Sing to the Lord

Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises – Psalm 98:4

Praising God is something that should be as natural as breathing.  It’s hard to do so, however, when facing trials, problems or challenges, but that is the time when we really need to do it.  I have had an experience when I was feeling down about something and it came to me, no doubt it was the Holy Spirit’s prompting, that instead of focusing on what I was going through, to focus on God instead.  So, I began to praise Him.  I began to sing songs of praise to Him and after a while, I felt so light and upbeat.  The problem which had seemed like a mountain became minuscule until with God’s help, I was able to resolve it.

The apostle Paul is a good example of someone who praised God regardless of what the circumstances were.  Who could forget when Silas and he were in jail and instead of suffering in silence, they began to sing?  Acts 16:25 says But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.  God used that moment as an opportunity to reveal Himself.

Suddenly, there was an earthquake, shaking the foundations of the prison and the doors to the jail cells were opened and the chains broken, the prisoners could have escaped but no one moved.  The jailer thought that they had broken out and was about to take his life out of fear of reprisal but Paul assured him that all of the prisoners were there.  And that led the jailer to ask the question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Verse 30).  God used Paul’s and Silas’ attitude toward their circumstances to bring about the salvation of the jailer and his family.  And who knows if any of the other prisoners didn’t change too as a result of what they heard and witnessed.

How we deal with adversity will not only affect us but those around us.  Instead of looking down or around, we look up and whatever song the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, puts in our hearts, we lift our voices and sing to our God, Who is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).  It will lift our burdens up to Him and bring His comfort down to us.

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The Christian Walk

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Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand‘ – Isaiah 41:10

For most of us, our Christian walk is inchoate made up of baby steps as we shed the habits and lifestyles that kept us from having the kind of relationship we ought to with have with God.  Many times we will fall or veer off course but like a loving parent, God is there to pick us up or guide us back in the right direction.  We hear a word behind us, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” Whenever you turn to the right hand Or whenever you turn to the left.

However, we have Satan, our enemy who will thwart our efforts to please God by how we live and will go to any lengths to do so.  He bombards us with doubts, fears, insecurities and distractions.  He uses the things of the world to draw us away from God.  He did it in the Garden of Eden using wisdom as a lure for Eve.  He told her that if she were to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, she would be wise like God.  He was basically encouraging her to disobey God in order to be like God.

Today, he comes with temptations that seem reasonable, logical and attractive but the bottom line, is that we would be disobeying God if we give in.  Eve wanted to be wise like God so she disobeyed Him and the consequences are still with us.  Like Eve, he uses our nature to turn us away from God and His Word.

It’s not easy living in a world that is “under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19) and many of us struggle with temptations and addictions.  There are many people out there who are living in spiritual darkness, trying to satisfy their the emptiness they feel inside with money, drugs, sex and other things the world offers.  Others are tricked into believing that they are too far gone for God to help them.  The devil has convinced them that they are too sinful to go to God for forgiveness.  Many have planned to commit suicide because they believed that there was no hope for them but then they hear a sermon on the radio or on television which save their lives.  God thwarted Satan’s plans for those people and He can do the same for us.

Our Christian walk is not without its rough paths but we have the road map that would help us along the way–God’s Word.  It is our light and protection against the forces that would try to lead us astray.  The more we read God’s Word, the more we get to know Him and the more we fortify ourselves.  Yes, the devil knows the Word too.  He quoted Psalm 91 to Jesus but Jesus used the Word to oppose him.  God’s Word is our weapon against the devil’s attacks.

However, knowing the Word isn’t enough.  James tells us that we must submit ourselves to God (James 4:7).  This is the only way we can resist the devil.  When he tried to tempt Jesus, Jesus used the Word of God to counter each temptation and after a while the devil had to leave.  Jesus was fully submitted to the Father.

Being a Christian is a challenge.  We are in the midst of a spiritual war.  The forces of good and evil are vying for our allegiance.  Daily, we have to make sure that we are on the winning side but there are times when the devil will use situations and people, even our loved ones to get to us and we end up doing or saying something we regret.

There are times when we feel overwhelmed because we have to deal with Satan, our nature and the world but thankfully, we have this assurance, “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6)

For now, we are called to walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory (1 Thessalonians 2:12).

It’s a Virtue

Patience is a virtue that many of us would like to master but more times than not, it is impossible to do so.  Just this morning, I lost mine when my son wanted me to get up and go and get some bread for him.  I had told him that he could have some after he finished having his cereal.  Not long after I sat down and was having my breakfast when he came to me and said, “You can get the bread now.” In retrospect, I should have reprimanded him for talking to me as if he were talking to one of his friends.

I stared at him and asked myself, couldn’t he wait until I was finished eating first?  I began to fume, thinking how inconsiderate he was being.  “Have you finished your cereal?” I asked, looking past him at the white bowl on the table.  I couldn’t believe that he had finished it so quickly.  Well, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  He was probably hungry and he’s growing so his appetite has increased.  I dread the teenage years.

Anyway, I got him the bread he asked for and resumed having my breakfast.  Of course, I felt bad shortly afterwards for losing my patience with him.  I realize that it takes so much more out of me when I lose my patience that when I exercise it.  It seems like there are times when it’s easy to remain patient and there are others times when it’s not.  I believe that children are there to test our patience because there have been occasions when I have asked God to give me patience and not long after a situation arises where I need it in order to deal with my son.  If we can exercise patience when dealing with our children on a daily basis, then we are off to a great start.

It’s not surprising that exercising patience seems like an impossible feat sometimes. It is a Fruit of the Spirit.  Anything spiritual is hard to achieve when we try to do it in our own strength.  In order to have patience we need the help of the Holy Spirit.  It’s too easy to get impatient, especially when dealing with our children, difficult situations, people, relationships or waiting for God to answer our prayers.  We get impatient when we have to wait or when we think things are not happening as quickly as they should.  Many things try our patience but the Bible encourages us to be patient anyway.

In Psalm 27:14, David encourages us to, “Wait on the LordBe of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!”  It takes courage to wait, especially when what we are waiting for is taking a long time to happen and the temptation to hurry things along is there.  After years of patiently waiting to have a child, Sarah finally decided that she was going to come up with her own plan because God’s was taking too long.  So, she had her handmaid, Hagar be her surrogate and she was going to raise the child as hers.  However, that only caused a lot of problems which are still evident today.  Yes, it takes a lot of patience to wait upon the Lord whose timing is not ours and who doesn’t always give us what we want when we want it or in the way we expect.  But, we have the promise that when we choose to wait, God will strengthen our hearts.

And when it comes to trials, we are encouraged to bear them without grumbling.  The apostle Paul had his share of trials which he mentioned in great detail in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28.  He faced death, was persecuted, imprisoned, beaten but Paul saw these trials as nothing because they were the result of his faith in Christ and his service to the One who had called him into ministry.  Paul learned patience from Jesus who had shown him patience when the apostle was persecuting the church.  For him, Jesus was the perfect example of patience. 

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote that he received mercy from Jesus although he was a blasphemer, persecutor and an insolent man who acted in ignorance because he was to be an example of Jesus’ patience toward people like Paul for those who will believe on Him for eternal life.  In other words, there’s hope for us because the same Jesus who exercised patience toward Paul and showed him mercy will do the same for us.  Paul testified, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).   

Right now, the Lord is showing great patience toward us in that it seems as if He has delayed His coming but the reality is that He has not.  He will return at the appointed time.   He has promised that He will return and the Lord is not slack when it comes to His promise but in the meantime He wants as many people as possible to be saved.  He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).   Praise the Lord for His enduring patience.

Sources:  Bible Gateway; Blue Letter Bible

Dealing With Our Enemies

The angry voices in the crowd rose to a crescendo, “Crucify Him!” drowning out Pilate’s protest.  They wanted Him dead.  They had delivered Him up and denied Him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go (Acts 3:13).  Yet, this was all in fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation.  The innocent was put to death for the guilty. The people had asked Pilate to put Him to death although they had no legitimate cause to do so (Acts 13:28).  They were motivated by envy (Mark 15:10).

He hung on a cross like a common criminal and they mocked Him, urging Him to save Himself.  “If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 27:40). Little did they know that it was because He was the Son of God, that He didn’t save Himself by coming down from the cross.  He stayed there for their sake and ours.  He took the punishment we deserved.

It must have wounded Him to hear the jeers but the same love that made Him willing to lay down His life was the same love that infused Him when He cried to the Father, Fatherforgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).  He was not overcome by their evil but He overcame it with good (Romans 12:21).

Jesus is our perfect example of how to deal with our enemies.  We don’t let their insults or wrongdoing get the better of us.  We rise above their evil intentions and follow Jesus’ advice “whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12).  He never said that it was going to be easy but as His followers and the children of God, we must make the effort.   And the Holy Spirit is there to help us.

The apostle Paul tells us how to deal with our enemies by quoting Proverbs 25:21, 22. “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”  In acting contrary to what your enemy expects such as showing them love and kindness, it will stir feelings of shame and remorse. As Christians, we don’t treat people as the world does.  We treat them as Jesus would.

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Sources:  Blue Letter Bible; Bible Gateway; Bible Hub

Valued by God

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Luke 15:8-10

Just recently I watched the movie, “The Wedding” with Halle Berry.  There was a scene when she went to the beach for a swim.  She took off her engagement ring and put it in her blouse.  When she went back, she couldn’t find it.  Frantic, she felt around in the sand and when her fingers closed over, her face filled with joy and relief.  The ring was precious to her.

In this parable a woman has ten silver coins and loses one.  She could have easily have been happy that she still had nine coins but that one coin meant a lot to her.  She went to great lengths to find it.  She lit a lamp, swept the house and searched diligently for it.  She searched and searched until she found it.  When she found it, she was so happy that she had to tell her friends about it.  She wanted them to share in her joy.  She had lost and then found she valued.

It is the same with God.  He doesn’t stop caring for the person who is lost.  It is His will that that the lost person repents and returns to Him.  When this happens, He rejoices.  He welcomes the person joyfully and celebrates.  It should be the same for us.  We should be celebrating, not complaining when the lost is found and returns to the church.  We were once lost too and God sent someone to find us, a friend perhaps as in my case, or a loved one or neighbor or co-worker and there was celebration in heaven that day when we were found.  We are of great value to God.  We are precious in His sight.  Like the woman with the coin, He will not give up on us.  He is “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Do you know someone who has stopped attending church?  Have you reached out to that person?  Ask God to help you to demonstrate love, acceptance and genuine concern for this former church member.   Remember this person is valued by God.

Service

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Peter’s Mother-in-Law Healed

14 Now when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, He saw his wife’s mother lying sick with a fever. 15 So He touched her hand, and the fever left her. And she arose and served them (Matthew 8:14, 15).

Imagine that your son-in law has guests over but you can’t join them because you are not feeling well.  You are feeling terrible because you have a fever.  Then, the doctor comes and gives you something that gets rid of the fever.  You’re feeling better.  Would you get up and serve dinner or remain in bed?  Most of us would choose the latter.  However, Peter’s mother-in-law got out of bed and served Jesus and everyone in Peter’s house.

Why did she get out of bed to serve them?  Perhaps, it was her way of thanking  Jesus for healing her .  She was feeling better now so she didn’t want to stay in bed.  She wanted to be up and about, serving up delicious food for the guests to enjoy.

How do we respond when we are feeling better after a bout with an illness?  Do we go about our daily lives as usual or do we find ways to serve the Lord because we are thankful to Him for healing us?

Everyday you wake up feeling well, give thanks and “serve the LORD with gladness” (Psalm 100:2).

Letting Go

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Matthew 19:16-30

The rich young ruler went to Jesus because he knew that something was missing in his life. When you find that you are lacking something in your life or you have questions that you can’t seem to find the answers to, what do you do?  Do you go to Jesus?  This young man did.  He went to Jesus for the answer to his question, “…what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”

After Jesus mentioned some of the commandments which the young man kept from his youth, the young man asked Him, “what do I still lack?” He realized that keeping the commandments was not enough.  Jesus told him what the problem was and gave him the solution.  “If you would be perfect, go and sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. And come, follow Me.”  When the young man heard this, he was sad and he went away because he had many possessions.  He wanted to know how to inherit eternal life but was not willing to do what was necessary.   He placed more value on his riches than on God’s kingdom.

What are you unwilling to let go of even if it costs you your salvation?  What is hindering you from completely submitting to Christ?  What you are holding on to instead of letting go of so that you could take up your cross and follow Him? Is it a lifestyle, a cherished sin, a relationship, an addiction?  Don’t make the same mistake as the young ruler did.  Don’t believe that going to church every week, being involved in church ministry or community service will be enough to get you into the kingdom.  There is nothing we can do to inherit eternal life (Ephesians 2:8, 9).  A total commitment to Christ is what is needed.  You need to let go of whatever is taking the place of God in your life and in your heart.

The rich young ruler had two choices–God or riches.  He chose the latter.  Are you willing to leave all for the sake of Christ and the Kingdom as the disciples did?  The reward for doing so far outweighs any riches or material things you may accumulate here on earth.