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  



     

SCRIPTURE GEMS - 5

SCRIPTURE GEMS – 5

Is there anyone who has not said something that they wish they could take back?  I’m sure we all are guilty.  Our words are like a feather pillow split open in the wind.  The feathers could never be retrieved.  When we speak, our words should be truth; but they should also encourage, teach, be gently spoken, godly, and not be so numerous that time is wasted.  This is a study that is very needful.  The following Scripture indicates the necessity of being very watchful of our words.  For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.  Matt.12:37

One of the first criteria for a godly tongue is stated in Ex.20:7.  When one realizes how great our God is and how He knows every thought and hears every word that comes forth from our mouth, (Ps.139:4)  the use of His name in vain or in a useless, empty way will receive punishment. 

The word, “God,” and “Lord,” slips out of so many mouths.  If we allow ourselves to be around those that do this, whether in person or on media, we may find ourselves thinking it and then saying it ourselves.  The same is true of vulgar and cursing words.  Heb.4:13   How we need to guard our tongue!  Ps.39:1; Ps.141:3

Numerous are the ways that we misuse our tongue.  Speaking in truth is very important in producing godly speech.  Ps.15:2   Truth must be in the heart.  How easily our spirit can be crushed with a dishonest, contrary tongue.  Prov.15:4   Paul explained to the Colossians that truth is part of the new life in Christ.  They were to put aside lying as an evil practice of their old life.  Col.3:9; Eph.4:25

Deceit is dishonesty and deception which is close to lacking truthfulness.  1 Pet.3:10   David also speaks of deceit.  Ps.34:12,13  Too often smooth words can be spoken only to be the source of a scam or some kind of treachery.  Prov.26:22-24 

Our relationship to fellow Christians as well as those in the world must be godly.  Too often we enjoy being the bearer of “news.”  We can’t look at others—only look at ourselves with honesty.  Several words are used in this regard.  One of them is gossip.  What is this?  It is idle talk or rumors about others.  Gossip also involves the bearing of tales or news unnecessarily.  1 Tim.5:13   This becomes a temptation when we have nothing else to do or to talk about.  We should notice how many times we mention someone else in a negative way in our conversation.  Are we building them up or tearing them down.  2 Thess.3:11   Peter speaks of this along with murderers and thieves.  1 Pet.4:15   This type of speech causes friction.  Prov.16:28   Not only are we not to be gossips, busybodies, slanderers, but not even associate with them.  Prov.20:19

Col.3:8 provides us with some other negative situations to watch in our speech.  The first one is anger.  Prov.25:23,24  Not only is anger addressed here but also speech that backbites and speech that is contentious or argumentative.  Eph.4:31   So many of these problems follow one another.  Attending to our own business will alleviate many speech problems.  1 Thess.4:11   Too often we know the answer for another person and rashly try to convince them of our way.  Among things God hates is in Prov.6:19   Many words can bring trouble.  Prov.10:19

Godly speech is beautiful and can have many good returns.  A famous description is found in Prov.25:11.  Not only is it important to know what to say but also when to say it.  A soft answer has more power many times than hard words.  Prov.25:15   Abusive speech is like the thrust of a sword but healing comes with wise words.  Prov.12:18   A contrast is given in Prov.15:1. 

The godly woman in Prov.31:26 is such a worthy example for us.  How we need to be full of kind words.  Good advice is given in Prov.21:23.  We need to put up a guard.  Care must be taken to know how to answer each person.  Col.4:6   This includes the home as well as the congregation and neighbors.  God gives us grace so thus our speech must show grace to others.  Grace is mentioned again in Eph.4:29. 

Our words as well as our deeds must be a glory to our Lord.  Col.3:17   May we have the prayer of David in Ps.19:14 in our hearts daily.

The importance of our words is certainly emphasized as we remember Matt.12:36,37.  But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.  For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

On your own, study Jam.3:1-12.  A good description of our tongue problem.  If any man does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man.  We all know only too well that none of us is perfect.   




SCRIPTURE GEMS - 4

SCRIPTURE GEMS – 4

Is there anyone who has never has a loss, pain, or problem that creates such stress that it seems your heart cannot hold it?  1 Pet.5:7   Casting ALL your care upon Him, for He cares for you. This is a promise that we must believe and grow in our ability to actually accomplish it.  It is never easy.  Phil.4:6,7  

If we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, we are God’s child.  Some rejoice that their child graduates from high school, leaves home, and they are done.  We care for our children all the way through life.  God loves us and care for us through thick and thin.  His ability to care for us far surpasses anything we can do. 

All of our worry is for naught.  Jesus uses the hairs of our head as an example.  One Scripture is in Matt.5:36.  We cannot naturally change the color of our hair.  Neither do we know the number of hairs our head holds from day to day.  Matt.10:30   Our faith is tested as we face problems.  Can we put them in the hands of Jesus?  Matt.6:34

All of us will face loss and problems of various kinds.  Are we prepared?  Shock of the reality comes but immediately we need to be prepared to go to God for the comfort that He provides in many ways.  2 Cor.1:3   He is called the God of comfort.  Not only is He a God of comfort but He causes things to happen that will be a comfort to us.  2 Cor.7:6  

A beautiful picture is given in Isa.61:3 of the comfort given to us.  Ashes are not pretty but He gives beauty instead.  Mourning hurts the spirit and yet the oil of joy replaced mourning.  Oil was used in worship.  We have all felt that heavy feeling when a loss occurs.  It is replaced with praise as we realize all is not lost. God has placed eternity in our hearts.  Eccl.3:11  We can say with Job as is in Job 1:21.

We are given comfort through the Holy Spirit.  In fact the Holy Spirit is called the Comforter in Jhn.14:26.  It is noted that the Christians that were scattered from Jerusalem were walking in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.  Acts 9:31

Jesus promised comfort to those that mourned in Matt.5:4.  Although this could have meant spiritually mourning, it could also be mourning for those who had died.  Paul reminded the Thessalonians of the comfort of Jesus and God.  With that comfort, they could continue in word and deed to serve.  2 Thess.2:16,17   Those who live by God’s Word can receive comfort thereby.  Ps.119:50; Rom.15:4  

Fellow Christians are an encouragement in comforting sisters and brothers in Christ.  Sometimes others can relate with you but be able to see the future to be remindful of Scripture when a person is too deep in sorrow, pain, or problems to remember.  In Job 2:11 Job’s three friends came to comfort and mourn with him.  We find that their attempt was not what they intended.  However, the purpose was one from which we can learn.  Paul had fellow workers that were a comfort to him.  Col.4:11

Sometimes others learn because of our reaction to our problems.  Paul realized this as he wrote to the Corinthians.  2 Cor.7:4   Affliction has value in our growth as well.  Jam.1:2,3   We have atrophy of our spiritual lives if we are never challenged to rely on God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and Scripture.  This comes as we lay our problems upon God.  Isa.41:10   The outcome in our faithfulness in accomplishing this is stated in Isa.51:11.  The love and prayers of our loved ones are always a comfort to us.  Eph.6:22; Phil.2:1

Sometimes death comes in a drawn-out way and sometimes in an unexpected, fast way.  God knows and has His time.  Ps.31:15   We can’t fight with God.  We have to accept it.  1 Cor.15:55,57   Paul stated his thoughts in 2 Cor.5:8.  Realize that sometimes this is the better way.  We are finished with all of the struggles of life when we go to meet our Lord.  We have victory!  Would we want to take that away from a loved one?

What a beautiful expression of this victory we have in Rev.21:4.  There need be no fear for we have a faithful companion walking with us.  Ps.23:4   Paul exhorts us to remind our fellow Christians of these words.  1 Thess.4:18   How important it is to have accepted Jesus as our Savior and be walking in ways to please Him.  Then we can have confidence in eternity after this life has ended.  1Jhn.5:13  

The promise remains as we cast our cares upon Him.  1 Pet.5:7   He will care for us.        





SCRIPTURE GEMS - 3

SCRIPTURE GEMS – 3

Previously, we studied the importance of trust in our awesome God.  If you think of the song, what comes next?  “Trust and….”  Obey.  One of the greatest examples of obedience in my mind is Gen.39:9…How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?  Of course the background is Joseph being tempted by Potiphar’s wife.

We think of ourselves first but do we love our Savior enough to think of something we are doing is actually doing something against Him?  That does not show love.  Jhn.14:15   This has been a Scripture that flips off our tongue quite easily.  It is deep!  We can’t hug God.  Even then, a person can insincerely hug someone and not love them.  Actions speak louder than words.  God tells us to do or not to do something and if we really love Him, we will obey and praise Him for His guidance. 

In Hebrew “to obey” means to hear, listen, pay attention, perceive (understand).  In Greek “to obey” means to do what one is told to do.  This put obedience in plain language and easily understood.  Adam’s disobedience made us sinners.  Christ’s obedience has made many righteous.  Rom.5:19   We may think we are our own person.  Sometimes a person brags, “I am my own man.  No one tells me what to do.”   However, we follow one or the other and become slaves to the one we follow.  Rom. 6:16

Even Jesus learned obedience.  Heb.5:8   This was not that He stopped disobeying but that He was sent to earth for a purpose and that was accomplished in His death.  Through His obedience, our obedience will bring eternal life to us.  Heb.5:9  

Scriptures give us many examples of obedience in the lives of godly men.  For 120 years Noah had obeyed God (Gen.6:22) and so God cared for Him through the flood.  Gen.7:1  Several examples are given concerning the obedience of Abraham.  The one at the beginning of his journey is found in Gen.12:1,4. 

Another example is Moses speaking to the Israelites in Deut.10:12,13.  Not only were commands given but also the spirit in which they were to be obeyed.  Notice that the commandments were for their own good.  Many times we do not realize that God’s commands are for our own good.  They become tedious to us as we want to do our own thing.

In realizing the many false gods surrounding the Israelites, Joshua gave them a choice as to whom they would obey.  Josh.24:15   We also have a choice as we follow the world to destruction or our Lord to eternity with Him.  1 Jhn.2:15,17   Too often we look at glamorous appearances on the outside.  God does not see things that way.  1 Sam.16:7   Mechanical ways of worship are also recognized by God.  A person could go through the recognized outward forms of worship without the heart being in it.  This was mentioned by Samuel. 1 Sam.15:22   Obedience is more than form.  Samuel was obedient from childhood and recognized this fact.

David had his sins, repented, and turned to such full obedience that he was known as a “man after God’s own heart.”  1 Sam.13:14   As his son, Solomon, was to become king, David encouraged him in 1 Chron.28:9.  Notice that he was to serve or obey him with his whole heart and be willing to do so.  Do we ever obey because we feel guilt if we don’t or we feel compelled to do so?  We don’t obey or serve with joy and look at it as an opportunity.  We complain and are like Peter in Jhn.21:21.  We don’t want to be obligated to do more than the next person.  God’s commands are always for our good and growth.  We are provided a promise - …seek Him, He will let you find Him.  What a thought!  We take so much for granted.  Jer.7:23

How many times in life do we say, “If only…”  God says this but in a different way.  Isa.48:18   From teen years on to the end of life, how often things would have been different if only we had listened to the Lord.  We think we know the way.  We are deceiving ourselves.  Jer.10:23   “If only” will not have to be used as often if we just follow the way of the Lord.

We let hindrances come in the way of our obedience.  The Galatians were doing well but then something changed.  Gal.5:7   Their old desires began to thrive again and took them away from the focus of the Lord.  Sometimes we have distractions that do not even have to be a sinful distraction but it is something that interrupts our living completely for our Lord.  Heb.12:1   We change course in our race but down the road we have to say, “If only.”

May our conclusion be the same as Solomon in Eccl.12:13.   May we also remember what a catastrophe it becomes when we sin against God!  Gen.39:9








SCRIPTURE GEMS - 2

SCRIPTURE GEMS – 2

The trust that we can put in our Lord is beyond comprehension or imagination.  Isa.40:31   Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength.  They will mount up with wings like eagles.  They will run and not get tired,  They will walk and not become weary.  We have so many promises in His Word that can give us strength and encouragement in our walk with the Lord.

Trust is one of the fundamental characteristics of the people of God.  As a Christian we know that we can rely on His promises; we can depend upon His Word; we feel secure in Him for we know He will take care of us.  We can soar above the pain and problems of this world for we can say with Job in Job 19:25.  Our trust lies in the fact that we know our Redeemer lives.

Because He lives and has gone to prepare a place for us that we may live, too,  (Jhn.14:3) we can have an entirely different impression concerning our worldly possessions than we had before accepting Jesus as our Savior.  Job 1:21   During the tornadoes a story was recounted about a couple who had just moved into a new home recently completed.  It was destroyed completely.  That would be devastating, no doubt, but could we as a child of God put a different value on such a tragedy?

God’s Word relays to us time and time again how much God cares for us and wants us to come to Him.  Isaiah brings this thought to us in Isa.41:10.  Many times in life we have a great fear come over us.  God is with us.  We can treasure Heb.1:14.  God provides security for us in many ways.  Do we forget Isa.59:1?  Too often we think of God way up there and we are way down here.  The Holy Spirit is inside of us.  This provides a great strength as we remember 1 Jhn.4:4.  Refuge in trouble for the world often brings anger, drink, drugs, even suicide.  Our refuge is in the Lord.  Nah.1:7  We have times we need to just pour our hearts out to someone.  We can do this to God and know that He will listen and have compassion on us.   Ps.62:8

Man so often puts his trust in things of this world.  Matt.6:19; Jer.17:5    This becomes more evident as people fall for scams.  People trust counselors that are not Christians.  God has the answers in His Word.  Isa.55:8   Others may be able to help us but it must be according to the Truth.  We cannot even trust ourselves to make many choices.  Jer.10:23

Many trust in their professional or cultural position in life or in their abilities that bring them success.  During our downturn of jobs many have witnessed failure in this.  Jer.48:7   Some even trust in their own righteousness.  Ezek.33:13  Certainly this would be a lack of humility which is always displeasing to God.  Matt.23:12

As we recognize all that God is to us and that He never changes (Heb.13:8), we realize that our complete trust can be put in Him.  As David was in danger, he put his trust in God.  Ps.57:1,2 KJV   His calamities were hidden under the shadow of His wings.  There is a song, “Under His Wings,” that may have come from this verse.  If we completely trust in God, we, too, can place ourselves under His watchcare.

Ps.56:3,4   Fear sometimes tests our trust.  Those that did face death and those that still do must have this in mind.  Determination is seen in these verses.  “I will” shows this.  In fear we must determine to put our trust in the Lord in spite of what goes on.  They didn’t fear what flesh could do to them.  Matt.10:28  Jesus gave a similar expression.  This must stay in our minds.  We have eternity set in our minds.  Eccl. 3:11 NASB 

Trust brings good guidance.  Prov.3:5,6   If trust really means something, it must be with our whole heart.  We get into trouble when we move ahead without God.  His Word will bring answers for our guidance.  2 Tim.3:16   It must be coupled with prayer.  Mk.11:24  

Peace is a longing in most hearts.  Isa.26:3 NCB   When we trust in the Lord, He will keep us in peace.  We will know that He will care for us.  It doesn’t mean no pain or no problems.  Jesus certainly had His share.  God will carry us through.  Isa.43:2   We can trust in His everlasting arms.  Deut.33:27

May we wait for the Lord, trust in Him, and receive the new strength He has waiting for us.  Isa.40: 31 But the people who trust the LORD will become strong again.
They will rise up as an eagle in the sky; they will run and not need rest; they will walk and not become tired.

       



  

 


SCRIPTURE GEMS - 1

SCRIPTURE GEMS – 1

As we begin this new series an explanation might be in order.  Scriptures have been chosen for their importance in our desire to live a holy life.  Many subjects will open as we study the particular scripture in view.

The first one is found in Gen.4:7.   If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it."  This brings us to a study of sin.  The fact that it is crouching at our door and wants us to fall for it.  Then comes the challenge of mastering the temptation that is brought before us. 

Even though there had been men that called upon the name of the Lord and men that walked with God, the time before the flood men became so full of sin that God took action.  Gen.6:5   Then came the flood.  During the time of the judges was also a time when man seemed to take no cognizant of God.  Judg.17:6  

By Solomon’s day he realized that there was no man that was without sin.  Eccl.7:20   Isaiah describes us in Isa.64:6.  We can’t point our fingers to “them.”  It includes “us” and it is so important that we see ourselves as God sees us.  When man desires to do or have something, the tendency becomes to call evil good.  Isa.5:20   A woe is given.  “Woe” expresses anguish.  We need to have anguish over our sins.  Ps.38:18   We blind our eyes and deceive our hearts.  Jer.17:9   We refuse to see ourselves.  We should know our sins if we are honest with ourselves.  Ps.51:3

Perhaps sin should be defined.  Scripture does this for us in 1 Jhn.3:4.  Sin came from the devil in the beginning and those who practice make themselves of the devil.  1 Jhn.3:8   Praise God that Jesus came to destroy the devil’s works.  Sometimes we know what is right but we don’t do it.  That becomes sin.  Jam.4:17   Perhaps you have heard the statement, “If you doubt, don’t do it.”  Scripture backs this up in Rom.14:23.  Although speaking of food, the ending statement makes it true in any situation.

David gives us an important fact that follows through Scripture.  Ps.51:5; Rom.5:12   Paul continues this fact in Rom.3:23.  We either pay or are rewarded for everything we do.  The same is true with sin.  Rom.6:23

Sin is breaking God’s law but this can happen with a nation.  Prov.14:34   We need to pray earnestly and often for our country.  We are given a choice as a nation in
2 Chron.7:14.

Personally, our sins may be secret.  Many forget that God sees all even though man may not see.  Eccl.12:14   Secrecy does not take the sin away.  Ps.90:8   Guilt makes the heart heavy.  Ps.32:3   That heaviness was lifted when David acknowledged his sin.  Ps.32:5   What a joy that we can repent and be forgiven.  Lk.24:47

Presumptuous sins are mentioned in Ps.19:13.  A presumptuous sin means in your pride and boldness against God you think you are right.  Heb.10:26   Sinning willfully after you have learned better might be considered a presumptuous sin.

If we do not rid ourselves of sin, we become slaves to it.  Think of habits that are formed, whether good or bad.  Habits are very difficult to break.  This begins with sucking the thumb on to adult habits that we form.  Rom.6:6   We have many faithful before us as examples.  We need to be examples to others and lay aside those things in which we could become enslaved.  Heb.12:1  

Remember that sin does crouch at our door but we must master it.  Prayer, guidance of the Holy Spirit, and studying God’s Word will be our biggest help in the mastering of sin in our lives.  Ps.119:11



Friday, April 25, 2014

HEART WIDE OPEN - BK. REVIEW

HEART WIDE OPEN
Shellie Rushing Tomlinson

The honest and sincere purpose of Shellie Rushing Tomlinson in writing “Heart Wide Open” seems to be to excite her readers to a stronger and lasting faith in Jesus.  She succeeds in doing this very well.  Tomlinson opens her heart in transparency with the problems she has experienced with a mundane faith and then to grow into an excitement about Jesus that doesn’t fade.

An important realization comes as we see how much God loves us.  We do what is necessary to fall in love with him in devotion that lasts day in and out.  This means bending our will to His.  Everything God requires of us is for our benefit.  A person can do all the “right” things but not have a heart for God.  As our love for Him grows, our love for our fellow man grows as well.  This pleases God.


Many Scriptures and personal examples are used to illustrate the points that Tomlinson makes.  I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.