A New Birth
I am reminded of a period when all the agonies that afflict modern minds were felt by another generation, the young people who lived during the first century after Christ. They too sought change, but they directed their efforts at individuals, not at the Roman Empire, not at City Hall. And eventually the whole social and political structure felt their impact. In short, those renewed men and women became filled with a unique dynamic force.
Today this same force is available to all people. Over the centuries it has worked in the lives of millions. I personally have seen thousands of people changed. Jesus called it “a new birth.” The Scripture tells us that you need not continue as you are. You can become a new person. Whatever your hang-up—guilt, anxiety, fear, hatred—God can handle it.
I delight in knowing, Lord Jesus, that there is nothing in my life that is incapable of being changed through Your redemptive power.
Staying on Course
Read | 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
The Christian life can be likened to a race with a predetermined course and a finish line in eternity. Each child of God has a personalized route specially designed by the Lord. Our goal is to stay on track and run with endurance, but the path can be discerned and navigated only by focusing on Jesus. Because He ran the race perfectly and finished His course, He can show us the way.
As with any long-term race, the course is full of obstacles that threaten to trip or sidetrack us. Temptations lure us to what we imagine are lush green pastures, while busyness can lead us down rabbit trails that end in exhaustion. Worry and fear grab hold of our minds, and emotions take us places the Lord never intended for us to go.
Although sins present the most obvious hindrances, other obstacles and detours are subtler. Anything that takes precedence over our relationship with the Lord can send us down the wrong path. Because involvement in the daily activities of earthly life is necessary, we can easily let our families, jobs, and pleasures distract us from a wholehearted pursuit of Christ. Surprisingly, even God’s blessings can become obstacles in the race if we start to pursue them more than we do the Lord Himself.
We must remember that the goal is not to focus on the path or to try and find our own way. Instead, we’re to fix our eyes on Jesus. He is not only our guide but also our destination. And He will welcome us home with open arms when we finish the race and cross into eternity. -Stanley
A Brief Walk In the Sewer
By Ed Collins on Jun 27, 2014 12:00 am
Please excuse the tone of this blog. Sometimes, to sugarcoat is to rob the thought of its impact.
So, I won't be doing that here. I won't be "tidying" things up to ensure nobody's offended. I'm sure once you begin reading, you'll be able to relate, even though it's not the prettiest of scenarios or the traditionally encouraging approach. Read between the lines, though, and you shall be encouraged appropriately, I promise! :)
Some days I find it difficult to even make a trip to the local shopping mall. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not a monk or a recluse (not yet anyways - lol). However, the more I realize how much our God has done for us, and continues to do for us, the more challenging it is NOT to be totally turned off by mankind.
This world stinks! It reeks! It's grotesque in the worst of ways!
Here's the thing. Humanity has been distancing itself from God ever since the dawn of man. However, lately it seems it is sprinting away from Him. Even in my brief 45 year lifetime I've noticed a rapid acceleration. When I was a child, only those on the fringes of society seemed bold enough to be antagonistic towards God. And there weren't many of them, at least not in my periphery. So, most of us dismissed them as castoffs.
Today, things are very different. 'Jesus' has become a swear word. The world still 'tolerates' the concept of a god or gods, but definitely not THE God of the universe. Oh, there are myriad idols (take your pick), just none of them are Jesus.
If this world's view of Jesus were qualified as a scent, it'd come off as sewage.
It'd be nice to breathe some fresh air once in a while, but "whatever". I'll breathe in scripture for that and let the world scoff. Someday it's going to swallow its own venom and choke. That'll be just about the time when the Lord Jesus Christ slams His foot on the tip of the Mount of Olives, splitting it in two (Zechariah 14:4). But that's another story for another day.
There are days when I step out into the world and by the time I get back home I feel like I need a 'shower' to cleanse myself. I feel dirty.
I feel like to live is to walk through a sewer pipe. I guess I'm increasingly realizing what Paul was saying when he wrote, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21)
Life is short. That's a fact. Walking through this world is like taking a brief walk in the sewer.
Gross? Indeed. A cause for throwing in the towel? May it never be! Just the opposite, actually! God's got something to show the antagonists, starting with Satan, himself, the chief of that camp (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Jesus walked through this sewer pipe before we ever did, and the world hated Him for being so clean and pure. He was a sweet aroma to His Father in Heaven, but offensive to the world, so the world extinguished His life (well, tried to anyways). Understanding His own destiny, Jesus prayed on our behalf, "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one." (John 17:14-15)
So, if my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, wants me to stay put, then I will. He showed me how to do it - by grace. "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13) I'd rather be in Heaven right now, free from this awful stench, but I know there's work to be done here in time. I'm tired of the smell most days, but even a farmer with his hand to the plow must endure the pungency of manure while he labors.
"But Jesus said to him, 'No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."(Luke 9:62)
There are days when life just flat out seems to get the best of us. But I, for one, will never give up. I won't. I can't. Jesus gave all for me. I'd like to think I can at least press on.
I don't have to be smiling all the time, but I can cling to a certain joy set before me, on the inside, where He is also. "Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2)
I am encouraged.
"Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord - for we walk by faith, not by sight - we are of good courage, I say, and prefer to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him." (2 Corinthians 5:6-9)
If my Lord wants me to slosh through the sewer, then I'll do it. If doing so makes Him happy, then I'm in. And I mustn't forget that I flush my toilet into the sewer system from time to time. That's part of life, too - a big part of realizing how wretched I am all on my own. So I'm not necessarily pointing my finger at individuals, just the world as a whole.
Walk in the sewer and your feet become covered in filth. That's life. So be it. It doesn't have to end there, though - I have the Word always available to cleanse me! I'll even wash others' feet if they let me (John 13:14-15). It's nice to breathe in a little fresh air amongst friends, after all.
"Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of the water with the word." (Ephesians 5:25b-26)
Statistically, I'm well beyond the halfway point in my physical life. God's grace has proven more than sufficient. I moan and groan from time to time, but that's just me venting. Every so often, the relief valve pops and a little steam comes out. I'm human.
Thanks for bearing with me.
Love in Christ,
Triumph in Affliction
May I remind you that physical illness is not the worst thing that can happen to you? Some of the most twisted, miserable people I have ever met had no physical handicap. Some of the world’s greatest and most useful people have been handicapped.
“The Messiah” was composed by Handel, who was suffering from a paralyzed right side and arm. Catherine Booth, in the last year of her life, said that she could not remember one day free from pain.
Helen Keller has written, “I thank God for my handicaps, for through them I have found myself, my work, and God.” Some of the most radiant Christians I have ever met were “wheelchair” saints. May God give you grace to “triumph in affliction.”
When physical afflictions come into my life, may they draw me closer to You, my beloved Lord Jesus Christ.
When Burdens Weigh Us Down Read | Psalm 37:5-7
When we are overburdened, the world seems a colder place. The sun may be shining, but our heads are bowed low, so we don’t notice. The birds sing, but our ears are filled with the cries of our hearts—exclamations of pain, sorrow and weariness. We put distance between us and others as our problems absorb our time and attention. Perhaps we are weighed down by unmet expectations, sudden trauma or death, or simply too much responsibility. Another possibility is that sin is causing our heaviness of heart. Whatever the cause, however, the result is the same: We are burdened by a crushing weight.
Into our bleakness comes the voice of almighty God inviting us to draw near and find rest in Him. “This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls . . .”’ (Jer. 6:16 NIV).
Won’t you look up to your heavenly Father right now? Jesus offers living water; take time to drink until your soul is strengthened enough for you to ask the way. With the Spirit’s help, take one step, then another down that ancient path of obedience, and He will give you the promised peace.
Jeremiah 6:16 ends with God pointing out the Israelites’ response: “But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.”’ It is only when we trust in the Father’s plan that we will find relief from our burdens. Let us stand, look, ask, and walk so that we might find the rest which the Lord has promised for our souls. -Charles Stanley
Hope For the Future
If you are moving to a new home, you want to know all about the community to which you are going. And since we will spend eternity some place, we ought to know something about it. The information concerning heaven is found in the Bible. When we talk about heaven, earth grows shabby by comparison. Our sorrows and problems here seem so much less, when we have keen anticipation of the future.
In a certain sense the Christian has heaven here on earth. He has peace of soul, peace of conscience, and peace with God. In the midst of troubles and difficulties he can smile. He has a spring in his step, a joy in his soul, a smile on his face. But the Bible also promises the Christian a heaven in the life hereafter.
Father, as I face whatever trials come my way, I will take heart in the glorious promise of heaven—knowing I shall be with You!
Philippians 3:20 KJV
For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
God is Love!
As I read the Bible, I find love to be the supreme and dominant attribute of God. The promises of God’s love and forgiveness are as real, as sure, as positive, as human words can make them. But the total beauty of the ocean cannot be understood until it is seen, and it is the same with God’s love. Until you actually experience it, until you actually possess it, no one can describe its wonders to you.
Never question God’s great love, for it is as unchangeable a part of God as His holiness. Were it not for the love of God, none of us would ever have a chance in the future life. But God is love! And His love for us is everlasting.
Knowing myself as I do, Lord, the knowledge of Your love and forgiveness never ceases to amaze me. In the knowledge of this, help me to communicate to others that this love is theirs too, if they will only reach out for it.-Graham
Jeremiah 31:3 KJV
The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.
Thousands of young couples go through with a loveless marriage because no one ever told them what genuine love is. I believe we need to read the 13th chapter of First Corinthians, in which the Apostle Paul gives us a definition of love. He says, “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” If people today knew that kind of love, the divorce rate would be sharply reduced.
Lord Jesus, we need Your love and forgiveness in our hearts, if we are to love unselfishly.
There is an old story that tells about a pig. . . . The farmer brought the pig into the house. He gave him a bath, polished his hooves, put some Chanel No. 5 on him, put a ribbon around his neck, and put him in the living room. The pig looked fine. He made a nice and companionable pet for a few minutes. But as soon as the door was opened, the pig left the living room and jumped into the first mud puddle that he could find. Why? Because he was still a pig at heart. His nature had not been changed. He had changed outwardly but not inwardly. . . .
You can take a man—dress him up, put him in the front row in church, and he almost looks like a saint. He may fool even his best friends for a while, but then put him in his office, or in the club on Saturday night, and you will see his true nature come out again. Why does he act that way? Because his nature has not been changed. He has not been born again.
Almighty God, there are times when I debase my Christian walk and slip again into the mire. Cleanse and strengthen me, for Jesus’ sake.
The Lord wants us to be people with desires and expectations that are motivating and enriching. But in this fallen world, the disappointment of some unrealized hopes is inevitable. How can we determine where to place our hope—and the way to respond if it’s not fulfilled?
Hope is secure when it is aligned with God’s desires, which are revealed in the Bible. However, our expectations are often based on wishes, feelings, and personal preferences—we yearn for job promotions, good health, or quick solutions to problems. Such desires can be strong, but we have no sure promise from God that they’re part of His will for us.
Disappointment with God has the potential to occur whenever our expectations do not coincide with His plan. Even when hope is based on a scriptural promise, the Lord may not fulfill it in the manner or timing we want. Although God appears inactive, He is moving behind the scenes, preparing us for the future.
The key to contentment and joy lies in placing all subjective hopes under the umbrella of our ultimate hope in the Lord. Keep in mind that God is sovereign and good—He always wants what is best for us and never makes a mistake. His ways are higher than ours and often beyond human understanding.
From a limited and fallen perspective, we may be like a five-year-old who wants candy at every meal. Sometimes God has to dash our hopes in order to give us what He knows is best. Ask Him to clarify and direct your desires to coincide with His way. Then rest in His goodness and keep your hope in Him.
"Good people" don't get to Heaven, only saved ones do. Are you saved from your sins by true faith in Jesus Christ?