Friday, December 16, 2011

Talk, Talk, Talk

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." - Ephesians 4:29 NIV

I haven't blogged the last three days but today's verse pretty much covers what I've been studying. It's all been about how I speak and what I say. To God, to myself and to others.

Talking to God: In my Life group, we are in week 5 of an 8-week study on prayer. It's been an amazing study! It's been eye-opening and has helped me so much in my daily prayers. I'm sure some of you have heard of using a formula called A.C.T.S. (or C.A.T.S.) which stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. But this was new to me. I've been applying it to my prayers the last several weeks and it has begun to change the way I talk to God. I always thanked Him for His blessings and asked for forgiveness of my sins and asked for the things I needed or wanted but this has brought a whole new level into my prayer life. To lift up praise and worship to God first, which is as is should be, is wonderful. The facilitator of our study gave us several pages of verses of praise in the Bible and also a list of the many, many names of God and Jesus found in the Bible. I've been using these pages to praise and worship Him and it gives me such joy and peace when I do that. And confession of my sins, not just saying, "I did this, Lord, please forgive me." but actually naming my sins, saying they are sins and then saying that I know they have been forgiven - I'm still learning how to do this. But it's getting easier and it has made me much more aware of my actions each day. The thanksgiving part has always come easy...I have been so blessed by God. But the supplication or asking - James 4:2b NIV says, "You do not have because you do not ask God." So true!! I am still in the process of learning how to ask and believing that He will answer my prayers but it's becoming a major part of my talking with God.

Talking to myself: I don't know about you, but I do talk to myself. Sometimes to build up confidence: "You can do this! What are you waiting for?". Sometimes to restrain myself: "Don't respond to that. It will just cause problems.". Sometimes to rebuke myself: "You idiot! What did you do, eat or say that for?". Sometimes for self-control: "Go get your Bible study done before you do anything else!". Of course, all of these conversations happen in my head, although I have rebuked myself out loud a few times! My thoughts control me and there are many times when I'm not disciplined in my thoughts. I can convince myself that a third piece of chocolate won't hurt, that skipping one day of Bible study isn't a big deal, that reneging on a promise is okay. But the extra food does hurt - my clothes start getting too tight because I'm putting on weight. Skipping a Bible study is a big deal - Satan gets a foothold when I'm not disciplined in this area. Reneging on a promise isn't okay - it hurts the person I made the promise to. I am asking God to guide me each day in disciplining my thoughts and what I say to myself. "Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." - 2 Corinthians 10:5b NIV. Not easy to do but it's what God expects.

Talking to others: I can easily displease God in this area. Especially when I'm angry. I no longer say curse words, not that I ever did a lot of cursing, but, boy I can still tear someone down when I'm angry. Dennis will testify to the truth of this!! Unfortunately, he's usually the one at the brunt of my words. This is an area of my life that I am in constant prayer about. Through talking with God and reading His Word, I am learning to call on Jesus when I'm feeling angry or irritated with someone. I am learning to bite my tongue and not say anything when I feel Satan pushing me to tear someone down. It's not a battle I always win but it's one I know God is helping me with. I can honestly say I am more encouraging when I speak to others than I used to be. And that's only because of God...not anything I've done on my own.

Talking is a major part of our lives. We do it daily and constantly, even when we're silent. Words can help or they can hinder. When I rely on God's guidance in this area, it not only strengthens my relationship with Him, but also with myself and others. I pray we all become more aware of what comes out of our mouths today.

"Remember that the tongue speaks only what is in the heart." - Theodore Epp

Heavenly Father, I know I will be judged by the words I speak. Please help me to choose my words carefully, especially when I'm angry. May I continue to talk with You daily and constantly. May the words I speak to myself and to others be encouraging and not a hindrance. Guide me to hold my tongue and turn to You when I feel Satan pushing me to speak harshly. I desire to become more aware of what I say and how I say it. May the words I speak today be pleasing to You and worthy of You. In Jesus' name, Amen.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Choice to be Made

"Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in  Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified." - Galatians 2:16 NIV

This verse gives us a choice - faith in Jesus Christ or observation of the law. One will get us to Heaven and eternal life. The other dooms us to Hell and eternal damnation. Guess which one is which?

I have chosen faith in Jesus. By faith, I have been saved, justified and will spend eternity in Heaven, praising and worshiping tears, no fears, no worries, no anxieties, no pain, no suffering.....HEAVEN!! Jesus came to this earth to become a living sacrifice for our sins. Because we are all sinners ("For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." - Romans 3:23 NIV), there is a chasm between us and God, the Father. When the choice is made to accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, that chasm is bridged by the blood He shed for us on the cross. We now have access to God through His Son!!

But there is another choice: observing the law. What exactly does that mean? In the Old Testament (or Old Covenant) it meant so many things - sacrifices of unblemished sheep, goats and cows. Blood sacrifices. Confession of sins to the high priests so that they could make atonement for those sins before God. Keeping the commandments. Cleansing of the body after having eaten, touched or gotten near something considered unclean. "Regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary." - Hebrews 9:1 NIV. Today it's believing you get to Heaven by doing good works, being charitable and believing in God. Satan believes in God! James 1:19 NIV says: "You believe there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that - and shudder." Believing in God is part of observing the law...but that doesn't give you access to Heaven. Good works and being charitable is part of having faith in Jesus, but by itself, does not get you into Heaven. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift from God - not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)

Jesus, by sacrificing Himself on the cross, took the place of "the law". He became the only way to God - a New Covenant. We no longer have to make blood sacrifices to God. Jesus shed His blood and became the living sacrifice that covers all of our sins. When we choose to accept Him into our hearts, our sins are forgiven, wiped clean, forgotten. He becomes our access to Heaven. The former way to Heaven - the Old Covenant - is no longer needed. Jesus is our new hope. Hebrews 7:18 NIV says this: "The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God."

The choice to trust and accept Jesus as Savior is completely yours. God does not force us to make that choice. We have been given free will. Your choice - Heaven or Hell. I made my choice. I'm looking forward to seeing Jesus in Heaven!! I hope you've made the choice to join me.

"He who created us without our help will not save us without our consent." - Augustine

Thank You, Jesus, for Your sacrifice for my sins. Thank You for becoming my Savior, Messiah, Lord and King. We have all been given free will and must make the choice between an eternity in Heaven or an eternity in Hell. I pray that if anyone reading this has not accepted You as their Lord & Savior, that they would make that choice right now. May they feel Your love surrounding them and hear Your voice calling to them. May they ask You into their hearts and know that You love them unconditionally. May they be assured that they will be spending eternity rejoicing in Heaven and not suffering in Hell. Jesus, Lover of our souls, I ask this in Your name, Amen.

Monday, December 12, 2011

This "Trust" Thing Just Keeps Coming Up!!

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." - Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

God is continuing to work on me about trusting His will and answering my prayers. He continues to lead me to verses about trust, as today's verse shows, and yesterday's message at church had alot to say about faith.

God answers prayers. However, it may not always be when or in the way I expect or how I want it to look. But, whatever the answer God gives me - yes, no or later - it's always, ALWAYS, what is best for me. I may not think so but that's just because I want to be in control, I want things to be MY way. Not happening! And, it's a lesson I'm learning slowly but surely.

Yesterday's message was from the first chapter of Luke. Yes, we are getting close to Christmas and we all know Christmas is about the birth of Jesus. And the beginning chapters of Luke are all about the birth of John the Baptist and the birth of Christ. So, what does this have to do with faith and trust? PLENTY!! As the pastor pointed out, there are lessons in this chapter that apply to OUR time and OUR faith in God. I'm just going to repeat to you what those lessons are.

The first lesson is this: God often shows up in our deepest disappointments. I'm going to add: if we let Him. If we're not in a close relationship with our Lord, our first reaction to deep disappointment is usually anger and bitterness. "God, why did you let this happen?! How could you allow this?! I'm so mad at you!" Instead, we should be leaning more on Him during these times, trusting Him more, allowing Him to comfort and heal us. There is no one who suffered more than Job, yet He never turned away from God. Job 36:15-16 NIV says, "But those who suffer He delivers in their suffering; He speaks to them in their affliction. He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food." TRUST!

The second lesson is this: God will always bring His promises to pass. It's so easy to forget God's track record. He has answered so many of my prayers in the past; I have so many things He has blessed me with. Yet, when faced with a new challenge, my faith wavers. Why?! His past proves the future. He's been there with me through thick and thin, good and bad. Just because He's not answering a prayer RIGHT NOW doesn't mean He's not keeping His promises. Look at Zechariah & Elizabeth and Abraham & Sarah - they prayed for years for a child and God blessed them with sons in their old ages - OLD AGES!! As the pastor pointed out: delayed blessings are often the sweetest blessings. We appreciate them so much more. Numbers 23:19 NIV says, "God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?" TRUST!

The third lesson is this: God often reveals His intentions before the fact, become attuned!! In other words - shut up and listen!!!! Quiet time with God is a must. Time spent praying, meditating, studying and listening for God is important for me to grow my faith and become closer in my relationship. It's so easy to allow the chaos & noise of this world to interfere. It's up to me to set aside the time each day to spend time with the Lord and to listen for His leading throughout the day. "For God does speak - now one way, now another - though man may not perceive it." - Job 33:14 NIV. TRUST!

The fourth lesson is this: However bleak it looks, it's never hopeless! Luke 1:37 NIV tells us, "For nothing is impossible with God." NOTHING! God can heal cancer that a doctor says is hopeless. He can provide whatever we need when we think everything looks hopeless. It's only our limited understanding that makes us think something is hopeless. It's all normal to God! TRUST!

The last lesson is this: When God blesses, never allow yourself to forget. Be thankful for all He has blessed you with. As I said before, as humans we tend to be forgetful of all that God has done for us, of all of the prayers He has answered. Take the time to remember and thank Him. Did you ask for a job? Did you get one? Thank Him. Did you ask for healing? Did it happen? Thank Him. Whatever you asked for - did He answer? Thank Him. Remember the ten lepers that Jesus healed on His way to Jerusalem? Only one came back. "One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him - and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, 'Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?' Then He said to him, 'Rise and go; your faith has made you well." - Luke 17:15-19 NIV. Don't forget to thank Him for all He's given and done for you. TRUST!

"Often I have made a request of God with earnest pleadings even backed up with Scripture, only to have Him say, "No" because He had something better in store." - Ruth Bell Graham

Dear Lord, continue to grow my faith in You. Let me learn these lessons that Your Word teaches and use them to trust in Your answers and Your timing. May I find time each day to spend in quietness with You. Your way is perfect and I know You work for my good. May I trust You in all You do. In Jesus' precious name I ask, Amen.