How to Receive Communion

A few months ago I gave a meditation on our preparation and response when we receive Communion or The Lord’s Supper. I looked at two verses of Scripture that speak life to me, as I’ve struggled with some health issues. My faith is based on God’s Word and I cannot take of the Lord’s Table without thinking of these verses. I’ve copied them from several translations to get the most out of their meaning, so that it touches my heart and hopefully yours as well.

Most of the verses say He, meaning Jesus, so I’ve inserted His name. I can then picture Him more than simply repeating He continually. Where the verses use we or our, I substitute I or my, making it more personal. If it’s not personal, it does me no good. While I’m not guilty of obvious physical sins, and probably you’re not either, I consider my thought life: is it positive or negative? Do my words breathe life or death? Do I show the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23a) or do people avoid me? What is my relationship with God? Is it distant, intimate or somewhere in between? These are the sins I must guard against and maybe you also. All references within the verses come from that translation.

Isaiah 53:4-5:

Good News Translation: But Jesus endured the suffering that should have been mine, the pain that I should have borne. All the while I thought that His suffering was punishment sent by God. But because of my sins Jesus was wounded, beaten because of the evil I did. I am healed by the punishment He suffered, made whole by the blows He received.

Jubilee Bible: Surely Jesus has borne my sicknesses and suffered my pain: and I considered Him stricken, smitten of God and cast down. But Jesus was wounded for my rebellion; He was bruised for my iniquities; the chastisement of my peace was upon Him, and by His stripes healing was provided for me. (My note: please see Shalom on page 2 for a fuller meaning of peace.)

New English Translation: But Jesus lifted up my illnesses, Hc carried my pain; even though I thought He was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something He had done. Jesus was wounded because of my rebellious deeds, crushed because of my sins; He endure punishment that made me well; because of His wounds I have been healed.

The Message Bible: The fact is, it was my pains Jesus carried – my disfigurements, all the things wrong with me. I thought Jesus brought it all on Himself, that God was punishing Him for His own failures. But it was my sins that did that to Him, that ripped and tore and crushed Him – my sins! Jesus took the punishment, and that made me whole, though His bruises I get healed.

The Voice Translation: Yet it was my suffering Jesus carried, my pain [Matthew 8:12] and distress, my sick-to-the-soul-ness. I just figured that God had rejected Jesus, that God was the reason He hurt so badly. But Jesus was hurt because of me; He suffered so. My wrongdoing wounded and crushed Him. Jesus endured the breaking that made me whole. The injuries He suffered became my healing.

1 Peter 2:24

Amplified: He personally carried my sins in His body on the cross [willingly, offering Himself on it, as on an altar of sacrifice], so that I might die to sin [becoming immune from the penalty and power of sin] and live for righteousness; for by His wounds I [who believe] have been healed.

 New Living Translation: Jesus personally carried my sins in his body on the cross so that I can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By His wounds I am healed.

 The Message Bible: Jesus used His servant body to carry my sins to the Cross so I could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. Jesus’ wounds became my healing..    

The Passion Translation: Jesus Himself carried my sins in His body on the cross so that I would be dead to sin and live for righteousness. My instant healing flowed from His wounding. [This healing includes the body, soul, and emotions. It was fulfilled in two ways: first by the healing ministry of Jesus, and second by the blood of Christ’s wounds. See Matthew 8:16-17; Isaiah 53:5].

According to Isaiah 53:4-5 and the note in the Passion Translation on 1 Peter 2:24, Jesus’ sacrifice covered EVERY AREA of my need! He had spiritual torment for my sins when Father turned His back on Jesus when He cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus had mental distress for my worry, care and fear, as well as physical pain for my sickness and disease! Therefore, Jesus by His crucifixion gave me Shalom.

Shalom means not only peace versus war, but inner peace, freedom from disturbance whether outwardly or inwardly. It means primarily soundness, health, well-being, comfort in my mind and emotion, goodness in my relationships with people and with God. Shalom has also come to signify prosperity. (Paraphrased from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

1 Corinthians 11:28-29 Passion: Let me first evaluate my own attitude and only then eat the bread and drink the cup. For continually eating and drinking with a wrong spirit [unworthily or irreverently] will bring judgment upon myself by not recognizing the Lord’s body.

I ask forgiveness of any sins I remember when I take the Lord’s Supper and ask Holy Spirit to remind me of any I forget. I know if I’m holding a grudge against someone or have gossiped, so I confess these or other sins. However, I don’t always think to judge my thoughts about my physical, emotional or mental well-being. How do my emotions and thought life stack up? Do I need to repent in this area?

1 Peter 2:24 mentions being dead to sin and alive to righteousness or right standing with God. What sins do I need to give up? What about my lifestyle or my thought life do I need for leave behind? Do I strive to live a life pleasing to God? What do I need to do to correct that?

I should judge myself in every way. Am I complaining about lack of finances, family or job? What causes me to worry? What makes me angry? Do I need to leave behind some baggage? The verse below tells me to leave sin because it slows down my God-planned life, the one best-suited and most fulfilling to me.

Hebrews 12:1-2 Living Translation: Therefore, since I am surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let me strip off every weight that slows me down, especially the sin that so easily trips me up. And let me run with endurance the race God has set before me.

When the first Passover was given, all the lamb had to be eaten; none could be left. I should do the same with Jesus’ Supper that’s my Passover from death to life. Let it renew me each time I take of it. Jesus came to give me life more abundantly according to John 10:10, and I can hinder that life by not realizing everything contained within the Communion. When the Israelites left Egypt, they were ready to go: eating in faith, dressed for travel, ready to receive deliverance BEFORE they ate. I should do the same thing.

No matter what I may face – sin, sickness, drugs, a weight problem, job, family, worry, strife, old habits – I can be delivered through properly receiving the Lord’s Supper because the body and blood of Jesus cover every area of our lives. By discerning (recognizing and identifying as separate and distinct) Jesus’ body and judging myself  before Him, I can receive my deliverance.

I may see instant changes, and I have sometimes, but also I may have to learn to think new thoughts or change old habits before that newness comes. The Communion is not a panacea or magic, but as I take it more seriously, the more benefit I get from it.

Obviously, I don’t have time to meditate on all this when I’m at church, but often I know beforehand when the Supper will be served so I can prepare at home and anticipate with gladness this special time between my Lord and me.    

The Waters

When the waters pass over your head,
Stand thou still.
This thing is allowed of Me;
It is within my control.

Running will not help;
Fighting will get you down.
Only by standing still,
Can you win the victor’s crown.

When the waters pass over your head,
Simply be still and rest;
Relax in my strength alone;
I will bring you through the test.

No matter how deep the waters appear,
The way up ahead is clear.
Simply standing, resting
Will bring you through this testing.

These Scriptures speak of Israel but we can take them as God’s promises for all God’s people today in the midst of the Covid 19 lockdown, job loss and national economic collapse. This poem is based on Isaiah 43:2 but the other verses also apply.

Isaiah 43:1-3 (all verses from NKJV):
But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. 3 For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Isaiah 30:15, 18-21:
For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved;
In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” But you would not. 18 And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him. 19 For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem; You shall weep no more. He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry; When He hears it, He will answer you. 20 And though the Lord gives you The bread of adversity and the water of affliction, Yet your teachers will not be moved into a corner anymore, But your eyes shall see your teachers.21 Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” Whenever you turn to the right hand Or whenever you turn to the left.

Jeremiah 29:11-14a
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity.

How the Virus Stole Easter

This poem was forwarded to me and is so relevant to the time we’re in that I wanted to share it with others. I pray your Easter was very special even in the midst of lockdown. I pray you are well and taking care that you don’t get ill. I also pray for those who are sick, whether at home or in hospital, that God gives wisdom to the doctors and others involved in how to care and what medicines to use in this unusual disease.
Sandra Meyer

How the Virus Stole Easter
By Kristi Bothur
With a nod to Dr. Seuss
 
Twas late in ‘19 when the virus began
Bringing chaos and fear to all people, each land.
 
People were sick, hospitals full,
Doctors overwhelmed, no one in school.
 
As winter gave way to the promise of spring,
The virus raged on, touching peasant and king.
 
People hid in their homes from the enemy unseen.
They YouTubed and Zoomed, social-distanced, and cleaned.
 
April approached and churches were closed.
“There won’t be an Easter,” the world supposed.
 
“There won’t be church services, and egg hunts are out.
No reason for new dresses when we can’t go about.”
 
Holy Week started, as bleak as the rest.
The world was focused on masks and on tests.
 
“Easter can’t happen this year,” it proclaimed.
“Online and at home, it just won’t be the same.”
 
Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the days came and went.
The virus pressed on; it just would not relent.
 
The world woke Sunday and nothing had changed.
The virus still menaced, the people, estranged.
 
“Pooh pooh to the saints,” the world was grumbling.
“They’re finding out now that no Easter is coming.
 
“They’re just waking up! We know just what they’ll do!
Their mouths will hang open a minute or two,
And then all the saints will all cry boo-hoo.
 
“That noise,” said the world, “will be something to hear.”
So it paused and the world put a hand to its ear.
 
And it did hear a sound coming through all the skies.
It started down low, then it started to rise.
 
But the sound wasn’t depressed.
Why, this sound was triumphant!
It couldn’t be so!
But it grew with abundance!
 
The world stared around, popping its eyes.
Then it shook! What it saw was a shocking surprise!
 
Every saint in every nation, the tall and the small,
Was celebrating Jesus in spite of it all!
 
It hadn’t stopped Easter from coming! It came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
 
And the world with its life quite stuck in quarantine
Stood puzzling and puzzling.
“Just how can it be?”
 
“It came without bonnets, it came without bunnies,
It came without egg hunts, cantatas, or money.”
 
Then the world thought of something it hadn’t before.
“Maybe Easter,” it thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Easter, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
 
And what happened then?
Well….the story’s not done.
What will YOU do?
Will you share with that one
Or two or more people needing hope in this night?
Will you share the source of your life in this fight?
 
The churches are empty – but so is the tomb,
And Jesus is victor over death, doom, and gloom.
 
So this year at Easter, let this be our prayer,
As the virus still rages all around, everywhere.
 
May the world see hope when it looks at God’s people.
May the world see the church is not a building or steeple.
May the world find Faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection,
May the world find Joy in a time of dejection.
May 2020 be known as the year of survival,
But not only that –
Let it start a revival.

The Many Blessings of Knowing Jesus

Let us pray: Father, I ask that as we’re in this sacred time of Passover and Resurrection Sunday, enable us to understand in a new way just what it is that Jesus did for us by becoming our Lamb and the blood on our hearts’ doors. As the lamb’s blood saved the first-born of the Jews and delivered them from slavery and death, help us realize more deeply how Jesus’ holy blood delivers us from the slavery of sin and spiritual death.

We thank You Holy God for doing for us what we could never do for ourselves. We acknowledge that on our own we’re unworthy of your goodness; yet made worthy because of your deep love for us and Jesus monumental sacrifice. We become presentable to You as we acknowledge and receive that holy ransom for ourselves.

As You etch all the wonder of this sacred time on our hearts, enable us to not only understand more deeply but to shine the light of that tremendous blessing to others who still live in the slavery of sin and the bondage of eternal death. We come boldly before your throne and ask this because Jesus’ precious blood gives us this privilege. Thank You Holy God, that Jesus empowers us to come to you in his eternal Name. Amen.

Remembering Jesus’ Sufferings

very time I take the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, I stop and think a few moments about what Jesus Christ, Son of God, sacrificed so that I might know Him. I remember his suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, and I think about the scourging and how agonizing that felt on his naked back as repeatedly flesh was torn from bone. I reflect on how Jesus shed his blood for me until none was left. Considering that nothing had ever separated Jesus from his Father since eternity began, I know I can’t imagine the horror of taking my sin upon Himself so that they were divided for a time. Probably that was the worst of Jesus’ agony.

Then I thank my Lord Jesus. And my Father, God Almighty, that they were willing to suffer all this for me. What a tremendous debt I owe, one I can never pay no matter what I do or how I try to serve. So, with a grateful heart of love, I again say Thank You.

Consider with me a moment the things Jesus endured. In the Garden even his disciples couldn’t stay awake to pray with Him. Think of how comforting it is to have a loved one with us when we’re grieving, but his closest friends couldn’t stay awake to pray. Jesus’ prayers to be spared the horrors of the cross were agonizing, causing Him to sweat drops of blood.  Reading the Scriptures of those prayers breaks my heart. Knowing what the near future held, Jesus so wanted to avoid the unimaginable torment He would endure, yet He wanted more to follow his Father’s will and surrendered to it.

After his arrest, the soldiers pulled out his beard, mocked and spit on him, putting a crown of thorns on his head. Finally, they scourged Jesus with a whip braided with pieces of iron so that it efficiently pulled the skin from the bones. That continued 39 times because more would kill a person, and many died before reaching that number.

After all this Jesus carried the armpiece of the cross on that broken back until He could no longer, and another had to carry it. As crude nails hammered into his wrist and feet, pain must have been unbearable, yet Jesus didn’t cry out or curse his torturers. Hanging on a cross would eventually suffocate a person, so they naturally used their feet to try to lift themselves up to catch a breath, all the time rubbing that bruised and opened flesh against the splintering upright log of the cross. Arms also rubbed against the splinters in the armpiece, causing even more pain. Yet most people took a couple of days to die, which is why soldiers broke the legs of prisoners, so that they couldn’t lift themselves up to breathe any more. The Son of God did not have his legs broken because He had already accomplished his task of paying for the sin of all people of all time, including you and me. But the soldier had to get his revenge and put his sword into Jesus’ side. That’s when he realized Who was on that cross.

Do you wonder why I thank Jesus and Father God when I take the Communion? How could I not?

How Did I Come to Know Jesus?

I grew up in church so heard about Jesus all my life at church as well as at home. One Easter Sunday the preacher talked about the two thieves who died beside Jesus, and even though I was a child, I understood that I had committed things against God too. I hadn’t known Jesus as my Savior but did that morning. I felt a joy in my heart that I hadn’t known previously, and Jesus became a Reality to me. I knew that whenever I died, I’d go to heaven and spend eternity there, seeing Jesus and Father God face to face.

I could pray and believe God would answer my prayers, growing very close to the Lord. Later I lost that closeness and although I continued going to church, I didn’t pray or read my Bible very much – until I got so hungry for more of God and searched for Him. Then I surrendered my will and asked Jesus to once again be my Lord as well as my Savior. I was baptized in the Holy Spirit, which is different from being sealed with the Spirit when I first accepted Jesus. I felt a joy unlike anything I’d ever previously known, like I was walking on a cloud. One morning when I woke our children to get ready for school, one of our daughters said to me, “How can you be so happy so early in the morning?” I told her, “How could I not be, after spending an hour with God?”

The Many Blessings

While the Bible promises enough benefits of knowing Jesus to fill a book, I’m only including a few here. In John 16:7, 13-15 Jesus promises that when He goes away (when He ascends to heaven), he will send Someone else, calling Him the Comforter, the Helper, the Spirit of truth. He will guide us and tell us things to come. The Spirit won’t speak on his own authority but only what He hears, always glorifying Jesus, who then glorifies the Father. In other parts of the New Testament we learn much more about the working of the Holy Spirit and all the benefits He brings to believers.

The first blessing I noticed immediately after this infilling was not being lonely when I was by myself and our home no longer needed music or TV until my family returned. I was shy and didn’t have many friends. We’d moved often, and I wasn’t sure how to make small talk with people I didn’t know well. Therefore, I watched soap operas because they went wherever we did. I was addicted to them. The first three days after I was baptized with the Spirit different things caused me to be gone during the time my favorite shows were on TV. On the fourth day I was home and didn’t even think about the shows when it was time. I was too busy singing. Jesus had immediately taken away my need for relationship with people other than my family; my addiction. I’m not saying this would happen always, just that I’m thankful it happened to me.

A great blessing from Jesus is the peace He gives. No longer did I struggle and feel restless, not knowing exactly what was wrong. That’s what I’d felt, plus an unhappiness I couldn’t explain. Now I had an inner serenity or well-being that had been missing. I’d been miserable because Jesus was no longer my Lord, and the Holy Spirit used that to draw me back to Him. I understood in a new way that my sins were forgiven so I didn’t have that guilt hanging over my head, beating me up about something I’m powerless to change. I felt at rest; my soul was calm as well as my spirit. Now whenever I’m missing this peace and calm, I run to my Father and ask Him to show me the problem.

A deep love fills believers with knowing we’re worthwhile, not because of who we are or what we’ve done but simply because we were worth so much to our Father that Jesus died for us so that we can be God’s child forever. Think of that! If I’d been the only person in the world, Jesus still would have suffered and died for me. That’s amazing! The same is true for you!

The next difference I noticed was a prayer language that wasn’t in English; indeed, my spirit communicated with the Holy Spirit, bypassing my human mind. He gave me ideas for prayer that I’d never have considered. I knew people I’d never met needed food or Bibles, for instance, and prayed for them. He brought prayers to mind of people I knew, though I didn’t know why they needed prayer. One friend came to mind several times and each time I talked with her soon afterward; she or her family needed prayer about a specific problem. Afterwards whenever someone’s name came to mind, I’d stop and pray for them, knowing there was a need. Without knowing what that need was, I prayed in my prayer language because it was given by God for such times (see Romans 8:26-27).

Sometimes when I’m praying by myself or with a group about a subject, I’ll ask something that seems off the central focus that others are praying, but I’ve learned that it’s needed even if I don’t understand all the details. It used to embarrass me when I was with others and this happened because they’d been praying about a certain part of the subject, and I’d interject something from a different angle. But I learned that’s what the Holy Spirit led me to pray so it was ok, nothing so off the wall at all.

Found in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4, the gifts of the Spirit become available to us. God gives these so that we can fulfill the purpose He planned for us before we were ever born. These gifts aren’t meant so we gain a name for ourselves; indeed, I think the people who are most gifted must be very humble people, or at least started out that way. We can’t set a goal of obtaining a spiritual gift and we don’t get to choose which gift we desire. However, we should learn to mature in the use of the gifts. We start as children and make mistakes along the way, but with practice we grow in the use and it blesses others more as we grow.

Talents and spiritual gifts can be related but are not the same thing. Talents are natural abilities we’re born with, which also must grow. Anyone can have them, but they usually follow in a family line. Spiritual gifts are only had by people who allow the Holy Spirit to lead their lives and are given by the Spirit of God, as He desires.

Believers also receive the Fruit of the Spirit. Found in Galatians 5:22-23, these are love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The verse goes on to say that there’s no law against these. Indeed, we can’t imagine people complaining when we demonstrate the fruit, especially towards them. However, we also must grow in living steadily in the fruit through our daily lives.

Another blessing of Jesus is sometimes just saying or emailing exactly what another person needs to hear. We don’t plan anything in particular; it just comes out and is the perfect encouragement or advice. Our Father knows what they need even when we don’t, but He’s glad to use us to bless others. And it’s a great blessing to us when they say, “That’s just what I needed today.” It gives us reassurance that we did hear Him correctly.

I write a blog (dailyGod.net) and it’s another place the Holy Spirit gives me ideas of what to say. I start writing and it simply flows, but if I suddenly find difficulty, I stop and don’t try to force myself to find words. I realize either I’ve misunderstood or it’s not the correct time to finish that piece. I have an internet friend who daily blogs prayers based on Bible verses. She told me she’s a scribe because she doesn’t have to sit and research what she writes: she reads the Bible in her customary order and God gives her the prayer to go with it. That’s the way I write. I don’t sit with an outline and follow all the rules for filling out the details, although I do start with a subject in mind. But even the direction of that may get changed mid-course; I simply write as I believe God leads me.

God speaks to us. He has many ways of doing this and knows exactly how to let us know what He desires. Often it’s through Scripture, but it may be through music or a sermon; sometimes friends say a word or nature gives us God’s thought for that day. My blog contains a section I call “Nature-inspired Thoughts” with many posts that nature stimulated. Occasionally, we’ll simply know we’re supposed to do something, and it settles deep in our heart. If we’re listening, we’ll know when God communicates.

More Blessings

 What are other blessings of being a child of God? John, the beloved disciple, tells us many of these blessings in the three letters he writes the churches. 1 John 1:9 tells us about confession.  We confess our sins when we first believe in Christ, but we do sin afterwards and sometimes unknowingly. For instance, we may hurt a person’s feelings by saying something and not realize that we’ve offended them. Sometimes we do something that doesn’t please God; although the action itself isn’t bad, He has a better purpose for us. 1 John 1:9 tells us that when we confess what we’ve done wrong that God will even forgive us those things we don’t realize.

God perfects his love in us (1 John 2:5). He first teaches us to love and forgive ourselves so that we’re able to love and forgive others. We’re told to love our neighbor as ourselves; but if we don’t love ourselves, that’s impossible. This love doesn’t make us feel more important than others; it gives us an appreciation of who God created us to be. We realize we’re not perfect but also not condemned because of that. When I as an adult made Jesus my Lord and not simply my Savior, I repeatedly berated myself for the years I’d not been the person God called me to be. One day Holy Spirit said to me, “If God forgives you, are you better than He is that you can’t forgive yourself?” That made me realize I’d been putting myself higher than God by not forgiving myself when I knew He had forgiven me. I immediately forgave myself and learned to love myself in the way God intended.

God’s perfecting his love in us often causes pain because the way He accomplishes this is when we need to love someone who is difficult to love, and we’ve all known those people. The reason it’s difficult is because they have hurt us, and we must forgive them, even if we choose not to be around them. Those memories return so we forgive them again each time we remember, until we’re finally able to allow the Lord to take that pain from our hearts.

True forgiveness towards another demonstrates God’s forgiveness of us, blessing us as we learn it. Years ago, I was hurt by a friend, and each time I thought of what she’d done, I mentally saw a billboard with her name on it. Finally, I asked the Lord to help me to forgive, and I then imagined her face and saw her as the usually kind person she was. Another time someone else hurt me repeatedly and the pain went much deeper. I prayed about forgiving this person because about the time I’d think I’d forgiven them, something else happened to reopen that wound. Holy Spirit reminded me of Romans 8:5 (NLT)  God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.  When I realized the significance of that single verse, I knew I had to forgive this person because they had not hurt me as deeply as I’d hurt God before I became a Christ-follower, even though I didn’t realize at the time what I was doing.

The Bible tells us to test the spirits to see if something is really from God (1 John 4:1). For years people have gone to fortune tellers or read horoscopes. These are not from God and if we know the Word, we don’t need to ask. But often things aren’t so obvious. Someone on TV may say something and claim it comes from God, but it doesn’t sound like that to us. We “test” the spirit behind that by asking, “Does it conform to the Bible? Does it deny either Jesus’ humanity or his holiness?” If it doesn’t meet these tests, then it’s not from God.

We need wisdom and discernment, so James 1:5 tells us to ask God without doubting and He will give us the knowledge we need. This means if we’re wondering if the person we want to marry is the right one, we can ask. If we’re looking at a new job, a move to a new city or whatever else we need, we can expect our Father to give us the wisdom about whether this is the best thing for us. Because of his great love, He will always guide us to the best for his future purpose in our lives.

Ephesians 1:3 tells us that God has already blessed us with every spiritual blessing we’ll ever need. What a great benefit this is! And chapter 2, verse 6 reminds us that God raised us from the dead when He raised Jesus, and we now spiritually sit in heavenly realms because that’s where Christ sits, and we’re united with Him.

Another great benefit of knowing Jesus is that we may boldly approach the throne of God, the Lord Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. Hebrews 4:16 tells us this so that we can receive the grace and mercy we need. We go humbly, never demanding, but we also go confidently because God looks at us through the blood of Jesus and loves us mightily.

Although it would probably take a book to list all the goodness we receive when we know Jesus, the last one I’d like to mention is healing. We are assured of this in several places in the Bible, so I’ll only mention two, and both are connected directly with our forgiveness of sin. I confess I don’t understand why we don’t see this more often. I’ve prayed for healing and others have prayed for me, but still I’m not healed. That doesn’t keep me from believing the Word of God, however. Because the Word connects forgiveness and healing, I know I’m forgiven; therefore, I know I’m healed and simply waiting for the manifestation of it.   A New Testament scripture is 1 Peter 2:24 (NKJV): [Jesus] who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed. As far as God is concerned, we were healed at the same time we were forgiven when Jesus died on the cross!

The Old Testament tells the same message in Psalm 103:1-5 (NKJV): Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me bless His holy name! (2) Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: (3) Who forgives all your iniquities [sins] and heals all your diseases, (4) Who redeems your life from destruction. Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, (5) Who satisfied your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Let us open our hearts and our minds to receive all that Jesus sacrificed so much to give us. During this Passover, let us pass over from old ways of thinking and enter new realms of realization about our blessings from Jesus. This Resurrection Sunday let us resurrect into living on a higher spiritual plane.

 

 

 

Verses of Cheer

During this Covid-19 pandemic when many of us are staying inside, we tend to get lonely and restless. The news shouts so much negative and rarely tells us how many people have recovered from the virus or other heroic stories. Especially people who live along or don’t communicate via the internet or suffer from other diseases may feel overwhelmed with all the bad news.

A couple of months ago an old health issue returned unexpectedly, and I suddenly focused on the problem, not on my blessings. I realized where that would lead, so I compiled this group of verses. They’re in no particular order, but I did select from several different translations to see which version spoke clearly to my heart. Today in the midst of the chaos, confusion and unexpected nature of the pandemic, perhaps you’re feeling overwhelmed. That’s why I’m sharing these verses to lift up our spirits and lighten our hearts. I pray they will bless you as they continue to bless me.

 Everything seems to go wrong when you feel weak and depressed. But when you choose to be cheerful, every day will bring you more and more joy and fullness. Proverbs 15:15 TPT

Blessed be the Lord, who bears our burden day by day, The God who is our salvation! Selah. Ps 68.19 AMP

What a glorious God! He gives us salvation over and over, then daily he carries our burdens! Pause in his presence.                Psalm 68:19 TPT

A cheerful heart puts a smile on your face, but a broken heart leads to depression. Proverbs 15:13 TPT

Eyes that focus on what is beautiful bring joy to the heart, and hearing a good report refreshes and strengthens the inner being. Proverbs 15:30 TPT

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength. Proverbs 17:22 NLT

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart; good news makes for good health. Proverbs 15:30 NLT

A joyful heart makes a face cheerful, but a sad heart produces a broken spirit. Proverbs 15:13 CSB

A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed. Proverbs 15:13 ESV
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TPT: The Passion Translation
AMP: Amplified Version
NLT: New Living Translation
CSB: Christian Standard Bible
ESV: English Standard Version

The Waves Will Not Overcome You

One day my husband and I drove a familiar portion around Yellowstone Lake in the national park of that name. As we did, I stared at the normally calm water where we could have easily paddled our canoe. Four-foot waves crashed into the shore. Although no storm prevailed, a strong wind blew across the 14-mile long lake, seemingly piling the water up in this small bay. We drove from the level of the lake up the mountain road to a popular overlook, where the whole lake appeared to be churning. That drive happened perhaps 10 years ago, yet it’s still fresh in my memory.

As I thought of all the implications of the coronavirus this morning, I remembered that scene and a special verse from long ago that speaks of such a time as this. Isaiah 43:1-3a (New Living Translation) reminds us that our God will bring us through this unfamiliar and disconcerting time.

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Isreal, your Savior”

Even though we don’t know how many people will suffer from this virus or how long it will last, we can be confident that our loving Father continually watches over us and guides us. We stay calm instead of panicking; we obey medical guidance and we continue to praise the Lord Most High, our Maker and Redeemer.

When We Meet Fog

The weather gave me more understanding of my morning Bible reading from Mark, chapter 8. In verses 1-10 Jesus fed the four thousand with seven small loaves of bread and a few fish. Leftovers could feed another crowd. Slightly later when Jesus and the disciples got into a boat to cross to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, the men discussed their forgetfulness in bringing food with them. Probably most of us would have called them stupid at that point unless we were also complaining about not having any bread.

Possibly an hour or two beforehand Jesus had multiplied a meager amount of food so that it feed a throng of people. Why didn’t the disciples remember that and consider that He would also multiply their one loaf? What made them so thick-headed?

Further down the chapter in verses 27-30 Jesus asked the disciples to tell Him who people said that He is. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the longed-for Jewish Messiah. But when Jesus tells his men that He will be put to death and rise again, Peter once more speaks up and said No, that can’t happen. However, Jesus reprimanded Peter telling him that thought wasn’t from God.

Not long afterward I sat at our breakfast table eating and looking at the fog making the home across the street slightly blurry from our window. Only when I drove to church with about one-half mile visibility did I realize that the disciples saw Jesus through fog. Their minds weren’t yet understanding that Messiah could do anything, even though they’d seen miracles of healing as well as the feedings. In the same way, when Peter proclaimed that Jesus is the Christ, his mind couldn’t grasp the fact that He had to die.

Driving down the state highway to my church this morning I drove in the inside lane to be sure I didn’t come suddenly upon some of the bikers who use the early-morning emptiness of the road as practice lanes. I didn’t want the fog to obscure my vision. In daily life, however, we often run into spiritual fog, just as the first disciples did.

Isaiah 55:9 states that God’s ways and thoughts are tremendously higher than ours, just as the heavens are far higher above the earth. In other words, often we can’t understand our loving Father’s actions or even the way He’s thinking about us because they’re so profound. The spiritual fog keeps us from seeing and understanding our circumstances from His viewpoint.

The next time something in my life doesn’t go the way I think it should, I’ll remember that my Father loves me so very much that He sent His only Son to die for me so I can become His child. God has promised never to leave me or to forsake me, so therefore I can trust His love even when I can’t understand the reasons behind it. I’ll remember that from time to time I meet spiritual fog.

Resting in His Arms

Where do I go when my world just crashed in upon me? Who can help me? Confusion, doubt, fear, dismay, depression all crowd in upon me. How can I escape? The cause of this terrible state varies from person to person, whether loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of health or loss of confidence in a trusted one or yourself. The joy of life disappeared; only stress remains.

At such times, I must ask myself: How much do I care where I am? Do I care enough to use all my energy to push myself out of this place? Do I even have that much energy? How long will I be content to wallow in not only self-pity but helplessness? Do I have the courage and strength to seek a means of escape?

Perhaps I’m not sitting as a recluse from the world; perhaps I’m doing the normal things of life that must be done. But I’ve lost interest in them. My heart hides behind a closed door.

I can choose escapism though many means – denial, alcoholism or less harmful devices. When I really want to escape, I watch HGTV or Hallmark movies. Yes, the shows vary little from each other, but they’re lighthearted and take my mind off whatever I’m trying to avoid.

However, I know a far better escape. If someone doesn’t know Jesus as their Savior, they may think my hiding place sounds like a cliché but I can find help, comfort and hope in this special environment. A child of God Almighty can run to Daddy-God and find soul-rest in His strong arms. I find a quiet place and play some calming worshipful music. I imagine myself as a small child when I’d bump my knee or have some other problem. I run to my daddy and crawl up in his lap. He’d wrap his strong arms of love around me, and I felt safe and secure. Somehow the pain of the bump disappeared in those arms.

In the same way, when I need a secure place of retreat from whatever disturbs me, I run to my Daddy-God – because He loves us better than any earthly father – and feel His strong arms of love wrapped snugly around me. My Father gives me not only a place of escape, He provides comfort, hope and strength to fight whatever battle I’m facing. He gives me confidence that I can be victorious over my circumstance because He works in it. God Almighty loves me enough to send helpers I need, whether it’s a word of encouragement or physical help.

When I escape to this secure rest, I find peace, not simply escapism like with watching TV. Rather, I find confidence for the future as well as the answers to questions I must face. My emotions calm and I begin to think about possibilities instead of the negatives of my situation. I feel a resurgence of energy and strength. I begin to look ahead and am unstuck from my present circumstances. My Daddy-God does all this when I rest in His strong arms of love.

  • Terry MacAlmon’s song In My Father’s Arms inspired this devotional.

Jesus Is Mine!

A joyful praise song repeatedly says, “Jesus is mine!” That is true if we have accepted Him as our Savior, believing that His death on the cross takes away all our sin and wrong-doing towards God when we confess that wrong. Certainly, we have reason to rejoice in singing that song.

As I sing it, however, I sometimes wonder, “How much of me belongs to Jesus?” Yes, I have salvation and claim Him as my Lord, and a lot of me does belong to Jesus. But how much? 50%, 75%, 90? I know it’s not 100% but admire those people whom I think must belong 100% to Jesus.

I’m sure they also battle at times to stay in that place. We all have human desires that even if nothing is wrong with them, that other things of a spiritual origin are better. For example, how is my time better spent: reading a good fiction novel or reading a Christian book about living a godly life?

These things are the ones I wrestlewith and cause me to ask how much of me belongs to Jesus. Do you have the same issue?

The Sunflower

A man once told my friend, “You’re like a sunflower in a snowstorm.” I thought, “What a compliment!” Later, I started considering this simile. Who’d ever consider seeing a sunflower blooming during a snowstorm? When we lived in Kentucky, snow fell on some blooming crocuses I had. While crocuses bloom in early spring, sunflowers only bloom in the heat, so how could you see one in mid-winter, when you’d expect a snowstorm?

As I pondered more the man’s statement, I considered attributes of my friend. Above all, she was kind to people and refused to get angry when circumstances didn’t work out in her favor. She didn’t try to be the star in the room or expect people to cater to her.

I thought of that statement today in connection with Isaiah 60:1 (New King James) Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.

Why should only my friend be told she’s like a sunflower in a snowstorm? If we’re God’s child, shouldn’t we all be that way? Isaiah says we need to shine in a dark world (see verse 2) because the Light already appeared to us. In that way, God’s glory shines upon us. Yes, the world needs believers to reflect the Light of Christ that we already know and to shine through whatever snowstorm or darkness of circumstances we face.

Go Out on a Limb!

Today as we ate lunch my husband and I watched a squirrel trying to get a green pecan on the end of a very thin branch. He went as far as he felt safe, then looked like he was trying to figure out how to reach that pecan, maybe from another limb. Obviously fear of falling kept him going all the way to the end to grab his prize. Finally the branch shook so much from the squirrel’s movement that the pecan fell off onto the ground. Even though the pecan was reachable, he still had to crawl back up a long limb, then down the tree and across the distance to eat his fill.

I thought of Abram (later named Abraham) who had to go out on a thin limb too when God told him to leave his family and go to a strange land a long distance from his home (Genesis 12:1). Abram had to be sure that God was the one telling him to leave behind everyone and everything he knew, or he could have been in serious trouble.

Simply doing what God tells us to do doesn’t mean we instantly reach our goal. It was about 25 years after Abram left his home that his son Isaac was born. Often we must work even more to finish the task or have the faith to see our promise come true.  We see that lesson from the squirrel too.

Another point is that we must be sure we’re on the right limb if we’re going out on it; otherwise, what we’re doing is foolish. Missionaries travel that same limb that Abram did so many centuries ago. God sends them to places they don’t know and to people they don’t know to serve the people by serving Him, in whatever way He’s called them to serve.

Most of us aren’t missionaries so our limbs aren’t a foreign country. But God does call us to use our faith and trust Him over various situations, whether they’re relationships, finances, jobs or health. He says, “Trust me in this circumstance.” We must then choose whether we’ll go out on that limb and how far we’ll go. Will we go the distance God calls us to go?

The Assurance of His Love

My husband and I married almost 60 years ago. The assurance of each other’s love kept us together all these years, even when we were selfish about something. God definitely played a big part in this, especially in areas where we disagreed. We both continued faithful to our marriage, no matter what happened. Even when control seemed to rule in my husband’s thoughts, I never doubted his love for me.

In the same way, I’m assured of my heavenly Father’s love for me. Even when I don’t understand his ways with me and with others, I never doubt his love for any of us. Prayers that remain unanswered don’t cause me uncertainty of that care. You might ask, “How can I be so sure?” Just like with my husband’s love, that assurance of God’s love remains deep in my heart. I know that I know both their love, and I never doubt their faithfulness to me.

John 3:16 (Amplified) speaks about that love: For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish but have eternal life.

2 Thessalonians 3:3 (Amplified) states: But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you [setting you on a firm foundation] and will protect you and guard you from the evil one.

Would you give you only child to save someone who committed evil acts? Most likely not and neither would I! While many go to war to protect their country, what God did sealed us from hell’s fiery torment, if we only believe in Jesus. Simply believing Jesus lived a good life on this earth at one point carries no weight with God. Certainly, the devil knows that also.

Awareness of going our own way instead of God’s and trusting that Jesus’ death on the cross exempts us from living a life totally and eternally separated from God. Then we make Jesus our Savior but our Lord as well, doing as He wants instead of going our way.

My prayer for you today is that you’ll be totally assured of your Father’s love.

God’s Message to Me through the Belmont Races

Please note: Christianity guides my interpretation of these races.

I saw three races from Belmont Park in New York on June 8 and noticed several things about them that I believe God showed me concerning our country, all of which has been already confirmed by others much more prophetic about such things than I am.

A long time ago my family lived about two miles from Keeneland Racetrack in Lexington, Kentucky which holds one of the races leading up to the Kentucky Derby. We sometimes went there when races weren’t occurring and saw the horses. Also, several horse farms were in the nearby area, which taught us an appreciation of the beauty not only of the horses but also of the farms on which they lived. Black fences enclosed lush bluegrass; the stables were elegant. Once we toured one of these farms, and wood paneling covered the inside of the stables. Obviously wealth maintained the farms and individual families owned most of them. Now conglomerates own most. I never went to a race, but my husband went once and bought plenty of film to photograph the horses and all the ceremony.

Since then, we’ve had an appreciation for horses and enjoyed watching races on TV, though we’d never bet on a race. We don’t gamble, not even to buy a $1 lottery ticket. Today my husband watched the channel that carried the Belmont events while I was doing other things, but he called me when the different races began. This is what I noticed:

Race 1, the Municipal Handicap: First place carried the color white, which stands for completion, purity, innocence and perfection. Red represented second place, reminding us of fire and blood, especially the blood of Jesus that takes away our sins and gives us right standing with God; the fire speaks of the fire of the Holy Spirit. Third place wore the color blue, standing for loyalty, strength, wisdom and trust. The biblical use of blue, according to internet information, stands for the healing power of God and the Word of God. The sky being blue represents the presence of God. All these colors relate to God, as you can see. However, they’re also the colors of the American flag, a nation that was built on godly standards.

Race 2, the Manhattan: Bricks and Mortar won this race. White and red marked this rider and horse, again representing godly colors as well as part of our flag. The name speaks to me of the meeting building of the church, the body of Christ on earth.

Race 3, the Belmont Stakes: Seeing how all the other races seemed to fit together, for this main event of the day, I guessed Sir Winston would win. Although he was listed at 10-1 odds, that name stood out to me, since many people compare President Trump with Sir Winston Churchill of the British Kingdom. You may think opposite of this, but that’s the way I reasoned it. Sir Winston wore number 7, which is God’s number of completion. Jockey Joel Rosario thanked God for the win at the end of the race.

To me it all fit together, and Father God says He’s watching over our country and as believers pray, He will answer and return America to its foundations.

Rest Your Mind

A while back as I was resting from my work for a few minutes, my compassionate Daddy-God spoke to me. When follow what He said, I’m amazed at the difference His loving words make in my body. Today I want to share that with you.

“My child, you sit to rest before continuing your work, but you mind fills with time slots for today, next week, next month. This tenses year body so that you cannot rest.

“Learn to give all your concerns to me. Relax into my peace. Feel the lessening of stress throughout your body. Think only of today. Yes, mark your calendar but don’t mentally do the work today. From time to time during your day, bring your mind back to this place of peace. You’ll find you’re not so tired and get more done.

“I tell you this because I love you and want the best for you.”

 

“I Just Want to Hear Your Voice”

Usually I talk weekly with our children, three of whom live a distance away. Loss of kidney function hit our older son last year, making me to want news more than ever. Recently his wife and I had talked about the ups and downs with their lives every week, but I hadn’t talked with our son in two or three weeks.

I called one night and talked with her but then wanted to talk with him, so she checked but he was already asleep. I called the next day, which was Saturday, and we did have a good conversation. You must understand he works hard at a full-time job and has anemia besides the kidney loss. He must start setting up dialysis equipment by 7:30 at night so he’s on dialysis by 8:00 in order to be finished in time to get up early the next morning and go to work.

While I’d talked with his wife regularly and had knowledge about them, I suddenly had a yearning to simply hear his sweet voice. Of course, when I mentioned this to him, he made a joke about his voice being sweet. Possibly no one else thinks his voice is sweet; that’s a mother’s or wife’s interpretation.

Since this happened recently, my mind drifted to it during my worship time. That’s when God spoke to my heart and said, “I just want to hear your voice.” My loving Father hungers for more time of intimacy with me. God feels that way about all of us! He knows all the facts about our lives but loves us so much that He aches to hear our voices more all the time. Especially during a time of trouble or struggle. My friend, is your loving Daddy-God saying that He yearns to hear your voice?

At each and every sunrise you will hear my voice as I prepare my sacrifice of prayer to you. Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life on the altar and wait for your fire to fall upon my heart. (Psalm 5:3, Passion Translation.)

I am passionately in love with God because he listens to me. He hears my prayers and answers them. As  long as I live, I’ll keep praying to him, for he stoops down to listen to my heart’s cry. (Psalm 116:1-2)

 

 

 

The Treasure Within

We are like common clay jars that carry this glorious treasure within, so that the extraordinary overflow of power will be seen as God’s not ours. (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Picture a mason jar or a peanut butter, pickle or mayonnaise jar. Suddenly you see one of these filled with one-hundred-dollar bills or precious jewels. You know immediately that the contents make the value, not the container.

That’s what happens when we’re spending significant time with the Lord. Changed from our old lifestyle, we start manifesting different qualities listed in the Bible, such as:

You are always and dearly loved by God! [This fact must become a part of our very being; that’s our basis for receiving the qualities described.] So robe yourself with virtues of God, since you have been divinely chosen to be holy. Be merciful as you endeavor to understand others, and be compassionate, showing kindness to all. Be gentle and humble, unoffendable in your patience with others. 

 This fruit of the Spirit flows from us, without any effort on our part when we’re with others but comes from our time alone with our Father.  It remains a product of Him living within us, even though some aren’t listed in Galatians 5:22-23 (see below.) Without His working in us, we can’t exercise these qualities; they are only supplied by the Holy Spirit.

But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions:
            Joy that overflows,
            Peace that subdues,
            Patience that endures,
            Kindness in action,
            A life full of virtue,
            Faith that prevails,
           Gentleness of heart, and
           Strength of spirit.
Never set the law above these qualities, for they are meant to be limitless.

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 All verses taken from The Passion Translation.

Lord, I Believe in You!

“Lord, I believe in You, truly believe in You.” We sang this song in church and after getting home, I wondered just how much I do believe in Him. Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He lived on earth, died for our sin and rose again to sit at the right hand of Father God.

       For God so loved the world that He gave his only            begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not        perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 New Living              Bible)

I was a child when I first realized that I’d rebelled against God; in fact, it was on Resurrection Sunday when the pastor described how the two thieves, hanging beside Jesus, were guilty. I realized then that though I’d never stolen anything or broken any major commandments, I’d sometimes argued with my brother or not minded my parents. I’d heard about Jesus in church and at home, but I didn’t have a relationship with Him. Even then, I understood that I didn’t really know Jesus or God the Father, not like I knew people. And I knew that had to change, as it did at that moment. Suddenly I knew Jesus lived in my heart as well as in heaven. Specifically, that’s what we say but what really happened is that the Holy Spirit sealed me so that I’d be able to talk with God and go to heaven when I died.

As we approach Resurrection Day or Easter and observe it, I think that song is even more appropriate. Do I really believe all the Bible says about Jesus? The completeness of what He did for us when He died and rose from the dead, lived on earth while many people saw Him, and then He ascended to heaven, where He constantly prays for us at the throne of God? A few scriptures remind me of a bit that Christ provided.

       But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our    sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was    whipped so we could be healed. (Isaiah 53.3)

            He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. (1 Peter 2:24)

Do I really believe God can forgive me, especially if I’ve done a lot of wrong things in my life? Am I honestly confident that He will heal my back and my friend with cancer? Put another way, can I say confidently that I am healed? That my friend is healed, even before we see the results?

I started wondering just how much do I believe God for? Do I really believe He will provide the right job for me when I need one? Do I really believe He will help another friend’s troubled marriage? Do I believe God answers prayers when I pray for my country? In other words, am I confident about these things? Believe means to consider to be true or honest; to accept the word or evidence of. That reminds me of another verse.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1; the New King James uses evidence instead of conviction).

           And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

If my boss tells me he will give me a raise at the end of the month, I believe what he says and begin to get excited about what I can do with the extra money. I have faith that my boss would not say that if it weren’t true. If I can believe a human, how much more should I believe the Lord God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and me! Why do I have so much trouble believing God for other things when I believed Him so easily for my salvation, that He totally forgave me for all the wrongs I’ve ever done, even rebelling against Him? I believe He will continue to forgive me for wrongs when I simply tell Him I’m sorry and stop doing those things.

Our American culture, and especially the last few years, has gone against faith in God, but does that mean I should? Will I believe that the God who created the universe can heal my friend with cancer? That He can provide a job for someone who needs it? That’s what it means to truly trust in God, to rely on Him to provide when no one else can, to believe that He can do what He says He can do. Yes, I trust God to be God! As my faith has grown over the years, I’ve even become more confident in myself because I know who He created me to be and that I am sitting with Christ at the right hand of God, just like the Bible says. If He can do that for me, certainly He can do everything else He says He can. “Lord, I believe in You, truly believe in You.”

           I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 1:19-20)

          For He raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6)

Do I realize where I’m spiritually living? Not on this earth, though my body is here, but in heaven with Christ because I believe He is who He says He is; so therefore, I am who He says I am!

          “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” (Matthew 17:20)

          Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:26; also, Mark 10:27, Luke 18:27 and Luke 1:37 For nothing is impossible with God.)

As the Bible clearly states, if nothing is impossible with God, then am I fully confident that He will do what He says He will do?

The Apple Tree

One morning recently as I sat at breakfast, I noticed our apple tree in full bloom. I always enjoy seeing it bloom but unfortunately, it produces very few if any apples. Why? Because it sits by itself with no other apple trees anywhere around it. Our son gave us the tree for my husband’s birthday about 20 years ago, and we didn’t realize it needed another one to produce apples. At first it did bear some fruit about the size of a plum, so I made applesauce. The next year the apples were more the size of cherries, so we let the birds and squirrels have them.

I realized when I looked at that apple tree and saw its potential and that unreached destiny, how many Christians are like that tree. They believe in Jesus as their Savior, but they aren’t in any church, so they don’t have the nourishment and cross-pollination of mixing with other believers. They don’t get to interact and be taught. They don’t see other people’s issues and how they handle them, so that if they have similar circumstances they’re better able to deal with them.

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25 New Living Translation)

I realize some people work on Sundays and others are homebound and can’t get out; but if you can, let me encourage you to attend a fellowship of believers. Not only will you be taught the Word of God, but others will encourage you through difficult times; they’ll care about you as you care about them. I watch my church on the internet if I’m sick and can’t attend, but there’s an atmosphere you don’t get from the internet or the TV. If you don’t know of a Bible-based church to attend, ask a Christian friend, then search until you know you’ve found the one that God shows you. You’ll be glad you did.

Do I Fit the Ephesian’s Pattern?

Paul stayed with the church in Ephesus for three years, teaching them all about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, during a time when most believers only had an apostle or disciple come to teach the way of salvation for weeks or a few months at most. History says that John the beloved disciple stayed at Ephesus for an equally long time. What a privilege! To have two outstanding apostles teaching and preaching for several years, one would think that later the Ephesian church would be a shining example to all others.

Unfortunately, that did not happen. In Acts 20:29-30 (see verses 18-38 for context) Paul warns the leaders of this church about those who would come in to lead the believers away from God. We read in Revelation 2:1-7 the history of the Ephesian church, not that many years after John was there. Christ commends the church for their hard work, patient endurance and not tolerating those who are evil. Then He said, “You don’t love me or each other as you did at first” (verse 4, New Living Translation). Then Christ warns them to turn back and love Him wholeheartedly.

How many of us are in this same position? We’ve had good biblical teaching but suddenly we find ourselves too busy with matters of everyday life? Possibly soon after our salvation, we were excited to share the good news of Jesus’ forgiveness. Possibly we poured over the Bible, eager to learn more; joy filled our heart. Now all that has somehow leaked out and we still go to church, but it’s not as life-giving as it once was. If this fits our situation, be encouraged because our Father always gives us another opportunity to return to loving Him with our whole being. When we determine to turn back to our first love for Christ, we’ll find more blessings than we can imagine.

Did I Miss My Burning Bush?

This morning at breakfast I noticed the tiny leaves on a pecan tree in our back yard. What a happy sight! The pecans don’t bud out until all danger of frost is over, signaling that spring has arrived. At lunch I turned slightly backwards and saw that our sweet gum tree also had tiny leaves, then I looked up to the top of this 30-foot tree, where larger though still small leaves appeared easily visible. I realized that as I’m watching what happens in the part of the yard where it’s easy for me to see, that I’m missing what’s happening a little behind my back as I sit at our table.

The thought occurred to me that if I were Moses on the back side of the desert tending sheep, and the upper leaves on the sweet gum were my burning bush, would I have missed it? Would I have been too busy looking the wrong direction to see it? Burning bushes come to all of us, but we must open our eyes to the whole horizon to see them. We can’t only look for them at church or when reading our Bible. We must keep our spirits sensitive to the Holy Spirit so that He will nudge us to look in the right direction, wherever our burning bush may be.