Pastoral Resources

Sunday Bulletin Inserts

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Safe in the Arms of Christ

The issue of eternal security is one in which professing Christians hold a wide variety of viewpoints. Some say that salvation is something we can get and then give away by wrong behavior and then get yet again if we turn back to Christ. Another viewpoint suggests that we cannot ever know for sure if we are saved or not because this is a mystery of the Scripture that cannot be solved. Others believe that once saved, always saved. Which viewpoint is correct? Can we answer this question from the Scripture or is Scripture silent on the issue? Does it even matter? May I make the assertion that all of Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness to make the believer fully equipped and ready and able to do the good works we are called to do (. Since Scripture says of itself that we are not to discount portions of it as if certain issues are peripheral or nonessential, we must be willing to explore and investigate prayerfully and by faith even the passages that create division and controversy in the church. A whole new generation of professing believers is rising up that doesn't think it is worth their time to dig into doctrine. They are satisfied simply to 'love one another' and 'love God.' Certainly those are good things since God is love, but Jesus is also the truth. The truth sets us free, Jesus said, and He also said that His Word is truth ( and that He Himself was the truth (. So truth matters to the utmost extent according to Jesus, and He would be disappointed with us if we were to neglect the truth He has given us in His Word. As the body of Christ, we cannot brush aside the issues for the sake of 'community' and 'harmony' in the body. Rather, we must humbly and with grace toward one another patiently and steadfastly search the Scriptures. I grant that there will be disagreement, some of it quite passionate, when issues such as eternal security are brought up. Well, may I suggest to you that apathetically 'agreeing to disagree' is a far worse decision than humbly and graciously seeking out the truth together? Doctrine both divides and unifies; therefore, right doctrine is the only means to bringing true unity (. When we start compromising on the importance of the whole counsel of God, our teaching will become mere 'ear-tickling' and the entire church will suffer and grow weak and vulnerable to the deceptions of the world (. So here is the truth that I believe is what we must seek and believe.

Eternal security is a theological term for a concept derived from the Scripture. Others have referred to it as the perseverance of the saints. I grant that both terms have their shortcomings. Eternal security seems to imply that once we are saved, it doesn't matter how we live because we have a 'get out of hell free card' in our back pocket. The terminology itself seems to open the door to sinning such that grace may abound, which Scripture emphatically prohibits (. The perseverance of the saints seems to imply that Christians will never make shipwreck of their faith, will never go the wrong way for a time, and will just always have it together, which is just not necessarily true according to the Bible (1Timothy 1:19,. So when searching out the Scripture on this very important issue, we must understand that God cares how we live in this life and that those who are truly saved, though they may rebel at times, are those who have been made new in Christ ( and who are led by Him (. A professing Christian who has little if any desire for obedience or for the glory of God definitely needs to be introspective as to the true state of his heart. There is a reason that Scripture says that we will be known by our fruit or the lack thereof (.

Some argue that if we are safe in Christ that there is no incentive to be holy. These miss the idea that Christ changes hearts to be compelled, even controlled, by love (. The Spirit of God makes us want to be holy, and we experience sorrow when we sin (. The true Christian does not delight in evil, but the kindness of God keeps moving Him to repent as He sees how God's ways are the best ways and more desirable (. It is also important to remember that how we live in this life impacts how we will be rewarded in eternity (2Corinthians 5:10,. Thus, there is both an internal and external motivator for holiness.

I believe the Scripture when it speaks of the Holy Spirit being a guarantor of our salvation (. I believe the Scripture when it speaks of Christ being the author and finisher of our faith (. I believe God when He says that Christ will finish the good work He started in our hearts (. I believe that nothing can snatch us out of the hand of Christ (. I believe that God is able to keep His own (, and I believe that nothing can separate us from the love of God (. . If such love doesn't motivate us to holiness, nothing will.

Saint Paddy's Day

Erin go bragh! And a good St. Patrick's Day to you. Today people all around the world will be celebrating a holiday which means absolutely nothing to them other than it's a holiday on which they wear green and pinch those who don't. Please don't be so quick to pinch this year. There are some things you might wish to know before you start leaving small bruises on each others skin.

First of all, Saint Patrick's Day is in honor of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of my homeland, Ireland. It is also a very religious time for those folks there. Even the Protestants honor Saint Patrick. The day is celebrated on the anniversary of Saint Patrick's death in the fifth century. Yes, you saw that right. The fifth century as in the 400s A.D.

Since it traditionally falls during lent the rules for lent were waived by the church for the Irish so that they might drink, dance and feast in their homes. That's right. In their homes. The pubs were not allowed to be opened with the celebration being a religious event. However, in 1995, in hopes of increasing tourism in Ireland, the pubs were allowed to reopen in order to give tourists a shot at the celebration. The meal that is celebrated on this honored Irish holiday is bacon and cabbage, about as Irish as can be.

That's the point. This is an Irish celebration. And one that is closely tied to the Catholic Church. So unless you're Irish and Catholic your entitlements on this day are few. You can celebrate and wear the green but leave the pinchin' to them what's got proper rights. And remember, it is a religious holiday in the memory of the great savior of Ireland, her patron saint.

Which reminds me of something else. Many of you get a holiday each week. Sunday. Most plants shut down as do many other businesses. Will you celebrate this holiday in the fashion that was intended? Historically it was done for people to have the opportunity to worship the God that allowed America to be founded. So please, "Do not forsake the assembling of ourselves together as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as we see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:25 Go to church Sunday and honor God who has blessed this great earth.

Sanctify vs Justify

God justifies a person on their faith alone. We see this all through the Old Testament as evidenced in . We know this because believing God was a prerequisite for the Children of Israel to enter the Promised Land. (Let us not mistake why Moses did not enter. The only reason Moses did not enter was because of his disobedience and his ruining the Spiritual example God had determined by Moses speaking to the rock for water to spring forth rather than striking the rock.)

Sanctification is not the same thing as justification. And justification is not cleansing. Sanctification is a process. Justification is something that happens in an instant and is permanent.

with the washing of water by the word, in a moral sense
1b 1) to free from defilement of sin and from faults
1b 2) to purify from wickedness
1b 3) to free from guilt of sin, to purify
1b 4) to consecrate by cleansing or purifying
1b 5) to consecrate, dedicate

I'm not saying that any Christian is sinless, or that any Christian would never commit another sin. The cleansing and purging of sin is an ongoing process. It is not a one time thing. In an over simplified example, the process of sanctifying is learning how to resist sin by emersion in the water of the Word, by deeply desiring to please God above all things. We participate with God in this process. Whereas, we have nothing whatsoever to do with the process of justification, which is wholly God's doing by faith through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus (.

Please note in the verses above the use of the word "washing" along with the phrase "in the Word". The word Paul uses is Loutron which means bathing, bath, or the act of bathing.

The root word is Louo which means to wash a dead person or to cleanse blood from a wound.

Therefore the sanctification and the cleansing comes from bathing in the Word.

And Rhema means that which is spoken by a living voice, or a thing spoken of as in a matter of narration, or of a command, or a dispute, or a matter of law.

Jesus is the Word, John tells us that. And God's Word is the Bible. Christians do sin. As they learn more about God's and Jesus' character through the written Word, or commands, the Christian is continually washed in the Word, and by the Word.

This washing by the Word cleanses the world's filth that accumulates on a Christian's feet as he traverses this place which is not Home. It is a continual process. Remember in John href="">John href=""> the entire body, only a part needs washing--the dirty part that touches the earth, the feet. He told Peter that one day he would understand the whole of what He was teaching with this act. It was not the removal of the physical dirt from the feet. Jesus describes here exactly what I am talking about.

There is a difference between the first baptism of the Holy Spirit which is a complete cleansing which is the absolute justification, and the continual washing required to keep the world's filth from influencing the Christian's mind. Justification is what will get us into Heaven. But God's work does not stop there and it never truly stopped at the cross.

Do you recognize there is such a thing as a Carnal Christian?

Yes! A person is changed, has a new, circumcised heart when he is saved. But, if a person is not taught, does not read the Bible, does not immerse himself in godly things, then he remains a Carnal Christian. Paul calls the Corinthians carnal Christians. He tells them they should be eating meat, but they are still subsisting on milk. He is talking about those Christians, for they absolutely are Christians and Paul recognizes this, have not matured in Christ.

A Christian absolutely cannot mature in Christ, does not look like his Father in Heaven if he does not know what that looks like. The only way for him to know what that looks like is if he studies it in God's Word. The act of studying/reading God's Word is not what sanctifies. Get this, please.

The True Blue Christian does not have false hopes that his pious acts will move mountains. The only way a person would know this is if they read all Jesus' miracles and see where Jesus said time and again, "Go in peace, your faith has healed you." God bless and keep you and I pray that you will never let a day go by that you do not pick up God's Word and hide it in your heart.

Satan takes a personal interest in each and every Christian's weaknesses. He has a list and is checking it twice. When he can entice a Christian into his web, then he has spoiled the witness and that makes him happy.

When the Christian takes those darts to God, that makes Satan mad and he intensifies the assault, firing more and bigger fiery darts. This is why we are commanded to put on the full armor of God.

Being forgiven at the foot of the Cross is just the beginning of the journey. Being forgiven at the foot of the Cross is only the threshhold of the Door into Heaven.

Whether Jesus says, "Well done My good and faithful servant," is ALL about how the Christian lives – the sanctifying process

Whether Jesus says, "Depart from Me, ye workers of iniquity," is ALL about what happens at the Cross – the justification process.

Sand Goggles

Being alone in a foreign country for a period of time can make one quite raw. Time and new experiences can reveal many things, things forgotten or otherwise avoidable. I have recently become aware of pains that are lodged deep in my heart that I only seem to become aware of when new pains hit in the same place. When I was younger, a friend's parent, in the heat of anger and argument, once told me, "No one will ever love you once they really know you." When I was about 15 I confessed my love to a boy who turned around and said, "Well, I don't love you!" Throughout my adolescence people left who I deeply cared for and relied on(which when you're young feels like abandonment). By the time I turned 16 I was done relying on others. I moved out of my family's home, lived on my own and got myself through school. When I became a Christian it was hard enough learning to rely on God, not to mention people again. Recently, I began to see that the pains that were lodged in my heart so long ago are still there. I thought they were gone and dealt with, but I have become very aware of their presence and the destructive effect they can still have in my life. I was reading and praying, but in my heart and emotionally I could not see clearly and could not for the life of me figure out why or how to clear my vision. The pain I felt was blinding.

William Blake once wrote, "Life's dim window of the soul distorts the heavens from pole to pole, and leads you to believe a lie, when you see with not through, the eye."

Someone told me to beware of the sand goggles in Sudan. The term was used to describe the things we will let distract us, attract us and generally stifle us while here--things that would never get to us or affect us at our prospective homes. Usually goggles are supposed to protect your eyes from things obstructing your vision, but sand goggles are filled with sand. Sand goggles blur the inter eyes, forget being able to see heaven, you can't even see the way an arm's length away. I don't think sand goggles are only specific to Sudan. I think we can all put them on sometimes and forget that we have them on. I chose to put them on when the pains in my heart resurrected and I did not know how to deal with them. I didn't want to hand my pains over to God; I wanted to deal with them myself or in some strange way, not deal with them and hold on to them almost for protection. I needed to take the sand goggles off, but every time I tried to take them off the elastic was still around my head, so I would pull them away from my face only to let them go and have them smack me (hard) in the face again. I'm in the midst of fighting to get my heart back and I don't know how to do it. I'm in the midst of fighting to let go of the past in order to be able to really step out on faith and let God guide me in a new direction.

A friend recently said to me, "Just let it go!" I laughed but what I really wanted to say was, "I cant!... it hurts my ego too much. I want to have the last word; I want to be the one to say when things are over. I don't want to let it go because if I do I won't know what will be on the other side. " Because if I hold on to it, it gives me the illusion of control and at least I know what this feels like.

In The Sacred Romance, the authors illuminated this for me, "So much of the journey forward involves a letting go of all that once brought us life. We turn away from the familiar abiding places of the heart, the false selves we have lived out, the strength we have used to make a place for ourselves and all our false loves, and we venture in our hearts to trace the steps of the One who said, "Follow me."[1]

"Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you." As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speak to me.

6b Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house. You must speak my words to them, whether they listen of fail to listen, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you."

It has always been hard for me to trust in God with the things that are to hard or complex to understand. But honestly, I see that most of the time, it is me that makes things complex. It is easier to rebel than it is to trust. Yet, God still loves me even when I am hard to love and rebellious, he has never let me go. He is just waiting for me to let go of the past so that I can truly see how to, "Follow Him." He is calling me to a higher level of faith so that I can see His love for me better.

I have been a Christian for many years and yet I see that I still have trouble accepting Gods' love for me. I don't believe in it. I know this because I see this lack of trust in my human relationships. My lack of trust in people is a direct reflection of my lack of trust in God and his love for me. It's easier to put on the sand goggles and to use my old pains as a shield than to face the unknown and be vulnerable to what Gods plan could be, an unknown plan.

Joshua 1:7 Be strong and very courageous. 9Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

God says that it will require much courage, he commands me to be very courageous. He knows how terrified I am and how discouraged I can feel. The biggest act of faith for me is not accepting the answers it's accepting where there are none yet. It is accepting that things happen for a reason even if that reason is unknown to me. It's letting go even when I do not want to or know how to.

Once God brings me to a place where I can no longer hide behind my old defense mechanisms and my heart is so raw and vulnerable that I have no energy to redeem myself, then He can work. Then He can stretch the borders of my heart when I am ready and sometimesHe even uses pain to pave the way.

Exodus 23:29-30 And I'll send despair on ahead of you. It will push the Hivites, the Cannanites, and the Hittites out of your way. I won't get rid of them all at once lest the land grow up in weeds and the wild animals take over. Little by little I'll get them out of their while you have a chance to get your corps going and make the land your own. I will make your borders stretch from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea and from the Wilderness to the Euphrates River. I'm turning everyone living in that land over to you; go ahead and drive them out. Don't make any deals with them or their gods…

[1] Eldredge, John, Curtis, Brent, The Sacred Romance. Thomas Nelson Publishers. Atlanta. 1997. (p 149)

Sans Model

I love catalog and on-line shopping! I live an hour from the nearest mall and have young children, so it's often the only way I can get anything new in my wardrobe for months at a time. (Have you even been clothes shopping, for yourself, with the kids along?)

My favorite catalogs are those that show only the clothing, no models. For me, it's easier to picture what I would look like in that gorgeous sweater or sleek pants. Sometimes I don't like what I picture, but at least my mind isn't seeing the model's body with my head superimposed!

But if you think about it, it's more like real shopping. At the store, at least the ones where I occasionally get to shop, there's no model waiting to prance and turn. It's just me in the dressing room with the three-way mirror. Scary!

When I put effort into shopping and spend money on clothes, I want them to fit my personality and my body. Not an ideal I've imagined by seeing a thin, perfectly made-up model wearing them.

New clothes make me feel wonderful when I know they fit everything about me. Even when the "newness" wears off, carefully chosen clothes often become my favorites for several years.

I realize I need to make my choices in life the same way. In Christ I became a new person. It's my responsibility to make sure all my choices fit that new person. My choices in the Lord should be a unique fit. They won't be exactly like anyone else.

So if I look up to someone as a strong Christian example, or model, and try to emulate them, that's okay. But if I try to become them by doing exactly what they do, I may miss out on opportunities God has provided for me.

In Christ, I am a new creation. Different from every other creation. I pray that I will conform to Him, not to others.

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires, to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." - Ephesians 4:22-24

As we begin a new year, let's ask God to tailor us to his plan for our lives.

Santa's Lap

When was the last time you sat on Santa's lap?

Do you remember the anticipation of trying to make the perfect Christmas list? The squirming as you waited in a long line? The candy cane you were handed after reciting your wish list for Santa?

Traditionally our society uses Santa as an incentive and even a threat to get children to behave this time of year. 'You'd better watch out!' 'Santa is watching!' We tell them they must be 'good' and 'nice' if they want Santa to bring them anything. We give them the impression that they must earn their gifts.

Now, when was the last time you sat on God's lap? Have you recently crawled up on the lap of your God and Savior and told Him the desires of your heart, been accepted with all your flaws, and gone away with something much more valuable than a candy cane and the hope of a few toys?

God is not seasonal. We don't have to wait in line for a private audience with Him. We can't earn His love or his grace - He gives it freely, a gift of unconditional love. Just like the gift of His Son which we celebrate at Christmas, the first gift of unconditional love to all.

We need to remember that spirit of love, not just for ourselves, but when we begin ignore the needs of others or even to judge them. God's gifts to us were meant to be passed on to others, and not just in the form of token gifts at Christmastime.

'This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!' - 2 Corinthians 12-15.

Satan's lies...

There I was, ten years old, standing in the movie theater and just crying my eyes out. Big, sloppy tears soaking the front of my shirt, making it stick to my chest… not a tissue to be found, either.

"Get your coat on, Gina," Mom said as the credits to "Little Women" were rolling on the huge screen in front of us: The old black and white one starring June Alison as Jo, and Peter Lawson as Laurie.

"But, Mom," I wailed, "why didn't they get married? They loved each other."

At ten years old, that's what I thought love was all about, especially the Christmas love stories where the snow started falling and the boy and girl were kissing and the natural next move was marriage and a baby. That's the way it happened on the big screen so that's the way it was supposed to be in real life, right?

Satan's Lie Number One…

There is only one true love for a person.

Here's a news flash, in case you haven't figured it out yet… Love is a choice.

The thing about Jo and Laurie was that she wasn't ready for love's commitment. The real challenge is choosing to love in spite of the faults instead of loving because of the beauty of face and form and chemistry. Choosing to love when it suddenly becomes work instead of romance.

Satan's Lie number two is, when a person finds "true love", then it's smooth sailing after that: No work, no problems, no conflicts. Prince Charming and Snow White kiss, snow starts falling and there's a fade out to the sunset. No more conflict, no more problems. If you have lived past your second decade you know this is False. One only has to glance at all the Christian books about Love such as Gary Chapman's book, Five Love Languages, to know that Love is Work.

Ask any couple who has been married more than thirty years what the secret is to the longevity of their marriage and you'll hear from every one of them of commitment, and of working at keeping the love fires burning. Today we have books and consultants who tell us that love must be worked at. Yet… Hollywood would have us believe that love just happens, that it pops in then leaves at the first storm. The sad thing is, society is starting to believe that blather.

Satan's lie number three is that True Love is unconditional…

I'm going out on a limb here, I do not think it is possible for a human being to be able to unconditionally love another person.

Parents have great love for their children... but, that love is birthed at birth, flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone. That is a condition.

Husbands and wives love each other through various and wonderful interactions. The love continues through a commitment to each other and through the grace of God -- especially when tempers flare. But, it is a condition.

Brothers and sisters love each other through thick and thin, through good times and bad times, but they, again are flesh of each other and bone of each other. Families love each other inspite of the cantankerous differences. That is a condition.

Friends love each other because of commonalities. We are drawn to certain people because their lifestyle or their beliefs or their likes and dislikes match pretty closely with our own so we become friends... sometimes life long friends. That is conditional because we can grow apart.

Try loving someone completely unconditionally. It is wonderful and not so hard when they love you back. When they care about your feelings... when they put you first before thinking about themselves. But... what about when they do not like you anymore. What about when they kick you... betray you... spit on you... do things to harm you...

What about when they turn from God? Can you love them still?

We are not talking about the faceless people who are a world away. Nor are we talking about the lost person whom you do not know, but pray for because God wants you to.

Would you take a bullet for someone you knew but could not abide? Loving those people is not easy... not even when God loves them through you.

Is there a point you reach when you have to say, 'Loving you hurts too much for me to continue to love you unconditionally.'

The pivotal point here is that God does not expect us to be God. He expects us to act like Him to the best of our abilities, and for us to measure ourselves using Jesus as our plumb line, but there comes a point when it hurts too much to continue down a certain path. We must break away in order to maintain sanity.

In case you think, 'She hasn't a clue what she's talking about.' Let me tell you that I was given a job by God. He told me I must love someone unconditionally, no matter what he did or said. For months I followed God's lead. For months I prayed and loved unconditionally... through the rejection, through the callous treatment, through the friendship, through it all. Rejoicing through the good things and weeping with him through the bad things. It was all about him. I set my needs, my wants, my desires all to the side and poured enough energy into him to light up New York City… with absolutely no reciprocation or consideration, and mostly rejection. That cut to the bone.

I found out my limit. And I found out a most enlightening Truth about God.

He has limits, too.

We are very needy in Christ. God knows that and plans for that. He nurtures us and pours out blessings over us and through us as we grow in Him we become so close to Him we begin to look like Him. But... when we take and take and never give, God quits pouring out. He has expectations and He has conditions. Selfishness has no place in God's plan for our lives. He won't tolerate a selfish attitude.

He loves unconditionally, but His blessings have conditions. He loves eternally, but eternity in heaven may begin much sooner than expected when a Christian does not do the work of God according to His purposes. There are many Scriptures for this truth and if you require them, I'll look them up and send them to you.

Jesus loved us unconditionally. He loved so much that He gave His life willingly so that we might live eternally with Him. He knew the future. He knew that not all would accept the gift. He gave it anyway. He gave it for all but only a few accept. Salvation is conditional. We must first believe that God exists. We must then believe what God said; believe in Jesus and believe that He died for us and rose from the dead. If you don't believe that, then you won't go to heaven. That is conditional.

God loved Adam and Eve, but they chose to disobey, and God had to cast them out of the Garden. That was conditional.

The father watched continuously for his prodigal son and ran to meet him when he finally saw him coming up the road. That was conditional upon the son returning.

The father never quit loving his prodigal son. The blessings were conditional, not the father's love. The son would never have received those blessings of a coat, a ring and a feast if he had not returned to the father.

That gives 'Return to Me' a whole new meaning.

Saved by Animals

Animals have played a rather bizarre part in many chapters of both history and fiction. Rodents have been a fixation for some famous people. President Andrew Johnson kept pet mice while he was in the White House. There was no word on whether or not they performed any information gathering functions. Rats were important to the famed Indian Yogi K. N. Udupa. He actually figured out a way to train rats to perform many of the different postures of yoga.

European settlers had long viewed Africa as a place for expansion. However there was a problem with which the Europeans were unable to cope. Areas such as Uganda were overrun with mosquitoes. The native Ugandans were accustomed to the blood suckers but the Europeans weren't. Idi Amin, the Ugandan dictator, was so enamored by the winged pest's effectiveness at preventing European settlements that he chose the mosquito as his symbol of victory and inducted the heroes of his military into the Order of the Mosquito.

In 1814, Chilean revolutionaries tried to overthrow the Spanish imperialists. In one particular battle the rebels were struggling to escape when their leader, Bernardo O'Higgins, devised a peculiar strategy. He had his men gather every animal in a nearby village (all the horses, mules, dogs, pigs...if it ran it was gathered) and stampede them toward the Spanish soldiers. The bizarre animal attack so unnerved the Spanish troops that they broke ranks and fled. O'Higgins and the rebels escaped easily, eventually won the war and O'Higgins went on to be the first president of the new republic.

My favorite historical story is one from a few thousand years ago. Abraham and Sarah had finally had the child for which they had prayed for so long. Isaac was their pride and joy. But the day came when God told Abraham to take his only son, Isaac, and sacrifice him on a mountain God would lead him to. When Isaac and Abraham got to the mountain they went by foot to the place of the sacrifice. Isaac carried the wood and Abraham carried the torch and the knife. Isaac kept asking for the sacrifice and Abraham kept telling him that God would provide. Imagine Isaac's shock when his father bound him and laid him on the altar and prepared to sacrifice him to God.

But a sheep came to the rescue. Actually God did. Abraham had passed the test of faith. God sent his messenger to Abraham to tell him not to offer his son. When Abraham looked up he saw a male sheep, a ram, caught in some brambles. God did provide the sacrifice just as Abraham had told his son. Abraham had faith that God would not require his only son as a sacrifice and God had faith that Abraham would offer his son if commanded. ( How does this compare with our acts of faith? What are we willing to sacrifice of ourselves, our time, our wealth, to serve the God who gave His only Son as the lamb of sacrifice for our sins?

Say Amen...

Sometimes a person just has to say 'Enough.' I did that yesterday, or was it the day before? I've slept since then and there is a lot on my plate that shouldn't or can't touch each other, sort of like how Monk eats his food. Normally, I love to just stir my food up and mix it all together, but these things don't have a lot to do with each other so they must be kept separate. Can I get a witness?

Well, when a brother or a sister has a field day with your feelings...

First, pray. Ask God for guidance in how to respond. You know He'll say, forgive. That's a given when dealing within the Body. Don't even think differently because Jesus spoke plainly about that to Peter. So, don't whine when he says to forgive.

Second, tell your sibling exactly how you feel. Do not let the sun go down on your anger! Be as direct and as explicit as you can, but spread it all over with kindness and don't be mean. You must consider that the hurt should stop with you and not let it keep spreading like cancer. Is that the way the world behaves? Of course not. Is that the way your Father would have you behave? Of course. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 18:15-17. You are the offended one and the responsiblity is yours to repair the relationship.

Third, if an apology does not come forth, then pray some more and follow Jesus' command in chapter 18 of Matthew. When an apology comes forth from your sibling in Christ, it does not matter how it comes, accept it graciously and then let the thing go!

Holding grudges only makes you miserable and completely spoils your peace and totally destroys the beautiful relationship with Father. It is so self-absorbed and self-directed.

Rejoice in having your sibling restored to you! Listen... you will spend eternity with this sibling so you might as well learn how to get along while still here on earth. Amen? Come on and say AMEN!

Say Anything

Sometimes, I don't think before I speak. I tend to speak my mind, literally- a thought pops into my mind and then comes out of my mouth. Sometimes this is good. It means I say what most people in a given situation where thinking anyway but were afraid to say. Sometimes I state the obvious, and as a result I am often described as a "truth teller" or as someone who "calls it like it is." But what I realized is that sometimes my words and speech are not deliberate and some of my "truths" are just plain pointless. If my purpose is to glorify God in all aspects of my life, then my speech too should glorify God and should be purposeful. The things I say may very well be true but that does not mean they need to be said.

Psalm 147:11 He takes pleasure in those that honor Him; in those who trust in His constant love.

Romans 6:13 Give yourselves to God […] Surrender your whole being to him to be used for righteous purposes.

If I do not speak with the purpose of Glorifying God in some way, shape, or form, my speech is purposeless and let's face it, if it's purposeless then it's a waste of air, time, and plain unnecessary. The other sad draw back to this is that if my purposeless speech outweighs my purposeful speech then sometimes the things that are important and from God will not be heard. This also limits the amount and type of people I can reach for Him, as not everyone can handle my "style" of communication. This can border on abrasive or harsh at times. Don't get me wrong if you speak to most people who know me they will tell you I am a relatively encouraging person and I really don't go around talking crazy and hurting peoples' feelings on a regular basis. But thanks to the advisors and friends in my life who want to call me higher, I have noticed that sometimes my speech can "border disrespectful and/or inappropriate."

Interestingly enough, I remember earlier in my walk with God paying more attention to this and really devoting more time to discerning my speech. But somewhere along the way I have become complacent in this area. As I focused on other parts of my character I have slacked in this one. After examining some more scriptures I realized that the depth of my bible study in this area has also not been what it should be.

James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Matthew 7:24 Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

I cannot tell you how ridiculously hard it is to pause before saying some of the things I think. It is even harder to pray in those moments. There are moments where something will just slip but it gets a laugh or a reaction (I have gotten away with saying something purposeless and funny) so I just keep going. This too is no good because eventually I cross the line somewhere. My heart is to glorify God and build others up and some people who know me see that but because they see it they can also excuse this act in me. I want my actions and my words to have meaning. I want there to be clarity in my purpose of speech and for all who hear it to see my heart not just those who know me well.

One thing I have noticed is that in preparation for a job interview or in addressing someone in a formal setting I can put much more thought into my speech. So why wouldn't I make more of an effort to do the same with all those around me? It takes a lot to pause in silence, even if it is awkward, but for me it is a matter of listening to God's spirit within me when it attempts to halt me. I need to focus on the purpose in my life in order to see what God is doing as well as allow Him to use me to show others what He has done. I don't want to stumble over myself or cause anyone else to stumble. I want to be able to see what He is revealing and help others see it as well.

Proverbs 29:18 If people can't see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.

Proverbs 14:3 Frivolous talk provokes a derisive smile; wise speech evokes nothing but respect.

A friend of mine shared a quote with me recently that really summed it up well, "The wise speak when they have something to say but the foolish speak when they just want to say something." (Author Unknown)

I really don't always need to say something.