Two Praying Women

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” – Luke 18:14

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She walked into the sanctuary and straight to the front pew where she stood facing the altar.  With her head held high and her eyes closed, she prayed to the Lord thus, “Heavenly Father, I thank You that I’m an upstanding member of society, an active Board of Trustee member of Liberty University and I donate generously to worthy causes such as Education and the Arts.  I’m not a gossip.  I don’t drink or smoke or spend money foolishly.  I am a godly woman with a godly husband and children.  I’m thankful that I’m not like other people who claim they are Christians but their lifestyle says otherwise. 

“I take pride in how I look and how I conduct myself and am an example for the young women in the church.  I’m grateful that I’m not like that woman over there who is making such a spectacle of herself.  I can hardly hear myself think.  Why do people think that they should cry out when they are praying.  Praying quietly and circumspectly is more reverent and acceptable to God.  Lord, I’m very thankful that I’m nothing like her.  The way she is dressed is disgraceful. Anyway, Lord, it’s not for me to criticize others.  You know the heart.  You know mine–that it is devoted to Your service.”

After she finished praying, she walked past the pew and after casting a censorious glance in the other woman’s direction, she left the sanctuary.

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The young African American woman, kneeling with hands clasped tightly and eyes squeezed shut continued to cry out, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  She poured out her heart to Him, asking Him to forgive her of all her sins and to have mercy on her.  The impassioned pleas made through tears lasted for several minutes.  Then, she blessed herself and stood up.

Her demeanor was different.  There was a calm look on her face.  She smiled as she wiped the tears away.  She walked out of the sanctuary in bitter spirits.  She knew that God heard and answered her prayer.  She was forgiven.

Sometimes, we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others and deceiving ourselves into thinking that we are better than them. Yet, if we were to compare ourselves to God, we would recognize that we are all sinners in need of His mercy.  Like the tax collector, we must acknowledge that we are sinners in need of God’s grace.  It is the repentant sinner who is justified in His eyes not those who trust in their own righteousness.

Source:  Business Insider

What is Lacking

The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” – Matthew 19:20

39cb98148e122885e37f25fb6b1994c4All week I got this nagging sense that God was trying to tell me something.  I have been racking my brains trying to figure out what it is.  Finally, I decided to pray about it.  And after I did, a couple of days later, I was impressed to read Matthew 19:16-30.

I opened my Bible and turned to that part of the Gospel and read about the rich young man who asked Jesus what he must do to get eternal life.  When I finished reading it, I asked God, “Lord, what do I lack?”

He said.  “Your desire to please me.”

“But, I read my Bible everyday, I pray three times a day, I go to church every Sunday and I’m the leader for the Men’s Ministry and I help to feed the homeless every other week.  I share the Gospel with people.  I don’t drink or smoke and I have abstained from sex.  I’m waiting until I get married.  How am I not pleasing you?” I was upset now.  I have done all of these things and He’s not satisfied?

“Yes, you have done all of these things but your lack has to do with your secular work.  You are not working as if you are working for Me.”

“Lord, I’m no longer happy at this job.  The new manager is impossible to work with.  I got offered a new job.  The salary is more and I know that I will get along with that manager.  I can buy a townhouse and trade in my car for a better one.  Lord, You can’t expect me to remain in a job where I’m miserable.”

“I want you to stay right where you are.  I will work things out for your good.  Trust Me.  Work as if you are working for Me and not for your manager.”

My heart was heavy.  I wanted to leave that job so badly and take the other one but I didn’t want to end up like the rich young man who turned down Jesus’ invitation to follow Him because of wealth.  How could anyone give up eternal life for wealth which is temporary and which they can’t take with them when they die?  No, I didn’t want to make a mistake I would possibly regret for the rest of my life.  I sighed.  “Okay, Lord, you win.  I’ll stay at my job.”

I stayed at my job and about a month later, the manager left for some inexplicable reason and was replaced by a woman I used to work with years ago at another firm.  She and I always got along very well so I was happy that she was my new manager.  Still, I work heartily as though I were working for the Lord.  I thanked Him for His goodness and faithfulness toward me after I asked Him to forgive me for not giving Him my best on the job.

You will be pleased to know that when my manager was promoted to Director, I got her job.  This means that I’m earning a bigger salary now–much more than what I would have earned from the other job.  And, I’m engaged to be married.  My fiancee joined the department last year around the same time I would have left.  When we are married, we will move into a townhouse and when we have a family, I will trade in my car for a bigger one.  Yes, God is good.

Like the rich young man, ask God what is lacking in your life and be prepared to make the necessary changes.  Don’t let money or possessions, personal gain or relationships prevent you from completely committing yourself to God.

We Are All Slaves

“We are all slaves,” Todd declared and Marsha stared at him.

black girl in white blouse“What do you mean by that?”  she wondered.

“It’s what my pastor said last week.”

“Where did he get that information from?”

“The Bible, of course.  It’s in chapter six of Romans, verses twenty to twenty-two.  We are either slaves of sin or slaves of God.  We serve one or other other.  We serve sin when we allow it to control our bodies, making us commit immoral acts.”

What sort of immoral acts?”

“Adultery, fornication, incest, homosexuality, lesbianism and fornication.”

“What’s fornication?”

“It’s sex outside of marriage.  It can be between two people who aren’t married to each other or between two unmarried people.”

“Oh.”  She turned away so that he wouldn’t see the expression on her face.

“But, sin isn’t just about sexual immorality.  There’s spiritual immorality as well.”

“What happens to a person who is a slave to sin?”

“Romans 6:16 says that obeying sin leads to death.  Doesn’t your church teach you these things?”

She shook her head.  “No.”

“Why don’t you leave that church and come to mine?”

She turned to face him.  “Leave the Catholic Church?” she exclaimed.  “How could I?  I was born and raised a Catholic.  Why should I leave the church just because Father Montgomery hasn’t taught us what’s in Romans 6?  He might one of these days, you know.”

“I used to be a Catholic but I left because I realized that they were teaching what wasn’t in the Bible and the sex scandals–”

Marsha glared at him.  “I’m sick and tired of people attacking the church.”

“Why are you getting so upset?” Todd asked.  “I’m not attacking the church.  All I’m saying is that it needs to address the and rid itself of the sex scandals.  I’m sure that if you or someone you knew were a victim, you would feel differently.  You would want justice.  The church is supposed to be a place where people should feel safe.”

“I have to go,” she muttered.  “I’ll see you tomorrow at school.”  She turned and walked away before he could say anything.

As he headed home, he felt impressed to pray for her.

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Father Montgomery finished saying his prayer in the chapel, blessed himself and rose to his feet.  Next he went to the confessional to listen to three people make confessions.  By the time he left the parish, it was almost six o’clock.  He let himself into the abandoned mansion.   When he first visited it, he ventured down into the secret room, called a “priest hole” where Catholic clergy hid from their Protestant hunters.  Anti-Catholicism was rampant when Queen Elizabeth I ascended to the throne in 1558.  He tried to imagine what it would have been like to spend any amount of time there.  It made him think of the Jews who were hidden by well meaning citizens so that they could escape the concentration camps and ultimately, death.

It was in the Master’s bedroom where Marsha waited for him.  It was still furnished.  The furniture was old but still in good condition, natural light streamed through the large windows and the bed was still functional.  She was sitting at the edge of the bed, hands on lap when he walked in.  He knew right away that something was wrong.  “What’s the matter?” he asked as he sat down beside her.

“I ran into Todd on my way home from church this morning.”

He frowned.  “Who’s Todd?”

“He’s a boy from school.”

“Tell me what happened when you ran into him this morning.”

“He told me that we are all slaves.  Slaves to sin or slaves to God.  His pastor read this in chapter six of Romans.  I don’t want to be a slave to sin because it leads to death.”

“Marsha, you aren’t a slave of sin.  Such talk is foolishness.”

“But what about us?  Aren’t we sinning against God?”

He put his arm around her shoulders.  “It isn’t sin when two people love each other.  I love you and you love me, don’t you?”

“Yes, but–”

“Then, we aren’t sinning.  We are in a monogamous relationship.  We aren’t unequally yoked.  We share the same faith and believe in the same God.”

“Todd said that the church teaches things that aren’t in the Bible.”

“Do you trust me, Marsha?”

“Yes.”

“I would never mislead you or the rest of the flock.  What I teach is sound doctrine approved by God Himself.  Now, let’s not worry any more about what Todd or anyone else who has misguided views about our Church and its teachings.”  He gently pushed her back on to the bed and began to kiss her passionately.

Even as she surrendered to him, at the back of her mind, a small still voice was telling her that this was wrong but, as usual, she let her heart rule her head.

It was love for Eve which made Adam sin against God.  Don’t let love blind you to God’s truth.  It is by the constant obeying of His Word that we are delivered from sin.  Don’t be a slave to sin which leads to death but a slave to God which leads to eternal life.

Sources:  Atlas Obscura; Flickr

The Word Became Flesh

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14, NIV

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God, the Son and the Word who was with the Father in the beginning became flesh.  He came into the world as a newborn Babe to live among men.  He was raised in a Jewish home to Jewish parents in the town of Nazareth.  He became a carpenter like Joseph before going into ministry.  As Man, Jesus experienced the things we experience such as hunger and thirst, tiredness and grief.  He was tempted like us but He didn’t sin.  He prayed daily to the Father.  He had friends and He socialized with different sorts of people, some of whom were treated as outcasts.

The glory John saw was the transfiguration of Jesus when He took Peter, James and him up to the high mountain where He communed with Moses and Elijah.  They were not to mention anything to anyone until He was raised from the dead (Matthew 17:1-3, 9).   Peter later wrote, “For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’  And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.” (2 Peter 1:17, 18).

Jesus came from the Father to bring grace and truth into the world which was steeped in sin and darkness.  His grace was shown in his healing of diseases, the casting out of unclean spirits and in his interaction with tax collectors, sinners, the woman caught in adultery and the Samaritan woman.  He shared moral and religious truth through parables and the Sermon on the Mount.  He taught people how to live in relation to God and to people.  Jesus placed God’s truth which was found in His Word above the traditions of men and the lies of Satan.

As you celebrate this Christmas season, reflect on the amazing reality that Jesus, by Whom all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, set aside His majesty and glory and came in the form of man to tabernacle among the people (Colossians 1:16; Philippians 2:7).

Thank You, Lord Jesus for becoming like us, so that in the flesh You could save us.

Run to God

The name of the Lord is a strong tower;  the righteous run into it and are safe – Proverbs 18:10, MEV

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When my son was a toddler and he got scared, he used to run to me.  I would pick him up in my arms and hold him, saying soothing words to him, until he was no longer afraid.  God wants us to run to Him whenever we are afraid of, or fearful or troubled by something.  He will speak to our fears and worries until they go away.

What is troubling you today?  Why don’t you run to God?  Let Him hold you in His everlasting arms until you are no longer troubled.

How to Claim A Promise From God

2 Peter 3:8-13

praying over Bible

This reading brings to mind Abraham.  God had promised him that he would have a son and the numbers of stars would be how large his generation would be.  Abraham could claim this promise.  This promise of a son met Abraham’s nee.  He would have an heir.  It was in submission to God’s will that he had a son from whom God’s people would be created.  It would honour God because from Abraham would come the generation that Jesus would be born of.  Jesus is a descendant of David who was a descendant of Abraham’s.  (Matthew 1:17)

This promise did not contradict God’s word.  He promised Abraham that He would make him a great nation and that He would bless him and make his name great.  Abraham’s spiritual growth as well as Sarah’s increased as a result of God keeping His promise.  God’s blessing here was intentional.  He wanted to create a nation that He would establish a covenant with and be their God.  From this nation will come kings like David, Israel’s greatest king.  God promised that members of David’s family would rule a kingdom that lasts forever. (2 Samuel 7:1-16, Psalm 132:11-12)  Jesus was born from the family of David.  He is the “Son of David” who will rule God’s kingdom forever.  (Luke 1:31-33, Acts 2:22-36 and Romans 1:1-4)

We are all descendants of Abraham. (Galatians 3:29) who believe in Jesus.  God fulfilled His promise to Abraham.  Through Moses, He brought the Israelites out of Egypt and to the land, which He swore to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as their heritage.  He remembered His covenant with the three patriarchs. (Exodus 6:8).  As Solomon pointed out, God kept all His promises.  He never went back on His word or failed to fulfill any of them. (1 Kings 8:56)

When God makes a promise, it is our responsibility to trust that He will fulfill it when the timing is right.  We have to have faith in His ability to fulfill His promises and keep our focus on Him.  We should never turn away from Him because we are tired of waiting for Him to bless us. Abraham and Sarah were well advanced in age when they had Isaac.  David’s faith in God never wavered—not even when he was suffering or when he lost his sons.  God promised him that he would give him an offspring who would build a temple for Him and whose throne would be established forever.  Shortly after their son died, Bathsheba gave birth to Solomon whom God loved (2 Samuel 12:24).

How do we claim a promise from God?  Simple.  We ask in faith and wait in faith, trusting that He will come through for us because of who He is.  He is faithful and unchanging.  We can stand on His promises because like His Word, they accomplish what He sent them to do.  They don’t return to Him void.  God made a promise to Abraham and Abraham obtained that promise after he had patiently endured (Hebrews 6:13, 15).  Likewise, we patiently wait on the Lord to fulfill His promises to us and in time we will obtain them.  As the psalmist encourages us to, “Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!” (Psalm 27:14).

In the Midst

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you – Isaiah 43:2

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The Christian life is not about the absence of sorrow, suffering, pain and trials but the presence of God in the midst of them.  He was with Joseph when he was in prison.  He showed him mercy and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden (Genesis 39:21).  When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were in the furnace, Jesus was with them (Daniel 3:25).  God was with Daniel who was cast into the den of lions.  He had their mouths stopped (Daniel 6:22, 27).

The Lord was with Paul and Silas when they were in prison (Acts 16:25, 26).  He was with John when he was exiled on the island of Patmos (Revelation 1:12-18).  He was there with Martha and Mary when their brother, Lazarus died even though they believed that He showed up too late but He had His reasons.  In raising Lazarus who had been dead for four days, He wanted the people to see the Father’s glory and to believe that He sent Him (John 11:17-44.

The Lord will be with us too when we are going through trials although there are times when it may seem like He’s not there or He’s late.  But, we must believe that He will show up.  After all, He did promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

So, take heart that no matter what you’re going through today, you are not alone.  God is right there in the midst of the trial with you and He will bring you through it.  Just keep on trusting Him.