Shine On!!

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3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. — 2 Cor. 4:3-7 NIV

When we allow God to use us as His witnesses, we may not see the results of our labors immediately.  It has been determined that it takes more than 7 “touches”  or exposures to the Good News for a person to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.  Our God desires that everyone should be saved, but the “god of this age”, satan, has blinded many to the truth of the Gospel. ​They cannot see the Light because they are focused on the pleasures of this world and the desires of the flesh. Their refusal to see the Light does not alleviate us of the responsibility of being the Light of Jesus Christ shining in a world of darkness.  We have this Light of the knowledge of God’s glory shining in our hearts. God has placed His treasure, this knowledge of Him, in the hearts of human beings. These jars of clay are weak and decaying but the Light shining forth from them displays the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This power is from God and not from us.  That is why God has made us responsible for shining, but He has kept the responsibility for dispelling the darkness. We can be assured that if we do our part, He will faithfully do His part and souls will be added to the Kingdom.
 
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. — Isaiah 55:9-11 NIV
Post 09-21-2015

Living In Glass Houses

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1 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. — 2 Cor. 4:1​, 2  ​NIV

When we hear the word minister or ministry, we tend to think of pastors. evangelists, missionaries and offices of that sort.  But, God has given each of us a ministry. Each one of us has been called to service by God. Our mission field is where we live, work or go to school.  Our congregations are our families, neighbors, fellow workers and/or fellow students. Just as surely as a pastor is responsible to proclaim the message of Jesus Christ and His resurrection to his congregation, we are to do the same for those God has placed in our circle of influence. Just as surely as a pastor should pray for those in his congregation, we are responsible to pray for those around us. Just as surely as a church staff should minister to the needs of the congregation, we should minister to the needs of those God has put in our “congregations”. Whether those needs be spiritual, emotional, physical or financial, we have a responsibility to use the resources God has given us to comfort others.   

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.– 2 Cor. 1:3, 4 NIV

​Our lifestyles should reflect the truth that we are letters sent from Christ written on hearts of flesh by the Holy Spirit and read by everyone who knows us.
2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. — 2 Cor. 3:1, 2 NIV
We should use every ministry opportunity to contend for the faith that has been entrusted to us by God Himself.​
3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.– Jude 3 NIV
Post 09-19-2015

Spiritual Exercise Brings Transformation

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14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. — 2 Cor. 3:14​-18 NIV

Even though ​the veil was rent when Jesus died on the cross, there are those who who will hear the news and not accept it as truth.  Whether they claim to believe the law or not, their refusal of the offer of salvation leaves them under the law. Therefore, when the Old Testament is read, a veil covers their heart. They hear but they refuse to understand.  The veil is not removed from our eyes and hearts until we accept Jesus as our Savior. The law and the veil keep us in bondage and lead to death.  When we accept Jesus as our Savior, the veil is removed and the Holy Spirit comes to abide in us giving us freedom and life. At that moment, we are saved from the wrath of God and eternal punishment.  But, God wants us to have more than just salvation, He wants us to understand that now we are being sanctified or set apart for His service and for His glory. He wants us to get to know Him, to have a relationship with Him and participate in the abundant life. For that to happen, we must spend time contemplating and meditating on His Word. As we spend time with God, the Holy Spirit is transforming us into the image of God. 

2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. — 1 John 3:2, 3 NIV

Post 09-18-2015

A Touchable Savior

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7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! — 2 Cor. 3:7-11 NIV

​When ​God called Moses to Mt. Sinai to give him the commandments, He had Moses tell the Israelites that they could not come near or touch the mountain.  Anyone who did so would be put to death. The whole mountain was covered with a thick cloud as God descended to the top of the mountain to speak with Moses. God and His glory were covered with the cloud so that Moses could not see God.  It was, as though, God spoke to him through a veil.  This veil protected Moses because no one could see the face of God and live. It was a foreshadowing of the veil that covered the Most Holy Place in the temple.  So the law and the commandments came with the glory of God. Under sentence of death, the people could not touch the mountain so they could not approach God directly.  When Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple was torn apart from top to bottom. The resurrection of Jesus ushered in righteousness and grace.  When He ascended to heaven, He was restored to His position with all of its glory for eternity. We no longer need a Moses or a priest to approach God for us, we are invited to come before the throne of God in all its glory and make known our requests. It is our privilege and our ministry to bring the Living Word that came with surpassing, eternal glory to a lost and dying world. 

15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. — Hebrews 4:15, 16 ​KJ​V

Post 09-17-2015

You Can Tell By the Smell

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4 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? — 2 Cor. 2:14-16 NI​V

In the first century, when a king or leader had conquered a new territory, he would bring the captives back to his country and parade them down “main street’.  This was to show his subjects how powerful he was and to receive their worship and praise.  It also reminded them of what could happen if they ever decided to be disloyal to the king.  These were unwilling captives. Paul is giving thanks to God that we are led in this triumphal procession as willing captives.  We are captives and bondservants because we have chosen Jesus as our Savior and King.  Now, it is time for each of us “to spread the​ aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere”.  That Word will be good news to some because they will receive the Word with gladness of heart, accept Jesus and receive the gift of forgiveness and eternal life.  It will be a stench in the nostrils of those who refuse to accept our God as the only true and living God and Jesus as their Savior and King. That rejection will lead to death and eternal punishment.  Just as Paul felt inadequate to do that job, so should we. As he says, “who is equal to such a task?”  None of us can do this work alone, It must be Spirit-led and Spirit-fed.  As Paul also explains, “I can do all things through Jesus Christ”.  And so can we do all things through Jesus.  It is His plan, His purpose and it is accomplished by His power, not ours. We are to be faithful and follow His example.
1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. — Eph. 5:1 NIV

We are to offer our lives as a sacrifice and a fragrant offering to God. Just as bees are drawn to honey, others are drawn to Jesus by people who live sacrificial lives. 
Do our lifestyles​ release a sweet smelling aroma of life or a stench of death?
Post 09-16-2015

No Bitter Root

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5 If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. 6 The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. 7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 9 Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10 Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. — 2 Cor. 2:5-11 NIV

It appears that someone in the church at Corinth had done something that was deserving of discipline by the church body. Whatever the action was, it had caused a great deal of grief in the church.  Paul is writing to tell them that the discipline has been sufficient and now it it time for the church to move on and let the healing begin.  The church now needs to restore that one to their fellowship and reaffirm their love for him or he could be completely overwhelmed. In every family, whether it be our church or our physical family, there are disagreements, some severe enough to be deserving of corrective action.  But once that action has been taken, it is time to restore and reaffirm our love for each other.  
1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. — Galatians 6:1 NIV

The restoration is not a favor to the perpetrator, but a necessary step in the forgiving process that brings glory to God.  True forgiveness releases all anger and resentment against that person and allows us to enjoy the freedom we have in God’s forgiveness of our sins.  It also defeats satan’s schemes since it will keep us from allowing a root of bitterness to grow in us, which will steal our joy.
 14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many– Hebrews 12:14, 15 NIV
Post 09-14-2015

Christ is the Amen

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19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy—was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” 20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. 21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. — 2 Cor.1:19-22 NIV

​There are testimonies upon testimonies of God’s faithfulness​, not just in the Bible, but in the lives of Christians since the first century until today.  I am constantly amazed when reading the personal testimonies of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted, imprisoned and questioned by the authorities on a daily basis.  They tell story after story of how God strengthens them and comes to their rescue.  We have all of these testimonies plus the stories of modern day miracles with which God still so richly blesses us.  Then, of course, each of us have our own stories of how God saved us from eternal punishment and condemnation, the miracle of resurrection power. We can look back over our own lives and see how the hand of God has delivered us from bad situations and even saved us from physical death. If we don’t see any, perhaps, we are looking for what we consider to be “big” things.  Every good thing that happens to us is a fulfillment of the promises of God. The fact that we are alive today is a gift from God. 

16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. — James 1:16-17 NIV

He has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us and He has kept that promise. Because He put His Spirit in our hearts, we can never go anywhere without Him. We are constantly surrounded by angels who watch over us and protect us. 

16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. — 2 Kings 6:16, 17 NIV

We thank you, Lord, for your faithfulness and your mercies which are new every morning!​
Post 09-14-2015

Whether By Life or By Death

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8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. — 2 Cor. 1:8-11 NIV

When we read these verses​, we need to consider our brothers and sisters who live in places where persecution and imprisonment are still common practice today.  They need our prayers and our encouragement on a daily basis.  There are numerous testimonies from these Christians about being able to endure their harsh treatment because they received cards and/or knew that other Christians were praying for them daily.  They, as Paul, have learned to rely on God to deliver them from deadly perils.  Until recently we, in the free world, have not been subject to such unfair and brutal treatment.  That time has passed and we are being tested here in America, as well as other so called free countries. Christians are being ridiculed, beaten to death and imprisoned for refusing to deny their faith and their beliefs.  We need to pray and encourage each other daily.  Our hope is still in Jesus Christ.  He is our Redeemer, our Savior and our Lord. There is no other God that is capable of loving their followers and delivering them from every situation. We need to understand that some times that deliverance includes physical death. But we need to count it all joy and say along with Paul:

20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. — Phil. 1:20, 21 NIV

Post 09-13-2015

Three Strands Are Better

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3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings,so also you share in our comfort. — 2 Cor. 1:3-7 NIV

​Everything​ that we have belongs to God. Whatever He has given to us is to be shared with those around us. The things with which God has blessed us should be held very loosely in our hands. They are to be used to bless others and further the work of the Kingdom here on earth. The early church understood and practiced this principle of giving and receiving. There are many verses that teach us to give to the poor, widows and orphans.  We must open ourselves up to be channels of blessings. This is also true in Spiritual things as well as natural.  In the Spiritual area, we don’t do quite as well in giving or receiving.  God has given us the Comforter to comfort us in all situations and we need to learn to share that message with a hurting world.  But, we also need to learn to accept that comfort when it is offered to us. Every one of us needs help in some area of our lives whether we want to admit it or not.  As long as we deny it, the pain and the chaos will not go away. None of us can fix ourselves, even though, satan would love for us to believe that we can. Reach out and touch someone was a Biblical principle long before it was a commercial. 

9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. — Eccles. 4:9-12 NIV

Post 09-12-2015

It’s A Buffet – Eat All You Want!

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16 Come and hear, all you who fear God;
let me tell you what he has done for me.
17 I cried out to him with my mouth;
his praise was on my tongue.
18 If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened;
19 but God has surely listened
and has heard my prayer.
20 Praise be to God,
who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld his love from me! — Psalm 66:16-20 NIV​

There are thousands of books written in an attempt to make us feel better about ourselves. Do this and get rich, do this and influence people, do this and look better. Money, power and good looks do not come ​with bags of joy that can be opened at any time we need to feel good. ​All of these things are external and have nothing to do with the real problems of today.
​T​he changes we need are from the inside out. ​It isn’t our natural diet that makes us who we are, contrary to what we have been told, we are not what we eat. The diet that determines whether we will be full of peace and joy is our Spiritual diet. Be filled with the Holy Spirit! The third person of the Trinity really is a person. He abides inside us to give us all the peace, joy and hope we need or desire. He knows our every need and is waiting patiently to give it to each of us. He weeps with us and when our hearts are broken, so is His. He feels the pain that we feel and He wants to restore our joy and hope when we are down and out. We need to learn to praise God and tell others what He has done for us. While we are praising Him, we will find that our joy will start to flow out from us to those around us. Praise and pray! God hears the praises and the prayers. He will not reject our prayers or withdraw His love from us. Eat your fill of Spiritual food each day, it is non-fattening, fulfilling and it purges us, pushing out all the sadness, worry and fears. Start with a taste and soon you will find that it takes a lot of Spiritual goodness to keep you satisfied!

8 Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. —​Psalm 34:8

Post 09-11-2015