Is it that hard to do?

Love one another. Love God

What does it mean to sacrificially and unconditionally love others? (1 John 4:10–12)

The Bible is a complex narrative. But what is the big—yet simple—idea behind all the stories and teachings contained in this ancient book? Love—love dominates God’s story.
Jesus confirmed that two commands from the Old Testament—love God and love others—as the greatest of all the commandments during an encounter recorded in the New Testament between Jesus and the religious leaders. [See Mark 12:28–34.]
Followers of God are to live lives distinctly different from those around them. They are to be forgiving and self-giving, showing love to all.
Our capacity to love begins with receiving God’s love for us. From this reservoir we pour out love toward each other. The presence of God’s Spirit in us, working through us to overcome our passion for self in favor of loving others, is confirmation that we are in fact children of God.
KEY VERSE
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:10–12)
KEY IDEA
I am committed to loving God and loving others.
KEY APPLICATION: What difference does this make in the way I live?
For one thing, Jesus’ love in our hearts enables us to love those we could never love before.
The following story is an amazing display of God’s love and a strong example of the power of how radically a life can be changed by Christ.
Chris Carrier of Coral Gables, Florida, was ten years old when a man became so angry with Chris’s father that he abducted Chris. The kidnapper burned him with cigarettes, stabbed him numerous times with an ice pick, shot him in the head, and then dumped him out to die in the Everglades. Miraculously, Chris survived and was found. His only lasting physical effect from the ordeal was losing sight in one eye. His attacker was never captured.
Carrier became a Christian and later served as a youth pastor at a church in Florida. One day, he received word that a man named David McAllister, a seventy-seven-year-old frail and blind ex-con living in a Miami Beach nursing home, had confessed to committing the crime all those years ago.
So Carrier headed to Miami. Did he take a gun? Did he plot revenge on the way there? After all, now the tables were turned. The old man was helpless, just as Chris had been when McAllister tortured and shot him, leaving him for dead. No. Revenge wasn’t Chris’s motive, as it had been his captor’s. Carrier was going God’s direction—toward forgiveness. And, amazingly, yes, even love.
Chris began visiting McAllister regularly and often read the Bible and prayed with him. Through these visits, Carrier eventually led McAllister to his Lord. Carrier said, “While many people can’t understand how I could forgive David McAllister, from my point of view, I couldn’t not forgive him. If I’d chosen to hate him all these years, or spent my life looking for revenge, then I wouldn’t be the man I am today, the man my wife and children love, the man God has helped me to be.”
Each day as we live out our lives, Jesus loves us unconditionally and sacrificially, and he offers ongoing forgiveness. He asks us, his followers, to offer the same in our relationships. Why? This new breed of love allows us to be involved in healthy relationships and also to be free to express God’s love to the world.

Taken from NIV Believe

You think you know yourself. You no doubt think well of yourself. Maybe you think you are a ‘good’ person harming no-one and doing unto them as you would have them do unto you? You no doubt would feel aggrieved if they didn’t but what about you? Do you do good unto others before they reciprocate or do you only respond in kind or maybe not at all? The real truth is that you were known long before you existed. God knows you and He also knows what your responses will be long before you do! It is good that we love one another and do good unto others for this is the way of God. He loves you whether you love Him or not but your relationship with Him is harmed when your relationships with others fails because of a lack of effort on your part. If you don’t believe in God then you can’t believe in good and evil. God is good and everything that goes against Him is evil. If you believe you are good then you are deceived for no-one is good not even one. We all fall short of God’s glory. Our relationship with our Father is broken because of this. Jesus Christ stands in the gap and presents us pure and holy to God……..if we believe in Him.

Shirley Anne

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Think on these things

On what do you focus, what is the main aim in your life? Do you hunger after wealth, possessions, never-ending holidays, big cars and fancy clothes and a nice house to live in? If all those things were taken from you, should you have any of them, what would be your first thought? Would anger fill your heart, would you seek to replace them immediately because you cannot live without them? Would you simply accept they’ve gone and move on with your life, maybe changing direction this time? There is more to life than all these things and whilst there is nothing wrong in possessing any of them they shouldn’t be the main focus of your existence. There is a better way, a better thing for you to focus on, your life and its worth. You are worth many times more than anything you own for you are loved by God. God doesn’t offer you any of these things, there are no promises of material wealth. True wealth isn’t measured by your possessions, true wealth is in knowing God and believing in Christ Jesus your Saviour…God says….

Shirley Anne

Meditation (Luke 24:1–8)

All of Christianity is summed up in one verifiable historical event. And this changes everything. Jesus of Nazareth, a maverick Jewish rabbi and prophet, who claimed to be the Messiah about whom Scripture foretold, was arrested, condemned in an illegal trial and crucified. A soldier’s spear to his side and the blood and water that flowed from the wound confirmed that his lungs had collapsed. He was dead. Days after his body had been prepared and placed in a sealed tomb, some women went back to the tomb and found the Roman seal broken, the stone rolled away from the entrance and his body (along with the guards whose lives depended on their keeping watch over it) gone. Soon after that day, more than 500 people claimed to have seen him alive. Others claimed to have seen him ascend into heaven. Most of these witnesses were still alive at the time of the writing of the four Gospels. If the words of this “Good News” were not true, one of those witnesses would have surely refuted them.

Those who committed to follow Jesus early on gained no visible benefit from following him, no wealth or power or possession. Rather, many were themselves beaten, stoned, tortured and crucified. Yet Christianity has persisted on through history to today. And because we know that this account of Jesus’ death and resurrection is factual, we can also know that his promises are sure. The One who died as a criminal to take our sin away from us is alive now, preparing a place for us. And one day, we will be made alive again with him.

Prayer
Loving Lord, you have called us to be born again to a living hope that comes through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. You are preparing an inheritance for me that will never be corrupted and never fade away. And yet I confess that I often put my hope in other things. Deliver me from the futility of misplaced hopes. Teach me the wisdom of seeking you and finding security in your unchanging character. Only your promises will stand forever. It is folly to trust in people, possessions or position because all of these ultimately disappoint. Instead, I place my hope in you. I pray that I will grow in knowing, loving and trusting you. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Taken from Once a Day 40 Days to Easter

Shirley Anne

Love


How well do we know love? When we think about love our thoughts turn to those closest to us, our wives, husbands, children and then the rest of our families, friends, acquaintances and sometimes those we work with. I suspect though that the less connected and those we don’t give much thought are not loved in the same way. That I also suppose is natural and expected but God doesn’t love us in that way, He loves us all no matter who we are for we are His creation. How many of us really know that or indeed accept it or even accept God Himself?
‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ (John 3:16)
That is the measure of real love.

Shirley Anne

Love (1 John 4:8)

To know God is to know love, and to continually experience this love is to have renewed motivations, even for work. As we grasp the depth of God’s love for us, we begin to see every part of our lives being sustained and directed by that love. Over time this perspective affects every part of our lives. And because we spend so much of our lives engaged in it, one of our greatest needs is to have God’s love transform the way we work.

When we begin to experience God and his love, our whole being—heart, mind, soul and strength—is engaged, and this experience cannot help but change the way we approach work. It affects our motivations, our relationships and the very work that we do. We see ourselves working for God out of gratitude for what he has done for us, and our diligence at work reflects that gratitude.

As we consider the transformative power of God’s love, the question we must always ask ourselves is this: “Have we come to know the true living God, or are we more occupied with a projection of God informed by our own intellect, desires or experiences?” Only when we encounter this loving God are we truly changed at the very core of our being.

Connecting

God speaks into our lives, and his voice communicates a profound love that changes us in ways both big and small. His love is not an abstract sentiment, but is specific. He didn’t love humanity in some obscure way. No, he sent his Son to live as a Jewish man, die on a Roman cross and rise again so that we could be saved and know him.

One of the most powerful expressions of God’s love in us is in the words we say to our coworkers. Most of us have opportunities to give feedback. Yet, sometimes we shy away from giving positive feedback, in fear of appearing weak or sappy, or we give it in such a way that tears people down. When the love of God is at work in us to transform the way we see others and the importance of our work, even seemingly insignificant feedback can create the kind of change that brings life and health to an individual as well as an organization.

Taken from NIV Faith & Work Bible

Shirley Anne

Something missing revisited

It is only the title to which I refer. In yesterday’s post I mentioned in a round about way how easy it was to miss something. If you remember I had returned home after a walk but hadn’t noticed the flag wasn’t flying as the rope had severed leaving it on the ground. Is it unusual to miss something even though they are right under our noses so to speak? The saying ‘you only miss something when it is gone’ seems not always to be true because we often take things for granted and don’t expect them to disappear. Quite a few times in the past E has pointed out a problem which I should have noticed myself but didn’t. When all is well we don’t look for problems; nothing is ever going to go wrong is it? Do we ever consider the future and what may happen?

Perhaps most will say ‘yes but not the distant future, we will wait until then to see what will happen’. The thing is that future can be upon us sooner than we think and then it is too late to respond if things go wrong. Living for today is fine but we should plan ahead and this brings me to the real subject of this post, your future in eternity. We live and then we die and that is the end of the matter is what many say. Why worry about something that isn’t going to happen? How do you know that, is it instinct, a gut feeling, you’ve first-hand knowledge or has someone convinced you that there isn’t a future after death? How could you find out about such things? Innocence is definitely not bliss but it will be too late for those who think that way when after dying they discover the truth. Why does your spirit think otherwise? Think about that for a moment. Why do you not accept that you have a future after you have died? Do you think you will return in another body? Why? Where did that idea come from? Discovering the truth after you’ve passed on is like closing the barn door after the horse has bolted, it is just too late. What have you to lose by opening your heart to an everlasting life after death as Jesus promises for all who believe in him and in the Father who sent him? I tell you the truth, no-one comes to the Father except through Jesus. Jesus said so himself. Trouble is you have to open your heart and accept him in but you resist for something you think is better will happen. I tell you it won’t so don’t trust in gut feelings, sayings of others, weird religions and faiths, trust only in The Lord Jesus. Think on these things then go find this truth yourself…it is written in Scripture, The Bible and I pray that you will. Don’t miss out on Gods free gift of life because of a stubborn heart or a misguided thought.

Shirley Anne

A fresh start

A Fresh Start (Isaiah 53:4–12 see below)

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free . . . Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

These words, inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty, conclude a poem titled “The New Colossus” composed by Emma Lazarus. With torch in her hand, Lady Liberty stands as a symbol of freedom and a welcoming beacon for emigrants coming to America in search of success, happiness and a fresh start.

Do you feel tired or poor? Do you long for freedom? Do you feel tossed by life’s storms? Most of us experience these conditions at some point. Isaiah describes Someone who understands exactly how we feel. Even his own people rejected this “man of suffering” (Isaiah 53:3). Many hated him. Nothing about his mere physical appearance attracted people. In short, most of us wouldn’t have given this person the time of day.

Yet this passage describes the most compelling individual in the history of the world. Somehow we can’t resist him. Perhaps it’s what he offers: himself as one like us—one who knows sorrow and yet who offers peace and relief. He offers himself as the sacrifice for our sins. He is the Messiah. And Isaiah makes it clear that Jesus identifies with all the difficulties we could ever face. He knows what it’s like to be crushed, despised, rejected and in deep emotional pain. He knows the quiet desperation we endure when faced with mounting bills, job loss, marital discord, parenting challenges and all the other stuff of life that—if we’re wise—sends us to our knees.

Take a few moments to reread the passage for today (below) and let the words sink into your consciousness. This Jesus, the very Son of God, came to Earth for the very purpose of becoming one of us, albeit temporarily. So when we kneel before Jesus, we kneel before one who can relate to our struggles and hardships. He kneels alongside us to revitalize our energy, provide relief from our stress, set us free from sin and enable us to endure life’s storms. Then, through his powerful Holy Spirit, he offers us a fresh start.

Taken from NIV Men’s Devotional Bible

Isaiah 53:4-12 (New International Version – UK )

4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

Remember……..for those who still do not believe…….Isaiah wrote hundreds of years before Christ was born on Earth…………How did he know? It was the inspired word of God. He was a prophet through whom God spoke and still speaks today for those who have an ear……

Shirley Anne

Hiding something?

For the passage listed below first of all you must believe there is a God and there is a Saviour. Why do we need a Saviour? Well without a saviour we cannot be saved. Saved from what? Our sins, whether we believe we sin or not we will be judged by them. Hiding from our sins or denying we sin doesn’t mean they don’t exist. We first of all sin by denying God’s existence, then we sin by denying His Son who is the Saviour of all mankind. Jesus is his name. God the Father has put everything under his feet. If we believe in The Father and in His Son and repent of our sins and confess our sins putting our hope in Jesus Christ for our salvation we WILL be saved. God says so. Don’t hide from God because you can’t!

Shirley Anne

Hidden No More (Proverbs 28:13)

When was the last time you felt like hiding?
If we know God sees everything, why do we try to hide our sin from him?
Have you ever seen a little kid try to hide just by closing her eyes? She thinks if she can’t see anyone, no one can see her. That kind of thinking is cute when it’s a little kid doing it. When it’s someone who should know better, it’s a different story.
Why do we try to hide sin from God by closing our eyes to it and pretending it doesn’t exist? Why do we hide it from other people and assume God can’t see it either? God sees everything. He knows the sin is there, and he knows it’s keeping us away from him.
At every moment of every day, God stands ready to forgive us—no matter what we’ve done. All we have to do is ask him. Trying to hide our sin is a sure way to make a bad situation worse. Confessing our sin and receiving God’s mercy is a sure way to feel a giant sense of relief.
Prayer
Dear God, thank you for the way you treat us when we bring our sins to you. Please help us remember that no matter what we’ve done, we can always receive forgiveness from you. Amen.

Taken from Once a Day At the Table

Shirley Anne

I am The Lord

Do you know God? Do you realise how much He loves you? Don’t you remember the price He paid in order that you and He could be reconciled? Jesus became the atoning sacrifice for all those who will turn to him in repentance. Are you one who is still unsure that God even exists? I myself understand that completely for I too could not and would not believe and for many years rejected the whole idea. One day around thirty years ago I picked up the family Bible (many had one but never read it!) and began reading it through. By the time I had reached the last page of Revelations I realised I needed to discover more and wanted eagerly to do so. I had begun my journey by reaching out to God. In February 1989 I became a Christian at the age of 43. My Bible has since been read many times and each time God reveals something new to me. Do I regret becoming a Christian? Absolutely not! It was the best thing I ever did or will ever do for I know that God loves me and that Jesus paid the price for my sins, the price I should be paying and would be paying for them had he not saved me. Yes, God loves me and He loves you, whoever you are, just as much.

Shirley Anne

English: Moses Pleading with Israel, as in Deu...
Moses Pleading with Israel, as in Deuteronomy 6:1-15, illustration from a Bible card published 1907 by the Providence Lithograph Company (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I AM THE Lord (Exodus 6:1–8)

The patriarchs had known God Almighty, but they had never heard the unique name of God. God revealed himself to Moses with intimate clarity, connecting his personal name with the wonders that he had done for the people up to this point in their story. He is the one who called Abraham, initiated a covenant with him and inaugurated a great nation through a child promised to him and his then-barren wife (Ge 12; 15). He is the God who used what man intended for evil to promote Joseph to second-in-command in Egypt (Ge 50:20). He is the one who led his people to seek refuge in the land of Egypt to escape a dire famine. And he is the one who promised to deliver the people from slavery through Moses’ leadership. The people were urged to avoid worry—the God who promised to act on their behalf is the God who had always come through on the behalf of his people.
This personal revelation is distinct to Christians. The God of the Bible is not some disengaged deity, unconcerned with the plight of his people. Rather, he is the God who is both omnipotent and sovereign in charge of all things and the God who is intimately concerned and engaged with the affairs of his children.
This personal care is best demonstrated in the way Jesus humbled himself, leaving the right hand of the Father and taking the place of a servant on the cross (Php 2:5–11). Paul wrote that God was intent on redeeming his people, so Jesus laid aside equality with God and humbled himself to take on human flesh. While, in the age to come, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, the early ministry of Jesus demonstrated how far God would stoop to show his personal love for his children. Jesus is the perfect Son of God, yet one who loved his enemies and called them his friends (Ro 5:10). He is the radiance of the glory of God, yet willing to love those who show even a childlike faith (Lk 18:16). God is the King of the universe, yet one who allows frail humans to approach him as their father (Ro 8:15). He is Yahweh, the Lord God Almighty.
Prayer: Jesus, thank you for tearing down the curtain that separated me from my Father. Thank you for making it possible for me to have a personal, intimate relationship with the almighty God of the universe. Amen.

Taken from NIV The Jesus Bible

Shirley Anne

Special

When you look into the mirror do you see yourself as special or do you see flaws? Have you a desire to become better in some way than you already are? You may consider yourself to be beautiful, handsome, clever, upright, truthful, honest, forgiving, friendly or sadly none of these things. Most of us will agree if we are honest with ourselves that we do have one or two shortcomings though we would rather keep that private. The truth is, the real truth is this, we aren’t as perfect as we would have others believe and we hide it. There isn’t one person on this planet who is perfect and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. We are however very special and each one of us is unique…… we are loved just as we are…….

Shirley Anne

Special People (album)
Special People (album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

God Loves You as You Are (Exodus 34:5–6)

The Lord does not cherish us as we deserve (if that were the case, we would be desolate) but as he must, unable to do otherwise. He is love. Hard as it is for us to believe—because we neither give nor receive love among ourselves in this way—we yet believe, because of the life-death-resurrection of the Carpenter-Messiah, that his Father is more loving, more forgiving, more cherishing than Abraham, Isaac or Jacob could have dreamed.

What this says simply is that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is gracious. His love is gratuitous in a way that defies our imagination.

It is for this reason that we can proclaim with theological certainty in the power of the Word: God loves you as you are and not as you should be! Do you believe this? That God loves you beyond worthiness and unworthiness, beyond fidelity and infidelity, that he loves you in the morning sun and the evening rain, that he loves you without caution, regret, boundary, limit or breaking point?

Taken from NIV Ragamuffin Bible 

Shirley Anne

 

Faith to believe

The post is mainly aimed at those who doubt, who do not believe in God or Jesus Christ but it equally applies to believers too. Since becoming a Christian believer myself almost thirty years ago after a lifetime of staunchly adhering to atheism it has always been my passion to introduce others to Christ. Some say that to believe one has to have an inclination that way in the first place and for many I guess that could be true but I also think that many would turn to Christ if they really knew more about him. It is true that a desire to know more and to have an inquiring heart really does help and even Scripture tells us this. God says that those who earnestly seek Him WILL find Him. I always say too that the alternative does not bear thinking about! All I can add is to reach out to God and He will respond……..and He already knows what you will do………..

Shirley Anne

Now That's What I Call Faith
Now That’s What I Call Faith (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

FAITH AND UNBELIEF (Mark 5:24–34)

Faith is different from feelings. Feelings are based on circumstances, and they change like the weather. Faith involves acting, trusting and believing that God is real, at work and working for believers’ good—regardless of what one may happen to feel at the moment. In fact, sometimes faith leads believers in the opposite direction of feelings.

The woman in this passage had been suffering for a long time. As her disorder involved blood, she was perpetually “unclean” (according to Jewish law), and as a result had likely been ostracized by her community. When she heard about the healing power of Jesus, she boldly braved the large crowd and reached out to him in faith. His response: “Daughter, your faith has healed you” (Mk 5:34).

God invites people to faithfully trust him for all of life (Pr 3:5–6). The way of Jesus is the way of trust. All throughout his life on earth, Jesus demonstrated absolute faith in his Father and challenged his followers to exercise the same kind of faith.

For many reasons, people are prone to doubt. Modern western culture is fraught with skepticism. The contemporary search for truth says, “Understand in order to believe.” And against this thinking, Jesus has always maintained, “Believe in order to understand.” In the struggle with doubt and unbelief, Jesus encourages people, “Don’t be afraid; just believe” (Mk 5:36). The way of Jesus is the way of trusting God every day, for this life and the next.

Prayer
Jesus, please don’t let me get distracted by feelings, which can be so fickle. I want to believe in you, trust in you and surrender to you, even when I don’t feel like it. Amen.

Taken from NIV The Jesus Bible

Shirley Anne

Why did Christ suffer on the cross?

Doctrine: Atonement; God’s Forgiveness (Leviticus 6:6–7)

Barry Bonds at the plate.
Barry Bonds at the plate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On August 7, 2007, baseball slugger Barry Bonds hit career home run number 756, the home run that broke Hank Aaron’s record. However, many questioned whether or not the new record should count because Bonds was alleged to have used steroids. Sports buffs said if his name is listed in the record book, it should be accompanied by an asterisk to indicate that the record is a sort-of record, a tainted record. In 2008 Mark Ecko, the man who bought the ball Bonds hit to set the record, branded the baseball with an asterisk and donated it to the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. It’s not unusual for Christians to imagine we have an asterisk by our name. We may be destined for that Hall of Fame called heaven, but aware that our lives our tainted, we’re left with a sour taste in our souls. We’re grateful to enjoy eternal life with God, but we wish there wasn’t that sense of being tainted. The gospel is hard to believe at just this point, but it is nonetheless the great truth. There is no longer a need for sin offerings. The forgiveness we are offered through Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t just make our sin null and void, it also erases the asterisk. God doesn’t see a fixed sinner, but someone righteous and pristine. We are in Christ, and Christ is in us. We are a new creation. The old has passed away—so much so that there is no need for an asterisk—and all things have become new.

Taken from NIV Understand the Faith Study Bible

That’s it! ‘The forgiveness we are offered through Christ’s sacrifice’ For all of us have sinned, we all fall short of God’s glory, we simply are not at all good. Yes we may live good lives and be upstanding citizens, give to the poor and do all sorts of ‘good’ things but unfortunately we are none of us perfect, we are all tainted in some way. Our own sense of righteousness doesn’t mean we are righteous, no, we cheat and lie, we do things we ought not do and don’t do the things we ought to do. It is just as well therefore that God loves us and He demonstrates that love through Jesus Christ. Jesus died on that cross for each and every one of us both now, in the past and in the future. For all those who believe on his name there is salvation, atonement with The Father and forgiveness for our sins. It is an amazing truth. It is such a shame that not everybody will accept it. They remain in their sins and they condemn themselves. My hope is that all will come to the truth which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. My hope is that you dear reader, if you have not already done so, is that you come to accept Jesus as your Saviour for that is who He is.

Shirley Anne