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The hardest thing Jesus said

October 18, 2012 Terry Carver 0

Every time Jesus spoke, He spoke the truth, but the truth is not always easy to handle.  There is probably no saying of Jesus harder for us to handle than the one found in Luke 6:27-28: “But I say to you who hear:  Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.”

The ways that we naturally want to handle these people are reflected in the following bumper stickers:

Do unto others before they can do unto you.

I don’t get mad, I get even.

Keep honking, I’m reloading.

To err is human, to forgive is out of the question.

You cannot avoid difficult people who mistreat you, speak evil about you, or do you harm.  (By the way, before you start making your mental list, you should know that you are probably that difficult person for someone else, whether real or perceived.)

The reality for true followers of Christ is that we must operate under a set of values opposite that of the norm.  Jesus does not say to just refrain from hating them, to just put up with them, or to just ignore them.  He says to “love” them.  Not love them passively but actively.  So how do we practically show love to our enemies?  

Jesus said to “do good” to them.  That may mean mowing their lawn when they are out of town or cooking a meal for them when they are sick.  You may say, “They never did anything but harm toward me, why should I do good to them.”  Because God did good to you even when all you did was bring harm to His name.

He also says to “bless them” or speak well of them or wish them well.  We are not to just keep our mouth shut when we want to say something against them in retaliation, but to actually speak words of encouragement and hope to and about them.  We may not agree with what they have done or said, but we actually want God to bless them and do a great work in their lives that will lead to Him being glorified through them.    

We are to “pray for them”.  Despite their belligerence, you have a real concern for their soul.  Jesus modeled this on the cross when He said about those crucifying Him, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”, (Luke 23:34).  

How could I ever do any of this?  This is impossible!  Yes, it is when your efforts arise from your own strength.  But Jesus modeled this for you and it is only possible by God doing a great work in your heart.  Admit your weakness and desperately seek the power of God to transform you into someone like Jesus, who loved you even when you were an enemy of His!

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Looking Unto Jesus

October 3, 2012 Larry J. Grainger 0

Hebrews chapter 12 gives us the encouragement to lay aside the thing that weights us down and causes us to stray from a life of holiness and purity in Christ. It continues by admonishing us to “run this race” with the endurance that finishes well. The writer of the letter then makes this statement – “…looking unto Jesus, the author of our faith…” One translator renders this “gaze upon Jesus…”

It is true, as Christians we are daily faced with temptations and pressures to compromise our values and principles. Whether it be in the print or electronic media, influences in the workplace, or maybe in our place of recreation or exercise, the opportunity is there to sacrifice our integrity. Our integrity is that which enables us to properly integrate with the Lord Jesus.

If that is violated, we dilute our fellowship with Him and the result is a reduced quality of life (hopefully only temporarily).

The word in this passage for “looking unto” in the original text really means “looking away from something in order to fix one’s gaze on one object.”

The assumed posture is important for us to grasp if we are to lead a successful Christian life. Not only do we turn our gaze upon the Messiah and view Him in all His majesty; we make a conscience decision to look away from all the voices and allurements that would cause us to do those things we might regret later.

I think it is important for us to remember Who it was that actually made us and gave us life. The creator of something is most likely the best party to consult when that “something” is malfunctioning. The one that made it has the best insight as to how it will operate at an optimum and how to correct the course when departed from. It is no different with us. Our Creator fashioned us and gave us instructions as to how can live the optimal life as His children. He knows what it best for us and He knows the lifestyles that will cause us heartache, and sometimes, even ill health. He doesn’t instruct us to avoid adultery, drunkenness, etc., because He is a grumpy God and never wants us to have any fun. It is because He understands better than we do the detriment these modes of behavior will have on our lives.

So, what is it that might be your Achilles heel? Is there some issue that you struggle with in your daily walk with Christ? Examine your gaze. Turn your focus and gaze away from the sin that might easily entangle you and fix it upon the Author of your faith.

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Walking in the spirit

September 27, 2012 admin 0

The Word of God reads in Galatians 5:16 from the (NKJV), “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”  

We have the instruction and admonition from this verse that if we will give place to living in and by the Spirit of God we will not fulfill the lust (or desires) of our flesh.  

In order to do this, we must have understanding of what it means to “walk” in this manner.  

The meaning here is: to live or to tread all around.  

It is how we conduct ourselves or we could say, it is our manner of living.  If you follow the definition on out, it also means a “path”.  

In simple meaning, it is a set path; a certain course that God has laid out for His children to walk.  

Of course this path is revealed to us in the Bible.  

So, for me to walk in this manner I must be a person who gives place to God’s Word every day.  

When I say, “give place to the Word”, I mean that each child of God is to read the Word, meditate the Word and make a quality decision that we are going to obey the Word as we live life here on this earth.  

The more I read the Bible, concentrate on, and practice those instructions through my speech and actions, the more God’s Spirit will be displayed in my life.  

Fleshly lusts and desires give way to the light of God.  

In other words, when I give place to the nature of God on the inside of me, I will not fulfill those desires that are contrary to the set path and certain course God has for me.  

This all begins with a decision, and that decision being: I will walk in the Spirit.

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Repairing broken altars

September 19, 2012 Terry Carver 0

In the Old Testament we read of a time in which the spiritual climate of the day was tragically poor.  King Ahab “did evil in the sight of the Lord” (1 Kings 16:30).  Unfortunately, the people followed suit in rebelling against God.  They began to ignore God and put other gods before Him. That was no more evidenced than by the fact that the altars of God lay in ruins. Because of this, it had been some time since the people had experienced the presence and power of God in their midst.  There was a natural drought at this time, but even worse there was also a spiritual drought.

However, because of the actions of one man (a prophet named Elijah), who chose to repair the altar of God, the power of God was demonstrated once more in a dramatic fashion.  “And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down,” (1 Kings 18:30). As a result, God showed up and showed out.  Read 1 Kings 18.  Lives were changed, victories were won, showers of blessings came, and most importantly, God received great glory.  

The reality is this:  Nothing, absolutely nothing, can take the place of the power of God in our lives.  Nothing, absolutely nothing, can take the place of the power of God in our churches.

But the question is:  Is our altar in need of repair?  Is it broken?  It was when Elijah repaired the altar that a great thing took place – a “God thing”.  If you and I are to experience great things in our lives and the lives of our churches that can only be described as “God-things”, our altars must be in order.  All the necessary stones must be in place.

What are these stones?  Elijah used 12 actual stones to put the actual altar in place, but as he was doing that he was putting in place another altar – the altar in his heart.  He demonstrated complete devotion to God no matter what everyone else was doing.  He showed a fearless faith that truly believed that with God all things are possible.  He obeyed everything God told him to do no matter the pressure that society put on him to do otherwise.  He surrendered his all to God.  These are the stones that we must use to repair our altars.

Today, the church cries out:  Where is the God of Elijah?  Where is that same display of power that God showed on Mt. Carmel?  Why doesn’t God do that today?  Where is He?  The answer is:  He is right where He has always been.  The real question is:  Where are the Elijahs?  It is time to end our practice of casual Christianity and mean business with God.  It is time to repair our broken altars.

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The Value of Gratitude

September 5, 2012 Larry J. Grainger 0

Are we a spoiled generation of people? I know when I travel outside of the states I am often struck by what we fail to be grateful for while others would consider the poorest in our country to be wealthy. Gratitude is a virtue that will keep our locomotive life in proper perspective and help us to maintain a balanced life. The psalmist proclaims simply “It is good to give thanks to the Lord.” I echo that statement and add the good produced by our thankfulness certainly makes us better people all around. I submit to you a few reasons it is good to give thanks to the Lord and therefore realize the value of gratitude.

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How God feels about you

August 29, 2012 Terry Carver 0

It is astonishing that God created us in His own image.  And as we certainly know, we are people of great emotions or feelings.  Sometimes our emotions can even be mixed.  Like the man who said, “I have mixed emotions when I receive Father’s Day gifts. I’m glad my children remember me, but I’m disappointed that they actually think I dress that way.”

God made us that way because He is that way.  The Bible ascribes many emotions to God, including joy, anger, and grief.  

We have to be very careful about our feelings.  They are not usually our best guide to making decisions, because they can be false and fleeting.  The difference is that God’s feelings are perfect and holy – they are never false or fleeting.  

There is a verse in the Scriptures that was brought to my attention at a time when I was asking questions.  Does it really matter to God what I do with my life?  With billions of people in existence, am I of any concern to Him?

In Ezekiel 33:11, God tells the prophet, “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live,’ declares the Sovereign LORD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.  Turn! Turn from your evil ways!  Why will you die, O house of Israel?’”

Israel had turned her back on God and was now suffering the consequences.  The people were in a very difficult situation without much hope.  But God reminds them through his prophet Ezekiel just how He felt for them and how He feels for you today.

This verse teaches us that God feels pain when you disobey (“I take no pleasure”).   God hurts when He sees you making wrong choices and suffering the consequences of those choices.  

He is very pleased when you repent (“but rather that they turn”).   When a wayward child returns home, all of heaven rejoices, (Luke 15:10), and the one leading the celebration is God Himself.

He feels passionate about your future, (“Turn!, Turn!”).  He is pleading with you to make the right choice and follow Him.   

He is puzzled by your decisions, (“Why?”).  God expresses puzzlement not because He is not surprised when you make bad choices or does not know why you do, but because it so astonishing when you do.

You really want to know how strongly God feels for you?  Look to the cross of Christ!  “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us,”  (Romans 5:8).  You were on His mind when He was on the cross. 

Some of you may never have realized how God feels about you and some of you may have forgotten.  But be certain, God loves and cares for you!  

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Our expectation of the Lord

August 22, 2012 admin 0

People can often have many expectations in life.  We have expectations of other people, our government, our neighbors and even our own family members.  The list could go on and on but the point is that in every area of life there are expectations we have.  This is true for our life in this natural world but it should be the same way for the children of God spiritually as well.

Hebrews 11:1 from the New King James version says that “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  The word “hoped” here means expectation.  So using our definition we could read the scripture this way, “now faith is the substance of that which we expect God to do in our lives…”.  And really I have to take it a step further by saying that which “I” expect God to do in my life.  Many Christians know that God “can” do this or do that and very often we have no problem believing that God will work in the lives of others but it really comes down to the point of, what do I expect God to do for me in my life.  This is where the rubber meets the road and where real life is.  This is the question that I as a child of God must ask myself and find the answer according to what God has said in His Word.

Abraham in the Old Testament is a great example of what we are saying.  In Genesis 12:1 God begins to tell Abram what He wanted to do in his life and the Bible tells us that Abram believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness.  Abram even before God changed his name had to come to the decision that God would do what He said and the Bible tells us that Abraham came to the place of being fully persuaded (Romans 4:21) that what God had promised He was able to perform. Praise God!

Abraham believed God and came to the place of expecting God to bring it to pass in his life.  We must do the same.  What we read in the Bible is more than just stories, it is God writing to His family to tell them of what He has done for them in and through Christ Jesus and what we are to believe Him for and come to the place of expectation that our Heavenly Father is able to perform this in our lives!  Let me encourage you today, take God at His Word and hold fast to it expecting Him to bless your life and cause His Word to be manifested in every area of your being!      

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Praise God and bring confusion to the devil

August 15, 2012 Don Schultheis 0

Look with me a 2nd Chronicles 20:22-23, “As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. The men of Ammon and Moab rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.”

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The need to be forgiven

August 8, 2012 Jacob Armstrong 0

Ernest Hemingway wrote a story told about a young man in Spain who ran away from home.  No one could really say why Paco ran away, or perhaps he didn’t.  Some said he was kicked out of his home by his father for something foolish that he said or did.  Either way, Paco found himself far away from his small village wandering the streets of Madrid.  Paco’s memory of his mistakes and his guilt over what happened were leading him down a dangerous road.  

It turns out that the last thing that Paco’s father wanted was for his son to be far from home, which is why the father tried something desperate to get his son’s attention.  The father put out an advertisement in the local newspaper, El Liberal, which circulated throughout the entire city. The advertisement read, 

“Paco, meet me at the Hotel Montana at noon on Tuesday. All is forgiven.  Love, Papa.”

When the father arrived at the Hotel Montana the next day at noon he was surprised to find eight-hundred young men named Paco waiting for their fathers.

The first time I heard that story I cried.  Because of course I am a son who longs to be forgiven.  

It is one of the great unspokens in our culture. We don’t talk about it, but we need it.  It affects our hearts in many ways, but we rarely acknowledge it.  We need to be forgiven.  

One of my friends told me recently of going to visit his mother in the hospital, she was sharing a room with a woman who was nearing death.  He told me of how at night his mother’s roommate would cry out.  “Forgive me! Forgive me!”  That bone-chilling request made in the sterile hospital room is not a rare request, but a common one.  Often on the minds of those that are dying is regret for things done and some left undone. It’s not evidence that they are despicable people but that they are human. 

The definition of forgiven is “to grant pardon”.  What you once held against someone, you now release.  

Jesus talked about the need to be forgiven and the great need that we have to forgive others of what they have done to us. When He taught His disciples how to pray he said that we must ask God to forgive us as we forgive others.  

We all have the need to be forgiven and we all have the need to forgive.Forgiveness is available to you today through Jesus.  Perhaps today you can ask God to forgive you and have that deep need of your heart met through his love and mercy. As you accept forgiveness you will also be able to extend it to those who have hurt you.  

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The Value of Humanity

August 1, 2012 Larry J. Grainger 0

He was minding his own business, meandering down the road between Jerusalem and Samaria. When he got as far as Jericho, he discovered a man who had been beaten, stripped, robbed, and left for dead by thieves. He had noticed two men of the clergy pass the man by on their journey as he approached. The first one moved over to the other side of the road. The second actually looked at the man; maybe a quasi inspection. But then he likewise made haste to get to the other side.

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