Sunday, July 27, 2014

I LIKE GIVING =- FORMSMA - Book Review

I LIKE GIVING
Brad Formsma

The many inspiring stories of generous giving given by Brad Formsma in his book of “I Like Giving” bears out the words of Jesus in Acts 20:36, It is more blessed to give than to receive.  The feeling of giving when a need is seen brings so much joy and satisfaction that giving begets more giving.

Formsma discusses what happens when we give, the science of giving, and many other aspects of generosity.  Giving involves the family as well as the community.  Receiving is sometimes a problem so Formsma discusses that as well.


Generosity changes the world around us; however, it changes us, too, when we focus on the needs of others.  This book inspires one to be generous. I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

SCRIPTURE GEMS - 11

SCRIPTURE GEMS – 11

It has been mentioned that our attitudes are such a large part of our Christian life.  Our attitude toward God as Almighty, knowing all, but compassionate, forgiving, and loving those who follow Him being of utmost importance.  Our attitude that we have of Jesus as our Savior, the One who died that we might have salvation, and lived that we might follow in His path is an attitude not to be taken for granted.  In order to stay faithful, our attitude toward the world is important.  Our citizenship is in heaven, not on earth.  Our lives must show this.

Now comes an important attitude—that attitude which we take toward our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Scripture gives us some warnings about our attitude toward one another.  Phil.2:3,4   We are too prone to think “our way” is the best rather than consider the other person in humility.  In fact Phil.2:14 commands us to do all things without grumbling or disputing.  The body of Christ is likened to our physical body.  Our arms don’t fight with our legs.  Jesus was not that way and He is our example.  Paul expressed a similar thought to young Timothy in his last epistle.  2 Tim.2:24   Just because Timothy was a young preacher does not mean we can be quarrelsome. 

Paul advised the Galatians about their speech toward one another as well as the fact that there was even envy and boasting.  These characteristics are not part of the fruit of the Spirit.  Gal.5:15, 26   James adds complaining against one another.  Jam.5:9   These attitudes will consume or destroy unity in Christ.

How could we be bound together in the body of Christ is we dislike one another?  That is a worldly attitude.  John reasons with Christians about this problem in the book of 1 Jhn.4:20,21.

When we erase the above attitudes from our heart, then bitterness will not spring up and peace will be the outcome.  Heb.12:14,15   We can then build one another up in the Lord.  Rom.14:10   Times come when we all need building up.  This is one reason we are taught to meet together.  Heb.10:24,25

A picture of the attitude of those in Christ is found in Eph.4:32.  Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.  These attitudes are important in the church but they are also important in the home.  Paul also exhorts or urges the people of God in Col.3:12-15 to have the attitudes becoming to children of God for that is what we are.

If we have no love for others (2nd commandment) these attitudes will not exist in our hearts.  1 Pet.4:8-10   With love, we will be tolerant and patient with them as they will be to us.  1 Thess.3:12   If we love others, we will want to help them in any way we can.  Gal.6:10  

Hospitality brings people closer together.  1 Pet.4:8-10   How often was Jesus found in homes of not only friends but sinners.  This is one way to really get to know our brothers and sisters in Christ.  It doesn’t have to be fancy.  Just visit and share together. 

This way we get to know their burdens and joys and they—ours.  Gal.6:2; Rom.12:10-16   When we are together, we can encourage one another.  1 Thess.5:11  We can help each other in our weaknesses.  Rom.15:1   We can comfort one another.  2 Cor.1:4; 2 Cor.13:11

In following the lives of the early Christians, we find that they were willing to give to their fellow Christians in need.  Act 11:29; Rom.12:13   John relates our love of God to the way we care for others.  1 Jhn.3:17

Everything that relates to the Christian also relates to the “preacher” for he is a Christian just as we are.  However, Paul exhorts (urges) Christians to esteem them in a special way for their work for us spiritually.  1 Thess.5:12,13   Additional commands are given in 1 Thess.5:14.

Peace and unity is promoted if Eph.5:21 if followed.  This is not always easy but remember—we pray together earnestly and sincerely.  God will help us.  This was an important part of the early church and should be with us as well.  Acts 2:42

The following must be in our hearts, minds, prayers, and attitudes.  Eph.4:32   Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.


    

SCRIPTURE GEMS - 10

SCRIPTURE GEMS – 10

It has been said that our attitudes as Christians are a large percentage of our spirituality.  An attitude is a state of mind toward something or somebody.  With this in mind, let us look as some aspects of the attitudes we might have and attitudes we should have as Christians.  A Christian is a follower of Christ.  Matt.10:38   As a follower we are to have the attitude of Christ.  Phil.2:5-7  5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, We must follow Him in this life if we want to reap the benefits of life after death.

What was Jesus’ attitude?  He left the glories of heaven to become like us – a human being with the physical and emotional feelings that we have and yet He was without sin.  2 Cor.8:9    Do we think our problems are greater than those of Jesus?  Think again.  We do face many problems in the form of loss, pain, etc. but Christ did as well.  1 Pet.2:21   If we are following in His steps, our problems become lighter as we look toward our life eternal.  Life isn’t about the now only.  Matt.11:29,30    We are only pilgrims passing through to a better place.  Phil.3:20

Our attitude cannot be living for self.  If you have had a baby, you know what giving up of self is—your time, sleep, money, etc.  Why do we do it?  We love our baby.  The same is true with a loved one that is sick.    We should love our Lord even more.  Our love will show.  Jhn.14:15,23   If we want to follow Jesus, we must deny self.  Matt.16:24-26

Not only is our attitude to be that of Jesus.  Our attitude toward the world is also very important.  1 Jhn.2:15-17   We cannot desire the things of the world so strongly that it is impossible to be content.  However, sometimes this is our attitude.  Heb.13:5; Phil.4:11-13  

A human tendency is to want to be like everyone else.  Rom.12:2   When our mind is renewed as a follower of Jesus, this human tendency is done away.  1 Pet.1:14   We don’t want to be like the one where seed was sown among thorns and then  became unfruitful.  Matt.13:22  This attitude is one of worry about the things of the world and riches.  Our mind becomes so involved with these things that we are choked in our attitude toward the spiritual.  Give it to God.  Phil.4:6   Just because this is difficult is no reason to quit.  Keep growing in the ability to hand it over to our Lord.  2 Tim.2:4

Two attitudes seem conflicting concerning the world and yet are very important.  First, we cannot be a friend of the world or we become God’s enemy.  Jam.4:4   What was Jesus’ attitude toward those of the world?  He wanted to see them saved.  Lk.19:10   Do we?  When those of the world became followers, they became His close friends (apostles).  Others of the world He helped by healing and helping in many ways.  This caused many of them to become followers.  Jude 23   Jesus gained their trust in helping and showing He cared.  He did not become one of them in sin.
We can show compassion toward those of the world and give help in whatever way we are able without soiling our lives for Christ.  1 Cor.15:33   Be watchful and pray.

Paul had a great desire to help those weak in the faith.  Rom.9:3   What an attitude to have!  However, we think of the attitude of Jesus.  He died that we might take on His righteousness.  2 Cor.5:21   Paul became whatever he needed to be in order to win others to Christ.  1 Cor.9:22

A humble attitude is so important as we interact with those in the world.  Gal.6:3   In fact, it is important in our attitude toward other Christians as well.  1 Cor.8:2   The lack of a humble attitude will turn others away about as quickly as anything.

Even though we are to have compassion and try to help unbelievers, never are we to be bound to them. 2 Cor.6:14-17  Paul uses several illustrations as he gives this command.  This would apply to marriage with other marriage commands.  It would apply to business partnerships that turned immoral.  A person could get out of that.  Any kind of “binding together” must be considered.

We have yet to discuss our attitudes toward other Christians.  That will come next.  Meanwhile, may we be extremely conscious of the attitudes that we possess inwardly and show to others outwardly.  As we follow Jesus, may we have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,  Phil.2:5

   




   

SCRIPTURE GEMS - 9

SCRIPTURE GEMS – 9

Does the phrase, “Be perfect”, scare you?  Yet we are told to be perfect.  Matt.5:48    Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  So what is the meaning of “perfect?”  We think of perfect as being absolutely without fault of any kind.  This very accurately describes our heavenly Father.  Perfect in the Greek extends the meaning to mature, complete, highest standard, fully developed, full grown.  A child does not mature or become fully grown over night.  Neither do we as we are newly born in Christ.  It is true that we come up out of the baptismal waters clean with our sins forgiven.  We start with a clean slate and then grow.  If this were not true, many of the exhortations and commands in the epistles would have no meaning.

Growth doesn’t just happen.  Where do we find the means for perfection?  1 Pet.5:10   In this passage we find four ways in which God helps us.  God will perfect us which is our present need.  Heb.13:21   God knows our need and will equip us that we may grow in that respect. 

The second help is to confirm us.  God will testify and settle the truth of our growth to become perfect.  This is our confirmation.  Oh, how we need strength to continue to grow toward perfection.  God is a god of all strength.  We don’t need physical strength as much as we need spiritual strength.  The greatest commandment is to love God with all our strength.  Lk.10:27

The fourth way God in His remarkable grace helps us is to establish us.  Ps.1:3 is a good example of being established.  A good tree can withstand many storms.  With our faith in God, we also should be able to endure the storms of life.  Many times we are told to “stand firm.”  Eph.6:13   We are to use our armor with God’s help.

As we accept Christ as our Savior, we are sanctified or set apart for Him, for Jesus offered Himself once and for all times and through that offering has perfected us.  Heb.10:14   Jesus offers Himself as an example in that He became perfect because of His obedience.  Heb.5:8,9   Obedience is necessary for us to grow in perfection.

Paul was dealing with those who had not stood firm in the faith in Galatians.  He asks them if they are being made perfect by the flesh.  Our humanness cannot gain perfection for us.  Paul tells the Galatians that it begins with the Holy Spirit.  Gal.3:3

So far in gaining perfection we have the help of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit.  There is another very important help—the Word of God.  2 Tim.3:16,17   In striving to be perfect, we are striving to be made complete.  Scripture is our instruction book written by God’s inspiration to the authors.  We need to hunger and thirst to feed on His Word.  Matt.5:6; Jhn.7:38,39   The Word of God definitely performs a work in us.  1 Thess.2:13   This helps us grow toward perfection as well.

As Paul was explaining the various gifts of ministry to the Ephesians, he gave the purpose to attain unity and knowledge of Jesus.  As these gifts are used, they cause growth in maturity.  Maturity is part of perfection.  Eph.4:11-13

Even suffering makes perfection.  Heb.2:10   We learn many things through pain, loss and problems.  This causes us to grow toward perfection.  Jam.1:2   James goes on to name some of the growth factors that come from suffering.

Perfection is acquired through the growth of spiritual graces.  Love would be an important one of these for without it, not much is accomplished.  Col.3:14   Spiritual graces begin and end with love.  1 Cor.13:13  

Part of being complete or perfect is our faith.  1 Thess.3:10   Faith is the beginning of our salvation.  Nothing else would matter if we didn’t fully believe.  Eph.2:8   Peter reminds us in 1 Pet.1:5 that salvation is protected by our faith but salvation is not complete until the “last time.”

We not only add all of the fruit of the Spirit as stated in Gal.5:22,23.  We cleanse our lives from pollution of body and spirit.  2 Cor.7:1   We are a temple of the Holy Spirit as a church.  1 Cor.3:16,17   Each one of us personally is also a temple of the Holy Spirit.  1 Cor.6:19,20   We must not defile the body of Christ.  This would keep us from any perfection we might have attained.

Paul expressed our growing toward perfection so well in Phil.3:12.  We have not yet reached perfection but pressing on toward that goal becomes a lifetime work.  Let us keep in mind the goal—perfection.  Matt.5:48   Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.        


    

SCRIPTURE GEMS - 8

SCRIPTURE GEMS – 8

Humility is a trait difficult to find but is a gem to a character.  Jam.4:10   Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will lift you up.  This is a verse important to memorize and keep on our hearts at all times.  So what is humility?  Several phrases could be used to define it:  make low, loss of prestige, lowering of one’s estimation of self.  This last one is a big one.  In our minds we are good; we are right; we are able to tell others what would be best for them; our ideas are the best to follow.  Lk.18:9 gives us a good thought—those who “trust in themselves”.

What would be the opposite of humble?  Pride.  Proverbs gives us some wise words about pride.  Prov.16:18   In general it is difficult to get others to follow you if you are full of a prideful spirit.  Prov.26:12 does not describe a man of pride in a very complimentary way.

No one on earth was in such high position as our Lord.  He was in heaven at the right hand of God, the Son of God.  Yet Jesus was willing to make Himself low and give up that position in heaven with humility to come to earth to suffer and die that we might have salvation and live with Him eternally some day.  Phil.2:8   No better example of humility could be found.  Matt.11:29

Jesus was willing to associate with sinners to the dismay of the Pharisees.  Lk.7:39   Are we ever “too good” to tell someone “lower” than us socially about Jesus or invite them to church.  Sometimes it may be that we are not “good enough” to invite someone “higher” in the social ladder to come to learn about Jesus.  Americans pride ourselves in equality and yet even Christians are guilty of practicing a caste system.  Prov.25:6,7

None of us can think of ourselves as righteous.  Rom.3:23   We wouldn’t call ourselves perfect and yet we fail to realize how much we stumble.  Jam.3:2   The only righteousness we will ever have comes from Jesus.  2 Cor.5:21   That fact should cause us to feel humble.

The outcome of a humble spirit is worth more than gold to us.  Matt.23:11,12   We are greatly rewarded for humility.  Prov.22:4   An example is given against the city of Jerusalem in 2 Chron.12:7.  Humility changed God’s attitude toward them just as it will in the case of our country.  2 Chron.7:14
Sometimes God allows us to go through problems to humble us.  The Prodigal Son was one example.  Pride was followed by destitution until “he came to his senses.”  Lk.15:17   We need to come to our senses.  Paul had many reasons to be proud.  Phil.3 states his accomplishments and background but it all meant nothing to him for the sake of Christ.  Phil.3:4,7

As a rule a little child realizes his dependency upon others.  Jesus used a little child as an example of a humble spirit in Matt.18:4.  Our spirit toward others makes a difference.  It takes humility to receive instruction.  Prov.10:17   Discipline comes close to this.  Prov.12:1  

A proud spirit would find it difficult to forgive.  Eph.4:32   It takes a humble spirit to forgive which is so important to our forgiveness.  Matt.18:35   This is taken from the parable of the master and the servant.  The importance is also stressed in Matt.6:15.  A humble heart is necessary to realize all blessings come from God for which and to Whom we must be thankful.  1 Thess.5:18

We are told to confess our sins one to another.  Jam.5:16   This requires a lot of humility but it helps to be held accountable to someone even though we know we are accountable to God.  Being submissive to those over us takes humility whether it is home, church, work, or government.  1 Pet.2:18,20

Humility is found in many descriptions of a Christian character.  1 Pet.3:8; Col.3:12; 1 Pet.5:5   Walking worthy of our calling in Jesus requires humility.  Eph.4:1,2   We are rewarded in many ways if we are humble.  Jam.4:6

Whatever we must do, it will be worth it all.  Lk.9:23-25   So let us keep the words in Jam.4:10 ever in our heart as we go about our daily lives.  Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.       





    



SCRIPTURE GEMS -- 7

SCRIPTURE GEMS – 7

Who would not want peace in their life?  It seems that life is so full of problems, pain, and/or sorrow, so peace becomes a longing in our heart.  It seems that peace comes for a short time only to round the corner of life to find another problem, etc.  This verse becomes very important as we face life.  Phil.4:7   And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  The Amplified Version may give us a deeper meaning as we study this verse.  7 And God's peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Contentment is a part of peace.

We have so much for which we can be thankful in Christ Jesus.  Peace is one of them.  If we have truly been born again as Scripture teaches and follow Jesus in doing His will, then we can rest assured of this wonderful peace with God which is beyond human understanding—only understanding with the Holy Spirit in us.  Our hearts and minds will be guarded against the anxiety and guilt that overcomes those in the world.  Rom.5:1   Jesus made this peace for us by giving His blood on the cross.  We were at odds with God but His blood reconciled us to God.  Col.1:20

A person can experience that God-given peace internally even though conflict rages externally.  The Christian armor protects us from these arrows of conflict on the outside as we trust Jesus.  Loving and following God’s Word gives us peace. Ps.119:165   In the opposite way, a person may appear to have peace on the outside but be full of conflict internally.  In time this will affect emotions and even health.

A person who does not follow Jesus will never have lasting peace within.  Scripture reveals this fact in Isa.48:22.  These do not even know the way of peace.  Isa.59:8   Any peace they experience is only temporary.

So many blessings come from having peace with God.  Jer.33:6   A common greeting of Hebrew people then and now is “Salom.”   The meaning of “Salom” as well as “peace” is prosperity, well-being, health, safety, completeness, wholeness, and harmony.  When we wish peace for someone, this is what we wish for them.

As we follow the Lord, we are given peace; however, some warnings are given.  We cannot turn back into sin.  Ps.85:8   Jesus tells us we may have troubles.  These are external.  We can have courage because Jesus overcame. So can we.  Jhn.14:27   An example would be the time the Columbine student faced a gun and was asked if she believed in Jesus.  She said that she did and was shot.  Would we do that?

Not only can we have peace with God; we need to have peace with our fellow man as much as possible.  If not, it should never be our fault.  Followers of Jesus make peace—not destroy it.  Matt.5:9   We are to work for peace, pursue it, go for it with not just friends or relatives (Sometimes these are the most difficult.) but with all men.  Heb.12:14   As the world views those in Christ, this is a characteristic that should stand out.  Peaceful people.

A lovely picture is given in Isa.52:7 of the one who announces peace.  We are told that God will establish peace for us in Isa.26:12.  The Lord will give us strength and bless us with peace.  Ps.29:11   Because of our complete trust in the Lord and the effort of keeping our mind steadfast on Him, He will give us perfect peace.  What a promise!  Remember, we must keep our part.  Isa.26:3

Two words are used in association with peace in Isa.32:17.  We have peace from our works of righteousness; and we have quietness and confidence from the service of righteousness.  Those two characteristics come with peace.  If we truly have a pure heart as we call on the Lord, peace will be one of the traits we pursue. 
2 Tim.2:22

As Paul closed his second letter to the Corinthians, he encouraged them to live in peace.  We close with the prayer in Num.6:24.  The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.

May our hearts and minds be tuned to these thoughts.  Phil.4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.



Saturday, June 7, 2014

SCRIPTURE GEMS -- 6

SCRIPTURE GEMS – 6

One of the greatest blessings in the life of a Christian is prayer.  When we pray we are asking, pleading, petitioning, and thanking Almighty God.  Many, many examples are recorded for us in the Scriptures as well as instructions both positive and negative.  David was known as a “man after God’s own heart.”  He certainly was not sinless but he was a man of repentance, confession, and most definitely—a man of prayer.  Ps.51: 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.  This could well be a daily prayer for us to utter every morning.  Our spiritual lives would be strengthened and grow.

Probably most of our prayer life is personal and alone.  Matt.6:6   This verse is not an indication that all of our prayers should be private.  When the first church of Christ began on Pentecost, prayer was one thing to which the Christians devoted themselves.  Acts 2:42   We sometimes call this corporate prayer as there are more than one involved.  We are given a promise in Matt. 18:20.  There is power as we pray together.  A person really committed to the power of prayer will not miss the opportunity of praying with other Christians. 

One part and perhaps the first part of our prayers would be the adoration of our awesome God.  When Nebuchadnezzar was returned to humanness from being as an animal, he gave a wonderful praise of God in Dan.4:34.  David did this over and over in the Psalms.  God delights in our adoration.  2 Sam.7:22

Confession of our sin is of extreme importance as we begin to pray.  1 Jhn.1:9  As we confess our sins it is understood that we would truly and sincerely repent.  This is done specifically.  It is not a generic exercise.  Heb.6:4-6 To recognize our specific sins and not take care of them becomes a matter of our eternal destination.  Heb.10:26   It is important that we do realize God’s merciful forgiveness and grace.  It is up to us to receive that.

Being accountable to another Christian helps us stay faithful.  Jam.5:16   Always remember that prayer accomplishes so much alone and together, even more.  Matt.18:19

Several words are used to indicate a petition or asking God.  One is supplication which might be more of a pleading for a specific outcome.  1 Tim.2:1   “All Men” even includes enemies (Matt.5:44) and leaders in the church (1 Thess.5:12,13) and government.  1 Tim.2:2   Another is intercession.  The word, intercession, is sometimes translated intervene or intercede.  Heb.7:25   We pray for others and the pain, problems, and sorrow that they experience.  One example was when the Christians gathered to pray for Peter to be released from prison in Acts 12.

Personal requirements are given for prayer to be successful.  One is to have purity of heart.  Ps.66:18   It isn’t a matter of praying when a problem occurs, expect an answer and then go our way.  God must be first in our lives.  Prov.15:29; 1 Pet.3:12 

All prayer must be within God’s will.  1 Jhn.5:14   Even Jesus prayed in this fashion when He was praying in the Garden the night before He was crucified.  Lk.22:42   Our entire life must be within God’s will.  1 Jhn.2:17

Our prayers will not succeed if we do not believe.  Jam.1:6-8   When our prayers are answered, are we surprised?  Matt.21:22   Our belief must be so strong that we can lay all in our life on Him.  Heb.11:6   In his last book, Paul wrote to Timothy and expressed his firm belief.  2 Tim.1:12   Sometimes praying in Jesus’ name is forgotten.  Jesus explained this and the reason for it.  Jhn.14:13       

When we confess and repent of our sins, do we expect to be forgiven?  We have many promises; however, even this prayer has requirements.  Matt.6:14,15   We need to take this very seriously.  Too often we take God for granted.

Other reasons why our prayers are refused are mentioned in Scripture.  Too often our prayers are selfish—just for “me” and what “I” want.  Jam.4:3   Some think if they pray once or twice and their prayer isn’t answered, they should quit.  Jesus tells a parable that teaches otherwise in Lk.18:1.  Another parable indicates a similar lesson.  Lk.11:8,9  

We pray in humbleness as we realize in truth who we are.  Lk.18:13,14   This is a good example for us.  Prayer is talking to God and our prayers do not have to be filled with many words nor fancy words.  Matt.6:7

As we close our thoughts on prayer, may our faith be strong enough that we can cast our cares upon the Lord.  1 Pet.5:7   This will keep us from so much worry.  Phil.4:6   May our minds be ready to pray anytime and anywhere.  1 Thess.5:17; Col.4:2   Let us pray with David,  Create a clean heart in me, O God, and renew a stedfast spirit within me.  Ps.51:10