Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Faith Expressed in Love


"What is important is faith expressing itself in love." 
~ Galatians 5:6b (NLT)
In this world it seems to me the most important thing people need to see from me as a Christian is one of the most difficult thing for me to do all the time.... expressing fully my faith through love. 
Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant,  it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints,  it isn’t happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth.  Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things. Love never fails. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (CEB)                                                                                                         
Now faith, hope, and love remain—these three things—and the greatest of these is love.~ 1 Corinthians 13:13 (CEB)
I want to love like that...surrendering my preferences about people to God’s loving ways!
But, lets be honest... don’t you agree that there are just some people who make it especially hard to love them sooo... Perfectly? After all...who doesn’t have at least one person in their life... a family member, co-worker, fellow christian....someone...who isn’t difficult to love? I’m not talking about just the ordinary “differences” we may have that challenge our love. No...I’m referring to that someone ...you know...that person who is overly critical, selfish, seems a bit too mean-spirited and a few more adjectives I could add on... but I figure you get the point. 
My struggle in loving someone like this is not that I don’t want to love them or that I can’t “briefly” feel love towards them...it just that sometimes as I try to hold on to any kind and loving thought towards them...well, let’s just say...it doesn’t seem to take long for their critical words or unkind actions to wear me down and remove any vestige of love I may have gained!
Since I sincerely desire for my faith to express itself in love...I know the best thing I can do is to take this “problem person” to the Lord and pray...right? 

Well, the trouble with this kind of approach to prayer is I end up weaving my words into asking God to “fix” them instead of pursuing my request for help with me. 
This can be an easy trap to fall into if my focus is on the list of a person’s offenses and my dwelling on what they need “fixed” in order for me or anyone other than God to love them...Yikes!  
Besides...before I turned to Christ for my daily example of how to live, didn’t I once exhibit many of the very attributes of this person I now find the most difficult to love?  Thankfully, through the teaching of God’s Word and the Lord placing into my life many loving people who’s faith revealed in love...was shown to me...I have a better way of expressing myself than I once did.
Good sense makes one slow to anger,
    and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
~ Proverbs 19:11 ESV


How quick my emotions can cause me to have temporary spiritual amnesia when I forget that I can lean on God’s power inside of me to overlook an offense. My faith that is revealed by loving them instead of feeling angry or annoyed towards them brings glory to God. It also reveals what the power of Christ in me is able to overcome of my own frailties...and isn’t that what I really desire most? 

So with a renewed spirit of what I know I can (through Christ) do... but with emotions that were still tinged a bit with the frustration over how I instinctually felt... I prayed and asked God; “Why is all this so hard for me to do? Why can’t I just love this person as I know I should?” 

The Lord responded as He often does with me...He presented a question in return to mine own. “ Whose love are you applying ... yours or mine?” 

"My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." ~Galatians 2:20 (NLT)
Glory!

Kathy 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Why?


“Why? Because the Master won't ever
   walk out and fail to return.
If he works severely, he also works tenderly.
   His stockpiles of loyal love are immense.
He takes no pleasure in making life hard,
   in throwing roadblocks in the way.”
Lamentations 3:31-33 The Message 
I just hate asking God “Why?” Yet I ask him “why” more often than I care to admit even to myself...I ask it without even realizing I have done so. Every time life throws another hard punch to my heart...I can’t seem to stop myself from simply wondering and asking...”Why Lord, Why?”  
How patient the Lord is in my queries..and never have I felt admonished for asking. His comfort calms my restless spirit and the riches of His wisdom feeds my aching soul in the Scriptures. 
Almost always when life has become so hard and I just can’t wrap my mind around any conceivable answer for why this has to be happening...I will uncover in the Scriptures a jewel that sparkles light onto God’s nature and ways. Where God’s character shines everything else (no matter how devastating or troublesome) becomes a shadow of what it once was.
That’s what happened the other day when I read Lamentations 3:31-33 in The Message translation. 
Because the Master won't ever
   walk out and fail to return.”   

It’s true...sometimes it feels like God has left us!  There may be times in the midst of our greatest heartaches that the presences of God seems to be missing...we call out in prayer...but we hear no reply. It’s comforting to know that when it feels like the Lord has “walked out”...He will never fail to lift our doubting spirit with the return of His presence!
 
“...Because the LORD your God is the one who marches with you. He won’t let you down, and he won’t abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6b (CEB)

This life will always have times of trials and affliction. I have taken my greatest steps in faith during trying trials and learned to place all my trust in God through heartbreaking afflictions. In each one...God proved faithful and conquered my greatest fear by always paving the path for my next step with His own. When we have fallen He lifts us to our feet with His strong arms holding us nearer to His heart...He is faithful and true..never abandoning us...no matter how fierce the fight. 
If he works severely, he also works tenderly.” 
                                                                                                                                   I know God holds the power to make all my troubles (and yours too) disappear if He would only choose to do so. Yet, whether they end or they persist...our severe troubles are always held with tenderness in His Hands. God is always at the work of molding us into the image of His son Jesus. God is always "tenderly" at work. 

His stockpiles of loyal love are immense.
And God's loyal love is in stockpiles that are immense! What an image! God is a loving God...and His love is loyal and unfailing. He doesn’t take pleasure in my life being hard or in the roadblocks that slow down my progress in living the surrendered life. And, He takes no pleasure in your life being hard either. No...even when we most deserve His hand to reach from a stockpile of wrath and rejection...He reaches instead from his immense stockpile of loyal love and gives us immeasurable love. 

God’s answer to my “why” was His giving me a glimpse of His heart...Perhaps, like me, you will discover as I did a better reason than answer for our “Why?”.
Glory...
Kathy 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Discarded Stone

"Come to Christ as to a living stone. Men have put Him aside, but He was chosen by God and is of great worth in the sight of God. You are to be as living stones in the building God is making also. You are His religious leaders giving yourselves to God through Jesus Christ. This kind of gift pleases God. 
The Holy writings say; “See, I lay down in Jerusalem a Stone of great worth, worth far more than any amount of money. Anyone who puts his trust in Him will not be ashamed.” This Stone is of great worth to you who have your trust in Him. 
But to those who have not put their trust in Him, the Holy Writings say, “The Stone which the workmen put aside has become the most important part of the building.” he Holy Writings say, also, “Christ is the Stone that some men will trip over and the Rock over which they will fall.” When they do not obey the Word of God, they trip over it. This is what happens to such men." 1 Peter 2:4-8 

It has been said that when Solomon’s temple was being built, all the stones were brought from the quarry already cut and fashioned. Each stone was marked with it’s intended location and where it was to be placed. Among all these numerous stones there was found a very curious one...it seemed to have no describable shape, and it appeared to be unfit for any portion of the building. 


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Among all these numerous stones there was found a very curious one...it seemed to have no describable shape, and it appeared to be unfit for any portion of the building. 

The workers tried using it at one wall, but it would not fit; so they tried it in another...but it did not seem suitable for any portion of the temple. After several attempts to find this stone’s proper location, the workers feeling very annoyed and even angry, threw it aside. 

 The temple took many years to build, and over time that tossed away stone became covered with moss, and grass grew around it. 

It seemed that everybody who passed by the stone laughed at the sight of it. You see, they all believed Solomon was wise, and they had little doubt that all the other stones were right. But as for that curious looking grass covered block, they thought surely it is a mistake and it might as well be sent back to the quarry...everyone seemed quite sure it was meant for nothing.

Year after year passed, and the poor stone was still despised, the builders constantly refused it. Then finally the day came when the temple was about finished and was ready to be opened. 
The multitude assembled...all were excited to see this grand sight! Then they heard the builders ask, “Where is the top-stone? Where is the pinnacle?” They gave little thought where the crowning marble was, until someone said, “Perhaps that stone which the builders refused is meant to be the top-stone.” 
They then took this discarded stone and hoisted it to the top of the house; and as it reached the summit, they found it fit perfectly to the place. The crowd shouted such loud Hosannas, it surely made the heavens ring...as the stone which the builders refused became the headstone of the corner. 
So is it with Christ Jesus.
“Christ is the Stone that was put aside by you workmen. But He has become the most important Stone in the building. There is no way to be saved from the punishment of sin through anyone else. For there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we can be saved.”          ~ Act 4:11-12


For meditation: In the end God saw to it that the last shall be first. Where do you place the Lord Jesus Christ?
Adapted from a sermon by Charles Spurgeon 
Kathy 


Monday, April 2, 2012

God's "I Will" Promises


"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. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written:
   “For your sake we face death all day long;
   we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 
~ Romans 8:28-39 NIV

When I need a sign of encouragement for when life seems to have spun out of control... 
When I need a clearer view of God’s power...
or when I just need to know I am not alone and that I am loved... 



I always find just the encouragement and better understanding I need when I read Romans 8:28-39. 


Several years ago a favorite Bible teacher demonstrated how to take the above Scripture and create a personal letter from God. She said for me to read the Scripture verse by verse and pull from them each promise God has made and turn it into an “I will” statement to me. 
I would love to share with you what I wrote and encourage you to place your name where I have written mine. The underlined portion is what I wrote from Scripture. 
My Child, Kathy
I will make sure all things work together for your good.
I will conform you to the likeness of Jesus.
I will always be for you.
I will call you, justify you and glorify you.
I will protect you ~ you will be more than a conqueror against foes
I will never forsake you ~ nothing will separate you from my love.
Love, God

When I read this...I can’t help but feel strengthen for what I am facing. These are promises from God. These promises are as much for you as they are for me. 

We all face many trials and have experienced troubles that seem to last far too long...


It is good to remember that the Lord is not against you and He doesn’t just put up with you because He feels sorry for you either. He love you because He has chosen to love you. 





If God hadn't been for us —all together now, Israel, sing out!— 
   If God hadn't been for us 
      when everyone went against us, 
   We would have been swallowed alive 
      by their violent anger, 
   Swept away by the flood of rage, 
      drowned in the torrent; 
   We would have lost our lives 
      in the wild, raging water. 
  Oh, blessed be God! 
      He didn't go off and leave us. 
   He didn't abandon us defenseless, 
      helpless as a rabbit in a pack of snarling dogs. 
  We've flown free from their fangs, 
      free of their traps, free as a bird. 
   Their grip is broken; 
      we're free as a bird in flight. 
  God's strong name is our help, 
      the same God who made heaven and earth. Psalms 124 The Message
God is for us...He is always with us...and when He makes a promise...He keeps His promise!


Glory!
Kathy