Tuesday, April 17, 2012
1 John 5:1-4 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
Love – Agape – An undefeatable benevolence and unconquerable goodwill that always seeks the highest good of the other person, no matter what he does. It is the self-giving love that gives freely without asking anything in return, and does not consider the worth of its object. Agape is a love of choice, rather than emotion. It is the unconditional love that God has for the world.
We oftentimes want to wait until we have the feelings of love before we extend love to another person, especially if that person is one of the “hard cases” that we talked about yesterday. This mindset is the reverse of what the Bible teaches; it is getting the horse behind the cart! We must love before the feelings come for the love of God to be extended to others. Agape love, which is the love by which God has loved us, is unconditional and is not based on what the other person does, but is a love that is based in choice. It chooses to think of the other person before you think of yourself. This is the love that God deposits in our hearts when we become “born again” and the Holy Spirit takes up residence within us.
Romans 5:5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
The Holy Spirit has poured out His very own love in our hearts! Now, we have a choice as to what we will do with that love. Will we dam it up and hold on to it, or release it and let it flow to those around us? Christianity, or living out our lives as believers, always comes down to our choices. If we dam up the love of God within us and hold on to it what happens? When I think of holding on to the love of God and not releasing it I get a picture in my mind of a body of water that has no outlet. It becomes stagnant; green stuff begins to grow on the surface and it looks stale and unappealing. It is not a body of water that I would want to swim in or drink from. It looks sick! That's what I believe happens to us when we do not allow the love of God to flow freely from our hearts. We become full of stale, stagnant, bitter water unable to fulfill the call of God on our lives. As a result, our relationship with the Lord and everyone else suffers. We have difficulty receiving from God because faith works through love.
Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
When there is a problem with our ability to love, there is a problem with our faith being able to work properly! If there is a problem with our ability to love, there is a problem with us having victory over the world. Going back to 1 John 5:4: For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. When we choose to hang on to the love of God and not release it to others we suffer through battles with temptation because our faith has been minimized through not loving as we should. We are crippled and unable to fight spiritual battles properly. Faith to overcome the world works through love!
John 15:17 These things I command you, that you love one another.
The bottom line to the subject of loving others is that Jesus commands us to do it! Nike has a symbol on the side of their athletic shoes that is a “swoosh”. That symbol of the swoosh and the Nike name means “just do it”. That's the attitude that God wants us to take about His commandment to love: just do it!
Father, today I choose to release the love that you have deposited in my heart. I will not hold on to it, but I will let it flow freely from me to those around me. Thank You for loving me even when I am unlovable. Thank You for forgiving me of my sins and living within to enable me to do those things that You do. You are my God and I will pattern my life after Yours. Thank You for strengthening me for this day and enabling me to walk victoriously through it. You are great and mighty and worthy to be praised and I praise you and honor You today! In Jesus' name. Amen.
Monday, April 16, 2012
As I woke up this morning I had some things on my mind that I had asked God to do in me regarding a person who has been a challenge for me to love. I'm sure you've run on to those people in your life as well. Jesus told His disciples in John 13:35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” It is my desire to please the Father and show the world that I am His so in order to do that I must reflect the love of Jesus in my life. And yet sometimes you run onto someone that it is just difficult to love. So I was praying about this situation and the Lord brought to my remembrance this scripture in Philippians 1:3-6 where He is addressing the believers in the Philippian church.
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
I love this portion of scripture and especially verse 6 where it says that “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”. It reminds me that the changing in my life is not up to me, but God is the one who brings to completion the changes that He has begun in me. It is a lifelong process that He starts when we become believers in Him and then works throughout our lives. That doesn't mean that I have no part to play in the process, because He always gives us the choice of cooperating with this process and then obeying what He asks us to do to work with what He is changing in us. We see further evidence of this work in progress, and His and our parts in it, in Chapter 2 of Philippians and verses 12-13:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
You will see in these verses the part that that we play is to obey by working out our own salvation and the part that God plays is in working within us to give us the desire to change and then the ability to do those things that He is asking us to do. He is the one who does the work within us and we are the outworking of that process as we obey Him in walking it out. In the beginning of Chapter 2 Paul gives us some keys to allowing God's process within us to have it's perfect work.
Chapter 2:1-4 Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
He gives us some keys in this portion of scripture to loving others.
1) Be like-minded. Don't allow distractions of race, culture or color to cause you to think differently.
2) Don't be selfish thinking you are better than the other person.
3) Think more highly of the other person than you do of yourself.
4) Look out for the interests of others, not just your own.
Then Paul gives us the supreme example to follow: that of Christ Jesus who didn't see Himself too good to go to the cross for us even though He was the Son of God. He laid His deity aside to become a man, just like us, who saw servant-hood as a privilege and humbled Himself to go to the cross that we might be saved from sin and an eternal separation from the Father. He says in verse 5 of Chapter 2: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”.
Wow, what a way to think! We are to pattern our lives after that of Christ Jesus! Now that is a tall order to fill. So how can I accomplish this love that Jesus so aptly portrayed?
Galatians 2:20 gives us a key: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”
I have been crucified with Christ! Romans chapter 6 tells us that we were buried with Christ and when He was raised from the dead we were raised with Him that we might no longer be a slave to sin, but might be raised to new life. But we have to see ourselves in that manner; that our old man of sin was crucified with Christ and our new man of righteousness was raised with Him. Part of the changing process that we must do is to see ourselves as that new man, freed from the power that sin held over us. Then we can walk out our salvation through faith in Christ Jesus that He might finish the good work that He has begun in us. If I constantly see myself as a lowly sinner, then I have set aside the grace of God because I will constantly be striving to attain a righteousness that only comes through faith. So, first I must see myself as Paul addressed the Christians at Philippi in Philippians 1:1: “....To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi”. Do you see yourself as a saint or a sinner? In order for God to finish His work in me I must first see myself covered by the grace of God and changed from a sinner to a saint. That doesn't mean that I don't sin; it just changes me from a sinner who is controlled by sin to a saint who occasionally sins. Now I can see myself covered by the blood of Jesus and worthy of His righteousness because He purchased it for me. When I sin I can ask God's forgiveness and receive it in order to go on walking out my salvation by faith.
The next thing I must do to cooperate with God's changing process is found in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I love the way the Amplified version expounds on this verse:
I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency].
Now that gives me encouragement! It's not totally up to me to try to love those around me! I can depend on Christ's strength. When I read this verse I get a picture in my mind of Jesus holding a large funnel above my head pouring His power into me! He is infusing me with His very own strength and power to do what I can't do in and of myself. I do not have to be self-sufficient; I am self-sufficient in His sufficiency. He is working in me changing me into the person that He wants me to be. All I have to do is cooperate with Him; allow Him to fill me with His strength and then obey when He asks me to love! How much easier could He have made it for me?
How about you? Do you long to love as Jesus loves with that Agape kind of love; unconditional love that chooses to love even those who we consider to be “hard cases”?
Thank You, Father, for working in me, changing me into the person that You desire for me to be. I will cooperate with Your process of change and will love as You have loved me. Thank You for filling me with your power and ability to carry out what You are doing within me! Thank You for loving me that I might love others! You are my strength for this day! In Jesus' name. Amen.
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Having grown up in Central Missouri the knowledge of Spring storms is always in my mind. My children and grandchildren still live in Missouri, so as I went to bed last night I had the weather on my mind. This morning as I got up I immediately checked the weather channel to see how things had transpired through the night. I was relieved to see that no tornadoes had struck in the area where my family is, but saddened to hear of tornadoes and destruction in other areas. When I went to spend time with the Lord I still had the weather on my mind as more storms are forecast for that area today. My sister and brother-in-law will be traveling through Missouri on their way to our house, expected to arrive here this evening. I was praying about the weather situation and the Lord reminded me of three different portions of scripture.
Psalm 121:1-8 I WILL lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, Nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in. From this time forth, and even forevermore.
Psalm 46:10, 11 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
Psalm 46:1-7 GOD is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah
There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn. The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted. The LORD of host is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
All three of these scriptures talk about God being our refuge, a very present help in times of trouble and that we can put our trust in Him knowing that He is watching over us, not sleeping through our difficulties. They speak of the weather and global calamity that might be happening around us.
Refuge – Hebrew word – machseh – means a shelter, refuge, protection, fortress, a hope, a place of trust; a shelter from the storm.
God is our place of protection; we can trust Him to protect us for He is our shelter from the storm. The scripture says He also is our strength. The word for strength there means “security”. We can be secure in His ability to watch over and protect us and our loved ones. “A very present help” means help that is abundantly available. And because of all of His power we can be assured that we do not have to fear when storms arise or it seems like the world is falling down around us.
Many times we are like Peter when Jesus called him to walk on the water. We start out with our focus on Jesus and find that we can walk above the storms, but then we are distracted by what is going on around us and find ourselves sinking with the enormity of life's storms. It is at these times that we need to go back to the Word and find out what God says about our situations. I am much encouraged today because I took the time to listen to what God was saying to me about the weather issues that are happening in my children's area. I am trusting Him to watch over them.
The last scripture that He spoke to me this morning is Isaiah 30:15: For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” But you would not,
It is in resting in Him that we find the confidence and strength that we need to face the troubles that are going on around us. But we have to choose to do that. If we don't then we will continue to be in turmoil and fear. The choice is always ours to make. He gives us the assurance of what He will do, but if we don't choose to believe then we will continue to live in unrest with constant turmoil in our hearts. This applies to everything that we are experiencing and new opportunities arise every day.
What are you facing today that has caused you to be in fear and turmoil? Is it a situation with your job; your marriage; your family; your weight or other health issues? Trust in the Lord today to take care of those tumultuous fears. He is your refuge from the storm; a very present help in the time of trouble!
Lord, today I choose to trust you with the storms of life going on around me. I will not fear for I know that You are here watching over and caring for all that I care about. Thank You, for assuring me of Your love and constant care. I will depend on You, Lord, when it seems that the world is crashing down around me, for You never sleep nor slumber. You are always working! You are my hope and I trust in You. Thank You, Lord, for your everlasting love! In Jesus name I pray. Amen
Saturday, April 14, 2012
Philippians 2:19 But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state.
Philippians 2:24 But I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come shortly.
2 Thessalonians 3:4 And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you.
This morning as I was reading in God's word I was prompted to look at these three verses and note that Paul made the statement “I trust in the Lord” to do something for him in three different places. The third reference in 2 Thessalonians where it says “confidence” is the same Greek word as “trust” in the other two references. What does it mean to trust?
Trust – Greek word peitho – means to be convinced, be confident, have inward certainty, trust.
What was Paul trusting in the Lord to do?
1) He trusted in the Lord to send Timothy to the Philippians.
2) He trusted in the Lord to enable him to come to them.
3) He trusted in the Lord to make sure the Thessalonians continued in the things of the Lord as he had taught them.
By these three references I can see that Paul did not rely on his own efforts or abilities, but He placed confident assurance in the Lord that the things that he was concerned about God would bring into being. He was convinced that God would take care of the concerns that he had regarding himself and those that he loved.
Do you have confidence in the Lord this morning that He will take care of your concerns? What are you putting your trust in....yourself, someone else, or God? The only one who will never fail us is the Lord!
The thing that usually comes against trust is doubt. We waiver between the two. The question that we often have is not “is God able to do what I've asked of Him?”, but it is “Will God do what I've asked of Him?”. We know that God is all-powerful and can do anything, but the assurance that we need has to come down to a personal level; will He do it for me? James addressed that concern in James 1 where he said that if we needed wisdom we could ask God for it and he would give it liberally and without reproach. The only per-requisite to receiving that wisdom was that we would ask in faith, with no doubting. What does it really mean to doubt?
Doubt or doubting – Greek word diakrino – has two definitions: 1) To judge thoroughly; to decide between two or more choices; to make a distinction; to separate two components, elements or factors; to render a decision; to evaluate carefully. 2) The word also connotes a conflict with oneself, in the sense of hesitating, having misgivings, doubting, being divided in decision making, or wavering between hope and fear.
When we look at the definitions of doubt or doubting we see that we are either judging between two or more choices and making a decision based on what we know, or we are hesitating because of a conflict within ourselves, being divided in decision making, or wavering between hope and fear.
So every time we come before the Lord to trust Him for something there will be the opportunity to doubt whether or not He will do for us what w have asked of Him. That doubt causes us to waver in our trust, wondering if our request will be answered or not. James tells us in James 1:8 that when we doubt we are double-minded and doubt affects our receiving from the Lord because we are unstable in our ways, being tossed back and forth between faith and doubt.
This morning how is your faith level? Do you have that inward confidence that your prayers are being answered? Have you asked in faith believing and not doubting?
Father, this morning, I choose to trust You with the requests I have made of you regarding my children, my own health and physical needs and the needs of those that I love. I will stand firm in my faith without doubting that You will take care of the things that concern me. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayers. Please help me to stand firm and not allow the enemy to sway me off my confidence in You. I know that You are working all things together for my good because I love You and am called according to Your purpose for my life and the lives of those that I love. To You be the glory, Father. In Jesus name. Amen.
Have a blessed Saturday, Spark Friends!
Friday, April 13, 2012
I have for years started my day with the Lord. I began years ago by establishing a time at the beginning of my day when I could get away by myself for prayer and studying God's word. Through the years and especially since I've been working on my bachelor's degree in Christian Counseling my “quiet time” has expanded to encompass more and more of my total day. The initial time that I set aside has become a foundation for the rest of my daily activities and He envelops me in His presence throughout my day. Yesterday as I was walking on my treadmill I heard the Lord speak ever so gently to my heart: “I created my children to be winners, not losers!”
Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over all the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Then the Lord began to explain to me what His original plan was for mankind. It was that we would be victors, not victims, rulers, not ruled over, blessed, not cursed, and fruitful, not barren. Our words were to be creative, not destructive and He intended us to rule over His creation. In essence, we were designed and created as winners, not losers! Adam gave away that authority to the devil when he sinned in the garden of Eden by eating the fruit that God had told him to leave alone, but Jesus redeemed us from that sin; He purchased us back and restored unto us the dominion and authority that Adam had given away. Romans 5:17: For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
A couple of years ago my husband and I lead a course at church by Dave Ramsey called “Financial Peace University”. It was a course teaching people how to be successful in their finances; to be able to live free from debt. One of the statements Dave made was this: “Success is 20% knowledge and 80% application of that knowledge”. We can have all the knowledge in the world but if we do not apply what we know to our lives then of what benefit is it to us?
God has given us His word, His Spirit, His authority over sin and the devil, and the directions to apply all that we know to our lives, but if we don't take that Word and use it then we are just “hearers of the word only”. James 1: 22 says that we are to be doers of the word and not hearers only or we deceive ourselves. We think everything is okay as long as we are reading the word, but it takes the application of what we read and know to be true to bring success! Faith is an offensive action, not sitting back waiting for life to just happen. You will never win without work! God gives us a plan and then expects us to work the plan! All of the answers to life's questions reside in the Word of God and become ours as we seek His will and directions for our lives and receive and follow them by faith. When we follow His plan success is guaranteed. He created us to win, not lose!
I am thankful today that God has given me the ability through Him to win over life's challenges. My weight loss journey is a progressive journey to success as I apply what I know to my daily choices. I am a winner, not a loser! Thank You, Lord, for creating me in Your image and likeness and for giving me the ability to rule over situations that arise in my life. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me and by the power of Your Spirit within me I will win this battle! I thank You, Lord, that the joy of the Lord is my strength and today will be a joyous and victorious day! Amen!
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