“Coffee Anyone?”, asks God

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous…              Psalm 139:13-14

As I read my Bible this morning, I came across a verse in the Book of Luke that caused me to pause. When this happens, it reminds me of a record player when the needle gets stuck in a groove and keep repeating the same words or melody over and over and over.

record player 2

It’s at this point that I have a choice to make.  Ignore the prompting to reread, and move on, or stop to reread and ponder.

question

When it comes to Bible reading “they” say, “you have to cover “X” amount of chapters, verses, etc., and stick to your Bible reading plan.  If you don’t, you’ll never finish reading the Gospels, or the Psalms, or the Old Testament, etc.  And you’ll certainly never finish reading the entire Bible.”           It’s at this point that I ask myself, who’s “they” anyway??

I approach reading the Bible a bit differently.  To me reading the Bible is similar to talking with someone on the phone, texting, or meeting for coffee.  It’s all about the relationship.  It’s not a one-way conversation, it’s the sharing back and forth of feelings, facts, experiences, hopes, etc., between two people.  How silly it would be if I met someone for coffee and whipped out my “thoughts” list, and started rattling it off?  And then, when I was finished reading my list, I’d get up and walk out the door?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          list           friends coffee            walking-clipart-e1380249111426

When you see the above scenario in writing, it seems ludicrous.  Who would ever ask to meet a friend for coffee and read off a list?  Not to mention walking out without saying goodbye, or thanks for listening.  Yet, how often have we, myself included, interacted this way with God?

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sat with a friend, started on one topic, and ended up touching of several others before the first cup of coffee was finished.  Or when a comment said in passing, turned out to be discussed in-depth.  When I meet up with friends I don’t have a checklist.  I’m getting together with them to catch up, and share what’s been going on in our lives.  If we just talk about what happened today, and never get to last week or next week, who cares.  This is what we needed, or wanted, to talk about now.

For me, this is the kind of relationship I have with God.  So when I’m reading the Bible and get the feeling I should pause and reread.  I pause and reread because I know that God has something to share with me.  I ask Him, “what are you trying to show me?  What do you want me to learn, to take with me today, to share with others, to change?”   I also thank God for encouraging me in a particular area, where I am on the “wise path”, and  thanking Him for all the blessings and provisions He gives me day in and day out.  I read with anticipation, eagerness, and appreciation that the Creator of everything wants to talk with me.  That He cares about me, and He loves our time together.

2 Timothy 3:16 says, All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.  Sometimes God gives us a warning, sometimes encouragement, and other times redirection to get us back on track.

As Hebrews 4:12 says, The word of God is living and active…  God wants to talk to us.  He wants to help us with our daily struggles.  He wants to bring us back to the safety of the “wise path”.

I once heard a pastor at Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa say, “it’s not how often or how much of the Bible you read, but that you live out what you’ve read.  Don’t just read the Bible to finish it, read the Bible to change.”                                                                                                                             

                             Matthew 5:13-16      light_salt

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Take a Step, Make a Choice, THEN… – PROVERBS 3:7-10 [3]

The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth earth-picture-clipart-image  in order to strengthen those whose hearts   Red heart in woman and man hands, on green background   are fully committed to him. – 2 Chronicles 16:9

 

7   DON’T be impressed with your own wisdom.
     Instead, (IF you) fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
8   (THEN) you will gain renewed health and vitality.
9   (IF you) Honor the Lord with your wealth
     and with the best part of everything you produce.
10  THEN He will fill your barns with grain,
       and your vats will overflow with good wine.

 

Solomon continues IF/THEN comparisons in verses 7-10.

Solomon begins verse 7 with a warning. Don’t be impressed with our own wisdom.  I like how the New International Version (NIV) puts it – Don’t be wise in your own eyes.  Or the New Living Translation (NLT) – Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.                                3 wise monkeys3

Instead, as we read on in verse 7, we’re encouraged to take an action step and make a choice to turn away from evil.

The result of making a conscious decision to follow God’s ways, (THEN) verse 8, is renewal.  Renewal is defined as replacing or repairing something that is worn-out, run-down, or broken. The principle is that when we choose to turn away from evil, our lives will be renewed.  Our health and vitality (energy) are restored and replenished – we get a new lease on life.                                                                          Congestive-heart-failure-patient-gets-new-lease-on-life

God has not left us alone to navigate life.  God, in His grace, has made available wise counselors, friends, internet, churches, etc. to us.  He’s also made available to us an instruction manual, a “treasure” map  –  the Bible.

God loves people so much, not only did He give his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16, but through His daily provisions, which often go unnoticed or taken for granted. He wants to remove the guess-work and the groping around in the dark from our daily living and interactions.  Anyone who is willing to hear should listen and understand!  –  Mark 4:9  (We hear with our ears, but there is a deeper kind of listening with the mind and heart that is necessary in order to gain spiritual understanding.  –  Life Application Bible)                                                                           heartheadphones

Verses 9 and 10 give us a way to take action and honor God.  It is our way of saying thanks, and acknowledging that all we have has been given to us from God.  Our finances, our talents, our intelligence, everything that makes us who we are. What’s the use of saying you have faith if you don’t prove it by your actions?  So you see, it isn’t enough just to have faith.  Faith that doesn’t show itself by good deeds is not faith at all — it is dead and useless.  –  James 2:14,17

When we share with others, when we offer a kind/comforting word, when we hear of a need and meet it, etc., all these actions honor God.  For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.  –  Matthew 25:35-36
And then, it is as though God says “thank you” right back to us for honoring Him.           THEN He will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine.  –  v.10

Thanksgiving and blessings, thanksgiving and blessings, on and on, and on.
thanksleadstogiving

Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.   –   2 Corinthians 9:6-8

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IF ____ , THEN ______… – PROVERBS 3:1-4 [1]

What you say flows from what is in your heart. – Luke 6:45

 

1   My child, never forget the things I have taught you.
    Store my commands in your heart.
2   IF you do this, (THEN) you will live many years,
    and your life will be satisfying.
(IF you) Never let loyalty and kindness leave you!                                                                                  (IF you) Wear them like a necklace, as a reminder.
(IF you) Write them deep within your heart.
4  THEN you will find favor with both God and people,
and you will earn a good reputation.

In the first few verses of Proverbs Chapter 3, Solomon utilizes cause and effect.  If you do ____, then _____ will be the result.  You’ll notice in bold type, and in (  ), if/then that I’ve added for emphasizing the cause/effect relationships in verse 1-4.

From the opening of chapter 3 we’re reminded – NEVER forget the things I’ve taught you, store them in your heart.

Verse 2  –  IF you follow these principles (throughout the Book of Proverbs and the Bible)
THEN you’ll live long and have a satisfying life (you’ll be content, fulfilled)
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need. – Matthew 6:33

Verse 3  –  we see two particular character traits mentioned, loyalty and kindness.  A character trait is a distinguishing factor(s) that is specific to an individual.
How do we recognize character traits in people?  Their attitudes and beliefs are reflected in their actions.
A loyal person is someone another person/people can count on. They are faithful.  As in the example of a husband and wife in marriage, or an employee to an employer, or a friend to a friend.
A kind person is someone who looks out for best interests in another. Like a big sister making sure her little brother crosses the street safely, helping a kid who dropped their books in the hall, or holding a door open for someone.

Verse 3 goes on to say that our attitudes/beliefs are demonstrated by the actions we take.       Wear loyalty and kindness like a necklace.  An outward sign. attitudes_custom_monogram_motivational_necklace-r814eece76af544f18b6e6349f3eb5711_fkokr_8byvr_324                          Write them deep within your heart.   woman-holding-the-bible-to-heart    Internalize them.                                        Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think – Romans 12:2

We’ve all heard the saying, actions speak louder than words. Not only do actions speak louder than words, but actions actually speak/reflect our internal attitudes/beliefs.  The words, feelings, and thoughts that no one sees or hears.  Yet, as hard as we may try to suppress our innermost attitudes/beliefs, our actions are acting like a megaphone announcing the “hidden” internal world of our hearts.    megaphone

But, IF we follow Solomon’s principle in verse 3, THEN, v.4, we’ll find favor with God, and favor with people, and earn a good reputation.     A win-win!!    thumbs up

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Don’t Become a “Victim” of Poor Choices… – PROVERBS 2:12-15 [3]

Now you are free from the power of sin   shackles  and have become followers of God. Now you do the things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. – Romans 6:22

 

12 Wisdom will save you from evil people,
    from those whose words are twisted.
13 These men turn from the right way
    to walk down dark paths.
14 They take pleasure in doing wrong,
    and they enjoy the twisted ways of evil.
15 Their actions are crooked,
    and their ways are wrong.

Wisdom is protective, it will save us, verse 12.  One way Wisdom saves us is by protecting us from evil people, as described in verses 12-15.

Evil people’s path:
v.13 – they do not follow the godly path, but dark path
v.14 – they enjoy their ungodly and twisted ways
v.15 – their actions and ways of doing “things” are crooked and wrong

Camera 360                twistedpainting

 

BUT there is help!!

Verse 12 reminds us that applying knowledge (wisdom) protects us from becoming “victims” of poor choices, or falling for unfilled promises of smooth-talkers.  Wisdom protects us from people who twist the truth, enticing and tempting us to choose an ungodly path.
These types of people remind me on the serpent in the garden, twisting God’s words and tempting Eve – Genesis 3:1-7, https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+3%3A1-7&version=NLT                                                                                                                                                 <    Or   >
A wolf dressed up in sheep’s clothing. – Matthew 7:15 – Looks sweet and safe on the
outside, but is actually very dangerous.

Thankfully God loves us so much that He provides us with help.  An escape route when we find ourselves in tempting situations     – WISDOM –

REMEMBER:

  The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful.   
He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out, provide a way of escape, so that you can endure it.  –  1 Corinthians 10:13

–  If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. – James 1:5

 

Wisdom in Available to You, RIGHT NOW, TODAY!!! – PROVERBS 2:7-11 [2]

For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous; with favor You will surround him as with a shield. – Psalm 5:12

 

7    He is a shield to those who walk with integrity.
8 He guards the paths of the just
and protects those who are faithful to him.
9 Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair,
and you will find the right way to go.
10 For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will fill you with joy.
11 Wise choices will watch over you.
Understanding will keep you safe.

Wisdom is unique. It not only gives everyone have the opportunity to receive it, but it’s benefits are far-reaching.  With wisdom we get God’s protection, see words in bold print.

We get understanding, making the “wise” path clear to us. No more confusion.  Choosing a Path

We’ll have direction, and know which path to choose among the various options.   choosing right path

Here’s the key — Although we’ll know which path to take, it will be up to us, as we exercise our free will, to choose the “wise”/God directed path. Don’t just listen to God’s Word, DO what it says. – James 1:22

Verses 10-11, tell us that when wisdom enters our heart, the knowledge we’ll receive will —

  • Fill us with joy
  • Watch over us, and
  • Keep us safe.

Wisdom is not something I hope for sometime in the future.  It is a gift that is available to me right now.  A gift, should I choose to accept and open it, will yield abundant blessings.

Outward Show or From the Heart?? – ZEPHANIAH – 3i [17 OUT OF 17]

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. – 2 Timothy 4:7                               running through tape

 

Then God, through the prophet Zephaniah, ends the Book of Zephaniah with strength and authority —

20))  On that day I will gather you together
    and bring you home again.
I will give you a good name, a name of distinction,
    among all the nations of the earth,
as I restore your fortunes before their very eyes.
    I, the Lord, have spoken!

This short, three chapter, Book of Zephaniah started out as a message of terror in chapter 1, but concludes in chapter 3 with a message of hope.

We read in this book that one man, King Josiah, attempted to reform the people of Judah/Jerusalem encouraging them, more like ordering them, to follow God.  Although the people appeared to follow God, this was just facade (a way of behaving or appearing that gives other people a false idea of your true feelings or situation), because in their hearts they were far from God.

Hopefully reading Zephaniah has got you thinking about your own relationship with God.  Is your relationship just an outward show?  Do you go to church on Sunday, and don’t think about God again until the next Sunday?  Or, when you leave church you get road rage when cars seemingly take forever to get out of the church’s parking lot?  road-rage                                                     Or do you praise God in church,   singing_in_church     but with that same voice use God’s name in vain, or speak negatively about another?  Talking-Behind

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. – James 3:9

Because we are fallen people, everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard – Romans 3:23, we all need reminders, found in the Bible, of how to live life God’s Way.  It is so easy to get caught up in the world’s expectations of us.  Have this kind of house, this kind of job, send your kids to this kind of school, and on and on and on.  But what God tells us is that what we need most is a Savior (Jesus). One who can free us from the bondage of our sins – anger, envy, greed, etc.

If you are currently living your life apart from God, or appearing outwardly to be a God-follower, but your heart is far from Him, honoring God with your lips, but your heart is far from Him – Matthew 15:8 you can choose today, right now, to exercise your free will and begin to experience restoration and healing in your life.

The message is close at hand, And that message is the very message about faith that we preach:

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.  As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”  Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him.  For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  – Romans 10:8-13

 

Can I Find Hope, Healing, Restoration??? – ZEPHANIAH – 3h – [16]

He brought me up out of the pit of destruction and confusion, out of the muddy clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my steps secure. – Psalm 40:2

           psalms40_2               feet_on_rock_thumb

 

As we begin to wrap up the Book of Zephaniah, let’s look at a common pattern seen throughout the Bible, as well as, our own lives.

  • People follow their own way, believing they are able to navigate life on their own, without God, His principles and guidance.
  • Life becomes messy.  In relationships, at work, at school, in finances, families, morals and values are compromised, addictive behaviors surface, and destruction/unhealthy choices dominate.  We’re LOST!!  We’re not sure where to turn, or even what we’re hoping to find.  All we know for sure is that something is missing from our lives. But WHAT is it?
  • People hear about God.  In the Bible it was through prophets, and through miracles. In present day, people hear about God through preachers on the radio or TV, through various churches offering an array of worship experiences from quite/reflective to foot stomping/interactive, and everything in between.  Miracles may sadly go unnoticed. Thought of as “coincidence”, rather than “providence”.
  • People choose to make a change in their lives.  To repent, acknowledging that the path they have been on is not leading them where they hoped to go. Instead of continuing on their current path, they choose to do a 180 and follow God’s way.                                                                                        my way gods way
  • People experience restoration and healing. – It is like the restoration of this painting –   paintingrestoration                                                                                          The beauty we see in the restoration (right side of the image) was not added or changed, but was cleaned up (refreshed and restored) after years of neglect, sin (an analogy), hurt and pain experienced (an analogy) – (image on the left side).

NOTE:  Complete restoration and healing doesn’t often happen in an instant, a week, a month or even a year.  But, by making a choice today to say, YES, I want restoration and healing in my life, in my relationships, at my job, with my classmates, teachers, etc. the process can begin.  And you will be able to see God’s image restored everyday, while the distorted, marred image that was once so painful to look upon, begins to disappear.

 

 

God Pulls Us Close :) – ZEPHANIAH – 3g – [15]

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is  –  Ephesians 3:17

 

With all the love God is showering over His people, verses 15-17 ,http://wp.me/p5nZpi-4G, you might think that God has forgotten all those that have caused you pain, rejected you, hated you, etc. You might think that God is going to let them off the hook.  Let by gones be by gones.  Not so!!!  Remember, although God is a god of mercy, He is also a god of justice.  And those that have chosen to reject God, have chosen to go their own way, and have caused hurt, God promises in verse 19 that He

 19))  WILL DEAL SEVERELY WITH ALL WHO HAVE OPPRESSED YOUI will save the weak and helpless ones;  I will bring together those who were chased away. I will give glory and fame to my former exiles, wherever they have been mocked and shamed.

20)) On that day I will gather you together
    and bring you home again.
I will give you a good name, a name of distinction,
    among all the nations of the earth,
as I (will) restore your fortunes before their very eyes.

These verses, and many others found in the Bible, are there to be an encouragement and reminder of God’s immense love for His followers. That He is giving each one a GREAT BIG BEAR HUG, image

pulling us close to Him, protecting and comforting us, and NO ONE can snatch (us) away – John 10:28

The Day of Hope WILL Come!!!!! – ZEPHANIAH – 3f – [14]

Our God is a God who saves! The Sovereign LORD rescues us from death. – Psalm 68:20

What will it be like when the “day of hope” comes?

Verse 15 tells us that the Lord will remove his hand of judgment
    and will disperse the armies of your enemy.
And the Lord himself, the King of Israel,
    will live among you!
At last your troubles will be over,
    and you will never again fear disaster.

It is interesting to note that on the “day of hope”, God once again reminds and encourages His people saying, Don’t be afraid! – v.16

What will rid us of our fears?  The Lord, of course!!  Why?  Because,

17 )) For the Lord your God is living among you.  (AND)
    He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
    With his love, he will calm all your fears.
    He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

This is all possible because God is love, 1 John 4:8.  Not that God loves, is willing to love, tries to love, …  No, God IS love. And every person innately seeks out love.  Not always in the most healthy ways, but nevertheless, everyone has a desire to be accepted and unconditionally loved.

Can “people” fulfill our desire to be loved the way God promises to love us?  I think we can all speak from personal experience, that the answer is a strong NO!!  So, if you want to be loved in a way that only God can love you, ask Him into your heart, your life.  Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. –  Matthew 7:7-8

                      ask seek knock3                         kneeling-before-glory-1120x750

Warning!!! – The Stove is HOT!!!! – PROVERBS – Chapter 1g – 1:29-33 [10 of out 10]

LORD Almighty, blessed are those who trust in you. – Psalm 84:12

 

29))  Because they hated knowledge
    and did not choose to fear the Lord,
30))  and they would have none of my counsel
    and despised all my reproof,
31))  THEREFORE, they shall eat the fruit of their way,
    and have their fill of their own devices.
32))  For the simple are killed by their turning away,
    and the complacency of fools destroys them;
33))  BUT whoever listens to me will dwell secure
    and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”

 

We learned from verse 25, http://wp.me/p5nZpi-5E, that – People turn away from all my advice. They wouldn’t accept my warning.  And here again in verse 30 we read, they despised all my counsel.
All people are in search of a road that leads to “happiness”.      Good Mood Ahead                                         Yet, in verses 29-33, we read that people often end up making choices that take them on a curvy path.  winding-twisted-road-sign1 Their path ends up being curvy because the choose their own way vs. the Creator’s counsel and guidance – v.30.

The result of following our own way:  They’ll GET their own way, for better or worse.  Sadly, as verse 32 says, the simple are killed by turning away, by doing their own thing.  Instead of heeding the warnings, like the stove is hot – don’t touch it,   dont_touch      they proceed to touch,  and…     clipart hand_burn     Again, it’s not that the person in this illustration was not warned, he was, yet he chose his own way.  In this case, and often in our everyday choices, the result was/can be painful.

The result of following wisdom?                                                                                                               v.33 – Whoever listens to me                                                 

  • will dwell secure
  • will be at ease
  • (will be) without dread of disaster

Ummm, which path would you take, wisdom’s or the simple’s/fool’s?    decision scale