GRACE and Miracles

(from Grace Awakening by Lead Pastor Jay Risner)

17 And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights. 1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish, 2 and he said, “I called out of my distress to the LORD, And He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice. 3 “For You had cast me into the deep, Into the heart of the seas, And the current engulfed me. All Your breakers and billows passed over me. 4 “So I said, ‘I have been expelled from Your sight. Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.’ 5 “Water encompassed me to the point of death. The great deep engulfed me, Weeds were wrapped around my head. 6 “I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever, But You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God. 7 “While I was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, And my prayer came to You, Into Your holy temple. 8 “Those who regard vain idols Forsake their faithfulness, 9 But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the LORD.” 10 Then the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land.” Jonah 1:17, 2:1-10 NASB

What differentiates between Christianity and th other world religions? C.S. Lewis said “It’s easy. It is GRACE and MIRACLES.” Because God gives us both, Jonah went from Fleeing the Lord’s Presence to Seeking the Lord’s Presence. Whenever we sin, w go through these steps to seek Him:

First, the AWAKENING – Fully realize the depths to which we have fallen. Being away from God means to ALWAYS be moving down ….. spiritual decline dulls our response to God. In verse 3, Jonah realizes that God threw him int the water by using the sailors hands. God often uses the hands of others – even the hands of unbelievers – to carry out His Plan. God’s divine wrath is like a divine flood; the sea is the equivalent of death to Jonah. In Luke 15 prodigal son “came to his senses.” What has awakened, or is awakening, our hearts to our desperate spiritual condition/situation with God?

BELIEVING comes after Awakening – verse 4 shows the consequences of our sin; the despair in looking at ourselves turns to Faith when we turn to God. [John 3 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness…..” Heb 12 “Lay aside every sin that entangles….”] Sin runs deep within us and Grace is not cheap. Belief; saving faith means acknowledging we need a substitutionary sacrifice, and that sacrifice is JESUS. Through Him we receive Grace. But what is Grace? Grace is favor to an undeserving receiver by an un-obligated giver. Colossians 1:6 God gives us salvation even when we don’t deserve it.

After Believing comes REPENTING – verse 8. Repenting does not require Faith, but Faith makes repenting possible…. When we repent, we show our gratitude through WORSHIPPING – verse 9. Thankfully, we are not required to offer sacrifices to show our repentance because Christ has covered our sins with His Blood: “Salvation is from the LORD.” God appointed the fish to swallow Jonah, and then He commands the fish to throw up Jonah. God orchestrates our lives…. look at His Grace and His Kindness.

“But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.” 1 Timothy 1:8‭-‬11 NASB

Hallelujah, my sins are gone!

FAITH BIBLE CHURCH – Edmond, OK
Believe. Grow. Connect. Serve.
http://www.FaithBibleOk.com

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Begin With The End In Mind

Live each day as if it were your last day on earth: Begin with the end in mind, or in view; an eternal perspective.

“I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.” Luke 19:26 NASB (Read the entire parable, found in verses 11-27)

Setting the scene: previously, Jesus was talking about His kingdom coming, soon, but not immediately. The event this parable is based on took place around 4BC when Herod Archelous inherited most of Herod the Great’s kingdom. He traveled to Rome to be crowned by Caesar. Caesar named him “ethnarch”, not king. Archelous was well known to reward those who backed him and punish those who opposed him.

In this parable, Jesus is referring to himself, also, as He will go away to heaven and He will return. Then He will reward those who supported Him and punish those who oppose Him. This is about the faithfulness of what God has given us and wants us to invest. He says “do business with this; occupy or invest this while I am gone.” We need to be prepared for when Jesus returns, because we will be called to account for our lives and what we were given – and not only financially. In verse 16, the first two are prepared for their masters return: “Your mina has made….” The master (boss) didn’t say “well planned” or “well intentioned” or “well thought”, but “well done.” Anything we can do, everything we do, are little things in God’s overall view, but He will reward us in a big way. Many of us are more like the third servant, who doesn’t trust the king and doesn’t know him. He hid his mina away and didn’t even attempt to invest it, as if he were uninterested in what happens to the king’s money. He didn’t want to be bothered with the king’s belongings. Are we so involved in ourselves and our own lives that we don’t invest the King’s gift of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

The significance of this parable is that while we know Jesus has gone away, we also know He will return. NOW is the time to invest in His kingdom; we can be Gospel entrepreneurs, strengthening our spiritual portfolios. It’s important to remember this, too: We do works for the Lord, but the ONLY work, the One work that will get us to heaven is the work HE did for us on the cross.

There are two kinds of people in the world:

“He who has the Son has the Life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” 1 John 5:12 NASB

My thanks to Pastor Mark Hitchcock of Faith Bible Church of Edmond, OK for the inspiration and the ‘meat’ of this post. If you are one of the people who doesn’t know Christ; who doesn’t have Life in Him, it isn’t too late to get it. Just ask Jesus for forgiveness. He’s ready, willing, and able; just ask.

copyright Roger Coles; from https://bible.com

Self Love

This is worth repeating! Who do you love? Do you love your self?

What is the greatest commandment?

Jesus said, ” ‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire Law and all the demands of the Prophets are based on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:37‭-‬40 NLT

This shouldn’t surprise anyone, considering that Jesus’ entire ministry is built around loving God and putting Him first. In fact, verse 37 is probably one of the most well-known verses in the entire Bible. I know that as a Christian, my heart and soul and mind belong to Jesus Christ; that He should be the Rock I base my life on. We’ve got that part down pat.

But what about verse 39? How are we doing with this one? You’re probably wondering about my title “Self Love,” and what it has to do with loving God. Over the years, I’ve struggled with self worth. I still do. Who am I, what am I, and what have I accomplished with my life; does anyone even care? I turned to outside sources – self help books, non-Christian counseling, meditation, astrology, exploring “past lives”, séances and other secular avenues. You know, not a single thing I did improved my so called self worth. I was still the same insecure, searching soul as I was when I started that journey, and the beginning of that journey was very inocculous. At a slumber party, one of the girls had a ouija board, and we didn’t see any harm in playing with it.

I knew Jesus. I grew up with Him being a strong presence in our home, but something inside me was missing. I loved Jesus, and I wanted to follow Him, but I didn’t give my entire being to Him. I doubted my self worth, and I believed the lies the enemy was whispering inmy ear. I opened the door to my heart and let Satan in. There is nothing innocent or innocuous about a ouija board! The door had been cracked open the night we “played” with that board, giving the enemy an easy way into my mind. If it was so easy for him to get into the mind of someone who loved Jesus, imagine how easy it must be for him to get into a mind who doesn’t know Jesus. Scary thought.

We know the first and greatest commandment. You must “…love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” Pay attention to the second in verse 39 “…love your neighbor as yourself.”

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Your “neighbor” is not just the person or family who lives next door. Our neighbors extend beyond our dwellings, and encompasses every person on the planet earth. Every. Person. Our physical neighbors; our family, friends, coworkers; the staff at the coffee place or resturant or convenient store, even to – maybe especially to – the smelly, homeless person on the street.

You have to love yourself before you are even capable of loving another person, but we have to keep in mind that loving ourself doesn’t mean what the world wants it to mean. It isn’t selfish, “me me me” love. Self love doesn’t mean spending money you don’t have (i.e. credit card debt) to compete with others. It doesn’t mean spending hours at the spa being pampered, and it doesn’t mean that dream car/job/wardrobe, unless you have the income to enjoy those things after taking care of your responsibilities. I can’t condemn anyone for wanting to better their quality of life, because I do it, too. I really believe the lesson is treat each individual you come in contact with as a fellow human being. How we treat others is how we want to be treated, or it should be. Jesus also said And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” Luke 6:31 ESV (Read verses 27-36) “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12 NASB

We don’t know their circumstances or how they came to be where they are. Our cab driver might have a PHD, and be unable (for whatever reason) to find work in his field. Our barista could be a person trying to make ends meet on a limited retirement income. We shouldn’t judge unless we are planning on living a perfect, mistake-free life. Minimum wage clerks should be treated with the same respect we give to sports figures, the CEO/CFO of our company, or anyone else. It’s difficult when dealing with certain situations to remember this. The next time a clerk is rude, tell them you’re sorry they are having a bad day, but Jesus loves them. When someone cuts you off in traffic, instead of cursing or flipping them off, think of the time you cut someone off. When we treat others rudely or with disdain, we aren’t loving ourselves or them. But for the Grace of God, we could be in their situation.

Seems like we all have something to work on.

Addendum: I first posted this a couple of years ago, and when I read it, I knew I needed to make some adjustments (so I did). I also have to admit to spending too much of my time lately feeling sorry for myself because I don’t have the thing I yearn for, a partner to share my life with. I count my blessings of friends and family, and even with the struggles I face daily, I am blessed. I still want that partnership, and although I am exploring a friendship (long distance for now) and praying it (he!) is the one I’ve been waiting on, I am also working on praying and resting in my LORD, and trusting in His timing. Pray with me on that!

Delight Yourself

Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.” Psalms 37:4‭-‬5‭, ‬7‭-‬8 NASB

Delight.

Commit.

Trust.

Rest.

Cease anger, forsake wrath, do not fret.

Words. So easy to write; so difficult to put into action! But go back to the first verse. IF we choose to “delight ….. in the LORD” ……. “He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Wow. Do you believe scripture? Do you know it to be the inspired Word of the Living GOD? I don’t trust easily. (Thank you _____ , you know who are.) It’s not easy for me to “rest” when what I desire is out there, and not with me. I want to do something to make it happen and I often take out my frustration in anger and wrath; I fret about not having my desire.

Delight.

Commit.

Trust.

Rest.

Opening up my Bible and searching the scriptures for God’s promises, His fulfilled promises, helps me to delight in Him. He doesn’t do as man does, and make promises only to break them. As far back as Genesis 3:14-19, we are living God’s promise to Adam and Eve today. The thing that strikes me, though, is that His promises are in His time, not ours. One promise that has always stood out to me was the promise to Abraham. He was to became the father of the nation of Israel, but he didn’t even have a child until he over 100 years old. That’s a long time to wait! Mary and Martha delighted in Jesus, and he restored their brother Lazarus to them – but first they had to trust Him, and rest in Him before the desire of their hearts was fulfilled. He doesn’t make everyone wait until they are 100 years old, or until a loved ones dies, although he might. His timing; His will.

The greatest desire of Jesus’ heart is to have each of us spend eternity with Him. To achieve it, because of our propensity to make wrong choices and spend our lives in sin, He made the ultimate sacrifice. He didn’t want to be tortured and killed in a most gruesome manner; He chose to, because that was what GOD, His Father and ours, required. Read Matthew 26, focusing on verses 39 and 42. “Not My will, but YOURS

“Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. [ But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.” ]” Mark 11:24‭-‬26 NASB

Delight. Be content in your circumstances. Give thanks for everything.

Commit. It all belongs to the LORD. Decide to follow Him, and stick to the path.

Trust. GOD is in control. He knows what He is doing. Remember, He can see the big picture. All we have is one little snapshot out of eternity.

Rest. Quit fighting Him. Let Him lead you, and carry you, through any difficulties.

Willful Disobedience

“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of Grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine , I will repay.” And again, “the LORD will judge His people.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10:26‭-‬31 NASB

We can know the truth, but sometimes in the moment (oftentimes?) the reality is that we think we know better and that what we are doing isn’t really a sin. Anytime – any time – we are willfully disobedient we sin. Did that strike a nerve? It did with me. I sin many times daily, but I don’t (usually!) consciously choose to do so. If I know the risk, and do it anyway, is that being willfully disobedient? If I choose badly, no, when I choose badly, especially in big decisions, my body immediately tells me. My stomach clenches. I get crazy butterflies….. or an angry swarm of bees….. in my gut. An indescribable ache starts up betweenmy eyes. Then when the error manifests itself and becomes obvious, my heart drops and fear tries to overtake me.

My fear doesn’t stand a chance when I stand in Your Love….. I could listen to this, and sing along with Josh Baldwin, all day, but right now, my heart is on the floor, and Mercy Me’s lyrics to Even If resonant within me.
They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul

It is well with my soul. I know it, but I can’t feel it. I know to let God lead. His hands are holding me, no matter what. I know this, but right now I don’t feel it, and that’s on me. All He can do is offer. It’s up to me to accept His help. Amen.

How WONDERFUL I Am

“Oh, don’t worry; we wouldn’t dare say that we are as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant!” – 2 Corinthians 10:12 NLT

“God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.” – Matthew 5:5 NLT

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:1 NASB

“But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” – Matthew 23:11‭-‬12 NASB

“For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” – Galatians 1:10 NASB

There’s a definite theme here. It’s human nature (i.e. sinful nature) to elevate ourselves and to be selfish. We want to be liked, admired, lifted up…. and I don’t think it’s wrong, necessarily, to want that. It’s when we begin to believe that we are better than others, superior to them, that we have conflict with the LORD. Jesus was a perfect example of humility. He acknowleged the political government, and He paid His taxes when due (Matthew 17:24-27). When accosted by the the authorities, He acquiesed. He was respectful of His parents, and the Rabbi’s in the Temple. He turned the other cheek when ridiculed and spat upon.

BUT. He defended His Father’s House when He came in to find it being defiled by the moneychangers and the sellers of oxen and sheep and doves (Matthew 21:12-13, John 2:13-17, Mark 11:15-17) by driving them out of the Temple.

Individually we must humble ourselves and follow the example of Jesus. Even collectively – or maybe even more so than individually – we must watch ourselves to ensure we don’t adopt a “holier than thou” attitude. I know I’m no better than anyone on this earth, but sometimes my brain forgets and I begin to think maybe I am. That’s the enemy, whispering lies. I’m not about to go about telling people I’m humble, because I’m not. I try, and fail, constantly. Thank GOD for sending His Son to redeem me; hallelujah! In my perfectly imperfect self, I am only confident of one thing, and that is the Salvation of Jesus Christ. Through Him, I gain real, true humility.

Have you opened your heart to the Saviour?

Top Rule of Living

For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” Matthew 7:2 NLT

That’s a lesson that we need to be reminded of, over and over, from the youngest age and on throughout life. We hear the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31) Do we apply it in our lives? It takes on a little more importance when they are learned together. Not only does how we treat others determine how we are treated, but we will be judged by how we treat them. As critical as it is to treat others with fairness and respect, keep this in mind also.

“Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.” Matthew 7:6 NLT

That is not to say that we should treat those people with disrespect or with loathing. I believe that we – Christ followers – need to be especially circumspect in our treatment of those whom we view as unholy. There’s a fine line between loving the person and hating the sin, and losing the love altogether to hate both. It’s easy to lose ourselves and fall in with them, and get our hearts trampled in the process. This is why it is so important to stay in fellowship with other believers.

“….. and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24‭-‬25 NASB

Love one another, but don’t focus so hard on the person that you can’t see what surrounds them. Do you see positive people and things, or are they surrounded by chaos and insanity?

“Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” Matthew 7:20 NLT

Are you constantly comparing yourself to others? Do you feel the need to “win” by beating everyone around you? (This is so me…..) Our “fruit” doesn’t have a chance to grow or mature when we are busy trying to “one-up” each other, or “keep up” with others. My actions need to reflect my beliefs, and not be dependent on anyone else’s behaviour. How I treat others needs to based on GOD’s Word, not man’s, and how I view myself needs to be from the Father’s focus, not mine. If – when – I view myself properly as a child of the King, a Princess in the Kingdom of the Almighty God, it is far easier to view others with a benevolent spirit.

It’s a much nicer view than the alternative!