WeepingintoDancing

Overcoming Difficult Trials

Archive for the tag “Jesus”

A Godly Perspective

A person’s perspective is an attitude and viewpoint. It can be positive or negative. A positive perspective sees the good in even the most painful and darkest of circumstances. A negative perspective will eventually lead to a hard heart, a root of bitterness, and a stagnant spiritual walk.

Perspective is an understanding that events, people, and circumstances are interrelated, and a positive perspective means we have the ability to see things from a larger frame of reference. A positive perspective means we are looking through the eyes of Jesus.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

With the eyes of Christ we see the good in all people, even when confronted by rude, abusive, and angry people. With a Christ-like vision, we are less apt to judge and more likely to adopt a compassionate attitude. We will consider why actions and behaviors play out and hold our tongues and judgments for later.

When we consider the life of Jesus, we see he was a friend to prostitutes, tax collectors, and sinners. He was able to look past their mistakes or employment choices and see into the heart of the person. His love looked past all rebellion, greed, and lust and saw the desperation and need for acceptance and love in man’s heart.

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’”       Luke 7:34 (NIV)

I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:32 (NIV)

As sinners, at some point we will act out, saying or thinking things that cause our Savior grief. One of these things occurs when we doubt the love of God. During difficult trials, our flesh cries out under the pressure and pain. Too often a man thinks, “If God loves me why must I suffer?” It is because of our sin and our need to be sanctified. The pressure of difficult times will bring the dross of our sin to the surface, enabling the Holy Spirit to remove it for our benefit. We are called to be like Christ.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5 (NKJV)

Sometimes we feel like mishandled clay in the hands of The Potter. Under intense pressure, we cry out and protest at every squeeze and pinch He makes. Then, when The Potter places us on His spinning wheel, life seems to spin out of control. No longer can we see clearly, for the world has become a blur. When the turning slows and comes to a stop, we feel the Creator’s hands lift us from the wheel. In fear, we tremble. Why? Because the heat of the kiln awaits us and we can not look past the future discomfort.

With the eyes of Christ, we see how The Potter has carefully placed us in just the right spot on his spinning wheel. As it whirls us around, we take note of how The Potter places both of His loving hands about us, molding us into a vessel of beauty and usefulness. We understand that our life is under His control, so we worry and fret not. When our Creator lifts us from the wheel and places us in the kiln, we welcome the heat. For it is in the fire that our beauty is enhanced, free of imperfections and strong.

Perspective helps when we are faced with adversity. Perspective was one reason Jesus was able to endure the cross. Without perspective, we follow our own natural inclinations. May God grant us eyes to see the good in every person and in every circumstance.

“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 (NKJV)

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”  Proverbs 14:12 (NKJV)

Alone With God

 

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There are several stories in the Bible where God calls one of His chosen into a place of solitude and seclusion. The apostle Paul, who has one of the greatest conversion stories in the Word of God, was led into the desert for three years. During that time the Holy Spirit instructed him in the ways of God. Saul, later known as Paul, had persecuted Christians with near fanaticism until his conversion along the Damascus road. God used the desert years of solitude to renew Paul’s mind and to transform him into the image of Christ. This desert interlude was a part of Paul’s roadmap, and the years of solitude were essential in preparing him for Christian ministry. Certainly, it was a time when the Lord revealed many deep spiritual truths.

“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days.” Galatians 1:15-18 (NKJV)

“It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him.” Daniel 2:22 (NASB)

It is during those times when we are unseen, hidden away from others, that we go deeper in our relationship with Christ. There are treasures in the depths of solitude, but we have to dig them out. When we silence the chaos of the world around us and meditate on the living Word, our spirit will burn with intensity. We are quicker to recognize the Shepherd’s voice and better able to discern the counterfeit mouthpiece of the enemy. Times of solitude are seasons of absolute dependence and submission, and these characteristics ought to follow us into the daylight hours of servitude and Christian ministry.

Moses is another example of a great leader called into seclusion, but the degree of his sequestration varies. Upon his exile from Egypt, Moses lived as a fugitive for forty years in the Arabian Desert. Once a Prince of Egypt, he put on the cloak of a humble shepherd. This was not an easy life since shepherds spent most of their time outside (in all kinds of weather) away from family and friends. Moses spent many nights alone watching over his father-in-law’s sheep.

In Exodus chapter 3 we read that Moses is tending Jethro’s flock in the wilderness near Mount Horeb/Sinai. This is where the angle of the Lord appeared in the form of a burning bush. God calls His people to remote areas for several reason: to learn, to prepare, to test, to strengthen, to direct.

Later, in Exodus 24:9-18, God tells Moses to come up into Mt. Sinai to meet with Him again. This time Moses is gone for forty days. Moses needed time alone with God to receive instructions and so that he would have courage to face the opposition of men. The first time, he needed courage to face Pharaoh with God’s directive to allow the children of Israel to go free.

“So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.” Exodus 24:18 (NKJV)

We read in Scripture that Jesus frequently went off by Himself to be with God. Private time with the Father is necessary for every believer.

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:16 (NIV)

After Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit led the Lord into the desert. There, for forty days and forty nights He was tempted by the devil. Jesus overcame every enticement of the evil one, and left His wilderness seclusion to begin His public ministry.

Paul, Moses, and Jesus sought out, or, were led to secluded places. Wilderness and desert locations are not easy environments to abide in. However, under the shadow of His almighty wing, there is protection and comfort. Great treasures are hidden deep in wilderness locations. Treasures that build faith and strengthen godly convictions are worth more than rubies and gold. Do not be afraid to dig deep. If God is leading you to a solitary place, He may be preparing you for a new ministry, or equipping you for the next leg of your spiritual journey.

I have decided to follow Jesus; No turning back, no turning back.

Though none go with me, still I will follow; No turning back, no turning back.

~ S. Sundar Singh.

God Desires Honesty

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We have the freedom to speak honestly before our King. God already knows what we think, and what we are about to say, so it is foolishness to hide our true feelings from Him. We have permission to be honest, really honest, and need not fear retribution or punishment for our transparency.

Before a word is on my tongue You, LORD, know it completely.” Psalm 139:4 (NIV)

Consider Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. Jesus considered all three to be His friend. And even though He was the King of Kings in living flesh, He welcomed their honest feelings. In one story, Martha complains about Mary sitting at His feet and listening to His word, instead of helping her serve guests. She actually rebuffed Jesus and questioned whether He cared that she had been left alone to serve guests. Furthermore, she ordered Him to tell Mary to help. Jesus acknowledged her feelings but replied that Mary had chosen the good part, which would not be taken away from her.

“Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’

 And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 (NKJV)

 On another occasion, Martha, grief-stricken over her brother’s death, freely spoke of her disappointment with Jesus, for He had not been present before Lazarus passed. She did not know that her Savior intentionally stayed away so that He could perform a miracle. Lazarus was raised from the dead, which led to many conversions.

“’Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give You whatever You ask.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’” John 11:21-23 (NIV)

God does not look favorably upon liars. Truth is who God is. He cannot lie. Since we are called to be like Christ, we too must strive to speak truthfully at all times, even in our prayer closet.

In the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of timeTitus 1:2 (NKJV)

“But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? When it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God. Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last.” Acts 5:3-5a (NKJV)

If we hold feelings of hate, disappointment, lust, fear, or bitterness in our heart, it is best to acknowledge it, express it openly with God, and then ask for forgiveness. He can handle our true emotions. He knows our hidden sins and welcomes honest communication. Truth and honesty make for an intimate relationship with God. Pour your heart out to the King. Those who speak truthfully are His delight.

Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight.Proverbs 12:22 (NKJV)

“An honest heart loves the truth.” ~ A.W. Pink

The Holy Archer And His Arrows

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An archer must pull back his arrow to make it fly. Before releasing the shaft, it should touch the bowman’s face. With proper aim, the arrow will hit its mark.

If God is our archer, we then, are His arrows. And even though His quiver if filled beyond our knowing, every shot is carefully planned before it is lovingly released.

When positioned in His mighty bow, we will experience the confusion and pain of backward friction. Yet, we can take heart, for we are in the most skillful of hands. God will send us forward, when His aim is perfected, to hit the proper mark.

Each arrow (beloved child of God) is drawn close to God’s cheek before it is released. What comfort! There is a special moment of communion as He takes aim, before freeing us from the restriction of His mighty bow.

Then the Lord will be seen over them, and His arrow will go forth like lightning. The Lord God will blow the trumpet, and go with whirlwinds from the south.” Zechariah 9:14 (NKJV)

Maybe we will land in some new terrain or ministry. Possibly, the mark we hit needs to hear about Jesus and His incredible blood sacrifice. God may even shoot us into a dark forest filled with principalities and powers of darkness, an arrow intended for spiritual battle.

For they intended evil against You; They devised a plot which they are not able to perform. Therefore, You will make them turn their back; You will make ready Your arrows on Your string toward their faces.Psalm 21:11-12 (NKJV)

If life seems difficult, cumbersome, confusing, even painful… hang on! God may be launching you into something great. Focus on living for Him and stay in the present, but seek His will for your future. Do not let the worries and troubles of each day discourage you. They might be the sharpening agents necessary for God to launch you toward HIS intended target.

He fills His hands with lightning and commands it to strike its mark.Job 36:32 (NIV)

 God cannot miss His mark because He is without sin. What is the biblical definition of sin? Literally, it means to miss the mark. It is a Greek term that comes from an archery term meaning to miss the bulls-eye. Romans 3:23 says that “ For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Therefore, even though God’s aim is always perfect, man is sinful; thus, all of us have missed the mark, not getting our arrow to hit the perfection of God.

And since all of us are missing the mark, all of us require His grace. Missing the mark does not mean we are off the team. No, God knows what we are made of and understands that our heart’s desire is to serve Him, even when we fall short.

 Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”  Romans 3:25 (NKJV)

Sin affects our relationship with God. To get back on target, we must acknowledge our sins and ask for forgiveness. Sin separates us from God and He turns a deaf ear to our prayers. Repentance will enable the Archer of the Universe to once again interact with His arrow, skillfully shooting him forward so that he hits a bulls-eye.

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Are You Spiritually Lethargic?

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A lack of energy and enthusiasm is called lethargy. It is a state of being in which one is drowsy. Some would describe a lethargic person as lazy or slothful. The lack of enthusiasm to pursue spiritual matters is a symptom of spiritual lethargy and the cause of spiritual immaturity and stunted growth.

Lethargy is an attitude and a dangerous one at that. The Bible warns the devil is a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. If we are drowsy, we are not alert. Those with a spiritually lethargic attitude will either miss the devil’s approach altogether or discern it but lace the energy or desire to thwart it.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.1 Peter 5:8 (NKJV)

The author of Hebrews exhorts believers to be sober and vigilant. Vigilance calls for hawk-eyed watchfulness and attentiveness. If we have our spiritual eyes closed, sleeping on the watch, it is likely the roaring lion will succeed in devouring us, or at the very least acquire a nibble or two.

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now, our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” Hebrews 13:11 (NKJV)

The book of Hebrews was written to a church struggling with spiritual lethargy. Apparently, they had settled into a deliberate state of spiritual infancy. Having received the gospel of faith, they opted to maintain a diet of spiritual milk and forgo the benefits of solid food. Healthy children do not consume a liquid only diet their entire lifetime. No, instead they move on to the pleasures and blessings found within foods that are more substantial.

For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Hebrews 5:13-14 (NKJV)

Spiritual growth necessitates an investment of time and effort. It requires a determined perseverance to draw near to God. Just as children long to know more of their parents, we too should long to know our Savior more intimately.

Consider Proverbs 21:25, not only in a physical sense but in a spiritual one as well.              The desire of the lazy man kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.”

When apathy becomes our attitude, we lack the energy to love and serve God. Furthermore, we are commanded to love and serve each other. A lethargic spiritual attitude does not lend itself to service.

“For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13 (NKJV)

The world should see us as aliens, holding onto a very bright light that guides. We are not supposed to fit in or see eye-to-eye with the politically correct and the spiritually lost. It is far too easy to become the frog that falls asleep in a lukewarm pot of water. As the heat is slowly brought to a boil, it meets an early demise.

So, shake off all lethargy and put on the armor of Christ. Read the Word, every day. Do not simply carry your Bible into church and allow your Pastor to spoon-feed you. Supplement the feast he provides by gathering the spiritual manna God provides within His living Word. Cast off any lethargic attitude that succumbs to bottle-feeding alone and take up your own spoon and fork! As iron sharpens iron, find someone who will sharpen and encourage you as you run your spiritual race home.

Awake, O sleeper, awake!

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)

I went by the field of the lazy man, and by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding; And there it was, all overgrown with thorns; Its surface was covered with nettles; Its stone wall was broken down. When I saw it, I considered it well; I looked on it and received instruction: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest; So shall your poverty come like a prowler, and your need like an armed man.Proverbs 24:30-34 (NKJV)

Obstacles

_Never Give Up

Most of us have had an occasion where an unexpected trial or obstacle has knocked us flat, interrupting everyday plans and routines. And when a stumbling block appears out-of-the-blue, a bucket full of emotions is sure to follow. Since God created us with the capacity to express our true feelings, we should do so. God values honest communication.

But once we have vented our frustration, fear, anger, and confusion over the obstacle, we must pause and consider whether God is trying to get our attention. He is a master teacher, always looking for new ways to equip and instruct His children. Once we have accepted the reality of our situation and faced our unhappy hindrance, we can move forward in a way that glorifies God. How? By embracing our new circumstances with the faith that we serve a loving and compassionate God. This is not easy but by doing so, our time in the valley will prove to be a valuable lesson filled with God’s wisdom and strength.

While we work through struggles, our spiritual eyes should search, watch, and wait for the Holy Spirit to speak. Have you found yourself incapacitated, unable to move or work? Maybe God wants you to slow down, or direct you down a different path. Maybe He wants to teach you something that will better equip you for future ministry. Is a lesson of love, forgiveness, or patience in your near future? What about endurance? Do you know how to spiritually persevere? There is also the possibility He is testing your faith. He tested His disciples, Noah, Joseph, Moses, Daniel, and Abraham just to mention a few.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.” Ephesians 1:18 (NKJV)

 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 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.Romans 5:35 (NKJV)

 Whatever the obstacle, we know God will be right beside us. We can rely on Him to be our strength. He is glorified when we are weak for He often uses our weakness to shine brightly to unbelievers. They will watch as help and provisions come our way and scratch their heads as we move through our hardship without fret.

Do not fret—it leads only to evil.Psalm 37:8b (NIV)

 Cast all your anxiety on him because He cares for you.1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

 And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 CO 12:9-10 (NKJV)

There is no obstacle before us that has not been planned or approved by God.

He is not in the business of discouraging His children and He knows our limits. When we reach those limits and surrender our helplessness to God, we are in the right place spiritually.

Christ alone will see us through. No other but our Savior Jesus Christ will mediate our needs before God. With love, He will provide a way for us to surmount our obstacle and continue onward in our spiritual race. Do not let the challenges and heartaches in life crush you. Through Christ, we can bring the victory of heaven into our experience on earth

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.Ephesians 6:10 (NKJV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3 (NKJV)

If God is testing you, as He did with so many others in the Bible, be encouraged by the helps the Father provided for them as they dealt with obstacles. And if the devil has been given permission to sift you, remember God knows you have the ability (with His provision of strength and power) to overcome.

The devil knows he cannot destroy us. The victory is ours through Christ. But our enemy will look for every opportunity to make our time on earth unproductive. He will tempt and encourage us to sin, harass us with fear, speak lies and tickle our ears to the point where we doubt the love of God. Satan wants to steal our hope. Do not let him! Persevere while you face your trial because the testing of your faith will develop spiritual maturity, enabling you to overcome every obstacle the devil can conjure.

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 be mature and complete, not lacking anything.James 1:2-4 (NIV)

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

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Putting God First

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What is your greatest treasure? What is your most precious possession? The Bible mentions our connection to this treasure. It is a heart connection.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.Luke 12:34 (NKJV)

If our heart treasure is money and success, we should take heed to Matthew 6:24. This scripture warns we cannot serve two masters. It is impossible to serve both God and money. Many a greedy man has been doomed by his ambition for power, wealth, and success. Queen Esther certainly played a part in Haman’s demise (Esther 7). His thirst for power and success was his ruination.

God is to be our first priority, in all things and in all ways. Putting a child or family member above God is a form of idolatry. Genesis 22 tells of how God tested Abraham. Abraham adored his son Isaac, but that did not hinder his obedience to God.

Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” Genesis 22:2 (NKJV)

God waited until the very last moment, watching Abraham lift his knife to slay his son, before intervening and providing another blood sacrifice. God witnessed Abraham’s obedience. He saw the heart of his servant. Isaac was greatly loved, but Abraham had not placed him in a position above the Lord. He trusted God would fulfill His promise to make his descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky (Gen 22:17).

“But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!”

So he said, “Here I am.”

And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Genesis 22:11-12 (NKJV)

So, it is good to ask this question periodically. “Is God my top priority and how do I actively put Him first?”

We are told to Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 (NKJV)

“In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.” Proverbs 3:6 (TLB)

Putting God first, in everything we do is not easy in this fallen world. There are so many distractions and temptations that keep us from our fellowship time with God. It is easy to get involved in family matters or work related issues first thing in the morning. Yet, in the life of a saint, God must be first. Our relationship with our Creator needs to be a priority. If we wait to pray, worship, and read the Word of God, it is easy to place Him on the back burner. We trudge through our busy day and come home weary and ready for bed.

As we drift off to sleep, God calls out to say, “I missed you today! I wanted to share some words that would have encouraged you and others. I had wisdom to impart and I wanted to teach you about ______. Am I your first love, your first priority?”

Jesus and other Bible characters are noted as early risers who sought God in prayer. Abraham, Hannah, and Job are just a few examples.

And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord.Genesis 19:24 (NKJV)

Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her.1 Samuel 1:19 (NKJV)

So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus, Job did regularly.Job 1:5 (NKJV)

I encourage you to carve out a set time in the morning to fellowship with God. Sing His praises and read the Bible. The Word of God is what feeds our spirit. The Holy Spirit will store what we have read and supernaturally bring it back to memory when necessary.

Pray in the morning, before you get entangled with work and the cares of this world. Prayer is our way to communicate with God. It is also one way He communicates with us.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I entrust my life.” Psalm 143:8 (NIV)

Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.” John 8:2 (NKJV)

Shod Your Feet With The Gospel Of Peace

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The Christian spiritual race is an uphill climb, full of snares and rough places. A smart runner selects shoes that will carry him through every type terrain. Our spiritual armor includes shoes, and we are instructed to “shod our feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15).

The gospel of peace is the story of God’s love for us. Jesus carried and nailed the sins of the world to the cross. By His death and resurrection, the blood of Christ covers us. Through the forgiveness of sin, our fellowship with God has been restored. We have the promise of eternal life, so long as we declare Jesus the Son of God and our Redeemer. The word shod simply means… to wear footgear. Our spiritual footgear is the story of God’s love and sacrifice. This is our comfort and our calling. Through Christ Jesus we have victory over death, a message we are commanded to share with the lost world.

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.” Matthew 28:19 (NKJV)

However, this does not mean everybody should quit their day jobs and sail off to Africa as missionaries. Indeed, some are called to preach the gospel in other lands, but there are also everyday opportunities to share the Good News. If led, we can point our feet to the house of a sick friend or lonely neighbor, and be the hands of Christ. With an open door, we can speak words of encouragement, which will accomplish much, though we might not realize it at the time.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.Proverbs 25:11 (NKJV)

Persuasive and timely language is a most effective balm to a hardened mind or heart. And like “apples of gold set in silver,” they are a beautiful and joyful thing to receive.

Believers possess a special treasure, the promise of eternal life and the joy of a personal relationship with God. How can we not share this good news with those around us? How will others believe in Him if we keep silent?

“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” Romans 10:14-15 (NKJV)

God will often prepare the hearts of those whom He has called, thus giving the messenger of Good News fertile soil to plant His seed. The heavenly Father requires our faith and action to fearlessly speak the truth. Compromise is not of the Lord. His Word will stand without sugar coating, so long as we speak with gentleness and respect. Useful scriptures will suddenly come to mind, helping us in our task of loving the one in need. The Holy Spirit will give us the words and actions necessary, so laying aside our own agenda and personal strength is key. We are to rely on God’s leading and supernatural power, for those acting on their own authority are guilty of robbing God of His glory. We are the messengers of God but He is the Savior.

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NKJV)

Any time we step out in faith, the enemy will try to interfere with our efforts to share the gospel. Utilize the entire spiritual armor of Christ. Pray. Harassment should not be a surprise to the believer. Rather, our perspective should be that any spiritual annoyance and intimidation is confirmation we are walking right with God. Gaining back the ground Satan has stolen is never easy. The prowling lion that looks to devour is a mighty foe, but the Lion King of Judah has already won the battle. The victory is already His and we share in the victory through Jesus Christ. Let us all make an effort to share the gospel of peace with someone new every day.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” Isaiah 6:8 (NIV)

“Of course you’ll encounter trouble. But behold a God of power who can take any evil and turn it into a door of hope.” ~ Catherine Marshall

Easter Message: Love Requires Sacrifice

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According to John 3:16, God loved/loves the world.

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.John 3:16 (NKJV)

From these words, we learn that Christian love requires sacrifice. God gave up His son in order to reestablish a relationship with us. Fellowship with God required atonement, and Jesus was the only acceptable blood sacrifice that could bring forth restoration. Jesus was without sin, a spotless lamb. He obediently accepted His Father’s will and took on the sins of the world and nailed them to a cross.

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.Romans 4:25 (NIV)

Father God knew His only begotten son would have to endure great suffering, but He also wanted to provide us with koinonia. So, because of His incredible love for mankind, He willed Jesus to step out of eternity and down to earth, and a brutal death. Father God knows all about sacrifice, grief, pain, and love.

Jesus Christ is the very definition of love. He always put others first. He freely gave His time, energy, food, friendship, love, and grace. And at the end of the day, He offered His love, obedience, fellowship, praise, and will to His heavenly Father. He lived to serve others. His eyes were never on Himself. He looked for ways to satisfy a need, quench a thirst, teach a lesson, or please His Father. There is JOY in service. There is JOY in giving.

We are called to live a life of love.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 (NKJV)

And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.Ephesians 5:2 (NKJV)

By looking into the Word of God and contemplating the life of Christ, we see that the power of love is remarkable but costly. Individual acts of sacrificial love have a transforming power. Consider the story of the widow in 1 Kings 17:8-16. In an act of faith, a widow sacrifices the very last of her food (a little oil and flour) and makes the prophet Elijah a cake. She was surely hungry. In fact, scripture states she was collecting wood to make a last meal before death.

And she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.”  1 Kings 17:12 (NKJV)

Her faith and sacrificial love was rewarded with a jar of flour and a jug of oil that would miraculously refill itself. God provided in her time of need and her life was surely never the same.

There were lepers, cripples, and blind men transformed by the healing hand of Jesus. Christ’s love transformed prostitutes, tax collectors, and fishermen. The sacrifice Christ made on the cross has transformed you and me! We were damned in our sin but His sacrifice has provided hope. We can rest in the promise of eternal life.

This Easter, reflect on the command to love one another. For if we hate our brother we do not have Christ in us. Do not love in word alone but love in deed and action. Be His hands! It will require sacrifice. This is known as Christian love.

Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. “ 1 John 3:15-16 (NKJV)

Meditate on the following verses and consider how you might love another with sacrificial deeds of love.

But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?1 John 3:17 (NKJV)

Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.Philippians 2:4 (NKJV)

But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.Hebrews 13:16 (NKJV)

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful1 Corinthians 13:4-5

Lessons From An Olive Tree

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The Hebrew word for olive tree is es shemen, which literally means “tree of oil.” It is from a primitive root meaning “to shine.” It is related to the word shemesh, “to be brilliant,” which is also the Hebrew word for the “sun.”

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12 (NKJV)

Jesus commands us to shine our light before mankind in hopes of glorifying the Father and leading the lost to His saving grace. The light within us is the Holy Spirit and He enables us to live righteously within a crooked and perverse world.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (NKJV)

The first mention of an Olive tree is found in Genesis 8:11 (NKJV) “Then the dove came to him in the evening, and behold, a freshly plucked olive leaf was in her mouth; and Noah knew that the waters had receded from the earth.” Olive trees and olive oil is regarded as a symbol of honor, joy, and favor. Many scriptures speak of using the oil from the olive tree as an anointing.

“You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” (Psalm 45:7).  

“To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3 (NKJV) 

Says the Encyclopedia Judaica, “There are trees in Israel estimated to be 1,000 years old that still produce fruit. In old age the tree becomes hollow but the trunk continues to grow thicker, at times achieving a circumference of 20 feet” (“Olive,” vol.12, Page 1361).

Have we become hollow within, like ancient olive trees? Hollow and empty of self-will and selfish desires? If so, we are in a place of spiritual maturity where the Holy Spirit can fill us beyond capacity. Have we developed strong trunks, trunks thickened by a resolve to live righteously for God, even through times of drought and suffering? Have we been filled with God’s love, wisdom, and truth or has bitterness and hate pushed aside the indwelling Holy Spirit?

Olive wood is very hard and beautifully grained. The olive was one of the most valuable trees to the ancient Hebrews. It was used by King Solomon to carve cherubim for the inner sanctuary of the first Temple.  Inside the inner sanctuary he made two cherubim of olive wood, each ten cubits high.” 1 Kings 6:23 (NKJV) Our strength and beauty should call out to those who are blind, to those who no longer see beauty. Although we live in a fallen world, beauty remains everywhere; we just need to look a bit harder.

And like ancient olive trees, let us strive to bear fruit for our entire lifetime. This means producing a crop that is pressed into oil, which will hopefully heal, feed, and light the way for many. Each of is has been given a set number of days. Commit to using every moment of every year to glorify God.

Make us Olive trees, Lord! Grant us thick trunks, fruitful crops, and new shoots when we are weary from the pressing.

“But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever. I will praise You forever because You have done it; And in the presence of Your saints I will wait on Your name, for it is good.” Psalm 52:8-9 (NKJV)

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