Heart Lights

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I arise this morning with some sickness in my body.  This sickness placed a damper on yesterday but I refused to let it ruin my entire day.  My family was excited to decorate for Christmas and my wife expressed her desire to get a “real” Christmas tree this year as opposed to using our artificial tree again.  We got dressed and hiked around the tree farm until we found the tree that was perfect for us.  We then went to Lowe’s and searched for new lights since our old tree was pre-lit.  When we returned home the tree was put in place, wrapped in lights and the children begun to hang the ornaments. It was only 6:30 at this point but my body had exhausted any bit of strength it had.  I headed off to bed leaving my family to add the finishing touches.  This thought caused me some sadness, yet I was happy for all we were able to do today in spite of my sickness.

Before even taking a sip of my beloved coffee I had to turn on the tree to see what they had done.  It’s beautiful.  The tree illuminates the room as I sit here in otherwise darkness typing these words.  Christmas is not about a tree, the tree is merely a symbol of life and hope.  Christmas is about the birth of the Savior of the world.  Many of us know this already, although (like myself) fail to understand the true magnificent significance.  Sadly, there are countless more people who have not had their hearts opened to the true meaning of Christmas.

I’m now 40 years old and have had a tree in my living room every Christmas for as long as I can remember.  Why is this tree so much more beautiful than each one before it?  It really has nothing to do with the size, fullness, or decorations.  It has everything to do with the condition of my heart.  I pray that every tree hereforth continues to be more beautiful than the last.

For many of us, Christmas can bring back memories or hidden emotions we’d rather not have.  They can harden our hearts and blind our eyes to the true “Reason for the Season.” Like myself, most people probably don’t even know the extent to which this may have happened.  I’ll ask, “What will you see when you look at your Christmas tree this year?” After this morning I’ll never look the same again at our family Christmas tree.

Click on link below for a cool Christmas video (plays only on computer; not tablets or phone)

http://shortsbay.com/film/december

Luke 2:9-14

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

Arrows In My Quiver

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Proverbs 22:6

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is

old he will not depart from it.

I’m thankful for many things in my life, but never even close to as much and often as I should be.  Today as my children wake up and fill me with joy… oh, I am so very thankful for them.  They are are gift from God.  Although they are our children (here for us to enjoy), they were and are His children first.  We are entrusted with many responsibilities regarding providing and protecting, none being more important as training them up in the ways of the Lord.  This fact has lately been on my heart in a very strong way.  A friend shared a movie clip with me recently that summarizes how I feel better than I can express it.  I’ll admit right now that it caused a tear (maybe 2) to slide down my cheek this morning.

Proverbs 127:3-5

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

3 Men "Will" Wonder

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Three men “will” wonder… “What is the reason, what is the purpose, why, when, and how.”  These men are not alone as they ponder this, it is a question on the heart of all who have lived.  Some will never find the answer, many believe they have found the solution on their own.  Our society embraces ideologies of “self-help” and “individuality” far beyond those of “dependence” and “purpose.”  For those who do not know God, the answer “IS” right before them, hidden or yet perceived as mere foolishness.  On the other hand, many Christian believers desire to know the Will of God in their life.  It is in His Will that we understand the reason, purpose, when, why, and how.  In His Will is where we find our joy and purpose.   If this is what we all want and need so badly, how can we discover it?

We must first trust that God does truly have a purpose for our life regardless current circumstances.  Jeremiah 29:11-13, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”  In Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.”  We can clearly see that each scripture above assures us that God will….. “IF.”  It is when we acknowledge and seek Him with all of our heart that we can know His Will.

Almost always, our problem with knowing God’s Will is in our ability to do the “IF” part. Developing a godly conscience is  essential and can only be accomplished by saturating our minds with the Word of God.  In doing this our decisions will become more Christlike over time.   “And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).  Besides not spending enough time discovering who God is, Christians also generally deal with several primary hindrances to knowing and accepting His Will.

1. Self-will: If you have already made up your mind, it will be difficult to hear what the Lord wants you to do.

2. Doubt: Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find.” Don’t second-guess God’s promises    (James 1:6-8).

3. Unworthiness: Don’t believe the lie that you are undeserving of the Lord’s guidance, grace and love.

4. Busyness: If your life is too full to pray, you need to re-evaluate your priorities.

5. Fear: When revealed, God’s will can seem impossible or foolish. But remember, the Lord can bring good out of  every situation (Romans 8:28).

6. Known sin: If you are determined to live a rebellious life, the Father will not fully reveal His will to you.

Psalm 16:11

You make known to me the path of life;

   you will fill me with joy in your presence,

   with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Suppose we’re now at the point in our life where we are seeking and acknowledging Him  in all of our ways and believe He is revealing His Will to us…  How can we know “for sure” that we’ve heard Him correctly?  We are now talking about “Knowing God’s Voice,” the subject of  numerous books, articles, and sermons.  Some may struggle with the fact that God does indeed speak to us.  In letters to Christians in Rome and Galatians, Paul refers to believers as “led by the Spirit” (Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:18). It would be difficult to lead someone with whom you were not communicating. The same is true for the Holy Spirit. If we’re going to be led by Him, we can only assume He is more than willing—and able—to speak to us.  The following guidelines can be applied when trying to discern if you’ve heard from God correctly:

A. Is it consistent with the Word of God?

B. Is it a wise decision?

C. Can I honestly ask the Lord to help me achieve this?

D. Do I have genuine peace about it?

E. Does this decision fit who I am as a follower of Jesus? Does it fit the Lord’s overall plan for my life?

F. Will this decision honor God?

Psalm 119:105

Your word is a lamp to my feet

and a light to my path.

In conclusion, if you want to know God’s plan for your life, faithfully apply biblical principles.  When you believe that you have truly discerned His Will for your life don’t let doubt, fear, or willful sin keep you from obeying him.  More important than anything is truly making Him the number one priority in your life.  If you want what He has for you, you need to give what you have to Him– you.  Blessed is Best!

Proverbs 4: 5-9

Get wisdom; get insight;

do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.

Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;

love her, and she will guard you.

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom,

and whatever you get, get insight.

Prize her highly, and she will exalt you;

she will honor you if you embrace her.

She will place on your head a graceful garland;

she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.

Referenced in part from:

http://www.intouch.org/you/sermon-outlines/content?topic=god_will_show_you_his_will_sermon_outline

http://www.intouch.org/you/article-archive/content?topic=knowing_god_s_voice_article

"Peace" of Health

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The human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. Stress can be positive, keeping us alert and ready to avoid danger. Stress becomes negative when a person faces continuous challenges without relief or relaxation between challenges.  Stress that continues without relief can lead to a condition called distress — a negative stress reaction. Distress can lead to many physical symptoms such as those listed below.  Examine the list and give yourself a point for every symptom you experienced over the last 60 days.  Don’t worry, the cure is described just below this long list of symptoms.  

Physical Symptoms of Distress Involving Skeletal Muscles

  1. Tension Headaches

  2. Frowning

  3. Gritting or grinding of teeth

  4. Jaw pain

  5. Stuttering or stammering

  6. Trembling of lips or hands

  7. Muscle tenseness, bracing, and aches

  8. Neck aches

  9. Back pain

  10. Aggressive body language

Physical Symptoms of Distress Involving the Autonomic System

  1. Migraine headaches

  2. Increased sensitivity to light and sound

  3. Lightheadedness, faintness, or dizziness

  4. Ringing in ears

  5. Enlarged pupils

  6. Blushing

  7. Dry mouth

  8. Problems swallowing

  9. Frequent colds or bouts with the flu

  10. Hives

  11. Rashes

  12. Cold chills or goosebumps

  13. Heartburn, stomach cramping, or nausea

  14. Uneven or rapid heartbeat without exercising

  15. Difficulty breathing

  16. Sudden, suffocating panic, as if you are about to die

  17. Heart and chest pain

  18. Increased perspiration

  19. Night sweats

  20. Cold, sweaty hands

  21. Painfully cold hands and feet

  22. Gaseousness or belching

  23. Frequent urination

  24. Constipation

  25. Nervous diarrhea

  26. Lowered sexual desire/performance

Mental Symptoms of Distress

  1. Anxiety, worry, guilt or nervousness

  2. Increased anger and frustration

  3. Moodiness

  4. Depression

  5. Increased or decreased appetite

  6. Racing thoughts

  7. Nightmares

  8. Problems concentrating

  9. Trouble learning new information

  10. Forgetfulness

  11. Disorganization or confusion

  12. Difficulty making decisions

  13. A sense of being overloaded or overwhelmed by problems

  14. More frequent crying

Behavioral Symptoms of Stress

  1. Inattention to dress or grooming

  2. More frequent lateness

  3. A more “serious” appearance

  4. Unusual behavior

  5. Nervous habits, such as finger or foot tapping

  6. Rushing around or pacing the floor

  7. Increased frustration and irritability

  8. Edginess

  9. Overreaction to small things

  10. Increased number of minor accidents

  11. Perfectionism

  12. Reduced work efficiency or productivity

  13. Lies or excuses to cover up poor work

  14. Fast or mumbled speech

  15. Defensiveness or suspiciousness

  16. Strained communication with others

  17. Social withdrawal

  18. Constant tiredness

  19. Sleep problems

  20. Frequent use of over-the-counter drugs

  21. Weight gain or loss without diet

  22. Increased smoking

  23. Recreational drug use

  24. Increased alcohol use

  25. Gambling or overspending

(Taken from: “The Doctor’s Guide to Instant Stress Relief: A Psychological and Medical System” by Ronald G. Nathan, Ph.D., Albany Medical College, New York, Thomas E. Staats, Ph.D., Louisiana State University School of Medicine in Shreveport, Paul J. Rosch, M.D., The American Institute of Stress, New York.)

The most important factor in enjoying a peaceful, stress-free life is learning to be obedient to the Lord. Following the leading of the Holy Spirit will always lead you into peace. He will never lead you into stress, because He is the Prince of Peace. Common sense tells us that God’s not going to stress us out and lead us to do more than we can do; however, we often do this ourselves.

The Bible is filled with incredible promises from God. Meditating on these words of assurance can dispel our worry, doubt, fear and stress. Here are just a few examples of the Bible’s stress relieving verses.  Blessed is Best!

Philippians 4:6-7

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Proverbs 17:22

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.”

2 Peter 1:3

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

Matthew 11:28-30

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.”

John 14:27

“I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

Psalm 4:8

“I will lie down in peace and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe.”

1 Peter 5:6-7

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

Matthew 6:25-34

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

John 14:1

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God, trust also in me.”

Isaiah 26:3-4

“You keep him in perfect peace

   whose mind is stayed on you,

   because he trusts in you.

4 Trust in the Lord forever,

   for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”

John 16:33

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Psalm 119:165

“Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.”

Romans 14:17

“”For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

Proverbs 17:22

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.”

Cars All Over the Place

“The spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord, searching

all the inner depths of the heart.”

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Drawing closer to God has recently become a priority in my life again.  I know that I’m happiest when He is my primary focus, yet  I seem to neglect this simple reality.  It becomes more clear to me everyday how my relationship with Him affects my wife and children. As father and husband of this household, I have a special responsibility.  “The righteous man walks in integrity; His children are blessed after him.” (Proverbs 20:7)

I want my children to be blessed after me, my wife needs to feel safe and protected.  In order to become the “righteous” man that my family so desperately needs me to be, a renewing of my mind needs to take place. Romans 12:2 instructs us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Are you prepared for the “testing that is required so that we may know…”

The scripture at the very beginning of this writing is Proverbs 20:27.  When we desire God to reveal things in our life that are not of Him… Be ready.  I’m so thankful that He is so loving when He reveals to me the inner depths of my heart.  The revelation seems endless. It’s similar to buying a new car, rarely, if ever, do you  notice how prevalent they are until you are driving it. Then you see your car all over the place, they were there all the time but we never took notice. It often seems to be like this with issues in our life.

Give it a try! Ask God to reveal something.  Be open to allowing His lamp to search the depths of our hearts and bring light to what has been hidden.  This is how we can renew our minds and come to know the perfect will of God in our lives.  Is there anything better? Blessed is Best!

I'm Offended (and) It's Your Fault!

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**Recommendation: Scroll to bottom of screen and play video/song while reading this.    P.S.  I’ll be offended if you don’t

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.   Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Most people would describe me as one laid-back, mellow, cool dude.  Ok, so maybe I threw in the “cool” part.  My reputation as a teacher is rooted in the perception that I’m very calm and not easily angered.  For the most part this is accurate, and as a high school emotional support teacher I am very thankful for this.  Anger and temper are two areas that God has worked on in my life over the years.  There have been many times in the past that I’ve taken to rage as a perceived solution to my problems.  Even today I understand that it could rear it’s ugly head at any moment if I’m not careful. In spite of this I’m still a laid-back, mellow, cool dude.

I struggle with being easily offended.  I’m overly sensitive, quickly provoked, easily irritated and insulted.  Yes indeed, I’m one laid-back, mellow, cool dude, and may I add loving father and husband.  It is easy for me to accept hearing the positive qualities listed above, but realize God desires I resolve what He is revealing within me.  Honestly, at first I was somewhat offended He might even consider such a thing about me.  Uh oh, that sounds a bit like PRIDE.

The challenge begins with first understanding that our perceptions and expectations are seldom, if ever, equivalent to those of our loving Father.  It is easy to become complacent and accepting of matters in our life.  This is especially true when our measure is based on what others perceive and say, not what we are open to having God reveal to us.  Since I’m such a laid-back, mellow, and cool dude, offensives that arise must certainly be because of others.  Especially those who are closest to me, in particular, my wife.

The woman who has combined with me to become “one flesh” seems to be the one who can most easily offend me.  “Stacy…..” My best friend, oh how I love her.  Such a gift and blessing in my life. Thirteen years of marriage, she has never been more beautiful to me.  A mother to my children beyond what I could have ever imagined.  Someone who does more for me in a day than I do for her in a month.  I’d have no problem continuing with statements like these for the next hour, but let her wake up right now, come down here and have the words out her mouth be related to why did I not “carry the laundry basket upstairs” like she asked (and probably twice).  The loving thoughts and words I had about her just moments ago, they’d likely quickly be gone, for in my mind “can’t she at least say good morning first.”  This is just one example of how quickly an offense can take place.

A situation as described above may not result in a sarcastic response or argument….. yet…. but something subtle changes inside me.  Will it be the second, third, fourth, or fifth offense (according to me) that warrants a non-loving response?  Uh oh, I just mentioned the word LOVE.

Could there be a connection between our ability to LOVE and the influence of PRIDE in our lives? Yes.  Pride is a focus on the “I” in a circumstance.  Pride will cause us to view ourselves as the victim.  Our attitude becomes, “I was mistreated and misjudged; therefore, I am justified in my behavior.”  We then hold back forgiveness because we believe we are falsely accused and innocent. This condition is hidden from us, it is not hidden from God.  Left unconfessed, this drives a wedge between our ability to commune with and receive from God, this hinders our ability to love.  If we do not have Love, what do we have?

Ecclesiastes 7:9 states, “Do not be quickly provoked in you spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”  May we combat this by understanding that pride keeps us from dealing with the truth by distorting our vision.  We will never change when we think everything is fine.  Pride hardens our hearts and dims our eyes from understanding the sincere truth.  It will keep us from the change of heart and repentance that will set us free.

May we ask with a sincere heart that God reveal areas of pride in our life, no matter how subtle.  Let them be replaced with love.  May our speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that we may know how to answer every person.  Be Blessed 

 

When To Just Snuggle

images When to read, when to pray, when to worship, when to just snuggle. Our God is infinitely more than our minds can even begin to comprehend.  I believe we need to be careful that we not confine Him to our boundaries and habits.  It is easy to place Him in the box of what we are comfortable with and therefore routinely do.  We can get ourselves into patterns of ritualistic habit.  A pattern can be healthy if it assures we are setting time aside to be with God, a routine however, can cause us to close our hearts to something else He’d desire from us at that particular moment.

There are many ways to spend time with God.  I’d never say there is a bad time to read His Word or pray, as there is never a bad time to worship or just soak in His presence.  As a teacher, I’m unable to truly teach until I’ve been able to get the classroom settled and focused.  Attempts to just push through the lesson before students are ready only assures that little is learned since they are not yet ready to receive what it is I’m trying to say.  It further complicates matters if I feel that I must adhere to an inflexible schedule which does not allow room for further explanation or opportunities for enrichment.  I expect the same to be true when desiring that our Father instruct us.  May we be open to being flexible in how we will spend our special times with God.  Let us make sure we are ready to receive before seeking knowledge and/or instruction.

I cherish the fact that my own children love to spend time with me.  Anything we do together makes me happy.  However, there are times to play, times to wrestle, times to listen, and times to snuggle.  May we be sensitive to how He desires to spend time with us. He knows what we need more than we do.  Just ask, listen for the gentle whisper. Whispers however, are most easily heard in silence.

“…Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Don’t be afraid to take the time to still your mind through worship, prayer, or just soaking in his presence. Sometimes I just want my kids to talk to me, other times a long snuggle is what they need.  Experience shows me that it is during and after these times that they are best prepared to receive from me.  A favorite song can be wonderful in helping us snuggle and prepare our hearts for what the Father would like to share.  Here are a few of my personal favorites.  Be Blessed.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsegvOdFSp4]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7zwlHZ4fxU]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMBAvJWj3Lk]

The Father Effect

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“Our Father in heaven…” (Matthew 6:9)

“And yet your heavenly Father…” (Matthew 6:26)

“And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.”(Matthew 23:9)

It is easy to take the love of our Father for granted.  I believe we can know and love God, yet fail to recognize the significance of calling Him our Father.  This was not clear to me until I recently spoke to another man, a man who I respect, a Muslim man.  God has placed us near to each other and we’ve come to have wonderful conversations regarding our respective faith’s.  I’ve learned much from our discussions and God has used this situation to draw me closer to Him.

Had you asked me several weeks ago about the similarities and differences between Islam and Christianity, the extent of my answer would have been that the creation of the world and all events were the same until Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son on the altar. Christians believe this son to have been Isaac, Muslims believe this son was Ishmael, and we can now look at the world and see how this difference in belief has shaped and still impacts events on a global scale.  Further discussion led me to understand many things, they believe in Jesus as a prophet, not the Son of God. There will be a coming of the Antichrist and Jesus will return in end times.  We spend our time together having these kinds of discussions, we never argue, nor attempt to convince, we just share our individual beliefs with each other.  It is a truly special thing.

I of course do not agree with much that he shares, nor does he agree with me.  It is impossible and against that which we believe.  Yet in the end, his faith assumes that I will die and be punished, and my faith says that it is he who will die and be punished.  We both understand this and have been able to have our wonderful conversations because we are able to find at least  some common ground, particularly in God as the Creator.  Another area of common ground is that we both desire to learn more about our Creator and serve Him.

This last point caused me to ponder “how” and “if” we could pray that God, the Creator of all reveal himself to each of us more clearly.  I pondered what the prayer might include and how it would begin.  I thought that maybe we could just say a simple prayer like, “Oh Father we desire to know you more, reveal yourself to us at a deeper level.”  Prior to this particular discussion I shared with him the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. According to the Quran, Elijah was also a prophet, there is however no specific mention of the events that occurred with the prophets of Baal.  Nevertheless, in sharing this story we could both agree on how awesome it would be to have been Elijah in this situation and how it would be great to be able to settle our own differences right now in the same way.  If you are interested in this story you can find it in 1 Kings 18.

I’ve shared much thus far without addressing my original intent of discussing God as our Father.  According to Islamic beliefs, God created man to worship Him and to be a slave for Him.  I struggled with this when I first heard it because I view God as our Father.  For me to believe that God created us to be a slave for Him is to assume that He has some kind of unmet need, and ego if I may say, that needed to be fed.  The topics of “slave vs. servant” and “why” God created us are topics for another time.  For now I’ll simply state that I believe we are to be servants and heirs, created because He is Love and wanted us to enjoy all that He has made and “Is.”

There are many other scriptures in addition to those at the beginning of this blog that refer to Him as our Father. It is at the very center of who God is and how we are to perceive him.  For those of us that have children we can relate to this at some basic level.  As much as we love our children, it falls immeasurably short when compared to the measure of how our Father loves us. Even as I write these words I realize how little I truly understand what this means.  Christian Theologian, J. I. Packer once wrote “If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he knows of the thought of… having God as his Father.”  He goes on to say, “ If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means he does not understand Christianity very well at all” (Knowing God, InterVarsity Press, p.182).  Ok, I certainly feel the conviction of this at this moment, yet praise Him that I’m now making this effort to both further understand and share the significance of understanding God as our Father.  In our efforts to understand this we will examine what it means for a person to be a child of God.

“Behold the manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God.” (1 John 3:1)  Galatians 4: 6-7 also tells us “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”  So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”  To be a child of God therefore means that we are an heir through Christ.  To quickly address this matter, it means that we are heirs of salvation, eternal life, righteousness, and heirs of the kingdom.  How can we apply this now and change our life at this moment?  Biblical truths allow us free access to the Father in prayer, training in how to be Christlike, help for every situation we face in life, and a new perspective of hope for this life and eternity.   This access to our Father through Christ gives us access to the One who knows what we need before we even ever ask (Matthew 6:8).  My own children have full access to speak with me anytime they’d desire.  I’d prefer it not be at 3 in the morning, but I’d get up and we could talk about whatever was on their mind.  As a child of God, we have this same kind of access to our Father, however time and subject matter are never factors of consideration. Because we are family no appointments are necessary,  there is never a line, my clothes are irrelevant, I can just be “me” and be honest, for he knows my innermost thoughts already.  He wants us to come to Him, to seek His face, and experience His love for us.  For as much as we can try to comprehend this, these are certainly the things we’d all desire from our own children, how much more significant when realizing that God who is Love, desires these very things from each of us.

The truths from the Bible can help us understand that our Father is eagerly anticipating our next visit, longing to hear words of affection, to hear us speak of our struggles, and hear our requests that show the full realization that we depend on Him alone.  Proverbs 3:12 reveals to us that “For whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.”  As a child of God we are loved so much that He actually takes the time to correct us in order to train us in godliness.  It is this training that “…is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).  Therefore God takes the time to discipline us because He loves us.  Our Father’s goal is to make us more like Christ.  He does not want to hurt us, rather He wants to better us.  Hebrews 12:10-11 tells us that God wants us to be “partakers of His holiness” and to produce “the peaceable fruit of righteousness.”

Our Father wants to help us in times of need.  “”Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:7-11).  Our Father will never disappoint us, but this does not mean that he will always give us whatever we ask.  This is a common misconception among many believers today.   The Bible assures us that we can cast all of our cares on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).  As His children, He knows our needs and He knows how to meet those needs with wisdom and compassion.

So with all that our Father is capable, willing to do, and has done for us, what does He desire that we do in return. The concept is simple and summed up in the greatest commandment found in Matthew 22:37-39,  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.”  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  In closing may we examine just a few of the qualities our Father desires that we display in our lives as children of God:

We are to love one another.  The all encompassing obligation we have to other children of God, just as in our relationship with God, is Love (Rom. 13:8, 1 Cor. 13, 1 Th. 3:12, 4:9, 1 Pet. 3:8. 4:8, 1 Jn. 3:11, 23, 4:7, 11-12, 2 Jn. 1:5)

We are to honor one another through service (Rom. 12:10, Gal. 5:13, 1 Pet. 4:10)

We are to be generous and hospitable (Rom. 12:13, 1 Pet 4:9)

We are to do all we can to build up one another spiritually, not tear each other down (Rom. 14:13)

We are to be truthful (Eph. 4:25, Col. 3:9)

We are to be kind and forgiving (Eph 4:32; Col 3:13)

We are to comfort one another in times of need ( 1 Th. 5:11)

We are to challenge one another to live holy lives (Heb. 3:13, 10:24-25)

We are to pray for one another (James. 5:16)

“As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become Children of God.” John 1:12

May we not base our perceptions of the Father’s love for us on how we may have viewed our own fathers.  Our Father desires to be that to us that nothing else can ever be.  We were created out of His goodness, not from necessity.  My own desire is to raise my children to understand this and to love their Father more than anything. They were and are His children first, there is nothing else more wonderful than sharing with them the Father’s love.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bk2bQR7IhCU

Lying to the Holy Spirit

“…Why have you conceived this thing in your heart?  You have not lied to men but to God.” Acts 5:4

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Apostle Peter asked the question above to Ananias and Sapphira.  Each of them chose to lie about the price that they received for the selling a piece of land, and for this they each died.  We have all lied, some more frequently than others, some of us more significantly than others.  The purpose of a lie is to avoid a consequence or undesirable result. Sometimes our lies seem to work, or at least we believe this based on the fact that someone else may have believed what we’ve said.  We’d certainly should not be so naive as to also assume that God believes our lie.  When we lie is it to man, to God, or both?

Many times the recipient of our lie may never come to know the truth.  Quite often, we’re even able to rationalize in our hearts as to why it was best that we lied. Again I ask, who is it that we really lie to?  Proverbs 12:12 states that “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.”  Abomination or a delight to the Lord, Hmmmm….  which do I want to cause?  The definition of abomination: a vile, shameful, or detestable action, condition, or habit.

May we think of all this the next time we are contemplating avoiding or obtaining through the use of a lie.  When we lie, we lie to God, not just to man.  Let us live in truth so that we may receive and experience all of the good He desires to do in our lives.

Today… Again

I’ve been “here” before, too often for my liking.  Yet, part of me is happy to be “here” again… for at least I’m not where I was.

I’ve know Him for 16 years, but for much of that time it is as if I only knew of Him.  It seems so easy to return and be conformed to the passions of former ignorance (1st Peter 1:14).  I’m well aware of the former condition of my heart and mind before accepting Him into my life.  I’m no longer that man I once was, but the qualities of that man try so hard to return.  It is a battle, a battle fought every day, every moment.  I’m just happy to be “here” again in the place that I can humble myself and at least recognize this.

I was “here” 3 years ago.  I was “here” a few years prior to that, and “here” a few years before that.  Although happy to at least be “here” now, it is not where I truly desire to be. Each of us have the opportunity to live above and beyond whatever we could ever imagine. Measure of this is not performed by examining our possessions or personal accomplishments.  It is measured by examining our levels of peace, love, and forgiveness. These are qualities of God and an indication of where we are in our walk with Him.

He “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.”   (Ephesians 3:20)  This only happens however if we “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)  This is the life I need to live, it is “there” I need to be.  More importantly as a husband and father, it is “there” that they need me to be.