Foreword:

Ever wonder what God might have to say to YOU today? Here are things to ponder, and things to receive into your heart. If you have a question, put it in the comments. I respond as much as I can.

A note for all my readers: I've been experimenting with YouTube videos for Bible teaching for a while, and I'm working through Revelation here. My YouTube videos are currently short studies in Matthew, and at present I'm posting videos on Revelation as well. Both appear on the blog, which is turning into a Vlog. I encourage you to subscribe to my YouTube channel for better coverage.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Faith and the New Year...

One of the great subjects of the Bible is faith.  It's also something with which we struggle all the time, if we are honest with ourselves. It's not an easy task to face the new year as Abraham did, "not knowing where we are going" (Hebrews 11:8), but the year comes to us, like it or not.  As the adage says, "time marches on."
However, believing the good purposes of God is essential for us. We have the new year. It stretches before us like a fog-hidden vista, revealed only gradually as the sun burns off the fog. It's here. Trusting in God (the verbal equivalent of faith as a noun) will make the new year the best it can be. Here is a contrast the Bible gives us about the two ways of life: the way of trusting in God, and the way of trusting in yourself alone:
(Jeremiah 17): 5 Thus says the LORD; Cursed be the man who trusts in man, and makes human effort his [only] strength, and whose heart departs from the LORD.
6 For he shall be like the bush in the desert, and he shall not see when good comes; but shall inhabit the dry places in the wilderness, in a salty uninhabited land.
7  Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.
8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreads out its roots by the river, and shall not see when the heat comes, but its leaf shall [always] be green; and it shall not worry in the year of drought, neither shall it cease from yielding fruit.
It's a simple contrast, of course, based on two trees.  A bush in the desert, dry as a stick, and a tree planted by the water, green and verdant.
It's your choice.  Your year can look like an ever-growing, always green tree, or it can look like a stick. Trusting in God brings nourishment and wealth to your soul and makes you like a green tree that always bears fruit, even in the time of drought.
Look to Him today.  Let Him be your strength and your life. He is all too willing to do that for you.

Friday, January 9, 2015

New Years' Transformations: You did badly last year. So? Now it's this year. Part 2,

You can change in the New Year, if you want to.  Here are a couple things to do to make change effective and permanent:

  1. Spend time with God every day.  Doesn't have to be long, but open the communication lines. Let Him speak to you. Hear what He says.  Jesus talked of the person who had "hearing ears;" If you listen to God, He will direct your life.  It's important to read your Bible as well, and not just listen for Him in your heart, since much of the wisdom He wants to give you comes from the Bible.  You also must pray.  This is where you talk to Him.  In your own words, you tell Him your concerns, share what you need, thank Him for the good things in your life, and experience His presence.
  2. "Seek First the Kingdom of God" every day.  If you're struggling and have no resources, there's a promise for that: Matthew 6:33 says, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you." From the context, Jesus is pointing to the many things we need in our daily lives: Food, clothing shelter, fun, and so on. God loves you, and the best blessings come to us when we reciprocate that love.
That's really it.  These are so simple that most of us don't realize their supreme importance to our happiness and blessing. Let God speak to you. Do what He says. Seek Him and His kingdom in all areas of your life.  You will not be sorry.

Monday, January 5, 2015

You did badly last year. So? Now it's this year. Part 1.

One thing I have definitely learned about the past.  It's unchangeable. You can re-live it, you can rehearse it, you can wish it was different, but it cannot be changed.
So you didn't do what you think you should have last year. You can change THIS year.  You can do better this year, and you can be better this year.
Here's a how-to guide.
1. Examine yourself.  Who are you? Who are you becoming? You can be a better person in the new year, and you do it in three simple steps:

  • Recognize that nobody else is responsible for you.  As Paul says, "each of us shall bear his own burden." This frees you from holding someone else responsible for your change.  When you hold someone else responsible, you are their prisoner.  What if they don't "let" you change?
  • Decide to do the things that make you what you want to become, now.  Re-read the Sermon on the Mount, and let those words sink into your soul.  Better words have never been spoken.  Turn those words into self-talk, self-advice. Read the Sermon on the Mount every day for a week.  Let it speak to you all the time.  Resolve to put each ideal into practice, as far as you can.
  •  Forgive every person who has done you wrong. Do it now.  Jesus counselled this on numerous occasions, and even enforced His words with the statement that you must forgive up to "70 times 7" (or 77 times, as the NIV has it). His point was that forgiveness is continual. It can never be ignored, and we must always be ready to do it.  Failure to forgive keeps you a prisoner of the person whom you don't forgive, and in a telling illustration, Jesus talks about turning the person who won't forgive "over to the torturers." Those who do not forgive are tortured souls, and the person whom they leave unforgiven is their jailer.  Once you do forgive, you free yourself to live the new year as God intended.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Fears...

Some years ago, I sat across from a good friend of mine, a woman, whom I'll call Jane. She had gone to church her entire life, and was now with our church.  She was suffering from terminal cancer, and she was terrified to die.
She confided in me that even though she had gone to church her whole life, she had terrible doubts about going to heaven.  Would she?  What would happen when she died? Was she going to enter into heaven, or judgment?
Her prior church experience had been with a "fire and brimstone" type of preaching that left her very uncertain as to her destiny.
I could have said, "Of course you're going to heaven!" and dismissed her questions.  I could have said, "Nobody knows if they are going or not.  I don't know."
Instead I said (to myself), "What is wrong with this picture? I know I'm going to heaven, and I'm certainly not as good a person as she is."  I puzzled over her statement for a very brief moment, and then I said,
"Jane, if I could explain how to know certainly that you ARE going to heaven, would that help?"
She responded, "Yes!" So I proceeded to tell her how to actually believe in Jesus for herself, and receive Him as her Lord and Savior.  Now, I know all the theology, but it didn't help here.  What helped was me guiding her into an actual relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Once I was done with my brief explanation (she actually knew everything intellectually), I asked her if she would like to pray, and receive Christ as her Lord and Savior.  Once again, she answered "YES!" eagerly.  So we prayed.
It was a brief moment in time.  I was doing pastoral visitation.  I had NO inkling that she didn't have any assurance of what would happen to her when she died.  This was not a time where I put another name in my "conversion book;" it was a day when Jane really got the understanding and assurance that belief in Christ is an event that carried her forward into eternity, and eliminated the judgment she feared so much. She told me later, when she was in the hospital for the last time, "I'm not afraid anymore." There is so much fear of dying.  It's the unknown, the fear that God will reject us at the final hour, the fear of judgment, the memory of all the things we've done wrong...
I also think there are lots of people like this--they "know," but they aren't sure for themselves.  I've met many of them. Some have been friends for quite a while before they confided in me, for you see, it's kind of an admission of failure not to understand what to do to believe in Jesus, or why you feel so afraid and everyone else seems "OK," and you go through life thinking that you are really different than all those Christians who sing songs like "Blessed Assurance," and "My Faith has Found a Resting Place," and "More Secure is No one Ever..."
If this is you (and please forgive me for being so direct), there is good news.  You have no reason to fear any longer.  Here is what to do. If you understand the message of Christ (He came to earth, died for your sins according to the Scriptures, and rose again the third day), all you need do is say to Him directly, "I want to be Yours, Lord.  I invite you into my life forever.  I want to follow you." It is that simple, and you can do that anywhere, any time. You don't have to be in a special place, or with a special person.  Alone is fine.  On the other hand, if you've not ever heard this teaching before, and you want more information or instruction, you are welcome to write. I will help you however I can. Questions are fine as well, and there is no stupid question, unless it's not sincere.
Remember:  Jesus came so that we might HAVE LIFE, and have it to the full; He came so that everyone who believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.
He did NOT come to make you uncertain, or to fill you with fear, or to deprive you of life, or to judge you.  He came to give you eternal life. That was, and is, His purpose.
It's yours if you want it.