In the Old Testament, God gave the children of Israel a choice between life or death based on their obedience to the law and the Commandments. Disobedience would lead to death and disaster while obedience would lead to life and prosperity. He gave them this choice just before they crossed the Jordan into Canaan. They were to leave the old and enter into the new.
He gives us the same choice in the New Testament. Only now it is based on our acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. Once we have accepted Jesus, we are no longer slaves to our carnal, sinful nature. We are free to choose to live a life that is given to us through the power of God’s Spirit abiding in us. Therefore, we need to “put off” our old deceitful desires and live a new lifestyle that is Holy and pleasing to God. Then we will have life, and not just life, but eternal life in Christ Jesus.
4 Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? — Romans 2:4 NLT
We live in a society that bombards us 24/7 with messages of self-indulgence and “me first” attitudes. We were born in sin and satan wants us to continue that sinful lifestyle. But from birth, there is a part of us that yearns for something that the world can’t satisfy. No matter, how far we go down that path of sin, there is no satisfaction and no peace. God is patient with us giving us opportunity after opportunity to change our lifestyles and accept His forgiveness. He knows that is the only answer to the emptiness that we feel inside. He showed that kindness and love to us by giving His Son to die for our sins. Once we have accepted His free salvation, we begin our journey with Him. The trip requires changes as we travel along. If we continue to focus on our wants, we will never be able to walk the path God has chosen for us. The pain comes in giving up our wants and desires so that we can find true life. It is only when we realize that loving Jesus is worth all the pain that we will be filled with peace and joy even in the middle of chaos and violence. That is His plan for us.
Oftentimes, when we have sinned, whether intentionally or unintentionally, satan uses that as a spiritual weapon against us. He tells us how unworthy we are and from a human viewpoint, he is correct. But we should never let satan’s lies defeat us. God does not see us as unworthy. In fact, God sees us as worthy because His Son paid the price for our redemption. Without the blood of Jesus, we are just as unworthy now as we were before Jesus died for us. But the Trinity determined before the foundations of the earth that Jesus would die for God’s enemies. It is not a question of our worth, because we are not saved by our worth or works. It is a statement of the worth of Christ Jesus, our Savior and Lord, God will never leave us nor forsake us because that would be saying that Jesus did not complete His work at the Cross. When Jesus said “it is finished”, it was finished, satan was and is defeated and satan can’t change that. So, like the wounded lion he is, satan goes about roaring lies and accusing Christians. But we should feel no condemnation and we should have no fear, because the battle is not ours, it is the Lord’s! Hallelujah!!
Have you ever had those times when you didn’t “feel” saved? I certainly have. But we have to remember that salvation isn’t about feelings, it is about a decision. Sometimes those feelings cause us to feel separated from God. When we realize that we have sinned, we do feel alone and far from God just as David in this Psalm. Our reaction needs to be the same as David’s. We need to ask God to make us pure and loyal to Him so that we can hear those sounds of joy again. Ask God for His forgiveness and He is always ready to restore us. Some people have the idea that God is just looking for reasons to punish them, nothing could be further from the truth, It is His joy to restore us and bless us. We, as human parents, want our kids to have everything they need and be happy and joyful. God loves us and our children much more than we can ever imagine. He is faithful to forgive and His mercies are new every morning. God promises us in Romans 8:37-39 that “nothing can separate us from the love of God”. Nothing means no thing, no person, no creature in heaven or on earth. So, if something is bothering you, just practice the three Rs–Repent, Relax, Rejoice!
We have no strength of our own to accomplish the work God has called us to do. Just as God instructed Joshua to obey all the instructions Moses had given to him and to not deviate from them, so we must follow the instructions God gives us through the guidance of His Holy Spirit. This guidance comes to us after we have studied the Bible and while we are meditating on it. Meditation is more than having a passing thought, it is deeper and requires us to focus on what God’s Spirit is saying. It is concentrating so totally that our bodies are almost groaning and moaning. Not with complaint or pain but with intensity. The Bible is the only book that we can read and the author will speak to us. With God, all the things that He has ordained are possible, so be strong and courageous. Speak with love, wisdom and boldness. We are never alone, God is with us wherever we go.
11 You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, 12 that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!
— Psalm 30:11-12 NLT
Starting today, the 2nd day of Christmas, let us continue to celebrate the birth of our Savior and Lord by committing to sing His praises, read His Word and worship Him daily. This Psalm was not written about the birth of Jesus but it certainly applies to it. His coming gave the world hope and accepting Him as our Savior should turn our mourning into joyful dancing. We are filled with His Spirit and clothed in His righteousness. Our tongues should never be silent when it comes to singing praises to our God. Nor should they be silent when we have opportunities to witness to those that are lost. Living a lifestyle of joy and thankfulness will attract others to Jesus and give us even more reason to continue to praise and glorify our God.
All the things had happened just as Gabriel had told Mary. Having never known a man, she conceived a child fathered by the Holy Spirit. A fleshly Mother and a Spiritual Father, so it was that He became fully man and fully God in the flesh. Just as God had promised hundreds of years earlier, He sent a Redeemer to save us who would also one day reign as our King. He had to live as a human to experience all the temptations we experience and never fail the test. He had to choose and mentor men to carry on His message to a lost world. Through the Holy Spirit, He is still choosing and mentoring people to carry that message to their families, neighbors, friends and people around the world. Today, on the day that we celebrate as His birthday, let each of us give Him the only thing we can give to our King. Our souls and our commitment to accept the plan He has for each of us. Then it will truly be “Joy to the World, the King has come.”
May each of you have a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” -Anonymous
31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. — Luke 1:31 NLT
To anyone who knows anything about the Bible this is a very familiar story. The angel of the Lord appears to a young girl named Mary and prophesies to her that even though she is a virgin she will give birth to a son without ever having sexual relations with a man. Not even considering the legal and social ramifications, this is an amazing announcement. How is this young girl to understand this? She is being told by an angel (which I understand could be quite a frightening sight) that something that has never been known to happen before and will never happen again is about to happen to her. We can’t know what experiences or situations she had been through before but somehow God had chosen her and prepared her for this occasion. Mary trusted God to do exactly what Gabriel said. When God speaks to us, whether it be through an angel, His Word, His people, a dream or a vision, do we have the faith to take Him at His Word and act on it? Even if that action could result in us being put in a situation where we could very easily be ridiculed and cast out? Or do we say this can’t possibly be God and He can’t possibly be asking me to do this? God needs those that are willing to be world-changers no matter the cost here on earth. He has a plan for each of us and He is asking us to participate in His work, Are willing and ready to do so? If we are and we say yes, God will take provide the ability and the resources. Do we trust Him to do that?
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” -Anonymous
Jesus gave His disciples (that includes us) a direct command: Love one another. If we look at our attitudes and lifestyles, it sometimes appears that we think we have a choice in the matter, we don’t! We can’t choose to show love for just one season each year, it is a 24/7/365 proposition. Jesus tells us that, as Christians, we are no longer slaves to our fleshly desires. We are free to make a choice. Jesus chose us and if we respond to that call and choose Him, then we are His friends. If we are His friends then we follow His commands out of our love for Him, not because we are commanded. That love requires us to go and produce fruit with the same power and authority that Jesus used. We have access to that power when we speak the name of Jesus. The question we need to ask ourselves and other Christians is not “How are you doing?”. The question that Jesus would ask and the question we should be asking is this: “Am I being fruitful?”.
Living out the love of God in our lives effectively requires us to spend time in prayer. There are times when we know that we need to pray but we just don’t quite know how to approach God about it. Just start a simple prayer and we find that suddenly we are praying about someone or something that we had not planned. There are times when we may be so compassionate about something that we just run out of words to pray. Just remain quietly in the attitude of prayer and God’s Holy Spirit will search your heart and communicate the words to God. While all this is going on, remember that we have an advocate (Jesus) with the Father who is also praying for us. Our simple prayers become effective prayers because the Trinity is praying with us and for us, separately and in unity. This should cause us to pray believing that God will answer us in his own time. Because we believe He will answer we should always include praise and thanksgiving in our prayers. We can never thank him enough or too often for sending His Son Jesus to redeem us from our sins