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Happy New Year!

May you have 2020 Vision this new year!

To Help Us Understand, 1 John 4:8-11

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It’s so cute when Buddy cocks his head at me, trying to understand what I am saying. Since it’s just the two of us living in my condo, he is my main companion. I realize that he doesn’t understand most of what I’m saying, but he does know that I’m at least paying him attention and communicating.

“…God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another.”–Apostle John, 1 John 4:9-11

God knew that human race wasn’t “getting it.” Out of love He sent the moral Law through Moses to lead and guide people, to protect them from evil and show them the proper way to live and get along with one another. He created the nation Israel to be a light to the world, to bless and prosper them so that the world would see that the nation that serves and loves God is blessed.

Yet this high and holy God was often rejected to pursue gods of wood and stone because people didn’t comprehend how much He loved them.

People still aren’t getting it.

At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Immanuel, God in human flesh (Matthew 1:23). God came down in human form so that we could understand Him and enter into fellowship with Him. Jesus healed people of physical, mental and spiritual diseases. He washed the dirty feet of His disciples. He spoke kindly to a Samaritan woman who was rejected, not only for her sex and race, but also because of her immoral behavior. He rebuked the political/religious leaders who were leading people astray, not for the purpose of destroying them but to get them to wise up. He refused to retaliate against the very men who beat, spit and crucified Him: He didn’t slander or evaporate them.

Jesus came down to speak personally to the human race so that we would understand that God loves us and is love.

To “speak our language”.

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:17)” For “Greater love has no one that this, that one lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)”

As the angel announced to the shepherds guarding their flocks Christmas night:

“I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 1:10-11)”

It is appropriate to celebrate at Christmastime. For it is joyful news that God visited humanity to dwell with us and demonstrate that He loves us. A mighty and innocent Savior who was crucified to take on the Father’s wrath for our sin so that we could be declared righteous in God’s sight without having to earn it, but merely by admitting we are sinners in need of a Savior and inviting Christ into our lives and hearts.

God wants us to get it: That the all powerful God loves us and made a way for imperfect people to be in fellowship with a pure and holy God.

To bring joy into our lives both here and for eternity.

Merry Christmas from Dawn and Buddy. May your holiday season be filled with love and joy.

 

 

True Humility, Matthew 1:23

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Some of you may know that Buddy recently moved from Washington State to Arizona with me. With his unusual and goofy personality, he has been great company. I often turn around and find him keeping an eye on me, as in the photo above. (Although in this instance, he may have been thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding me!”)

The Apostle Matthew, a one-time member of a hated group, tax collectors, quoted a prophecy uttered by the Jewish Prophet Isaiah (who lived from 739 BC to 681 BC) from Isaiah 6:14. This quote is in the first book of the New Testament in the Bible, Matthew 1:23:

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”

The most amazing act of humility occurred when God became flesh and dwelt amongst us. One member of the Holy Trinity, the Son, humbled Himself to dwell within a human womb for 9 months, the most amazing act of trust ever in the Heavenly Father. And an amazing act of trust in His human caretakers, Joseph and Mary. Can you imagine having created the Heavens and the earth and then one day becoming a part of your own creation? And putting aside Your divinity for 9 months?

It boggles the mind.

He became incarnate flesh to die for our sins, taking upon Himself the punishment we deserve for falling far short of God’s holy standards, As an adult He also showed amazing humility and self-control by allowing human beings to spit on Him, beat Him, slap Him, slander and mock Him, and crucify Him. Being both man and God, He had the power to instantly destroy the men who were mistreating Him, yet didn’t utter any threats against them.

People often mock Christians, saying they are arrogant. But isn’t it arrogant to deny that you are a sinner? After death to stand before a totally pure and holy Creator and claim that you are good enough to enter Heaven and dwell in His house? Or to make up your own designer god to justify whatever behavior you want to engage in?

There is some justification for this attitude in that some Christians are not taught properly and believe they earned, or continue to earn, their salvation/good standing with God by their own efforts. That they are better than others because God is so pleased by their good deeds and holiness. So they can come off as arrogant. I get that.

I tried to become an atheist when I was in college because I didn’t like the way some Christians were treating me, but I couldn’t deny that there had to be a Creator (besides other reasons) of this wonderfully complex and interdependent system of life.

But Christians who properly understand the gospel realize that there is no way that a person can justify themselves before God.

“All of our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;” (Isaiah 64:6) in the eyes of God. Every person, no matter how good and kind they appear to us, falls far short of God’s perfect standard. I fall short every day. You fall short.

“No one is good except God alone.”–Jesus, Mark 10:18

Nobody is better than anyone else because we are all sinful in God’s eyes apart from faith in Jesus Christ. Our own works and good deeds never meet the mark. God has set the bar too high for anyone to meet.

Absolute perfection.

“Therefore you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”–Jesus, Matthew 5:48

Christians (properly taught) know that their righteousness is a gift from Jesus who purchased it with His blood on the Cross. We claim His righteousness as our own through faith in His works, not our own works. (Galatians 3 by Apostle Paul.) Claim His resurrection from death into life as our own.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”–Ephesians 3:8-9, Apostle Paul

This Christmas season, let’s focus on how marvelously humble and loving our Lord Jesus is by coming to earth as a baby, growing up under the authority of human parents and then submitting His will to the Father and dying by the hands of His own creation.

Jesus’ humility boggles the mind.

 

 

Encouragement in Times of Trouble, Hebrews 13:5

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For some reason Buddy loves to watch me vacuum the rugs and wash the vinyl floors. He doesn’t do anything but just sit and watch (or get in my way, occasionally). I don’t understand what he finds so endlessly fascinating, but I can always count on him to be there.

One of the verses I treasure when I feel discouraged is Hebrews 13:5: “for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.'” I often say it out loud when I feel downhearted and thank the Lord for being with me. (Probably quoted from Isaiah 41.)

But in writing this blog, I realize that I often don’t quote the next verse, which is also one to treasure, verse 6:

“so that we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will an do to me?'”

I don’t believe that anyone has a life without its sorrows or problems: They are just different, dependent upon your circumstances.

Jesus promises us in John 16:33 a tough time in life, but to be of good cheer:

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

I realized, after reading a short excerpt from Martin Luther about expecting trouble in life, that I DO expect life to be smooth–to never have to overcome any problems or have trials or sorrows. But that is not reality.

The dictionary defines to “forsake” as being abandoned in time of trouble. (I use the Random House Webster’s College Dictionary.)

What God promises is to be with us when we have problems in life and to help us to endure with the right attitude or to overcome. Paul and Silas could sing hymns and praise God in prison because they trusted that God was with them (Act 16:25). When you are born-again, the Holy Spirit indwells you and is ALWAYS with you. You are never going through any circumstance in life alone.

God not only helps us endure but can give us the strength to overcome the circumstance:

“In my distress I called upon the Lord and cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple and my cry for help before Him came into His ears…For by You I can run upon a troop; and by my God I can leap over a wall…The God who girds me with strength…”–King David, Psalm 18:6, 29,32a

Please note that Paul and Silas had their focus on the Lord and not their imprisonment by singing and praising God, despite their harsh circumstance. And David was able to overcome his enemies by praying firstly, then acting.

Praise and prayer to the God who always with you is your winning combination.

Love from Dawn and Buddy

***

The Lord promises to be there for the believer. But if you are not a believer, you cannot always count on God to come through for you. Because He is a loving god, He often helps those who call upon Him, even if they again turn away. I truly believe that, on Judgment Day, unbelievers are going to be told how many times God in Christ intervened in their lives to protect them and they chose to ignore Him. Please don’t ignore Him any longer. He loves you but cannot be in a relationship with you unless you admit that Jesus is the Lord God, came in the flesh, died to take the punishment for your sin and then was raised bodily from the dead to give you eternal life. Please ask Him into your life by acknowledging your sin and your need for His salvation so that you can begin to reap the benefits of a loving relationship with the Almighty Savior.

 

True Liberty, Ephesians 2:1-6, 8

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As you can see, Buddy wore this hat to please me, but he wasn’t at all pleased about having his photo taken. His ears are pulled back because he is not at all happy about having the hat on his head. But he loves me so he put up with it.

On July 4th most* Americans are celebrating the founding of the United States, the declaration of our Independence from the rule of Great Britain. We are a unique nation because our Bill of Rights and US Constitution were designed to check the power of government over the population and balance that government’s power between the states and the different branches of the Federal Government, to ensure the freedom of our citizens.

Sadly, however, most people think they are free but they live in bondage.

Unbelievers live in bondage to sin but do not realize it, having never experienced the true freedom that Jesus Christ bought for us by dying for our sins on the Cross. Jesus paid the penalty to free us from our desires–and then was resurrected to give us eternal life. This life comes via the Holy Spirit Who indwells each believer after they accept Jesus as Lord and God in the flesh and what He did to free us from spiritual bondage.

Apostle Paul summarized this dilemma for unbelievers in the epistle of Ephesians:

“And you were dead in the your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air (Satan), of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience…indulging in the desires of the flesh and of the mind and were by nature children of wrath…But God, being rich in mercy, because of HIs great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions and sins, made us alive together in Christ…” Ephesians 2:1-5

Until I became a Christian, I had no power over my sinful desires. I tried to be good but often failed. Christ’s Holy Spirit freed me from this bondage. Now I can choose right (as God defines it in the Scriptures) or wrong. Having been a nonbeliever till I was 28 years old, I have a lot of bad attitudes, wrong habits and sinful thinking to overcome, so sometimes I choose to do wrong, even if I know it’s wrong. But I now have a choice: before, I didn’t. I was in slavery to Satan. When I lose my temper, it’s not because God’s Holy Spirit doesn’t have the power to prevent me from being angry, but because I have sinful and selfish attitudes–self absorption–that is prompting me to be unkind that I have to learn to overcome with HIS help.

But believers also unknowingly, or willingly because of pride and/or arrogance, are in bondage. Jesus fulfilled all the requirements of the moral Laws of God, yet many believers remain in slavery because they still try to win God’s approval by being good. However, Jesus declared that only God is good (Matthew 19:17) . No human being can be good enough to earn their way into Heaven and God’s presence.

Ephesians 2:6 was not completely quoted above:

“even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…”

And Apostle Paul continues to explain in Ephesians 2:8:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Some people come to Christ and come under legalistic teachers, where they are led to believe that, if they continue to be good enough, God will be pleased with them.

“I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law (obeying God’s rules), then Christ died needlessly…Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish, having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”–Galatians 2:21-3:2-3

Pleasing God and obeying His rules is a good thing for our lives. We still reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7) and God disciplines us for His name’s sake and out of love for us, like a good Father does when His children go astray (Psalm 23:3, Revelation 3:19). But it does not make us right with God. Accepting the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf by faith put us into right relationship with God, and only faith in Jesus Christ keeps us in right relationship with God. (Another post for more details in the future.) Apostle Paul made it clear that the Galatians were being foolish by trying to make themselves right with God through their own efforts, rather than continuing to live by faith in Jesus Christ.

So whether you are in the bondage of unbelief in Christ or in the bondage of a legalistic relationship with God, why not celebrate true freedom and ask Jesus to set you free?

“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”–Jesus, John 8:36

***

*Some mistakenly believe Socialism is a good thing. The United States was founded on the principle that the government exists to serve the people. Under Socialism, the people exist to serve and, be ruled over by, the government. Karl Marx made it very clear in his writings that Christians were fools and that Socialism was created to destroy the middle class and its bourgeois, Christian values. Check it out by reading his writings for yourself; don’t rely on what others say about what he wrote or meant, even me. I’ve read the Communist Manifesto multiple times. I know when I am being lied to because I’ve read it myself.

And please read the Bible for yourself. If with true sincerity, you ask God to guide your understanding as you read, He will. Apostle Paul applauded the Berean’s for verifying what he was teaching them by checking the Scriptures (Acts 17:10-11).

Getting Wet, Matthew 23:27-28

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When I walked Buddy tonight, I tried to reign him in on his leash to keep him close to me. Not to restrict his movement, but to try to shelter him under my umbrella so that he wouldn’t get wet from the intermittent rain. Being the usual headstrong terrier, he kept resisting me and pulling out from under the protection of the umbrella, with the predictable result.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem,…” Jesus lamented in Matthew 23:27-28. “How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!”

God calls to each of us to run to shelter under His protecting umbrella, yet people think God is trying to crimp their lifestyle with His rules of behavior, so they willfully resist Him and go their own way. As a result, they get wet with the eventual unhappiness and consequences of their behavior. Sometimes they even curse God for their circumstances, when all along He was warning them to turn back.

But God is merciful and loving. When you repent of your willful disobedience, He opens His arms wide and pulls you into His loving embrace. He doesn’t reject anyone who comes to Him.

“And the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”–Jesus, John 6:37b

Why not give your heart to Jesus now?

Dear Father, I thank you that Jesus, God In the Flesh, took the punishment for ALL my sin on the Cross. And was resurrected bodily to give me eternal life. Please forgive my sin. I invite the Holy Spirit to live His life through me and to guide me. Thank you for loving me.

Please attend a church service this Easter where Christians love and worship the King as described in the Bible. And let them know that you just recently gave your heart to the Lord so that they can assist you in your new life’s journey.

God bless.

Dawn and Buddy

 

True Freedom, 2 Corinthians 3:17

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When Buddy and I visit my storage unit, I let him run around without holding onto the leash because the doors are closed. He’s free to wander about anywhere he wants, within defined limits. Because, if he gets out past the doors, he could potentially get run over by a moving truck or out onto a major highway and be killed.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty.”–Apostle Paul, 2 Corinthians 3:17

Today in the USA we’re celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin King Luther, Jr. His original name at his brith on January 15th, 2919, was Michael King. His name was changed to later Martin Luther King Jr. Why the change?

His father, a Senior pastor, was sent by his congregation on a trip to Europe and the Middle East. In Germany he visited the church in Wittenberg where Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the door of the castle church, challenging the teachings of the Catholic Church which had become corrupted. The pounding of this nail into the door started the Protestant Revolution and transformed world history. During this same tour his father visited Berlin a year after Hitler rose to power and was profoundly affected by the hatred toward the Jewish people.

I’m not sure of the details regarding the name change of his son, but apparently MLK made it clear in his final sermon on April 3rd, 1968, that if he could travel back in history, he “would’ve watched Martin Luther nail his 95 Thesis to the door at the church of Wittenberg”, making it clear that he considered this a pivotal event in history. He also declared that “I just want to do God’s will.”

Mr. Luther understood that following God was critical to living a full life. And like Buddy, we are free to live life fully as long as we stay within God’s defined limits. To stay in love, and not poison ourselves with hatred and bitterness. To not murder the reputation of another through lies and slander, not plot against and harm the innocent, to show respect and kindness instead of animosity and cruelty. “Speaking the truth in love (Apostle Paul, Ephesians 4:15)” and not with anger and arrogance.

To be able to look in the mirror at the end of the day and have a clear conscience, knowing that you did your best that day to love others, instead of hating and slandering.

“The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”–Apostle John, 1 John 4:8

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, that you have love for one another.”–Jesus, John 13:34

Martin Luther King Jr’s legacy will live on in every Christian who chooses God’s will, instead of selfishness and hate.

***

In his last sermon, MLK also admitted that he preferred to live but did not fear death. He knew he would go to heaven because He believed in Jesus Christ. Why not follow in his footsteps and give your life to Jesus tonight and become a new Creation? Start now from scratch, following a new path.

“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day.”–Proverbs 4:18

God hates evil and sin and must punish it to be just. By admitting you’re a sinner and accepting that Jesus, God in the Flesh (Immanuel–Matthew 1:23), died for your sins, you can be declared not guilty before God and declared righteous in His sight–A child of God destined to live in eternity with Him, no longer separated from Him by unpunished sin. Why not admit you need Jesus Christ today and become born-again by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit? With the guidance of the Holy Sprit, godly Christian fellowship and the Bible, you can discover a new life.

**Please note I use the NASB version of the Bible for my Biblical references. Information about Martin Luther King Jr was from an article published online by tHe Washington Post on 1/15/19 by Deneen L. Brown.