Lovingly said

We are studying Ancient Greece right now in our homeschool.  Yesterday we read Acts 17, where Paul traveled to Athens.  When he arrived, his spirit was troubled when he saw that the city was given over to idols.  He went into the synagogue and the marketplace to tell people about Jesus, but it says that they called him a babbler and some said he was proclaiming foreign gods to them.

He was the outsider there, coming in and trying to change traditions and customs that were born into them.  As we have studied in our history lessons, the Greeks were devout in the worship of their gods.  They held festivals and offered sacrifices.  Temples were all around them, and their lives centered around the gods and goddesses in which they believed.  In fact, the very first Olympics was a festival to honor the god Zeus!

What I love is what Paul did next.  In Acts 17:22, Paul was standing in the midst of the Areopagus.  This was the council, the court of justice, the leaders of Athens.  He addressed them with respect and compliments.  He said, “I perceive that in all things you are very religious.”

It was true.  They were SO religious.  They could not have been more religious.  Their spiritual disciplines were very evident.  And Paul recognized this.  He continued, “For as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:  TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.”

From there, Paul told them about the God they did not know.

He never insulted them.  He never belittled them or put them down.  He never made them feel like they were idiots or the worst sinners in the world.  Here they were, worshiping false gods, and Paul showed them respect and treated them with dignity.  He then told them about God, who made the world and everything in it.

You with me?  I believe he allowed the Holy Spirit guide him, so he came to them in love, and with respect.  Now, some mocked him.  Some said they wanted to hear more later.  And some believed!

In love, Paul did what God asked him to do.  That’s all he had to do.  It wasn’t up to Paul to make them believe.  It was only up to him to obey God by spreading the gospel.  Likewise, it is only up to us to spread the truth, but let’s do so with love.  Let’s model the example of this courageous missionary who stood before the Greeks, and be respectful and loving and spread the truth, in love.

Those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God will be saved.  Isn’t that what it’s all about?

jamie

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On their behalf

In yesterday’s blog, I talked about how we should show love to those in pain and trials and not offer judgment and accusations, in the way that Job’s friends did.  I also mentioned how we can pray for those we know who are in pain.  I wanted to talk more on that today, because that is probably the one of the most important things we can do, and yet sometimes we neglect it.

In Matthew 8:5-13, we find the record of Jesus and a centurion.  The centurion’s servant was lying at home paralyzed, and in terribly agony and pain.  (Some versions of the Bible say he was dreadfully tormented.  yikes!)

The centurion came to Jesus, asking Him to heal his servant.  This story is powerful in so many ways.  If you haven’t read it in a while, or ever, I encourage you to read it.

The centurion knew, and acknowledged that Jesus was powerful enough that He need only speak the word and His servant could be healed.  He didn’t even require that Jesus come to his home to do it.  He knew Jesus could do it from right where He stood.

And this is the part I want to stress:  The centurion’s faith alone was great enough that Jesus marveled at it.  (vs. 10)  The servant’s faith was never called into question.  Perhaps his was just as great.  Maybe it wasn’t.  All we know is that the centurion interceded on the servant’s behalf, and that the servant was healed that same hour.

We are called not only to love our neighbors as ourselves, but also to pray for one another that we may be healed. (Ja. 5:16)

Unless they’ve told us it’s the case, we never need to tell someone that they aren’t being healed or delivered from their trial because their faith isn’t strong enough.  We need to intercede on their behalf.  We never need to accuse someone of being sick or in trials due to sin, but we need to pray for them.

What the centurion did on his servant’s behalf is an excellent example of how we should live.  Job, as well, before his children died, offered up offerings to the Lord just in case his children had sinned.  These are excellent examples of people who are going to the Lord on behalf of others.

Not everyone will be healed.  Is that hard to hear?  God has plans for people that sometimes do not include healing, because He uses people in so many different ways.  But that should never stop us from asking.  We do not know His plans.  We need to ask.  We need to seek.

Above all, though, what we need to seek, for ourselves and for each other, is a relationship with Him, which will keep us calm in every storm, every trial, and every sickness.

Let’s be interceders and never accusers,

jamie

The proof is in the pudding

Pr. 21:3:  “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.”

I know what God means.  Last week my daughter got in trouble.  She said she was sorry.  🙂 Very nice.  The next day, it happened again.  The next day, again.  Those words, “I’m sorry,” sure lost their meaning.

I explained to my daughter that she could tell me she was sorry 1,000 times and it wouldn’t mean anything unless I saw her making different choices.  Her actions were contrary to her words, and the actions were the ones that ultimately counted most.

James tells us that faith without works is dead.  Certainly, we are not saved by our works.  It is Jesus’ death and our belief in Him that saves us.  However, our actions sure speak loudly of who we really are.

We can say we trust God’s word to be true, but just like in the case of my daughter, our actions speak much louder than our words.  Do we show we believe God’s word to be true by the way we behave and the choices that we make?

When we see needs around us, do we respond, or just walk by thinking God will use someone else to provide?

Does our trust in God show up when we need something we cannot provide for ourselves?

When we commit sin, do we tell God how sorry we are and then go right back to that sin, or do we show Him that He is more important, by making the choice to stop sinning and run to Him?

Do we obey the Lord’s voice we He tells us to do something?

When we fail to be obedient to the Lord, does our regret cause us to be obedient next time, regardless of our doubts or concerns, or do we do the same thing over and over again?

Like it or not, our actions show who we really are.  Just like my daughter, I sometimes forget this truth.  It’s great to be a believer in Christ, it’s even better to prove it.

This one stung a bit,

jamie

 

 

God’s clear guidance

Pr. 8:5:  “O you simple ones, understand prudence, and you fools, be of an understanding heart.”

You know what our Bible gives us?  It gives a clear road map we can follow throughout our lives.

No, the Bible doesn’t tell us if we should move to a different town, take that new job, or say no to that new offer.  It does, however, give us very clear examples of the consequences of other people’s choices.  The Bible has an example of every type of sin, with the cause and effect clearly laid out.  The Bible has examples of faith, clearly showing the rewards that accompany it.

Learning from the choices of others is very resourceful.  We can save ourselves a lot of time by simply noting how the decisions of others affect their lives, their families, and their walk with God.

Instead of being simple…walking straight into the wall we just watched someone else walk in to, we can can watch and learn how to be prudent (careful) by taking note and choosing differently.

An understanding heart can clearly see that not only was David’s decision to commit adultery a sin, but it led to even more sins, a blemished relationship with God, and the death of his child.

An understanding heart can see clearly that running from God, as Jonah did, only causes unnecessary troubles in our lives and delays the inevitable.

Heb. 4:11 reminds us, “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.”  The Bible is full of examples from which we can learn.  We just have to read it and trust God enough to fight the urges to make those same mistakes.

We are also given examples of faith that can encourage us that trusting God will not end badly.

An understanding heart can see clearly that Noah’s faith in God caused him to be not only favored by God, but caused his family to be saved from destruction.

An understanding heart can clearly see that Rahab’s faith also caused her family to be saved.

An understanding heart can note the provision that came when Moses’s faith allowed him to stretch out his hand over the Red Sea, believing that God would do what He said He would do.  Provision also came to the widow who made a cake for Elijah with her last flour and oil, believing the Lord’s word that her flour and oil would last for her son and her until the rain came.

Over and over, we can see how faith has produced results and sin has caused harm.  There is so much we can learn in God’s Word.  There is so much guidance for us all.  All we have to do is read, and with our understanding hearts, learn prudence.  Praise God for His Word that gives provision!

Taking note,

jamie

Not all traditions are bad

2 Thessalonians speaks of one who will come in deceit, proclaiming to be God.  Paul reminds the church that they were called by the gospel, for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He urges the church to stand fast and hold the traditions which we were taught, so as not to be deceived.

Religious traditions get a bad rap, and sometimes rightfully so.  God did not call us to ‘religion’, but to Him.  We can clearly read that Jesus didn’t care for men’s religious rules, but for true worship and belief.

On the other hand, some traditions are pivotal in keeping us as a true follower of Christ.  How can we follow someone we don’t know?  Reading our Bible opens our hearts and minds to truly know the Lord.  How can we have a relationship with someone with whom we don’t speak?  Praying keeps us humble before the mighty God, and open to asking for His own will in our lives.  Prayer reminds us who it is upon which we depend.

Pr. 1:3 reminds us that the traditions of prudence, knowledge, and discretion are located in God’s Word, and are also very beneficial to us.  “To give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.”

There are deceitful teachings around us that call discretion ‘out-dated’, prudence ‘old fashioned’, and knowledge of God’s Word ‘unnecessary and narrow-minded.’  The Lord reminds us through Paul; however, that some ‘traditional’ things will keep us from being deceived by one who is not the Living God.  We were called to believe in the truth, and traditions that enhance our belief are beneficial.

I’m not telling anyone to get busy keep man’s rules.  I’m encouraging us to hold tightly to the things remind us of the truth of God’s Word, and keep us close to Him.  Those are the things that just might save our lives.

Stand fast,

jamie

Don’t reach for that compromise

Tuesday night we headed outside for a family activity.  Within minutes, we realized that the mosquito families had joined us.  My husband was quick to declare it time for bug spray.

Not speaking in time to ask for my own chemical free bug spray, and not wanting to walk the 200 ft. inside to get it myself, I decided to tough it out.  It wasn’t long before I was so uncomfortable that I actually reached for the chemical laden bug spray and sprayed it on my skin.

Although I was uneasy with my decision and trying to spray it a bit lighter than usual, I covered all exposed areas.  As I wondered why I wouldn’t just walk back in and grab the spray I’m more comfortable with, I began an internal dialog:  “Just once won’t hurt.  I need this.  It will be alright.  If you go inside you might miss out on some fun.  Quit stressing about this one decision.”

I compromised my standards about intentionally using chemicals on my skin and still ended up with 10 mosquito bites.  Not only that, but the effects of the chemicals absorbing into my skin are not yet known.  Who knows the damage that my “just this once” decision has left?

Sinful temptations are just like this.  We are faced with a real issue.  Maybe we’re too lazy to walk away or too proud to ask for help.  Sometimes, because of those things, we justify the reasons why it’s ok just this once.

Most of the time, we end up with visible wounds right away.  Sometimes, the damage done under the surface doesn’t show up until later.  The fact of the matter is; however, no matter what we feel at the moment, the universal laws of cause and effect ensure that there is damage being done.

Sadly, we do these things intentionally.  What can be done to stop us?

Well, we can grab the warnings from my bug spray episode and remember to ask for help, walk away, or to refuse to give in.  We can remember that justifying harmful actions will only invite and accelerate afflictions in our life.  Not compromising on our standards, we can choose to stand firm and say no.

I’m reminded of Heb. 2:18 and 4:16, which say, “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted…Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

We have a Helper upon which we can call.  We don’t have to intentionally inflict harm and destruction upon ourselves.  I’m so grateful we’ve not been left stranded and helpless.  Thank you, Jesus, and right now, Lord, please help us all.

Still itchy, but much more alert,

jamie

Don’t stop witnessing!

Pr. 29:19:  “A servant will not be corrected by mere words; for though he understands, he will not respond.”

In Acts 17, we find Paul reasoning with the Jews for 3 Sabbaths, telling them that Jesus was the Christ.  And some of them were persuaded.

Vs. 5, however, introduces us to some Jews who were not persuaded.  They became envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathered a mob.  Wow!  Not only were they not persuaded, but they have actually formed a mob.

They set the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, trying to find Paul and Silas.  The mob cried out to the rulers of the city, saying, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here, too.”

In those words we find the reasoning behind their actions.  Their world had been turned upside down by the teachings of Paul.  Everything they had believed was being shaken, and some of their friends and possibly family were now following another, believing in Jesus as the Messiah.

Not everyone who hears the message of Jesus believes or responds.  For others it takes time.  Some may even become upset, like these men, or even envious when their own loved one’s turn to Jesus.  That does not mean we should stop sharing the truth of the Scriptures.

A lack of response to our words does not always mean a lack of understanding.  This proverb reminds us that mere words are not always enough.  This is where the Holy Spirit comes in.  Once we plant the seeds of the Word, the Holy Spirit can help the seeds germinate and grow.

So share when you’re lead and remember that it’s not up to us to speak perfectly.  It’s not our words that bring response, it is the Lord.

Your fellow sharer,

jamie