Any Candy in Your Chocolate Box?

Any Candy in Your Chocolate Box? 

Ecclesiastes 9:9 Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.

Imagine a gushy eyed young man looking in the face of his beautiful bride to be.  They are talking about how much they love one another and how wonderful life is with each other.  As she is intently gazing into his eyes he suddenly presents a HUGE box of chocolates.  This is the biggest box of Russell Stover chocolates that she has ever seen!  She smiles in amazement at this gift as he had hands the box to her.  She loves fine chocolate – what a thoughtful gift! A box this big must have cost a lot.  She thought momentarily “He must really love me.”  As her hands wrap around the box he says: “This was the best candy I have ever ate.  Your favorite peanut crunchy pieces were so tasty.”  She opens the box and it is empty!  Her man had eaten all of the candy in the box.

Imagine a similar scene.  The chocolate box is small, heart shaped, but it actually has candy in it.  As the girl opens the box the rich aroma of fine chocolate touches her senses.  She reaches in and enjoys a creamy taste of heaven and is appreciative of the thoughtful gift from her man.  While there are only three pieces, these are pieces that they share together.

Which man is really showing love towards his bride to be?  The one who gave box of chocolate that actually had candy in it.

Many times we say we “love someone” but they are empty words.  The love we may really display is selfish love; loving ourselves rather than loving others.  We are born selfish – it is called the sin nature.  It is easy to choose to love yourself.  It is something divine to show real love to other people.

Love is a tremendous choice that touches our emotions.  Love is more than an emotion, feeling, or an expression.  Love is giving to other people.  Let’s open up the box of chocolate and discover what real love is.

Love is Comprised of Actions.  In John 14:15 Jesus says “If ye love Me keep my commandments.”  Action towards Christ is needed to demonstrate love for Him.   The same is true in our relationships.  If we love someone we will show actions of love toward them.  Love could be taking out the garbage.  Love could be sharing the last doughnut.  Love could be making coffee early in the morning for your spouse.  What are some actions can we do towards others that can show love?

Giving is a great place to start.  In John 3:16 we find that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”  God’s Agape love toward us is a giving love.  We could emulate the Lord and give of our time, talent, or even treasure to other people.  From time spent with me, to golf clubs, and gift cards, and notes of encouragement, I have enjoyed the love of people giving to me.

Sharing is a tremendous way to show love.  Jesus is the eternal God Who shares everlasting life and Heaven with those who trust Him for their salvation.  Romans 5:8 tells us, But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  John 10:28 teaches, And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  Could you share time with others, share the blessings of your life with others?  How about special moments or even making memories together?

Caring.  The Lord cares for His people.  1 Peter 5:7 tells us, Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.  Here we discover God’s love is experienced in how He shows care for us.  The word “careth has to do with taking care, concern, and having an interest.  One person said it well: “It matters to Him what matters to you.”  The Lord is interested in our lives, thoughts, and emotions.  We too can show love by showing an interest in other people.  Listen to others.  Learn what is going on in their lives.  Know their favorite things to eat, activities to be a part of, and the cares they have in life.

Bearing. In a similar fashion as Caring, Galatians 6:2 instructs: “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”   The law of Christ starts with loving God above all else.  This law continues by loving thy neighbor as thyself.    You can help a person through a tough time by “Feeling their pain.”  What a blessing you can be in bearing a burden by helping them up.  Perhaps a person feels rejected, you can help them.  Maybe they feel all alone; you can let them know that they are not alone.  Many people have difficulty formulating right thoughts and looking at situations in a Biblical way.  They may be depressed or discouraged because of faulty thinking.  You can help them think right, and bear their burden.

Love Is Active in Forgiving.  Love covers sin according to Proverbs 10:12 states, “Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.”   This does not mean that justice should not be sought or that civil law should not be enforced.  If someone is being hurt, that sin must be accounted for.  This has to do with personal relationships and how you are looking at other people. Clark said of this verse: “Hatred stirreth up strifes—It seeks for occasions to provoke enmity. It delights in broils. On the contrary, love conciliates; removes aggravations; puts the best construction on every thing; and pours water, not oil, upon the flame.”  Anyone can look for the wrong in a spouse, co-worker, or child.  It is something we must decide to do everyday – forgive other people.  Love is actively looking for ways to forgive and let that forgiveness be known.

Forgive With Your Mind.  Hebrews 8:12 tells us about how God sees our sin as Christians, “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” Again in Hebrews 10:17 “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”  God knows everything, but He chooses not to think about some things!  Following God’s example you will not thinking about their wrong, but looking on how to help them do right. We will not be fixated on a hurt, but focused on what is good about them.  The Human mind is greater than the best computers.  The human mind cannot forget.  Even though we both forgot many things from 5 days ago or even 5 minutes ago, the human mind does not forget.  What we experience, hear, say, and do are etched in our minds forever.  When we forget something, it has more to do with the way that we file information.  Like the library book system, if we can file things in an effective manner we can bring back that information when we need it.  The point is – you may never be able to forget, but you can choose to not remember.   If you continually think about a past hurt or pain that someone caused you, you cannot forgive them.  If you choose to control your mind and push those negatives to the back of your mind, you will be able to forgive because you are thinking like God thinks towards you and your sin.

Forgive With Your Mouth.  When we control what we say about others, it makes forgiveness more possible.   Proverbs 17:9 continues this truth by declaring:  “He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.” Want to destroy a relationship?  Go around telling other people everything that other person ever did that was wrong.  List their sins; give an account as if you were the one committing the sin.  Expose the fact that they are sinners too.  You will destroy that relationship.  Love does not do that.  If we repeat wrongs, not only are our minds wrong, we are changing the mind of others towards another person to think less highly of the one we are speaking about.  Marriages, parent/child relationship, and classrooms have all been affected by evil speaking like this.  Some people pour kerosene on fires to keep the fire going.  Some people pour gasoline.  It is hard to pour gasoline on a fire and not get burnt.  When we keep talking about other sinners, we are playing with fire and it will come back to hurt us.

Forgive With Your Motive.  My first question when someone wants to tell me something negative about another is “What is their motive?  Why are they saying this?  Usually it is one of two reasons either Pride or Pain.  In Pride, they are pointing out that they are better than that person or that “they would never commit that sin.”  In Pain, they may be lashing back in a way to strike back or to injure another like they believe they have been injured.  Be reminded of Christ that when He was reviled and struck, He did not revile or strike back.   When we speak about other people’s sin, we can actually taint their image in the sight of others.  Some wives may speak negatively about their husband.  When they do so, they are damaging him and destroying their relationships with him.  Parents have done this with their children.  What tragedy.  We must have the motive of restoring people as Galatians 6:1 says, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” 

Forgive With your Message.  Every day you convey something others. We communicate in verbal communication and non-verbal communication.  Verbal communication includes everything we say and everything we do not say.  While we may not say “I hate you.” By not saying “I love you” some loved ones may not feel loved.  The non-verbal’s also speaks volumes.  Spending time together shows love, but avoiding time with a spouse or a child does not show love.  If there are people you avoid, you may not have really forgiven them.  Of course, if there is potential for abuse, you do not want to be around them; it would be best to stay away from a situation like that if there is danger.  In a general sense, you convey acceptance or unacceptance to other people with the message of your life.  What do you convey intentionally or unintentionally to others?  Every day you and I must purpose to be forgiving of others.

Love is Seeks Victory Each Day.  The Love of God conquers and is victorious every day. As Romans 8:35-39, emphasis:  “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Nothing in life can change God’s love for us!  What a wonderful truth!  Our relationships can win like this as well.

I like the old Gospel song:  “Love Found a Way.”  It goes like this:

“Wonderful love that rescued me, sunk deep in sin,
Guilty and vile as I could be—no hope within;
When every ray of light had fled, O glorious day!
Raising my soul from out the dead, love found a way.

Love brought my Savior here to die on Calvary,
For such a sinful wretch as I, how can it be?
Love bridged the gulf ’twixt me and Heav’n, taught me to pray,
I am redeemed, set free, forgiv’n, love found a way.

Love opened wide the gates of light to Heav’n’s domain,
Where in eternal power and might Jesus shall reign.
Love lifted me from depths of woe to endless day,
There was no help in earth below; love found a way.

Love found a way, to redeem my soul,
Love found a way, that could make me whole.
Love sent my Lord to the cross of shame,
Love found a way, O praise His holy Name!”

God’s love found a way for our salvation!  Love finds a way to win over every obstacle to a healthy relationship.   True love will find a way to make your marriage work.  Find a way to make that soured relationship work – find a way because of love.  Love wins over sin, selfishness, and distractions, past friends, Face book, TV, former fiancés and anything else you can think of.  Love wins when communication is silent, when you are not understood, and when things get dicey.

Love sees common ground.  Don’t fasten onto the differences you may have; stick to complimentary features.  Give compliments instead of complaints.  Show consideration instead of criticism. Have compassion instead of coldness.

Love works it out when there is not much in the bank account or when the job is lost and foreclosure is in sight.  Love works when feelings are hurt.  Love works it out even if the most damaging thing takes place; when trust is lost.  Love will find a way to restore trust.

Conclusion The Bible has many good examples of this selfless love.  One such example is the prophet Hosea.   Hosea is called of God to marry a girl named Gomer.  She is a beautiful woman, a real stunning beauty.  There is a problem however: she is unfaithful in their marriage relationship.  After starting a family, she runs out and has multiple relationships to make money and to live her own way.  Today this is called human trafficking.  In Hosea 3, Hosea buys her back.  By this point Gomer was a slave in this filthy industry.  Hosea 3:2 says, “So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley:” Thirty pieces of silver was the price for a slave in ancient days.  Hosea gave all he had to buy her from this life of sin she chose to enter because of selfishness.  He did not have enough silver, but he worked hard and had enough grain to make up the difference and he bought his wife back – because of love.  He bought her out of slavery and forgives her because of love!  He gave everything he had to make their relationship work – because of love.

Ladies and gentlemen; if you are married today or hope to be married one day, decide now that you will do whatever it takes to make your relationship work.   Be giving of your love, forgiving in love, and allow love to win in your relationship over everything that could hinder your relationship.  Showing love will change your relationships.  You and I are to love others like God loves us.  Make sure to give a chocolate box with real candy in it.  No selfishness or pretenses, just real and giving –then share your lives together.

Music Selection Matters

 

Music Selection Matters

 

 Proverbs 25:20

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Music is a powerful medium, an incredible communicator, and has tremendous influence over the human heart.   The music we listen to and present to the Lord is important!  I remember an old secular song “Music’s Gonna Get Ya.”   This can be very true.  Many are caught with music and they do not know what to do.  To begin, let us make 4 quick observations about music:  

1.  Some songs are Good.  For example 2 Chronicles 7:6 says:  “And the priests waited on their offices: the Levites also with instruments of musick of the LORD, which David the king had made to praise the LORD, because his mercy endureth for ever, when David praised by their ministry; and the priests sounded trumpets before them, and all Israel stood.”  Many wonderful instruments were played as people sung enthusiastically to the Lord.  David was very interested in good music, music that was acceptable to the Lord and encouraging to the human heart. 

2. Some songs are Evil.  In Daniel 3:15 we discover that many similar instruments were used, but with the evil intention of owing down to an idol.  Some music has evil sounds, wicked tunes, and wrong topics in the words.  Look at this verse.   “Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?”

3. Some songs celebrate victory.   The songbook of early Israel, the Book of Psalms, evidences this.  The Songs of Moses and Deborah tell stories in the Old Testament.  Songs of testimony are always encouraging and tell tremendous stories.

4.  Some songs commemorate sad occasions.  Such as Amos 8:10 “And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation…..”                                   

Recently I found the following list on the “Hot 100” – songs at the top of the charts in the world this week (1.9.14) Here are the titles:  “Timber,  Counting Stars, The Monster, Royals (By Pure Heroin), Say Something, Dark Horse, Let Her Go, Wake Me Up, Wrecking Ball, Demons.”

Just by reading the titles, we can imagine the content, theme, and direction of these songs.  The music we listen to has to potential to calm our hearts, or drive our emotion.  Songs can glorify the Lord or pull us further away from the Lord.  These are the choices made when we decide what songs we will listen to. 

With these truths in mind, let us consider the topic of song selection.  Our verse is Proverbs 25:20 which says: “As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart.”

Here is a terrific verse with great application to the choices we make with music. A lighthearted, useless song (like these similes in the verse), or violently themed songs are what is being described in this text.  Nitre was known to make suds fizzle like soda pop.  It was used in the carbonation process.  This is where the idea of a “violent” reaction comes in with a song. The other simile given is one of taking away a coat from a person when it is -15 out.  That is cold! Taking a coat from a person on a cold day is not helpful.  It is like singing the wrong song to a hurting heart.   Neither a violent song nor a lighthearted song will help someone who is depressed, discouraged, or dealing with a heavy heart. 

Singing “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” to a person who just lost a loved one will not help them.  To make light of a difficult time by singing a flippant song will not help them; in fact it may offend the hurting people.  You will probably not sing “BINGO” at a funeral service.  Song selection matters!  Choosing appropriate to the occasion music is vital in life and ministry to the Lord.  Not every song is appropriate for the Christian to listen to or even sing. 

When counseling with people battling depression, anxiety, or discouragement, many times I ask about what kind of music they are listening to.  When King Saul had an evil, selfish spirit, David plays something soothing and encouraging on the harp and it changed Saul’s outlook for that day!  When I ask many times people will say: “I do not listen to music.” Or they will talk about their favorite songs which are sings that degrade spiritual things and discourage their soul.  Some people listen songs that are harmful and wonder why their spirit seems so empty.  In many cases, feeding the spirit a positive sound with and meaningful words will change them for the better.

Are you ever distressed?  Ever feel overwhelmed with a situation?  Do you want music to help you?  There is such a thing as music therapy.  Music has such potential to guide a person’s thinking and even actions.  Please note the following study: “In an eye-opening study, researchers have found that teenagers who listen to songs with raunchy, suggestive lyrics are more likely to lose their purity than those who do not listen to such songs. In 2001, researchers surveyed 1,461 teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17. Most of the participants were virgins at the beginning of the study. Between 2002 and 2004, the researchers carried out follow-up interviews and found that around 51% of teens whose music collection consisted mainly of music that degraded purity lost their purity within two years.”  (From Ministry 127)

If we could have two foundational principles for song selection what would they be?  Since music is built on the Treble and Bass Cleft, here are two principles to help you decide what music you will listen to or sing.

Joy Based Music.  The grinding, pushing the limit tempos of Rock and much country and modern music will weary your soul.   The music itself may give adrenaline to the flesh, but will leave you spiritually thirsty.  The topic of many modern songs will tempt you to sin or will encourage wrong thinking.    Joy based music will lift your spirit.  It will gladden your countenance and encourage your soul.  Joy based music will be written in a major key.  The music itself will not sound dreary, painful, or discouraging.  Joy based music delivers a joyful and happy melody and tune that resonates in your heart.  It sounds very positive.   

Jesus Based Music.  This is music that exalts Jesus and magnifies the Lord.  This has more to do with the topic of the song than the notes that are being played.  Songs about Calvary, the Empty Tomb, Worldwide Missions, Personal Devotion, and the Church of God are all great themes for a piece of music.  Jesus based music will teach you to love the Lord, your family, your church and others.  Jesus based music will not contradict the Bible, but rather teach the Bible to those who hear it.  Observe Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”  Jesus based songs teach us more of God and His Word.

Does it matter what songs you listen to?  Yes it does.  Music Selection Matters!  May the Lord help us to tune in to these two principles of Joy Based Music and Jesus Based Music.  Music can change your life.   

Responding to Tough Days

Responding to Tough Days

Isaiah 1:17

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Bill was depressed.  Many traumatic things started to occur in his life all at once.  He had injured someone at work and even though it was an accident, he was let go from the job.  His wife was troubled with “empty nest syndrome” and she could not let her children live their own life.  She would try to have Bill control their decisions and would constantly talk about them.  With his prospects for a job thin, and his wife’s emotional troubles, Bill had had enough.  He was not sure what to do, but he needed help.  The mornings were hard because there was no real reason to get up and get going.  His motivation dropped, his desires for the things of life waned and he was flat out depressed.   He could no longer afford the paper and the internet was cut off because of not paying for it.  Bill moped around feeling sorry for himself.  The zeal and enthusiasm he once had had disappeared.  Bill asked the classic questions: “Why? Why me? Why this?”  He would come up with self-philosophized answers that soured his outlook.  Sometimes he would ask well-meaning friends, who could not really help.  Their answers only fed the humanistic nature of Bill as a man and led to a more self-righteous and selfish perspective.  Every day, the same cycle of depression increased until the point that Bill no longer wanted to live.  What can Bill or someone like Bill do?  You know of similar stories.

Every reader of this post will either be discouraged or know someone that is discouraged.  Each of us know or will know someone fighting with depression.  Perhaps you or I will battle with depression.  What should we do in troublesome times?  How should we respond when the going gets tough and we do not know what to do?

Isaiah was an Old Testament prophet for the Lord.  His name means “salvation of the Lord.”  Isaiah was a married man.  The people called his wife “prophetess” according to Isaiah 8:3.  They had 2 sons who they trained to serve the Lord.  He started his preaching ministry during the year that King Uzziah died in Isaiah 6:1 which would be around 739 BC.  He preached during reigns of King Jotham, King Ahaz, and King Hezekiah.  He was contemporary with the Prophets Amos, Hosea, and Micah. Tradition says that King Manasseh had Isaiah sawed in half.  He could be the one “sawn asunder” that Hebrews 11:37 speaks about:  “They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented.”  What a tragic time of history Isaiah lived in!  Could imagine facing a saw for execution for doing what was right?

For over 50 years Isaiah preached.  They were difficult days internationally.  Nations could come and go defeating and carrying away the Hebrew people.  Civil war between Israel and Judah was commonplace.  Wars, fighting, spying, crime, famine, shortages, and other problems connect to international war were the life and times of Isaiah.  They were also dangerous days internally.  Most problems we face come from our own sinful nature.  Many times we are the ones who create the problems we face.  It could be because of our lack or faith, the friends we choose, or the focus of our heart.  In this case, the people had forsaken the Lord again.  The people would swerve back and forth between false gods and the Lord Jehovah God   Isaiah delivers a message of judgment and also a message of hope.  We find that salvation and deliverance are major themes of this Book of Isaiah.

To a man who could have been depressed, who could have lived a discouraged, defeated life, God gave an answer.  We find this helpful answer in Isaiah 1:17 which says:  “Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” When the pressures of life are pressing down on you, the Lord gives us a solution.

Let’s break down this verse and apply the 4 truths we discover in it in our lives.

“Learn to do well.”  This is the goal when facing difficult times.  We all want to do well, to do right by God, others, and ourselves.  We should do well in actions, do well in our thinking, and do well in our talking.  The goal is to “do well.” Then we find 4 measurable objectives to help us achieve the goal of “doing well.”

  1. Seek judgment.
  2. Relieve the Oppressed.
  3. Judge the Fatherless.
  4. Plead for the Widow.

Objective #1:  “Seek Judgment” is the only point given that has to do with how the individual thinks about himself.  Many times people who are depressed will say “I have to work on me for a while.”  It sounds noble, but it is only ¼ of the solution.  All discouragement comes from some form of selfishness.  All selfishness comes from pride.  Proverbs 13:10 informs us “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.”  To seek judgment has to do with making a judgment call.  It is to make a right choice after perceiving and looking at the situation the right way.   Each person dealing with depression MUST see their situation the way God sees it.  They must look at their lives with the lens of God’s Word and through the prism of the Holy Spirit.  Only then can they identify the pride that may have taken form in their lives in self-pity, self-denial, or plain old selfishness.  This is a discipline of self-examination in light of the Lord.  “Are things really that bad?  Am I overdramatizing the situation?”  It may be a truly bad situation, but things could always be worse.  No matter what, the Lord is always there to help.  Are you seeking God’s perspective on your life?

Objective #2:  “Relieving the Oppressed” turns the attention of the individual from self-assessment to assessing and assisting the needs of others.  It is answering the question of “How can I help other people?”  The ridiculed co-worker needs a friend.  The laughed at classmate needs someone to talk to.  The loners in the office, the seemingly “backward” individuals on the floor, and the lonely person in a corner all need an advocate.  They need someone to help them.  That person can and should be you.  No longer looking at your situation alone, you can relate your experiences and help others that are being oppressed.  Who have you helped in the last month that was being oppressed?

Objective #3:  “Judging the Fatherless” is a Hebrew phrased rooted in the word “justice.”  When judging the orphaned and abandoned, it is not in a condemning way, but looking at them in a compassionate way.  Life has given them a difficult start.  A father has not nurtured them or cared for them.  The fatherless develop emotionally without knowing the love of a daddy.  The warm embrace, pats on the back, and words of affirmation a father would normally give are missing in their lives.  Seeing their needs and deficiencies with the eyes of justice will help you choose to do right by them.  A person in this case would offer to take a boy to the Father and Son Campout and be a personal mentor to him.  A girl and her mother would be asked to enjoy dinner with a “more complete family” comprised of a father and a mother.  A leader in the church will teach these children how to pray, how to serve, and how to live in a mentoring type way.   There are fatherless children at your church; are you helping and encouraging them each time you see them?

Objective #4:  “Pleading for the Widow” is seeing the needs in a widow’s life and trying to meet those needs.  She may have chores to be done that are beyond her ability.  She may need to have special care as the years increase.  A Christian will look to help the widow.  1 Timothy 5:16 says: “If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.”  She may or may not have sons and daughters around to help her.  She could really be all alone with no-one to turn to.  The Lord gave the widows the church in this situation.  Each widow with no-one else should be connected to a local church.  Perhaps every church member should have at least one widow they are looking out for.  It can be a for sure cure for preventing and curing depression!  Who are you ministering to that is a widow?

Conclusion:  Notice how ¾ of these objectives have to do with serving other people.  This is a great cure for battling depression.  When the previously depressed person is focused on these 4 objectives, he will have victory daily to the temptation to become depressed again.  To focus on yourself in a moment of depression is a foolish thing to do as Proverbs 26:12 states: “Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.”  You can have hope today because of the wisdom of the Lord!  Respond to tough days by “doing well” according to the Lord’s plan in Isaiah 1:17..

Bill will live to see another day.  With Bible counseling such as this in his mind, he can have victory and Bible hope for a bright future serving the Lord on this earth.  When focused on serving others, the time and miscalculated attention he was devoting to himself will turn into productivity for others and this will change his sadness into joy.  He will discover the satisfaction he had been missing and he will have a fresh motivation for each new day.

Following Jesus in A New Year

Following Jesus in A New Year

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23

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Peter has just declared that Jesus was “The Christ of God.”  Jesus tells them to “tell no man” and that He would suffer many things.  Peter and the other disciples did not really understand the suffering of Christ until after His death and resurrection.  The next part of this narrative directs us to this verse: “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

Self denial is one of the most difficult things to do as human beings.  Recently, our family was treated to a terrific Chinese Buffet.  Walk into a Chinese buffet or similar “all you can eat” restaurant and you will see that many Americans struggle with denying self.  Denial issues could relate to eating, exercise, music, the friends we have, time in front of a screen, and nearly every area of life.  Even things that are not necessarily a sin of themselves can become sin to us when we do not practice moderation and the discipline of self denial.

Taking up the cross includes suffering for Jesus.  Some people at work or at school will not love Jesus like you do.  Some will persecute you.  You may be passed over.  The neighbors may not be as kind to you.  You may have people threaten you or mock you.  Take up this cross, letting others know you are a Christian, no matter what suffering you may encounter.  This is to be done daily.

Then Jesus says: “Follow Me.”  “Deny self, take up cross,” and “follow me” are great places to begin a new year.  Here are a few suggestions to help you follow Christ.

  1. Decisions are about Jesus.  A new year’s resolution?  Read the Bible in a year?  Handout a Gospel tract each week? Accept a new job?  Relocate?  Become engaged?  Get married?  What about other spiritual decisions such as confessing sin?  Going to the altar during the altar call and making a decision for Christ?  How about service in the through the local church?  Will you serve in areas you like most or areas that are needed the most?  Make all your decisions about Jesus. 
  2. Discussions are about Jesus.  What will be the topic of our conversations?  Will you boast, exude pride about self?  Will you speak of personal selfishness?  Will you talk about the Lord to others?  Will you say how good God has been to you?  Could you tell someone about Jesus and His gift of eternal life in this new year?  Avoid talking negatively about your local church, pastor, Sunday School teacher or other Christian.  They are not perfect, and for that matter neither are you.  We are to talk to others about Jesus and talk to the Lord about our “problems.”  Be sure to tell people about Christ while at the same time speaking well of His bride – the church.  The lost will pick up on dissension in your speaking about other Christians and it will turn them away.  Be careful of the words you say and how you say them.  If it would be improper to say something in a press conference in prime-time, it would be wrong anytime.  Discussing the Lord will help you choose proper words because of the proper topic being Christ.
  3. Dedications are about Jesus.  To Whom or to What will you be dedicated to?  “Me, myself, and I” is very shallow and humanistic.  The “world, the flesh, and the devil”, are other choices for the dedication of your heart, but will leave you in sin leave your heart heartbroken and enslaved to sin.  “Money, fame, and getting ahead” are insufficient to bring you true peace and lasting joy.  “Following Jesus” is all that really matters.  Be dedicated to following the Lord in every area of your life. 

 

Whether the dedication of your heart, the discussion of your mouth, or the decisions of your mind, let’s determine to be followers of Jesus Christ this year.  Deny self, carry your cross, and follow Jesus.

Gift Giving

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Gift Giving

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.  Matthew 2:11

Gift giving has gone on at Christmastime for a long time.  In our passage, the wise men bring worthy and timely gifts to Christ and His family. The gold was worthy of a King, the frankincense demonstrated His purity, and the myrrh represented His purpose for coming, to die on the cross.  With these gifts, Joseph was able to leave his employment and even leave the country as tyrannical King Herod was killing off all the male babies two years of age and under.  The Christ child lived in Egypt for a while before being brought back to Israel as the Old Testament prophesied in Hosea 11:1.  With hearts of love, expecting nothing in return, these men gave. The gifts the Wise Men brought were symbolic, meaningful, and beneficial to the Christ child and to His family. 

When we give gifts at Christmas time, be sure that you and those in your home are reminded about the significance of gift giving.  Every gift that is given is an opportunity to remember the greatest gift – when God sent Christ into this world to bring us the gift of eternal life.  As Romans 6:23 instructs:  “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”   With thankful hearts, let’s give to each other all the while remembering the greatest gift .

“Unto Us”

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“Unto Us”

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 6:9

What a beautiful truth to consider during this Christmas season.  Jesus came to this world for sinful men like me.  He came to this sin-sick earth for you.  He came for us!  Unto us, Christ was born 2000 years ago.  Unto us God’s Son was given!  Unto us the Savior entered human history and embarked on His mission to “seek and save that which was lost!”  With all the selfish materialism and consumerism of today’s society, one personal note is often overlooked:  Jesus came to this world for us!  Romans 5:8 tells us the purpose in Jesus coming to this earth: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  We can praise God that He loved us in spite of our sin.  Jesus demonstrated God’s love by coming to earth, living, dying, and then living again – all for us!  Unto us, God gave His Son Jesus!  Beloved John 3:16 reminds us of this love for us: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  No-one is outside of the “unto us.”  He came for the whole world, yet some reject His gift of salvation.  Praise the Lord that “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved!” You can receive the gift of salvation by faith today!   With all the “goings on” at this time of year, with every exchange of gifts, remember the whole reason behind it: Unto us, Jesus came, bearing the gift of salvation, so we could be saved.  

Away With the Manger

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Away With the Manger

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.  Luke 2:7

What a humble birthplace for the King of glory to enter into humanity and to be born into this sin-sick world!  A dirty stall, in a cattle feeding trough with hay for bedding!  What an incredible God we have!  Far away, in a manger, Jesus came into this world for us! Do you enjoy singing the Christmas Carol “Away in A Manger?”  I enjoy singing it along with all the other wonderful carols we have. 

Today, it seems, the most accurate phrase could be: “Away with the Manger!”   Many have attempted and continue to try to remove Christ out of Christmas.  Fake substitutes for gift-giving, like a fat man with reindeer is just one example.  Anything that diverts our attention from Jesus is a cheap substitute for what Christmas is really all about.  People are trying to get “away” from what Christmas is all about! 

Praise the Lord there are a few who still know that Christmas is about Christ. When you hear the song:  “Away in a Manger” remember the tremendous sacrifice, and incredible love that Jesus has for us. Be encouraged to use the word “Christmas” so people know what special day you are celebrating.  Lift up the name of Christ in your conversation as you greet and speak with people this season.  Yes, Jesus came – in a manger – the story remains true – He came for us, He came for you!  

13 Thankfulness Thoughts for 2013

13 Thankfulness Thoughts for 2013

On this beautiful Thanksgiving morning, I am writing to say to you: “I thank the Lord for you.”  We are blessed at the Wilton Baptist Church.  The Apostle Paul, led of God, wrote something similar in Ephesians 1:15-19, which says: “Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;  That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:  The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,  And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power…”

13 Thanksgiving Thoughts for 2013.  May the Lord help us to have a thankful heart every day.   

  1. The Lord and His Salvation.
  2. The Word and His Promises.
  3. Family and Friends.
  4. Church and Sunday School.
  5. Joyful Music and Faithful Fellowship.
  6. A free country and those who protect those freedoms.
  7. Food and harvested blessings.
  8. Warm homes and warm clothing.
  9. The Lord’s guidance and provision for ministry.
  10. The Lord’s servants in US and missionaries abroad.
  11. Safety in traveling and ability to travel.
  12. The resurrection for believers and those who have gone on before us.
  13. The rapture and fact that Christ is coming again!

Can a Little Be Better Than Much?

Can a Little Be Better Than Much?

A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked.  Psalm 37:16

A favorite song in churches the world over is “Little is Much.”  What a truth is captured by that opening phrase of the chorus: “Little is much when God is in it…”  The believer has the Lord and He is the One Who owns the “cattle on a thousand hills.”  Our God is the owner of everything.  The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.  Whenever you are tempted to become discouraged at the thought of not having much – think about the truth that you have many things to be thankful for.  Besides, not everything is measured in dollars and cents.  While the wicked fight, steal, and even kill for more “stuff,” we can rest content in God’s care.  David described how he had everything he needed.  The New Testament tells us to “be content” in whatever state or condition we find ourselves in.    Little possessions can be a blessing.  Many people allow the possessions they own to “own them.” Their schedules and habits become dependent upon their possessions.  Sometimes the more we own, the more the stuff owns us!  Everything good comes from God.  Sometimes, His withholding certain possessions from us is the best thing for us.  For example, having a boat could be a good thing, but if it is a temptation to stay on the boat on Sunday’s instead of being in church, perhaps the Lord will not give you one.  Ask the Lord to be content with what He has given you.  Avoid comparing yourself and your possessions with other people as that would be unwise.  Determine to live each day thankful for the little or the much He has given you.

Lips & Lives that Praise the Lord

Lips & Lives that Praise the Lord

So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever, that I may daily perform my vows.  Psalm 61:8

We hear the phrase “praise the Lord” often as we fellowship among other Christians.   It is a good thing to give verbal appreciation to the Lord.  To testify with words and give praise to the name of the Lord is a wonderful testimony and helps you focus on the goodness of the Lord.  David is used of God to write down this scripture in a short chapter devoted to worship and recognition of the Lord.  During this time of year, it is easy to become so busy that we forget to pause and thank the Lord, to give praise to His name.  In addition to praise the Lord in song, David speaks of performing his vows he made to the Lord daily.  Our praise of God with our lips helps us with praising God with our life! Every Christian that has been in church services has had the opportunity to make a vow to the Lord.  Some are vows for daily Bible reading, witnessing or praying.  Some are vows that are conditional such as being in church each time the doors are open.  For most that would be Sundays and Wednesdays.  Others have made daily vows dealing with the music they listen to, the amount they spend on Facebook, or the content of the media that they consume.  One great way to praise the Lord is with a life that is honoring to the vow made to the Lord.  A vow is a solemn promise or oath made in the presence of the Lord.  We do not want to lie to the Lord!    Ecclesiastes 5:4 says, “When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.” Some have made lifetime vows such as “I will go to Bible College” only to not go.  Others have said “I will serve the Lord” only to not serve.  I challenge you today – Praise the Lord in what you say, and follow through with that praise in what you do.