Insulted, Gossiped About, Lied To

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Matthew 5:11‭-‬12 NIV (Red Letters of JESUS!)

I want people to like me. My feelings are hurt when people gossip about me and spread lies about me. Sometimes the hurtful things said are true and many more times they are lies. Either way, words hurt. Does that mean it’s okay for others, and especially people who claim Christianity, to use the gossip for their own entertainment? When I am insulted, persecuted, and lied about, I’m just supposed to turn the other cheek? I’m supposed to Rejoice??? This is what JESUS says to us about it:

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and Glorify your FATHER in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14‭-‬16 NIV

Once we choose JESUS, we are no longer of this sinful, corrupt world. Why then do we continue to live as though we are still part of this world? As Christians we shouldn’t want to be a part of the gossiping and lying and back-biting, yet the people who have professed the CHRIST are often the worst about doing them. What’s up with that? Perhaps we need to pick up our Bibles and do some searching …..

There’s a song by David Crowder called Red Letters and it ends like this:
Thank You, God, for red letters
When the ground began to shake
The grace of God started falling
And I became a free man that day
The prison walls started falling
And I am a free man today

Have you read the Red Letters? Has your ground been shaken; have your prison walls fallen, have you received the Grace of the ALMIGHTY GOD and embraced your new freedom? It is an incomparable experience. It is truly the Peace that passes all understanding.

“He [King David] said: “The LORD is my Rock, my Fortress and my Deliverer; my GOD is my Rock, in whom I take refuge, my Shield and the Horn of my Salvation. He is my Stronghold, my Refuge and my Savior— from violent people You save me. “I called to the LORD, Who is Worthy of Praise, and have been saved from my enemies.” ” – 2 Samuel 22:2‭-‬4 NIV

Selfish Ambition; Vain Conceit

Where does love fit into our society today? I was reading comments on Twitter this morning. Appalled, embarrassed, incredulous…. a few of the emotions that were running through my mind as I read. The majority of the tweets I see are so negative; full of blatant lies, selfish ambition, and vain conceit. How did we, as a society, reach the point where it is the norm to curse and blaspheme the LORD GOD and His followers? How are the television and media outlets in America surviving – thriving, even – when so much of their content is about denigrating and debasing others, and it seems, our top government officials? Almost every preview of a major late-night talkshow host is filled with him taunting and ridiculing our President. Where has respect gone? If you look at the progress of Roman civilization, toward the end of its existence as a super-nation, her people had degenerated into a parody of humanity. The U.S. and the world are quickly headed to the same destruction.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as CHRIST JESUS: Who, being in very Nature GOD, did not consider equality with GOD something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore GOD exalted Him to the Highest Place and gave Him the Name that is above every name, that at the Name of JESUS every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that JESUS CHRIST is LORD, to the Glory of GOD the FATHER.” – Philippians 2:3‭-‬11 NIV

We are teaching our children to be vain and selfish, telling them they are a “princess” or a “prince,” and that they are worth more than anyone or anything else. We are teaching them to expect the world to treat them as if they were the ruler of all around them, and that everyone is there to serve them. Then we wonder why they act entitled and vain, and want everything their way (and throw hissy fits when they don’t get it!) Look back at these verses: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others…… just as JESUS, SON of GOD, made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant …..”

This week is a perfect time to show our children – no matter their age – and our peers just what true love looks like. Happy valentine’s week, ya’ll.

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Prince Charming

“He loves me, he loves me not…..”

There was a country song by a country singer named Johnny Lee that was popular in the 1980’s, called “Lookin’ For Love In All The Wrong Places.” I called it my “theme song.” Failed marriages, failed relationships; I was determined that the ‘next‘ guy would be ‘the’ guy…. but it was me doing the choosing rather than GOD. I was in control! ( …..segue into uncontrollable laughter….. )

How was that working out for me? Not well! The fairy tales we grow up with, the dreams of being Cinderella or Snow White or Rapunzel; being rescued by the Prince and living “happily ever after…..” Where was that ‘reality’? The dream life I was determined to achieve was certainly having a difficult time coexisting in my brain with real life!

Well, Princess, let me assure you of this fact: Prince Charming doesn’t exist outside of fairy tales.

I was pretty bitter for years that all of my ‘prince’ choices were really frogs….. or snakes. None of my choices were working out for me, and I was mad about that. Why wouldn’t this Almighty GOD give me my Prince? It wasn’t fair. (Sound like a temper tantrum? That’s probably because it was, and I kept it up for a long time!) I thought that God should take my (bad) choices and reform them into the Prince I figured I deserved, but He doesn’t work that way. I won’t say He would never take a bad choice we make and turn it for His good, because He does, in fact, do just that over and over in our lives – when it fits His Will. In my case, He did give me a number of years with a perfectly imperfect “prince.” We were far from being a perfect couple, but we did put GOD first in our lives for a time, and those years were good. When he fell into illness and turned to the escape offered by pain meds, our life together fell apart. We both turned away from the God Who allowed it to happen. I began my search again, thinking that I could do better…..

That attitude doesn’t get us real, true love!

It took several years before GOD got my attention, and I could see Him working in my life. Every single person, no matter what your earthly relationship status, can know without a doubt that The Prince of their life is waiting patiently for us to take His Hand. Single, married, divorced, widowed, mired in an abusive relationship, whatever your situation; there’s no question of whether He loves you or not, because it always ends with “He Loves me!” Knowing that, holding on to that fact, is the one thing every person alive needs to hold on to. Regardless of anything else around you, know this:

“This is how we know what Love is: JESUS CHRIST laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. And this is His command: to believe in the Name of His Son, JESUS CHRIST, and to love one another as He commanded us.” – 1 John 3:16‭, ‬18‭-‬18‭, ‬23 NIV

The real Prince has a name; the Name above all names, the Name is JESUS CHRIST, SON of the MOST HIGH, the LIVING GOD, MESSIAH, HOPE if the world! Is He your Prince?

Just the Facts, Ma’am, Just the Facts

Pastor Mark Hitchcock ( reminded us yesterday of a preacher from England, a Gypsy, who became a Christian evangelist after hearing Dwight Moody preach in the mid to late 1800’s. The last time he visited America, then in his eighties, Gypsy Smith met a man around the same age, who said, “Gypsy, I was blessed by your preaching when you first came to America over fifty years ago.” And he asked the secret of the evangelist’s staying power. “Sir,” Gypsy responded, “I have never lost the wonder of it all.” The hymn “Wonder of it All” as sung by George Beverly Shea begins like this:
There’s the wonder of sunset at evening,
The wonder as sunrise I see;
But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul
Is the wonder that God loves me.

What a powerful message in just one short sentence! “I have never lost the wonder of it all.” I would love to claim that statement as my own, but in good conscience, I cannot.

“Concerning this Salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the Grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the SPIRIT of CHRIST in them was pointing when He predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the Glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the HOLY SPIRIT sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.” – 1 Peter 1:10‭-‬12 NIV

Gypsy Smith understood so well what so many of us struggle with when it comes to our salvation. In 1 Peter 1:10-12, the Apostle shows us three things. The Source of our Salvation (the Triune GOD, FATHER, SON, HOLY SPIRIT), the Security of our Salvation (JESUS, SON, Who died on the cross to cover our sins, once and forever), and the Strength of our Salvation (the Ever-present HOLY SPIRIT Who guides and protects us). The Old Testament Prophets predicted it, and the New Testament Apostles proclaimed it: the coming of JESUS CHRIST, our Rock, our Salvation, our Sacrifical Lamb to cover the ugliness of our sins.

Fact: there are at least 130, and by many estimates 300, prophecies in the OT pertaining to the Messiah; the GOD-MAN Whom we now know to be JESUS. We know because of the Apostles who witnessed first-hand the fulfillment of many of those prophecies.

Astronomer and mathematician Peter Stoner, in his bookScience Speaks, offers a mathematical analysis showing that it is impossible that the precise statements about the One to come could be fulfilled in a single person by mere coincidence.

The chance of only eight of these dozens of prophecies being fulfilled in the life of one man has been estimated at 1 in 10 to the 17th power. That would be 1 chance in 100,000,000,000,000,000.

How can we put this in terms we can comprehend? Dr. Stoner illustrates the odds with this scenario: “Take 10 17silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas [with its approximate land area of 262,000 square miles]. They will cover all of the state two feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one.

“What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man.”

But that is only eight of the dozens of prophecies of the Messiah. Using the science of probability, the chance of as many as 48 of these prophecies coming to pass in one person is 1 in 10 to the 157th power—a 1 followed by 157 zeros (1963, pp. 100-109).

Fact: The Bible was written by 40 men from different countries and in different languages, over several thousands of years. They wrote these prophecies as they were instructed by the LORD, without knowing how, when, or by whom the prophecies would be fulfulled.

Genesis 3:15 offers the 1st prophecy:

GOD said the the Serpent, Satan, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His Heel.”

Satan struck at JESUS during His life on earth, trying to destroy Him through temptations, His suffering, and His subsequent death on the cross. JESUS was triumphant over death and hell and the enemy of all creation, Satan, by rising up from the grave after three days!

Fact: There is one CHRIST, one Redeemer, one cross as evidenced by the scriptures. He was predicted to come in the Old Testament, He came to suffer for humankind as told in the New Testament, and He will come again in Glory to Reign, as foretold in the Revelations of John.

Final Fact. There is only one way to salvation, and that way is through JESUS CHRIST. Are you on the right way?

(This blog is strictly my take-away, based on Pastor Mark’s message. If you would like the entire message as shared, go to the FBC website.)

Who Do You Love; Who Loves You?

I have been searching for the answer to this question most of my life, but do we understand what the word “love” really means? Oh sure, we can go to Webster’s or Merriam’s dictionaries and get the canned definition, but what does it mean? Is it the “intense feeling of deep affection” we find in our children? Maybe it’s “a great interest and pleasure in something – like ‘he loves football’.” Perhaps it’s the meaning we (and the world) put so much importance on, “to feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone.” The more I consider the word, the more I realize how overused it is. I love the smell of baking bread. I love my home. I love my toys. I love my school. I love everyone in the world. We love all of the temporal things in life, but where does that leave us in regard to family, friends, and our mates? Is our love for people as shallow as all that? More and more, love seems to have become a synonym for lust and greediness. Is our mate the right one, or is he or she the one right now? Why do we have such a difficult time choosing the people we love? I found the following very insightful:

Fear, pride, and lust are the root of many problems that crop up in relationships. None of these drivers aim at love.

Fear closes off and withdraws, but love opens up and gives freely. Pride will not tolerate the risk of exposing one’s self to another, but love risks vulnerability for the sake of the other person. Lust tells the other person you only want the parts you can use, but love embraces the whole person—on his or her best days and worst. (Excerpt from the devotional Dating In The Modern Age, by Ben Stuart)

Fear, pride, and lust. I think Mr. Stuart nailed how so many of us look at love. Looking at my relationships, and considering how I view love, I find that using GOD’s definition of love is much more satisfying than mine.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. And now these three remain: Faith, Hope and Love. But the greatest of these is Love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬7‭, ‬13 NIV

All my life, I’ve looked for and obsessively searched for “love” as defined by the world – possessive “love,” lustful “love,” a trophy kind of “love” that would take care of me and sacrifice for me. The kind of love that GOD offers, whereas the world only offers fear and pride and lust. I have finally “found” the LOVE that does take care of me and sacrificed all for me, the unimaginable, all-encompassing and completely fulfilling LOVE, the Love shown to us by the MESSIAH, JESUS CHRIST, SON of the LIVING GOD.

Have you found Him?

Trust and Obey

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding.” – Proverbs 3:5

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to GOD.” – Philippians 4:6

“And we know that GOD causes all things to work together for good to those who love GOD, to those who are called according to His Purpose.”-
Romans 8:28

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is Good; For His Lovingkindness is Everlasting. Oh let those who fear the LORD say, “His Lovingkindness is Everlasting.” The LORD is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me? The LORD is for me among those who help me; Therefore I will look with satisfaction on those who hate me.” – Psalms 118:1‭,4,6-7 NASB

This hymn by John H. Sammis, written in 1887, captures the beauty of trusting in our Father God:

  1. When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
    What a glory He sheds on our way!
    While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
    And with all who will trust and obey.

    • Refrain:
      Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
      To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
  2. Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
    But His smile quickly drives it away;
    Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
    Can abide while we trust and obey.
  3. Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
    But our toil He doth richly repay;
    Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
    But is blessed if we trust and obey.
  4. But we never can prove the delights of His love
    Until all on the altar we lay;
    For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
    Are for them who will trust and obey.
  5. Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
    Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
    What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
    Never fear, only trust and obey.

Sweetly written, sweetly sung, and sweetly true.

Coming Home

I believe that “home” can be anywhere, as long as you are with people who love you. You’ve undoubtedly heard the saying “Home is where the Heart is.” When we marry, home should be wherever our spouse is, and if we are single, we usually choose to make our home near friends and family – people we know we can count on. It saddens me to hear grown people, and especially married people, say they want to go “home”, when they really mean they want to stop being a grown-up and go back to their parent’s home. We can go to visit our parents, and even stay for a while…. but is that really our home any longer? I know I’m always welcome at my mom’s home, and I know I have friends and family who would welcome me into their homes. I welcome to my home any family or friend who wants to come for a visit. It’s all just temporary though, because my REAL home is in Heaven with my LORD.

I read a devotion I’d like to share with you. It’s from “Right From The Heart 1-Minute Devotions,” titled “Going Home.”

“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” – Luke 15:20

Robert Frost wrote, “Home is the place where when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” There’s no place like home. No matter how bad we mess up or how disappointing life gets, it’s the one place they have to take us in.

Jesus told of a wayward son who messed up big time, wasting all his dad had blessed him with. He became homeless and was so hungry he wanted to eat leftover slop fit only for animals. But when he came to his senses, he thought about home. He knew he didn’t deserve to go there, but he went anyway. And his dad was so overwhelmed with joy he welcomed him home.

The dad represents God, and the wayward son represents you and me. It’s Jesus’ way of telling us that we all mess up–but nobody messes up so badly that when he decides to come home to the Lord, the Lord won’t welcome him back to a right relationship with Him. Is it time for you to come home to the Lord?

I’m not sure that I agree with Robert Frost in saying that “home is where…. they have to take you in,” at least, not in the sense that our parents or siblings are obligated to help us or “take us in.” I suppose, though, that would imply that our “home” is necessarily with our parents. Our true “home” could be elsewhere. Turning to the scripture, I have been that prodigal, and when I came back from my selfishness, I was welcomed “home,” back into my family’s hearts and lives. I had turned my back on my parents and on GOD, wasting my life and my resources. In spite of myself, they never gave up loving and praying for me. I think that’s how you know you are home, wherever there are people who don’t give up on you; the people who love you and pray for you in spite of you.

Looking at your own life, have you been a prodigal son or daughter? Have you made it difficult for your family to like you, as I did? Not everyone has a birth family they can return “home” to as I am blessed to have. Abuse – substance, physical, emotional – circumstance, and not having JESUS CHRIST in their lives, these things can prevent us from going back to our earthly families. Are you concentrating on looking for your earthly home and not finding it? Do you yearn to be able to go “home”? It is sometimes impossible to find here on earth, and that is a sad, heartwrenching reality for many….. BUT!! Here’s the GOOD NEWS!

Regardless of whatever is happening or has happened in your life here on earth, whether you have a “home” or you are looking for one, there is One Father waiting for you with open arms, unconditional love, and forgiveness. The GOD of everything, the FATHER of all, is standing right next to you, just waiting for you! All we have to do is to acknowledge that JESUS CHRIST is GOD’S Only Son; that He lived on earth as a man, He died as the ULTIMATE sacrifice for our sins, and that He rose from the grave on the 3rd day, victorious over death and hell. He gave His all for you and for me. Can we do any less for Him?

A reminder to us all.