Monday, January 22, 2018

Humbly Receive God's Soul-Saving Word

This is a very important advice for Christian living. Be a good listener. Watch your tongue (think before you speak). Control your temper (do not become angry easily). Have nothing to do with filthiness (moral corruption) and wickedness/malice. Humbly receive God's soul-saving Word.

These qualities are needed in trials: Be quick to listen to the Word of God, be slow to speak/blame God for your trials and temptations, and don't get mad easily when things don't go your way/when you face trials. Anger is not the response God wants. When we Christians give vent to wrath, we are not exemplifying the righteous kind of living that God desires. It displeases God. Do you think a Christian who seems to be angry or grumpy all the time will make an effective witness for the Lord...will draw people to Christ? Very unlikely. He/she is more likely to turn people off and away from Christianity.

Let's put James 1:19 into practice daily! Our family and friends will be very grateful and feel loved. Essentially, these are some ways we show our love: taking time to listen attentively without interrupting, carefully watching what and how we communicate orally (words can help, heal, or hurt), and not being easily angered/annoyed/frustrated/irritated.

It doesn't do much good to hear God's Word, hold our tongue, and be patient then turn around and engage ourselves in the world's filthy lusts and pleasures. Love God; hate sin! We must get rid of all evil desires, attitudes, words, and deeds. We need spiritual consistency in every area of our lives. 
When one continues to live in sin, he/she has no desire to read/study God's Word because God's Word contradicts and convicts his/her lifestyle. Moral filth and evil in our lives hinder God's Word from effectively working spiritual maturity in us. They can make us deaf to God's voice (the Holy Spirit's leading) and Word. A receptive heart prepares the soil for the implanted Word of God to blossom by removing all the weeds. "The seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the Word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop." (Luke 8:15) James is not teaching spiritual perfection here but he is telling believers to put their faith in action and to confess their sins to God (and they'll be cleansed from all unrighteousness). Continue to receive God's teaching in humility/with meekness (teachable spirit). "When you receive the Word with meekness, you accept it, do not argue with it, and honor it as the Word of God. You do not try to twist it to conform it to your thinking." (Warren Wiersbe) When the Word of God is implanted within our hearts (not a mere head knowledge), our soul is saved from spiritual disaster (including fleshly lures, temptations, worldliness, sinning) and from apathy for God's kingdom work.

"Have you done a heart check lately? If your heart is apathetic to God’s word, James says, “Be quick to hear.” If you’re prone to spout off arrogantly with how much you know, James says, “Be slow to speak.” If you’re fighting some aspect of the word that you don’t like, James says, “Be slow to anger.” If you’re tolerating the crud of sin, James says, “Put aside all filthiness.” If you’re resisting God’s commands that are designed to rescue you from sin, James says, “In humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.” (Cole)

"It is not the ship in the water but the water in the ship that sinks it. So it is not the Christian in the world but the world in the Christian that constitutes the danger. Anything that dims my vision of Christ, or takes away my taste for Bible study, or cramps my prayer life, or makes Christian work difficult, is wrong for me, and I must, as a Christian, turn away from it." (J. Wilbur Chapman)

Prayer: Father, thank You for Your mercy and forgiveness! Thank You for being patient with me as I fail time and time again. Please help me to listen attentively, speak kindly, and respond calmly in any situation. Please empower me to not be easily offended but to be quick to forgive when wronged. Please reveal to me anything in my life that does not please or honor You and enable me to get rid of them. Your Word is my delight. Show me Your ways, teach me Your paths, lead me in Your truth, and mold me into Christlikeness. In Jesus's Name, I pray. Amen.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Jesus Paid It All

"The right time" refers to the appointed time in God's redemption plan. At just the right time, Christ undid what Adam did. We were powerless/helpless to save ourselves. We all need a Savior to rescue us. Christ died for all the sin-sick souls. Some people wrongly believe that they have to clean up their acts first before they can surrender their lives to Christ. They have it backwards. We must surrender our lives to Christ first and the Holy Spirit will sanctify us.

God demonstrates the depth of His love for us in this ultimate action. Christ died not for the good or the righteous, but for sinners who deserve wrath instead of love. This proof of God's everlasting love for us was fulfilled/completed on the cross. While we were still living (but dead) in sin and rebellion, God of all creation stepped out of Heaven and gave His life for ours. Jesus took the punishment that we deserve so that we may gain forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life with Him. Christ's love is grounded in God's pure grace and does not depend on any inherent worthiness found in us, but on His own desire to give it. A perfect Savior died for wicked sinners. Inconceivable! He died on behalf of us. He died so that we may live. 

God's love for us is agape love (unconditional, sacrificial, selfless love). It seeks the highest good for another no matter what the cost may be, as shown by Christ's sacrificial death on our behalf. God gives us His Best and Greatest Gift while we're at our worst state. Christ took the punishment that we deserve because He loves us. He paid the price/penalty that we could never pay. God loves the ungodly, the unworthy, the unlovable, the ungrateful, the undeserved. God loves us in spite of our sins, failures, mistakes, etc. God doesn’t love us because we are lovable but because God is Love (that's who He is) and He is always loving. God did not wait for us to become good or to acknowledge Him before He decided to save us. Christ died for our sins even when we're still enemies of God. God loves us before we turn to Him...before we seek Him...before we love Him. His love for us does not depend on who we are or what we do. I'm so glad it doesn't because this means God's amazing love for me never changes! 

Perfect Gift Giver

Do not be deceived thinking that God tempts you. God, instead of being the source of temptation, is the Source of all good gifts/all blessings. God is our kind, loving, giving, creative, & all-powerful Father. He is the Creator of the universe yet He cares about us. What He gives to His children is only good and perfect. "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?" (Psalm 8:3-4)

God is completely consistent; He never changes. One of His attributes is immutability. It's truly comforting to me to know that I can always trust Him no matter what. He and all His attributes are unchangeable! "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8)

God chose to give us birth (new life, regeneration) through the word of truth (His Word, the proclamation of the gospel). "For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring Word of God." (1 Peter 1:23)
It's God's desire/choice/will for us to be saved, born again, and have eternal life. The early Christians were called "firstfruits" because they were an indication that many more people would eventually be born again as a result of the spread of the gospel. Verse 18 shows the ultimate "good and perfect gift" from God to us. We're reminded here that salvation is a gift from God, not something we can earn. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Prayer: Father, thank You for all the gifts/blessings You have given me! Thank You for the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ! Thank You for the gift of eternal life! Thank You for the gift of Your Word that teaches, guides, transforms, encourages, and comforts me! Thank You for being faithful and immutable! Please help me to trust You completely and not be deceived by Satan's lies. Please empower me to boldly share the gospel with those who need to hear and to use my gifts for Your glory and Your kingdom. In Jesus's Name, I pray. Amen.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Persevere and Take Responsibility

There's a blessing/reward for those who love God and faithfully endure trials/temptation/ suffering to the end. They will receive the crown of life. What a beautiful promise from God! We're reminded of the Heavenly life to come. The hope of Heaven inspires us to persevere through hardship in this life. This world is not our home. This life is temporary. Trials are temporary. Our eternal reward is waiting for us. Stand steadfast through trials and testing. We're truly blessed for all eternity because we have an intimate relationship with God and we will be with Him forever.

Verse 12 made me think of 1 Peter 1:6-7, "In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trails. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." and Revelation 2:10, "Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer...Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will 
give you the crown of life." 

God cannot be tempted by evil because God is holy, pure, and perfect. And God is never the source of temptation (enticement to sin) or sin. Instead of blaming God, we must take personal responsibility for our sins. We must deal with our inner trials. It starts with a desire of the flesh/an evil desire in the mind (in our thought). If pursued, that desire gives birth to sin (acting out the desire). That sin grows and brings forth death (spiritual death which is in contrast to the eternal life God gives to those who love Him and faithfully persevere under trials/temptations in verse 12). 
As Christ’s followers, we’re in a constant battle between our sinful nature and our new nature. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can rise above the flesh. Through studying and memorizing God's Word, we can be strengthened and equipped to resist and overcome temptations. Through God's grace and faithfulness, He promises to provide us a way out when we face temptations. "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13) We will be blessed/happy when we persevere. Perseverance is the fruit proven by the testing of our faith, which leads to spiritual maturity.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your promise of providing me a way out when I'm tempted. Please help me to take the way out and avoid sinning against You. Please empower me to die to self daily. Please enable me to persevere through the trials of this life. In Jesus's Name, I pray. Amen. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

We All Have to Face Trials

God is no respecter of persons. Rich or poor, we all have to face the trials of this sin-cursed life. Both the rich and the poor need wisdom (including an eternal perspective) to rightly respond to trials, the testing of their faith. The poor glory in seeing that poverty doesn't make them less in God's eyes. Through trials, the rich realize that wealth doesn't make them immune to the curse, nor does it make them any better than the poor. Trials and sufferings are allowed (and used) by God to keep both the rich and the poor from being too enamored with this world...from being preoccupied with the cares of this life and the pursuit of material treasures. Neither wealth nor poverty gives us special status in God's eyes. Therefore, we must not let either determine how we view other people or how we treat them. 

We are reminded of how brief life is and how fleeting and temporary all of this is-- material possessions, achievements, status, earthly success, etc. They all will wither and disappear. Our status, not here, but in eternity should be our main concern. In Christ, believers in humble circumstances are to rejoice that they have been given true wealth. They're now heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. In Christ, the rich are to rejoice that they have been brought down to a level where the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for more and more things no longer have a hold on them. Wealth is a testing just as poverty is; both reveal where we place our faith and hope. Trials/difficult times help remind us that our joy and contentment are not found in the riches of this world, but are found only in the riches of God's grace.

Prayer: Father, I am thankful that my life is in Your hand. I need Your wisdom, grace, and strength as I face various trials. Your presence and sovereignty comfort me. Please guide me and empower me to grow and glorify You through trials. In Jesus's Name, I pray. Amen.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Pray for Wisdom

"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do." (James 1:5-8 NIV)

We can always use more wisdom, can't we :)? Indeed, we need God's wisdom to do God's will. Wisdom includes practical insight, discernment/sound judgment, and spiritual understanding. This is not a one-time thing. God doesn't fill us up with His wisdom once to last our whole lifetime. We must come back to Him again and again. This helps us realize our dependence on Him and it also builds our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

When we're facing trials, we need God's wisdom to know how to deal with them, how to endure, how we can have joy in the midst of them, and to see what God's purpose is in those trials. 
"The wisdom God gives is not necessarily information on how to get out of trouble but rather insight on how to learn from one's difficulties. It is not more information about how to avoid times of testing but instead a new perspective on trials. The wisdom of God begins with a genuine reverence for the Almighty and a steadfast confidence that God controls all circumstances, guiding them to His good purposes." (from my NKJV Study Bible's commentary) 

There are two conditions/requirements for receiving wisdom: 1. Ask God for it and 2. Believe/don't doubt. Pray with unwavering faith that stands firm in all the storms of life. 
God could simply give us the wisdom but He requires us to ask for it so that we recognize our need for it and understand & acknowledge where that wisdom is coming from. God is generous and He enjoys giving. He wants to give us wisdom because He is a loving Father desiring to see His children make wise decisions and live a blessed life. He gives wisdom generously to all who ask for it "without finding fault"/"without reproach"--without reminding us how we don't deserve it, without expressing disappointment about how foolish we are or how slow we are (at learning and trusting). When we pray for wisdom (or anything for that matter), we must not be "double-minded" (indecisive, wavering in mind, insincere, can't be trusted, uncertain, two-faced, divided in loyalties). Doubters are unstable/unsteady in all they do. Faith or lack of faith (doubt) will affect everything...our character, feelings, thoughts, actions, reactions, and prayers. God is a jealous God. He wants only our single-minded/undivided devotion. Doubt in our communication with God (our prayers) hinders our relationship with Him.

Prayer: Father, thank You for being patient, gracious, and generous with me! Please give me wisdom to do Your will, to know Your heart, to understand Your Word, and to learn what You want me to learn. In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Joy through Trials

Even though James was the brother of Jesus, he introduced himself as "a servant (bondservant) of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ". I love his humility. I want people to know me as a servant of God, too. James addressed his letter to Jewish Christians who had been dispersed by persecution.

We're encouraged to respond to trials as positive things...almost as if we should even welcome them since they are opportunities to test our faith. 
Most people don't enjoy tests but tests do serve some valuable purposes. They reveal strengths and weaknesses. They demonstrate what we know and what we do not know, and they teach us how to apply knowledge. Our faith is tested by how we respond to trials (conflicts, sufferings, troubles, difficulties). It will show who we really are and what we really believe. It will show whether our faith is strong or weak, genuine or fake. Trials are unpleasant but they are great opportunities to witness how God works in our lives, for our lives, and through our lives. Testing highlights God's faithfulness in our lives and in the lives of others. "Let every trial teach me more of Thy peace, more of Thy love." (Valley of Vision) God uses difficult situations to teach us about ourselves or about other people. Use them as stepping stones to grow in Christ. Growth through trials will help our character shine and bring glory to God.

Perseverance/patience/endurance is the fruit proven by testing. This passage in James reminds me of Mark 4: 16-17, "Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the Word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the Word, they quickly fall away." True saving faith will stand steadfast under pressure and endure to the end...come what may! "Mind and heart and character are bettered by the endurance of affliction." (Alexander Smellie)

"Count it all joy/consider it pure joy"! We can have joy by focusing on the value of trials in our lives. Trials authenticate our faith, develop perseverance, strengthen us/our faith, draw us closer to God/make us depend on God more, glorify God as He sustains us through our trials, help us learn lessons that we need to learn, and enable us to help encourage and comfort others who may experience similar trials. The result/reward for passing the testing of our faith and persevering includes spiritual maturity, completion, not lacking anything = complete contentment/wholesomeness.

One thing that helps me during trials is to focus on the Author and Finisher of our Faith. "Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him Who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Hebrews 12:1b-3) Such a beautiful and powerful example to help us endure our trials! Did you notice the words we see in these verses that we also see in James: perseverance and joy?

Prayer: Abba Father, thank You for Your beautiful and faithful promises! My family is going through many trials of life right now. We are grateful that You are with us always, comforting us, guiding us, watching over us, and carrying us through it all. Please give us the wisdom and strength we need to face each day. Please teach us what we need to learn from these trials. Please help us persevere and find joy in You through any storms. May we honor and glorify You in everything we do and say! In Jesus's Name, I pray. Amen.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Peace With God

Isaiah 53 is a prophecy about the Messiah, written 700 years before it happened. Every detail was accurately fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Sinless, Suffering Servant, voluntarily and sacrificially suffered and died on the cross for our sins. God laid on Him the punishment that we deserved so that we may obtain peace with God. Christ was crushed by the weight of our sins upon Him. He experienced rejection, ridicule, pain, torture, humiliation, and death. He endured great sufferings and sorrows so that we will be saved from sin and spiritual death. By His wounds/suffering, we are spiritually healed from soul sickness caused by sin. Our sins were imputed to Him and His righteousness is imputed to us (to all who trust in Him as Lord and Savior and trust in His finished work of redemption at the cross). The greatest exchange of all time! Because of His death, we are offered salvation, forgiveness, and reconciliation with God. God's wrath/justice was satisfied; peace was granted. "Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." (Romans 5:1-2) Christ was pierced, bruised, beaten, and died on our behalf...because He loves us and wants us to be with Him for eternity. He suffered and died so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. "He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed." (1 Peter 2:24) We receive atonement and justification, not through our obedience but through Christ's obedience (through the blood of Christ).

"It (Sin) is the opposite of Peace--the root of discord and enmity between us and God. It is a disease of the spirit--difficult to heal. It is a foolish and willful wandering, like that of a stray sheep. And it is a heavy burden, which crushes him on whom it lies. So many and serious are the aspects of sin." (B. J. Gibbon.)

"I show men the righteousness of the Lord Jesus, but they show me their own, and all hope of dealing with them is gone. Unless I can prove that their righteousness is worthless, they will not seek the righteousness which is of God by faith. Oh, that the Lord would show you your disease, and then you would desire the remedy!" (C.HSpurgeon)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for dying the death I deserved to pay for the debt/punishment I could never pay for! I am forever grateful. Thank You for rescuing me, forgiving me, and healing me! You not only bring me peace, You are my Peace. May I rest in You always! Lord, open the spiritual eyes of the unbelievers to see their sin-sick souls and the need for Your salvation/remedy. The world needs You so desperately!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Peace in Christ

If you live in this world, you will have trouble/affliction/ distress. It's no surprise. We are never promised a trouble-free life. In fact, Jesus states the opposite in John 16:33. He warns us so that we won't be expecting a smooth path along this life's journey. However, in the midst of trials and sorrows, you and I can still have peace in Christ. Trusting in Christ doesn't ward off evil and suffering but trusting in Christ gives us hope, peace, and life everlasting. Thankfully, we are promised that Christ is always with us. He never leaves us nor forsakes us. We are never alone no matter what trials we are going through. As sure as God puts His children in the furnace, He will be in the furnace with them.” (Charles Spurgeon) God's presence gives us peace and comfort. God may not remove our pain and sufferings but He will carry us through them. The Holy Spirit/the Comforter dwells in us, giving us the grace and strength to endure. 

Let us rest in this beautiful encouragement and promise! Through Christ's life, death, and resurrection, He overcame the world. In His life, He overcame the temptation to sin. In His death, He overcame the power of sin. In His Resurrection, He overcame death and the enemy. He makes us overcomers like Him. "For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." (1 John 5:4-5) "I can do all things through Christ Who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13) We, Christ's followers, are to live fearless & victorious lives because we are more than conquerors through our Lord Jesus Christ. The battle belongs to the Lord and the victory is already won; therefore, no matter what trouble comes our way, we can have peace within (provided by Yahweh Shalom Himself). In Christ, we are victors, not victims. Jesus tells us to take heart/have confidence & courage as we place our trust in Him. The world gives us troubles but He gives us peace. He gives us an inner tranquility which enables us to say, "It is well with my soul" no matter what happens to us. 

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for Your precious promise of peace in this troubled world! Please strengthen my faith and embolden my heart. May I hide and rest in You always so that my peace may never be disturbed, even in the fiercest storms of life!

"God has not promised
 skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God has not promised, sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

God has not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He has not told us, we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.

God has not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain, rocky and steep,
Never a river, turbid and deep.

But God has promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,

Unfailing sympathy, undying love!"

(Annie Flint)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Let the Peace of Christ Rule in Your Hearts

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." (Colossians 3:15)

Let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts! It's the same peace (soul at rest, calmness in heart, regardless of circumstances) Christ talks about in John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." It is given by Christ/produced by His Spirit. Our hearts are the c
enter of conflict in our desires and feelings. We must surrender all to Christ and let His peace that surpasses all understanding take control over our hearts. When we learn to commit everything to His care and trust Him completely, we will have His peace...perfect peace. "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You." (Isaiah 26:3)

"Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin?
The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.
Peace, perfect peace, with sorrows surging 'round?

On Jesus' bosom naught but calm is found." 
(E. H. Bickersteth)

We, Christ's followers, are called to seek, maintain, cultivate, and foster peace as we are members of one body. We are to live in peace with one have unity/oneness, not division, envy, or contention. Let the peace of Christ rule in all our relationships, decisions, and responses. When we individually have Christ's peace within our hearts, we are more likely to contribute and experience peace in the Body of Christ. Discord and disharmony among the Body of Christ cause negative impacts on both unbelievers and believers.

A peaceful heart and a thankful heart go hand in hand. When our heart is filled with peace, we are thankful and when our heart is thankful, we are filled with peace. Be thankful that God has rescued us from eternal death and has given us eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ. Be thankful for what Christ has done for us. Be thankful for our peace with God, made possible by Christ's shed blood for us. Be thankful for the Body of Christ bonded by the love of Christ. Be thankful for the profound peace which is a gift from God. The Spirit of God through the Word of God brings about the peace of God in our hearts. Beware of things that can rob us of our peace: unconfessed sin, worry, fear, resentment/unforgivingness, and ungratefulness (aka discontent, complaining, jealousy).
"This refrain ("Be thankful") is repeated over and over again in Paul’s writings. There must have been a good reason: The Spirit of God must consider a thankful spirit very important. And we believe that it is!—important not only for a person’s spiritual life, but for his physical welfare as well. Doctors have found out what the Scriptures have taught through the years—that a cheerful, thankful attitude of mind is beneficial for the body, and that worry, depression, and a complaining spirit are definitely harmful to one’s health...Of all peoples of the world, we have the most for which to give thanks." (William MacDonald)

To ponder: While we are proclaiming peace, love, and joy with our words...on our Christmas cards, can people tell there's peace, love, and joy in our our lives?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for Your gift of peace. May my heart continually be governed by Your peace and be occupied with gratitude to You! Thank You for Your constant presence, provision, and protection. Please help me fix my thoughts on You, Your power, Your promises, and Your purposes. Please help me to be at peace with everyone and be a peacemaker always.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Shepherds and the Birth of the Good Shepherd

In Bible time, shepherds were considered lowly and dirty. But God chose them to be the first to hear about Christ's birth announcement. An angel of the Lord brought them good news of great joy: Christ the Lord, our Savior, was born. The angel pointed out the saving work of Jesus as a Savior and His sovereign position as Lord. The word "Christ" (from the Greek word Christos) means "Anointed", referring to Jesus' royal position as the promised Messiah (from the Hebrew word Mashiach), Who would deliver us from sin, Satan, death, and Hell. This good news of great joy is for all people...the poor and the rich, the old and the young, the famous and the unknown...everyone.

In comparing Himself to a "shepherd", God of the universe expresses His infinite love for us through His humble willingness to stoop so low as to perform towards us the tasks of a "shepherd". Isaiah 40:11 describes such a beautiful image showing the tender affection, great compassion, and caring attention of Jesus, our Shepherd towards us His flock, especially the weak, and needy. He feeds (spiritually and physically cares for) us, comforts us, and gently leads us. Christ leads us out of temptation, sin, and self, into His presence, His truths, and closer communion with Him. "Oh! what a blessedness to have such a Shepherd for such poor burdened souls! Remember, His great end in leading is holiness." (J. H.Evans) He promises to gather us in His arms and carry us close to His heart. The safest place to be is in the arms of our Good Shepherd who dearly loves us and faithfully protects us! He is not only gentle and compassionate but also strong and powerful. "See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and He rules with a mighty arm." (Isaiah 40:10a) He wants us to trust Him and rest in Him. The weak, the weary, the broken, and the burdened can always find rest, refreshment, healing, comfort, provision, protection, guidance, strength, and safety in the Good Shepherd. 

How does the Good Shepherd carry His lambs?
"Sometimes He carries them by not permitting them to endure much trouble. At other times, by having some tender, loving person to take care of them. He carries them instrumentally. At other times, such lambs are carried by having an unusual degree of love given them, and consequently a large amount of joy, so that they bear up and stand fast. Though their knowledge may not be deep, they have great sweetness in what they do knowFrequently He carries them by giving them a very simple faith, which takes the promises just as they stand, and believingly runs with every trouble straight to Jesus! The simplicity of their faith gives them an unusual degree of confidence, which carries them above the world. " (Charles Spurgeon)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for holding me close to Your heart and for carrying me through storms of life! I don't want to be anywhere else. I want to always be in Your loving arms, listen to Your voice, and doing Your will. Knowing that I am loved and protected by You gives me great comfort and peace. Lord, help me be like those shepherds who were eager to spread the word concerning Your birth because they couldn't keep the good news of great joy to themselves. Please use me to keep sharing this joyous best news that You were born to save the world.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Know Who Made You and Whose You Are

Psalm 100 is a psalm of giving thanks and grateful praise to the Lord. He creates us, He loves us, and He saves/redeems us. We are His beloved sheep/children/people. It's truly mind-boggling that the Creator of the universe desires to have an intimate personal relationship with us. We belong to and depend on Yahweh Rohi ("The Lord Is My Shepherd"); He always takes care of us His sheep. He knows us best and He knows what's best for us because He made us. Trust Him! Remember this: in every moment of our life, God is by our side! We are never alone in life's struggles. "Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for He is our God and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care." (Psalm 95:6-7) To show our gratitude to God, we submit to Him, serve Him, honor Him, praise & worship Him with gladness. "You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." (1 Corinthians 6:19b-20)

Knowing Who God is gives us plenty of reasons to praise and thank Him unceasingly. The more I know God, the more I love & esteem Him and the more I am grateful for Him! He alone is worthy to be praised, honored, and adored! From Psalm 100,
1. Know that the Lord is God--He is the only true living God. Praise Yahweh (The Lord, I Am)!
2. Know that He is our Creator--He made us. Praise Elohim (Creator God)!
3. Know that we are not our own, but His. We belong to God. Praise Adonai (Lord and Master)!
4. Know that we are His people--He is our King/Ruler. Praise Jesus, our King of kings and Lord of lords!
5. Know that we are the sheep of His pasture--He takes care of us. The Lord is our Shepherd; we lack nothing. Praise Yahweh Rohi (The Lord My Shepherd)!
6. Know that the Lord is eternally good/benevolent all the time and He always loves us without end. Praise El Olam (The Everlasting God)!
7. Know that He is faithful through all generations. God always keeps His promises. Praise El Hanne'eman (The Faithful God)!

Prayer: Thank You, Lord Jesus, for Your unfailing love, mercy, goodness, and faithfulness! My life is Yours, please have Your way in me. May my life be a testimony of devotion, gratitude, surrender, and obedience to You!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Lord Is My Shepherd

Psalm 23, one of the most beloved Psalms, is a psalm of trust. David had no fear or concern and lacked nothing because he knew Yahweh Rohi ("The LORD Is My Shepherd"). Jesus is our Shepherd Whom we can always trust and depend on; therefore, we need not be afraid about anything.

The shepherd knows what his sheep need and provides for them. He watches them while they sleep. He protects them and guides them. Sheep rely on their shepherd for their survival. 
Sheep are not smart; they tend to follow the crowd and wander off the path & get lost. They really need their shepherd's constant watch and care. Sheep are defenseless; they need their shepherd's protection. They need their shepherd to be there for them to feel secure and be able to lie down. "When sheep finish grazing, they lie down to chew their cud so the food will digest. Unless they feel safe, they can't relax and lie down in the pasture. Nothing makes them feel safer or quiets them more than the presence of their shepherd." (Helen Haidle) Sheep are timid and easily scared. Rushing, noisy streams even frighten them so the shepherd patiently leads them to quiet, still water where they can drink in peace and be refreshed. When we get wearied or go through the difficult experiences of life, we need Jesus to lead us to a quiet time with Him where our soul can be refreshed with the Living Water and be strengthened to persevere. Sheep can be stubborn and want to go on an easy way without being aware of danger ahead. The shepherd knows which way is best for them and guides them along the right paths. Jesus guides us and keeps us on the paths of righteousness but we must choose to follow Him, instead of ourselves, the world, or other "sheep". He does what He does because of His nature and for His glory. When we follow our Shepherd obediently and rest in His loving care, we find peace, contentment, comfort, and strength. I am very thankful for His presence, provision, guidance, and protection all throughout my life. Plus blessings upon cup truly overflows!

"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) Trust Yahweh Rohi's unfailing love, faithful presence, perfect leadership, and infinite power & wisdom and follow/obey Him confidently & faithfully each and every day! No reason to be stressed out! Since we have Jesus, we have everything we need. "The Lord is the Strength of His people, a Fortress of salvation for His anointed one. Save Your people and bless Your inheritance; be their Shepherd and carry them forever." (Psalm 28:8-9)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I'm so glad that You are my Good Shepherd! Thank You for always watching over and taking care of my family and me! Thank You for the countless times and ways You've saved us from danger and trouble (often we didn't even know it)! Please help us always stay close to You and follow You faithfully, never wandering away off the narrow path of righteousness. Please protect us from people and circumstances that are harmful and/or that will lead us astray.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Shepherd and Overseer of Our Souls

We (in our unsaved state) were like sheep wandering aimlessly and helplessly. We were lost, needy, exposed to danger & destruction, and heading to Hell. "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6)

BUT now we have returned to Jesus, the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls. "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing  may come from the Lord." (Acts 3:19) "They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve 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) The word "shepherd" portrays the endless vigilance and the self-sacrificing love of Christ for us who are His flock. Jesus feeds, refreshes, watches over, guides, and guards our souls. Jesus is the Overseer/Guardian of our souls. He looks out for the welfare of His flock and warns us of spiritual dangers such as sin, false teaching, false teachers, worldliness, worries of this world, and Satan's schemes against the saints.

Prayer: "May the God of peace, Who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (Hebrews 13:20-21)

Lord Jesus, please open the eyes of the lost and turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in You. (Acts 26:18)

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Good Shepherd

"I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep...I am the Good Shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know Me. (John 10:11, 14)

Jesus is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for us His sheep in order to give us eternal life and abundant life. Our Shepherd is good all the time and is watching over us all the time. He never leaves us or forsakes us. He unceasingly shows His loyal love, genuine concern, and devoted care for His sheep. The sheep's responsibility is to listen to the Shepherd and follow Him. We must recognize His voice. To do so, we must remain close to Him at all times. "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'" (Isaiah 30:21)  

Jesus knows us and we know Him. This is not a general knowledge but rather a deep, intimate relationship...the kind that is shared between God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus knows every detail (the good, the bad, and the ugly) about us yet He still loves us perfectly! "...'Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine!'" (Isaiah 43:1b) "We are not lost in the crowd. Each one of God's children, is the special object of His love and thought and care! ...Every redeemed one has his own special place in the heart of Christ!" (J.R. Miller) I am treasured by Him and so are you. Yahweh Rohi 
("The LORD Is My Shepherd") is not only our tender Provider, but also our strong Defender! He is protective of His sheep and He rescues His sheep when they fall or get lost.We can rest in Him knowing that we're loved, taken care of, safe and secure forever. In saying "safe and secure", I'm referring to John 10:28, "I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of My hand."

"Jesus loves His sheep.
Jesus laid down His life for His sheep. 
Jesus lives to take care of His sheep.
Jesus will never, on any account, part with His sheep. 
He can guard them, and He will surely keep them. 
Whoever may perish--they never shall. 
His Father will not permit it. 
The indwelling of the Holy Spirit will prevent it. 
The love, power, and honor of Jesus combine to render it impossible!" (James Smith) 

PrayerLord Jesus, thank You for dying on the cross to pay for my sin so that I may live eternally with You! Thank You for loving me, protecting me, guiding me, and taking care of all my needs! In You, I lack nothing. Please help me to know You more and to live for You always. Please direct my every step and help me to hear Your voice clearly. 

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