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A Memorial Day Devotion for Christians

SIH STSTA ICONMemorial Day is a day that is set aside to remember, and honor, our brave soldiers who have given their lives to protect our land and keep us free.  It began as a day to honor our Civil War dead, but after World War I, it was expanded to include our war dead from all the wars in which America was involved.  Go to http://www.usmemorialday.org/ for more information.

According to http://www.historycentral.com/wars.html , our country has fought in 12 wars (not counting the Afghanistan War which brings the updated total to 13.)  In every one of these cases, we have asked the young people of our nation to be willing to give their lives in the name of freedom (for us and others in foreign lands.)    The sacrifices these young men and women have made can never be totally comprehended nor can they be repaid by us.

Just stop and think about a little of what these wonderful young people have given up for us.  At the very least, they have given years of their life, time away from their families, to serve their country which they love. They have given us any chance of setting down “roots”, having to move from base to base once every 3 to 4 years.   Many will be physically disabled the rest of their life, having the use of one or more of their limbs taken from them.   Scores have been mentally disabled resulting in them being unable to handle day to day living.   And thousands upon thousands have given the ultimate sacrifice, their life, so that we can continue to enjoy our lives living safely in a land of freedom.

We can never begin to understand what they went through, and are continuing to go through, all because they love their nation and the freedoms we take for granted everyday.  We can never begin to repay them and their families for the sacrifices they have made for us.  It seems as if saying “Thank You” just isn’t enough.

THE SCRIPTURE:

This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.  Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.

(Joh 15:12-14)

THE STUDY:

Here, we find that our Lord recognized the tremendous sacrifice involved when a person is willing to give up their life for their friend.   He describes it as an act of “great love.”   Who better to be able to understand and define the very essence of self-sacrifice and love, but our Lord Himself?

Think about what Christ has done for His people.  He willingly humbled Himself and came to the earth, God in human flesh, giving up the glories of heaven to live among us.   Then, during His life on earth, He set the ultimate example of service, teaching, feeding, praying for and healing those who were in need.   Next, He was willing to be falsely accused, mocked, physically beaten, mistreated and convicted for a set of crimes that He did not commit. Finally, submitting to a horrible death of slow suffocation while hanging on a cross, all so that His people could receive forgiveness and deliverance from their sin and its results.  This is what the love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ brought about for us.

And, now for the most amazing part of all this, He did this for us, not when we were friends with Him, but when we were His enemies…   When we were opposed to Him, He still choose to love us and die for us on the cross.  (Roms 5:10, Col 1:21)

Remember in the above verses Christ Himself said there was no greater love among man than to die for a friend?  How much greater is a love that would make Jesus, God the Son,  be willing to die for an enemy, one that wants nothing to do with Him and who rebels against Him at every turn?  It is described as “the love of God” that cannot be fully understood by man.  (Roms 8:39, Eph 3:19)    This is the ultimate example of love for another.

THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION:

On this Memorial Day weekend, let us remember the brave soldiers who have so unselfishly given of themselves for us.   Let’s not only appreciate their actions but then take steps to help these veterans and their families whenever and wherever we can.

But also this weekend, let us remember the Lord Jesus Christ and all that He has done for us so that we might be saved from the eternal punishment for our sins.  And then out of appreciation for His works, let us give ourselves for others, obeying the perfect law of Christ…

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

(1Jn 4:7-12)

May we all have a blessed Memorial Day weekend.

If you have any questions concerning this blog, or if you have a subject you would like discussed, please feel free to email me at settledinheaven@gmail.com.    I will answer all emails via my blog, email, or both.

May the Lord bless your study of His Word.

Like God’s Word… may your soul’s salvation and your life’s faithfulness be “Settled in Heaven.”

Love… Biblical Style

SIH STSTA ICONThe subject of “love” has dominated the attention of mankind throughout the years.   There have been literally thousands of songs, poems, stories, fables, even scientific studies, trying to help define love and explain it more fully.  The entertainment industry uses love as a central theme in most of it’s programming.

Do you remember a TV show called “Love, American Style”? It was a show featuring a different cast of characters every week.  They would show the affects of love on many, varied, fictional relationships.  For a quick walk down memory lane watch this…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrBe09SIENA&feature=related

After all these attempts, it seems as if there still exists much confusion about love and man’s pursuit of it.  For us to look to our society for a definition of love is a futile act.  Today’s definitions can range from an innocent emotion to an immoral act and everything in between.   The more man tries to define it, the more confused man becomes.

So what is love?  We will try to answer this question from God’s Word….

THE SCRIPTURE:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

(Gal 5:22-25)

THE STUDY:

The Bible has ALOT to say about love… within the pages of the Bible we find at least 311 times when the word “love” is used (300 times in the Old Testament, 11 times in the New Testament).  Love is a central theme of the Bible…. Both God’s love for man and man’s love for God are emphasized.  But throughout the Word, there is also many references to mankind’s love for one another.   Anyone who is willing to take the time to examine every reference to love in the Bible will see a vast storehouse of information that helps us to see the true meaning and role of love in our lives.

At the risk of over-simplifying the Biblical teaching, let me center on just one of many observations about love found in the Bible….   a scriptural, God-pleasing love is one that produces self-sacrifice in our lives.  For one example of this principle please see John 15:3; here we find love for a friend resulting in laying down our life for them.

Our God set the ultimate example of a sacrificial love for us…

God the Father loved us so much He gave His Son to die for us on the cross. (John 3:16, Roms 5:8)

God the Son loved us so much He gave His life as an offering and sacrifice to God for us, paying the price of our sins. (Eph 5:2)

Christ, in the person of God the Spirit, then indwells our hearts through faith… giving us a continual testimony of His great love for us. (Eph 3:17-19)

Finally, we can never be separated from this great love He has bestowed upon us!  What a wonderful promise, once we are placed in His love, no one can take His love off of us… in other words, His love is without limit, He will never cast us aside nor will he ever desert us, we are kept by Him eternally. (Roms 8:35-39)

Now, after setting such great examples of true love for us, He then promises to implant within us this same love when we are forgiven of our sins.   In our scripture verse, love is classified as one of the “fruits of the Spirit”…   this means that love is given off in our lives, when the Holy Spirit inhabits our hearts, at the time our salvation.  Therefore, we can begin to love Him, and others, with the same type of love that He has loved us… an unrestricted, self-surrendering love.

THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION:

What a wonderful gift we have been given…. a fruit of love that we can give off to others…. much like a tree gives off its fruit to those who need it.   We can love others sacrificially, with no thought of personal gain.  Have you ever heard of an “unconditional” love?  This is the same type of love we can give to others through the working of the Spirit in our lives.

As followers of our Lord, we can place this love upon Him, allowing us to serve Him without hesitation or reservation.   We can willingly give our all to Him, just as He gave His all for us. (1 John 4:19)

Then, we are able to love others as Christ loved us.  What a wonderful way to be a living testimony for Him.   By loving others sacrificially, with no thought of personal gain, we are displaying for all to see how our Lord has loved us and laid down His life for us on the cross. (John 15:12)

For those who have never received the love of God into their hearts…. look to the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  Trusting in Christ for his salvation, is all men’s responsibility.   Have you trusted in Christ?  Have your sins been forgiven?  Has the love of God been placed upon you?  Does His Spirit now enable you to love as He loves?  If you have answered “no” to these questions please read God’s word, it shows us the way of life and true, Godly love.   A great place to start reading is 1 John 3:23-24.

May the Lord bless your study of His Word.

Like God’s Word… may your soul’s salvation and your life’s faithfulness be “Settled in Heaven.”

If you have any questions or subjects you would like discussed on this blog, please feel free to email me at settledinheaven@gmail.com.  I will answer all emails via this blog, by email, or both.

Falling Apples

SIH STSTA ICONWe’ve all seen this time and time again, a child that looks almost identical to one of their parents.  When we see this, we jokingly say “The apple doesn’t fall far from the apple tree”.   In other words, a child will share in their parent’s appearance and/or behavior. For an explanation of the origin of this saying please see http://ca.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080525203745AAKrx82.

It only makes sense that a child would mimic their parent.  They share in the parent’s DNA (explaining the physical resemblances to the parent) and, as impressionable children, they live with the parent watching their every action (explaining the child’s behavioral similarities to their parent.)

This same principle applies to the relationship a child of God has with their heavenly Father. We should represent our Father on earth by resembling Him.

THE SCRIPTURE:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

(Gal 5:22-25 kjv)

THE STUDY:

The above verses give a listing of nine qualities that Christians should display in their daily walk of life.

A quick definition of each fruit follows:

“love” – to have the willingness to sacrifice self with no thought of gain;

“joy”- to possess calm delight displayed through actions;

“peace” – to be quietness, restful , harmonious, to be in unison with others

“longsuffering” – to bear under heavy burdens without giving into them

“gentleness” – to be kindness, merciful to others

“goodness” – to be virtuous, morally upright

“faith” – to rely upon, to place trust, to be assured of

“meekness” – to be humble

“temperance”- ability to control our power

The Lord lists the nine qualities that all men should possess in their lives adding to the quality of life around us.  Who among us would begin to say we do not desire to see these fruits in the lives of others?  Do we enjoy being around people that are hateful, always discouraged or wanting to fight all the time?  What about those that are impatient, unforgiving, or wicked?   Of course, none of us enjoy being with someone like this.  Our Lord has given us a simple listing of fruits that enhance our life of earth, as we live according to them and enjoy our life with others who live by them.

The Lord continues on by reminding us that, for the Christian, these fruits should be desired and naturally borne by those who are truly saved.   Please keep in mind, a part of the salvation experience is not only trusting in Christ and receiving forgiveness from our sins, but also an attitude of turning from our sins to serve Him as our Lord.  This turning from sin to God is called “repentance” in the Bible.  (please see Hebs 6:1, 2 Cor 7:10, 2 Tim 2:24-26)   This is what our Lord meant when He said we are to “crucify (put to death) the flesh with the affections and lusts.”

He goes further by telling us that if we have received the indwelling of His Spirit, then we should be willing to live by the leadership of that same Spirit.   The Spirit’s leadership will result in our fruit bearing as well.

THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION:

In Galatians 5:22-25, we see a listing of attributes that should accompany the lives of all members of God’s family.   These attributes are given the title “fruits of the Spirit”.  This title presents two different ideas. Firstly, these fruits are given off as a natural result of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling in our lives and secondly, by bearing these “fruits” we reveal Godly attributes to the world around us.

To give an example of bearing a fruit naturally, lets look at an animal giving birth to its offspring.  It is only natural that a bear would give birth to bear cubs.   It would be a freak of nature to see that a bear gave birth to a puppy.   As a matter of fact, nature so strictly adheres to this principle that we use it to make many assumptions in nature.  For example, if we see a tree with oranges hanging on it we immediately assume it is an orange tree.   We don’t give it a second thought.  Why? Because like begats like…. that’s the way it is… in the natural world there are no exceptions to this.

And that is the way it is with God’s family members.   It is only natural that we give forth the fruits of the Spirit… why?  Because we have the Holy Spirit of God within us, His fruits should be revealed in our lives.   If a Christian finds that he is not bearing God’s fruits then something is dreadfully wrong with his relationship to His Lord.  Either he isn’t in communion with His God due to unconfessed sin, or he is not actually saved.  There can be no other answer to this dilemma.

Now, let’s look at an example of a fruit revealing attributes about the one that bore it.    Again, let’s use the bear and its cub as an example.  The cub looks like a miniature version of the mother bear.  Both have the same facial features, the same bodily features, hunger for the same types of food, the list goes on and on.    So too, should we as Christians bear the appearance of our Heavenly Father.

We are told throughout God’s Word to be a good testimony to those around us.   The best possible testimony we can have is living a life that reflects God in all we do.  This is the fruit bearing that our Lord expects from all His family.  This is the role of the Christian in the world today…. Simply show others our Lord and Savior by living our lives pleasing to Him.

May the Lord bless your study of His Word.

Like God’s Word… may your soul’s salvation and your life’s faithfulness be “Settled in Heaven.”(If you have any questions about this study, or if you would like to suggest a subject for my blog please feel free to email me at settledinheaven@gmail.com.   I will answer all emails either by email, or by blog, or both.)

The Radioactive Woman …. Or My, How Things Have Changed

SIH STSTA ICONAs I grow older, the degree in which our society has changed becomes more evident. Comparing my childhood times to today’s times is an eye opening experience.

To give you one example of this great change please watch this old-time commercial about the radioactive woman on youtube; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Q1gksqqhLU&feature=related

Incredible isn’t it?  This commercial emphasizes one of the good changes that has taken place in our society over the years, a much better understanding of the medical effects of radiation upon man.  This increased medical knowledge, has brought about an increase of health, nutrition, medical advances which have allowed us to live longer, healthier lives.

In spite of all the beneficial changes that have taken place, there are many changes that seem to have only brought harm to our society.  Throughout the years, there has been an obvious decline in morals, a diminishing respect for Christians and their foundational beliefs, a breakdown of the family unit… the list goes on and on.

The same social advancement that has brought us a changed society, has also brought us a world that is unrecognizable in many ways.   Just think, in my day, vinyl records were commonly used to record music.  In my early teen years 8-track tapes were used; these were followed by cassette tapes, compact disks, and now ipods.  In fifty short years, there have been 5 different devices used to store music. Things have changed so much that many are now unrecognizable.  A vinyl record is totally different from an electronic ipod.   Anyone unfamiliar with both couldn’t believe they perform the same function.

Yes, I can sincerely say…. “My, How Things Have Changed.”  Many things may have changed but there is One that has not changed, nor will He ever change. The Word of God tells us about Him….

THE SCRIPTURE:

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

(Heb 13:8)

THE STUDY:

Paul, as He is writing to Jewish believers, emphasizes that their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, never changes. As Paul describes it, He is the “same”.  The term “same” in the Greek language is a term related to “breath”.  The idea is that Our Lord will always have breath, be alive, never decaying, never decomposing.  He will always be “the same” as He is now.  Quite unlike each of us, who someday will stop breathing, and begin a decaying process that will change our entire physical body.

Notice how Paul emphasizes the “sameness” of Christ in the past, present and future.  What a blessing it is to know that the same Christ we learn about in the Bible, is the same Christ that exists today, and is the same Christ that will exist in the future.  Again, the emphasis is on “no change” throughout eternity. This Hebrew passage is not the only passage that teaches us our Lord does not change. (Please read Psa 90:2, Psa 102:27, Isa 41:4, Isa 44:6, Mal 3:6, Jam 1:17, Heb 1:12 etc, the list goes on and on.)  All these verses, and others, not only teach us about His unchanging character, but also the importance of understanding and acknowledging this truth.

THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION:

Think about what our life would be like if our Lord did change.  He could change His mind about His Word;  all of His promises to us would have to be questioned, we couldn’t know if He was still keeping  them.   What about His power?  Our once supreme controller; He now may have lost His control to Satan, demons, or even lost mankind.  Or maybe, the One who hears us as we call upon Him, may decide to “take a day or two off” and no longer “take our calls”.   What would our lives be like if the One who is ever with us, may desert us choosing to spend time with another?   Or worst of all, what if the One who loved us, may transfer His love to another, leaving us destitute, and hopeless, awaiting divine judgment?

But thanks be to our Lord, He NEVER varies nor does He perish . He can be relied upon as the same Lord and Savior throughout the ages; past, present and future.   He never changes.

For any who have not trusted in Christ as their Savior…  Think what it is like to have a never changing God who promises to be the ultimate Judge of all men’s lives.  To be prepared to stand before His ultimate Authority, we must receive His forgiveness for the times we have failed Him.  This forgiveness is granted to us freely, simply by placing our trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  (for more info please read Eph 2:4-10)

As believers, we need to always have thankful hearts because He does not change.  He can ALWAYS be relied upon, both for this life and for the eternal life to come.

May the Lord bless your study of His Word.

Like God’s Word… may your soul’s salvation and your life’s faithfulness be “Settled in Heaven.”

“Oh Well, Moment” It’s Like an “AHHA Moment” (only different)

SIH STSTA ICONOne of the most widely telecast TV commercials, as of late, is Mutual of Omaha’s AHHA moments.  You know, the ones that show different individuals describing their AHHA moments.  (You can see many of these at (http://www.youtube.com/MyAhaMoment?feature=pyv&gclid=CIOpsL3ewKECFVhJ2god_AfX-w.)  So what is an AHHA moment?  It is a time in one’s life when they come to a clear understanding of something they previously did not understand.

Well, my wife and myself have come up with a new “moment”.  This one is known as our “Oh Well,” moment.  Let me try to explain…. I am known for being a klutz.  That’s right, at times, I feel like I am the most clumsy person alive.  I drop things, knock things over, and spill things all the time.  It is really pathetic.

Anyhow, this is where the phrase “Oh well,” comes in.   You see, whenever I pull one of my klutz moves… the first thing to pop out of my mouth is “Oh well”.  I use this phrase A LOT.  When I use it what I am trying to say is…. “I’ve done something stupid and I can’t undo it, so I’ll just get on with my life.”    For example, I spill tea all over myself, I mutter “OH WELL”, and then proceed with cleaning up the tea and changing my shirt.

Oh, how I wish getting over all my mistakes in life were this easy.  But it’s not.  When I think about how I have failed my Lord in times past, I have a tendency to harbor feelings of guilt and inadequacy. Although I have been forgiven of my sins, I have a tendency to say to myself, “I have failed the Lord before… chances are I will fail again, so why even try?”  Let’s see what the Lord says our attitude should be concerning our past failures in our life…

THE SCRIPTURE:

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

(Php 3:13-14)

THE STUDY:

The book of Philippians was written by the apostle Paul.  To get the impact of these verses we need to understand Paul’s past.  Saul (later renamed Paul), as a younger man hated Christ and the followers of Christ.  He hated Christ and His disciples to the point he persecuted and killed them whenever he could. (Phil 3:4-7, Acts 7:58-60 & 8:1, Acts 8:3-4)  Talk about committing grave sins in the eyes of God!  After his salvation, I’m sure that Paul desired to turn back the time and undo all that He had done against his Lord.  But he couldn’t.  No matter how sincerely he desired for things to be different, what was done was done.

Just like when we fail our Lord today.   When we sin, we sin.  We can never take it back.  We can secure forgiveness from God and those we have sinned against.  We can try to make amends the best way we know how.  We can even successfully resolve to never commit that sin again.  But the bottom line is… that original sin that we committed can never be reversed.

That leaves us with a choice.  Either we allow that sin to weigh us down for the rest of our lives; or, after securing our Lord’s forgiveness and seeking His grace to strengthen that weak area in our life; we proceed forward seeking to serve Him to the best of our ability.

Paul’s example makes the Lord’s desire for us crystal clear… “forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things that are before I press toward the mark”.  Paul said, in the context of his horrible past life of sin and rebellion, that he would forget what lay behind him.  In other words, as much as he hated what he had done, he would press ahead in his service as if those previous sins had not been committed.  He had been forgiven by God’s grace, his sin was now cast behind God’s back, buried in the deepest sea (please see Isa 38:17, Micah 7:19).  Paul had resolved to treat them in the same manner.

In Rom 5:20, Paul said “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”   Paul used his previous sinful life to motivate himself to greater service.  You see, because God was willing to forgive him of such a grave set of sins, he then needed to appreciate God more than others… therefore, out of an appreciative heart, Paul would then serve the Lord in greater ways than others!  Paul saw himself as the “chief of sinners” and then proceeded to serve the Lord accordingly, as the chief of servants!

THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION:

My prayer is that all of us, as forgiven servants of the Almighty God, learn this important lesson.   We should never allow our past sins to hinder our current service to our Savior.  His grace is always sufficient to forgive any past sin we have committed. (Roms 5:19-21)  When we are forgiven of those same past sins, we have been given His amazing, miraculous grace. We need to serve Him more than ever, because of the tremendous gift of love He had placed upon us.  Let us all, with thankful hearts, serve Him with all our might… He has done so very much for us!

May the Lord bless your study of His Word.

Like God’s Word… may your soul’s salvation and your life’s faithfulness be “Settled in Heaven.”

Don’t Worry… Be Happy!

SIH STSTA ICON“Don’t worry, be happy”, this song was made famous by Bobby McFarren in the 90’s (If you would like a touch of stress relief listen to the song here –  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHFDa9efCQU&feature=related ).

In this song, we find some great, much needed advice. The only problem is that putting down our worries is much easier said than done.

There are a great number of reasons why we shouldn’t worry. It has been proven that stress and anxiety can cause many health related problems such as HBP, heart disease, diabetes, mental and emotional problems, etc.  Despite all these reasons, it seems as if most people find it difficult to keep a check on their anxieties and fears. (Just take a look at my chewed down finger nails and you can quickly come to the conclusion that I, too, struggle with worry from time to time.)

So what can a Christian do to keep from worrying?  Our Lord graciously gives us clear instructions on how we can remain peaceful during the anxious moments of our lifetime…

THE SCRIPTURE:

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 kjv)

THE STUDY:

After the Lord encourages us to not worry, “Be careful for nothing”, He then gives to us the key to gaining true peace “Let your requests be made known unto God”.  What a privilege we have… as Christians, we can take all of our concerns to the Lord who controls all things.

If He chooses, He can remove any situation from us, no matter how hopeless our situation may seem.  Jeremiah had come to an understanding of this truth… “Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee:” (Jer 32:17).  If He doesn’t choose to do so, we can rest knowing this trial is for our good, His glory, and only for a fleeting time. (Roms 8:28; John 11:4; Roms 8:18).  In either case, by coming to an understanding of these truths, we can rest knowing we are in His hands.

As our verses proceed, they do not promise He will remove the trial we face.  However, they do promise peace in the midst of our personal storms, “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Please notice that the clear result of approaching God with a thankful attitude, and laying our concerns at His feet, is a special peace that goes beyond human understanding.  Have you ever seen a Christian going thru a devastating trial in their life and yet they seem so at ease?  That is the peace of God at work.   What a tremendous testimony this type of peace leaves in the midst of a chaotic world desperately in need of the peace only Christ can give.

THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION:

It was once said that the true sign of a close walk with Christ is not shown during times of prosperity, but only during times of great trials and difficulties.

It makes sense… it takes very little faith to praise the Lord and live for Him during the smooth times in life.   He blesses us and we respond by thanking Him.  It is the natural thing to do… no big deal.

But what about those faithful Christians who praise and serve Him even in the midst the difficulties of life?   It goes against their human nature to serve Him and thank Him when “the bottom drops out”.  This is where our faith is put on public display… this is where our testimony shines out loud and clear.

When we are faced with trials, let us lay them down at His feet realizing it not only results in our inner peace, but also it is a living testimony to all around us.  This testimony declares that faith in Christ is the answer for a world filled with anxiety and fears.

Let all of us, as Christians, have such a strong faith in Christ that can repeat what Job said as he faced innumerable trials… “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. He also shall be my salvation: … “(Job 13:15-16)

May the Lord bless your study of His Word.

Like God’s Word… may your soul’s salvation and your life’s faithfulness be “Settled in Heaven.”

The Secret Millionaires

SIH STSTA ICONWho would not like to trade places with John Carpenter, the first million dollar winner on the TV show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTLnTK8qanw

Winning a game show or a lottery is the dream of a lifetime for many people.  The desire for huge amounts of money is a desire most of us have at one time or another.

Ironically, this dream of earthly wealth is a desire for fleeting value.  If we received a huge amount of money how long can we enjoy and use this wealth?  Only for the length of our lifetime (maybe 50, 60, or 70 years max).

Sadly, there are possessions of much greater, eternal value that we choose to ignore.  What is of greater value to us than money?  What can we truly “take with us” after we pass away?    We will see what this eternal wealth is in today’s study…

THE SCRIPTURE:

Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? (James 2:5)

THE STUDY:

In the book of James, the apostle writes to Jews who had fled from their homeland due to persecution by the Roman Empire.   They were a discouraged, broken and POOR people.  In most cases, they departed with nothing more than the clothes on their back. They had lost their home, their livestock, their social standing, their savings, everything. This is the context of James’ message, he desired to encourage those who had lost all this world had to offer.  So what can you say to those who had “lost it all”?

First, he reminds them that they are loved by God… “My beloved brethren.”  The love of our God is of far greater value than any riches this world has to offer.  It is because of God the Father’s love for us that He was willing to send His Son to die.  It was because of God the Son’s love for us that He was willing to bear our sin and die on the cross.  It is because of God the Spirit’s love that He lives within us, accompanying us and guiding us as we walk through this life.  If we only have God’s love, we are very wealthy indeed. (See John 3:16, 1 John 3:16 John 14:23)  But the results of His love for us do not stop there. Actually what He does for us cannot begin to be listed, the list would be endless.

In our verse, James gives us two other products of God’s love… being “rich in faith” and “heirs of the kingdom that he hath promised”.   Both of these are eternal in nature… they will exist long after we have departed from this earth.  (1 Cor 2:9)

The value of faith cannot be underemphasized. It is directed to past, present and future time frames. God-given faith in Christ and His work, is an absolute requirement for God’s forgiveness and our salvation from sin (past).  (Please refer to 1 Pet 1:5-9)  Once saved, we continue to exercise faith in Him on a daily basis, looking to Him in all our decision making (present).  Also it is through faith, that we receive all of His future promises to us (future).

This brings us to the second great product of God’s love to us, the heirship of the kingdom that he has awaiting for us.  His kingdom, refers to all that He controls throughout eternity.   A heavenly home, living in His presence, rewards for our obedience, and the authority to rule with Him over the new earth are all a part of the life awaiting us.

The results of our heirship go beyond our earthly understanding. In Revelation 21:-22: John gives us a limited glimpse of the greatness of our eternity awaiting us.  Beginning with personally walking with God, to living a life where pain, sorrow, and sickness no longer exist, ending with a dwelling place of pure gold, his account of our eternity is clearly beyond our understanding.  Our eternity is so great… it cannot be valued, nor understood, with our human reasoning (see 1 Cor 2:9).

THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION:

There is no doubt that God’s love to us, far outweighs the fleeting riches of this world. For the saved, every second we live, every breath we take, is filled with His gracious presence, protection and sealing, giving us peace that we are one of His and heaven bound!   This is the “joy unspeakable and full of glory” Peter talks about in 1 Pet 1:8.  It is a joy that should constantly exist in our lives no matter what circumstances we are facing.  God’s love should motivate the Christian to have a continually thankful joyous heart for all He has done, and will do for us.

For those of us who have not experienced the grace of God in our hearts, there is a void that cannot be filled apart from the love and joy only God gives.   Do you have that feeling of emptiness within you?  Have you been searching for that certain “something” that will make you feel whole and at peace?   Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can fill that void.  By trusting in Him and His work on the cross; by accepting Him as the Lord of your life and committing your life to Him, you will find forgiveness, peace, and eternal love and the fulfillment.

In other words, to become a secret millionaire all we must do is… look to Jesus and live…

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. (Heb 9:27-28)

May the Lord bless your study of His Word.

Like God’s Word… may your soul’s salvation and your life’s faithfulness be “Settled in Heaven.”

We Are Going Higher… to our Heavenly Country!

SIH STSTA ICONIn just the last few weeks, we’ve had a series of disasters strike our world.  Earthquakes, floods, oil spills and attempted terrorist attacks, just to name a few.  Put on top of that the condition of our economy, the two wars we are waging in the middle east, and the national debt… things look pretty bleak.  For everyone, there is much to be concerned about.

In spite of all these adversities, we can have the hope of a wonderful future.  Creed is one of many  popular groups that, throughout the years, have performed songs about this future. In their song “Higher”, they speak of a land where “blind men see”, and that possess “streets of pure gold”  (www.youtube.com/watch?v=pt39Ni-R5Vw&feature=fvw).  What city are they talking about?  And more importantly, how can I get there?   Our amazing Lord has answered both these questions for us in His Word.   Let’s see what God says about this wonderful future ahead of us….

THE SCRIPTURE:

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

(Hebrews 11:13-16)

THE STUDY:

Hebrews chapter 11, is filled with accounts of noble men (Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham etc.) who were willing to make great sacrifices for God.  You can read a summary of all they did for their Lord in Hebrews 11:1-12.

Beginning in verse 13, we are clearly told that these men, in spite of their faithfulness, died.  These men didn’t receive all that God had in store for them during their life on earth.  They had been promised that they would have a great future coming from God Himself.  This promise was fulfilled after their death.

Note our verses again, through faith in their Lord’s word, they believed that God would fulfill His promises of a great future for them… they saw the promises’ fulfillments “afar off, were persuaded of them, and embraced them”.   Although these men died… their life did not end there… God began to fulfill His promises to them by giving them eternal life.

God continued to fulfill His promises to them by giving them a miraculous future.  What was this future God had in store for them?  The latter part of our verses gives us an explanation.   This future is described as a better country, a heavenly country, and a city prepared by God for them.   These men would dwell in a country and city made by God Himself.  What a wonderful blessing awaited them in this city…. No more sickness, no more death, no more sorrow, no more pain; and, most importantly, never ending fellowship with their God.   (Rev 21:3-4)

This is the city where “blind men see”, this is where “streets of pure gold” exist.  This is the country that all men desire to enter. This is the land we call heaven.

Now onto our second question … “How can I get to heaven?”   The Lord makes it plain, access to heaven is given to those who have placed their belief in Christ, His words and His work on the cross. Trusting that through His death, our sin debt is paid and forgiveness from God is attained.  Belief in Him as Lord and Savior, is the key to a heavenly entrance.  (You can read more about this in John 14:1-7)

THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION:

The promise of a heavenly home awaiting us should be a tremendous motivating force in our lives.   For those of us who are saved, it inspires us to continue to serve the Lord even during the difficult times of our lives.  It gives us the strength to continue on, in spite of the condition of the world around us.  It makes living a life for Him worth it all.

For those of us who are not saved, the promise of eternal life and an eternal dwelling place should persuade us to trust in Christ.  When the waves of a troubled life roll, He will fulfill our need of both an anchor and harbor.  When we are saved we become a member of His family… giving us security and hope in the midst of the storm.

During these disastrous times of life, we should be reminded that this world, and all it offers, can slip away in a heartbeat.  Our only security in this life is found in becoming a faithful follower of Christ, and an heir of the promises He has so graciously given to us.

May the Lord bless your study of His Word.

Like God’s Word… may your soul’s salvation and your life’s faithfulness be “Settled in Heaven.”

“I Need You, Like the Flowers Need the Rain” …

SIH STSTA ICONToday, we are surrounded by messages of “need”.  TV commercials consistently say we “need” something… a new car, a new set of clothes, or a new computer.  Our government would like us to think that we “need” all of it’s programs and spending; without them we would fall off the face of the planet, we are told.

But the classic example of the message of need is presented to us in the song by America entitled “I Need You” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qk-7n1hdK3M). Speaking of one person’s need for another, the song says it is “like the flowers (that) need the rain”. Sounds serious to me, flowers can’t live without rain, you know.

As a young man, my father used to consistently remind me that there was a difference between a “need” and a “want”.  Sorry to say, I didn’t see the wisdom in his words back then… it was only as I moved away from home that I began to see what he really meant.  In many instances, what we have is a tendency to say something is a “need”, when in actuality it is only a “want”.

But what is even more perplexing is that we have one true need that is often overlooked or devalued.

It is as if our attention is drawn to these other false “needs”, causing us to ignore the most important need of our life…. The Lord Jesus Christ….

THE SCRIPTURE:

Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation.

(Psalms 68:19 kjv)

THE STUDY:

In the preceding verse we are given two very important reasons why we need Christ in our lives…. “He daily loadeth us with benefits” and “our salvation”.

First, let’s look at his “daily benefits” He gives to us.   I can only speak for myself, but in my case, I am CONSTANTLY forgetting all that my Lord does for me on a daily basis.  The food I have to eat, the roof over my head, my strength and health, my wonderful wife, even the very breath that I take comes from my Lord.    How quickly do I forget these things.  In the middle of my day, when I am wrapped up with the daily grind, how easy it is to forget His constant flow of blessings to me.

I may be busy at work and have to eat a late lunch and grumble about it. Next time, I should thank Him  that I have food to eat and an appetite which allows me to enjoy the food.  Or, how about when I am tired and cranky; I take my frustration out on my poor wife… I’m certainly not appreciating the Lord, or her, like I should be.  As our verse said… He is daily LOADING us with His benefits (blessings).  Thank you, Lord for all you do for me on a daily basis!

But there is another blessing He gives to us mentioned in our verse…. His salvation.  “Salvation from what?”, you may ask.  This is a very fair question.  To help us answer this question, we need to understand what is meant by the term “salvation”.  In this Psalm, the Hebrew word translated “salvation” simply means “to deliver from or to give the victory over”.   Here, we are told that our Lord is the One who gives us deliverance from something.  That “something” is sin.

Over the years, I have heard more definitions for sin than I can count (or remember).  To me, the easy way I understand the meaning of “sin”, and it’s effect on our life, is by thinking of a blind man who stops to ask for directions.  He is given a roadmap to guide him…. only one problem, he cannot begin to understand, read, or even see the map.  He is in a horrible predicament.  He has a set of instructions guiding him on the path he should take, but he cannot begin to follow those directions. Such is the sinfulness of man.

Because we are sinners from conception, we all are unable to please God of our own ability.  Just like the blind man, we are in a terrible situation. God has given us His Word which contains His desires for our life, but without His grace, we cannot begin to follow them. For further study on our condition as sinners before God please study (Isa 64:6-7). To sum it up… apart from the Lord we are in horrible straits.

Does this mean we are in a hopeless situation?  ABSOLUTELY NOT.  This is where faith in our Lord Jesus Christ comes in.  Once we understand our inability, our next step is to turn to Him and realize we are totally dependant upon Him to deliver us (or give us the victory over) our sinful condition.  In other words WE NEED HIM to save us from our sins.  By turning to Him, and trusting in Him, we receive the forgiveness of our sins and the ability to please Him with our lives.

Why is Christ the One we must turn to and place our faith in?  It is because He is the One who died for us, taking our sin upon Himself that we might be saved.  (please see Roms 4:24-5:2 for more info)

THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION:

Yep, “just like the flowers need the rain”, we truly need Him, not only for our physical well-being, but for our spiritual salvation as well.  We can all agree with these words: “Without me (Christ) ye can do nothing”… but… “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  (John 15:5, Phil 4:13). Let’s turn to Him and receive His salvation and forgiveness and then, every day, be thankful and praise Him for all He has done for us!

May the Lord bless your study of His Word. Like God’s Word… may your soul’s salvation and your life’s faithfulness be “Settled in Heaven.”

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