Tag Archive | faith

Discouraged, Psalm 43:5

Buddy.fur.on.nose

When I feel discouraged, cuddling Buddy really helps to lift my spirits. Another way I lift my spirits is to read the Psalms. The Psalmists were honest before God and often admitted their discouragement or fear that God wasn’t answering their prayers or dismay that He was delaying too long. But after admitting their discouragement, they’d remind themselves of God’s care for them and His faithfulness.

“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.” Psalm 43:5

After reading their raw feelings, I don’t feel so alone in my doubt and discouragement.

This wasn’t what I originally planned about blogging tonight, but I feel really discouraged. A close friend is very ill and doesn’t know the Lord. Another good friend again reminded me how far away she is from knowing Him. Sometimes I feel like giving up because it hurts too much to care about their souls. I know that Heaven and Hell are real: I had a born-again experience March 7th, 1989 and know that the Holy Spirit is real. But no matter how many hundreds (and thousands) of prayers on their behalf, there seems to be no crack in their armor.

You get discouraged? I’d like to hear some stories about God’s answer to your prayers for someone who was far away but came to know Him. Thank you.

While I wait, I’ll give Buddy some more hugs. And remind myself that I was once lost but now am found. Someone’s prayers for me were answered.

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God’s Mysterious Ways, Proverbs 3:5-6

Buddie.wp

My family had been without a dog for 1.5 years and it felt like something was missing: Nobody to joyously greet me when I returned from a stressful day at work, nobody to cuddle when I felt lonely or cold, and no one forcing me to take a walk in the rain. It was time for a dog but my heart had been set upon rescuing a Silky terrier since my beloved dog who had died, Buster, was a Silky. I’d been searching the Silky terrier rescue site for a year but no dog had been posted for Washington state. I was getting discouraged.

But after returning from an extended vacation and in a state of near exhaustion, I was using my iPad (now ancient) and accidentally hit the bookmark for the Silky terrier website. I hadn’t intended to surf to that site but it popped up.

And there was Buddy, a three-year-old rescue in Washington State. I immediately contacted them and made arrangements to meet Buddy the following weekend at the dog show at the fairgrounds up north.

An accident? Or was God answering my prayers.

I’ve recently read, (and don’t recall where), that we usually misname Divine Providence as miracles, meaning that a miracle is when God intervenes in a supernatural way that isn’t a normal and natural process, such as Jesus walking on the water or turning water into wine. Versus Divine Providence, which is God intervening and answering our prayers but through the natural processes of the world.

I believe my accidentally hitting that bookmark was God directing me, because I likely wouldn’t have my sweet little fellow if I had delayed.

I don’t know about you, but most of the time I don’t see God working in my life. He was preparing Buddy in answer to my prayers but I couldn’t see Him working. So I was getting discouraged.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”–Proverbs 3:5-6

I usually want to lean on my own understanding and try to figure out what God is doing and how He is doing it. Or when something goes wrong, I figure He’s teaching me a lesson.

But maybe He’s really working on a blessing that takes time to arrange all of the difference aspects of the problem in a natural way and I need to trust that He’s working it out for my benefit although I see nothing happening.

Several years ago my car was leaking oil but the auto repair shop couldn’t get it to stop. I didn’t want to buy a new car, but I was starting to funnel too much money into a twelve-year-old car, so it was time to call it quits. (Another $600+ dollars and still leaking.)

Little did I know that the following summer I would be driving downtown Seattle, early on a Saturday morning, and a homeless man would walk out from in front of a moving garbage truck right before me in the middle of a street. I couldn’t see him coming, nor did I expect a pedestrian to stroll out from the front of a giant behemoth of a public vehicle in motion. Since I had a new Toyota, I was able to brake and turn quickly to the right to avoid him. If I’d had my old car with its truck-like steering and slow brakes (little did I know till I got my new car how suckie they were), I’m pretty sure I would’ve hit him. I still get scared thinking about it. (I won’t mention the car-maker of the older car as as it did serve me well many years.)

(And talk about God protecting the homeless guy, who jaywalked across the middle of a street in front of a garbage truck and automobile and didn’t get hit. He looked to be pretty hung over or still in alcohol’s iron grip of insobriety. I’m assuming the garbage truck driver nearly had a coronary too as he obviously couldn’t stop.)

“And we KNOW that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”–Roman 8:28

I thought having to spend money for a new car was a bad thing, but God was letting my car continue to leak oil and not be repaired to protect both me and the homeless guy. I have to remind myself of God’s promises when I start getting discouraged and focus on what I KNOW about God from His Word and not listen to my feelings, which can be erratic or manipulated.

So next time something suckie happens, trust that God will somehow bring good out of it. After all, the Bible often promises to deliver us from trouble, not to prevent us from getting into trouble. We cannot see the power of God operating in our lives if there are no situations to deliver us from.

“My eyes are continually toward the Lord, For He will pluck my feet out of the net.”–David, Psalm 25:15

***

If you’re realizing you’re trapped in a net of your own devising, that you don’t have any power to deliver yourself from your own behavior, congratulations. There’s hope in Jesus for anyone humble enough to admit they need His help. Please say the below prayer:

Dear Father, I cannot meet your perfect standard of righteousness and earn my way to Heaven. Righteousness is a gift from You. Thank you for sending Jesus, Emmanuel, God in the Flesh (Matthew 1:23) to live a perfectly pleasing life and to take the punishment for my sin on His Cross. I believe He died and rose bodily, an acceptable sin sacrifice on my behalf. I invite You to come into my heart and help me to follow You. I want to change and be a better person. I trust You to answer my prayer because You love me. Thank you.

If you said this prayer, God bless you. You’re in the family of God. Please find a local, Bible-based church to fellowship with and grow as a believer. We’re in this together.

 

***

Sadly, I avoid visiting Seattle as much as possible. I no longer am a season ticket holder or attend meetings like I used to. I have spoken to many persons who are telling me the same thing. If you visit Seattle as a tourist, be very watchful if you’re driving and be sure not to drive too fast. It only takes a moment for a bike to zip in front of you or a pedestrian with their nose stuck to their cellphone to step off the curb unexpectedly when you have a green light. If you don’t need to travel outside downtown, I recommend not driving yourself around and using alternative transportation, like a cab.

 

God Is Love, 1 John 4:16

Buddy.Cute.WP

One reason I love this photo is because I love Buddy. He is great company, particularly when I’m alone in the house at night. And because I love him, I don’t think about the bad boy things he has done: I see him as perfect and totally lovable.

The Apostle John, who laid his head against Christ’s breast when Jesus walked the earth, declared that “God is love,”–1 John 4:16

When most people think of Heaven, they think of angels on clouds and green meadows full of flowers and meeting their loved ones again, looking young and healthy. They usually don’t think of it as a place where God dwells.

Since God is love and dwells in Heaven, guess what Hell could be defined as? Not as a place of fire and brimstone, but a place where God does not dwell, a place totally absent of love.

Please think about that. Hell is a place with no mercy, no kindness, no laughter, no joy, no peace, no faithfulness, no goodness, no patience, no freedom…(Galatians 5:22) I’m sure you can think of many others.

I think most people, if mentally healthy, would prefer to go to Heaven and not Hell, but they have a misunderstanding about how to get there. This will shock most people: IT’S NOT BY BEING GOOD! or , like pictured in an Egyptian papyrus painting, I have, “IT’S NOT BY HAVING YOUR GOOD DEEDS OUTWEIGHING YOUR BAD.”

To address the latter firstly: If you think it’s by having your good deeds outweighing the bad, how do you define your good and your bad deeds? God is perfect. His definition of “bad” is far broader than ours is. The longer I’m a Christian, the more I realize how bad I really am, because I become more familiar with what God’s standards really are. When someone asked Jesus what he must do to “inherit eternal life”, Jesus responded, “No one is good except God alone.”–Luke 18:18

This seems to me a really iffy program to place my hope on to obtain eternal life in Heaven. How do you really know when your good deeds outweigh your bad? How many points does gossip get versus donating a toy to Toys for Tots? That method would keep me awake at night.

Most people don’t understand the gospel (which means “good news”). It’s not good news to tell me that I need to work really hard to be good and hope that maybe I did well enough to pass muster on Judgment Day. God cannot tolerate evil, i.e. sin. He demands perfection. In the Sermon On The Mount, Jesus declared, “You must be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”–Matthew 5:48  I blew that one a long time ago.

That’s why Jesus had to die. Only He was good enough, being God in the flesh, to live a perfect life and take our punishment for God’s wrath against sin. We don’t do anything to earn Heaven except humble ourselves and admit we’re sinners and need Jesus’ blood to cover our sin for us. And because He rose from the dead, proving Himself to be God and His sacrifice acceptable, ask Him to empower us by giving us the Holy Spirit to live His life through us.

Then God sees us as perfect and totally lovable, just like I love my Buddy.

“As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”–Psalm 103:12

And that’s good news, not working for my eternal life but accepting that Jesus already did it for me.

Sadly, admitting they’re not perfect is just too difficult for most people.

PS. If someone says this is wrong, it’s not by faith in Christ but good works, then ask them, “Why did Jesus have to die?”

***

If you agree with me, “Hey, I’d like to go to Heaven and live with this loving God for eternity, and I know I’m not perfect, I’ve missed the mark,” please pray:

Dear Father, I’m sorry I’ve screwed up and fallen far short of your standards. I know I’m far from perfect but I believe you love me and want me to spend eternity with you. I believe that Jesus was God in the flesh and died for my sins. That He lived the perfect life I couldn’t live. Please forgive me and grant me Your Holy Spirit to lead and guide me. Amen.

 

God’s Bath, James 4:6

Soaked.Bud.WP

Got a surprise tonight. I didn’t plan on spending part of my Saturday evening giving my dog a bath, but it was pointed out to me by a family member that he had a “poopie butt”. That can happen when you aren’t properly maintaining your dog’s coat and let the fur on the back end get too long near the anus.

At time God has to give me a little “bath” too. In His eyes, I am cleansed of my sins because of my faith in Jesus, which was His gift of righteousness to me, unearned (Ephesians 2:4-9) but sometimes I get my feet dirty.

“Jesus said to (Peter), ‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean,'”–John 13:10

At times I’ll get a little haughty and think, “I’m doing OK this week in the sin department,” and then God points His finger at me and says, “Well, what about this?”

And I’ll respond, “Augh! Oh no! You’re right, Lord. I shouldn’t be thinking or doing that or having that attitude. Please help me to change.”

God doesn’t toss me into the bathtub to punish me, but to show me where I need to improve to better glorify Him, and serve Him and others.

“God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”–James 4:6

It was pride that caused Satan to fall and become the leader of all wickedness, and pride that caused the Pharisees and chief priests and the elders of the Jewish people to hand Jesus over to Pilate to be crucified:

“For (Pilate) knew that that because of envy they had handed Him over.”–Matthew 27:18

When we become born-again and enter into God’s family as one of His beloved children, we are GIVEN the righteousness of Christ so that we can fellowship with a holy God. A parable of the Christian life that preachers often use to illustrate our changed condition from unbeliever to believer is the caterpillar which weaves a cocoon and emerges, after radical change, into a beautiful butterfly. But as Pastor Bob George points out, we sometimes don’t fly like we should. Sometimes we stay down on the ground and wiggle through the mud like we’re still fuzzy worms.

I add: Then when we try to fly it’s difficult to soar upward and enjoy the freedom of flight when we have mud coating our wings. We have to shake that mud off so that we can fly well. God doesn’t knock the mud off our wings to make us feel bad or to depress us; He wants us to fly in the freedom He’s given us from the bondage of sin and from the consequences that bad or wicked attitudes can bring into our lives.

It feels great to fly free. Thank you, Lord, when you correct me.

And Lord, thank you I can fly in the joy of faith in the sunshine of Your love although there’s still a lot of mud speckling my wings.

Thanks for your time. I realize you have myriads of choices on how to spend it. I appreciate you chose to spend a little with me.

***

End note: If you are not born-again, you may feel free but you’re actually walking in bondage to the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) Jesus said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me will live even if he dies,” (John 11:25). Please consider saying this prayer: “Father, I admit that I have offended you and cannot live up to Your righteous standards. I accept that Jesus died on the Cross to take the punishment I deserve for my sin. Please forgive me and enter into my heart and give me eternal life in Christ. Be my Lord and teach me to walk in your ways.” If you’ve said this prayer, God promises to “give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him”–Luke 11:13  God bless you and guide you to a Biblically-based church fellowship.

 

The Third Guy, Matthew 25:14-29

Talents.WP.Bud

Buddy had been abused before I had adopted him. He was three years old at that time and very frightened of my family. He didn’t make a single sound for three days, not even a sniff or a cough. We feared his voice box had been damaged and were about to take him to the veterinarian to be examined when, fortunately, he gave a small woof at the neighbor’s dog. When he wasn’t punished for making a noise, he slowly became more vocal. It took about 1.5 years before he stopped ducking every time we reached toward him. It made us very sad. Now, after 7 years, he is the most talkative dog we’ve ever had and I enjoy his attempts to communicate with us. After living with him for so many years, we usually understand what he’s saying.

Jesus told a parable about a master and his three slaves. Their master gave his servants a great opportunity to show their value to him. He went away on a trip and left them with some money with the expectation they would increase it somehow. Upon his return, two of his servants had invested the money wisely and doubled the amount. They were greatly praised and rewarded. The third slave, fearing his master and thinking he was a harsh and punishing man, didn’t invest the money but, instead, hid it in the ground. This parable is referred to as the Parable of the Three Talents (the talent being the issue of currency in the tale).

Because the third slave didn’t invest the money wisely and bring an increase of the master’s money that was entrusted to him, the master became very angry and had him cast into the outer darkness.

Usually this tale is interpreted as Jesus telling us that He wants us to utilize our lives for His glory and not to waste the gifts and talents given to us. The third slave goes to Hell as he does not invest his life wisely.

Why did the third guy fail so miserably?

It’s because he didn’t love and trust his master. He even had the gall, in attempting to excuse himself for being such a poor steward of the talent given to him, to tell the master to his face:

“Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.”–Matthew 25:24-25 NASB

Often people reject knowing Jesus and submitting to Him as their God and master because they fear him. Like the third guy, they don’t live their lives for God’s glory because they believe God is a harsh master who cannot be trusted. They don’t know Jesus so therefore they don’t trust that He loves them and wants to bless them. But what does Jesus say about Himself?

“I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”–John 10:10b-11

Jesus loves us so much that He laid down His life to die for our sins so that we can be declared pleasing/righteous in God’s eyes. He had to do this because God cannot tolerate sin, so Jesus had to purify us from our sins so that we can enter into God’s presence and fellowship with Him.  There’s no way we can be good enough, no matter how hard we try, so the perfect God/man had to die for our sins. His righteousness is a gift, given to us, just for the asking through an act of faith.

But it takes an act of trust to ask God to enter your life and be your Father and Lord.

As the Good Shepherd, He can be trusted to guide your life to “green pastures”. (Please read Psalm 23). Ask Him to forgive your sin and invite Him to enter into your heart and be your Lord. I’m not promising you’ll have an easier life. But you will never regret it.

And you’ll have eternal life with a reward so wonderful that you cannot imagine it.

Fairy Tale Ending, 1 Corinthians 2:9

Buddy.WP.SunshinewithShawdow

When I first adopted Buddy, he was terrified of me and my family. But after several years of love and treats, walks and healthy food, he finally relaxed and enjoys our company. He was rescued from a situation where he was kicked and chased and now enjoys a loving home.

You might feel like life gives you, not love and affection, but numerous kicks and suffering. You might have chronic pain or financial problems that seem insurmountable, or family members and coworkers who torment you, or great past affliction that’s difficult to forgive or forget.

But please think of your life as a fabulous story. Every good story has conflict or it’d be tremendously boring: times of great suffering and trials that must be overcome, monsters to be slain. But the hero endures, and because he/she never gives up, triumphs.

However, if you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, your unique life story has a fairy tale ending. One day you will be present with the Lord in Heaven which is so wonderful that we cannot imagine it, says Apostle Paul,

“Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.”–1 Corinthians 2:9

Just think of your favorite book with the happy ending you enjoy so much and Heaven is far better.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”–Revelation 21:4

You enter into a relationship with Jesus by believing that He died for your sins, suffered the punishment you deserved, and maintain your relationship with Him by faith (Galatians 3). You cannot do anything to deserve your eternal salvation, nor can you do anything to maintain your salvation:

“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 2:8-9

Jesus had the courage to voluntarily face the tremendous suffering of Crucifixion because He kept his eyes on the “joy set before Him endured the cross”–Hebrews 12:2

“Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize…”–Apostle Paul, Philippians 3:13

So when life seems hard and you want to give up, please remember to keep your focus on the joy ahead. You are the lead character in your own life story. And your story has a fairy tale ending if you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Rejoice! This is good news!

Being Perfect: Matthew 5:49

Perfect.Buddy

To me my little Silky terrier, Buddy, is perfect because I love him. Is he really perfect? No. But when I look at him, I’m not thinking about the times he’s been a bad boy: I’m thinking about how fun he is and loyal and quirky. I’m not focusing on his bad traits (which are very few, of course).

Many Christians love Jesus with all their hearts but don’t really understand their salvation, so oftentimes they’ll preach the bad news to unbelievers. Yet, the Gospel is called “the Good News”. What makes it good, and not bad, news?

During the Sermon On The Mount, Jesus’ most famous sermon, He tells how to be a good person. It’s very convicting because no one can live up to it 24/7, no matter how hard a person tries and how sincerely. Yet Jesus proclaims during the sermon:

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”–Matthew 5:49

Perfect? God expects me to be perfect?

Often, in sincerity, Christians will proclaim that you must do good deeds and live up to God’s Laws to be pleasing to Him. Some even claim you can lose your salvation if you aren’t good enough. But Jesus said that God’s standard was “perfection”. James also proclaimed:

“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”–James 2:10

What James is saying: if you try to please God by attempting to live up to His standards, yet fail just once, you’re guilty. The law of good works condemns you to Hell.

So anyone who tells you that you can be good enough to be pleasing to God, just doesn’t have it quite right. Because it’s impossible to be perfect. God is so incomprehensibly far holier than we could ever imagine or hope to be in this lifetime.

But here’s the GOOD NEWS: “By grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one may boast.”–Apostle Paul, Ephesians 2:8-9

God declares you righteous by faith, not by your good deeds (works): not by being good enough or staying good enough. The truth is: You can NEVER be good enough in this lifetime.

It’s a GIFT: You don’t work to earn it. It’s an act of mercy by a loving, yet holy, God to bring you into a love relationship with Him.

The GOOD NEWS is that you’re saved by faith in Jesus Christ. What is that exactly? By believing that Jesus was God in the flesh, died on the Cross to take the penalty of God’s wrath for your sin, and that He was resurrected from the grave.

“My righteous one shall live by faith.”–Hebrews 10:38.

“And without faith it’s impossible to place Him…”–Hebrews 11:6

And, because it’s still impossible to be perfect after your salvation, you maintain your walk by faith (Galatians 3:1-3). You’re declared “not guilty” by the Great Judge because Jesus nailed your sin to His Cross (Colossians 2:14). If you come to faith in Jesus, on Judgment Day, you will “stand in the presence of His glory, blameless with great joy.”–Jude 24

When you believe in Jesus and become born-again (receive the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit), God looks down on you like I look at Buddy: with eyes of love and not condemnation.

“Therefore there is now no condemnation in Christ Jesus.”–Romans 8:1

“And their sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more.”–Hebrews 10:17

More later on the counterbalance: Actions have consequences.