Have You Received Your Gift?

This weekend we celebrate the most important events of the Christian faith –  The death of Jesus on the cross and His triumphant resurrection from that death three days later.  This was God’s plan of salvation – His plan to bring His people back into a relationship with Him that is unhindered and completely free.  No more offerings, no more sacrifices, no veil in between God and his people.  Every barrier between God and us was obliterated away and Jesus, as he endured the horrors of the cross, received unto Himself what should have been ours. What a price He paid for our redemption.  God’s plan of salvation was almost complete.  Oh, God’s part and Jesus’ part was complete.  But salvation is a gift and like all gifts , before it becomes yours you must accept it.  So our prayer for this Resurrection Sunday is that you have received this wonderful gift of salvation that Jesus so freely gives for you.  The one who died for you is King!

10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”  Luke 19:10 (NLT)

9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.   10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.  Romans 10:9-10 (NLT)

5 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. Isaiah 53:5 (NLT)

Perfect Peace Is Possible!

Here are a few phrases for you to think about whether they have ever come out of your mouth:  “He made me so mad!”  “Now that’s one more thing I have to worry about!”  “That really makes me upset!”   Well, how did you do?  Have any of these words been uttered through your lips?  Most likely, your answer is yes on all three counts.  However, can things or even people really “make” us mad or “make” us worry or “make” us upset?  Or do we allow it?  Jesus told us in John 14:1 not to “let” our hearts be troubled.  And we know He wouldn’t ask us to do something that was impossible.  He says it again in John 14:27.  What is even more telling is that Jesus even warns us we will have trouble in John 16:33!  Just because we are Christians, that doesn’t make us immune to trouble.  Jesus is our victor, our peace giver, our overcomer  – He’s our everything.  So if our hearts are troubled it is because we are focusing on the problem and not the answer.  Guard your heart!  And you do it by trusting in and only in God!  He’s the only source of PERFECT peace!

 “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” John 14:1 (NLT)

 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27 (NLT)

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33 (NLT)

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”  Isaiah 26:3 (NLT)

Let God Plan Your Day

Most of us would like to think that we have everything under control.  Everything, of course, being our lives and all that affect it.  People often feel most secure when everything is not only planned but goes according to that plan.  When things that are out of our control rise up to interrupt our plan, we get frustrated, anxious or even panicky.  This is the exact reason we should come to the realization that God’s plan for us is far better than ours. Nothing happens that is not already foreseen in His world.   If we settle within ourselves that our lives are His and we surrender to His direction, it takes so much of the pressure off when things don’t seem to go according to plan.  Because God knew ahead of time about that obstacle in our path.  He is not only the light that shines on our path, but He is also the mountain mover.  Don’t attempt another day according to your own plans.  Each morning, thank God for His plan for your day and surrender to it and He will either redirect you around your mountain or He will remove it! 

9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9 (NLT)

105 Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105 (NLT)

20 “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” Matthew 17:20 (NLT)

For Forgiveness’ Sake!

“Father, forgive them…”!  These were words that Jesus prayed to the Father while hanging from the cross, as His blood ran down from the holes in His hands and feet made by the nails that pierced them holding Him to that tree.  “Father, forgive them..” were the words Jesus spoke after being scourged, whipped and beaten and spat upon and mocked and blasphemed. “Father, forgive them…” were the words Jesus spoke after his beard was ripped from his face and a crown of thorns was smashed into his skull. The horrors Jesus endured and He was still able to ask for the forgiveness of his offenders.   What has anyone ever done to us that could even begin to compare to what Jesus endured.  In comparison, our offenses seem pretty insignificant.  Forgiveness!  It is a powerful thing.  It is the key to complete freedom for both the offender and the offended.  Hardness, bitterness and unforgiveness are like prisons that keep us bound.  And forgiveness is the key that frees us!

34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. Luke 23:34 (NLT)

28 for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.  Matthew 26:28 (NLT)

Half Full or Half Empty?

Why is it some people see a glass half empty and others see it half full?  Some people hear ideas and their mind immediately begins to think of reasons why that idea won’t work while others celebrate what they hear. Right about now you might be putting yourself in one of these two categories. The world may call it pessimism vs. optimism.  But for the believer, it really boils down to how much faith you have. But not the faith you have in yourself or even in other people, but your faith in God to come along side you and see you through.  The twelve spies Moses sent out to explore the land of Canaan, the land, by the way, that God said He was giving to them, all saw and witnessed the same things. Yet, two of them came back with a report completely different from the other ten.  Were Joshua and Caleb just being optimistic?  Did they always look on the sunny side of things?  Or did it have more to do with the fact that they knew what God had said (He was giving them the land) and they knew their God was a faithful God and it didn’t matter how big the obstacles were.  Joshua and Caleb were the only ones in that generation to see the promised land because they believed the promise!
11 ‘Of all those I rescued from Egypt, no one who is twenty years old or older will ever see the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for they have not obeyed me wholeheartedly.  12 The only exceptions are Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they have wholeheartedly followed the LORD.’ Numbers 32:11-12 (NLT)

True Friendship

True friendship is a very difficult thing to find in this world.  Many people are out to get for themselves.  But a true friend wants the very best for his/her friends.  They will let you in on every good thing they hear.  And in true friendship there is the ability to share feelings and thoughts with another while still feeling safe and protected and accepted.  Pretense does not exist there.  You can allow your best friend to see you during your best times and your worst times and you know they still love you.  Children often speak about their best friend.  But as we become  adults, when our lives get more complicated and busier, best friends are not as frequently found.  It is comforting to know when you have someone in your life that you can consider a best friend, but if you cannot, there is one who surpasses all the qualities that any best friend could ever possess.  Jesus not only knows every single thought that runs through your mind and knows every intimate detail of your life, He has shared His all – His knowledge from the Father and His life.   Best friends come and go, but Jesus is yours forever.

13 This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. 14 You are my friends when you do the things I command you. 15 I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.  John 15:13-15 (MSG)

“Why”

 

This week we look at the age old question “Why do bad things happen?”  On February 28th, our home town of Ottawa, Illinois and a tiny adjacent village of Naplate were struck by an estimated three tornadoes.  Hundreds of people lost either homes or property and it claimed 2 lives.  Footage of the horrifying results of those storms is heartbreaking.  And amid the tears and sorrow I would image the most often asked question of those so deeply affected is “Why?”  But if there is an answer to that question, would it make it any easier to bear?  On the bright side (if there is a bright side), one thing you almost always see happen when such widespread devastation occurs as it did in Ottawa and Naplate, is that it brings people closer together.  Suddenly the differences among everyone seem pretty insignificant and a common, heartfelt compassion, concern and love emerges that spreads throughout the community.  If there’s one who can’t go on, then there is a neighbor or friend who bears them up to face another day.  The heart of a community begins to beat stronger and harder to supply those in need with the knowledge they are not alone is this.  And, though, the question of why may never be settled, we ask that you please keep these two towns in your prayers as the coming days will be difficult.  Pray for strength, comfort and God’s peace to fill them and for favor and provision in meeting all their physical and material needs. 

7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:7 (NLT)

28
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.  Romans 8:28 (NLT)

2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 (NLT)

Is Love a Feeling?

One of the most challenging portions of scripture in  the Bible is found in the first three verses of the 13th chapter of I Corinthians.  Here we find instruction that tells us that no matter what kind of great things we might do in life, if behind it all we do not love people, we gain absolutely nothing.  Paul mentions specifically that even if we move in spiritual gifts, without love there is no benefit.  Loving people is not always easy to do and we might not want to admit it, but we ourselves may not always be so lovable.  But love is better defined as an action rather than an emotion.  Paul then continues to teach on ways that love is expressed and each is an action:  being patient, being kind, not being jealous, not bragging or being arrogant and so on.  We confuse loving someone with how we “feel” about them instead of how we act towards them.   But where feelings come into play is in the way you make others feel.  People will always remember how you’ve made them feel.  The giver of love shows it while the recipient of love experiences it.  And as you develop your relationship with God, it gets easier! People will know you by your love!

1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NLT)

35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 (NKJV)

Fool Me Twice!

The story of Samson and Delilah is probably one of the most intriguing stories in the Bible.  There is ample material here from which a preacher could pick from to build a sermon. But one thing that has always confused or maybe amused people is how Samson could be so stupid.  “If you really loved me….” is the oldest line in the book.  Delilah’s challenge, for which she would be well paid, was to find out the key to Samson’s super-human strength.  So she used her feminine wiles on him.  “How can you tell me you love me if you keep secrets from me?”  Another classic line!   Did Samson (who, as a reminder, was a judge and ruler over the Hebrew people so one would infer had a brain) ever stop to wonder why she keeps tying him up with the very things he told her would deplete his strength and why then would  the Philistines just happen to drop by?  Samson had earlier been through a similar situation with his first wife when she used almost identical lines to obtain the answer to a riddle.  The Bible tells us that both Delilah and his first wife pestered and pestered Samson until he could take it no longer.  He gave in and thus betrayed a vow that he made to God.  Samson’s strength would remain as long as he kept his vow to God and now the vow was broken. We all have our weaknesses.  And it seems the enemy always knows what they are.  And he exploits them.  It’s important to know your strengths, but it may be more important to know your weaknesses and be on guard for those who would exploit them.  It may not be scripture, but this saying is good to remember – “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”!

 
15 Then Delilah pouted, “How can you tell me, ‘I love you,’ when you don’t share your secrets with me? You’ve made fun of me three times now, and you still haven’t told me what makes you so strong!” 16 She tormented him with her nagging day after day until he was sick to death of it. 17 Finally, Samson shared his secret with her. “My hair has never been cut,” he confessed, “for I was dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as anyone else.” Judges 16:15-17 (NLT)

Blessed Are The Meek

As the children’s Sunday School teacher, I often call upon the kids to help with object lessons. This particular lesson required 2 helpers. So I chose one girl and I asked her to choose the other helper. This girl had two good friends in the class and they both stood up, waving their hands and loudly shouting “Pick me, pick me!” As the teacher, I wondered to myself how she was going to choose between these two girls. And to my surprise, she didn’t choose either of them! She chose another girl who was sitting rather quietly probably thinking she didn’t have a hope of being chosen over these other girls. Needless to say, this girl was rather surprised and I was very pleased. Sometimes you may feel like you might be God’s last choice for a task. You feel like maybe others are more qualified, more deserving, or even more bold and thus are more suited for God’s purpose so why would God choose you? God takes notice of a mild, gentle, meek spirit. A humble meek spirit is a teachable spirit. It is a precious thing to the Lord!

4 You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. 1 Peter 3:4 (NLT)

5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5 (NIV)

9 He leads the humble in doing right, teaching them his way. Psalm 25:9 (NLT)