Isaiah 64–The Reality of Sin and Forgiveness

Isaiah makes the case for a fallen Israel.  Now, remember this is a long time before any of the devastation was present.  It had to be strange reading by the king, but looking back, we know God revealed to Isaiah a full picture of the fall, the dispersal and the redemption and restoration of His people.  Still Isaiah seems to humbly be approaching the Lord and requesting a life of forgiveness, redemption, and restoration–WHY? Because that is what Dads do.  No matter how mad God becomes, He still loves us more.

So, Isaiah reminds God of His greatness and glory.  Additionally, He is reminding God that We are His kids.  He asks God to relent from His anger, though well-deserved and asks that we be forgiven and restored.  While the request is for the Israel of Isaiah’s time, it pours over thousands of years to present day when we and the world can know Christ personally and God eternally. We need to become humble and realize the scope of God’s Love and our sinful hearts. Like Isaiah, we need to approach the Lord with reverence and gratefulness.  He loves us and wants us to be personally connected to Him for now and forever.  We, like Isaiah, know God’s love and ability to forgive and restore us.  We simply need to accept the love and walk in submission to His leadership.  

God Bless You


[a]Oh, that you would burst from the heavens and come down!
    How the mountains would quake in your presence!
[b]As fire causes wood to burn
    and water to boil,
your coming would make the nations tremble.
    Then your enemies would learn the reason for your fame!
When you came down long ago,
    you did awesome deeds beyond our highest expectations.
    And oh, how the mountains quaked!
For since the world began,
    no ear has heard
and no eye has seen a God like you,
    who works for those who wait for him!
You welcome those who gladly do good,
    who follow godly ways.
But you have been very angry with us,
    for we are not godly.
We are constant sinners;
    how can people like us be saved?
We are all infected and impure with sin.
    When we display our righteous deeds,
    they are nothing but filthy rags.
Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall,
    and our sins sweep us away like the wind.
Yet no one calls on your name
    or pleads with you for mercy.
Therefore, you have turned away from us
    and turned us over[c] to our sins.

And yet, O Lord, you are our Father.
    We are the clay, and you are the potter.
    We all are formed by your hand.
Don’t be so angry with us, Lord.
    Please don’t remember our sins forever.
Look at us, we pray,
    and see that we are all your people.
10 Your holy cities are destroyed.
    Zion is a wilderness;
    yes, Jerusalem is a desolate ruin.
11 The holy and beautiful Temple
    where our ancestors praised you
has been burned down,
    and all the things of beauty are destroyed.
12 After all this, Lord, must you still refuse to help us?
    Will you continue to be silent and punish us?

Isaiah 29-30 With God, There Is Always the Hope of Restoration

It is an amazing part of the knowledge of the Lord, to realize the reality that God’s strongest desire is to bless and protect the ones He loves.  In Isaiah 29-30, God speaks first of the siege of Jerusalem.  He speaks of the sadness as Jerusalem is taken down.  He warns not to run from what is ahead–but, to repent.  Turn their hearts from other gods and destroy their idols.  Then as they return to Him, the Lord will protect and restore them.  He will restore their faith, hope, and their future.  

When they return to Him, the Lord will then come in a fury and destroy the enemy, restore the land, and restore the faith and joy of the people.  Amid the sieges, the captivity, and the loss of national identity, it had to be these promises that allowed many to maintain their faith and follow God.  It was these promises that led the remnant back and through the centuries allowed the people of Israel to continue their traditions and seek the Messiah.

Now these thousands of years later, the Messiah has come and died and rose again; and, we all can be in personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus.  That faith will bring hope in all circumstance and as in the passage return us to days of peace and times of joy.  We will quit worshiping our handmade gods and humbly seek our Father.  We will experience peace, love, and have the confidence that we will be with the Lord throughout eternity.  

We can live without fear in a fearful time.  We can have real joy during chaos and unrest.  In short, we can and will live abundant lives even while the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. (John 10:10) We can walk in confidence as we allow our lives to be hidden in Christ with God. (Col 3:1-4) Thanks Father, that Your peace does pass all human understanding; and Your desire is to bless those You love.

God Bless You


18 Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,
    and therefore, he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
    Blessed are all those who wait for him.

19 For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. 20 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. 21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. 22 Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, “Be gone!”

23 And he will give rain for the seed with which you sow the ground, and bread, the produce of the ground, which will be rich and plenteous. In that day your livestock will graze in large pastures, 24 and the oxen and the donkeys that work the ground will eat seasoned fodder, which has been winnowed with shovel and fork. 25 And on every lofty mountain and every high hill there will be brooks running with water, in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall. 26 Moreover, the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day when the Lord binds up the brokenness of his people, and heals the wounds inflicted by his blow.

27 Behold, the name of the Lord comes from afar,
    burning with his anger, and in thick rising smoke;[d]
his lips are full of fury,
    and his tongue is like a devouring fire;
28 his breath is like an overflowing stream
    that reaches up to the neck;
to sift the nations with the sieve of destruction,
    and to place on the jaws of the peoples a bridle that leads astray.

29 You shall have a song as in the night when a holy feast is kept, and gladness of heart, as when one sets out to the sound of the flute to go to the mountain of the Lord, to the Rock of Israel. 30 And the Lord will cause his majestic voice to be heard and the descending blow of his arm to be seen, in furious anger and a flame of devouring fire, with a cloudburst and storm and hailstones. 31 The Assyrians will be terror-stricken at the voice of the Lord, when he strikes with his rod. 32 And every stroke of the appointed staff that the Lord lays on them will be to the sound of tambourines and lyres. Battling with brandished arm, he will fight with them. 33 For a burning place[e] has long been prepared; indeed, for the king it is made ready, its pyre made deep and wide, with fire and wood in abundance; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of sulfur, kindles it.

2 Kings 19–Please Welcome Isaiah

The prophet Isaiah is first mentioned in the Bible as the Prophet during the reign of Hezekiah.  Hezekiah was a good king that sought the Lord.    In this story, foreign kings are plotting the invasion of Jerusalem.  Hezekiah calls upon Isaiah to pray for them and to seek God’s will regarding the battle.  Isaiah had been in the role of God’s prophet for 40 years by this time.  
 
Interestingly, Hezekiah was seeking God on behalf of the people not on his own behalf. Also, Hezekiah was angry that the foreign king blasphemed God–not that the Kingdom was at risk. So, he sent the note to Isaiah to pray for the people.  Isaiah did as he was asked; but he also quickly reassured the king that God, not the armies of Hezekiah, would defeat the foreign king.  
 
It had to have been difficult to be God’s man in a Godless kingdom.  Most of Isaiah’s service was just that. He began after the death of Uzziah–a great king that ended very poorly as a Leper and outcast. and served 4 kings, and dying at the hands of Manasseh, a very evil king.   Hezekiah was the lone king that sought the Lord and, as such, he had a great reign. Isaiah a prophet for 40 years was glad to serve him and glad to pray.
 
In our world, we are asked to serve God whether conditions are ideal, or they are not.  Our responsibility is to seek the Lord in whatever circumstance and follow His lead. In this journey, we need to stay focused upon who we are in Christ, and whose we are in the light of eternity. We need not be strong and then give up at the end–like Uzziah, nor do we need to ignore God and take control of our own destiny like the other kings.  We, like Isaiah and Hezekiah, need to seek God and allow him to battle for us.
 
God Bless You 

When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the Lord. He sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary and the leading priests, all wearing sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. They told him, “This is what Hezekiah says: This day is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to the moment of birth and there is no strength to deliver them. It may be that the Lord your God will hear all the words of the field commander, whom his master, the king of Assyria, has sent to ridicule the living God, and that he will rebuke him for the words the Lord your God has heard. Therefore, pray for the remnant that still survives.”

When King Hezekiah’s officials came to Isaiah, Isaiah said to them, “Tell your master, ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard—those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Listen! When he hears a certain report, I will make him want to return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.’”

Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: “Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.

17 “It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. 19 Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.”

Isaiah Prophesies Sennacherib’s Fall

20 Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent a message to Hezekiah: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I have heard your prayer concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria. 21 This is the word that the Lord has spoken against him:


22 Who is it you have ridiculed and blasphemed?
Against whom have you raised your voice
and lifted your eyes in pride?
Against the Holy One of Israel!
23 By your messengers
you have ridiculed the Lord.

25 “‘Have you not heard?
Long ago I ordained it.
In days of old I planned it;
now I have brought it to pass,
that you have turned fortified cities
into piles of stone.
26 …

27 “‘But I know where you are
and when you come and go
and how you rage against me.
28 Because you rage against me
and because your insolence has reached my ears,
I will put my hook in your nose
and my bit in your mouth,
and I will make you return
by the way you came.’

29 “This will be the sign for you, Hezekiah:

“This year you will eat what grows by itself,
and the second year what springs from that.
But in the third year sow and reap,
plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
30 Once more a remnant of the kingdom of Judah
will take root below and bear fruit above.
31 For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant,
and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors.

“The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

32 “Therefore this is what the Lord says concerning the king of Assyria:

“‘He will not enter this city
or shoot an arrow here.
He will not come before it with shield
or build a siege ramp against it.
33 By the way that he came he will return;
he will not enter this city,
declares the Lord.
34 I will defend this city and save it,
for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.’”

35 That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.

Daniel 2 Part 1–Dream the Impossible Dream

The request was impossible for any man! The king of Babylon was having recurring nightmares. They were waking him up and disrupting his rest.  He neither liked it, nor wanted them to continue.  So the king did what kings did in his day. He called his magicians and enchanters to fix the problem.  
 
Thing was, Nebchaduneezer was no ordinary king.  He was not going to put up with parlor tricks.  So the king asked to have his nightmare interpreted, the only catch was that the magicians and enchanters not only had to interpret the dream, they had to tell the king what happened in the dream.  They, in effect, had to truly read the king’s mind.  That was no small task! Further, failure to do so had a penalty–the magicians and enchanters would be ripped limb from limb and their homes laid to ruin.  This, of course, was no small ask or penalty.  Interestingly enough, the king simply did not care.
 
In our lives, we are often faced with impossible circumstances. Curve balls are thrown at us that send us reeling.  When we step back and objectively look at it, the situation still seems hopeless and unfair.  
 
We are fortunate, however, to serve a God that thrives on the impossible and perserveres in the realm of the unfair. It is in those impossible moments and in company of impossible people, that God does His best work.  Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David and many, many more heroes of the Bible lived in impossible times faced with unfair circumstances. Life was and simply is not fair…Fortunately, they were not focused on life, but on the Lord. 
 
Like the Bible heroes, we need to accept the impossibility of circumstances and the unfair nature of life.  Once we cross that bridge, we can then focus on the amazing nature and result of the one and true God! If we will, we will see the same awesome results that other people of God have enjoyed. We have to be patient, we have to be comitted, and we have to be grateful.  But, in the end, God will do what needs to be done to prepare, protect and provide for our needs.
 
Goid Bless You

In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. And the king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.” Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic,[a] “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.” The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “The word from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins. But if you show the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. Therefore show me the dream and its interpretation.” They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show its interpretation.” The king answered and said, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time, because you see that the word from me is firm— if you do not make the dream known to me, there is but one sentence for you. You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can show me its interpretation.” 10 The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. 11 The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”

Daniel 1 Part 2–God Perfectly Prepares Us for His Plan

There simply is never an OOPS! God is the most methodical and purposeful Leader and Father! Daniel and His friends, Hannaniah, Azariah and Mishael were taken captive from Israel by Babalonian soldiers, and then they were put into the service of the King–Nebchaduneezer. Unlike the other captives, these young men remained pure and kept holy with what they ate and drank.  As a result, God blessed them mightily. At the end of the training, each captive was sent to be interviewed by the King.
 
In the interviews, it is said that they stood out in the areas of literature and wisdom and that Daniel had a unique understanding of visions and dreams.  It was said that they were 10 times better than the magicians and enchanters already in the kingdom.  Clearly, these men stood out. At this point, no one knew what a difference these men would have for the nation of Israel and the empire of Babylon.  Well, that is not actually accurate…God knew.  He prepared these young men.  He gifted them and brought them together to impact Babylon and Israel.  That preparation started in Israel, continued in their training, and would shape them all the days of their lives.
 
The same holds true today.  The preparation that God started in our youth, continues throughout our lives.  We are uniquely situated  to carry out our piece of the Lord’s plan. We must remain committed and teachable. We must also be ready to employ all that we have received to honor the Lord and His plan.  We must not underestimate what value we each bring to God’s plan.  We must also maintain our faith through seemingly dire and dark periods. Remember, each event does shape who and Whose we are.  The encouragement we can receive from this is simple–God has a plan.  If we will trust Him, He will prepare us and employ us to be a significant part of His plan; and shape our lives and the lives of others!
 
God Bless You

As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. 18 At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. 20 And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. 21 And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.

2 Kings 8–God Continues to Care for His Own

Well after Elisha had first met her, Elisha approached the woman whose son he had saved. God gave Elisha a heads up about an upcoming famine.  Elisha encouraged the woman and the family to leave for the time, and she did what Elisha instructed.  Seven years later, the family returned.  They appealed to get their lands back; since they had abandoned them for the seven years.  Normally, it would probably be an appeal that fell on deaf ears.  God loved Elisha, however, and the ones he helped. So, on the day of the appeal, Elisha’s servant was in the king’s presence.  In the course of their conversation, Gehazi shared the story of the woman and her son.  Then, as God would have it–the woman and her son came up to make the appeal. The king was so amazed to meet the woman, that he not ony granted her back her land, but all the income the land produced.
 
There was no coincidence, God knew the need and the timing.  This family was cared for by the same God they honored by caring for His prophet.  God continues to care for the ones He loves.  That should be a great encouragement for those facing these strange and difficult days.  As we know, God knows the plans He has for us.  Plans to prosper us and not to harm us. Plans to give us a hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11. 
We can never underestimate God’s planning or timing.  In the characters we have seen, Ruth met Boaz while gleaning for survival, Esther saved Israel as a new queen of a foriegn nation, Elijah ended Baal worship in Israel on the top of a mountain by the call to God.  God is always on top of his plan and executing it.  What is more, God promised Solomon at the dedication of the temple, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” I Chronicles 7:14.  We need to seek God and pray.  The Lord has established His trustworthy nature.  We know He cares for His own. We simply need to trust that God continues to care for us as He always had.
 
God Bless You

Now Elisha had said to the woman whose son he had restored to life, “Arise, and depart with your household, and sojourn wherever you can, for the Lord has called for a famine, and it will come upon the land for seven years.” So the woman arose and did according to the word of the man of God. She went with her household and sojourned in the land of the Philistines seven years. And at the end of the seven years, when the woman returned from the land of the Philistines, she went to appeal to the king for her house and her land. Now the king was talking with Gehazi the servant of the man of God, saying, “Tell me all the great things that Elisha has done.” And while he was telling the king how Elisha had restored the dead to life, behold, the woman whose son he had restored to life appealed to the king for her house and her land. And Gehazi said, “My lord, O king, here is the woman, and here is her son whom Elisha restored to life.” And when the king asked the woman, she told him. So the king appointed an official for her, saying, “Restore all that was hers, together with all the produce of the fields from the day that she left the land until now.”

1 Kings 18 Part 3–I Think That Settles That!

This is one of God’s great and defining moments in the story of Israel.  Ahab the king vs Elijah the Prophet. The irritant to Elijah was that Ahab was God’s anointed leader. So, since the king would not acknowledge his allegiance to God, Elijah simply said FINE! lets let the “Gods” duke it out. Baal Prophets, you guys set up a sacrifice and I will set up a sacrifice.  Whichever God takes the sacrifice that is set before Him we will all agree is God! The people of Israel thought that was great! The Baal prophets, not so much. Oh sure, they went through the motions; built a nice alter set out a nice sacrifice.  They prayed and cried and danced and cut themselves–all to no avail. 
 
So then, Elijah had the people dig a trench, set up an alter, put the sacrifice on it and wood under it. Drench the sacrifice with so much water that it filled the trench around the alter. Then with very little fanfare, Elijah stood alone, faced the people, the king, the 450 Baal prophets, and priests.  Elijah prayed for the Lord to show Himself as God. So, God immediately sent a fire that consumed the sacrifice, the alter and the water in the trench. It was probably astounding. Needless to say, the game was over.  The false prophets and priests killed and Elijah vindicated–but, not Elijah–God was vindicated.
 
Bottom Line is that God is God. The world has set up all sorts of idols to remain independent of the Lord. Money, Power, Lust, Selfishness, Anger, Jealousy each take their place at the alter of men’s lives; and men pray, dance, cry and sacrifice their lives, families and all they hold dear; simply to affirm their devotion to their “GODS”. Sadly, their is no response–simply because they are false gods.
 
Then, we who know our Lord rise, pray, and watch the Lord God Almighty do amazing and powerful things. He changes lives, heals, provides, sustains, and brings to the forefront endless numbers of affirmations that He is the one and only true God. Ballgame over.  Objectively, their is no doubt that God is God. His wonders never cease. All that remains, is our need to take a knee and acknowledge His lordship in our own personal lives.
 
God Bless You

 

So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. 23 Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. 24 And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.” 25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” 26 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. 27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” 32 and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs[a] of seed. 33 And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” 34 And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time. 35 And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water.

36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” 40 And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.

Ruth 1 Part 2–How We Define Ourselves

One of the most difficult disciplines in life is the discipline of definition.  Each day, when one awakens, he/she is given the opportunity to define himself/herself.  Some define themselves by their appearance, others by what they have accumulated. Many, however, define their lives by the circumstances that they face.  Naomi was a woman that loved God.  Yet, life had dealt her a very difficult hand.  She lived in a foreign land, she lost her husband and her two sons.  She had two daughters-in-law that she cared for, but needed to send away–simply because she could not care for them.  Ruth, one daughter-in-law refused to part; and so, the two returned to Bethlehem. When they arrived, the women of the town asked is this Naomi (Pleasant)? Naomi replied, DO NOT call me Naomi (pleasant)…call me Mara (bitter).  Naomi had grown bitter under the weight of the circumstances.
 
In truth, it is very difficult to live a life that rises above one’s circumstances.  Day-to-day events and interactions often fill our thoughts and determine the paths that we take.  Once we are in a relationship with God, however, the Holy Spirit allows us to rise above our circumstances and become defined by who we are, and whose we are in Christ Jesus.  The apostle Paul told the Philippians, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance that I am in. Well-fed or hungry, living in plenty or in want, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil 4:12-13. The Father knows the plans He has for us. Jer 29:11. He is never surprised by trials or tribulations. He provides the grace, strength, and direction to face what lies ahead. If we will trust Him, lean into Him and follow He will navigate us through life’s difficulties. Then, when we arrive on the other side, we can look back and see His fingerprints on each step along the way.
 
God Bless You

 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”

16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

19 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”

20 “Don’t call me Naomi,[b]” she told them. “Call me Mara,[c] because the Almighty[d] has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted[e] me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

22 So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning

I John 5–In Closing…

In the end, there have always been two great commands from God; Love the true God, and love others as you love yourself.  All other commands and direction fall within those parameters.  John closes his letter to the church by laying that out very clearly.  We are God’s chosen adopted children if we believe that Christ is the Savior and Lord. The evidence of our belief is our love for God and his people.  Further evidence is following Him and doing what He has called us to do.
 
We see the truth through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  We also testify to that truth by our words and our daily lives. We are not expected to be perfect, but, we are called to be different. That difference is a lifetime process of transformation that always centers on the gift of salvation. As we journey, we see God’s hand on our lives and become more like him with the passage of each day. In the end, however, it still comes down to this: “He who has the Son Has Life; and He who rejects that gift does not have eternal life.”
As we end the decade, we need to be reminded that our Journey is swift and our destination is eternity. We, therefore, are called to live for that end and not for the temporary promises of this world.  Happy New Year.
 
God Bless You

 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the[a] Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

I John 3 Part 2–Love–Love for Us and Our Love for Others.

God truly demonstrated His love for us.  He loved us when we were unlovable.  He accepted us when we were unacceptable.  He calls us to love others the same way.  John reiterated his original message from his gospel, For God So loved the world that he gave his only son. He tells the church –this is how we know what love is…Jesus laid his life down for us. He tells the church its response should be similar…the church should lay their lives down for others.  Selfishness gets parked at the curb and believer’s lives are no longer their own.  It is not a mopey life of dower expression and mundane existence. Instead, it is a life full of meaning and purpose where the needs of others supersede the needs of self.  Amazingly, history reminds us that humans are at their best when they set their personal agendas aside.
 
In our lives, we have to choose each day to live for Christ and not for ourselves.  It is a difficult task. Even on Jesus’s birthday, we can lose the focus and become consumed with the consumerism of the holiday and the consumables we feast upon. If we are not careful, our entire life becomes filled with a desire to promote ourselves and obtain all we feel we deserve.  John’s reminder is stark and plain–live a life like Christ. Lay your lives and agendas on the alter and allow Christ dominion over them. When we live like that, we find ourselves full of life and purpose and we enjoy a glimpse of peace and joy like none other. 
 
God Bless You

 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brothers were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters,[b] if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

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