The Gift of Adoption {Galatians 4}

12:00 AM

The Gift of Adoption {Galatians 4}

By Lisa Moore

In the previous chapter Paul explains that as believers we are all one in Christ and heirs to God's promises. In this chapter Paul expands on what it means to be an heir, and the liberty we as believers have in Jesus.

He begins by saying, "Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father." (vs. 1-2) In ancient Roman times, there was no specific age when a son became a man and was entitled to the legal rights as an heir. Usually it was the father who decided when the son was ready. Until then, even though he was destined to inherit everything, the son didn't have the freedom or even the authority of a high ranking slave. Paul says that we too were like children under control of the "elements of the world", meaning bound by the Law. We were waiting for God's perfect timing to set us free.

"But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law" (v. 4) Throughout their many trials and tribulations, Israel prayed and pleaded with God to send the promised Messiah. But God waited until the time was right for the world to receive His Son.This time came after Rome had conquered much of the known world creating extensive "highways" which connected the nations. This allowed travel by both land and sea permitting early Christians to spread the Gospel far and wide. Also "Alexander the Great", a Greek ruler, spread the Greek culture throughout the lands creating a common language.This meant missionaries were able to communicate the message of the Gospel to many different groups of people. And so determining the ripeness of the season, God sent Jesus, "So that He might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons." (v. 5) 

Jesus came to be our perfect substitute. He came to take our place; paying our sin debt allowing us to be redeemed to the Father. Because of His sacrifice, we are not only forgiven of our sins, freed from the burden of the Law, we are also adopted as sons and daughters into God's heavenly family forever. Imagine that! Such indescribable grace and mercy. For as John says in 1 John 3:1, "See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we would be called children of God.." No longer called slaves, but rather "heirs through God".

But it gets even better. In one of my favorite verses Paul says, "Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying 'Abba! Father!" (v. 6) Abba is an Aramaic term which closely translated means Daddy. God wants to be our Abba. He wants a close personal relationship with us, so He sends His Spirit to indwell us. "God sends His Spirit to show us what it means to be His children, to bless us with His great love, to reveal His purpose for creating us, and to empower us for all the great plans He has for our lives" (Dr. Charles Stanley) 

What a privilege to be able to call God our Abba! To be able to cry out to Him in our times of need. To have an eternal and secure relationship with Him. As sinners, on our own we can never be worthy of being in His family.  But because of the work of Christ, not only does God accept us, He calls us His own. Our adoption is the act of God's pure goodness and grace of His will to the praise of His glory. And I gift I am forever thankful for.

Apple Pumpkin Muffins

12:00 PM

I know it's a little early, but I couldn't resist.  These muffins are moist and delicious.  I used bigger chunks of apples and threw in some walnuts and a pinch of cloves.

Apple Pumpkin Muffins

2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups finely chopped, peeled, tart apples

In a large bowl combine the first seven ingredients. In a small bowl combine eggs, pumpkin, and oil; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fill greased or paper lined muffin cups two-thirds full.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.  Cool ten minutes before removing from pan.  About 1-1/2 dozen.

Doing well

Doing Good

12:00 AM

Welcome to Scripture Saturday!

Today we are memorizing one verse for the book of Galatians…
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (6.9)
Let us not grow weary or become discouraged in doing good…(Amplified version)

The “doing good” that Paul is talking about is “doing” the fruit of the spirit which he speaks about earlier in Galatians… 
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (v5:22,23)

We are not to grow weary being “patient and kind and good and faithful and gentle and (showing) self-control. Don’t grow weary of manifesting your peace and joy in all kinds of acts of love to your neighbors and associates and family.” (Piper)

If we do not spend our time living as Christ did, living in His Spirit, keeping our eyes on Him, then the flesh will take over…
For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Gal. 6:8)
And we all need to be reminded at times why it matters that we not give up, why it matters that we keep on keeping on…
~Because of God’s love
~Because of Christ’s sacrifice
~Because of our commitment to the Lord
~Because of heaven and hell
~Because we may take others with us through our testimony
~Because of the love we share with other Christians
~Because of our fellowship with God

It matters very much, in every way, what we do, how we live our lives.  We must always keep our eyes on Him and eternity, pressing forward in serving God every day, with every step, until we are with Him.
Have a blessed and precious day everyone!

Angie Benjamin

Freedom in the Works of Christ {Galatians 3}

12:00 AM

I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?  Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? -Galatians 3:2-4

In Galatians 3:2-4, Paul asked Galatians why they were trying to reach perfection by depending upon the flesh. 

He encouraged them to remember the new lives they had been  given because of faith and not for their effort of works.

I can totally relate with this mindset... the “just in case” mindset. We want to believe the gospel is truly unearned grace, but unbelief creeps in and we do just a little something in attempt to earn our salvation… just in case.

The truth is that the law does not free us. Faith in Christ does.

We cannot succeed in our walks with Christ without stepping out in faith, not in our works. When we believe our acceptance is based on what we do, we will always feel rejected because at the end we we'll always fail to do the right thing..
It is only when we see that our acceptance is based on what Jesus did that we will truly be free.

Only God can change us; when we try to do so ( the works of the flesh- our energy trying to do God's job), we will only become very frustrated and weary.

God has called us to perfection and has given us perfect hearts, but the working out of it is a process that requires faith, patience and time...His Time.

We only have one thing to do and that is to believe in His finished is done!

We will see powerful changes in our lives by faith that God is working in us, but it does require us to turn "the project" of our perfection over to him completely.

We need to let God be the God in our lives and instead of condemning ourselves, thinking "we'll never be able to change"; we must believe in faith that God is working in us, believe we're only getting better and better every day. He's strengthening us in our weaknesses.

If we only believe...

Dear sisters, if Christ’s righteousness covers all our sin,  then it also covers our sin of unbelief. But if righteousness can be earned through the law, then Christ died in vain (Galatians 2:21).

Thanks be to God, our Savior did not die in vain! May we never set aside His grace.

No ADD ONs [Galations 2]

12:30 AM

If you order from Amazon, I'm sure you've seen the ADD ON items.  The description says " add on to a qualifying order".  These ADD-ONs are a great perk when you're placing a mail order.  When it comes to salvation, however, the only thing that matters is what qualifies us to be accepted by God.  No ADD ONs allowed! Sometimes people try to take "the qualifying" act of Jesus and his sacrificial death on the cross and then they ADD ON a list of actions man must do as well.  Paul had to deal with this ADD- ON mentality which created a lot of tension in the early church. 

For centuries the Jewish people were set apart from other people by their belief in God and their adherence to believing they must live by the strict practices of the Law. One of the most fundamental practices of the Jewish people was circumcision. In Genesis 17, God made circumcision a requirement of the covenant with Abraham and his descendants.  Other nations were often referred to as "uncircumcised" people and it was considered that the uncircumcised could not be acceptable to God.  The Jews would not eat with or socially engage with the uncircumcised. 

It was hard for the Jews to accept the "uncircumcised" Gentiles as spiritual equals.  They were willing to accept that the Gentiles could be saved by belief in Jesus but they wanted TO ADD the requirement of circumcision.  This thinking, however, meant they believed that what Jesus did wasn't enough and that man still had to ADD ON his acts of performance.  
Listen to what Paul says for he is clear that salvation is through Jesus, and Jesus alone.
 “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified."  (v16)

Even today, many find it hard to accept " Christ alone" as the means for securing salvation. After all, wouldn't that just give us a free license to sin without worry about consequences?  A key point to focus on, however, is that we are talking about what "justifies" us to be accepted by God.  The Law points out that we are sinners and serves to condemn us.  No human has ever kept the Law except Jesus. If you can't keep all of it, you are condemned by it.  

Because Jesus kept the Law and was the sacrifice that atoned for our failures, we became receivers of God's grace. Grace is God's unmerited, undeserved favor.   Paul tells us our faith in Jesus is what justifies us to God. If our salvation is based on Jesus and any ADD ONs then Jesus isn't a minister of Grace and we are still condemned sinners. 

Paul preached that Christ fulfilled the Law and that the  Gentiles were saved based on accepting Christ. If he allowed the Jews to require them to be circumcised as a condition of acceptance then he had preached his message in vain.  If he allowed Jesus + circumcision as a belief, then he might as well not preach Jesus as the complete fulfillment of the Law. 

For Paul, it was simple.
the Law = Death and Condemnation.  
             The Atoning Blood of Christ = Life and Acceptance
Only Christ could meet God's Holy standards and only Christ could empower one to live a spirit led life. 
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” (v20-21)

Points to Ponder:
* Are you 100% relying on Christ?  Or are you weighed down by THE ADD-ONs of Christ + _________.  
* Salvation is through Christ alone. The Law shows us we are sinners in need of a Savior.  We aren't "good enough " to earn our salvation or keep it. Through Christ, we can receive the unmerited favor of God's grace. 
* God's grace should not be considered a free license to sin.  Our salvation is the beginning of a spiritual relationship with God, a life empowered by dependence on Christ as he lives in us.  

There are no ADD-ONs. Christ saves us through his perfectly accepted sacrifice and Christ alone can help us live a spiritual life that honors God. 


Living For an Audience of One {Galatians 1}

12:00 AM

The Book of Galatians was written by Paul to the churches in Galatia. It is the strongest wording of all his letters, for these new converts were being influenced by those who would "pervert the gospel of Christ" (1:6-7; 3:1). They were known as "Judaizing teachers", who taught that Gentile Christians needed to be circumcised and must keep the Law of Moses in order to truly follow Christ ( Act 15). Paul knew that this doctrine would jeopardize the salvation of those who accepted it and needed to address it right from the start!

Paul had helped start these churches on his first missionary journey to Asia Minor and upon returning from it, learns that they have already begun to turn away from the salvation message Paul had preached! Which might explain the strong tone he uses in writing this letter,

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—  not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.  For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” - Gal 1:6-10

Before we delve too far into this chapter, let me ask you, what type of person are you?
  • Do you tend to be a “people pleaser”?
  • Do you tend to follow the crowd, or are you able to stand alone?
  • Are you easily swayed by other’s opinions, or do you do your own investigative research to come up with your own truths?
  • Are you more a leader or follower?

It’s obvious these young Christians had turned away fairly quickly after coming to Christ, and let’s be clear on this, when you reject the gospel message, you’re rejecting God and His message! No wonder Paul is writing in such a harsh manner, and we’d all be wise to carefully go over all Paul has to say to the believers in Galatia, for there are still many out there today, who are trying to sway believers to follow a false gospel!

I’ll confess, the opinions of others have always had an influence on me! I hate to admit it, but there have been times when I failed to do what God called me to do, because I was more concerned about what others might think! I’ve sat silent when The Lord said, “speak out!” Even acted on completely false information, BEFORE investigating it to find out if it was true or not. In this era of, “fake news” do you ever find yourself wondering what to believe anymore?

It’s the same with different faiths and religions today, each claiming theirs is the right way; the only way! Only, how can they ALL be right? More importantly, how can we discern which one is right? And how can we stand firm in our faith and NOT be swayed by the false teachers out there today?
We've got to go back to the beginning! All the way back to the very basics! I know God knew this was going to happen when He wrote the very first commandment:

“You shall have no other gods before Me.” - Exodus 20:3

In life, we only have one person we need to please, and that is our Creator and Lord; the One who made us and has a purpose for our lives. We only need One person’s approval: God’s!

Jesus put it this way in John 5:30: “...I don’t try to please myself, but I try to please the One who sent me”. Did you know that people-pleasing is a form of idolatry? Anyone we put before God becomes a god, including ourselves. It also doesn’t have to be a person, but anything we place above God; our job, possessions, activities you enjoy, etc. Anything that becomes number one in our life that isn’t God becomes our god.

Paul put it this way in his letter to the Philippians, [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers],…” ( Phil 3:10 AMP). Paul devoted his life to knowing God more deeply and intimately each day, for when we love someone it only stands to reason that we’re going to want to know them more intimately.  And the way we grow to know Him, is by spending time reading His letters to us and in being in constant communication with Him throughout our day, for the greater we know Him the greater we’ll love Him, and our desire to please Him, above everyone else, will win out!

Paul got it right when he said, “I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant” (Gal 1:10 NLT).

2 Corinthians

Test Yourself – Is There Love?

12:30 AM

{2 Corinthians 13}

By Lisa Thayer

Last week I had the privilege of attending a 2-day retreat for high school seniors.  I was a small group facilitator – I made sure these kids stayed together and participated in the events.  The speaker was amazing.  His life story was uplifting and encouraging and his message really pointed to unity.  To be unified with Christ.

Here in this final chapter to the Corinthians, Paul knew he was dealing with on-going problems in the Church.  These seniors at this retreat, were a tough group to engage, and Paul – the speaker, could have given up and refused to communicate with them, but he continued to speak the truth to these kids.  He never gave up.  He never stopped loving this group of dead-eyed, high school seniors.  He never stopped encouraging them and building them up.

As believers, we have to reach out to people who are sinning, but we have to do it in such a way that truly is with the love of Christ.  We don’t want to break relationships – but build them up.  We want to heal people.  We can blast people away with laws and rules, or we could turn from these people because we don’t want to face their situation.  We can isolate them by gossiping about their problem and turn others against them.  Or like both Paul’s, we can seek to build relationships by taking a better approach – sharing, communicating and caring. 

“For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.”  2 Corinthians 13:8

I am reminded that there were different churches back in the days of the early church – the Corinthian church, the Galatian church, the church at Ephesus and the church in Rome, just to name a few.  We can get wrapped up in which church is better, whether Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Christian Reformed, etc., and push people away because of the rules established in each of these named faiths by being insistent on following the rules.  We can lose our focus of the One truth – that Christ is our Savior.  That failing to believe in Him is the greatest sin.  We owe our entire lives to Him.  Each one of the original churches had people, not the entire church body, sinning.  BUT, each one also had believers.  Each one had people totally focused on the love of God and were willing to share that message with others.  I cannot help but look at how the apostle Paul went to Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, Rome, Jerusalem, Thessalonica, Colossae, Antioch and others – these were all different people groups, yet Paul’s message was the same.  He risked his life to share it with so many people.  Are you?  Are you willing to help people from another background, a different faith, to share your love of Christ?

Image result for 2 corinthians 13:10

2 Corinthians

The Value of Weakness {2 Corinthians 12}

12:00 AM

The Value of Weakness {2 Corinthians 12}

The Apostle Paul faced many trials and tribulations during his ministry.  He was repeatedly put in prison. He was beaten, stoned, and shipwrecked. He was under constant fear of death. He was flogged countless times. He was often hungry, thirsty, and cold. And even with all of this, God allowed him to be broken further. But instead of giving in or giving up, Paul drew closer to God. And in the process he learned that there is strength in weakness.

After Paul spoke to the Corinthians about his visions and revelations, he told them about the "thorn in the flesh" given to him by God and the reason behind it. "Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given to me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me..." ( v. 7)  The visions Paul had received were so magnificent that he could have easily boasted in his own glory. To keep him humble, God allowed a thorn into Paul's life via a messenger of Satan to torment him. And in response, Paul did just as he instructed us to do in Philippians 4:6, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God." And so Paul fervently prayed that God would remove his thorn.  And when nothing happened, he prayed again..and again. But God's answer to Paul's prayer didn't come in the form of healing. Instead God said to him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." (v. 9) 

Although we aren't told specifically what Paul's thorn was, we can relate to the suffering he endured. For whether it be emotional, physical, or spiritual, each of us have our own thorns to bear.  Thorns for which we have pleaded with God to remove. And sometimes He will do just that. But what happens when His answer is no?  What if instead He wants us to endure? Paul tells us we are to rejoice in our sufferings. For although the thorn may remain, God is at work strengthening the one under it.

"Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." (vs. 9-10)  Instead of becoming bitter, angry, or frustrated, Paul embraced the thorns in his life. He understood that it was in his weakness where Jesus would be glorified, and where he would most experience God's grace. It's often in our lowest times when God can do His greatest work. When we are broken, helpless, and weak, with no where else to turn; when we are at a place of complete humility with no room for pride, only then are we truly able to receive God's grace and see that everything good in our lives comes from Him, and to Him alone goes the glory. And although we might not understand why God allows suffering into our lives, we can rest in the knowledge that when trouble does knock at our door He will be there with the love, strength, and grace to see us through. For as Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."

Lisa Moore

Caramel Snickerdoodle Bars

12:00 PM

I loved Snickerdoodles as a kid and sure made plenty of them. This recipe takes a plain cookie up a delicious notch!  A big hit with my family. I used Nestle dulce de leche which I found in the international food section in my local supermarket.

Caramel Snickerdoodle Bars

1 tablespoon light corn syrup 
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsps. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. salt  
1/4 cup sugar 
3 tsps. cinnamon
2 cans (13.4 ounces each) dulce de leche 
12 ounces white chocolate chips
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp. light corn syrup 

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 13x9-in. baking pan with parchment paper, letting ends extend over sides by 1 inch. In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt; gradually beat into creamed mixture. Spread onto bottom of prepared pan. In a small bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle 2 tablespoons mixture over batter. Bake 25-30 minutes or until edges are light brown. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Spread dulce de leche over crust. In a small saucepan, combine white baking chocolate, cream and corn syrup; cook and stir over low heat until smooth. Cool slightly. Spread over dulce de leche. Sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar. Refrigerate, covered, at least 1 hour.Lifting with parchment paper, remove from pan. Cut into bars. Refrigerate leftovers. 

2 Corinthians


12:30 AM

Welcome to Scripture Saturday!

Today, we complete our memorization of verses found in 2 Corinthians with 8:9…
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich.
Grace.  Here are some synonyms…charity, mercy, kindness, favor, goodwill, pity, thanksgiving, reward.
But the basic meaning of this word is beauty, charm, loveliness.  We also have the word graceful which means beauty of line or movement…acts of beauty.  So when we combine the synonyms of kindness and mercy with acts of beauty we have the most beautiful acts possible to human beings.  Through this verse Paul is saying to the people of Corinth…”You know the beautiful acts of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We all know that Jesus is kind and merciful - we know of His self-giving love. He was ready to give of Himself, holding nothing back and still is for us today.”

Before Jesus came to this earth in the form of a man, He had everything - he was omnipotent - everything in this universe was at His command - yet He laid this all aside and He became powerless.  Remember what He said of Himself in John? …”Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in Me does His works.  He was dependent fully on His Father for everything…He became nothing.
And through Him we have become rich! By His daily mercies, His love, His selfless giving of Himself He has given us power.  Power to become like Him - self-giving, kind, merciful - we are right where He began. He began rich, became poor, so that we, like Him, can be rich, to become poor for others so that they may be rich! 
Freely you have received; freely give. (Matt 10:8b NIV)

Have a blessed and precious day everyone!

2 Corinthians

The Beauty of Simplicity {2 Cor. 11}

2:13 AM

By Angie Benjamin

"But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your mind may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ" 2 Cor. 11:3

In this verse, Paul warns people not to let their minds to be corrupted from  "wholehearted and sincere devotion to Christ", or as the King James Version says the "simplicity that is in Christ".

Have you heard the phrase "less is more", well, it is so true when it comes to our lives and our Christianity.

Living in Africa has taught me the beauty of simplicity in many aspects. 
It has changed my perspective regarding materialism or consumerism.

I've had the blessing to visit rural areas, villages, to visit friends or family members.
I've been to places where a family of 4 or more people share one room or two at living room, no kitchen (or kitchen can be a mud hut with thatched roof outside the main room, where they cook with fire). 

These people have the very "basics"...or most of the time they cannot even afford them. They don't spend time thinking about brands of clothes, the latest gadget or cellphone, decorative items for their house, etc. They just want to do one thing:  Survive... get through that day... One day at a time...and when the goal has been achieved, they're happy. Content. They're happy that that particular day they had a meal, that that day they survived the heat or the cold.

And despite their situation the joy that they reflect on their faces, the hope their eyes reflect...and those smiles...I've never seen such wide, beautiful and sincere smiles in my life.

And they can give! oh they do!! out of their scarcity, they give what they have. One day, a family, a single mom and her two teenage children, invited me and my family for a meal with them... they killed one of the two chickens they had and cooked it for us...they wanted to give me the other alive chicken for me to have. That act of kindness and selflessness taught me a lesson I'll cherish for the rest of my life. As I once read, "people who have the least give me most, because they know what it is to have nothing"

I want that joy, I want that contentment. I want to enjoy the simplicity of life. Simplicity can be so liberating... the same applies for our walk with Christ.

 It is okay to have a plan for our lives and everyday activities but we must be open to follow God's plan if  He has any other direction in which He wants us to go. We often block God's plan by following our own desires and plans without consulting him.

It is mind blowing to realize that God's plans for us are actually quite simple, so simple that many times we miss them. Like in everything, we tend to get busy, to complicate our lives...we look for something more difficult, more complicated as if we think we are expected to do to please God.

One day, a close friend to us, our spiritual leader (for a home cell group) in England, said something shocking, something that changed the way I live my walk with Christ. He said if we can only live our lives meditating "on the cross"...on what the cross means, what Jesus did on the cross and what that means to me...what the cross has given me... our lives would be transformed.

Rather than thinking on what I do and what I don't do to please God, whether I sin or not, whether I'm putting enough effort or not, am I praying enough or not, am I reading the Bible "enough" or not...rather than all those things we tend to analyze and complicate our lives with, I must just "look at the cross", meditate on it and everything else will fall into place. When we truly understand the meaning of the cross, the power of it...the simplicity of it, our lives will be truly transformed.

Jesus told us what to do to follow God's plan: BELIEVE!!

Just think about the simple, uncomplicated approach a child has to life... for example, I have two daughters, 5 and 2 year-old. One thing they have in common...they are going to enjoy themselves if at all possible. They are carefree and completely without concern. They believe what they are told. Their nature is to trust (BELIEVE). They are simple, and they approach life with simplicity. They believe everything is fine and everything will be fine. They believe in provision. They don't know and they don't worry where their next meal will come from, but they know (believe) it will come anyhow.

Everyday these girls remind me that I need to develop this aspect of childlikeness as I relate to God and as I go about my life.

Learn to keep life as simple as possible. It's liberating. You won't regret it ;-)

Remain blessed x

CRITICAL THINKING [2 Corinthians 10]

12:30 AM

Courage is telling our story, not being immune to criticism.
– Brené Brown

There will always be critics. In chapter 10, Paul writes a letter defending his ministry.  We don't know exactly what the critics were saying but we glean a few insights from Paul's comments. 
“For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.”" (v10).

Apparently, Paul's critics found discrepancy in the rebukes and commands found in Paul's letters and the more timid, humble man they found him to be in person.  But Paul was both. He wrote with the authority of God and he lived those principles but he also chose to imitate the humbleness and gentleness of Christ. “I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!—”(v1)

Even if the critics found him "weak" and even though they accused him of "walking according to the flesh (v2)", Paul knew who he represented and when to be bold.
‭‭He wanted to extend the love of Christ and develop relationship with his disciples but he also knew that he was given authority by God as a leader who couldn't sugarcoat God's truths. As he explained, he used  authority "which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you..." (v8)

Paul set a wonderful example to us of being a spiritual mentor.  He loved others and invested himself in following through with promoting spiritual growth and encouragement.  He knew that when he was away, Satan would try to destroy and cause division.  He stayed in touch, being bold when needed and risking criticism because he knew the spiritual warfare at stake. “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” (4-5)

Paul also knew whose opinion mattered. He was surrounded by those who admired and those who criticized.  He could easily have been influenced by the "critical chatter" or enticement of being "popular".  But Paul did what God told him to do and left the outcomes to God. He chose to not concern himself with the opinions of man and he warned against boasting to gain the favor of others. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” (v 17-18).

Verses to Ponder:
Galatians 1:10
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man?  If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

1 Thessalonians 2:4
But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.

Proverbs 29:25
The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.

John 12:43
For they love the glory that comes from man more than the glory that come from God.

Colossians 3:23
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.

2 Corinthians

A Matter of The Heart {2 Corinthins 9}

12:00 AM

I honestly “laughed out loud” when I saw the chapter I was to write on this week, for the Lord made sure I never forgot the lessons I learned long ago from this chapter, and I never have! You see long ago when I was merely a seeker and almost a believer, I was sitting in church one Sunday morning opening my wallet when it came time for the offering and discovered I had just two bills within it; one, a $1, and the other a $20 bill.

That Sunday, John had been called into work and I had been running late with two young children in tow and I forgot my checkbook as I hurried out the door. I had also planned to take the kids out for lunch after church and that $1 bill wouldn’t be enough for even a “Happy Meal” back then. It seemed like I sat there and debated for quite a while as the ushers made their way up the aisle,Should I give God the $20 bill and make lunch at home, or….not.” Finally the plate arrived and I decided lunch with the kids after church sounded too good to me, and I took out the $1 bill and laid it in the plate despite the pang of guilt I was feeling at the moment. I tried to console myself with the thought, “Oh well, I’ll be sure to do better next time.

The offertory music ended and the pastor got up and asked us all to open up our Bibles to 2 Corinthians chapter 9. I look down at the page and swallowed hard as I read the words, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:6-7)

I can share that story today, because I can look back at that time and laugh, knowing God has done an amazing work in me since, and I’m no longer that person that chose my creature comforts over blessing the Lord; all the while expecting The Lord to continue to bless me! I was already feeling convicted before the pastor ever spoke that morning, and I remember lunch wasn’t as enjoyable as I thought it would be, but I never forgot the lesson I learned that day!

BUT, enough about me, let’s look at all Paul actually says about giving in these two verses, for it seems to me that giving, or the lack of giving is all a matter of our heart!

It seems to me that The Lord is more interested in our willingness to give than the amount we actually do give, don’t you think?  Look back 2 Corinthians 9:7, “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’” (NLT).
This verse mentions four key heart attitudes we should have when we give to Him or others:

  1. Give thoughtfully. Don’t allow yourself to give on impulse, because the most spiritual kind of giving is when you think about it, pray about it and make up your mind before Him. This is how we should plan anything that’s important in our lives. God wants our giving to be an important and meaningful part of our lives. It should be looked upon as an act of worship as we give back to Him. Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:40, “‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
  2. Give enthusiastically. We should never feel pressured to give out of some form of obligation, for I don’t believe God will bless if we only give because we feel obligated to give something.  Give because you know God’s going to do something big in your heart when you become a generous giver. (I’m a living,breathing testimony to that!)
  3. Give voluntarily. Any time you’re pressured to give, stop. God’s not going to bless that. But every time you sense God challenging you to give, do it. Trust me! (referring back to my earlier story :))
  4. Give cheerfully. Give with joy! The Greek word used here can be translated “hilarious.” Which means it can be a “LOL” moment! God wants you to enjoy giving to him and to others. In order to receive a blessing far greater than what you gave! Trust me on that too!

Sometimes it’s a challenge to be cheerful when God’s calling on us to give. Whenever we feel less than cheerful, it may help to remember all the benefits of all God wants to do in our hearts. So, why be generous? Because:
  • It unites us; creating community, oneness among the body.
  • It’s making an investment in eternity.
  • It strengthens our faith.
  • It defeats materialism.  
  • It blesses us incredibly in return.
  • And, it makes us more like our Savior and Lord.
We can never, never, ever out give God. It’s all His anyway, but I believe He wants us to experience just a tiny bit of all He experiences every time He gives to us!

2 Corinthians 8

The Joy of Giving {2 Corinthians 8}

12:30 AM

{2 Corinthians 8}

by Lisa Thayer

I have heard that approximately 15% of what Jesus talked about was related to money. 
One of our first good works that comes from the transformation from the grace of God is in how we give.  How we give is a joyful response to the grace of God.  The grace of God works in such a way that it produces joy in our lives, and we are so joyful in our giving that we cannot give enough.

“For it was by grace that you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Ephesians 2:8-10

Just look at verse 2 – they earnestly wanted to give.  Imagine if we were to go to church and say, ‘I cannot wait for the offering.’

These people knew what sacrificial giving truly meant.  They were poor themselves – but they wanted to help.  The point of giving is not so much the amount we give, but why and how we give.  God does not want us to give grudgingly or out of obligation.  He wants us to give out of our dedication to Christ, love for fellow believers and the joy of helping those in need.  And, it is simply the right thing to do.

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When we join other Christian believers to do God’s work, we increase Christian unity and help God’s Kingdom grow.  Do you want your faith to grow or do you believe once it reaches a certain level, you are done?  How about your level of knowledge – are you satisfied with where you are at, or would you like your knowledge to grow?  Many believers set a limit on giving - they give a specific percentage, and that’s it.  There’s even churches that recommend a set amount – do your church envelopes have a scale of giving on them?  But true discipleship includes growing in the mature use of ALL resources, so giving should expand as well as faith and knowledge.  God can give you the desire and enable you to increase your capacity to give.  Don’t miss this opportunity to grow in giving – just ask.

In verses 10-15, Paul challenges us to act on our plans to give.  Here he gives four principles of giving:
  1. Your willingness to give cheerfully is more important than the amount you give.
  2. You should strive to fulfill your financial commitments (your household expenses)
  3. If you give to others in need, they will, in turn help you when you are in need.
  4. You should give as a response to Christ, not for anything you can get out of it.  How you give reflects your devotion to Christ.

I don’t know about you, but I have found that when I want to give, God gives to me so that I can give to others. 

Lastly, as I spend time thinking about Jesus leaving His heavenly Kingdom, and coming to earth, being born in a stinky barn, and being on the run for a few years, never fully using His eternal power.  He became poor for us.  He set aside His glory and His rights to serve us.  To teach us what serving others looks like.  Yet, by doing so, He makes us ‘rich’ because we receive salvation and eternal life.  Giving IS a sacrifice.  I know my attitude has changed throughout the years.  I spent some time expecting to be served in this life.  But eventually my attitude changed and now I have opportunities to serve others.  Every time I leave a volunteer job, the joy and memories I have do not have a dollar value.  They simply bring me a huge dose of peaceful joy.  

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