To Sum It Up:

“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For, “The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.” (“Keep your tongue from evil And your lips from speaking deceit.” – PSALMS 34:13‭) – 1 PETER 3:8-‬10 NASB

Peter uses these verses (including v. 11-12) to summarize chapters 1 and 2, and the first few verses of chapter 3. He was writing to a group of exiled Jews who were living far outside of their homeland (“foreigners, aliens, and exiles,” 1 Peter 1:1, depending on the translation), who were under pressure because of their status (1 Peter 1:6). He wants us to see that there is a good life for us here on earth, regardless of the problems we are facing. When we follow these suggestions, our hearts are able to enjoy the good in our lives rather than being focused on whatever is happening externally. The psalm Peter quotes, Psalm 34, was written by King David after he had to pretend madness in order to escape from those who were prepared to kill him (1 Samuel 21). We don’t have it so bad when we look at things in context!

We always have a choice as to how we react and resond to the events in our lives. We can choose to see the good and love life; to enjoy what we have, or we can endure it, or we can attempt to escape it. I’ve tried enduring, and it is just that – enduring. No joy. Escaping doesn’t work, either. I promise you, no matter how you try to escape, distance or mind-altering substances or food or sex or shopping or work, it is all right there, still the same! Choose joy, because it is a choice! I was recently having a conversation with a pastor about my current situation (it isn’t all that pretty….) and I ended it by saying that I am very blessed. He expressed some surprise, saying that few people say that. I choose joy, because I have lived the alternatives, and I don’t like them. I’m not a saint! I admit to being depressed and feeling sorry for myself at times, but then I look around and see others who have it so much worse than me. If you are struggling, stop looking at what you don’t have, and see what you do have. It can be eye-opening. Don’t miss the good life GOD has given you!

Jesus said “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” – JOHN 10:10 NASB

Choose JESUS and choose Life Abundant!

Disclaimer: I often use my notes from our pastor’s sermons (with his permission). Dr. Hitchcock brings the gospel alive for me, answering questions I have and bringing more questions to my mind. The thoughts I carry away cause me to read and research the scripture and Bible commentaries, and I always come away with something new! If you would like to hear the original sermons (without any mistakes I might bring!), go to Sermon Archives at http://faithbibleok.com/ The Good Life – we are currently in the Still Standing series by Dr. Mark Hitchcock. We are truly blessed with all of the Bible teachers and books and commentaries that are available for us.

Have You Prayed About It?

“Have you prayed about it?”

Whenever we have a question or concern, or we are worried about something, that phrase should be the first thing that pops into our mind.

“Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the LORD; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the LORD will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.” – JAMES 5:13‭-‬18 NASB

Billy Graham wrote: “Faith pleases God more than anything else. The Christian life is dependent upon faith. We stand on faith; we live on faith. Faith is loved and honored by God more than any other single thing.

The Bible teaches that faith is the only approach that we have to God. No man has sins forgiven, no man goes to heaven, no man has assurance of peace and happiness, until he has faith in Jesus Christ.

You may be saying, “God, I believe you are a great person, but I do not believe your Word; I do not believe what you say.” In order to please God, you must believe Him. Perhaps your faith is small and weak.

It does not matter how big your faith is, but rather, where your faith is. Is it in Christ, the Son of God, who died on the cross for your sins?”

I especially appreciate the last 2 sentences, because for years my faith was small… tiny, almost nonexistent. Because my faith was so small, my constant search for peace & happiness did not yield anything. Oh, I could sense them! I knew they were within reach ….. but I couldn’t quite get there. I knew, because of my parents teaching us while we were children, that true peace only comes thru JESUS. Scripture is quite clear on that:

“Without faith it isn’t possible to please GOD. Those who come to God must believe that He exists. And they must believe that He rewards those who look to Him.” – Hebrews 11:6

Without faith, it is difficult to pray, and without prayer, it is difficult – maybe even impossible – to have faith. The thing I most hope to get across is this: No matter what is going on in your life, whether mental or physical, there is HOPE. There can be PEACE. Regardless of what anyone else says or does to us, JESUS is the answer. Claim it – claim HIM. Pray about it. Hold a conversation with God!

See that tiny flicker of faith that is hiding deep in your soul? Fan the flames. Let GOD supply the fuel!

Have you prayed about it?

Is He Worthy?

Is He worthy of our praise? He is!!

“While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. But some were indignantly remarking to one another, “Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they were scolding her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.” ” – MARK 14:3‭-‬9 NASB

This woman, Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, took an outrageously extravagant, ridiculously expensive bottle of perfume, and broke the bottle, and poured the perfume onto Jesus’ head. When I say expensive, I mean expensive like a whole year’s wages. A whole year. How much do you make – gross – in a year? On the low end, in the U.S., it could be $12,000. On the other end of the scale, you could be a CEO making $4.5 million (I made that number up. I can’t really comprehend it). I imagine most (more?) people could relate to $40,000. Whatever the number, that’s about what this bottle was worth. Let’s go low-end, and we’ll say it was a $30,000 bottle of perfume.

A $30,000 bottle of perfume. The bottle, the container, was carved from alabaster, a stone used for decorative carvings and statuary. For this expensive perfume, I can imagine that it was beautifully carved and decorated, made for a wealthy woman’s dressing table. Something beautiful for her to look at. I’m not really a frou-frou type, but I would treat something like that especially carefully and treasure it. It could easily have been a gift from a suitor, and it was definitely something very special to Mary. She said, Jesus is worthy. He was worthy of the sacrifice of this tremendous treasure, and He is worth so much more!

If Mary’s perfume was a sacrifice, a treasure, poured out to cover Jesus’ head, how much more of a treasure is the blood He shed to cover us? Her treasure wasn’t wasted at all. It was an annointing to prepare His body for the ordeal He was about to go through. Mary had been listening when Jesus told His followers that He would be killed for them; that He would be a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Jesus says “What worth? You should say what VALUE. She did what she could, she did a beautiful thing for Me; she anointed My Body for burial. She seized a fleeting opportunity …..” we are to love people, but our Priority is to Love God. Jesus tells His disciples He is going to die but they don’t really listen or understand.

“From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.” – MATTHEW 16:21

“And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved.” – MATTHEW 17:22‭-‬23

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.” – MATTHEW 20:18‭-‬19

Mary listened, and she took action. She was extravagant, but she knew that her treasure of perfume was nothing when compared to the Treasure of the Presence of Jesus. Other religions have scales of good v. evil to compare our lives on. Weighing the good in me, the good I’ve done in my life, compared to the bad in me? I lose! We all lose there, if we are honest! Christianity has the Cross, no scales, because we are all found wanting in the end – that’s the beauty of the Gospel!

Is He Worthy?

How do you answer that question?

Listen to Chris Tomlin sing “Is He Worthy” and prepare to worship!

Talking Heads

From the Urban Dictionary (urbandictionary.com), the top definition for “Talking Head”:

A “Talking Head” is someone who never stops talking. They will corner you by your car after a long day’s work to tell you gossip about the neighbors or to ask you about the details of your day, so they can distort it and spread it throughout the neighborhood. Not all Talking Heads are malicious, but all talking heads are idiots and time-wasters. Over a year, you can lose many precious hours cornered by a Talking Head. – As defined by Ian De La Rosa, from September 19, 2013

On Quora (quora.com), I found the following “definition” of the term “Talking Heads” – and I have to say that, in my opinion, he absolutely nailed it!

“Talking heads,” as an idiom, refers to individuals pontificating a certain creed, ideology, or kindred set of beliefs without critically analyzing the context and substance of their statement. In essence, these individuals are “spokespeople” or pundits representing an ideologue, movement, or other memetic process. Its usage, from my experience, is as an invariably derogatory epithet that coalesces these “spokespeople” into a clique of intellectual stagnation and coagulation which fails to grasp or address any opinion to the contrary of the orthodoxy promulgated by the talking heads. – Michael Alvis, November 27, 2015

“Talking heads” are everywhere. On TV and in social media, they mix actual news with political agendas and twist things out of context. We can find any point of view – from the blantantly radical and violent (both Left and Right) broadcasts, to knee-jerk reactions full of vitriole and inflammatory language, to orchestrated calls to arms (literal and figurative), to carefully thought out commentaries meant to encourage and to inform. I would love to see more of the last! James says:

“For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man**, able to bridle the whole body as well. …..So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. ……With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.” – JAMES 3:2‭, ‬5‭-‬6‭, ‬9‭-‬10 NASB

(**There is and was and will be only One Perfect Man, the person of Jesus Christ, Who never stumbled in anything He said.)

We can easily find ourselves becoming individual “Talking Heads,” if you will, when we become too stuck and dogmatic in our views. As followers of Christ, it is so important to guard our hearts, so that our tongues don’t start sparks of resentment and animosity, causing the people we speak to to reject what we say. Our hearts and what we hold in our hearts, no matter how well we think we have it hidden and tucked away, affects every word that we utter. Listen to James! (He is much wiser than I can ever hope to be!)

“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.” – JAMES 3:14‭-‬16 NASB

In Proverbs, we receive many instructions on the value of using wisdom and the teachings of our youth. Unfortunately, too many are growing up today without good teaching. (**This is not a dig against school teachers! I am referring to the Good teaching of the Scriptures.) In chapter 4, I believe the father referred to isn’t David, as you would expect from Solomon, but to GOD, the Father.

“Then He taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast My Words; Keep My Commandments and live; Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding! Do not forget nor turn away from the words of My Mouth. Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth And put devious speech far from you.” – PROVERBS 4:4‭-‬5‭, ‬23‭-‬24 NASB

When we search for God’s wisdom, and we learn His commandments and store them in our hearts, our tongues become more obedient…… That’s my goal! To remember I have two ears and one mouth, and to think before letting the words tumble out of my mouth.

Listen to Matt Maher “Lord I Need You” – My One defense, my Righteousness!

Even Demons Believe

Did you know that Martin Luther wanted to delete the book of James from the Bible? It was a surprise to me!

“You believe that God is one* [One early missive reads there is one God]. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected …… ” – JAMES 2:19‭-‬22 NASB

James wrote about faith and works. Is faith complete without works? Can you do the works without the faith? The book of James is focused on these questions, but my laser eye (hahaha!!) focused instead on verse 19: “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” How often do we recognize this? When confronted by someone who insists that there isn’t a god, how do we react? Do we react? Or do we respond? I think this verse from James is the perfect response to such a statement! An even better response is the one we live in our daily lives. If demons believe in the One True God, and still go about their business of bringing evil into the world, then isn’t it up to us as believers to bring the opposite into the world?

“And [Jesus] said to him, ” ‘you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” – MATTHEW 22:37‭-‬39 NASB

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “vengeance is mine, I will repay,”says the LORD.” – ROMANS 12:9‭, ‬17‭-‬19 NASB

If more Christians, Christ-followers, dedicated themselves to live life in opposition of the demons, the way Jesus commands us in Matthew and Paul shows us in Romans, think of the impact! Even the demons believe …… but while they hide in the dark and shudder in fear under the gaze of our God, we are privileged to enjoy the Light of His Son, and it is up to us to reflect that Light back into the darkness covering the world. No Fear!

Listen to Love and the Outcome sing King Of My Heart.

Where Do You Stand?

I would have loved to be standing in the room with Thomas and the other followers of Jesus when this happened!

“Then [Jesus] said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” – JOHN 20:27‭-‬31 NASB

As I contemplate this meeting between Thomas and our Lord, I wonder where I would have stood on that day? Would I be next to Thomas, needing to see the wounds to believe that this man was truly Who He claimed to be? Or would I be across the room with Mary and the other followers, knowing that my Lord was in the room? I know where I stand today, firmly with the ones who believe without having seen. How can we not, when we look at the incredible things He did and the incomparable life He led, witnessed by hundreds – thousands – of people, and recorded by such diverse men?

I believe in Jesus Christ; I believe He is the only begotten Son of the Creator God. I believe that He died for my sins and was resurrected on the third day, and I know that on the day my earthly body dies, I will see His Face as He welcomes me into our eternal home. Where do you stand? It’s crucial to decide! Selfishly, I want to see you in heaven.

“Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

Can I get an Amen?

(Image from Pinterest)

Undeserved Grace

Celebrating still!

Looking back at hymns and songs, it strikes me at how many songs we have that celebrate the Victory of Jesus over death and the grave.

UP FROM THE GRAVE HE AROSE!

VICTORY IN JESUS

DEATH WHERE IS YOUR STING

CHRIST IS RISEN

MIGHTY CROSS

OVERCOME

GLORIOUS DAY

WE ARE THE FREE

I WILL RISE

The list goes on and on – I’ve left many off. I am so grateful for the poets and lyricists and songwriters and composers for these beautiful expressions of our awe and gratefulness. Sometimes, all I can do is mouth the words, I’m so overcome by the emotion of realizing anew the sacrifice Jesus, Lord of everything, made for me. As if I were the only human ever to live, He made that sacrifice. As if you were the only one. That’s how much He loves us.

Pretty sobering thought.

Jesus bore my sins – every thought and every action – to the cross, and He left them there. They are gone, covered, literally, in His Blood. The Blood of The LAMB was shed for me, and I am free. Completely undeserved Grace. You can claim it anf receive it, too! All you need to do is open your heart to Jesus ❤ .

“Jesus has overcome! And the grave is overwhelmed! The victory is won! He is risen from the dead!”

“Jesus has overcome! And the grave is overwhelmed! The victory is won! He is risen from the dead!”