Monthly Archives: May 2014

Helper Friends

Luke 5:17-26

Of all the people we see in Luke 5:17-26, it’s the four friends of the paralyzed man who really captured my attention. I was struck by their commitment and dedication, and their absolute determination to help this man get in front of Jesus–even though the task proved to be difficult, requiring a somewhat complicated and a typical solution.

Reading about these friends brought to mind a few friends of my own who have gone above and beyond for me. I am grateful for that handful of close Christian friends, and don’t know what I’d do without them. But this account also prompted me to examine myself and how I am as a friend. I considered: Am I like these men? Am I willing to help others–even if that means giving up personal time or maybe taking off from work? If I know something is going to be physically or emotionally demanding do I shy away from helping or do I jump in to help? Am I willing to stick with my friend when the difficult situation doesn’t resolve itself quickly?

How important is it that we seek out and develop close Christian friendships? When have you gone “above and beyond” to help a brother or sister in Christ? What was the result?

The Source of my Strength

When St Paul writes to the Corinthian church, he declares that “…when I am weak, then I am strong”. Here is an important truth. All of us have things that we struggle with and things that at times seem to overwhelm us. These are the areas of our lives where we can invite the living God to inhabit us with His strength and power.

The testimony of King David was that the living God was his source of strength and courage. In Psalm 18 verse 1 we read: “I love you, God— you make me strong. God is bedrock under my feet, the castle in which I live, my rescuing knight” 
  
In his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul refers to a “thorn in the flesh”. He does not elaborate on the exact nature of his problem. Paul asks the Lord to remove this “thorn” from his life. God answers his prayer – but not in a way that perhaps Paul had hoped for or expected. Rather God works through his weakness to reveal the power of the resurrected Christ in his life:- “And about this thing I made request to the Lord three times that it might be taken away from me. And he said to me, My grace is enough for you, for my power is made complete in what is feeble. Most gladly, then, will I take pride in my feeble body, so that the power of Christ may be on me. So I take pleasure in being feeble, in unkind words, in needs, in cruel attacks, in troubles, on account of Christ: for when I am feeble, then am I strong.”(2 Cor 12:8-10)
 
Here’s a famous scripture about the Lord’s promise to give strength to the weary. After reading this you may want to meditate on the line about soaring like an eagle and receive God’s power in your life:- “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint”. Isaiah 40:31

Put God First

“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;” – Matthew 10:37

Jesus has made some what we might call “scary” or “hard” statements in Scripture.  In Matthew 10:34, He says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.”  In Matthew 8:21, an unnamed disciple says he wants to follow Jesus but first asks leave to go bury his father. Jesus responds: “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.”  Pretty harsh statements – of course, each one with a valid reason.  But, Jesus made a scary statement, one that causes me to examine my heart to its very core, in Matthew 10:37.

Read the scripture reference again. Now, that is a stunning statement, one that challenges me to fully comprehend. That is because I love my mom. I love my sisters and brothers, nieces and nephew etc. I even love my in-laws. Because of my deep love for my family, Jesus’ statement makes me very uncomfortable. In fact, it terrifies me.

Similar to God’s statement to Abraham, Jesus is saying that when it comes to our family members, Christ must be in first place, or else He will be in no place at all when it comes to our lives. As hard as that is to take in, Christ wants to make it clear that if we want to follow Christ, He must be first. The fact is that if we love anyone (or anything) more than Jesus, we are not worthy of Him. And if that’s not tough enough, He goes on and says that we must love Him more than we love our own life itself. Jesus sets up high expectations for His followers. Am I willing to meet His expectations? I am, as tough as it may be. How about you?

You Are Stronger Than You Think

Text: 1 Thessalonians 5:14 

“And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”

I like being the one who warns, encourages and helps. I’m not so good at being patient, but otherwise I’m pretty good at obeying this verse. But for God’s plan to be fully realized in the church at Thessalonica and in our lives today, at some point we need to be on the receiving end of this verse.

This is the beauty of the body of Christ. God designed a loving check-and-balance system to deepen our faith and relationships. But in order for it to work, we have to accept being warned, encouraged and helped, allowing others to see our frailties.

My default approach is to hide my weaknesses, fears and insecurities, which opens a crack for unhealthy pride to sneak in. And yet what freedom there is in simply admitting: I can be a mess at times. When I acknowledge that, others can pray for me. They can encourage me. It’s a double blessing of God’s strength and that of others.

God needs me to learn this truth. Admitting I need help breaks down my pride. It humbles me, which softens God’s heart toward me. And it allows others to be obedient in caring for me.

So, am I stronger than I think I am? Apparently so. But the best way to discover my strength is to admit my weakness.

Heavenly Father, thank You for bringing friends into my life who help me grow stronger. Forgive me for the sinful pride that has kept others from getting too close. Help me to understand it doesn’t make me weaker to admit my weaknesses. In fact, it opens me to get stronger. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Fay-Ann Swearing
http://www.fayannswearing.wordpress.com

Unfailing Love

“Remember me in the light of your unfailing love, for you are merciful, O LORD. The LORD is good and does what is right; he shows the proper path to those who go astray.” Psalms 25:7-8

How merciful God is. He could look at our behaviour and condemn us. He could read our mind and reject us. He could exact a thousand different punishments for all that we have done. Instead He has chosen to see us through the eyes of His unfailing love. It is so hard to imagine what that really means. It is so foreign to the way we operate. We hold grudges, seek revenge, or at least try to get even. But not God. He does not give up on us. He sees us desperately in need of His grace. And even when we are unlovely, thoroughly lost because of our willful disobedience, He shows us the way back. What makes this so tragic is that we don’t really believe it. We still think we need to wear the mask of our false self. You know, the self that thinks it earns God’s approval. The self that tries to please God through vain attempts at righteousness. Today throw the mask away. You don’t need it. God sees you through His unfailing love and He loves what He sees. Today accept His love and let Him direct your path.

Father, thank You for Your unfailing love. Thank You for Your mercy. Thank You for showing me the proper path to go on when I go astray. Guide me and direct me today. In Jesus’ name. AMEN

Follow Me

Matthew 4:19-20

And He said to them, `Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men’.  Immediately they left their nets, and followed Him.

If you want to get to know God more, you must learn to respond immediately to God’s leading in your life!

When Jesus called the disciples, they immediately left everything and followed Him. That response was the beginning of such a wonderful journey of growing relationally close to Jesus.

Matthew also tells the story (Matthew 19:21-22) of another young man Jesus invited to leave everything and follow Him. The next verse after Jesus’ invitation says, “But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property”. He valued the comfort of keeping things the way they were more than he valued responding to Jesus’ invitation.

The way to increase your sensitivity to what God is saying is to respond to what God is already making clear to you. If God is speaking to you about something in your life right now and you ignore it, your heart may become hardened toward Him and your relationship with Him suffers. But if you learn to respond immediately to God’s leading, your relationship with Him soars.

In faith, the fishermen left their nets. The rich young man also had a net – a safety net. But he couldn’t give it up. What do you need to respond to God about today?

Faith

“Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping – Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.” Romans 4:10, 20-21

If there was ever a model for living the Christian life, it is Abraham. Look again at today’s verses. There is no better way to exemplify how we are to live. Abraham lived in an incredible relationship with God. He was totally immersed in faith. He did everything with God in mind. Look at what Paul writes, “Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping – Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise.” More than that, Paul writes that Abraham was “fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.” Just like you and I, Abraham had choices to make every day. He chose to trust God. He decided that he would put his faith and hope in Jehovah. What about you? Who are you going to trust? Who will you hope in? Who will you be counting on to do what He has promised? Today, choose to live by faith in our living God. Put your full hope and trust in Him.

TODAY’S PRAYER Father, thank You for Your power and majesty. Thank You for Your love for me. Thank You that I can put all my hope, trust and faith in You. And today, I choose to do so. I put my complete faith in You. AMEN

Obey God

“But Peter and the apostles answered,’We must obey God rather than men.'” – Acts 5:29

The preeminent concern of a Christian is to obey God. We do this because we trust Him and love Him. And if we’re put in a situation where that earthly authority is pressuring us to disobey the command of God, we have a decision to make: to obey earthly law or God’s law. That’s what civil disobedience is all about. But there’s a spirit in which to do it. You know one of the reasons that Martin Luther King, Jr. was such an amazing man is that when he was arrested for disobeying man’s immoral laws on segregation, he was willing to pay the price. He recognized if we’re going to disobey government authorities, no matter how corrupt it may be, we’ve got to be willing to pay the penalty.

If you, as a Christian is called to obey God and disobey some earthly authority, don’t be moaning and groaning, demanding your rights and talking about how unfair it is! Accept it! Rejoice in it! We’re not to be angry with those who are unjustly treating us, we’re to love them. We’re to forgive them. Our whole demeanor and spirit is to be different, and this is what gets the attention of the world. They will begin to realize you are really serious about following Jesus! That’s what God wants us to do and that’s how He wants us to respond.

The Effects of Our Words

Text: Ephesians 4:29

Every day we are given the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. Every time we open our mouth to speak, we send forth words which have an effect on those around us. Our words, which come “out of the overflow of the heart” (Matthew 12:34), will either cause a positive or negative reaction…our words are rarely neutral. Knowing the power of our words ought to cause us to use them with great care.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29

This means that every time we speak, we have the opportunity to encourage and minister. With just a few moments of our time and very little effort, we have the opportunity to brighten someone’s day, to ease their burden, and possibly draw them closer to God. This precious opportunity must not be taken lightly; “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken” (Matthew 12:36).

If we have received Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, our careless words are eternally forgiven. And yet, our words remain a reflection of our heart. God has given us a new heart which ought to be filled with devotion and our words should be filtered through a desire to bring Him glory and honor. But sometimes we smother this heart and fail to let it shine. Though forgiven, we must also give an account of the damage our words have caused.

We seldom realize how harmful and discouraging our words can be; “Like a madman shooting firebrands or deadly arrows is a man who deceives his neighbour and says, ‘I was only joking!'” (Proverbs 26:18-19). Sarcastic and joking words are “deadly arrows” which are never useful for “building others up.” Over time, these words are sure to destroy a relationship.

Before we speak, we must carefully listen. What is the real question? What are the real needs or concerns? “He who answers before listening – that is his folly and his shame” (Proverbs 18:13). We may only be given the opportunity to speak a few words, but we can make every effort to use our words wisely; “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil” (Proverbs 15:28).

Our words are a powerful gift. Let’s honor our Heavenly Father by effectively using this gift to encourage. Let’s speak so those who listen may benefit and be built up in their faith. Let’s continually encourage one another to draw closer to our Heavenly Father and never squander the opportunity of our words.

Fear Only God

“So that we may boldly say, The LORD is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me”   (Hebrews 13:6).

Because God will never leave nor forsake us, we may well be content with such things as we have. Since the LORD is ours, we cannot be left without a friend, a treasure, and a dwelling place. This assurance may make us feel quite independent of men. Under such high patronage we do not feel tempted to cringe before our fellowmen and ask of them permission to call our lives our own; but what we say we boldly say and defy contradiction.

He who fears God has nothing else to fear. We should stand in such awe of the living LORD that all the threats that can be used by the proudest persecutor should have no more effect upon us than the whistling of the wind. Man in these days cannot do so much against us as he could when the apostle wrote the verse at the head of this page.

If the followers of false teachers try cruel mockery and scorn, we do not wonder at it, for the men of this world cannot love the heavenly seed. What then? We must bear the world’s scorn. It breaks no bones. God helping us, let us be bold; and when the world rages, let it rage, but let us not fear it.