Recommit to God

But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.  I cried to the Lord with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill.  Selah – Psalm 3:3, 4

When I was going through a tough time because I was pregnant and unmarried, the words of this psalm comforted and sustained me.  I knew that I was not alone.  The Lord was with me.  He didn’t condone what I had done but He didn’t condemn or forsake me.

A story I can relate to is the one of the Samaritan woman.  She was married five times and living with a man who wasn’t her husband but Jesus reached out to her in love.  He didn’t excuse her lifestyle but he offered her a new one life with him in the center.  He didn’t condemn the woman caught in adultery but showed her grace while at the same time telling her to stop sinning.  God doesn’t discard us when we sin.  He reaches out to us through His Word or through others. I once heard about a man who was at the lowest point in his life, feeling worthless and one day he heard a sermon about God’s love and forgiveness which turned his life completely around.

When we cry out to God, He doesn’t ignore us but we must come to Him with a contrite heart, ready to forsake whatever separates us from Him and receive His forgiveness.  We have the assurance that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

For those of us who feel we are too sinful to go to Him, we are encouraged to, “Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness …” (Joel 2:13)  There isn’t anything you can do that will diminish God’s love for you.  I knew that even while some church members were unforgiving toward me, I knew that I had God’s forgiveness and that His love for me hadn’t changed.  It hadn’t lessened.  In fact, during those times when I felt the heat and the censure from others, God’s love is what sustained me.  If you have wandered away from God, return to Him.  He is like the father of the prodigal son who returned after wasteful living.  The father was waiting for him and he ran to meet him.  God longs for us to return to Him.  He’s waiting with open arms to welcome us back.

I’m thankful that God is “gracious and full of compassion” (Psalm 145:8).  Our response to His goodness and mercy is to recommit our lives to Him.  And in doing so, we can be confident “that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

Source:  Bible Knowledge

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Seeking the Lost

Don’t live in a bubble, live for God by seeking the lost and pointing them to Jesus.

Image is Liz Lemon Swindle’s painting of “The Lost Sheep”

When I saw this image it just struck me that Jesus didn’t live in a bubble.  He ate with tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 9:11).  Many of them followed Him and Jesus was called their Friend (Mark 2:15; Matthew 11:19).  Jesus explained why He spent so much time with them, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).  The lost in Jesus’ day were the tax collectors, the Samaritan woman who was married five times and living with  a man who wasn’t her husband, the woman caught in adultery.

Today, the lost could be the young woman who left the church she grew up in to experience life outside, hanging out with wrong crowd, experimenting with drugs and falling into other destruction behavior and habits until she reaches the point where she hits rock bottom.  She wants to turn her life around but doesn’t know how or thinks that it might be too late.  And Satan is there reminding her of her sins and making her believe that it’s hopeless but Jesus reaches down to where she is and draws her back to Him as seen in this beautiful picture.  He looks past the makeup, the nose ring, the scars of sin and sees a lost soul who needs His love and mercy.

The lost are those who wander away from the church, the faith like the young woman.  When she returns to the fold, is she going to be welcomed with open arms?  Will the members of the church rejoice with heaven because she who was lost is found?  Or will we be like the prodigal son’s brother who refused to be merry?

As the body of Christ, we are to reflect Him in every way.  When a lost soul returns, we ought to celebrate not condemn them for leaving the church.  Perhaps, we ought to ask ourselves why they left in the first place.

Let us come out of the bubble we are living in and go out into the world and let people know that Jesus came into the world to save them (1 Timothy 1:15).

Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ – Luke 15:6

Sources:  Seth Adam Smith; Bible Gateway; Blue Letter Bible; Seeking the Lost Hymn

Jesus’s Birth

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace – Isaiah 9:6

Jesus’ birth didn’t happen exactly as one would expect.  Matthew tells us how it came about.  Mary, Jesus’ mother was a virgin.  In fact, Matthew makes a point of showing that in having Jesus, Mary was fulfilling prophecy.  “Now all this occurred to fulfill what the Lord had spoken through the prophet, saying,  “A virgin shall be with child, and will bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is interpreted, “God with us.”

Mary was engaged to a carpenter named Joseph.  It was around that time that she was found with child by the Holy Spirit.  Matthew doesn’t go into the details as to how her pregnancy came about but Luke does.  The angel Gabriel visited her to tell her that she was highly favored and blessed among women.  She was told that she would have a Son and call His name Jesus.  He explained how this would happen seeing that she was still a virgin.  “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35).

It is not a surprising  thing for the Holy Spirit to create life in Mary.  He was part of the creation of the world where things that didn’t exist came into existence.  Jesus’ birth was to be different from the rest of humanity’s.  He was to be both Divine and Human and this could only be accomplished the way Gabriel explained.

At the risk of ruining her reputation and even her life, Mary agreed to the Lord’s plan for her life.  In those days, if a woman betrothed to another  man was discovered to be pregnant and the child was not the man’s whom she is promised to in marriage, she could be stoned to death for committing adultery.  And this is what was weighing on Joseph’s mind when he found out that Mary was pregnant and knew that it wasn’t his child.

Joseph was a decent man.  He didn’t want to publicly expose Mary but he couldn’t go through with their impending marriage.  He had to break things off quietly.  No doubt his sleep was fitful and it was while he was thinking this predicament, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for He who is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”

What a relief that must have been for Joseph.  Mary hadn’t two-timed him and he could go ahead and marry her as he had planned.  When he woke up, he did as the angel told him and he took Mary to be his wife.  And he named her Son, Jesus.

God knew exactly what He was doing when He chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus and Joseph to be her husband.  He knew that everything would work out as it should.  Mary trusted God when she accepted His will for her life and as a result she was blessed with Jesus who would her Savior and the world’s.

Sources:  Matthew 1; Luke 1

Jesus’ Family Tree

Knowing where you come from is very important.  Nowadays, there are ways that you can find out about your ancestry.  In some cultures, including Jesus’, genealogies are very important.   Matthew begins Jesus’ genealogy with these words, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

Why does Matthew begin the family tree with King David and Abraham?  Well, he wanted show that Israel’s hope had been fulfilled in the coming of Christ.  The promise of Abraham “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3) is fulfilled in Jesus as the Saviour of the world.”  As the Son of David and his direct descendant, Jesus is qualified to be Israel’s King.  The birth of Jesus showed that God had fulfilled His promises to Abraham and David.

It was unusual to include women in genealogies but four are mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy.  Tamar who had children with Judah, her father-in-law because he wronged her; Rahab, a Jericho prostitute who helped two Jewish spies; Ruth, a Moabite woman who made God her God because of he mother-in-law, a Jewish widow and Bathsheba, King Solomon’s mother.  Bathsheba is the only one of the four women who is not mentioned by name.  She is called the wife of Uriah, the Hittite.  King David had committed adultery with her while Uriah was away fighting for king and country.

These four women are not type of women you would expect to find in the genealogy of the Son of God.  It just goes to show that these women like all sinners can be redeemed by God and used to accomplish His will.  It is clear that we are precious to God and therefore, despite our sinful nature, are valuable to Him.

Sources:  Matthew 1; Zondervan Handbook to the Bible

Prayer Partner

She had been looking for a prayer partner
for a long time but whenever she thought of
someone and called her, it wasn’t a good
time for the person or she wasn’t interested.

The past year had been hard. Her marriage
of fifteen years ended in divorce. They had
gone for counseling but he decided that he
didn’t want to continue with it and filed for
a divorce. That really hurt. She had hoped
to save their marriage. As a Christian, she
didn’t believe in divorce, not even if there
were grounds for it. In her case, there was
adultery.

It was a shock when she found out
that her husband had been having an affair
with his secretary. When she asked him
about it, he didn’t deny it but promised to
end it. She didn’t fly into a rage but mustered
as much self-control as she possibly could to
remain composed and suggested
that they see a marriage counselor. They did
for a few weeks and then he decided that it
was a waste of time. She found out that he
had not ended his affair. He moved out and
a week later, she received the divorce papers.
The divorce was final and she had full custody
of their daughter. He had her for weekends
and holidays.

It was hard adjusting to life as a divorced
woman. Her sister had suggested that she
joined a prayer group at the church or get
a prayer partner. The support would be a
tremendous benefit for her. So, she decided
to look into getting a prayer partner but so far
her quest was unsuccessful. She prayed about
it every night, hoping that the next time
she called the names on her list that someone
would say “yes”.

Then one day her daughter came to her while
she was in the kitchen preparing dinner. “Mommy,
can I be your prayer partner?” she asked.

Her mother stopped what she was doing to look
at her. What a novel idea, she thought. Then she
thought of the prophets Samuel and Jeremiah.
They were young when God called them to serve
Him. Perhaps God was telling her that the
answer to her prayer was right in front of her.
“How did you know that I was looking for a
prayer partner?”

“I heard you on the phone and when I saw you
you looked really sad so I prayed about
it too. God told me to ask you if I could be
your prayer partner.”

She hugged her daughter. “Yes, Honey, you can
be my prayer partner. Why don’t we take a moment
right now to thank God for answering our prayers?”

Her daughter nodded, smiling. And they went into
the living-room where they knelt down and prayed.

Mother-and-Daughter-in-Prayer-Ministry-Stock-Photo-1024x682

Source:  Fruitful Words Blog

Rescued

She came from Niger, a place notorious for child marriage.

Her name is Abayomi which means “she brings me joy”.

She was only 14 when her parents insisted that she got married

Abayomi was filled with horror.  She had heard stories of  girls

as young as seven years  old being sold into marriage.

She didn’t want to get married–yet.  And when she did she

wanted it to be her decision.  She wanted to go to school and

study to be a doctor.   Her pleas fell on deaf ears.

 

A year passed and she was set to marry a man twice her age.

She had a wedding dress and the dreaded day was approaching.

There seemed to be no hope.  She thought of running away but where

could she go?  She couldn’t stay here.   She  thought of the horrible stories

she heard of young girls losing their lives when their parents married  them

of because they were having children when they were too young.  She didn’t

want to end up like them.  She didn’t want to die in childbirth.

 

No.  I’m going to fight this, she resolved.  She continued to refuse the

arranged marriage until her father cancelled it.  And to her surprise,

he encouraged her to join UNFPA’s Action for Adolescent Girls programme.

When Abayomi went to the programme, she met other girls who had left

school to marry and some were even pregnant.  She was happy that she had

escaped the same fate.  She had her father to thank  for that.  What had made

him  change his mind after he had been so adamant?

 

She learned that he had met a Christian who told him about Jesus.   Curious, she

asked him what he knew about Jesus.  He explained that Jesus would not have

wanted him to force her into doing something against her will.  Then, he gave

the Gospel of John booklet the man had given him.  After everyone else had

gone to bed, she read stayed up to read the Gospel.

 

As Abayomi read how Jesus rescued the woman caught in adultery from

being stoned to death, she realized that she too had been rescued from a

terrible fate.  She felt the tears spill down her cheeks and sliding off the

bed , she knelt on the floor.  “Thank You, Jesus,” she prayed.  She decided right

there and then to give her heart to One who had seen her plight and had come

to her aid.

 

Abayomi continued with her education and is currently in medical school.  She

is also encouraging other girls to say no to child marriage.  And her parents have

changed their views of forced marriage.  They believe that she should have the

right to choose her own husband and to marry when she is ready.

 

Nigerian Girl

Sources:  UNFPA; The Telegraph; BBC

Keeping Up Appearances

They had been together for twenty years.  The first ten had been relatively happy but after the loss of their child, their marriage started to crumble.  They went for counseling and things improved but only for a while.  They tried unsuccessfully to have other children.  They thought of adopting but decided not to.  The wait period was too long.

They thought of going for more counseling but felt too embarrassed to do so.  At church they acted like there was nothing wrong with their marriage.  When people looked at them, they saw a couple who were still going strong in spite of their loss.  They didn’t see the pain that was beneath the surface as Sarah watched other mothers holding their children or as husbands put their arms around their wives, their faces reflecting the love in their hearts.  All they saw was the artificial smile on her face when she and Bill walked through the front door of the church and were greeted by the elders at the entrance to the sanctuary.  No one knew the turmoil that had become a daily part of her life.

How much longer could she continue with this charade?  She wanted a real marriage not an artificial one.  She was tired of keeping up appearances.  Either they were going to make this marriage work again or they were going to call it quits.  The latter terrified her.  She couldn’t imagine being on her own again after being with Bill for twenty years.  The idea of starting all over again at the age of forty-nine was daunting.  She thought of what the people in church was say if she and Bill were to split up.  Neither of them had committed adultery so, why end their marriage?  Why not get counseling?  Why not try to work things out?  In their eyes, she and Bill had no grounds for divorce.  And what if they decided that they wanted to end their marriage and then, later on down the road, one of them decided that they wanted to get married again?

The words of Jesus came flooding through her mind, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her.  And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:11, 12).  She didn’t want to be labelled an adulteress should she decide that she wanted to find happiness with someone else. 

Should she do as her mother did?  Her parents’ marriage was not a happy one yet they stayed together.  There had never been any divorce in the family and they didn’t want to break that tradition.  She had watched how miserable they both were, the love between them fade until it was gone.  All the while, they pretended that things were fine between them when they were around friends, other family members and in church.  Only she and her brother knew that it was all a charade, that their marriage was artificial.  She didn’t want that for herself.  She didn’t want to pretend like her parents did. She saw what years of pretending had done to them.  It wasn’t until after her father’s death, that her mother started to live again.  The spark was back in her eyes.  She never remarried but she lived the rest of her life in content.

Sarah had vowed that she would never go through what her parents did and yet, here she was, twenty years later facing a tough choice about her marriage.  What should she do?  Divorce Bill and be happy or stay with him and be miserable?  Getting up from the bed, she knelt down beside it, her head bowed and her hands tightly clasped.  “Lord, please tell me what to do.  I love Bill but we are no longer happy together.  I don’t want us to continue to live like this.  I know you hate divorce and I never imagined that our marriage would end like this but I know that you want us to be happy even if it means that we can’t be happy with each other.  Please help me to make the best choice.  Please…”

The tears started to fall so she reached over to grab a handful of tissues from the box and something fell on the carpet.  She picked it up.  It was last week’s church bulletin.  She had left it on the bedside table, meaning to read it when she had the time.  She turned it over and her eyes fell on an announcement.  It read:

Courageous Hearts

The pace and pressures of life place enormous strains on a marriage. Couples often find themselves merely coexisting. They share the same house and split the bills, but that’s about it. Courageous Hearts helps couples rebuild vital connections in their marriage through clear communication and healthy ways of resolving conflicts.

Our Courageous Hearts Retreat is designed to restore communication and rekindle affection encouraging you to have a healthy Christian marriage.

Listed below the announcement were the dates of the retreat and a phone number. She got up from the floor and left the room, holding the bulletin, her mind racing.  That evening after dinner, Bill sat next to her on the sofa.  “Morris gave me this” he said, handing her a small card.  Morris was their next door neighbor and an elder in their church.  She took it and glanced down at it, her eyes widening.  It was the same announcement that was in the bulletin.  She looked up at him and asked, “Do you think we should go?”

He nodded.  “I am willing to give our marriage another try, if you are.”

“I am.”  It was worth another try.  She felt that this was what God wanted and she trusted Him to know what was best for Bill and her.  She had heard of marriages almost on the brink of divorce being restored because of one of these retreats. Perhaps, the same miracle could happen for Bill and her.   After all, with God anything was possible…

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