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I live in San Diego County and enjoy picking roses and strawberries in January. My husband and I love to travel and have visited many countries. We have five grown children and two grandsons. I've been active in many Bible study programs, 16 years with Bible Study Fellowship, and have taught in my community, including our local jail, for the past twelve years. I've had the honor of going to Uganda, Africa to teach in a Rafiki Girls Center and wrote a book from my journal,'How is the Day?' After over 40 years of studying the Bible, which I firmly believe to be God's Word, I continue to be captivated by its eloquence and wisdom. It never ceases to thrill me. Some may call me an activist. That may be true, as I actively ponder and pursue Biblical truth. I think in terms of what the Bible says,and resist being involved with humanistic theology and various church doctrines. God's Word is pure. I love to write, so blogs are a perfect place to deposit what God has been teaching me. I'm mostly interested in guiding people to the truth of grace and sovereignty which brings peace and joy to our life. In order to live life with passion, you need to have a passion. Mine is the Bible!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

TRAUMA, DRAMA, THEN PEACE

 
 
 
 
 

I've been distracted lately. My husband has had a lot of health issues resulting in trauma and drama to deal with. The blog I'd started working on before the onset of these problems didn't seem appropriate. I've changed course as I believe a blog based on the Bible should reflect our present life; what befalls us, and how the Lord can help us through the real stuff. I recently read these words. . .




"One cannot transcend trauma. Trauma is trapped and clings to that which happened. We live not after trauma but in its aftermath."       
Carolyn Forche'

        I think this is an interesting statement; one that takes some thought to analyze. From time to time we all experience some type of trauma and the drama that arises from it. We need to know how to handle it, and we need to know how to live in its aftermath. Fear and worry should not be a part of a Christian's experience, but it often is if we haven't been exposed to good Biblical teaching.
        Spiritual truth isn't the same as other truth. It will always be true that 2 + 2 = 4, but there will be times that our faith is real and alive in us, and times when we feel God has withdrawn it and then we walk as the world does - full of worry and so afraid that something we judge as bad will come to us. Know that we are totally in His will at all times, Ephesians 1:1l. I have days that I know "all things work together for good" and days that my faith is not apparent, even to me! It's a great comfort to know that when my faith isn't evident, it's still there. I've been spiritually born into Jesus Christ and He will never disown Himself. Galatians 2:20 says that "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. ..The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

"If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself."  II Timothy 2:13

        When we write a blog or publish a book, we have no idea how the Lord will use it in others' lives. One day a young man I didn't know very well told me that he'd read my book, 'Blogging God's Word', and the verse that was most meaningful to him was II Timothy 2:13. He said when he got to a low point in his spiritual life and was struggling with faith to believe that the Lord was still with him and would sustain him, this verse settled in his heart and gave him peace. This is what we want - God's word to settle in our heart so we can transcend everything that comes our way.
        I know that God is in charge of the 'what and when' of life. There are no 'what ifs' in His playbook. He's mapped out a plan for each of us. This is an eternal plan. We don't know what tomorrow will bring; life can change moment by moment. But when we come to understand that nothing can happen to us that is out of God's control, we can walk in peace. There are no regrets to live with, no 'what ifs'. Just peace.
         My husband and two of our sons are watching the San Diego Charger football game this Sunday afternoon. Our team is playing the Super Bowl Champions so it'd be very nice to win this game. And for the moment, there is no thought of what will happen next week, or even an hour from now. There will no doubt be more trauma and drama, but God will sustain us with His peace that surpasses our understanding.

"And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:7

        There can be no peace if we believe that we are subject to the errors of this world. Satan is alive and well but Jesus has already crushed him. This was first prophesied way back in Genesis 3:15 and was fulfilled at the cross when Jesus died and then rose again - He beat death. And so have we who know Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We will live eternally with Him. That's God's plan and He won't change it and no one can steal it from us. . .no one, not ever.
        This knowledge and the peace it brings is what I pray for all who read these words. I pray for you come to know the living Lord.
        My husband will be having a heart procedure on Tuesday, 9/16 called 'ablation' to correct the erratic behavior that threatens his life. He has one of the best doctors in the country. Our faith is not in Dr. Higgins, but in God, who has given great skill to this doctor.

Thank you Lord that peace is in you alone. The world can't give it, we can't buy it, or get it in any other way except through you and your love for us. I pray that I don't ever question your will.






Tuesday, August 19, 2014

WHAT WERE YOU CREATED TO DO?

"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." 
Ephesians 2:10

We all wonder, don't we? Who we are, what is our purpose, and who's in charge? I think the above verse answers these questions.

1 - We are God's workmanship - a child of God, He made us
2 - We were created in Jesus to do good works - our purpose
3 - God prepared our works in advance - He's in charge

        This is just the beginning of the story of our relationship with the Father. I love tales of God's sovereignty. I'm in awe how all the pieces of our life begin to fit together perfectly, in ways we'd never have planned. Often, the only thing God expects of us is to "Be still and know that I am God..." Psalm 46:10. That may be a lot harder than you think. Our natural tendency is to 'do' something.

        In the early 1970's a book by David Wilkerson, The Cross and the Switchblade, was written about the life of Nicky Cruz. He was a Puerto Rican involved in gangs, drugs and alcohol in New York City. He came to believe in Christ and not only did his life change completely, he started a ministry to the street kids and their lives changed. This was a very popular book read by thousands. I was one who read it. God planted seeds and gave me a small glimpse of what He had in mind for me.

        In the mid-1970's my husband was transferred from the LA area to Raleigh, NC. I had started a Bible Study Fellowship class a couple of years prior to our move. After our family was settled, I joined the BSF class in Raleigh. We were doing a study in the book of John. I was very impressed by the young woman teaching the study. She was very knowledgeable concerning the Scripture. Her name was Ann Lotz. After a couple of weeks I remarked to someone that Ann was an excellent teacher. "She's Billy Graham's daughter you know" was the response. No, I didn't know that!

        There were over four hundred of us in this class. We broke into small groups to share the lesson. I found myself sitting next to Gloria Cruz, the wife of Nicky who  had lived the story of the book. One day she begin to talk about the ministry she had at the Woman's Prison in Raleigh. I heard her words and took notice. Slowly but surely the Lord began to work with me and one day, I could almost hear Him audibly tell me, "I want you to work with inmates, this is what you will do." Really? Okay Lord, show me where, when and how to do this; I'm willing. We always feel like we have a choice, that we need to be 'willing'. But the Lord likes to keep us humble. We're not to take the bow and steal His Glory. One day you come to realize that your "work" has been assigned since the creation of the world - yup, carved in indestructible stone! King David understood this. In Psalm 139:16 he wrote of the Lord. . .

"All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

        Twenty years went by, nothing happened. Once we moved from Raleigh, we never lived near a jail or prison, no one told me about a ministry I could become involved in, nothing. I began to think that I had imagined God speaking to me about having a ministry for inmates. Then one day, shortly after moving to the San Diego area, I was driving down a highway with a new neighbor.

        "What is that big structure being built?" I asked.
        "Oh, don't you know? That's a new jail facility."

I was so excited! A jail close to my home. I found out it wasn't going to be that easy to get my foot in the door, and several more years passed by. Finally, March 2001, I went in to teach my first  Bible Study for women inmates. Nearly twenty years had passed since I'd sat in the class next to Gloria Cruz listening to her share about her ministry to female inmates. Twenty years! There really hadn't been anything I could have done to 'hurry' the process. God had a time and a place that He'd pre-determined. He's in charge.

        In October 2013, I was asked to teach a class in creative writing for a new program at the jail. This was to be a pilot program in collaboration with the Veterans Administration called Veterans Moving Forward. A module would be filled with thirty- two selected veterans from all branches of service; they'd be given special privileges. Volunteers would come to teach classes in writing, finances, stress management and career planning. Their substance abuse problems would be addressed and talents explored, like music and art.

        This sounded like a great program, but I don't consider myself a writing teacher. I'm a Bible teacher. However, I felt that familiar nudge, and showed up the first Monday of November. I consider myself a facilitator, not a teacher. For the past nine months, I've watched these men bond with one another, write their stories and share them with each other. This took a while, it was a process, but now stories pour from them, they encourage each other, delight in other's experiences, and applaud one another. My idea was to help get the program started, build a team, and then escape into Bible study for those veterans who are interested. The 'team' hasn't appeared! The Lord sent us 'Randy', who has been a great help. He's a good teacher, compassionate and so willing to help these men. I'm still working on adding a couple more dependable people. In the meantime, these  thirty-two great guys have given me much joy in getting to know them. I pray for their success, and I feel God's hand on this special group.

". . .for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."   Philippians 2:13.

        I believe we should always be on the alert for that special 'work' God has planned for us. Sometimes it might be something we never thought we'd be doing, but do it we will, because God has ordained it to be a part of our life. I feel especially blessed to be able to take an active role in a program that benefits our veterans by promoting an environment of responsibility and accountability. Those who have been chosen to participate, are expected to demonstrate positive actions and work proactively toward their own success. So many in the program are men of faith and understand the value of having Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. They understand the truth of Philippians 4:13...

"I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

Thank you Lord for these men you've given me to encourage. I may only see them once a week, but you bring them to mind daily. I see their faces, and I pray they find Your strength to help them overcome difficult circumstances. Thank you for designing the perfect work for each of your children.














       

Saturday, August 2, 2014

HOLD ON TO WHAT IS TRUE

This is a very unusual summer day for Southern California. It's warm, humid and raining. We so terribly need the rain and are very grateful. My little bird friends seem to be hiding today. No hummingbirds buzzing around the feeders. I'm sure the weather analysts will go on forever as to what has caused our rainy day. They make everything so complicated. God knew we needed rain and He sent us what we needed. I really do think it's that simple.

        As time allows, I continue to edit past blogs for another book. Most days time doesn't allow for much editing. I can be upset or frustrated, or I can realize the truth - the next book will be done in God's perfect time. It won't be late, certainly not early and if that's not so, I've been holding on to a false truth.

        I enjoy editing because I read what God has written through my hand and re-learn from His truth. This is the first time in nearly 150 blogs that I have re-posted an old blog. It was written in November of 2011. Spiritual truth doesn't lose its impact, doesn't get old or stale; it remains fresh and encouraging.


HOLD ON TO WHAT IS TRUE
 

We were living in Los Angeles. I was six or seven years old. One day in early December my mother and I took the bus downtown. We were going to do some Christmas shopping at a large department store. It must have been chilly that day because my mother put on her green wool winter coat. We had moved from Chicago to LA when I was five years old. She was grateful that we no longer had to contend with the Chicago’s cold and snow. 

When we arrived at the store, we waited for an elevator along with a crowd of people all anxious to begin their holiday shopping. When the elevator door opened I was pushed and shoved; a small child in the midst of a sea of adults. My mother lost my hand, but I kept my focus on the green coat and followed her into the elevator. It was warm and stuffy, a faint aroma of perfume hung in the air. I held on to the soft wool green coat. When the elevator stopped and everyone poured out, I looked up and saw the woman whose coat I’d been clutching was not my mother! I was terrified, lost in a huge department store without any idea where she was.

My point is this…I followed the wrong person and got lost. I’m much more interested in being true to God’s Word than in being politically correct. We live in an all-inclusive religious tolerance way of thinking today. You will often hear someone say, “There are many roads that lead to God”, or “All paths will lead to heaven.” The Bible says very clearly that there is only one way to have a relationship with God and that is through Jesus Christ.

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Narrow-minded? Yes, for sure, but this is God’s plan. Who are we to say that we have a better one? Don’t follow the wrong person or the wrong group and get lost. Eternity is forever and it’s important to know that you are holding on to the right One.

If you stand up for Biblical truth, trust me – someone will ridicule you, make you feel guilty or even cause you to examine your belief. This is actually a good thing. We need to examine what we believe and why we believe it. I’ve discovered if you show any inkling of having Biblical knowledge, and especially if you write a blog on God’s Word and have written books applying Scripture to real life situations, you will be plied with questions. The questions are usually stated in this way…


WHAT DO YOU THINK?

HOW DO YOU FEEL?

DO YOU BELIEVE?

It doesn’t matter what I think, feel or believe. What matters is the source of information that confirms the Christian faith. The source is God’s Word in the form of the Bible. So a good way to ask a question would be…

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT…?

OR, CAN YOU DIRECT ME TO A BIBLE PASSAGE THAT WILL GIVE INFORMATION ON…?

We may opine on many things, but giving an opinion of a Biblical passage is not like giving an opinion about a book, movie or restaurant. Keep in mind that you can pull a verse out of context and completely distort its intent. Scripture explains Scripture and passages of Scripture are validated by supporting verses. Be careful who you follow, or you will get lost! Be sure you are following the right path. Don’t hold onto a myth or humanistic philosophy.

“A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions” Proverbs 18:2

 King Solomon wrote this and he was a very wise man. If you read the Proverbs, you’ll find Solomon has a lot to say about wisdom and opinions. I think many of us have listened to a lot of people who love to air their opinions. We, who believe, know that the Bible is not for gaining knowledge alone, but to change our life; giving us peace and hope in every circumstance and dilemma we experience.

 Be aware that the Lord loves His children and doesn’t want negative emotions to interfere with our joy in life and our love for Him. When we’re having a hard time, maybe we need to change our focus and stop looking at ourselves, our problems, or potential problems. Hold on to the Heavenly Father and visualize His Kingdom. Concentrate on the one who loves you and has a perfect plan and purpose for all that happens, Ephesians 1:11.

 Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness.” Psalm 89: 15 – 16.

 Thank you Lord that we can always look to you for peace and calm in our lives and be fully assured that YOU Lord will keep us from falling and present us before His glorious presence, without fault and with great joy! Jude 24

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

ANSWERING YOUR QUESTIONS

I should try to answer questions more often. I don't seem to have the time to both blog on new topics and answer questions that come up. I wish I did, because my readers ask valid questions that others are probably interested in also. I'll try and do better with this.

        "I became a Christian three years ago. Why do bad things still happen to me? My life is a mess, why?

For one thing, we live in a fallen, messy world. The Bible doesn't tell us that life will be perfect if we are a believer. The truth is, "God didn't come to fix your life, He came to forgive your sins." This is a quote from a message I heard recently. Let this truth sink in. Jesus Christ came to redeem a lost people - that's us. "There are none righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God." Romans 3:10. 
        We can never be righteous in God's eyes by trying to keep the Ten Commandments perfectly. This is not possible. He gave us the 'law' so we would "become conscious of sin" and know we needed a Savior, Romans 3:20. We have a righteousness apart from the law "through faith in Jesus Christ", Romans 3:21.
        God is focused on what is spiritual and eternal. We focus on this world and what is material. I recently saw this statement on a marque, "The best proof of love is trust." There will be no peace if you are judging God's plan. If you love the Lord, you will trust Him, if you trust Him, you will experience peace even though your life is far from perfect. The Lord most certainly is interested in every detail of your life; He's even counted the hairs on your head, Matthew 10:30. However, He didn't come to fix your life according to your plan; He came to remove your sin so you can be righteous  before God - Jude 24.
        God is interested in the long-term. He's not growing us like mushrooms that spring up and then soon rot in the ground. God is growing us into oak trees - strong, sturdy, stable and able to withstand adversity. It takes a long time to grow an oak tree, be patient. Have you ever watched a tree grow? It appears that nothing is happening, but in God's time, you discover a lovely tree, and you realize that God has been working all this time that you've been fretting and anxious. If you are 'in Christ' the Holy Spirit dwells in you and you are eternally His.

        My sister is gay. She says she's a believer in Jesus and will go to heaven. I'm not so sure. Doesn't the Bible say homosexuality is sinful?

Let me ask this. . .if you know a believer who admits he stole something one time, would you be worried about him going to heaven?  Probably not. If he's a believer, his sins are forgiven. Isn't that why Jesus died on the cross? Of course it is, no problem. Then why would you not believe that your sister isn't forgiven? Sin is sin. The Bible lists homosexuals right along with the greedy and swindlers, I Corinthians 6:9 - 10. There are none righteous, we all need Jesus.
        Keep in mind that God is sovereign - that means He's in control of what happens. Sovereignty is the most pervasive doctrine in the Bible. This being true - if God didn't plan for there to be homosexuals among us, there wouldn't be any. Neither would there be thieves, liars or drunks. I don't completely understand this, but this is what the Bible says and I trust God's word.
        It's never pleasant to be 'different'. I think we innately desire to be like others. I'm grateful that I'm not blind or deaf, or homosexual. I did not experience making a conscious choice concerning my sexual orientation, nor a choice as to whether I can see or hear. I am who I am. Historically, there have always been gays among us. We can find no documentation however that there have been cultures who have sanctioned 'same sex' unions, as in a marriage. We do find a lot of evidence of bigamy, the Scriptures are a source, men having multiple wives.
        I believe problems with homosexuality arise because of a small percentage of gays who are almost militant and in-your-face concerning their sexuality. All through history there have been people who had no desire for the opposite sex and preferred their own. They accepted who they were and others probably did also.  Now, some insist on not only 'equal rights' but special rights. The behavior of the few makes it difficult for the many. I don't believe that we have a choice as to our sexual orientation, but we do have a choice concerning our behavior.
        Sin is sin. The wages of sin is death - hell is eternal death, heaven is eternal life, Romans 6:23. When we become a believer, the Holy Spirit in us moves us away from sin, not according to our plan and time schedule, but God's. Again, we need to trust Him. There is only one 'unforgiveable sin', and this is the sin of unbelief. Romans 4:21 tells us that God has the power to do what He has promised.
        We are not called to judge one another, we are called to love one another. . ."My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.", John 15:17. Will the Lord reject a woman who has had an abortion because 'Thou shall not murder'. No, not if she comes to Him - He is faithful to forgive.

"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." I John 1: 8 - 9

        Given this truth, if you are one of those who consider homosexuals as having committed a sin which cannot be forgiven, think again. Your sin, in God's eyes, is just the same and we are all in this together. . .without our Savior, Jesus Christ, we are in big trouble! Paul said, "When they measure themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. II Corinthians 10:12. When we fix our eyes on Jesus who is the author of our faith, Hebrews 12:2, life is infinitely better.

Lord, help us to keep focused on You and Your promise to redeem the lost sheep out of this world and into Your Kingdom. Please shed Your love in our hearts so we can love each other.

       




       

Sunday, June 22, 2014

FATHERS - A GIFT OR A CURSE









 

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”  Proverbs 1:7

Father’s Day was celebrated recently. My father died many years ago; I miss him.  This is a photo of us celebrating a new century, 2000. I had a great father, and he had a great father. My dad and grandpa were loving, kind, protective and firm – all things that contribute to a child’s sense of security and well-being. Best of all, they loved and respected their wives, mother of their children. Present statistics show that in the United States, more than one half of all children are missing a father in their home. The fall-out has been tremendous and the impact on individual lives horrendous. Ninety percent of men and women who are in our jails and prisons have grown up without a father in the home.
         If you are a young woman dating a man who may someday be your husband, ask yourself – ‘Will this man be a good father?’  Will this man put a child’s needs before his own? Is he mature enough to care and provide for a child, or is he still a child himself?  It absolutely amazes me how casually women make babies with men who are not fit to be a father. And, they usually know that and do it anyway. The baby they bring into the world suffers, sometimes terribly.

         A stable, loving relationship between a mother and father is one of the most important things we provide for our children. Children sense when things aren’t ‘right’ between mom and dad. They become insecure and fearful. We were with a group of people from our church one day. One of the men shared something his youngest daughter said to him the day before her wedding. He asked her if she needed anything from him. She looked her dad in the eye and said, “Yes, love my mother.”  This man did many ‘good’ things. He went on missions, shared the gospel anywhere and everywhere, was involved in a jail ministry – just generally lived his life for the Lord. But the one thing his daughter saw missing was a love and respect for her mother. That’s all she wanted from her dad; to love her mother.

When you marry, you need to grow up fast or you’ll have problems, many problems. You can no longer look at life as a self-centered child. You might say a transformation must take place. You transform from a self-focused, selfish young person to an adult who willingly takes responsibility. It can be difficult putting other’s needs first.  Instead of give and take, it often feels like give and give. Human babies are so very helpless. They would die quickly if someone didn’t care for their every need. The Lord has planned it this way so we have the joy of nurturing our baby and in this way become bonded, cemented in love. When we had a houseful of teenagers, I often thought I couldn’t have dealt with that time of their life if I hadn’t cared for them as babies and small children needing me to keep them safe, healthy and alive.
         I know 'parent love' doesn’t come naturally for all people. That puzzles me, but it’s true. Self-focused people have a difficult time parenting. Only the Lord can ‘transform’ us into who He wants us to be. We are HIS children – He knows all about this ‘daddy’ stuff. In Romans 8: 15 – 16. . .      
“. . .you received the spirit of sonship. And by him we cry “Abba Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”

We need to go to the Lord and ask for help with parenting as with anything that is too hard for us to do on our own. Fathers discipline their children. They have an obligation to do that, not harshly, but justly. Hebrews, chapter 12, has some interesting information on ‘discipline’. I hope my kids remember me reading these words to encourage them. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those trained by it.  Hebrews 12:11
        Recently we heard a pastor speak about the fact that Jesus, God in the flesh, was in need of an earthly father. God choose a virgin to conceive His son; He also chose a hands-on father. Joseph endured much because of this, but God gave him the wisdom and grace to follow the plan He had set in place. Jesus learned his trade as a carpenter from his father. He had siblings. As best we know, there were five boys and two girls in his family. Most of all, this man Joseph willingly chose to live out God’s plan honorably, forsaking his own desires. We don’t have the  words of Joseph recorded in the Bible, but his righteous actions tell his story.

All God asks of us is to “Train a child in the way he should go…”  He doesn’t hold us responsible when a child fails to honor a righteous life. But notice there is a promise given with this command…and when he is old he will not turn away from it.” Proverbs 22:6  We can trust God’s promises when we seek His wisdom. Most of us will not be here at the end of our children’s lives to witness the result of our ‘training’, so we need to have the faith that God will do as He has promised.
Fathers – be a gift to your child, not a curse. Grow up, man up! Love and respect your wives. When this is hard to do, ask your heavenly Father to help. You are so very important. Women, don’t get involved with immature men. Your life and the life of the children you bring into the world will suffer. The fact that half of all the children don’t have a father in the home is because of poor choices women have made. For children who’ve had a terrible father, or no father at all, remember you have access to your Father in heaven. He will guide and comfort you through His Word. Learn to love the Bible; your life will be more peaceful and satisfying.
Becoming a parent doesn’t make you ‘able’ to be who you want to be. We are all sinful and flawed in many ways. We are weak and falter – so we go to God and ask for help.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory…” Ephesians 3:20
I believe this verse is one of the most profound in the Bible. Think about what it tells us –
·      God is able

·      God can do more than we ask or can imagine

·      God’s power is at work within us

·      God gets the glory

Lord, we thank  you for Your Book of Wisdom, for your grace in taking the form of a Heavenly Father as an example to help us through one of the most important and difficult parts of life; being a parent.

        

Thursday, June 12, 2014

BELIEVING: FROM A MALE POINT OF VIEW

 
 
 

This is a photo of my husband Van with our little dog, Rudy. I've been busy editing a manuscript for a book so Van offered to be a 'guest blogger'. Men have a different way of communicating. I think the male readers, as well as the women, will enjoy his comments on the subject of 'Believing'.







 
With this blog I hope to cover the Biblical subject of ‘believing’ since we are  admonished over and over in the Bible to ‘believe’.  Some key questions’ are:  WHAT is it a believer believes?  WHAT happens to cause a believer to believe?  WHO are the believers?  We want to understand this important topic, for without believing there can be neither forgiveness nor salvation.  God has forgiven and forgotten our sins as shown in Hebrews 8:12.  The promise of salvation and eternal life with Jesus is clearly given in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life.”

Believing is so important that the Book of John was written “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”  John 20:31.  I Corinthians 15:1-5 presents the gospel quite concisely.  Jesus died for our sins, was buried, was resurrected, walked the earth for forty days, and was seen by over 500 people, then ascended into heaven.   He was crucified to set us free from sin and death.  That is what we are to believe.  The result is we are saved from our sins and given salvation and eternal life in heaven.   This is a finished work; it has already happened.  Romans 8:30  
        Can we choose to believe?  NO!  We are dead in our transgressions and sins. (Ephesians 2:1)  Dead men can do nothing!  How can we believe if we are spiritually dead?  We can’t!  First we need to be ‘made alive’.  Some reason that, “We believe and then we are given faith”.  They’ve got the cart before the horse.  Since we are ‘dead’, spiritually speaking, something must happen prior to our believing.  We need to be given the faith to believe.
        Some make the assumption that our achievements, or works, can help us win favor with God. No, like choosing, works require a spiritually dead man to do ‘something’.  The belief of many professing Christians is that good works will earn them a place in heaven. This appears to be reasonable, but it’s not Biblical.    
        Two age old views exist that suggest ways to achieve salvation: works and grace. Some say it’s a little of both. The Bible is clear that salvation is by grace alone, not works.

Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” 
 
Salvation happens when God gives His free gift of faith. What a gift!   Incomparable! This gift is given by grace, not through our choice, and not through our works. There is no room for both grace and works as explained by Paul in Romans 11:6, it’s one or the other.
James wrote, ‘Faith without works is dead.’ (James 2:17)  Implied in this truth is that faith comes first, then the works. What ‘work’ do we do?   It is a singular ‘work’; it is the ‘work’ of believing. Some think that when on balance their ‘good’ deeds outweigh their ‘bad’ deeds, they will make it to heaven.  There are fundamental problems with ‘works’ counting toward salvation.   How much is enough?   How do you know for sure you’ve passed the test? Whose criteria for ‘good’ are you using?  How is it measured? These are serious questions, the answers to which are fraught with problems.
When we are given a new heart we become alive in Christ. We are dead spiritually until then.  Ezekiel 36:26-27 tells us what God does.  “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you…I will put My Spirit in you…” This is called the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  In Luke 3:16, John the Baptist writes, “I will baptize you with water.  But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.   He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” 

We aren’t aware of our spiritual life until ‘something happens’.  God has a time in His plan when He will bring you into the kingdom. It is as if He turns on a ‘faith switch’.  At that time, we are quickened,  we are sparked to life, we are born again - whatever terminology you select, the result is the same, we are now able to discern Spiritual truth.  It is those God quickens who will believe.  Jesus speaks these words in John 3:7, “...you MUST be born again.”  When we’re born again we go from being spiritually dead to spiritually alive.  God has given you the faith to believe.   It's the most important day of your life; knowing absolutely you will spend eternity with Jesus.  No longer will we just think we will go to heaven, or ‘I hope so, on balance I’ve been pretty good’.  Now we know.  Some of us know the exact moment this happened, others are only vaguely aware that ‘something’ has happened.
I had heard the gospel many times, but I just didn’t pick up on it.  My belief, and fear, was that Jesus had turned His back on me. I knew I wasn't perfect. Then it was explained to me that Jesus didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners (Matthew 9:13).  I soon found myself on my knees at the altar of the Little Church in the Pines in Bass Lake, CA, accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Savior.  This was July 25th, 1972.  I had been given the faith to believe and life has never been the same.
First the faith, then the believing.  Without faith we can neither see, hear, or believe spiritual truths.  We get our faith from Jesus.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”    Hebrews 12:2
Faith is defined in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:6 tells us “without faith it is impossible to please God.” It does NOT say “without believing it is impossible to please God!”  Jesus wants us to walk by faith, not by sight.  The object of our faith is pleasing God.  ‘Believing’ is doing the work of God.
“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:29
Can’t we just call on him, ‘LORD, LORD’ and be saved?  NO!  Matthew 7:21,  Jesus speaking: “Not everyone who says to me ‘LORD, LORD’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my father who is in heaven.”   His will is for us to look to His Son and believe, John 6:40.   Those who will be saved are those whose names are written in the Book of Life.   Revelation 21:27, “Nothing impure will ever enter it (heaven), nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” This is the divine ledger, God’s list of those destined for eternal life. God sees the believer as ‘perfect’ in His Son. Jesus has removed all that isn’t perfect. This is why we praise Him.
Share the gospel.  It’s a simple message - Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection provides forgiveness of sins and salvation so we can have eternal life with Him.  We may freely love those who don’t believe, knowing the Lord is the One who opens eyes and hearts.  It’s His business.  Luke 24:45, “Then He opened their minds so they could understand the scripture.”
Why did He do it this way?   Who knows, but He did, for His own good pleasure. “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and compassion on whom I will have compassion.” (Romans 9:15 and Exodus 33:19)  If this all seems beyond our ability to grasp, be reminded of Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.   “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  
Thank you Father for sending Your Son so we can believe in Him and what He has done for us.  Please give us wisdom to understand the important concept of believing and that it’s Your desire to give us the faith to believe.






Thursday, May 29, 2014

PRAYER - YOU'VE GOT TO ASK

"We do not know what to pray for. . .but the (Holy) Spirit intercedes for the saints (believers) in accordance with God's will."  Romans 8: 26-27

Prayer. This subject always evokes deep thought, gives rise to many questions and causes us to search for what is true. We think of prayer as asking for something. I never consider this subject without remembering an incident that happened years ago when my children were very young.

        I was so fortunate to have my parents and grandparents live  close to me for many years. My mother would stop by often and take one of my boys to the store with her. This was a way she could spend a little quality time with her grandchild. She never took more than one child at a time. The older one, Steve, would seldom ask for anything. He was happy being with grandma and going to the Market Basket in Whittier. The younger one, Gerry, always asked for something. He'd come home with a box of Popsicles, a coloring book, new crayons - something. One day my mother came  to take Steve with her to the store. When they got back Gerry ran to the door and immediately asked, "What did you get?" Steve shrugged his shoulders and said, "Nothing". Gerry was amazed, maybe a little angry. He shouted, "Steve, you've got to ask!" At three years old, he seemed to understand that if you don't ask for something, you don't get anything. Jesus told His disciples pretty much the same thing in John 16:24 -

"Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." John 16:24

        There are things we truly desire to understand, but are hard to grasp. But when we do, we can announce, "Now I understand!" Prayer is like that.
        How do we find truth? I believe our natural tendency is to roll up our sleeves and get to work. We search and re-search, finally coming up with an answer that we can live with. A better approach to chase down a spiritual truth might be to simply ask God to direct us. We do that with prayer. We are asking for direction, and we are also praising God.
        It's very good for us to look around  everyday and acknowledge His provision. Do you have a family to love? Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have food to eat? We all can find something in our lives that we are grateful for. You will be blessed when you praise God for His goodness in prayer.
        We bring our concerns to the Lord, and then we wait. This is the hard part. But in God's time, and in His way, truth and direction will come. He may draw you to Bible passages you've never seen before and open your mind and heart to a new understanding. Often the Lord paints a picture of truth for us using daily experiences. It's like He's saying, "See, this is what happens when you trust me", or "Can you see now that the pieces of your life are fitting together and My plan is good?" Maybe God will point out that we often want what is not ultimately good for us and He has a better way. Jesus, who has all the attributes of God and is God, tells us . . .

"Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. . .learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."  Matthew 11:28

        Rest for our soul. Don't we all want that? I recently had an e-mail conversation with someone who has been diagnosed with metastasized cancer; she's frightened. I shared Psalm 16:8.

"I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken."

My friend replied "I defy you not to be upset with this diagnosis." I do not take her pain and fear lightly. Fighting cancer is like being at war; the struggle is all consuming and the end result may very well be that life on earth will end. Even so, those who've been given the faith to believe can have rest for their soul and this is what defies explanation - not fear, but faith in the One who has promised eternal life.
        How many times do we pray to have something 'fixed' in our life only to discover God isn't going to change anything? He has a plan, you might call it a blueprint for our life prepared for us "before the creation of the world" - Ephesians 1:4. David wrote "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." - Psalm 139:16
        Let me again point out, God is sovereign. The sooner you learn that truth, the sooner your soul will be at rest.
        We wonder sometime, why pray? Over and over in Scripture the believer is told to pray. This is how we communicate with the Lord. True, He already knows our needs, but He wants us to come to Him and acknowledge His power and presence in our life. God is our heavenly Father, and like any good father, He wants His children to be free of worry, to be confident of His love and most of all, He wants to have a relationship with us. Christianity is all about a relationship with God, not about being 'religious'.

        You will find what we call "The Lord's Prayer" in Matthew 6: 11-13. My comments are in italics.

"Our Father in heaven,
hallowed (holy) be your name,
your kingdom come, (Jesus will return)
your will (not our will) be done
on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread (trust Him for your daily needs)
Forgive us our debts (sins - believers are spiritually re-born  and have already been forgiven, but Jesus encourages us to come to Him daily, not for His approval, but for our peace)
As we also have forgiven our debtors (those who have sinned against us - knowing we are forgiven, we need to forgive others)
And lead us not into temptation (we all have temptations, come to the Lord daily and ask Him to remove that which tempts you and causes pain in your life)
but deliver us from the evil one (Satan, who is alive and well roaming the earth searching out those who are vulnerable to his attacks)

        Somewhere along the way, these words have been added to the Lord's Prayer. They were not in the original manuscripts, but sum up the essence of this prayer so beautifully.

"And Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever and ever. . .amen.

        Lastly, by coming to the Lord in prayer we are showing that we are humble before Him. We concede to God's power. He is God Almighty, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.

"Cast your anxiety on him, because he cares for you."
I Peter 5:7

Lord, we thank you for who You are. We are grateful for your love and protection and that You alone can give us rest for our soul.