Statement of faith

2 Timothy 3:16-17 "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (NIV)

"The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to make us like the Son of God. To become like Jesus, we must fill our lives with his Word.
- Warren

Monday, July 25, 2011

Quiet-Time Reflections

Week of July 25, 2011                    

Luke 11:4  - “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.

Matthew 6:12 - “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

They do not deserve it. Never, never, never! Have you ever heard this statement? Ever said it yourself? Could it be that you are still harboring unforgiveness at this very moment toward someone? Or maybe someone is holding unforgiveness over your relationship. If so, I pray that today you will be willing to listen to what God has to say about this subject. I will tell you from personal experience; breaking free from unforgiveness is not for the other person, it is for you. Stay with me and grow.

There has been much debate from both conservative theologians and religious liberals concerning the wording differences you find between Matthew and Luke’s account of the Lord’s Prayer. It is just my personal opinion, but I imagine there are slight differences because people tend to retain wording differently. Matthew and Mark were both human men writing their accounts at very different times in history. For the purpose of this devotion, I want us to understand this Scripture from God’s point of view.

Life’s Application Commentary:
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he made forgiveness the cornerstone of their relationship with God. God has forgiven our sins; we must now forgive those who have wronged us. To remain unforgiving shows we have not understood that we ourselves deeply need to be forgiven.

Luke 11:4 and Matthew 6:12 are Scripture that is probably quite familiar to you especially if you are accustomed to reciting “The Lord’s Prayer.” I can vividly remember when God challenged me with this Scripture. You see like many of you, I was accustomed to reciting this religiously on Sunday mornings. I knew it like the back of my own hand. However, when I was finally willing to listen to God’s rendition, He began to show me that I was missing a very important element of this teaching.

Friends we have to be very careful to understand that when God says something, He means it. Not only does He mean it, He also intends it for our good. Let’s drop down a few verses in Matthew 6.

Matthew 6:14-15
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Let me refer again to the Life’s Application Commentary because I believe it to be right on in its interpretation of these verses.

“Jesus gives a startling warning about forgiveness: If we refuse to forgive others, God will also refuse to forgive us. Why? Because when we don’t forgive others, we are denying our common ground as sinners in need of God’s forgiveness. God’s forgiveness of sin is not the direct result of our forgiving others, but it is based on our realizing what forgiveness means (see Ephesians 4:32). It is easy to ask God for forgiveness but difficult to grant it to others. Whenever we ask God to forgive us for sin, we should ask, have I forgiven the people who have wronged me?”

Now I get that this subject of forgiveness is a touchy subject for some. It was something I struggled with for a very long time in my life. I had a very painful offense in my life that I was convinced God would never ask me to forgive despite the fact that I was reciting that prayer. However, in the end that is exactly what He expected and I now understand that it was to set me free. Once I decided to take God at His Word, freedom was on the horizon.  We can argue this subject until we’re blue in the face. We can give all kinds of excuses for why we can’t or won’t forgive someone, but in the end we’re only hurting ourselves.

A child of God is someone who is being transformed into the likeness of Christ. We halt this progress when we allow bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness to remain in our hearts. Nancy Leigh DeMoss in her book Choosing Forgiveness reminds us “there are no magic words or secret formulas for forgiveness. When we begin to put God’s grace and mercy into practice in our own personal circumstances, we can experience a change of heart.” Listen to her definition of unforgiveness: “It’s like drinking poison and hoping someone else would die. That’s a powerful word picture for what unforgiveness is like in the human heart. Though it may feel right, though it may seem justified, though it may appear to be the only option available to us, it is destructive and deadly to the one who drinks it. The weapon we use to inflict pain on our offender becomes a sword turned inward on ourselves, doing far more damage to us – and to those who love us – than to those who have hurt us.” 

I encourage you to think how this powerful emotion of unforgiveness might affect your relationship with your Heavenly Father. Should a child of God allow someone else to cause a division in their relationship with God? When we remain in sin, refusing to do what God commands (Matt. 6:14-16) we do not experience the full blessings of the Father. If you are holding onto bitterness or carrying a burden of unresolved conflict you will not have the blessing of true peace. I encourage you to pray earnestly. Ask God to give you the power and strength to move past unforgiveness. When we are willing to let go of resentment the healing can begin. Dr. Charles Stanley teaches, “Forgiveness just might save your job, your marriage, or another important relationship. One thing is for certain: Letting go of anger will keep you from self destruction.”

God has personally revealed to me that anger grieves Him. And, my hostility does not reflect my status of believer. This has been one of the hardest challenges of my faith walk so far, but I can tell you it has brought about the greatest benefits. Today I work hard not to allow bitterness to linger in my heart for too long. Why? Because when I do, I assist Satan in his attempts to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10) the good that God intended for those who love Him. Friends, nothing is worth that, nothing! Let’s give it a try. I’ll pray for you and you can pray for me too.

Let’s pray:
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the ability to obey Your Word. Although there are many benefits to obedience, may we understand they are secondary to bringing glory and honor to You. Help us become examples of grace and mercy to others.  May we learn to turn our focus onto You when we’re hurt. Free us from anything that keeps us in bondage to sin. May we desire to please you above all things. God help us to understand that because we have been forgiven much, we have no right to keep records of wrongs. Change our position, change our heart, and help us become a part of something eternal. In Jesus Name we pray. Amen.

Resource: Choosing Forgiveness by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Monday, July 18, 2011

Quiet-Time Reflections

Week of July 18, 2011                                                  
Sharing by: Pam Crawford

John 14:17b
“But you know him, for he lives in you and will be in you.”

MORE THAN A FEELING­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­
Last week’s writing was titled “Living in the Strength of God’s Spirit.” I shared with you a situation that has challenged me to respond differently than my flesh has been accustomed to. It dawned on me as I was reading that writing; that it will be very important that we understand how we transform from fleshly actions, to Spirit filled appropriate responses. It goes beyond a feeling we may or may not have. Below is a question that I researched when studying the power of the Holy Spirit. This information comes from the internet site that I tend to respect for Biblical answers. I think the response might be helpful as we seek to depend on God when working through difficult situations in our own lives.  Be blessed.

QUESTION: "Is a believer supposed to be able to feel the Holy Spirit?"

ANSWER: While certain ministries of the Holy Spirit may involve a feeling, such as conviction of sin, comfort, and empowerment, Scripture does not instruct us to base our relationship with the Holy Spirit on how or what we feel. Every born-again believer has the indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus told us that when the Comforter has come He will be with us and in us. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17). In other words, Jesus is sending one like Himself to be with us and in us.

We know the Holy Spirit is with us because God's Word tells us that it is so. Every born-again believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but not every believer is controlled by the Holy Spirit, and there is a distinct difference. When we step out in our flesh, we are not under the control of the Holy Spirit even though we are still indwelt by Him. The apostle Paul comments on this truth, and he uses an illustration that helps us to understand. “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). Many people read this verse and interpret it to mean that the apostle Paul is speaking against wine. However, the context of this passage is the walk and the warfare of the Spirit-filled believer. Therefore, there is something more here than just a warning about drinking too much wine.

When people are drunk with too much wine, they exhibit certain characteristics: they become clumsy, their speech is slurred, and their judgment is impaired. The apostle Paul sets up a comparison here. Just as there are certain characteristics that identify someone who is controlled by too much wine, there should also be certain characteristics that identify someone who is controlled by the Holy Spirit.  We read in Galatians 5:22-24 about the “fruit” of the Spirit. This is the Holy Spirit’s fruit, and it is exhibited by the born-again believer who is under His control.

The verb tense in Ephesians 5:18 indicates a continual process of “being filled” by the Holy Spirit. Since it is an exhortation, it follows that it is also possible to not be filled or controlled by the Spirit. The rest of Ephesians 5 gives us the characteristics of a Spirit-filled believer. “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-21).

We are not filled with the Spirit because we feel we are, but because this is the privilege and possession of the Christian. Being filled or controlled by the Spirit is the result of walking in obedience to the Lord. This is a gift of grace and not an emotional feeling. Emotions can and will deceive us, and we can work ourselves up into an emotional frenzy that is purely from the flesh and not of the Holy Spirit. “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature … Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16, 25).

Having said that, we cannot deny that there are times when we can be overwhelmed by the presence and the power of the Spirit, and this is often an emotional experience. When that happens, it is a joy like no other. King David “danced with all his might” (2 Samuel 6:14) when they brought up the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. Experiencing joy by the Spirit is the understanding that as children of God we are being blessed by His grace. So, absolutely, the ministries of the Holy Spirit can involve our feelings and emotions. At the same time, we are not to base the assurance of our possession of the Holy Spirit on how we feel.

Life’s Application Commentary:
“The Holy Spirit has been active among people from the beginning of time, but after Pentecost (Acts2) he came to live in all believers. Many people are unaware of the Holy Spirit’s activities, but to those who hear Christ’s words and understand the Spirit’s power, the Spirit gives a whole new way to look at life.”

Recommended Resource: The Wonderful Spirit-Filled Life by Charles Stanley.

Today’s prayer:
Father thank you that we are not alone on this earth. Thank you that we are not alone in the circumstances that bring us unrest. Help us to call upon Your Spirit, our comfort and guide, in times of trouble. Help us to understand the importance of allowing Your Spirit to overtake our flesh for the purpose of transforming hearts that desire to love and serve You. May we dance with all our might as we begin to experience the joy that comes from obeying You in all areas of our life. Forgive us our sins Lord and help us to forgive others so that we can be reconciled as Your holy and faithful people. In Your Son’s Name we lift this prayer.  Amen.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Quiet-Time Reflections

Week of July 11, 2011                                                   
Sharing by: Pam Crawford

“The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains.” (LASB)


It is very easy to feel disappointed when you have been let down. God has me in a place today where I am learning how to properly respond to disappointments and the frustrations of this life. I only wish that I didn’t have so many circumstances that challenge my capacity to get this lesson right.  However, I understand without a doubt that how I respond is the key to how things turn out for me. One of the most important things I am drawing from this lesson is that if I refrain from allowing “bitterness” to take root, I’m on my way to experiencing more victories.

There is a particular circumstance in my life that had the potential of causing some real setbacks. Because someone chose to impart what appears to be a vindictive nature; I received a personal character attack that felt nothing short of evil. The words that were spewed at me were so hurtful, and to make matters worse, they were posted on a social networking site before I ever had a chance to address what led up to this blindsided attack. I can't help but wonder, have we really become that desensitized that we bypass live communications with one another in order to react in any manner we feel like? Have we truly forgotten the rule of thumb that there are always “two sides to every story?” I must say that had I responded in my flesh (the way I was accustomed to doing in the past) I might have failed the lesson at hand.

Thankfully, for the first time in my life I chose not to defend myself in this situation. I knew without a doubt that the things that were posted displayed a misrepresentation of truth, so I decided it would be best to just activate my direct line to God through prayer. I asked Him to help me refrain from responding with anger or bitterness. He was faithful to answer that prayer and He kept my emotions in check. Like some of you, I have learned the hard way that some people are just not interested in hearing both sides of a story. They rather rush to judgment and I know this to be true as I have been that person.  So what was different this time?

As I reflected on something that God taught me about waiting on Him in times of disappointment, I was reminded of an article by Dr. Charles Stanley of In Touch Ministries which dealt with Dealing with Disappointment.  As I reviewed it, I realized that I was on the right track. I have said this before and it’s something we must remember. You cannot change the heart or mind of another human being, nor can you control a situation that is outside of the will of God. However, never forget the power of prayer and obedience on your part. I believe the following is something to consider when you’re in the midst of personal conflict. Be blessed.

Dr. Stanley writes: “A right response to disappointment begins with resisting the natural tendency toward bitterness. If someone else was involved in the situation, don't be quick to judge his or her conduct. We cannot fully understand what is going on in others' lives or what motivates them to act as they do. Our second step should be to ask the Lord, "How am I to respond?" God can guide us to a wise and righteous reaction because He has all the facts. Third, follow His direction, even if it isn't what you want to do. Oftentimes the Lord's way contradicts our own desires and the advice of friends. However, His plan is the one that will bring about growth and result in our greatest good. And finally, keep your focus on God and His higher purpose in your life. People are prone to dwell on their hurts and the harm that comes to them, which is what makes disappointment so destructive.”

Psalm 91:1
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

As I wait for resolve, I will continue to dwell, rest, and pray that someday God will right this injustice. I must surrender to His timing, His way. And, until then I will simply ask that He will empower me to obey His call to love my enemies (Matthew 5:44). On my own this is not easy, but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). It is the only way you survive hurts that you never expected. It has been my personal experience that the more I pray for my enemies, the easier it becomes to let go of the offense. Another thing that is helping me is to never underestimate that Satan loves to destroy relationships. If he can keep unrest amongst God’s creations; then he is on his way to achieving his goal to “kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10).” Let’s not help him in his work.

Romans 12:18

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” 

Life’s Application Commentary:
Habakkuk had asked God why evil people prosper while the righteous suffer. God’s answer: They don’t not in the long run. We cannot see all that God is doing, and we cannot see all that God will do. But we can be assured that he is God and will do what is right. Knowing this can give us confidence and hope in a confusing world. Habakkuk’s feelings were not controlled by the events around him but by faith in God’s ability to give him strength. When nothing makes sense, and when troubles seem more than you can bear, remember that God gives strength. Take your eyes off your difficulties and look to God. At the proper time, God will bring about his justice and completely rid the world of evil. In the meantime, God’s people need to live in the strength of the Spirit, confident in his ultimate victory over evil.

Additional Scripture Reading: James 1

Today’s prayer:
Father God, on behalf of all who might be reading, may I ask you to strengthen us against the temptation to become bitter and angry over offense. Keep us focused on what you can do within a situation, instead of focusing on the affect of the situation. Help us to desire to live out Matthew 5:9 so that some day there might be a chance for a peaceful resolution. Until then, encourage us to say nothing to defend ourselves, but rather help us to let you go before us to pave the way for stubborn hearts to be made new. In Your Son’s Precious Name, we pray. Amen.  

In Christ by grace,

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Quiet Time Reflections

Week of July 4, 2011                             
Sharing by: Pam Crawford

Ephesians 3:17-19
“So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”  (NIV)

Through Peter we learn that the Word is truly inspired by God Himself.  He used the prophets to write what He taught so that future generations could also benefit from His teachings.  Because of this knowledge, it will be most important that we not only hear it, but that we put it into action and obey it.  If you’ve been reading for any length of time, I have shared that I came to a point in my life where I desired to know more about what I claimed to believe in.  I was no longer content just listening in a church environment; I had become restless and bored, not because they weren’t teaching; but because I was taking no responsibility to question what I did not fully understand.  I never stepped out of my comfort or obligation zone to do anything about it. Frankly, I was content with leaving God in his Sunday morning box.  God eventually got my attention and corrected my thinking.  I had to make the effort to not only listen to His Word, but I had to go one step further and study it, ask questions, and research it.  I had to let God himself show me the error of my way.  In essence, none of this was possible until I had my eyes opened and my ears cleaned out.  Once I concluded that my belief was in God and that His Word was true; I could no longer overlook some of the things that had clouded my personal relationship with Him.

Figuratively speaking, I had to undergo a type of heart transplant.  Honestly, it continues every time I discover something new in God’s Word.  It’s a painful and life-long recovery,
but if you ask anyone who has literally received a heart transplant, they would never tell you they’d rather continue in life with the old one.  The new one brings them great hope in their quality of life. Knowledge of the Bible does the same thing.  Applying what you discover will offer you great hope in ending your journey better than you began it.  I pray that you will respond to the tugging by God on your heartstrings.  If you have never opened a Bible before please do it today.  If you are at a place that you need to rediscover God, please do it today. If you are someone who knows your Bible well, there is always more we can learn and review, please do it today.  The Lord instructs us in His Word to never stop learning and today just might be “the day.” 

Wherever you may be in your personal walk with God at this point, I encourage you to open your Bible to the Book of Ephesians and read or re-read chapters 2 and 3.  Please be open to what He has to teach you through it.  Listen attentively and let God soften your heart if need be.  I have a feeling you won’t regret putting in the time.  Our God is an awesome God and He is yours to claim today.  As believers you are His heirs and He has so much in store for you.  His plans are perfect and they are not to harm you, but to prosper you through faith.

Ephesians 3:17
“Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” (NLT)

 Melanie Chitwood a writer for Proverbs 31 shares the following lesson that I found worth sharing.

“I find it just absolutely amazing that Jesus came to earth for one reason – He loves you.  When He took off His crown in heaven, He was thinking about you with love.  When He left His home in Heaven, He was thinking of you with love.  When He journeyed to earth, He was thinking about you with love.  When He looked ahead to how His years on earth would end, He was thinking of you.  He loves you.  There is only one place here on earth where Jesus can find a home – in your heart.”

Dear readers, did you hear it!  He wants to live in your heart – how awesome is that!

If you haven’t done so already – take the leap of faith today!   Plan to spend time with Jesus every day. Join a Bible study group and let others fellowship with you on your journey.  If you are not part of a local church family, please understand that God does not want us to live as isolated Christians.  Visit a Bible believing church this week and commit yourself to a church family and become involved.  Let’s put away the excuses and move forward today – You have nothing to loose and everything to gain.

John 14:6
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. 
No one comes to the Father except through me. 

Commentary – Life’s Application Study Bible
Jesus says He is the only way to God the Father.  Some people may argue that this way is too narrow.  In reality, it is wide enough for the world, if the world chooses to accept it.  Instead of worrying about how limited it sounds to have only one way, we should be saying, “Thank you, God, for providing a sure way to get to you!”   As the way, Jesus is our path to the Father.  As the truth, he is the reality of all God’s promises.  As the life, he joins his divine life to ours, both now and eternally.

Additional scripture reading:   1 John 3:1, Luke 15:11-32
Book suggestion:   Who holds the key to your heart? by Lisa TerKeurst

Today’s prayer: 
Dear Lord, thank you that You are just a prayer away.  Help me respect that You died for me and that Your unconditional love is nothing I can earn.  Help me live my life in a way that honors You. Thank you for the power of Your resurrection.  Stir within me the desire to draw close to You and help me to stand strong in my faith and to understand Your Word as you reveal it.  Father please bless anyone who may be reading today who desires to know You more intimately.  Reveal yourself and let them feel your loving presence in a mighty way.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

In Christ by grace,