Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

For someone's birthday, we usually spend some time deciding the best way to commemorate the occasion.  We may choose to acknowledge and celebrate the birthday by planning a party with a cake and balloons, sending a card or calling the birthday boy or girl.  We also typically buy a gift for the guest of honor that will satisfy one of their needs or wants.  In whatever way we choose to celebrate the day, our motive is to bring delight to the person who is having the birthday.

How can we apply these principles to Jesus' birthday?  What does Jesus want from us in celebration of His birth?  What would make Jesus happy?

Some of the things that Jesus wants from us is to:
  • Be our Savior (John 3:16-18).  He wants us to believe in Him and accept Him into our hearts so we can then live with Him for eternity. 
  • Love God with all of our hearts (Matthew 22:37-38)
  • Love our neighbors with a godly love (Matthew 22:39; John 15:12; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
  • Take up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24)
  • Tell others about Him (Matthew 28:19-20)
  • Be His friend (John 15:14)
  • Spend time with Him through worship, prayer and Bible study;
  • Avoid sin (1 Thessolonians 5:22);
  • Live a godly life so that we make an impact on the world instead of having the world influence us (Matthew 5:13-16);
  • Be a living sacrifice by giving all we have (time, money, spiritual gifts) to serve God and others (Romans 12:1)
  • Give to others (Matthew 25:35-39)
  • Help the needy (Exodus 22:22-27)
  • Cooperate with the Holy Spirit that is working is us (1 Thessolonians 5:19)
  • Allow the Holy Spirit to control our minds, hearts and mouths (Romans 12:2; Psalm 141:3)
  • Have our words and deeds motivated by love.  If the source of our motivation is anything else, Jesus will not be pleased (Matthew 15:8-9)
  • Set our minds on things above and not on earthly things (Colossians 3:1-2)
  • Get rid of anger, malice, slander, filthy language, moral impurity, strife, jealousy and selfish ambition (Colossians 3:8; Galatians 5:19-21)
  • Clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love, joy, peace, goodness, gentleness, faith and self-control (Colossians 3:12-14; Galatians 5:22-23)
  • Not worry (Matthew 6:25-34)
  • Not criticize others (Matthew 7:1-5)
  • Work as working for the Lord (Colossians 3:23)
  • Give thanks always (1 Thess 5:18)
  • Obey God's commands which will demonstrate the depth and sincerity of our love for Him (John 14:15)
Jesus wants this from us every day not just on Christmas day, the day on the calendar that is set aside to celebrate His birth.  As Christians, we should celebrate our Savior's birth each and every day that He was willing to enter a sinful world in order to provide salvation for all.

So what are you giving Jesus this Christmas and every day thereafter?  What are you doing to celebrate His presence in your life?  If you are not celebrating Jesus every day, what changes do you need to make today?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Trust the Pattern





"When the trials of life unravel the fabric of our plans.  When we face the deep confusion of painful circumstance.  When our feeble strength is broken, and we stand with empty hands.  That's when the Father whispers 'Trust the patter I have planned'."  ~ Lyrics from the song, "The Weaver"

Trust the Lord in good times and in bad. He is in control. He has a plan for your life “to prosper you not to harm you to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) Every child of God is aware of these truths, but it is not until the death of a loved one, a financial crisis, a dreaded diagnosis, a broken relationship or other trial occurs that we are tested to hold fast to these promises.

During times of trouble it is so easy to get overwhelmed by negative emotions. Anxiety and a desperate desire to get out of your dire situation makes it difficult to walk by faith. It is hard to see what God is doing in and through you and to be patient while He works, when all you want is for your life to be fixed...NOW – that is, to be restored to what you perceive as “normal”.

However, you should not allow your emotions, which can be unreliable during difficult circumstances, to paralyze your faith, your thoughts or your prayers. You must be willing to say to God, “Your will be done”.(Matthew 26:42) God is good, and everything He does is good. It may seem simplistic, but faith in the Lord does not need to be complicated. Life gets complicated when you trust in anything other than God. Trust Him while He works a beautiful pattern of righteousness in your life!

"But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.  He will be like a tree planted by water that sends out its roots by the stream.  It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.  It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."  Jeremiah 17:7-8


Loni is our hostess this week at http://writingcanvas.wordpress.com/.











Saturday, December 12, 2009

Obey God's Word

"Psalm 119 paints a comprehensive portrait of the value of God's Word."  (Explore the Bible - Adult Learner Guide, Fall 2009, page 107)  This psalm is also an alphabetical or acrostic Psalms which is is divided into twenty-two parts which correspond to the twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet with eight verses in each part.

In the first sixteen verses, the Aleph and Beth sections, the psalmist uses different words to refer the Scriptures which reveals much about the purpose of the Bible:
  • law (verse 1) - the Hebrew word is Torah from a word meaning “to teach”.  The Bible "guides, directs, and instructs in the way of righteousness" (Adam Clarke's Commentary)
  • decrees or testimonies as in the King James Version (verse 2) - The Bible is truthful and good.
  • His ways (verses 3, 14 and 15) - the Hebrew word, derek, figuratively means a course of life or mode of action, and by following the Bible we will know how to live and act each day.
  • precepts (verses 4 and 15) - a mandate (of God; plural only, collectively for the Law).  The Bible is authoritative.
  • statutes (verses 5, 8, 12 and 16) - positive laws that "mark or describe the line of conduct we are to pursue and order or ordain what we are to observe" (Adam Clarke's Commentary)
  • commands (verses 6 and 10) - laws that both forbid and enjoin.  "They show us what we should do, and what we should leave undone, and exact our obedience" (Adam Clarke's Commentary)
  • judgments (verses 7 and 13) - "rules of conduct formed by God’s judicial decision" (Jamieson, Fausset & Brown Commentary
  • Word (verses 9, 11 and 16) - "In his revelation God speaks to man; shows him, in a clear, concise, intelligible, and rational way, his interest, his duty, his privileges; and, in a word, the reasonable service that he requires of him." (Adam Clarke's Commentary)
Also, in these verses the psalmist describes how we should respond to God's Word:
  • to walk or follow (verses 1 and 3) - to act or do as God's Word says.
  • to keep (verses 2, 4, 5 and 9) - to protect or to take heed.  "God has never given a commandment, the observance of which he knew to be impossible. And to whatsoever he has commanded he requires obedience." (Adam Clarke's Commentary)
  • to seek Him (verses 2 and 10) - to inquire as to what is God's will.  We must do this wholeheartedly.
  • to respect (verses 6) - look at intently or consider what God's Word states.
  • to be directed (verse 5)- to have our lives fixed on God's Will or to apply the Scriptures to our lives.
  • to learn or to be taught (verses 7, 8 and 12) - to have received instruction from God's Word.
  • to keep pure (verse 9) - to be translucent or innocent.  We will have nothing to hide, if we are abiding by the Scriptures because we will be receiving instructions so we can make wise decisions.
  • to treasure (verse 11) - The Word of God is precious and vital to our spiritual growth, and we must keep it close to us in our hearts and minds by memorizing, meditating and applying Scripture.  "If God's word be only in his Bible, and not also in his heart, he may soon and easily be surprised into his besetting sin." (Adam Clarke's Commentary)
  • to proclaim (verse 13) - tell others what is in God's Word.  To speak the truth of God's Word, it must be a part of us, that is deeply embedded in our hearts and minds.
  • to rejoice (verse 7, 12 and 14) - to be thankful for God's Word and for what we learn from the Scriptures, grace to apply what we learn and the benefits we reap as a result of our obedience.
  • to mediate upon (verse 15) - to think about what the Scripture mean and how to apply it in our daily lives, to talk to others about the Scripture and what we have learned, and to pray the Scripture asking God to reveal more insight to us and the wisdom and strength to live out His Word.  Meditation requires us "to focus our mental, emotional and physical energy on the teachings of the Scriptures for the sake of our spiritual growth." (Explore the Bible - Adult Learner Guide, Fall 2009, page 113)
  • to delight in (verse 16) - "The word is very emphatical: eshtaasha, I will skip about and jump for joy." (Adam Clarke's Commentary) We are to enjoy studying God's Word.  If an activity brings you joy, then it is very likely that you will make it a priority in your life.
  • to remember (verse 16) - to retain in our memory and/or to keep our attention.  We must not forget what God has done, His many promises and what He has commanded us to do.
Also, in these verse the positive consequences of obeying the Scriptures are listed:
  • we will be happy. (verses 1 and 2)  This happiness is not like the fickle, temporary happiness of the world, but a state of joy that endures regardless of our circumstances and our emotions.
  • we will be blameless (verse 1) that is we will  have integrity.
  • we will do no iniquity (verse 3, 10, 11), that is we will "avoid all idolatry, injustice, and wrong" (Adam Clarke's Commentary).  "We must also put God's Word to work in our lives, making it a vital guide for everything we do." (Life Application Bible Notes)
  • we will not be ashamed or disappointed. (verse 6) because we are living in obedience to God.  We only feel shame when we are under the conviction of the Holy Spirit for our disobedience.
  • we will praise him. (verses 7, 12 and 14) - Praising God will be the natural consequence of growing in Christ through Bible study.  The more we know about Christ, the closer we walk with Him, our joy will increase, and as our joy multiplies, we will be unable to contain it, but will have to proclaim it through praise.
  • our hearts will be right with God (verse 7) - our motives will be pure and our actions and words will be in line with His Will and His Word. 
The first sixteen verses of Psalm 119 also contains requests that the psalmist made of God:
  • "never abandon me" (verse 8) - The psalmist recognizes that without the grace of God he will not be able to be obedient to God.  We not only need the Bible, our instructions for living, but we need the Holy Spirit to guide, teach and rebuke us so we will stay on the right path.
  • "don't let me wander from Your commands" (verse 10) - The psalmist asserts his desire to obey God, but once again acknowledges that he cannot do it alone.  Wandering from God and His Word will only bring us heartache, but thankfully, the Holy Spirit is always working within us prompting us to return to God when we stray.
"This Book contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s character. Here paradise is restored, Heaven opened, and the gates of hell disclosed. Christ is its grand object; our good is its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully. It is given you in life and will be opened in the judgment and will be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labor, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents." ~Author Unknown

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Beginning of Jesus' Ministry

Jesus began his ministry in Galilee after he faced temptation by Satan in the wilderness for forty days and John the Baptist was arrested. (Mark 1:14) As much as Jesus must have grieved over his cousin's, John the Baptist's, fate, He knew He had to do that which God had called Him to do, that is preach the Good News of God, which would bring hope and freedom to a lost and dying world.  The Good News continues to bring hope and freedom to the world. Like Jesus, we should not let crises and tragedies keep us from telling others about Jesus.  Regardless of our pain, there are people who are lost who need Jesus as their Savior, and without Him, they face the worst pain of all, eternal separation from God.

In Mark 1:15 Jesus declared that the prophesy had been fulfilled regarding a Savior, that God's kingdom is coming soon and that a person can enter God's Kingdom by repenting and believing in Him. Repentence and believe in Jesus for salvation are both acts of faith.

The first disciples that Jesus called were two sets of brothers, Simon and Andrew and James and John.  All four of these men were fishermen.  At the time that Jesus called them, Simon and Andrew were casting their nets while James and John were repairing their nets. (Mark 1:16-19)  Jesus could have called Scribes or Pharisees as His disciples, who on paper may have looked to be the most qualified candidates.  Instead, "Jesus called fishermen, hard-working and industrious people, to perform the most important task on earth:  being fishers of men." (Nelson's Student Bible Commentary

Once Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James and John to follow Him, they did immediately. (Mark 1:18 and 20)  There were no excuses, no procrastination, no comparing their options and no "what if's".  They expressed no worries about leaving behind their livelihood or their families.  Instead, they demonstrated faith by following Jesus.  This is a perfect example for us to follow:  when God calls us to do something, we should stop what we are doing and immediately do what we have been told to do.  Our obedience should be prompt and unconditional.  It is so simple, but we often complicate matters by superimposing our personal agendas and preferences. 

Jesus and his four disciples went to Capernaum.  "Capernaum was a thriving town with great wealth as well as great sin and decadence. Because it was the headquarters for many Roman troops, pagan influences from all over the Roman empire were pervasive. This was an ideal place for Jesus to challenge both Jews and non-Jews with the gospel of God's kingdom." (Life Application Bible Notes)  Because of the pervasive sin, Capernaum would not be easy place to make converts, but Jesus did not shy away from a task because it would be difficult and neither should we, if it is within God's will for us.

On the Sabbath when they arrived in Capernaum, Jesus immediately went to the synagogue and began teaching. (Mark 1:21)  We too like Jesus should attend church on the Sabbath, and we should serve and use our spiritual gifts when the opportunities arise.  Those in attendance were amazed by Jesus' teaching.  They knew that His teachings were different than the teachings of the Scribes because Jesus taught "as one having authority". (Mark 1:22)  Jesus had the ultimate authority since His authority came from God.  The Scribes had no authority because their teachings were not from God nor were the scribes called by God. (Adam Clarke's Commentary

While Jesus was teaching, He was interrupted by a demon possessed man who asked Jesus what did He want from them and had He come to destory them.  The demon went on to say that he knew who Jesus was -- "the Holy One of God". (Mark 1:23-24)  If even the demons acknowledge who Jesus is, it is difficult to understand how people can deny the existence of God.  The demon thought Jesus came to destory, but Jesus came to give life.  However, this was not a option for the demon, who was a fallen angel; the demon's fate had already determined -- eternal separation from Jesus. 

Jesus spoke to the demon and commanded him to come out of the man, and the demon obeyed Jesus' command. (Mark 1:25-26)  Words have power, particularly the words of Jesus Christ.  It also shows that even the demons are under God's ultimate control; they can only do what God allows them to do.  This amazed the crowd because they had never witnessed such an event before and wondered if this was some type of new teaching. (Mark 1:27)  "Note the contrast here, the demon knows who Jesus is and refuses to follow; the people flock to Jesus but don't know who he truly is."(A Follower's Response by Jeff Miller) As a result of Jesus casting out the demon, the news about Jesus spread throughout the region of Galilee (Mark 1:28) due to the type of miracle that was performed and because of the number of eyewitnesses that saw the event.

Mark 1:29-31 describes the visit to the home of Simon and Andrew by Jesus and his four disciples.  At the home was Simon's mother-in-law who was suffering a fever.  They told Jesus about her illness, and He went immediately to heal her.  Jesus healed her by touching her hand.  Jesus still works the same for us today when he learns of our problem, He has compassion for us and begins to work in the situation.  However, we, like the members of Simon's household, must not be afraid to tell Jesus of our need.  He already knows our situation; He only wants us to allow Him to help.  How Simon's mother-in-law responded to being helped by Jesus is a lesson to us -- she immediately began serving her guests.  Physical ailments may knock us out of commission for a while leaving us unable to serve Jesus and others, but once we are able, we should begin doing the work of the Lord without delay.

The miracles that Jesus performed were "meant to authenticate the teachings and identity of Jesus." (A Follower's Response by Jeff Miller)  Jesus does not want to be known as just a miracle worker and does not want people to come to Him only because He can perform miracles in their lives.  Even though Jesus has compassion for those who are hurting physically, mentally or emotionally and wants to help with these problems, His primary concern is our soul and our salvation.

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