Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Without Love, I Am Nothing!

I think this is one of the most beautiful, profound, and thought-provoking passages in the Bible. It's a call to examine ourselves. Paul points out a way of life superior to a life spent in the seeking and displaying of spiritual gifts. He shows them the way of love! The Corinthians were distracted with contentions and envious of one another's gifts. They apparently lacked love. Their conduct was driven by selfishness and pride, not love.

Love is supreme. Love is paramount. Love is necessary. Love is the Body of Christ's most distinguished trademark (it should be). Without love, all the various spiritual gifts are of no value. The gifts of speaking tongues (or languages, including those of angels), of prophesying, of having all knowledge, of faith that moves mountains, of utmost generosity, even martyrdom, are all meaningless unless we have agape (selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love). Our words and actions must be motivated by love.

Sadly, we often fall into the trap of wanting to be right rather than wanting to love well." (Jim Daly) I admit I sometimes fall into that trap. I am passionate for God's truths. However, I need to check my heart's motive/condition when I share about God, the Gospel, and the Bible whether it's done with love, grace, humility, gentleness, and respect, or with pride, arrogance, anger, frustration, and contempt. If we win every argument/debate but have not love, we are nothing... we win nothing! No matter how eloquently we speak or write, without love our words are worthless. Speak the truth in love! (Ephesians 4:15a) Even if we have unlimited knowledge and understanding about everything (using hyperbole :)) and superb faith (mountain-moving kind as mentioned in Matthew 17:20) but if we don't exercise our knowledge and faith in love, we're nothing. Even the greatest philanthropic acts and such sacrifice as martyrdom accomplish nothing without love. Love is summum bonum ("the highest good, especially as the ultimate goal according to which values and priorities are established in an ethical system") Our lives must be characterized by genuine love for God and for others at home, at work, at church,...everywhere. We can try hard to keep all God's commands and still miss the spirit of the Bible and displease the Lord if we're doing it all without love. Without love, our spiritual gifts, theological knowledge & Biblical understanding, and good works mean nothing in God's eyes. Without agape love, whatever we speak, whatever we have, whatever we know, whatever we do, whatever we suffer, is absolutely ineffectual. Do everything in love! (1 Corinthians 16:14) 

Dear Heavenly Father, we’re forever grateful for Your extravagant love for us! Please fill our hearts with Your love and make it overflow from us to touch the lives of those we meet and draw them to You. Please help us to live a life of love out loud everyday and everywhere. In Jesus’s Name, I pray. Amen!

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Greatest Commandment

- Jesus says that the most important commandment of all commandments is: to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind! Jesus wants us to love Him with our whole being...to love Him above all else even our own life. He wants us to be in such an attitude of love that we cannot eat or work or play without thinking about Him, always keeping Him first in our heart and at the forefront of our mind. God desires to be loved by His children with total abandon. The whole Christianity boils down to one primary thing: Amo Dei =Love God! We must love God completely with all the affections, the will, and the thoughts/the understanding...with all we have and all we are at all times under all circumstances. Again, this is agape love, the committed, devoted love which makes a decision to sacrifice all for the One we love. Obviously, no one is capable of loving God perfectly all the time. This unattainable standard of all-encompassing love for God merely shows our polluted heart and the desperate need for God's pure graceThe more I know God, the more I love Him. The more I love Him, the more I want to know Him more.
- Jesus says in John 14:15, "If you love Me, keep My commands." Our obedience to God demonstrates our love for God. Our love for God is expressed through our love for others. To love God is the priority of life. It should rule our hearts & thoughts and guide our decisions and actions.
- Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you so much for loving me first! Thank You for Who You are and for all You have done for me! I love You! Please purify my heart, soul, & mind and help me love You more and more with every part of me. Please make my life a living expression of Your love to the world for Your glory. Please give me Your eyes to see where and how I may be a blessing to others each day. In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen.

"The true measure of loving God is to love Him without measure." ~Bernard

Friday, July 18, 2014

Faith and Love

- God's command here consists of two parts: to believe in in the Name of Jesus Christ and to love one another (our brothers and sisters in Christ). To believe in the Name of Jesus Christ means to believe all the truths which His Name implies...to believe all that Christ is. He is the Messiah...the Savior...the Son of God...the Lord... Emmanuel (God with us)... To sum up this command in 2 words: Faith & Love. Faith and love go hand in hand. We cannot truly love one another as Christ loves us without faith in Christ, nor can we truly believe in Him without love. Faith without works (obedience out of love/love in action) is dead. "If I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:2b) "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." (Galatians 5:6b) "Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love." (1 Corinthians 16:13-14) Faith and love!
- The Holy Spirit bears witness that Christ lives in us. A fruit of our union with Christ is love and obedience. Our dwelling/abiding in Christ and Christ in us enable us to bear fruit and keep His commandments. "I am the Vine; you are the branches. If you remain (abide) in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)

Friday's Fave Five #100

It's time for another Friday's Fave Five (hosted by Susanne at Living to Tell the Story)

My Fave Five this week:

1. I love chocolate covered coffee beans, Haagen-Dazs ice cream bars, Cheesecake gelato, and Triple Chocolate gelato. I can snack on these all day long :).

2. We got a new comfy couch (Chocolate Brown Italian Leather Sofa). We had the old one for 11 years and it was falling apart.

3. We attended a 3D advance screening of Planes: Fire & Rescue on Monday. You can read my review here.

4. You might laugh but it's true that I had lived without a cell phone until now :). For safety/ emergency, my husband wanted me to have a cell phone so he got me one with unlimited calls and unlimited text messages. What am I going to do with it? I don't like talking on the phone. I guess I'll just go texting-crazy :). 

5. Free Kindle edition of Life to the Max (A Max Lucado Digital Sampler) at the time of this posting.

Bonus: I'm currently hosting 2 DVD giveaways on my other blog: When Calls the Heart "The Dance" and The Perfect Summer.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Self-Sacrificing Love

- Jesus commands us to love others as He loves us. The ultimate love in action is Christ's sacrificial death on the cross for all sinners. We are to love each other as we have been loved by Jesus.
 Self-sacrificing love is the greatest kind of love! The proof of self-sacrificing love is the willingness to die/lay down our lives/put selves aside for others. "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters." (1 John 3:16) It means more than simply dying physically for them because one could only do so once :) and we don't always have the opportunity to do so, either. Jesus wants us to love each other continually. It means that we are to die to our selfishness, pride, prejudice and/or give up our comfort, conveniences, and excuses in order to reach out to others with sacrificial love. It means we go out of our way to meet our friends' needs. Are you willing to open your hearts and homes to others? Do you make others feel welcome and loved? What kind of friends are you? I want to be a loving, faithful, supportive, Christlike friend to all.
- Such a standard of love can be accomplished only as Christ's own love is flowing through our lives! We are to love each other with the love of the Lord.
- Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, may Your love overwhelm us and flow through us continually. Please empower us to love others like Jesus... unconditionally, selflessly, and sacrificially. Please help us to die to self repeatedly and daily. May everything we do be motivated by love and done in love! In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Love One Another

- Jesus commands His disciples/His followers to love one another as He has loved them. He doesn't tell us to love one another only when we feel like it or only love those who are lovable and agreeable. When we love one another like Jesus, it means we also love people who are rude, disrespectful, self-centered, disagreeable, argumentative,.... It means we love everyone, regardless of their imperfections. "We cannot choose whom we will love if we claim to be Christians." (~Anomymous) Earlier in this same chapter, Jesus demonstrates His amazing love by washing the disciples' feet (including Judas' feet). This is humble, visible love in action. Christ calls us to be foot washers/servants of all. As Jesus has loved and served us, so we must love and serve one another! He wants us to follow His example and love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ unconditionally by serving them selflessly and humbly and meeting their needs sacrificially (even laying down our lives for them).
- How will the world recognize Jesus' disciples? By their love for one another! Agape love among Christ's followers is a testimony to the world and draws others to Christ. On the contrary, when the world see Christians bicker, fight, backstab, hurt, blame, accuse one another, it allows them to play the hypocrite card as an excuse for rejecting Jesus. It turns them off to Christianity. "Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us." (1 John 4:11-12) "We are one in the Spirit; we are one in the Lord!...All praise to the Father, from Whom all things come, and all praise to Christ Jesus, His only Son, and all praise to the Spirit, Who makes us one. And they'll know we are Christians by our love. Yes, they'll know we are Christians by our love." (~Peter Scholtes) Christ's disciples are identified by their genuine love for one another!
- Our love for one another is modeled and motivated by Christ's love for us. His love towards us is patient, kind, compassionate, gentle, and committed. Is our love for one another like that? Love means praying for one another, forbearing & forgiving one another, bearing one another's burdens, encouraging & edifying one another/building one another up, admonishing one another, being at peace with one another, honoring one another above ourselves, rejoicing and mourning with one another, caring for one another, comforting one another, accepting one another, being truthful with one another, being there for one another, serving one another, etc. "You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love." (Galatians 5:13) 
- PrayerDear Heavenly Father, please help us to love and serve one another with humility like Jesus does. Please open our eyes to see the needs of others and how we can meet those needs. Please help us to faithfully follow Christ's footsteps. May our words and actions reflect Your agape love. In Jesus's Name, I pray. Amen.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Review: The Chronological Study Bible NIV

I had always wanted to have a chronological Bible; therefore, I was quite excited when I got an opportunity to review this particular Bible. The Chronological Study Bible (NIV) presents the text of the Bible arranged in chronological order as the events actually took place. It includes Daily Life Notes (with various topics such as Marriage & Family, Politics & Government, Science & Technology, Trade & Economics, Plants & Animals, Health & Medicine, Arts & Literature, and more), Background Notes, transition commentaries, historical overviews, Time Panels, Time Charts, Time Capsules, and color maps that help readers understand life, culture, history, events, and locations in Bible times. I love the colorful illustrations and photos of places, people, and artifacts. This Bible is divided into 9 epochs. Each one starts with an introduction. At the end of the Bible, you'll find an index of Cultural and Historical Topics, glossary, concordance, an index of Scriptural passages, and daily reading plans. This beautiful Bible is an excellent resource for anyone who loves to study the Bible, enjoys history, and wants to explore God's Word in chronological order. Bonuses: This Bible is guaranteed for life (you can register online for your lifetime guarantee) and it provides the link to a free Bible Study Tools download. The only thing that I don't like about this Bible is that it uses the gender-neutral approach which is politically correct but not Biblically correct. I'm really disappointed about that!

~I received a free copy of this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

Love Deeply

- It's not enough to have faith. It's not enough to pray and read God's Word. What are the two greatest commandments? Love God and love others. We, Christ's followers/God's beloved children, must abound in love. When we truly experience God's irresistible love for us, our love for others will be active. 
- Above all (indicating utmost importance), we are to maintain constant, fervent love for one another. "In 1 Peter 4, the apostle uses an interesting word to describe the love we are to have for one another. He says we are to have a "fervent" love. In the Greek, this word means "stretched out" and carries with it a picture of a runner straining for the finish line. It's a vivid image of a love that never quits. This love is a marathon type of love, not a sprint. What does this "stretched out" love look like? Peter answers this question with the next quote, "Love will cover a multitude of sins." In other words, a fervent, stretched-out love is a love that forgives no matter the cost. Like a marathon runner continues despite the burning in his lungs and the cramps in his muscles because he desires to achieve the goal, so we should endure the pain of rejection and the harsh words of those around us with a love in our hearts and a forgiving spirit. How can we love like this? We can love this way because Christ first loved us. He loved us even when we were sinners. He loved us, even when we rebelled against Him. He loved us with stretched out arms on the cross. Let's love each other in the same way." (~David McGee) "Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart." (1 Peter 1:22)
- Love each other deeply/intensely for love covers over a multitude of sins. "Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs." (Proverbs 10:12) Once again, this is agape love. This love is full of grace and mercy, kindness and compassion. Love keeps no record of wrongs (love always forgives, holds no grudges, and doesn't take revenge). Love is not easily angered (even when others sin against you); love overlooks offenses. Love doesn't dishonor others (by gossiping or exposing their sins and/or failures). Noah once became too drunk and lay naked in his tent (Genesis 9:21-23). Ham (one of his sons) dishonored his dad by telling his two brothers about his dad's condition. But Shem and Japheth (Noah's other two sons) showed their dad honor/respect by walking in backwards (so that they wouldn't see him naked) and covering his naked body with a garment. That's love in action.

Monday, July 14, 2014

God Loved Us First and He Loves Us Best

- Before we knew God and before we were even born, He already loved us first. Even when we were spiritually dead in transgressions, polluted by Satan & worldliness, and enslaved to our sinful nature, God chose to love us and send His Son, Jesus Christ, to die as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (verse 10). He pursues us with His relentless love. He loves us so deeply and extravagantly, not because of who we are or what we do but because of Who He is. He loves because He is Love. "In Himself, God is Love; through Him, love is manifested, and by Him, love is defined." (~Burk Parsons)
- True love (agape love which is unconditional, selfless, and sacrificial) comes from God. Because we are so loved by God first, we're free to love God and others. God's love for us liberates us to live a life of love. Christ's love fills our hearts and overflows out of our lives. Our love for our brothers and sisters who are visible proves our love for God who is invisible. It's easy to claim that we love God but do we demonstrate our love for Him by obeying His command about loving one another? "If you love Me, keep My commands." ~Jesus (John 14:15) Do you walk the talk? Words don't mean anything if they are not backed up by actions. You're a liar if you hate your brothers or sisters in Christ while saying that you love God. How is your relationship with other believers? "A test of your love for God is to examine your love for others." (~Henry Blackaby)
- Love for God and love for fellow believers are inseparable. However, it's not about how much we love God; it's about how much God loves us. We receive His love and then share it with others. When Christ is in us and we're in Christ, love is evident in our conversation, actions, reactions, attitudes, lives. Love is not a feeling; it's a decision/a choice to meet others' needs...to put others above self. Love is our calling! The banner that flies over God's kingdom is the banner of love. Let's live loved and live to love well!
"Because of their dependence upon Christ's love they dared much, and because of their love for Christ they did much, and it is the same now. The children of God are ruled in their inmost powers by love. The love of Christ constrains them; they rejoice that divine love is set upon them, they feel it shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit, who is given to them, and then by force of gratitude they love the Savior with a pure and fervent heart." (~Charles Spurgeon)
- Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your love, grace, and mercy that You've given me freely and abundantly. Please help me to always show love, grace, and mercy to others. Please love through me and empower me to say and do everything in love. Please use my life to touch others with Your love and draw them to You, the Source of love. In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen.

Friday, July 11, 2014

You Are Invited!

- God sent Jesus to invite people on earth to eternal life. Those who accept His invitation are blessed/happy and are waiting for the day Jesus returns and calls them to a Heavenly banquet ("the Wedding Supper of the Lamb")!
- "As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you." (Isaiah 62:5b) Jesus is the Bridegroom. The Church (made up of those who put their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior) is the Bride. We've been invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb. In Heaven, we get to celebrate the greatest party of all time! O the joy of having fellowship/perfect union with our Lord throughout eternity! It's the marriage made in Heaven; the Church is united in glory to Jesus Christ. This is the culmination of our salvation. A beautiful picture of marriage and wedding supper is used to describe the intimate relationship God wants to have with us. Let us be ready and prepared as a pure & radiant bride waiting eagerly for our Bridegroom! "I promised you to one Husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to Him." (2 Corinthians 11:2b) May Christ find us faithful and wholeheartedly devoted to Him alone!
- Isn't it interesting that the ministry of Jesus began with His first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee when He turned water into wine? Jesus will return to receive His beloved bride and enjoy the marriage supper and live together happily ever after for eternity. I love weddings :)!

Friday's Fave Five #99

It's time for another Friday's Fave Five (hosted by Susanne at Living to Tell the Story)

My Fave Five this week:
1. We had a wonderful Fourth of July weekend. My mother-in-law came on Friday and stayed overnight. We played Trivial Pursuit & Super Scrabble, enjoyed a grilled feast, and watched spectacular fireworks from our yard (we live on a hill that overlooks a panoramic view of cities and mountains).

2. I like these quotes.

3. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21) 
God's answers are always wiser than our prayers and way better than what we can imagine! I've seen this truth played out over and over again. Just this month alone, my heart has been bursting with joy! God knows why Thank You, Lord! You are beyond awesome!

4. Free kindle edition of Amish Proverbs: Words of Wisdom from the Simple Life by Suzanne Woods Fisher (at the time of this posting).

5. My husband bought a portable air conditioner for our family room...just in time for our expected prolonged heat wave

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Forgive as the Lord Forgave You

- We are to bear with each other/to tolerate/to patiently endure one another's weaknesses, idiosyncrasies, imperfections, and offenses. Extend God's grace and mercy to others. Cultivate the grace of forbearance. Try to be understanding and overlook offenses. Do good and be kind to everyone, including those who are mean and unkind to us. "Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing." (1 Peter 3:8-9) 

- We are to forgive one another like Jesus. Unconditionally. To forgive others is to imitate Christ. Choose to forgive, instead of complaining, blaming, and quarreling. 

"When they hurled their insults at Him--He did not retaliate; when He suffered--He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly." (1 Peter 2:23) 

"None of us can live long in the thick of life--and not sometimes be touched rudely, perhaps even cruelly, by others. How shall we endure the things which hurt and wound us? We know what Jesus would do, what He actually did. "When they hurled their insults at Him--He did not retaliate; when He suffered--He made no threats."They drove the nails into His gentle hands, and as the iron went crashing through His tender flesh He prayed, "Father, forgive them!" They hung Him on the cross--but in answer to that cruelty, instead of a withering curse upon the world, He wrought salvation there for men!" (J.R. Miller)

- When we have a hard time forgiving others, we need to remind ourselves how much God has forgiven us. We must forgive those who offend/wrong/hurt us as the Lord forgave us. Each of us has sinned many more times against God than others have against us. "Whenever I see myself before God and realize something of what my blessed Lord has done for me at Calvary, I am ready to forgive anybody anything. I cannot withhold it. I do not even want to withhold it." (Martin Lloyd Jones) Freely give grace and forgiveness because you've been freely given grace and forgiveness. "Freely you have received; freely give." ~Jesus (Matthew 10:8b)

"Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hate. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness." (Corrie ten Boom)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I can never thank You enough for Your inexhaustible grace and forgiveness for me! Please enable me to readily forgive others and myself as You have forgiven me. Please help me always see people through eyes of grace and mercy. Please empower me to love and forgive others like Jesus. In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen.

Sufficient Grace

- Paul asks the Lord three times to take his "thorn in the flesh" away. Jesus does not take it away but offers His grace to bear it, instead. Christ's grace is sufficient for any affliction, trial, or hardship. His grace sustains and strengthens us. God knows what we need when we need it. Our weaknesses provide opportunities for the display of divine power. Paul boasts gladly about his weaknesses in order to show Christ's power resting on him. Paul is finally content to live with his "thorn" because he finds rest in Christ's power and grace.
- God may not always remove our problems, sufferings, sorrows or change our circumstances but He will always give us His grace to endure. Psalm 46:10a says, "Be still ('raphah' in Hebrew means 'be weak, let go'), and know that I am God." God wants us to let go and be weak...thus lean on Him and completely depend on Him. Any hardship in life is an opportunity to showcase God's grace and glorify Him.
- God's power/strength is made perfect in our weakness. It stands out best/shines brightest when we are weak and humbly acknowledge that we need God's help. Do you feel weak or weary? Perfect! You're in the perfect condition to receive God's grace and power. "It was the very experience of weakness which allowed Paul to discover God's strength." (~Alistair Begg) When we think we are strong and can handle everything ourselves, we are indeed weak because we trust and rely on selves, instead of God. When we realize we're weak, we become strong because we rely on Christ's strength. "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13) Be humble and admit your limitations and weaknesses before God. You will experience the benefits and blessings of God's amazing, sufficient grace.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

How God's Chosen People Dress

This is how God's chosen people (holy and dearly loved) should live/dress spiritually. Imitate Christ. He is compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, and patient. All these virtues reflect the character of Christ.

"Show mercy and compassion to one another." (Zechariah 7:9b)
"Be kind and compassionate to one another." (Ephesians 4:32a)
"Be compassionate and humble." (1 Peter 3:8b)
"Whoever is kind to the needy honors God." (Proverbs 14:31b)
"Wisdom's instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor." (Proverbs 15:33)
"Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life." (Proverbs 22:4)
"All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, 'God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.' Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time." (1 Peter 5:5b-6)
"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." (Ephesians 4:2)
"It should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." (1 Peter 3:4)
"Let your gentleness be evident to all." (Philippians 4:5a)
"A person's wisdom yields patience; it is to one's glory to overlook an offense." (Proverbs 19:11)
"Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city." (Proverbs 16:32)
"Love is patient, love is kind." (1 Corinthians 13:4a)
"Encourage the disheartened (compassion), help the weak (kindness), be patient with everyone." (1 Thessalonians 5:14b)
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23a)

God's Plans

- What an encouraging promise of God this is! God knows the specific plans and purposes He has for each one of us. Since God is always good, faithful, wise, loving, and all-knowing, we can and should totally trust Him and His plans for our lives/our future. God only wants what's best for us. Our future is bright and full of hope because it is in God's hands. In His hands, we are safe and secure today, tomorrow, and for all eternity. We don't have to be afraid of or anxious about the future because we know the One who holds the future. We are guaranteed the hope of glory (Christ in us) and a glorious future in Heaven with Him.
- Trust God's heart even when you can't trace His hand. "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans. The Lord works out everything to its proper end." (Proverbs 16:3-4a) Commit/surrender all your plans, desires, ambitions, and choices to the Lord. He will guide and direct us according to His plans and purposes for our lives as we seek Him with all our hearts, call on Him, trust and obey Him. When God says, "No" to our requests, it means that He has something better already planned for us. God's answers are always wiser than our prayers. Not my will, but Yours be done! "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,' declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.'" (Isaiah 55:8-9) "Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." (Proverbs 19:21)
- Our life is about fulfilling the things that God has called us to do. God packs each of us with unique gifts, personalities, and interests on purpose for His purpose. Don't compare yourselves with others. God's plans for them are not for you and vice versa. Be whom God made you to be and do what God has called you to do! "For we are God's workmanship/handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Christ Is All and Is In All

"Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all." Colossians 3:9-11

- Do not lie to each other. "Instead, speak the truth in love...Each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body." (Ephesians 4:15a, 25)
- Put off your old self with its practices by identification with Christ in His death. We're called to renounce our old sinful ways and fleshly desires. "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:22-24)
- Put on the new self and new character/virtues (verses 12 to 14). "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17) When one is in Christ and becomes a new creation, his/her old way of thinking and living has gone. His/her mind is renewed by God's Word & the Holy Spirit, and his/her heart is transformed as he/she knows God more and more. It all starts with surrendering one's life completely to Christ. "And we all, who with unveiled faces reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3:18) Since we're now a new creation, we must live in a newness of born-again life in accordance with the rules of Christ's kingdom, putting on Christ. "So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:26-28) To ponder: Does our behavior match our beliefs? Does our character correspond with our confession?
- Christ loves all people, died for all, and welcomes all who come to Him. In Christ, all distinctions and differences are transcended; the ground is level at the foot of the cross. Christ transcends all barriers and unifies His followers from all cultures, nationalities, social status, and backgrounds. We are one in Christ. One Body. Christ alone is all that matters!

God Works in Us

- This is a beautiful benediction! God equips those He calls. God works in us and makes us fully fit, suitable, and capable to carry out His will and do what is pleasing to Him. He makes us perfect for the tasks He has for us. He doesn't need us but He chooses to use us for His glory and for His kingdom. What an honor and privilege it is for us to be participants in His amazing work in this world and get a front row seat to witness His mighty handiwork!

- Only the indwelling Son working in us by the Holy Spirit and through God's Word can transform us and make us well-pleasing in God's sight. Whatever good you see in me is what the Lord has done in me and through me. To Christ be all the glory forever! The same divine power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to us, is working in us, and is able to do everything for us that we're in need of. God strengthens us with spiritual strength to do good works. "Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God." (2 Corinthians 3:4-5) I have God-confidence; I don't need self-confidence. There's no good thing wrought in us, but it is the work of God through Jesus Christ by His Spirit, for His glory, pleasure, and purpose. "For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose." (Philippians 2:13) "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

- This verse made me think of Moses and his excuses for not wanting to go to Pharaoh to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. Clearly, our inadequacy/inability cannot be used as an excuse for not doing God's will. God will empower us and enable us to do what He wants us to do even if we think we're unable to do. We are "can-do" children of God because we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13). "God often brings His people into such a condition that they do not know what to do. He does this that they might know what He can do. God is with His people at all times, but He is most sweetly with them in the worst of times." (Thomas Lye)

- Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for working in me and equipping me through Christ with everything good for doing Your will and for pleasing You! I desire to do Your will and to please, honor, and glorify you in all that I do and say. Please help me to know and obey Your will. Please help me to always walk by the Spirit and walk in faithful, humble obedience. I surrender all to You; please use my life to point people to Jesus, to further Your kingdom work, and to accomplish what You want me to accomplish. In Jesus's Name, I pray. Amen.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Rid Yourselves of All Such Things

We used to walk in sinful, fleshly, worldly ways before we surrendered our lives to Christ. Now since we are a new creation in Christ, we must rid ourselves of  these evil, immoral practices: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from our lips. All these things can be expressed through our words. That's why it's so important for us to constantly guard/tame our tongue"He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin." (Proverbs 13:3) "He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity." (Proverbs 21:23) 

"When anger spreads through the breast, guard your tongue from barking idly." (~Sappho)
"Sometimes you can make a more effective statement by holding your tongue." (~Anonymous)
"Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment." (~Benjamin Franklin)
"When I want to speak...let me think first:
-Is it true?
-Is it kind?
-Is it necessary?
If not, let it be left unsaid." (~Babcock)

Our speech should be: 
Gentle and gracious  (Philippians 4:5, Proverbs 22:11)
Respectful                 (1 Peter 2:17)
Encouraging              (Hebrews 3:13)
Appropriate               (Ephesians 4:29)
Truthful                      (Ephesians 4:15, 4:25)

"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer." (Psalm 19:14)

We Are God's Children and Heirs

- God made everyone but not everyone is God's children. Only those who put their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior are adopted into God's family and become God's children. "To all who did receive Him (Jesus Christ), to those who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God--children born not of natural descent, nor human decision or a husband's will, but born of God." (John 1:12-13) "God sent His Son...to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are His sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, 'Abba, Father.' So you are no longer a slave, but God's child; and since you are His child, God has made you also an heir." (Gal 4:4b-7)
- The Holy Spirit bears witness together with our human spirit that we are children of God. "It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth." (1 John 5:6b) We can be certain of this truth.
- Everything belongs to Christ and by grace, we (God's adopted children) share in what is His. What a beautiful promise it is! We are assured here of our inheritance. We're heirs of all that God has to give and we're coheirs with Christ, to Whom the Father has given all things. Even God Himself is our Inheritance and Portion. To be a joint heir with Christ means to be a fellow sufferer with Christ. "Whoever does not take up their cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me." ~Jesus (Matthew 10:38) "Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering." (2 Thessalonians 1:4-5) "Rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you...If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name." (1 Peter 4:13-14, 16) Those who share with Christ in His sufferings will also share with Him in His glory. The experience of suffering precedes the experience of glory.
- Whose we are defines who we are. Only in Christ can we find our true identity and value. May we never forget or lose sight of this fact that we are beloved children of God! He loves us with the same love with which He loves His one and only Son. He's always got our back. When we, God's children, demonstrate our Heavenly Father's characteristics (loving, gracious, merciful, patient, kind, forgiving, etc.), we are witnesses to the world of Who God is. When people look at us, do they see any resemblance to our Abba Father? 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Put to Death

"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature; sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming." Colossians 3:5-6

- We must put to death our old sinful nature. Die to/rid yourselves of: sexual immorality/fornication, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed/covetousness. Anything we place above God and/or relentlessly pursue instead of God is idolatry. Let us pray to be delivered from things of the world, fleshly desires, selfish ambition, and any form of idolatry.
- God's wrath refers to God's judgment. God is holy and just; He has to punish evil/sin. "There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and destroy." (James 4:12a) "The wrath of God is being revealed from Heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness." (Romans 1:18) "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on them." (John 3:36) "But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed. God will repay each person according to what they have done." (Romans 2:5-6) "They tell how you turned to God from idols to serving the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from Heaven, Whom He raised from the dead--Jesus, Who rescues us from the coming wrath." (1 Thessalonians 1:9b-10) God's wrath does not negate God's love; it rather confirms His love, grace, and mercy. "For without justice, mercy loses its meaning." (~Tasker) Because of God's great love for us, He sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us in order to rescue us from His wrath!
- Doctrine is the basis for ethics. What we believe determines how we act. "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship." (Romans 12:1) "For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live." (Romans 8:13)


- Christ offers eternal life as a gift to those who follow Him. They shall never perish! "For God's gifts and His call are irrevocable." (Romans 11:29) O blessed assurance! Praise God for giving us the certainty of our salvation and eternal life! We, His sheep, are eternally safe and secure. The sheep belong to Jesus, the Good Shepherd because they are the Father's gift to Him. Since God is greater than all (He is omnipotent), no power will be able to snatch them away from His mighty hand of love and protection.
- Yahweh Rohi = The Lord My Shepherd. Jesus is both our gentle & caring Provider and our strong & fierce Protector. Our lives are in His hand. There's no better/safer place to be. We're absolutely unsnatchable; God won't allow it. Jesus loves His sheep. He laid down His life for His sheep. He takes care of His sheep. He never leaves nor forsakes His sheep. He certainly guards and keeps His sheep always. We are His now and forever! We can never be taken from His grip.

The certainty that we are loved fosters peace and eliminates stress. Sheep don't come across as stressed-out creatures. In fact, they seem almost oblivious to danger. Sheep don't worry about where their next meal is coming from, if they will have a place to sleep each night, when the next enemy or thief will attack, or even what the next day holds. When sheep are sick or in need, they simply turn to their shepherd, instinctively knowing he or she will take care of and comfort them." (~Mary Southerland)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Set Your Hearts and Minds on Things Above

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, Who is your Life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory." Colossians 3:1-4
- The believers' position in Christ: we died with Christ, we've been raised with Christ, we're hidden (safe and secure) with Christ in heavenly realms. "And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus." (Romans 2:6) "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)

- What the believers are to do as a result of their position in Christ: We are to set our hearts and minds on things above, not on earthly things. We are to direct our affection and thoughts to things above (heavenly things/eternal things). "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--His good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:2) We must embrace an eternal perspective. Let's live in the light of eternity! This world is not our home. Don't waste your life chasing after temporary things! Live for God and give Him your undivided loyalty! Don't let the world and its pursuits come between your soul and Him. Focus on reaching out to the lost and making an eternal impact while you're here on earth. Live intentionally in such a way that most glorifies God. Think God's thoughts. Love what God loves and hate what God hates. Look at everything through God's eyes/ perspectives.
Farewell, vain world; my soul bids you adieu.
My Savior taught me to abandon you.
Your charms may gratify a sensual mind,
but cannot please a soul for God designed." 
~David Brainerd
"The Greek verb for set emphasizes an ongoing decision. Christians must continually discipline themselves to focus on eternal realities, instead of the temporal realities of this earth. A Christian's life is no longer dictated by this world but is hidden with Christ. The Gree word for hidden indicates that God has accomplished this in the past so that it is a present reality." (commentary from my NKJV Study Bible)

- Christ is our Life. This is the consummation of our union with Christ. When Christ returns, we will also appear with Him in glory. "Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Romans 8:17-18) "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3:18)

In All Things

- This is one of the greatest promises in the Bible. It gives hope and comfort to God's children. We know that no matter what circumstances we are going through, God will use them for our spiritual, eternal good and for His glory. This is a promise exclusively for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. God is the One who decides what's good for us according to His will and purpose. The ultimate good He wants for us is to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ (verse 29). Some Christians read verse 28 and expect what they personally think "the good" should be and when "the good" never comes, they either get disappointed, discouraged, or angry at God. God is more concerned about our holiness/Christlikeness than our happiness. It doesn't say God works for our comfort, pleasure, happiness, or wishes.
- The focus of this passage is on the action of God--His plan and the accomplishment of His plan. He foreknew, He predestined, He called, He justified, He glorified. The emphasis here is on what God does for those who love Him. God knew in eternity past who would become His children. They are predestined as having a particular place in God's purpose. They have been called/invited in grace, by God's Spirit through the gospel according to God's eternal purpose. "For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will." (Ephesians 1:4-5) They have been justified (declared not guilty). And they are brought to final glory. "Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Romans 8:17-18) Glorification is viewed as past since it is as certain as if it had already happened. It's part of our eternally completed salvation.
- Trust God at all times. Thank God in all circumstances. God is in control; He is able to turn bad things, ugly things, useless things, sad situation, difficult situation, hopeless situation, anything, all things around for good. He knows how to turn whatever is meant for evil against us into a good outcome, as He did for Joseph. "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Genesis 50:20) Surrender all your burdens, stains, broken pieces, pain, sorrow, troubles, regrets to Him; He makes all things beautiful in His time. Our Heavenly Father knows what's best for us and He never makes mistakes. He is all-loving, all-wise, and all-powerful. God allows trials and sufferings in our lives to deepen and strengthen our faith & dependence on Him, to mold us into Christlikeness, and to wean us from this world. "We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope!" (Romans 5:3-4) His ultimate goal for us is not that we live an easy, problem-free life but that we grow closer to Him and become more like Christ. Rest in Him...come what may. Because I know that God is continuously/tirelessly working on my behalf for my good, I can truly say, "It is well with my soul."
"Christians are never in a no-win situation, but always in a no-lose situation, because even though we may not understand God’s reason for whatever happens to us, we can know that He is accomplishing a grand divine plan that will ultimately glorify Him and benefit us." (~Introduction to Biblical Counseling, p. 196)

"O Christian!
What though friends and relations frown upon you,
what though enemies are plotting and conspiring against you,
what though needs, like armed men, are breaking in upon you,
what though men rage, and devils roar against you,
what though sickness is devastating your family,
what though death stands every day at your elbow--
yet there is no reason for you to fear nor faint, because all these things shall work for your good! Yes, there is wonderful cause of joy and rejoicing, in all the afflictions and tribulations which come upon you--considering that they shall all work for your good.
" (~Thomas Watson)

This post is linked up with Fellowship Fridays @Christian Mommy Blogger, Faith-filled Friday @Missional Women, Spiritual Sundays,Essential Thing Devotions, Sharing His Beauty @The Beauty in His GripPlaydates with God at The Wellspring, The Weekend Brew @My Freshly Brewed LifeGive Me Grace, andInspire Me Monday @Create With Joy.
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