< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: November 2006

Thursday, November 30, 2006


In Isaiah 1:11,14 God says, “I have had enough of burnt offerings…your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates.”

What’s THAT all about?

Didn’t He spend most of Exodus and Leviticus telling Moses and the Israelites in minute detail about what festivals they should celebrate and how? What burnt offerings they should be making? What grain offerings? What peace offerings?

So why is a God who never changes telling them He now hates those things?

It is because although the people claimed to be close to God, they were really disobedient and just going through the motions. Religion had become routine instead of real. And God knew that.

Just like He knows today who is coming to church to really worship Him… and who is just coming. Who is singing hymns of praise… and who is just singing.

Jesus quoted Isaiah’s condemnation of Israel’s hypocrisy when He spoke to the Pharisees in Matthew 15:7-9, “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you when he said: this people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”

The key is faith not works.

Being a descendent of Abraham. Living in the Promised Land. Having trusted God at one time. None of these were good enough. We need to have faith in God. A personal relationship. That is why we are set apart. Ask yourself; are you relying on your Christian heritage? The rituals of worship? Past experience? Or do you have faith that puts you in a right relationship with your Heavenly Father?

God expects our belief in Him to penetrate all areas of our conduct and to extend to all people and circumstances. Amos 9:13-15

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

God's Views on Marriage and Divorce

Today’s world is really mixed up about marriage, isn’t it? Millions of people are living together out of wedlock: either because they view marriage as “just a piece of paper” or they want to “try it out and see if they like it.”

While at the same time the gay population is fighting for the right to be married!

Both of these views reject Christian morals and God’s plan.

When God created Adam He knew Adam needed a companion. Someone to help him and share his life. Eve was God’s gift to Adam. God performed the first marriage ceremony when He brought Eve to Adam. The Bible says in Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh.”

A beautiful thought about this is when you find the right person for you the longing you feel has to do with the fact that the woman was formed from man’s rib. They were in fact at one time “one flesh”.

Many people today don’t seem to feel like there is a special person for them. If they do get married they go into it with the attitude that, “If it doesn’t work out this time, I can always try again.”

Divorce is mentioned in several places in the Bible. While Moses’ law allows for divorce in Deuteronomy 24:1 Jesus says in Matthew 5:32 that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unfaithfulness, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

When marriage is treated lightly, divorce comes easily. But, Mark 10:9 says, “What therefore, God has joined together let not man put asunder.” Here may lay the problem. A lot of people who are married never asked God whom they should marry! God had never really joined them at all. Most people who get married do so because they fall in love, but look at what God says in Malachi 2:14, “The Lord was witness to the covenant between you and the wife of your youth” and “she is your companion and your wife by covenant.”

He doesn’t call the spouse a lover. He calls the spouse a companion. Not that there is anything wrong with love, but sometimes love is just based on chemistry or attraction. Two things that come and go. We fall in and out of love.

Remember God created Eve as a companion. In life you will experience the “worse, the poverty, and the sickness” part of the wedding vows, and you will want a friend to go through those experiences with you. We also see from this verse that marriage is a covenant. It is not “just a piece of paper”. It’s between a man, a woman, and God. It is holy.

The reason God hates divorce is because He loves marriage so much. It is His perfect plan for a man and a woman to live in companionship under His covenant for all their lives.

Click here to see more about Christian marriage and sexual purity

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

God's will for my life

One of the biggest dilemmas we face is figuring out God’s will for our lives.

What does He want us to do? How are we going to get there? What can we do to figure it out?

Knowing the Lord’s will is much more than a five-step program or asking a question and getting an answer. It begins with knowing the Lord Himself. Regular prayer and Bible reading are essential parts of a close relationship with God. As you grow closer to Him and understand more of His character, the plan He has for your life will begin to be revealed. This is an important, foundational part of understanding God’s plans for you.

To know the Lord’s will for your life, you need to see things the way He sees them. This happens through a renewing of your mind. In Romans 12:2 (NIV), Paul writes, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Renewing your mind means to gain an entirely new way of thinking, rather than simply blending in with what the rest of the world says. It applies to every area of our life: from our relationships (Do I have friends for my own enjoyment, or are they an opportunity for me to be an example of Christ?) to every one of our motivations (Is my goal to have as much fun as possible, or to serve God with all of my heart?)

By setting your mind on the things above (Colossians 3:1-3), you will gain a new perspective that Scripture teaches us will allow you to “test and approve what God’s will is.”

Many people wonder just how the Lord speaks to us. This is sometimes the most difficult aspect of knowing His will, but it is much simpler than some make it out to be. There is no one way that the Lord speaks. Sometimes He makes things clear through prayer or while reading His word, and other times it is through what people say. There are examples throughout the Bible of God speaking to His people in a variety of ways. When we keep an open mind and an open heart, we allow the Lord to work in whichever way He desires.

One way to begin to explore what God may have planned for your future is to look at what God has given you right now. Our gifts and talents have been given to us by God and are often indicators of what He wants us to do with our lives. Are you a great singer? Maybe God has created you to be a worship leader. Do you love being with people? God might have plans for you to become a counselor. Whether it is music, art, teaching, writing or any other gift, the Lord wants you to use these abilities for His glory.

God’s plan for your life could be revealed at any time and in many different ways. If you believe that He has spoken to you about what He wants you to do with your life, be sure to take time to pray thoroughly about it and ask others for advice. If you have no idea, do not give up! God is faithful and He wants to speak to you just as much if not more than how much you want to hear Him. Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV) says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Knowing the Lord’s will for your life is a process that begins with a firm relationship with God and knowledge of His Word. As you search for Him will all your heart, He will reveal Himself to you. He does have an incredible plan for your life. Continue to do all that you can to grow closer to Him, and He will show you great things. (Jeremiah 33:3)

“Pray that the Lord your God will tell you where to go and what to do.” Jeremiah 42:3

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

My life’s purpose is to be a member of Christ’s family, grow like Him in character, model His character, minister His grace, be a messanger of His Word and a magnifier of His glory.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Fruits of the Spirit Clothing and Gifts

As you are shopping for Christmas presents consider giving a gift that allows the receiver to share their faith.

Galatians 5:22 says the Fruits of the Spirit are: Love, Joy, Peace, Kindness, Patience, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control.

givitup.com has the fruits on your choice of 90 different products in 6 jewel tone colors. Pick the one that means the most to you or collect them all.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Thankful for the Thorns

I’m going to be gone for Thanksgiving until Monday morning, so I won’t post between now and then. If you are just discovering this blog you might want to go back to the beginning to catch up. It is only 1 month old.

I’m leaving you with a Thanksgiving story. Author unknown.

Thanksgiving Classic: Thankful For The Thorns

Sandra felt as low as the heels of her Birkenstocks when she pulled open the florist shop door, against a November gust of wind. Her life had been as sweet as a spring breeze and then, in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a "minor" automobile accident stole her joy. This was Thanksgiving week and the time she should have delivered their infant son. She grieved over their loss. Troubles had multiplied. Her husband's company "threatened" to transfer his job to a new location.

Her sister had called to say that she could not come for her long awaited holiday visit. What's worse, Sandra's friend suggested that Sandra's grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer. "She has no idea what I'm feeling," thought Sandra with a shudder. "Thanksgiving? Thankful for what?" she wondered. "For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended her? For an airbag that saved her life, but took her child's?"

"Good afternoon, can I help you?" Sandra was startled by the approach of the shop clerk.

"I.... I need an arrangement," stammered Sandra.

"For Thanksgiving? Do you want the beautiful but ordinary, or would you like to challenge the day with a customer favorite I call the 'Thanksgiving Special'? I'm convinced that flowers tell stories," she continued. "Are you looking for something that conveys 'gratitude' this Thanksgiving?"

"Not exactly!" Sandra blurted out. "In the last five months, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong." Sandra regretted her outburst, and was surprised when the clerk said, "I have the perfect arrangement for you."

Then the bell on the door rang, and the clerk greeted the new customer, "Hi, Barbara...let me get your order." She excused herself and walked back to a small workroom, then quickly reappeared, carrying an arrangement of greenery, bows, and what appeared to be long-stemmed thorny roses. Except the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped: there were no flowers.

"Do you want these in a box?" asked the clerk. Sandra watched for the customer's response. Was this a joke? Who would want rose stems with no flowers! She waited for laughter, but neither woman laughed. "Yes, please," Barbara replied with an appreciative smile. "You'd think after three years of getting the special, I wouldn't be so moved by its significance, but I can feel it right here, all over again." She said, as she gently tapped her chest.

Sandra stammered, "Ah, that lady just left with, uh.... she left with no flowers!"

"That's right, said the clerk. "I cut off the flowers. That's the 'Special'. I call it the Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet."

"Oh, come on! You can't tell me someone is willing to pay for that!" exclaimed Sandra.

"Barbara came into the shop three years ago, feeling much as you do, today," explained the clerk. "She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had just lost her father to cancer; the family business was failing; her son had gotten into drugs; and she was facing major surgery."

"That same year I had lost my husband," continued the clerk. "For the first time in my life, I had to spend the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too much debt to allow any travel."

"So what did you do?" asked Sandra.
"I learned to be thankful for thorns," answered the clerk quietly. "I've always thanked God for the good things in my life and I NEVER questioned Him why those GOOD things happened to me, but when the bad stuff hit, I cried out, "WHY? WHY Me?!" It took time for me to learn that the dark times are important to our faith! I have always enjoyed the 'flowers' of my life, but it took the thorns to show me the beauty of God's comfort! You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we're afflicted, and from His consolation we learn to comfort others."

Sandra sucked in her breath, as she thought about the thought that her friend had tried to tell her. "I guess the truth is, I don't want comfort. I've lost a baby and I'm angry with God."

Just then someone else walked in the shop. "Hey, Phil!" the clerk greeted the balding, rotund man. "My wife sent me in to get our usual Thanksgiving arrangement... twelve thorny, long-stemmed stems!" laughed Phil as the clerk handed him a tissue wrapped arrangement from the refrigerator.

"Those are for your wife?" asked Sandra incredulously. "Do you mind telling me why she wants a bouquet that looks like that?"

"No... I'm glad you asked," Phil replied. "Four years ago, my wife and I nearly divorced. After forty years, we were in a real mess, but with the Lord's grace and guidance, we trudged through problem after problem. The Lord rescued our marriage. Jenny, here (the clerk) told me she kept a vase of rose stems to remind her of what she had learned from "thorny" times. That was good enough for me. I took home some of those stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific "problem" and give thanks for what that problem taught us." As Phil paid the clerk, he said to Sandra, "I highly recommend the Special!"

"I don't know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life." Sandra said to the clerk. "It's all too... fresh."

"Well," the clerk replied carefully, "my experience has shown me that the thorns make the roses more precious. We treasure God's providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember that it was a crown of thorns that Jesus wore so we might know His love. Don't resent the thorns."

Tears rolled down Sandra's cheeks. For the first time since the accident, she loosened her grip on her resentment. "I'll take those twelve long-stemmed thorns, please," she managed to choke out.

"I hoped you would," said the clerk gently. "I'll have them ready in a minute."

"Thank you. What do I owe you?"

"Nothing. Nothing but a promise to allow God to heal your heart. The first year's arrangement is always on me." The clerk smiled and handed a card to Sandra. "I'll attach this card to your arrangement, but maybe you would like to read it first."

It read:
My God, I have never thanked You for my thorns. I have thanked You a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear; teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed closer to You along the path of pain. Show me that, through my tears, the colors of Your rainbow look much more brilliant."

Praise Him for the roses; thank Him for the thorns.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Memo from God

This is something most people have probably read before, but it is helpful to re-read once in a while:


Effective immediately, please be aware that there are changes you need to make in your life. These changes need to be completed in order that I may fulfill my promises to you to grant you peace, joy and happiness in this life. I apologize for any inconvenience, but after all that I am doing, this seems very little to ask of you. I know, I already gave you the 10 Commandments. Keep them. But follow these guidelines, also.
1. QUIT WORRYING Life has dealt you a blow and all you do is sit and worry. Have you forgotten that I am here to take all your burdens and carry them for you? Or do you just enjoy fretting over every little thing that comes your way?
2. PUT IT ON THE LIST Something needs to be done or taken care of. Put it on the list. No, not YOUR list. Put it on MY to-do-list! Let ME be the one to take care of the problem. I can't help you until you turn it over to me. And although my to-do-list is long, I am after all, God. I can take care of anything you put into my hands. In fact, if the truth were ever really known, I take care of a lot of things for you that you never even realize.
3. TRUST ME Once you've given your burdens to me, quit trying to take them back. Trust in me. Have the faith that I will take care of all your needs, your problems and your trials. Problems with the kids? Put them on my list. Problem with finances? Put it on my list. Problems with your emotional roller coaster? For my sake, put it on my list. I want to help you. All you have to do is ask.
4. LEAVE IT ALONE Don't wake up one morning and say, "Well, I'm feeling much stronger now, I think I can handle it from here." Why do you think you are feeling stronger now? It's simple. You gave me your burdens and I'm taking care of them. I also renew your strength and cover you in my peace. Don't you know that if I give you these problems back, you will be right back where you started? Leave them with me and forget about them. Just let me do my job.
5. TALK TO ME I want you to forget a lot of things. Forget what is making you crazy. Forget the worry and the fretting because you know I'm in control. But there's one thing I pray you never forget. Please don't forget to talk to me - OFTEN! I love you. I want to hear your voice. I want you to include me in on the things going on in your life. I want to hear you talk about your friends and family. Prayer is simply you having a conversation with me. I want to be your dearest friend.
6. HAVE FAITH I see a lot of things from up here that you can't see from where you are. Have faith in me that I know what I'm doing. Trust me, you wouldn't want the view from my eyes. I will continue to care for you, watch over you, and meet your needs. You only have to trust me. Although I have a much bigger task than you, it seems as if you have so much trouble just doing your simple part. How hard can trust be?

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

God is bigger then our problems

There is a story in the 13th and 14th chapters of Numbers where the people are on the edge of the Promised Land and God tells Moses to send 12 men to “spy out the land of Canaan.”

One man from each tribe was sent out for 40 days. When they returned, ten of the men said that although the land did flow with milk and honey, the people who dwelled in the land were like giants and the cities too fortified. Only Caleb and Joshua suggested going in according to God’s plan.

The people wept and complained, saying they would have been better off dying in the dessert than having to face this, and made plans to pick a new leader to take them back to Egypt.

The ten spies compared the giants to themselves while Caleb and Joshua compared them to God. Moses prayed to God to forgive the people’s rebellion and in Numbers 14:20-24 God told Moses He would pardon the people, but "none of the men who had seen His glory and His signs would see the land He swore to give to their fathers and none of the men who despised Him would see it." Only “Caleb because he had a different spirit and has followed me fully” and in verse 30 “Joshua the son of Nun.”

So God made the Israelites wander the dessert another 38 years until that generation died out. The only two still alive to go in were Caleb and Joshua.

God doesn’t need much from us to accomplish His plan in our lives. Only a willing and trusting spirit. Focusing on our human predicament can paralyze us because the situation may appear humanly impossible. But, concentrating on God and His power will help us see the way out. We need to trust God. We need to know Him and His promises. When we face great problems, God has an opportunity to exercise His great power.

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

God was not caught by surprise

Isaiah 53:10 says, “Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief; when He makes Himself an offering for sin, He shall see His offspring, He shall prolong His days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in His hand;”

It was no accident. God was not caught by surprise when His servant was crushed and put to grief. It was God’s eternal plan for the redemption of Israel. There was no hostile intent, only a righteous God, dealing with the transgressions of His people. The emphasis Isaiah makes is, God did it. God is the author, God is in control. Not the Roman soldiers or the Jewish religious leaders. They could accomplish their evil deed only as a sovereign God allowed them. The only adequate answer to the question of why God did it is found in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

God reached out to us from the beginning. He has always come to us. In the Garden of Eden He came down to walk with Adam and Eve and to teach them. In Exodus He was there in the form of a fire and a cloud leading and guiding the Israelites. Later He dwelled in their most holy of Holies. Much later He came to earth as Jesus. He became one of us and lived on earth. Now, He is inside every believer in the form of the Holy Spirit, where He’s promised to stay until the end of time.

God loves us! He wants to BE with us, have a relationship with us now and for eternity. His plan is that, as many people as can, will be saved. It is totally up to us, whether we are or not.

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Friday, November 17, 2006


The book of Exodus tells the story of the forming of the children of Israel into a church and a nation. We can learn much from this book.

Many Jews, Christians and Muslims believe there is only one God and that He is the source of everything that exists in the universe. We believe that God cares for people, that He helps them, that He calls them to know, serve and worship Him. Many of the roots from which our faith has grown can be found in the book of Exodus.

Whenever one group of people or a tribe or race is hated or oppressed or exploited by another, they can find in Exodus a challenge and a message of hope. The message of hope is for those who suffer. The African slaves remembered Moses in many of their songs. They knew that God wants people to be free.

The challenge and a warning are first of all for those who oppress them, but as we read this book we will find there are also warnings for those who wish to be liberated. God also wants us to trust Him wherever He has put us at that time.

This book is about going forward. About hoping what you are going to is better then what you left behind. It’s also a book about learning that the only way to be truly free is to put God first in your life and to treat other people justly.

When the book of Exodus was written there were many people who thought there were a large number of gods and goddesses. Others thought there might be one creator-god, but that he was too far away to be concerned with the everyday affairs of people’s lives. The writer of Exodus makes it clear he believes there is one God and that He is a God who comes near to people. He makes Himself known. He has a purpose for men’s lives and He makes it known to them. There are people even today who pray to saints because they think God is unapproachable.

When we read Exodus we should look for what it tells us about God and we should use what it tells us so that we trust Him and do His will.

Lord make me a vessel that serves only You, and my life a reflection of what You can do.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Amazing Grace Clothing and Gift Line

Grace is amazing! Share that truth. Be a light in the darkness by sharing your faith. Shaped like a cross these are also meaningful gifts for those you love and who love the Lord.

Visit Amazing Grace Gifts for more beautiful Christian gifts.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Enjoying Life

Those who really know how to enjoy life are the ones who take each day as a gift from God, thanking Him for it and serving Him in it. I once read that if we start our prayers with thanksgiving to God everything else would fall into place.

If we start remembering and realizing everything God has done for us and given to us, we would have a grateful heart. And a grateful heart spills out in love. Love for God, love for other people, love for yourself and love for God’s world.

Thanking God also puts our focus on Him and reminds us we can trust Him to take care of us and provide for our needs. We should thank God ahead of time for His divine promises, knowing that what God says is as good as done.

According to Ecclesiastes 3:1-9 we have peace with God when we discover, accept and appreciate His perfect timing. We do this by spending time with Him and in His word.

Solomon, who “had it all” and wrote Ecclesiastes wanted his readers to know that if we try to find meaning in our own accomplishments rather than God we will never be satisfied and all we pursue will become wearisome. We should honor God in all we say, think and do. We should live with the attitude that life is short, but we will live with God forever.

God wants us to serve. To serve both Him and our fellow men. Matthew 20:26 tells us that, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant.” And to truly serve means to give with no hope of receiving. We must never be too busy for people. Jesus always had time and never found people a nuisance.

Sin takes away our enjoyment of life. Romans 6:15-23 tells us that sin robs life of its meaning, its peace and its joy. Sin separates us from God and God didn’t create us to be separate from Him!

Our ability to find satisfaction in things and people depends largely on our attitude. If our attitude is gratitude we will find much in life to enjoy.

Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thess. 5:16-18

“This is the day the Lord has made – let us rejoice and be glad in it!” Psalm 118

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Kyle Matthews

This has been a great weekend! Last year we went to hear Kyle Matthews in concert at a local church. At the time I had never heard of him, but I recognized a lot of songs that the newspaper write up said he had written.

You’ve all heard “You had me at hello”? Well, he had me at the first note!

Kyle is not only an amazing pianist and songwriter, but also a great speaker and just a warm, caring individual who wants people to know Jesus.

The reason this weekend was so great for me is – he was back! In concert Saturday night with a reception following and then on Sunday morning he led worship at another church.

We went to both events and if there had been more we would have been there too!

The following is a little of what cm central.com wrote about Kyle in their Artists data base:

To Kyle, songwriting has always been about communicating God's truth to other people. It's about combining his love for scripture and his love for music in a way that provokes deeper questions and leads people to see for themselves just what it is that God has in store for them. When other artists look for songs that are filled with emotional depth and theological insight, they turn to Kyle.

Kyle is driven by motivating other people to be surprised by God, to experience all that God is and has for them. He has a heart for ministry and an incredible talent for songwriting that combine in an artist who evades significance for himself, in order to point to the true Source of significance.

Kyle also believes service is the natural outcome of a believer’s life.

“Service is pretty much the crux of how I can call people to meet Christ. It's a place I know they can find him. It's a place I've been. It's a place I still want to go and be. And so, I feel like part of my call as an artist is to be a servant and to call people to serve.” Kyle says. “We live in such a blessed culture. Still, it's easy to get stuck asking God to fill your cup, longing for more from Him, when there's basically no more room in your cup for Him to put anything in. He's waiting for us to pour it out to others, so that He can give us more.”

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

There is a parable in Matthew 19:30-20:16 about a vineyard owner who goes out to hire workers for an agreed upon amount for a day’s work. Later he sends his steward out to hire more. Three more times, hours apart, more workers are hired. When it was time to get paid they were all paid equally. This upset the ones who had been laboring all along.

The parable says several different things to me:

1. People who are saved earlier than others shouldn’t feel superior. All men, no matter what stage in their life, are equally precious to God. The thief on the cross next to Jesus slid in under the wire. There’s a hymn called “To God Be the Glory” where the second verse says, “O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood, to every believer, the promise of God: the vilest offender who truly believes – that moment from Jesus – a pardon receives.”

2. We don’t earn what He gives – it’s grace.

3. God doesn’t compare our service with others, but how much we give of ourselves and we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others either.

If we are saved early in life we should be grateful that we had a chance to live with the fruits of the spirit: joy, love, peace, faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, kindness, self-control and patience. If we are saved at the end of our life we should be grateful period!

My dad was a Christian Scientist and got cancer when he was 65 years old. He died eleven months after they found it. During that time, when you could say he was in the eleventh hour of the day, or his life, our pastor who had been visiting with him during his illness baptized him.

Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved thru faith and this is not your own doing – it is a gift from God.”

See all Grace, It's Amazing Christian Clothing and Gifts here

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Don't Lose Your First Love

When the apostle John was an old man in exile on Patmos, the church was made up of second and third generation Christians. Christ still hadn’t come back. Some of the wonder and newness had worn off. And Jesus knew this would happen.

In Matthew 24:12, He said, “The love of many shall grow cold.” And it was to the church of Ephesus where John had lived and preached a long time that Christ says in Revelation 2:4, “Nevertheless I have something against you, because you have left your first love.”

When you love someone you want to know everything about them. You want to spend time with them: please them. You are excited by the very thought of them.

But later, sometimes, you might go through a period where you're a little bored with them. Or too busy to pay them much attention.

It’s the same in individual Christian lives. We’ll have mountain top experiences and we’ll have long dry patches. Sometimes Christian living gets tedious. We find ourselves not wanting to be holy and set apart anymore. We just want to blend in with the rest of the world.

As Christians we are given a new ethical demand: a new standard of moral purity, a new sexual ethic, a new kindness, a new service, a new forgiveness… and it’s difficult. Then when we lose that first thrill and enthusiasm, it’s harder and harder to stand against the world. Especially today in an America that idolizes material things and celebrities.

Memories help spark a fading love. Remembering your husband’s face when he proposed, the look in his eyes when you walked down the aisle or when you told him he was going to be a father. Remembering how God loved us so much He sent His only Son: perfect, sweet, sinless Jesus, to die a terrible death for us so we could spend eternity with him in Heaven.

It helps to spend time with that person. Not the rushing around, catching each other on the fly, leaving interrupted sentences hanging in the air, but uninterrupted, quiet time learning more about this person you love. Thinking about your future together and thanking Him for being a part of your future!

Live a life worth of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle: be patient, bearing one another in love. Ephesians 4:1-3

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Friday, November 10, 2006

The Great Commission

Matthew 28:19-20 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

With the 2006 elections just over and the latest Christian leader scandal simmering down, it seems like a good time to re-think how Christ expects His church to act.

While we need to be in the world we are not to be of the world. We are to be lights and salt.

Our first duty to Him is to spread the Good News. Everything else is secondary.

Christians should vote. Christians should be up on what’s going on politically and be active promoting issues that are Biblical. But, if we are to show Christ to others in everything we say and do, we need to examine how we are coming across in this area.

C.S. Lewis said, “The very best thing and biggest attraction to Christianity is Christians; and the very worst thing and biggest distraction to Christianity is Christians.”

A lot of what we’ve seen in the political arena does not reflect Christ appropriately.

We also need to quit putting well-known Christian preachers and speakers on pedestals. When they become more of a draw then the message – we are all in trouble.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Never Let Adversity Get You Down

I would rather walk with God in the dark than go alone in the light.

“Even when walking through the dark valley of death I will not be afraid, for You are close beside me, guarding, guiding all the way.” Ps.23:4

You should never let adversity get you down – except to your knees. “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things, present, nor things to come…shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38,39

When Christ comes into a man’s heart the evil dross is purged away. Sometimes that has to happen through painful experiences. But if a man throughout all the experiences of life believes that God is working together all things for good he will emerge from them with a character, which is cleansed and purified, until, being pure in heart, he can see God.

The one way to complete satisfaction is the way which has learned complete dependence on God.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Christians, Trials and Jesus

Christians are not promised a trial free life. If they were, people would flock to Christianity for all the wrong reasons. Also a trial free life does not allow faith to grow. If we know for a fact that we would never get sick, or that if we did it wouldn’t be serious, or that we would live to a ripe old age and then die in our sleep, or never have financial worries, we wouldn’t lean on God to get us through however He pleases.

People find it especially hard to understand when something happens to a person who seems to be doing exactly what God wants: a missionary killed on his way to a mission trip, someone trying to save someone’s life and himself dying in the process.

This is where we can go to the Bible and find comfort and meaning.

Most people have heard the story of the three young men who were thrown into the fire for refusing to worship the king and instead only worshipping their God. Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego were doing God’s will and God could have kept them from the furnace. He could have had the king change his mind or even have all the people involved totally forget about it, but He didn’t. He let them be thrown into a furnace that was so hot it killed some of the guards close by. Later, when other guards looked in, they saw not three, but four men. What does this tell us? God didn’t keep them from the furnace, but He came down into it with them!

And when we are at our lowest and most miserable, we should look around, because that’s when God is closest and He will be with us every step of the way!

If the family worships together and trusts God for guidance, God will surely bless each member with the wisdom and courage to meet all problems that arise.

“No perfume is more costly and more aromatic to God than the faithfulness of believers who are suffering.”

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Christian Maturity

As we grow in God’s word and put it into practice, our capacity to understand it will grow. The writer of Hebrews says in 5:44 “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their facilities trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.” We must learn discernment. We must train our minds to distinguish the correct use of scripture from wrong. Christianity can’t be learned in a day. It takes time to teach and effort to learn.

Most of the book of Hebrews is a call to Christian maturity, which means making Christ the beginning and end of our faith and to center our lives on Him. Chapter 6 of Hebrews tells us to go beyond the elementary doctrines of Christ; repentance, being saved by faith, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.

It’s like children going through school. They learn the very basic things in kindergarten and first grade, but then move on, building on that knowledge. The 2nd and 3rd grade teachers don’t just reteach what they’ve already learned over and over again. If they did, no one would ever get out of grade school!

Christianity and our faith is a process. We need to be constantly growing, a little bit at a time and daily – like the manna in the desert. As we become more mature in our faith we need to think things out more for ourselves. We should eventually be able to answer the question, “What would Jesus do?”

As we mature we should reflect Christ more and more to others. We should get rid of old faults and put on new virtues. Sometimes we will go through dry spells and we’ll fail to mature. We’ll lose our enthusiasm, the sermons will bore us, service will seem a burden, but we need to keep doing the routines of a Christian life. And the joy will return.

The author of Hebrews considers our lives to be a journey to Christ. And it is the end of life that makes the process of life all important. A journey will often take us through deserts, along refreshing streams and up to the top of mountains. The Bible encourages us to hold firm and to finish the race. In other words – keep moving! God will complete His work in us. He will mature us.

Forgive us for living shallow in deep times.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Christian Love - a Choice not a Feeling

The apostle John tells us in 1 John 2:7-8; “Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment which you have had since the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new commandment which is true in him and in you.”

The commandment is to love others. It’s old because it comes from the law. Leviticus 19:18 says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” And it’s new because Jesus interpreted it a new way. In John 13:34-35 He says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

Jesus raised it to a new standard. We are to love like He did. Jesus didn’t just love His neighbors. He loved sinners and He loved His enemies. The Jews used to believe God wanted to destroy sinners. The rabbis would say, “There is joy in heaven when one sinner is obliterated from earth.” But, Jesus was a friend to the outcast and sinners and He taught us there is joy in heaven when one sinner comes home. Jesus widened the boundaries of who we are to love until they included the whole world.

For Christians, loving others isn’t a feeling, but a choice. There will always be things about certain people we won’t like. But, we should never treat others as irritants or look down on them. We should never think they are unimportant compared to us. If anyone had the right to do that it would have been Christ,but He never did. He always had time for people. He always had compassion for them. Jesus was able to see into their hearts and know why they did what they did. As we become more and more like Christ on our journey we will be able to see others through His eyes.

We should never treat people like enemies; they should never be a nuisance to us and we shouldn’t ignore their needs. Our brother’s needs are our needs, his interests our interests. To serve him is why we are here and to fellowship with him the true joy of life.

John says loving our brother allows us to progress in our spiritual life, but hating him stops the progress. Your choice!

Teach your children less about the love of power and more about the power of love!

See more on Christian Love here

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Calories and Prophets

Back in Old Testament times when God’s prophets were alive and going about His work, they weren’t very well liked. The people didn’t like the prophets because they didn’t welcome the truth. The truth made them uncomfortable. It still makes us uncomfortable today. We prefer lies and illusions that make us feel more secure.

It’s kind of like counting calories.

If you are watching your diet and tracking calories in your mind each day, have you ever counted a piece of cake that you really knew was closer to 500 calories as 400 calories? Just because it MAY have been cut a tiny bit smaller or maybe the cook used skim milk instead of whole (even though you have no idea if they did or not!) Or have you ever taken a piece of candy from a bag and even though the calories were printed on the back, you didn’t turn the bag over to look? You just guessed……low! If you keep doing that you will gain weight.

If you keep lying to yourself about your relationship with God, you won’t have one! So really! What good does it do to kid yourself? It’s much better to face reality then to live a lie. ESPECIALLY when we are talking about things eternal….and calories!

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Be Still and Know That I Am God

Our natural tendency when we have a problem is to rush into a quick fix. Do something right away to get rid of the problem.

God tells us clearly in the Bible to “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

That’s the first thing a Christian should do in any situation. Being still is asking for God’s direction and then listening to what He says. He may have a message for you. Jesus said, “What I tell you in the dark; speak in the daylight.” (Matthew 10:27) He may want us to learn something through our troubles that will help someone else later in their troubles. We are called to love others, comfort them and show them that God loves them.

When we are hurrying and busy, we are only thinking of ourselves. When we stop and let God order and guide our thoughts, they turn first to Him. We were created to be in a relationship with our creator. Thinking of Him first is natural and gives us peace.

Many times we rush to say things we later regret. Proverbs 10:19 says, “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin; but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” Stop and listen before you say something. Then you will have nothing to take back.

Psalm 62:5 says, “For God alone my soul awaits in silence for my hope is from Him.” Hope is what it’s all about. Hope in God and in our faith is a sure thing for Christians. God will never forsake us. His Bible, His prophecies are real and true. Be still and listen to Him.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

"Be Holy Because I Am Holy"

The book of Leviticus contains rules for holy living. It is God’s handbook for the Israelites whom He chose and set apart. Holy means morally perfect, pure and set apart from sin. It is giving your whole self up to God.

Leviticus 20:26 says, “You shall be holy to me; for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine…”

We should live in a manner worthy of all God has done for us. God’s moral perfection, properly seen, will purify us from sin, cleanse our minds from our problems and enable us to worship and serve. We learn about God’s moral perfection in the Bible. Daily Bible study has a purifying affect on our hearts and minds. Scripture points out sin, motivates us to confess, renews our right relationship with Christ and guides us back on the right path. Psalm 119:9-16 asks, “How can a young man keep his way pure?” And answers, “By guarding it according to thy word.”

Psalm 34:13-14 tells us to “Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

God promises us blessings if we strive for holiness. “And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people.” In Romans 16:20 Paul tells us God will crush Satan under OUR feet. Every time we embrace good and shun evil. When we live by the truth and do what is right and good regardless of resultant consequences, God is glorified and Satan shown a failure.

Make this your goal in life: “I always do what is pleasing to Him.” John 8:29

Christians are called to be like God: merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, forgiving… Exodus 34:6-7

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