, �This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.��
Do you believe? If so everything else will start to fall into place as you maintain your faith in Christ.
Ephesians 2:8-10 (NKJV) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Matthew Henry states, �Our faith, our conversion, and our eternal salvation, are not the mere product of any natural abilities, nor of any merit of our own: Not of works, lest any man should boast, v. 9. These things are not brought to pass by anything done by us, and therefore all boasting is excluded; he who glories must not glory in himself, but in the Lord. There is no room for any man�s boasting of his own abilities and power; or as though he had done anything that might deserve such immense favors from God.
Helicopter pilot Iain McConnell, along with the rest of his air station crew, was summoned at 4 a.m. on the morning of August 30, 2005, to the Coast Guard Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Alabama. The Center soon became one of the first bases of operations for Hurricane Katrina relief. McConnell and his crew were told to keep five H-60 helicopters airborne on missions at all times, around the clock.
The first airborne relief teams arrived in the affected areas before any news crews, and were completely unprepared for the devastation they saw. A train track running parallel to the ocean had been pushed inland 15 feet off its gravel bed. A houseboat was floating down U.S. Highway 90. The entire city of New Orleans stood under water.
McConnell's crew got right to work, airlifting stranded people from their rooftops and out of windows, and delivering them to the Superdome helipad. To their chagrin, however, they were only able to help a relatively few amount of survivors. In an interview, McConnell shared why:
On our first three missions, we saved the lives of 89 people, three dogs, and a cat. On the fourth mission, to our great frustration, we saved no one�but not for lack of trying. The dozens we attempted to rescue refused pickup!
Some people told us to simply bring them food and water. "You are trying to live in unhealthy conditions, and the water will stay high for a long time," we warned them. Still, they refused. I felt frustrated and angry, since we had used up precious time and fuel, and had put ourselves at risk during each rescue attempt. I felt like they were ungrateful. But, in truth, they did not know how desperate their situation was.
The Coast Guard was offing a free gift of rescue from the horrible conditions they were left in, yet they did not want to receive the gift of being saved. The same is often true of those who have an opportunity to receive God�s gift of salvation. They just don�t quite see the horrible condition they are living in so they refuse to accept what God offers, a chance for a more peaceful life with eternal salvation.
I remember talking to a homeless man once about God�s free gift of salvation. The sad part was you could tell he grasped the meaning of not accepting God�s grace. Tears welled up and was even shaking as he said, �I have just done too many bad things to accept God�s gift.� He couldn�t realize it was God�s mercy reaching out to him, trying to help him, and offer him an abundant life.
Isaiah 48:17 (NLT) 17 This is what the Lord says� your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: �I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow.
The prophet delivers to the people a gracious message for their support and comfort. God reminds them that He is their redeemer, the Holy One who has kept His promises throughout generations. As their redeemer, God is also their teacher showing them what paths of life are good for them and He leads them to those paths that they should follow. By his grace he leads them in the way of duty, by his providence he leads them in the way of deliverance.
Henry Blackaby writes in Hearing God�s Voice published by Broadman and Holman 2002: The first funeral I ever conducted was for a beautiful three-year-old. She was the first child born to a couple in our church, and the first grandchild in their extended family. Unfortunately, she was spoiled. While visiting the little girl's home one day, I observed that she loved to ignore her parents' instructions. When they told her to come, she went. When they said, "sit down," she stood up. Her parents laughed, finding her behavior cute.
One day their front gate was inadvertently left open. The parents saw their child escaping out of the yard and heading toward the road. To their horror, a car was racing down the street. As she ran out between two parked cars, they both screamed at her to stop and turn back. She paused for a second, looked back at her parents, then gleefully laughed as she turned and ran directly into the path of the oncoming car. The parents rushed their little girl to the hospital, but she died from her injuries.
As a young pastor, this was a profound lesson for me. I realized I must teach God's people not only to recognize His voice but also immediately to obey His voice when they hear it. It is life.
The lessons of life God teaches us sometimes may seem like punishment, but it is out of love that God teaches what is right and what is wrong. For if we do not understand what to do when trials and temptations come our way we may find ourselves running directly into trouble. Listen to The Lord who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow.
Matthew 16:15 (NKJV) 15 He said to them, �But who do you say that I am?�
Jesus asked a simple question to His disciples, �But who do you say I am.� So many people had different opinions and Jesus was trying to clarify who He was to the disciples. Peter answered and said, �You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.�
The greatness of God is most clearly displayed in his Son. And the glory of the gospel is only made evident in his Son. That's why Jesus' question to his disciples [in Matthew 16] is so important: "Who do you say that I am?"
The question is doubly crucial in our day, because [no one is as popular in the U.S. as Jesus]�and not every Jesus is the real Jesus. �
There's the Republican Jesus�who is against tax increases and activist judges, for family values and owning firearms.
There's Democrat Jesus�who is against Wall Street and Wal-Mart, for reducing our carbon footprint and printing money.
There's Therapist Jesus�who helps us cope with life's problems, heals our past, tells us how valuable we are and not to be so hard on ourselves.
There's Starbucks Jesus�who drinks fair trade coffee, loves spiritual conversations, drives a hybrid, and goes to film festivals.
There's Open-minded Jesus�who loves everyone all the time no matter what (except for people who are not as open-minded as you).
There's Touchdown Jesus�who helps athletes fun faster and jump higher than non-Christians and determines the outcomes of Super Bowls.
There's Martyr Jesus�a good man who died a cruel death so we can feel sorry for him.
There's Gentle Jesus�who was meek and mild, with high cheek bones, flowing hair, and walks around barefoot, wearing a sash (while looking very German).
There's Hippie Jesus�who teaches everyone to give peace a chance, imagines a world without religion, and helps us remember that "all you need is love."
There's Yuppie Jesus�who encourages us to reach our full potential, reach for the stars, and buy a boat.
There's Spirituality Jesus�who hates religion, churches, pastors, priests, and doctrine, and would rather have people out in nature, finding "the god within" while listening to ambiguously spiritual music.
There's Platitude Jesus�good for Christmas specials, greeting cards, and bad sermons, inspiring people to believe in themselves.
There's Revolutionary Jesus�who teaches us to rebel against the status quo, stick it to the man, and blame things on "the system."
There's Guru Jesus�a wise, inspirational teacher who believes in you and helps you find your center.
There's Boyfriend Jesus�who wraps his arms around us as we sing about his intoxicating love in our secret place.
There's Good Example Jesus�who shows you how to help people, change the planet, and become a better you.
And then there's Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. Not just another prophet. Not just another Rabbi. Not just another wonder-worker. He was the one they had been waiting for: the Son of David and Abraham's chosen seed; the one to deliver us from captivity; the goal of the Mosaic law; Yahweh in the flesh; the one to establish God's reign and rule; the one to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, freedom to the prisoners and proclaim Good News to the poor; the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.
[Kevin DeYoung, "Who Do You Say That I Am?" from his DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed blog (posted 6-10-09)}
The Bible tells us, �For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.� Is Jesus that person to you?
Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV) 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, �All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.� Amen.
Jesus appears to the people after His death. Luke and John mention other appearances, but Matthew focuses on this single appearance. There were people there who believed this was indeed The Risen Christ and there were those who doubted. Yet the message Jesus gave was for all to hear. He did not reject the disbelievers or stand at a distance from them, but came near to alleviate the doubts of His resurrection. Christ states His authority over heaven and earth so there is no question of Christ�s reign as King of Heaven and Earth. He gives commission to those listening to teach others what Christ Himself taught and to make disciples as He made disciples. And Christ reaffirmed His promise that He would be with those who placed their faith in Him throughout eternity.
Sheldon Vanauken was a student of the English professor and Christian apologist C. S. Lewis in the early 1950s. He recounts in his book A Severe Mercy the story of his last meeting with his mentor when Vanauken was leaving Oxford for the United States. Over one final lunch together at a pub, they had spent time wondering aloud about the nature of life after death. When they had finished eating, they stood outside of the pub, talked for a few more minutes, and just before parting ways, Lewis said to Vanauken, "I shan't say goodbye. We'll meet again." The great apologist then plunged into the traffic to cross the street while Vanuaken watched his friend walk away. When Lewis got to the other side of the street, he turned around, anticipating that his friend would still be standing there. With a grin on his face, Lewis shouted over the great roar of cars, "Besides�Christians never say goodbye."
[Greg Ogden, in the sermon "Christians Never Say Good-Bye," Christ Church of Oak Brook (Oak Brook, IL) (preached 5-24-09)]
If we value our faith in Jesus Christ we understand that each person who places their faith in Christ will all be together one day in the heavenly realms. It is a thought that always brings peace to me when a family member or friend who has placed their faith in Christ passes away; for I know one day I will see them again. As my mother was dying from cancer, we reminded my mother, �Just think of all the people you will get to see, grandmother, granddad and so many other family and friends.� My mother smiled and excitingly said, �You are right, I will!� And with that a peace fell over her that calmed and reassured her that while she was near the end of life on earth, she was near the beginning of an eternal life in heaven.
John 14:23 (NKJV) 23 Jesus answered and said to him,� If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.
Jesus responding to one of the disciples makes a promise that if anyone loves Him they will abide by his words. God the Father will also love them and both Christ and the Father will be with them always. �The light and love of God are communicated to man in the light and love of the Redeemer, so that wherever Christ is formed the image of God is stamped. �
Brent Curtis writes in The Sacred Romance, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997): If I'm not abiding in Jesus, then where is it that I abide? I once asked myself. I began to notice that when I was tired or anxious, there were certain sentences I would say in my head that led me to a familiar place. The journey to this place would often start with me walking around disturbed, feeling as if there was something deep inside that I needed to put into words but couldn't quite capture. I felt the "something" as anxiety, loneliness, and a need for connection with someone. If no connection came, I would start to say things like, "Life really stinks. Why is it always so hard? It's never going to change." If no one noticed I was struggling or asked me what was wrong, I found my sentences shifting to a more cynical level: "Who cares? Life is a joke." Surprisingly, by the time I was saying those last sentences, I was feeling better. The anxiety was greatly diminished.
My comforter, my abiding place, was cynicism and rebellion. From this abiding place, I would feel free to use some soul cocaine, watching a violent video with maybe a little sexual titillation thrown in, having more alcohol with a meal than I might normally drink, things that would allow me to feel better for a little while. I had always thought of these things as just bad habits. I began to see they were much more; they were spiritual abiding places that were my comforters and friends in a very spiritual way.
The final light went on one evening when I read John 15:7 in The Message. Peterson translates Jesus' words on abiding this way: "If you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon." Jesus was saying in answer to my question, "I have made my home in you, Brent. But you still have other comforters you go to. You must learn to make your home in me."
God the Father and Christ both love us deeply. When we return our love for them through faith and obedience we are drawn closer to Them and They to us. Their desire is to abide with us and help us through the tough times. They want to take away our anxiousness, our loneliness, and disconnection from others. When times are difficult, instead of making objects of life our comforters we need to turn to The Lord in love and allow Him to comfort us.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 says, �Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.�
Titus 2:11-14 (NLT) 11 For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. 12 And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, 13 while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. 14 He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.
God�s salvation through Jesus Christ brings mercy and grace that allows us to turn from old habits to new ways of living. We live in an evil and corrupt world, but we should not allow the world to overwhelm us, but instead devote ourselves to God looking forward to the glorious live to be lived in heaven. God freed us from sin that we can live a victorious life, showing others the rich rewards God have waiting for us all.
Oswald Chambers wisely said, �When you meet a man or woman who puts Jesus Christ first, knit that one to your soul.�
I watched a delightful movie, Marriage Retreat. It was about a group of best friends who go to a marriage retreat in the mountains with only the purpose of relaxing and having a little fun. They are quick to discover how far apart their marriages have drifted through some unconventional methods applied by Dr. Sullivan and his wife Katrina. They are challenged to confront their sin and heal their relationships, although most of them at first are clueless about their problems. Their marriages seem to be unraveling as they realize the issues they have been ignoring. Just as it seems their marriages are lost they start to find love in the one they had been ignoring � God. As each spouse turned to God for answers they were able to let go of hurts, problems, pain, and other issues.
He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds. Christ did so that we would show others how to live a peaceful and content life. As we place Christ first and draw closer to Him, our relationships with others also pull closer to Christ.
Isaiah 46:4 (NLT) 4 I will be your God throughout your lifetime�until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.
In Isaiah 46 God reminds the people of Israel that other countries bow to statues that are idols - their gods. These idols are carried from place to place in carts. These gods cannot protect the people nor can the people protect their gods for they are man-made. The true God reminds His people that He is with them throughout their lifetime. God says He made them, He will care for them, and He will carry them along and save them. This is something the gods of the others cannot do.
Concerning God's help, John Ortberg writes in God Is Closer Than You Think (Zondervan, 2005), pp. 161-162 the following:
God does come, and he may come in unexpected ways. Lewis Smedes was a teacher of mine in seminary, one of the best writers and preachers I have ever known. Even though he was brilliant and accomplished and devoted to God, he suffered from a sense of inadequacy that at times grew into deep depression. At one point in his life, he stopped preaching because he felt unqualified.
God came to him through two avenues. One was a three-week experience of utter solitude, where he heard God promise to hold him up so vividly that, as he put it, he felt lifted from a black pit straight up into joy. The other avenue he describes this way: I had not been neurotically depressed since that day, though I must be honest and tell you that God also comes to me each morning and offers me a 20 milligram capsule of Prozac. He clears the garbage that accumulates in the canals of my brain overnight and gives me a chance to a fresh morning start. I swallow every capsule with gratitude to God.
I love the picture that Lewis paints. I used to think that taking Prozac would be a sign of weak faith in God. But what if Prozac might be, not a substitute for God, but his gift? What if refusing might be spurning his hand because of pride? Maybe God is present in wise doctors and medication that makes synapses and neurotransmitters work right. Maybe weakness is really refusing�out of our own blindness and stubbornness�the help that God is offering.
There are some Christians who believe life is always easy and there are never any bumps in the road. I once heard a preacher say that if this was true, maybe you aren�t getting in Satan�s way by doing enough of God�s work. For when we are hard at work for God and Christ Satan wants to stop us by any means he can. There were times the Apostle Paul wrote from prison where you could hear the discouragement in his words, but he still continued to life up Christ and encouraged others.
Mental Illness is real and there are people who suffer from one problem or another. We live in an imperfect, broken world and Lewis Smedes is right, God works through others to help us in our moments of despair. For the Body of Christ works together supporting other members of the body. I know some wonderful Christian doctors and they have been true blessings in my life. If you are dealing with depression, anxiety or other issues don�t be afraid to reach out for help � for God is always with you.
Psalm 121:1-2 (NIV) 1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains� where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
This Psalm is often called the soldiers prayer. David gave special attention to God for God was his helper, defender and shield. We can stay encouraged in God who made both heaven and the earth; for God made them out of nothing � speaking them into existence. God reigns over all of heaven and earth and makes use of them as he pleases for the help of his people, and restrains them when he pleases from to keep people from hurting.
While serving in Iraq, Courtney Birdsey experienced the protective hand of God, forever changing her. She says:
On one of [our] missions, my unit made a return trip to Samarra, north of Baghdad, to gather data. As we were leaving the town, the Humvee I was riding in approached a tank from behind. A soldier riding on the tank gave us an urgent "turn around" signal. We didn't hesitate to follow orders. We doubled back to Samarra, only to find ourselves surrounded by gunshots.
All of us jumped out of our vehicle and took cover�some of us running ahead and some of us staying with the Humvee. I readied my weapon and hunkered down against the back corner of the Humvee. Amid the gunfire, a black BMW sped through the street at 70 miles per hour�the Iraqi passengers inside, pointing their guns through open windows, opened fire at any American soldier within range.
We exchanged shots, and suddenly the BMW careened, out of control, toward the Humvee where I was crouched. I could see the driver slumped over the steering wheel and knew I had only seconds to make a decision. With my heart pounding and unformed prayers racing in my mind, I ran to the front of the vehicle just before the car slammed into the very place I had been just seconds before.
We were told we would have to transfer the wounded in our own vehicle. In the background, completely incongruent to the battle I was facing, I could hear the droning of Muslim prayer chants over loudspeakers.
My convoy was commanded to drive to an American safe house on the outskirts of town. The chanted prayers and the lamb-like groans of a dying man behind me echoed in my head. Finally we arrived at the safety of the compound. I looked down at my uniform, dirty and speckled with the blood of the wounded. I stepped out of the truck and dropped, shaking, to my knees, thanking God for our safety.
After this encounter, my faith took on a deeper and more personal perspective. I had felt the protective hand of God as we returned to our base physically unscathed. For my remaining time in Iraq, I began to rely heavily on my constant communication with God. Praying without ceasing became, for me, as natural as breathing.
Finally, in April 2004, my unit returned home to Colorado Springs. As the National Anthem played over the loudspeaker celebrating our arrival, I felt the tears I had been unable to cry for months stinging my eyes. I thought of my love for this country, the safety of my military family still in Iraq, the loss of those I had known, and of my family waiting in the stands to greet me.
1 Peter 3:8 (NLT) 8 Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.
In this chapter of 1st Peter, the apostle first gives instructions for living to wives, husbands, and then finally Christians as a whole. Here he states that those who have placed their faith in Christ should act as one mind � the mind of Christ. They should be willing to sympathize with each other and help each other as they can. They should treat each other as brothers and sisters for they have been adopted into the kingdom of heaven as heirs with Christ and to its rich rewards. They should keep a tender heart and a humble attitude so pride won�t overtake their actions.
A married couple had a quarrel and ended up giving each other the silent treatment. A week into their mute argument, the man realized he needed his wife's help. In order to catch a flight to Chicago for a business meeting, he had to get up at 5 a.m.
Not wanting to be the first to break the silence, he wrote on a piece of paper, "Please wake me at 5 a.m."
The next morning the man woke up only to discover his wife was already out of bed, it was 9 a.m., and his flight had long since departed. He was about to find his wife and demand an answer for her failings when he noticed a piece of paper by the bed.
He read, "It's 5 a.m. Wake up."
This story illustrates the words of the apostle. Had the husband been tenderhearted and kept a humble attitude he most likely would have been on that plane. In the heat of an argument we say things that most often should not be said, which is why The Bible says, �let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.� Once fierce words leave our mouth they fly like flaming darts towards the other person and cause pain and hurt. We should instead learn to sympathize and listen to the feelings of the other person � and I mean really listen so that we understand.
What some people tend to do is throw facts back and forth at each other without really hearing the feeling of the other person. They say, �Well last week you spent money on new clothes.� And then the other person responds, �Well you were out spending money on golf with your buddies all weekend.� It gets where everyone spews hurtful facts, but no one takes time to listen to the real feelings and sympathize with the person. If we are going to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to first start by showing love at home to our spouse. Take time to be of one mind, sympathize, love each other and keep a tenderhearted and humble attitude that pride will not stand in your way of allowing you to say you are sorry.
St. Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians 8:16-24; 9:1-5 Luke 3:23-38, 4:1
Sophia & her three daughters: Faith, Hope, and Love
Reading from the Synaxarion:
These Saints were from Italy and contested for the Faith about the year 126, during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian. Faith was twelve years old, Hope, ten, and Love, nine; each was tormented and then beheaded, from the eldest to the youngest. Their mother Sophia mourned at their grave for three days, where she also fell asleep in peace; because of her courageous endurance in the face of her daughters' sufferings, she is also counted a martyr. The name Sophia means "wisdom" in Greek; as for her daughters' names, Faith, Hope, and Love (Charity), they are Pistis, Elpis, and Agape in Greek, and Vera, Nadezhda, and Lyubov in Russian.
The reading is from St. Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians 8:16-24; 9:1-5
BRETHREN, thanks be to God who puts the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus. For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord. With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel; and not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us in this gracious work which we are carrying on, for the glory of the Lord and to show our good will. We intend that no one should blame us about this liberal gift which we are administering, for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord's sight but also in the sight of men. And with them we are sending our brother whom we have often tested and found earnest in many matters, but who is now more earnest than ever because of his great confidence in you. As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker in your service; and as for our brethren, they are apostles of the churches, the glory of Christ. So give proof, before the churches, of your love and of our boasting about you to these men.
Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the offering for the saints, for I know your readiness of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year; and your zeal has stirred up most of them. But I am sending the brethren so that our boasting about you may not prove vain in this case, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be; lest if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we be humiliated-to say nothing of you-for being so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren to go on to you before me, and arrange in advance for this gift you have promised, so that it may be ready not as an exaction but as a willing gift.
The reading is from Luke 3:23-38, 4:1
At that time, Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God. And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness.
Philippians 2:3-4 (NLT) 3 Don�t be selfish; don�t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don�t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
Here the apostle talks about having the attitude of Christ to love and serve one another. Pride and loftiness are two attitudes that fight against us in life when it comes to serving others. We must therefore learn humility so that we do not always put ourselves ahead of others. It is our responsibility to take an interest in the lives of others and serve them as we can, just as Christ serves and loves us.
Wayne Cordeiro in a sermon, �A Personal Relationship�, said the following. I have a friend named Gene who would take me to lunch every week. And every time we'd go to lunch, he'd insist on paying for it. I thought it was nice and that maybe it was his ministry, so I let him do it for the first 80 times or so. But after a while I said to him, "Gene, let me pay today. You always pick up the tab." He said, "No, no, no. I want to pick up the tab." I said, "Come on. I want to do this." He said, "No, no, no."
So the next week I got there early and said to the waitress, "When the bill comes, would you bring it straight to me?" She said, "Oh, Gene said you might do this, so I can't give it to you. I have to give it to him." I said, "Come on. You're kidding." She said, "No, that's what he said."
So I sat down and said, "Gene, would you let me pay for the lunch?" He said, "No, no. I'll pick up the tab." I said, "Gene, I want to pick up the tab." He said, "No." I said, "I yearn to pick up the tab." He said, "No." I said, "Gene, I'm starting to dream about picking up the tab." He said, "No, I want to pick up the tab." "I beg you," I said, "let me pick up the tab." He said, "No." Till this day I have not yet picked up the tab on lunch.
Listen carefully. Jesus has picked up your tab not once, not twice, but thousands of times. Because of that relationship, you start to feel compelled to do the same. We love because he loves; not because we learned it in Sunday school, not because we get points for it, not because we think we're going to gain or garner God's blessings if we do. We love because he first loved us.
As I had someone tell me once, Satan comes forward when we sin and accuses us. Imagine Satan telling God, �Look at the sinful deeds of your servant.� Then Jesus steps forward as He has done so many times and says, �I paid for that sin and that sin had been forgiven. The one you call sinful is a child of ours that is loved dearly.� If you can think about the number of times Christ has done that for you it will set a desire in you to return to Christ what He has done for you so many, many times.
Ephesians 4:29 (NLT) 29 Don�t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
Matthew Henry�s Commentary on verse 29 states, �Filthy and unclean words and discourse are poisonous and infectious, as putrid rotten meat: they proceed from and prove a great deal of corruption in the heart of the speaker, and tend to corrupt the minds and manners of others who hear them; and therefore Christians should beware of all such discourse. It may be taken in general for all that which provokes the lusts and passions of others. We must not only put off corrupt communications, but put on that which is good to the use of edifying. The great use of speech is to edify those with whom we converse. Christians should endeavour to promote a useful conversation: that it may minister grace unto the hearers; that it may be good for, and acceptable to, the hearers, in the way of information, counsel, pertinent reproof, or the like.�
Words can either encourage or discourage someone. Once I was on a trip out of town and hailed down a cab. The driver seemed to be in not quite such a good mood. We had a ways to go so he started talking to me about some of his problems. I would calmly reply in an encouraging way hoping to lift his spirits. After a while he asked, �Why are you in a good mood this morning?� At first I was a little surprised by the question, but I told him I had gotten up and read The Bible for a while that morning and had found some encouraging words of wisdom. Then he said, �That�s my problem, I don�t know about me and The Lord. I always try to do what is right, but I seem to fail.� Then I shared some of the wisdom I had learned from my reading. I shared how we all fail at times, but if we place our faith in The Lord, and ask His forgiveness, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sin. As we pulled up to my location the driver stopped, turned around and said, �I want that faith in The Lord you talked about. Would you pray with me?� So I prayed with Mr. Brown and encouraged him to place his faith in The Lord knowing The Lord would always forgive him and encourage him.
I thought I would never see Mr. Brown again, but a year later I was in the same city and hailed down a cab. When I got in the cab I read the taxi license that was posted and the driver was the same Mr. Brown I had spoken to before. This time his attitude was different. After we were on our way I said, �Mr. Brown do you remember me?� He looked back in his rearview mirror and said, �I sure do. You are that man that prayed with me about The Lord.� I asked, �How are you doing this morning?� His response was, �The Lord has given me a joyous heart!�
Sometimes all it takes is for us to listen to the problems of another, have compassion for them, and give them words of encouragement and it will lift their hopes and spirit. Our words can build them up if we use them properly. We must remember too that our words can tear down and destroy if used the wrong way. Pray The Lord will bless you with good things to say that are helpful and encouraging.
Proverbs 20:1 (NLT) Wine produces mockers; alcohol leads to brawls. Those led astray by drink cannot be wise.
When one partakes of alcohol they never know which direction their life may turn. For it can take people and turn them into something they don�t want to be.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) � A driver has confessed in a video posted online that he's to blame for a wrong-way car crash stemming from a night of heavy drinking that killed another man and says he's willing to take "full responsibility."
Homicide charges may be filed next week, the prosecutor's office said Friday.
The 3 1/2-minute video, posted on at least two websites on Tuesday, shows 22-year-old Matthew Cordle describing what led to the accident in which he killed the man three months ago.
"My name is Matthew Cordle, and on June 22nd, 2013, I hit and killed Vincent Canzani," he says somberly. "This video will act as my confession."
Cordle says in the video he "made a mistake" when he decided to drive his truck home after "drinking really heavily" and hit the other car, killing the 61-year-old Canzani, of suburban Columbus.
The video begins with Cordle's face blurred as he describes how he has struggled with depression and was simply trying to have a good time with friends going "from bar to bar" the night of the accident. He then describes how he ended up driving into oncoming traffic on a highway.
Cordle's face becomes clear as he reveals his name and confesses to killing Canzani.
"When I get charged I'll plead guilty and take full responsibility for everything I've done to Vincent and his family," Cordle says.
Later, he says he understands that by releasing the video he's giving prosecutors "everything they need to put me away for a very long time." [http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/09/06/dui-video-confession/2775585/]
[View the video ]
Matthew Cordle is facing the consequences of his actions. He was true to his word and confessed in court by pleading guilty and taking full responsibility for his actions. Matthew seems like a nice young man, wanting to share his problem so that others may not make the same mistake he did. Obviously alcohol took hold of his life and is now mocking him for his mistake. Let�s keep Matthew in our prayers that his testimony will keep others from making the same error he made.
Romans 5:3-4 (NLT) 3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.
Dare say any of us enjoy running into the problems and trials of life. However when we do we have the choice to face them or run from them. Running serves no purpose other than to delay the inevitable. Facing a problem means we trust God for leadership as we press on to correct the problems and issues. Sometimes we might not find the answer we want, but we find a way to build character and strength by listening to God.
in his book The Pressure's Off, psychologist Larry Crabb uses a story from his childhood to illustrate our need to delight in God through adversity:
One Saturday afternoon, I decided I was a big boy and could use the bathroom without anyone's help. So I climbed the stairs, closed and locked the door behind me, and for the next few minutes felt very self-sufficient.
Then it was time to leave. I couldn't unlock the door. I tried with every ounce of my three-year-old strength, but I couldn't do it. I panicked. I felt again like a very little boy as the thought went through my head, "I might spend the rest of my life in this bathroom."
My parents�and likely the neighbors�heard my desperate scream.
"Are you okay?" Mother shouted through the door she couldn't open from the outside. "Did you fall? Have you hit your head?"
"I can't unlock the door!" I yelled. "Get me out of here!"
I wasn't aware of it right then, but Dad raced down the stairs, ran to the garage to find the ladder, hauled it off the hooks, and leaned it against the side of the house just beneath the bedroom window. With adult strength, he pried it open, then climbed into my prison, walked past me, and with that same strength, turned the lock and opened the door.
"Thanks, Dad," I said�and ran out to play.
That's how I thought the Christian life was supposed to work. When I get stuck in a tight place, I should do all I can to free myself. When I can't, I should pray. Then God shows up. He hears my cry�"Get me out of here! I want to play!"�and unlocks the door to the blessings I desire.
Sometimes he does. But now, no longer three years old and approaching sixty, I'm realizing the Christian life doesn't work that way. And I wonder, are any of us content with God? Do we even like him when he doesn't open the door we most want opened�when a marriage doesn't heal, when rebellious kids still rebel, when friends betray, when financial reverses threaten our comfortable way of life, when the prospect of terrorism looms, when health worsens despite much prayer, when loneliness intensifies and depression deepens, when ministries die?
God has climbed through the small window into my dark room. But he doesn't walk by me to turn the lock that I couldn't budge. Instead, he sits down on the bathroom floor and says, "Come sit with me!" He seems to think that climbing into the room to be with me matters more than letting me out to play.
I don't always see it that way. "Get me out of here!" I scream. "If you love me, unlock the door!"
Dear friend, the choice is ours. Either we can keep asking him to give us what we think will make us happy�to escape our dark room and run to the playground of blessings�or we can accept his invitation to sit with him, for now, perhaps, in darkness, and to seize the opportunity to know him better and represent him well in this difficult world.