Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Christians Living in Persecution

Watchman Nee is a name I have seen in Christian literature for many years. After reading several of his quotes, I decided it was time I learned more about him. After all, everything I've read that was attributed to him, is amazingly accurate and insightful. I knew he was a church leader and Christian teacher who worked in China during the 20th century. I learned that during his lifetime he published many books and established churches throughout China and held many conferences to train Bible students and church workers. Following the Communist Revolution, Nee was persecuted and imprisoned for his faith. He spent the last twenty years of his life in prison - until his death in 1972.

When I read of the "Religious Affairs Bureau," I was curious about the title of such a government agency in a Communist country, and did a bit of research on it. This agency was charged with keeping religion under state control. After the rise of the Chinese Communist Party in 1949 Christians came under great persecution. There were intensive propaganda campaigns with threats of prison where Christians were influenced to accuse one another. In 1956, there was a nationwide effort to target church members. Some died in labor camps, and others faced long prison sentences. The Religious Affairs Bureau began twelve days of accusation meetings at a church Ne was sentenced to prison on several false claims, and his co-workers were arrested and forced to denounce Nee. Many mass accusation meetings were held across the country to condemn the "anti-revolutionary sect of Watchman Nee."

The lengths that Communist China underwent to quash Christianity is profoundly sad and frightening. It sure makes one appreciate living in the United States where we are allowed to practice freedom of religion doesn't it?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Notes on Ephesians

"The church in Ephesus was composted of different ethnic groups. Some were former Jews who tended to e critical, stodgy, and legalistic. Others left pagan Artemis worship to join the church. Their former lives smacked of occult worship, sexual promiscuity, and superstition. These two groups looked at life from totally different perspectives. But if they could not find a way to love one another and work together, the church at Ephesus could not stand. Paul writes encouraging works to help them, knowing that unity only comes through God's enabling power."

"About three years before Paul wrote this letter, he was arrested in Jerusalem on the charge that he had taken an Ephesian Gentile named Trophimus into the restricted temple area."

"A literal stone wall divided the temple in Jerusalem. It marked where Gentiles could not go, under penalty of death. The Jewish converts in the Ephesian church had continued to exclude Gentile converts out of habit, but God would not stand for it."

"When Paul says Christ 'set aside' or 'abolished' the law, he doesn't mean that the Old Testament is no longer the Word of god or a moral guide. What is abolished is the law as a set of regulations that exclude Gentiles. Other parts of the Old Testament law have been fulfilled by Christ, including the sacrificial system, which is no longer needed since Christ is the sacrifice for sins, once and for all."

"If the plight was estrangement and distance, the solution is nearness and belonging."
Klyne Snodgrass

Ephesians Discovering our Identity and Purpose in Christ. by Sue Edwards

Saturday, March 18, 2017

One of the Best Sermons!

This is without a doubt one of the best sermons I've heard. It offers practical help in an area in which we all need guidance. Charles Stanley offers such practical help in his sermons. He tells us not just WHAT to do, but offers practical instruction on HOW to do it.

These are the notes I took while watching this video. Perhaps they will be of some help.

There is awesome power in forgiveness. It is God's solution for bitterness, resentment, and hostility. You and I need the freedom found only through sincerely and completely forgiving others.

Forgiveness is giving up resentment against someone and our right to get even no matter what has been done to us. It is the surrendering of my right to hurt you back.

Freedom from the enslavement of anger and all the feelings that go with it: hostility, bitterness and resentment.

You can't just say you forgive, you have to experience it. If you try to justify someone's wrong to you, you are not forgiving them.

Matthew 6:12-15

Living in the willful sin is a condition in which God will not answer our prayer. If he did, he would be condoning sin. which is out of his character. Perhaps one reason people are not blessed is because of unforgiveness.

Unforgiveness is detrimental to our souls. It interferes with your fellowship with God. Not your relationship with him because once saved you are saved.

Matthew 18:21 Jesus instructs us to forgive 70 times 7. If you don't forgive others, the father won't forgive you.

There is no justifiable reason for not forgiving others.

Ephesians 4:30-32 1 John 1:9
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit. Be kind to one another, forgive.

Don't let anger become deep down hostility inside you. Forgiveness is the most unselfish act we can perform. God will enable us to forgive.

Unforgiveness is a chain around your heart.

To deal with anger:
  • acknowledge you have experienced God's forgiveness
  • confess your anger and hostility
  • lay down your anger and bitterness
  • ask God to forgive you

By an act of my will, I choose by the power of the Holy Spirit, to lay down this anger.

When you have held an attitude of resentment towards someone who hurt you, ask for their forgiveness by saying, "My attitude towards you has not been right."

If you have forgiven you will thank God for allowing this to happen Ask God to teach you about His grace. Remind yourself, God's grace has surrounded me all these years.

When you have forgiveness:
  1. you will not feel the same way the next time you see them
  2. your harsh feelings are replaced with compassion
  3. you can accept them the way they are
  4. you will consider why they did that

A Constant Attitude of Prayer

The following is an excerpt from Sue Edwards' book, Ephesians: Discovering Your Identity and Purpose in Christ. This attitude of including God in all aspects of our lives is what He wants. He wants to spend time with us and have us share our lives with him. He longs for this type of relationship with us, and when we do we experience profound Joy. When we develop this relationship with God, we learn to listen to him speaking to our hearts. The Holy Spirit gives us more guidance the more we include Him in our lives. We learn to listen to Him as we talk to Him about our daily activities and thoughts. In this intimate relationship we find a type of 'best friend' that goes far beyond our earthly best friends.

God asks us to live in a constant attitude of prayer. We include God in the inner conversations of our hearts and minds all day long. We include God as we carry out our daily routines, and we ring God into all our relationships.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Instructions for Living

These verses from 2 Thessalonians really stuck with me this past week. AS is often the case, once I read these instructions for living, they popped up again in my devotional and on Christian radio.
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from very believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, or did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.
Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.  2 Thessalonians 3:6-15
So, in a nutshell, these are directions given to the Thessalonian:
  • Do not be idle, earn the food you eat. “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
  • Be busy, but don't be busybodies
  • Do not associate with anyone who doesn't obey these instructions
  • Don't regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.
These instructions still apply to us. Living in the world is hard. We are bombarded daily with truths of the secular world. TV, radio, print media all add to the saturation of ideas that the world claims are "okay." We must be constantly aware of these lies that delight Satan. Reading the Bible, praying and having Godly friends are daily necessities for us as we navigate through this troubling world. From the book of Ephesians we learn the marvelous hope that God gives us. He will triumph in the end, this life is temporary and don't worry about world leaders. He's got it covered, God has our back.
The part about not hanging around people who don't obey these instructions may be, at times, difficult, but for the most part, the people who are our friends, who we choose to socialize are believers who try to live in the Word. However, we do see others in the store, at work and elsewhere in our daily lives. That's a good thing because it gives us the opportunity to be one of Christ's shinning lights, to be an example.

Now the part about warning them has me wondering. That could be tricky to balance with the whole not judging others thing. Maybe it can be a subtle thing with those closest to us? The politically correct movement has definitely hampered discussions. It's something worth pondering. The path Christians are instructed to follow really is very straight and narrow isn't it?

Our dear Sister in Christ, Page shared this with us this week:
"We can't make people respond to the Gospel, 
but we can invite them to hear it, 
serve them so they can see it, 
and pray for them to receive it."
Taken from a NewSpring devotional titled: Dear God, Save People In This Place

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Humble and KInd

This is such a wonderful song, the melody is lovely, and the lyrics are awesome! This is a song that SHOULD get "stuck in our heads!"
Written by Lori Mckenna  Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group

You know there's a lot that goes by the front door
Don't forget the keys under the mat
Childhood stars shine, always stay humble and kind
Go to church 'cause your momma says to
Visit grandpa every chance that you can
It won't be a waste of time
Always stay humble and kind
Hold the door say please say thank you
Don't steal, don't cheat, and don't lie
I know you got moutains to climb but
Always stay humble and kind
When the dreams you're dreamin' come to you
When the work you put in is realized
Let yourself feel the pride but
Always stay humble and kind
Don't expect a free ride from no one
Don't hold a grudge or a chip and here's why
Bitterness keeps you from flying
Always stay humble and kind
Know the difference between sleeping with someone
And sleeping with someone you love
I love you ain't no pick up line so
Always stay humble and kind
Hold the door say please say thank you
Don't steal, don't cheat, and don't lie
I know you got moutains to climb but
Always stay humble and kind
When those dreams you're dreamin' come to you
When the work you put in is realized
Let yourself feel the pride but
Always stay humble and kind
When it's hot, eat a root beer, a popsickle
Shut off the AC and roll the windows down
Let that summer sun shine
Always stay humble and kind
Don't take for granted the love this life gives you
When you get where you're goin'
Don't forget turn back around
Help the next one in line
Always stay humble and kind.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Idols and Bad Habits

Do you have difficulty overcoming some idol that competes with the time you spend with God? Or perhaps you are struggling to overcome procrastination, irresponsibility, bitterness, worry, jealousy etc. Just this week I have seen this topic come up on a blog and in one of Charles Stanley's sermons. Both people had the same basic answer for dealing with sins in your life and it is astonishingly simple. Look for Scriptures dealing with the sin you are struggling with. One source suggested writing the Scriptures down on index cards and go over them 2-3 times a day. Rev. Stanley suggests praying with the scriptures you find.

Here are the scriptures that I'm going to use in my quest for eating healthy and losing weight. 

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Galatians 5:16

Everything you say or do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19–20

Don’t you know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. Psalm 28:7

The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. Psalm 32:8

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. Romans 8:5

It trains us to renounce ungodly living and worldly passions so that we might live sensible, honest, and godly lives in the present age. Titus 2:1

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. Galatians 5:16

Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice–alive, holy, and pleasing to God–which is your reasonable service. Romans 12:1

For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having a promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. 1 Timothy 4

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Taking a Stand, or Causing Division?

Have you had about enough of politics for quite a while? Me too. Even though the election is over,
repercussions from our voting reverberate throughout America. There are always people who are unhappy, no matter what choices voters make. Lately our society is so divsive, angry and just plain mean. So much of what I hear on the news reminds me of the playground antics of the elementary school children I taught. Apparently, many adults never learned the lessons of proper behavior when disagreements arise.

I just read the best article on Crosswalks.  In it Veronica Nef points out that “There’s a Difference Between Taking a Stand and ‘Causing Division’. She sure hit the nail on the head with that statement didn't she?

 I urge you to read this well written and thoughly thought provoking article:

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Mind of Christ and Guidance of the Holy Spirit

I find that lately I need a refresher, a reminder of the work the Holy Spirit does within me and that I have the mind of Christ. I found what I needed in 1 Corinthians 2:6-16.
In verse 16, Paul makes a statement concerning all believers: “We have the mind of Christ.” Having the mind of Christ means sharing the plan, purpose, and perspective of Christ, and it is something that all believers possess. What a comfort it is to know that God is sharing part of himself with me, that his indwelling allows me this look into his mind.

Verses 10-12, tell us that the mind of Christ is given to all believers through the Holy Spirit. “These are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.” Having the mind of Christ means we understand God’s plan in the world. It means we identify with Christ’s purpose and that we share Jesus’ perspective of humility and obedience compassion, and prayerful dependence on God. This is what we are to go about doing in our daily lives. We do it not to be saved or to earn better esteem from God, we do it because we have the mind of Christ, because of our great love for Him.

Verses 5-6 tell us that our faith must not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. That gives me great relief, because I sure don’t want to rely on my measly wisdom!
Verses 14-15 tell us that the mind of Christ cannot be understood by those without the Spirit and that it gives believers discernment in spiritual matters. Even in the midst of troubles I have this discernment, I just need to remember to call upon it, to ask for guidance and be patient with God as he works to give me answers.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2
As believers we have a responsibility to follow to the Spirit’s leading and to allow the Spirit to transform and renew our minds. So having the mind of Christ is not a once and down type of thing. He doesn’t just pour it on us the moment we accept Christ. We continually develop the mind of Christ, and work to gain more understanding and wisdom.

When I need refreshing, a reminder, of the Holy Spirit’s work within me, I will remind myself that the Holy Spirit indwells and enlightens believers, infusing them with wisdom—the mind of Christ.

“Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ."

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Biblical Optimism

Everyone likes to be around optimistic people. Several studies have shown that optimistic people are more healthy too. According to Harvard Health, "Optimism helps people cope with disease and recover from surgery. Even more impressive is the impact of a positive outlook on overall health and longevity."  Scripture reinforces optimisim, being optimistic is part of the faith and trust we have in God.  On the contrary, negative attitudes are contagious, and they spread like wildfire. Negativity it's just one of the many things that keep us from the straight and narrow path.

Biblical Optimism is the result of faith in the character of God. The Bible class this "hope."
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

When we hope in God, we put our trust in his plan above what our life circumstances tell us. What ever happens in our life, we know that God cares and he will wipe away our tears when we are with him forever. 
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Revelation 21:4.

This blind faith, or confidence in God's promises should give us an optimistic attitude. If we have Biblical Optimism, we don't place so much emphasis on earthly events and material possessions. This optimism enables us to accept difficult circumstances because:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

This spiritual hope looks beyond what we can understand, to trust God's view of life from His perspective even when our limited capabilities won't allow us to understand it. God designed us with hope.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. 
Psalm 43:5

Biblical Optimism is a choice when we choose to trust God for everything and know that he will take care of us in the way He knows best.
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

I choose to be optimistic, I pray to be filled with Biblical Optimism each day.

Friday, January 20, 2017

"For many in our nation, this season of change brings much hope.
For many others, it brings fear and uncertainty.
Wherever you may be on that spectrum, we can be reminded of this from God’s word: He calls us to pray for our leaders. He reminds us that He alone has the power to change the heart of a leader, to guide them in His ways. He reminds us to honor all those in authority. He reminds us that He is our true stability. His encouragement continues through all generations - No matter who is President, Christ is still King. Always and forever, He reigns supreme. "

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

It's Pretty on the Inside That Counts

Our society is totally obsessed with being physically beautiful! Our society places a high degree of importance on physical appearance, and it is apparent on television, movies, magazines and billboards as they all display attractive people. Men and women rush to plastic surgeons to have a myriad of procedures done simply to enhance their appearance. Sadly, so many women are caught up in our society’s obsession with physical beauty.

Should beauty really be that important for a woman? Is physical beauty something that a Christian woman should strive for? Jesus taught us that there is more to beauty than what meets the eye.. As we age and our physical appearance deteriorates, we tend to worry about it. Satan is very happy about this. He is surely involved in and revels in the importance our society places on physical beauty, because it is not Godly.

There are several passages of scripture that address inner and outer beauty. Here are a couple that point us in the right direction:
“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.” 1 Peter 3:3–5

“Adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.” 1 Timothy 2: 9–10

The world focuses on what people look like on the outside. God focuses on what people look like on the inside. Do you put more time and effort into being pretty on the outside or the inside?

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Yesterday I listened to the bext sermon by Charles Stanley called "Taking Control of Your Thoughts." It fits so well with our current study, I just had to share it with you.