Posted in The word of hope

A POSITIVE CHOICE

Happiness can be defined as a feeling of spiritual contentment that will carry you through the triumphs, pitfalls, or even heartaches of life with calm stability, serenity, peace of mind, and tranquility (Matthew 5:3-12). Happiness may or may not be related to the happenings in your life. In many instances, the outward happenings in a life affect our attitudes. However, happiness is also an act of the will (Psalm 144:15). We all have things happen in our lives that give us reason to be unhappy, but we have the power through Christ to make our own response to those happenings. Happiness is a potential positive choice.

Jesus gives some characteristics that promote a response of happiness (meekness, righteousness, merciful, peacemakers; Matthew 5:3-11). A believer must concentrate not on doing, but on BEING and LIVING! Total commitment to the Lord will result in a believer instinctive Christ-like response to various happenings as they occur. You must appropriate the tools God has given (his Word and his indwelling Spirit) in order to pursue happiness (Proverbs 3:13, 29:18). When a believer’s faith and conduct are balanced, happiness will always result. Happiness is enjoying everything the Lord has given you and not fretting about the things that have been taken away or withheld (Matthew 6:33-34). Happiness is trusting in God’s sovereignty and omniscience. You must believe that in every happening God will work for your good (Romans 8:28). Happiness comes from a daily obedience and faith in the Lord.

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Posted in The word of hope

Your Double Blessing

I love the word ‘mercy’. I am so thankful that God is a God of mercy. William Shakespeare captured something of the wonder of mercy in Portia’s speech in The Merchant of Venice. She speaks about the ‘quality of mercy’:

‘The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.’
Act IV

Scene I

You are blessed when you receive mercy and you are blessed when you are merciful to others.

Psalm 6:1-10

1. Cry out for mercy

Are there times in your life when you are really struggling and nothing seems to go right? Do you feel ‘faint’ (v.2), ‘in agony’ (v.2), ‘anguish’ (v.3), ‘worn out’ (v.6), ‘groaning’ (v.6), ‘weeping’ (v.6), in ‘tears’ (v.6), and ‘weak with sorrow’ (v.7)?

At times this may be caused by our own sin. At other times, it may be due to bereavement, sudden loss, relationship difficulties, family break-up, sickness, work issues, unemployment or opposition.

David also experienced difficult times but, in the midst of them, he cried out to God for mercy: ‘Be merciful to me, Lord’ (v.2). He knew that God is a God of mercy. He prayed: ‘Save me for the sake of your steadfast love and mercy’ (v.4, AMP).

Sometimes it seems that our difficulties will never come to an end. They seem to go on and on. When we are in a season of battle we cry out like David, ‘How long, Lord, how long?’ (v.3). We cry out for mercy and it does not seem as if God is listening. But he is. There will come a point when you can say with David: ‘The Lord has heard my weeping. The Lord has heard my cry for mercy’ (vv.8–9).

Lord, thank you for ‘your unfailing love’ (v.4) and mercy. Thank you that you hear my cry and accept my prayers. Be merciful to me, O Lord.

Matthew 5:43-6:24

2. Be merciful to others

Having mercy on others is right at the heart of Jesus’ teaching. ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven’ (5:44–45a). Love is more than showing mercy, but mercy is an essential part of love.

Jesus gives three reasons in the passage why you should be merciful towards those who have wronged you:

  • First, to have mercy on your enemies is to imitate your Father in heaven – ‘that you may be children of your Father in heaven’ (v.45a). God’s mercy extends to those who are hostile towards him: ‘He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous’ (v.45b).
  • Second, to have mercy like this marks you out from the world: ‘If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?’ (v.46). We tend only to love people who are like us, or whom we like. But you are called to be different. You are called to what Dietrich Bonhoeffer referred to as ‘the “extraordinary”… the hallmark of the Christian’.
  • Third, there is a connection between forgiving and receiving forgiveness. We cannot receive God’s mercy ourselves and then show no mercy to others. We do not earn forgiveness by forgiving others, but Jesus says that our forgiveness of others is essential to receiving forgiveness from God. ‘You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part’ (6:14b–15, MSG). Daily, receive mercy and forgiveness, and daily have mercy and forgive others.

Jesus also explains how you can express this mercy practically in what you do. He highlights the importance of prayer. He tells you to ‘pray for those who persecute you’ (5:44). Praying for your enemies helps you to see them as God sees them. In prayer you stand side by side with them, take their guilt and distress on yourself, and plead to God for them. Prayer is the acid-test of love. Coming into the light of God’s presence reveals the true feelings in the depths of our hearts.

The theme of mercy is also at the heart of the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors’ (6:12). (Of course, there is much besides mercy in this prayer, which we will look at later when we encounter it in the other Gospels.)

When we pray, Jesus teaches us to:

  • Keep it quiet
    ‘Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God’ (v.6a, MSG).
  • Keep it honest
    ‘Just be there as simply andhonestly as you can manage’ (v.6b, MSG).
  • Keep it simple
    ‘With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply’ (v.9a, MSG).

Finally, mercy should also be at the heart of our giving. Generosity is a form of having mercy on others. ‘When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it – quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out’ (vv.3–4, MSG).

Every time I read the Sermon on the Mount, I see how far short I fall and I am very aware of my own need for mercy.

Lord, thank you that you are merciful to me. Thank you that you forgive my sins. Lord, help me always to be merciful to others.

Genesis 14:1-16:16

3. Receive God’s mercy

Two crucial passages in the Old Testament reading for today point to the way in which God’s mercy is made possible.

  • Receive God’s mercy through Jesus
    It starts with what appears to be a rather strange and disconnected account of four kings defeating five kings. Then the connection is made with Abraham’s nephew Lot being captured by the four kings (14:12) and then rescued by Abraham (v.16). Then mysteriously Abraham, returning from his victory, isblessed by Melchizedek (vv.18–20).

    This is expounded in Hebrews chapter 7, which explains that it all points forward to Jesus. Melchizedek’s priesthood is superior to all the other priests in the Old Testament (the Levitical priesthood). Abraham, who was the great grandfather of Levi (who was therefore ‘in his loins’) gave a tithe to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:20). In other words, Levi recognised the superiority of Melchizedek.

    Melchizedek foreshadows Jesus, the great high priest, whose one perfect sacrifice on the cross made it possible for all our sins to be totally forgiven. Therefore, this brought to an end the need for the old priesthood and sacrificial system.

    The ‘bread and wine’ (v.18) foreshadow the bread and wine of the communion service. They point to the one perfect sacrifice of Jesus, whose body was broken and whose blood was shed so that you and I could be totally forgiven andreceive God’s mercy.

  • Receive God’s mercy by faith
    The account then moves on to God’s promises to Abraham – in spite of the fact that he and Sarah are old and childless, their descendants are going to be as many as the stars they can count. ‘Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to himas righteousness’ (15:6).
    Not only are you forgiven, God in his mercy declared you ‘Set-Right-with-God’ (v.6, MSG). The New Testament often refers to this verse because it shows that mercy, forgiveness and righteousness are obtained by faith – that is, believing God (see, for example, Romans 4:1–5; Galatians 3:6).

    It is encouraging to see that, although Abraham is listed in Hebrews 11 as one of the great people of faith, when we look here at the original story you see that his faith was not entirely unwavering.

    When their prayers for a child do not seem to be answered, Abraham and Sarah hatch a plot to achieve God’s ends by human means (Genesis 16:1–2). They agree that Abraham should sleep with Hagar and Ishmael is conceived (vv.2–4). One sin leads to another and Sarah ill-treats Hagar (vv.5–6).

    This is the first time that God is called El Roi, the God Who Sees(16:13). It is easy to feel that you have been forgotten by God, particularly at moments when, like Hagar, you feel unjustly treated. But knowing God is theGod Who Sees can help you to live by faith. God is a God who finds you in the midst of the wilderness and sees you.

    The God Who Sees is a God of mercy. The New Testament suggests that God overlooks the sin of Sarah and Abraham and only remembers their faith (Hebrews 11:11–12).

Lord, thank you for your amazing mercy made possible through the one perfect sacrifice of Jesus, our great high priest, dying for me. Thank you that I can never earn your mercy but I receive it as a gift by faith.

Pippa Adds

It’s amazing that God credited Abraham with ‘righteousness’ considering all he had been up to (see Genesis 12:10–20).

[For a more detailed explanation and application of ‘The Sermon on the Mount’ (Matthew 5–7) see Nicky Gumbel’s book The Jesus Lifestyle:shop.alpha.org/product/246/jesus-lifestyle-nicky-gumbel]

Verse of the Day

‘The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer’ (Psalm 6:9)

References

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, NewYork: Touchstone (1995) p.134

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979,

1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Posted in The word of hope

Battles and Blessings

I have never forgotten a talk I heard over thirty years ago. The speaker started by saying that the Christian life is ‘battle and blessing, battle and blessing, battle and blessing, battle and blessing, battle and blessing… battle and blessing…’

At the time I thought, ‘Why is he going on like this? Will it never end?’ But he was making a memorable and profound point. When we are in the battle it is hard to believe that it will ever come to an end. When we are in a period of blessing we sometimes expect it will go on forever. But life is not like that. There are battles and blessings.

Rick Warren says that he used to think that the Christian life was a succession of battles and blessings, whereas now he thinks of life as being on two tracks. At any given moment in life there are usually blessings, but also battles to face.

He gives the example of the huge blessing that came to him through the publication of The Purpose Driven Life, which became the fastest-selling Christian book of all time. It gave him enormous influence. But at the same time he found out that his wife, Kay, had cancer. On one track of his life there was great blessing; on the other track there was a massive battle to face.

Proverbs 1:1-7

1. Learn to steer through battles and blessings

The purpose of the book of Proverbs is stated right from the start: ‘These are the wise sayings… Written down so we’ll know how to live well and right… A manual for living, for learning what’s right and just and fair’ (vv.1–3, MSG). It provides practical wisdom for everyone – both the ‘inexperienced’ and the ‘experienced’ (vv.4–6, MSG).

These Proverbs tell you how life usually works. Proverbs are pragmatic and wise advice learnt from a lifetime of experience.

They help you attain ‘wisdom and discipline’ (vv.2,7) – two vital aspects of life, which do not happen overnight.

The purpose of the book is to enable you ‘to steer your course rightly’ (v.5, AMP). Wisdom is the ‘art of steering’ through the battles and blessings of life, and living skilfully in whatever conditions you find yourself. ‘Wisdom’, as Joyce Meyer says, ‘is choosing to do now what you will be happy with later on’.

Wisdom starts with the ‘fear of the Lord’, which ‘is the beginning of knowledge’ (v.7a). The ‘fear’ of the Lord can be translated ‘reverence’. It means to respect and honour the Lord as God. The most important lesson you can learn about life is to ‘start with God’ (v.7a, MSG).

Lord, help me to learn the art of steering through the battles and blessings that lie ahead.

Matthew 4:1-22

2. Learn how Jesus dealt with battles and blessings

Jesus’ ministry begins with theblessing of the Holy Spirit at his baptism but, as so often happens after great experiences of the Holy Spirit, battles immediately follow.

‘Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test’ (4:1, MSG). The temptations start with the words, ‘If you are the Son of God…’ (vv.3,6). The devil is tempting Jesus to presume on his identity, and thus to test his Father. Sometimes the devil comes to us and says, ‘If you are a Christian, then you are better than others.’ Or, ‘If God forgives everything, it doesn’t matter how you live.’ Respond by following Jesus’ example.

Jesus faced three powerful temptations:

  • Instant gratification (economic)
    There are some things that provide instant gratification but leave you feeling hollow afterwards.

    Jesus had prepared by fasting for forty days and forty nights. ‘That left him, of course, in a state of extreme hunger, which the devil took advantage of in the first test’ (vv.2b–3a, MSG). He says to Jesus, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread’ (v.3b).

    Jesus answers, ‘It is written: “People do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”’ (v.4). Although ‘bread’ is necessary it is not enough on its own. Material things can never fully satisfy.

    There is a deeper spiritual hunger that can only be satisfied by ‘every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (v.4). We need regular spiritual food even more than regular physical food.

  • Attention seeking (religious)
    Next, the devil puts before Jesus the challenge to throw himself off the highest point of the temple. Among other things, this is a temptation to do something dramatic (though not productive) to attract attention.
    The devil goaded Jesus by quoting Psalm 91, but it is a verse taken out of context. Jesus countered with a verse that is in context: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’ (v.7).
  • Wrong means (political)
    Third, the devil shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and offers them, ‘if you will bow down and worship me’ (Matthew 4:8–9). This is the temptation to be dissatisfied with God himself and to embark on a programme of unscrupulous manipulation to achieve his ends by the wrong means. Jesus responds: ‘Away from me, Satan!’ He backed his rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’ (v.10).

To each temptation Jesus responds with a verse from Deuteronomy Chapters 6–8. Perhaps he had been studying these chapters at that time. As you study the Bible it reveals God’s character and loving care for you, and deepens your relationship with him. This protects you against the devil’s lies, and helps and equips you to resist temptation when it comes.

At the end of these battles, Jesus enjoyed the blessing of angels who ‘came and took care of Jesus’ needs’ (v.11, MSG). The period of blessing did not last long. Jesus heard that John had been put in prison (v.12). It must have been devastating for Jesus to find out that his cousin had been imprisoned for his preaching.

Jesus was not daunted. He began to preach the very message that had caused John’s arrest: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near’ (v.17). He was fearless and courageous in the face of the battles.

Life is not just a matter of defensively seeing off the attacks; there are also positive advances to make. Jesus was on a mission. He began to build his team for that mission calling his first disciples: ‘Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women…” They… dropped their nets and followed’ (vv.19–20, MSG). These were exciting times. The beginning of the ministry of Jesus was a period of great blessing.

Lord, help me to follow the example of Jesus in battle and blessing. May I learn your word so I can respond to temptation and be courageous in proclaiming the message of Jesus.

Genesis 7:1-9:17

3. Learn how others have coped with battles and blessings

Christians should be positive people. We see in this passage, as we do in the entire Bible, that the blessings outweigh the battles. Of the four great themes that run through this passage (and the entire Bible) only one is negative (the fall that leads to the battles). The other three are all about positive blessing.

  • Creation
    Human beings are created in the image of God (9:6b). There is a nobility and dignity about all human life. Every human being is of immense value. That is why taking another person’s life has such serious consequences (vv.5,6). Treat every human being with respect and dignity.
  • Fall
    Noah faced a major battle – the flood and the destruction of almost the entire human race! It rained for forty days and forty nights (7:4) (exactly the same period as the temptation of Jesus). God’s judgment came because of the seriousness of sin: ‘Every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood’ (8:21).
  • Redemption
    Despite the battle of the flood, Noah enjoyed the blessing of God’s love, even though only Noah and those with him in the ark were left (7:23). Through the lens of the New Testament we see that the ark is a picture of being baptised into Christ (see 1 Peter 3:18 onwards). Those who were in the ark were safe. Those who are in Christ are safe.
    God blessed Noah and his sons. He said ‘Prosper! Reproduce! Fill the earth!’ (Genesis 9:1, MSG).
  • Glorification
    God made a covenant with them (v.9). Every time you see a rainbow (v.13) it is a reminder of God’s commitment to you, which led ultimately to the cross – the blood of the new covenant. It is an ‘everlasting covenant’ into eternity (v.16).

Lord, thank you that ultimately your blessings far outweigh the battles. Help me to remember that my light and momentary battles are achieving for me an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (see 2 Corinthians 4:17).

Pippa Adds

Genesis 7:8

Noah was quite old (600 years old!) when he began his life’s work. It is never too late – however old you are.

Verse of the Day

‘People do not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4)

References

Joyce Meyer, 100 Ways to Simplfy Your Life, (Faithwords, 1987) p.152

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979,

1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Posted in The word of hope

The Wilderness

I stared at the calendar in disbelief It had been exactly three years to the day since I was laid off. I had originally seen my layoff as a chance to make a new start, but after three years, not much had changed.
I felt like I was traveling across a vast desert without a GPS. Each night the wind would erase my trail of footprints and by morning, I would lose my bearings. With each restart I would become less and less sure of where I was and where I was going.

Then I read Luke 4:1-2, and there were several concepts that I could not reconcile with my previous assumptions about God.

Jesus was full of the Spirit, yet God still led Him into the wilderness. I’ve often found myself believing that as long as I did my part, I could count on God to do His. With that mindset, “good deeds” were actually premiums for a cosmic insurance policy. How could someone be full of the Spirit and still find themselves in the wilderness?
Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit, yet He was tempted. Most of my mechanisms for dealing with temptation were designed to keep me close to God. That, I thought, would force Satan to stay away. Jesus lived a sinless life, yet still faced temptations.
God was the one who brought Jesus to the wilderness. How could a loving Father take the hand of His trusting, innocent Son and deliberately lead Him into the wilderness to face temptation?
Many of our assumptions about God have more to do with who we want Him to be, than who He actually is. Sometimes, it is our false assumptions that actually prevent us from moving forward. If you find yourself lost in the wilderness like me after I lost my job, remember to hold on to what we know is true from God’s word. God promised to “never leave you, nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Trust His Word. Lean on Him. No matter what your situation is, you are not alone.

Have you faced any wilderness experiences in your life? If so, did you learn anything about God in the process? Are there any Scriptures that were meaningful to you at the time?

Posted in The word of hope

God has thoughts for you


Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts  are not your thoughts, neither  are your  ways my ways, saith the Lord.

Jer 29:11 For I know the  thoughts that I think toward you, saith the  Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to  give you an expected end.

Studying Mark 10, my heart is open to a knowledge that the ways of God differs from we mortals’. There are times we see impossibility, and try so hard to find alternative means. Worrying and doubtful of what to expect.
God works in mysterious ways, there are several testimonies on seemingly impossible situations made POSSIBLE with God with diverse methods.

His word says “My thought towards you are for good and not of evil that you might have the expected end”. Brethren do not be weighed down by that problem, you have thought its impossible, yes it is with you, but with God it is Possible. You are allowed to expect, please expect joyful solution but don’t worry about how it will come. Leave the process to God.

I apply it to my issues every time and I have no regret I do, at the end I thank God for giving me grace to be Patient as I expect him to do the work. Try it, trust God, be patient as you expect the result of being on God’s side. Halleluyah.

Posted in The word of hope

Choices


Choosing is deciding among options and acting on the choice. God made man in his own image and gave him freewill. God gives us the freedom to make choices. In giving us that freedom, He is not going to keep us from using it however we want to. He will never force us against our wills to go in the directions He wants us to go. God gave us the freedom to choose between right and wrong, and if this world seems deeply troubled, it’s because we humans keep making bad choices. God made it clear to the Man and woman not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, the the Serpent came and deceived them, they Chosed to believe the Serpent, sin then came to stay and Man continually made bad choices.
Throughout the Bible, it is clear that people have choice:

– If serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. (Josh. 24:15)
– Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her. (Prov. 8:10-11)
– Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. (John 7:17)

Giving us free will was risky on God’s part because we have a tendency to misuse it. People have made such horrible moral choices that there was a time in human history when God was sorry He made us. “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled” (Gen. 6:5-6). That’s how big a risk God took in giving us free will: that we would so grossly misuse it that He would regret having put us here.

God can’t be any clearer that He created us with free will and that we can use it however we want, even to our own demise. One of author Jim Butcher’s stories contains this insight: “God isn’t about making good things happen to you, or bad things happen to you. He’s all about you making choices—exercising the gift of free will.”

Understanding these six aspects of God’s sovereignty can help calm our fears, anxieties, and worries about life on this planet, especially when evil seems to be triumphing over good and we suffer in ways that are undeserved.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for my life and for the gift of freewill, It confirms I am a child and not a Slave. I need you to make right choices in life. Jehovah correct my wrong choices. Thank you for everything. Amen

Posted in The word of hope

Make a turn

John 3:17 For God sent not  his Son into the world to condemn the  world; but that the world through him  might be saved.
The things that scare people away from the presence of God are the guilt of sin and condemnation. When we carry these loads of guilt, the devil use them as  weapons to lure us into sin and we tend to write ourselves off the presence of God, hence, gradually backsliding. But The Spirit of God has placed it in my heart to tell you that God does not condemn you. 

Do you remember the story of the woman that was brought to Jesus to be condemned for adultery? She wasn’t condemned, rather she was given another chance. Because God doesn’t want the death of a sinner.
Through my experiences in life, God has taught me that He  is the all-knowing God, but He needs my confession to save me. Times when I displayed weakness,  He strenghten Me. So whatever I do or wherever I go wrong, I know He knows and I just go to him sobered because he alone can save me.
Therefore Beloved, God loves us . He does not delight in our sinful nature, He made a way out of it through the only Saviour which is Jesus Christ. He is our Reconciliator.Therefore, Do not neglect this offer to a life of eternal peace and Joy, Come to Him and He will set you free from the guilt of sin and condemnation. 
As it was said in the Bible that the wages of sin is death, although we sin yet we live because there’s another chance which we might not have in the next minute. Reconcile with your creator and you will live again.
Prayer: Jehovah, thank you for sending your son to reconcile me with you, I need you in my life, forgive me all my iniquities, take this guilt away from me and set me free. And as I fellowship with you continually, guide my path. Amen.