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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Above all others

Meditation (Micah 5:2–5)
Jesus’ greatness now reaches to the ends of the earth. And those who know him recognize him as faithful and true, one who has not taken his position by force (like so many earthly kings have), but who was chosen from before the beginning of time. And starting that day in Israel, the king first came as a baby, born into the line of Jewish nobility (because it was from among the Israelites that God had decreed a king would come), and yet from a long line of sinful people so he could identify with us and so that we would choose him too. This was the first time he came, not with force, but with the gentleness of an infant.

But the second time will be different. The second time, it will be sudden, and no one will miss it. Almighty God will open the gate of heaven, and Jesus will burst forth as a king, riding triumphant on a white stallion (not a donkey this time), with the armies of heaven following. Our great conquering king will destroy his enemies once and for all, waging and winning a holy war and ruling over all his people. Then he will reveal to a world that has rejected him that he truly is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He will be absolutely sovereign over all people—the lost and the saved—and every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that he is who we accept and claim that he is—Jesus, Christ, Lord.

Prayer
Faithful Father, thank you for the hope of the second coming of Jesus Christ in glory and power. Help me to live in anticipation of his coming. Help me to trust you in the things I do not understand. And when life seems to be a mess, help me to remember that your work here on earth remains, for the time being, an unfinished project, and that you always complete what you begin. Help me to cultivate an eternal perspective as I journey through this temporal arena. May I learn to pursue the eternal reality of the unseen future over the current reality of the visible present. And may you always be the object of my deepest love so that I will pursue you above all else. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

Taken from Once a Day 25 Days of Advent

Shirley Anne

Do you want saving or not?

I can hear the voices of rejection, the scoffers mumbling to themselves ‘Why do I need to be saved and from what?’ Well that is the whole point, until we realise that we do need saving we reject the idea. To have an open mind and not to turn down an opportunity to understand is paramount. Being a closed door will get you nowhere, stubbornness can be fatal and leave you in the wrong place. Well what is the wrong place or better still what is the right place? For those who have ears to listen and eyes to see, who are ready to learn and understand……..Salvation is a gift…..a free gift…. it is something we all need but cannot simply take….we have to receive it….

Shirley Anne

SAVE ME: YES OR NO? (Psalm 70:1–5)

In Psalm 70, David asked God to deliver him from the oppression and suffering brought about by his enemies. He sought refuge in God, expecting the result to include great glory for the Lord (v. 4).

Jesus voiced a prayer in the Gospel of John that includes some similarity to David’s prayer (Jn 12:27–28). Labouring under the weight of the task before him, Jesus considered the depth of what he was about to suffer on the cross. He contemplated a request for God to deliver him, but quickly changed direction—affirming that what he was about to endure was the very reason why he came to earth.

In David’s words, God is glorified by delivering him from the hands of his enemies. In Jesus’ words, God the Father is glorified not by sparing the Son but through the Son’s death. If Jesus had avoided the cross, there would be no way for people to have access to God. Through the willing sacrifice of Jesus, God makes possible the deliverance of all people who place their faith in Jesus for salvation.

Prayer…..

Jesus, I know you could have called down angels to rescue you from the cross, but you didn’t, because you love me. Thank you for loving me with a love I can never deserve or repay. Amen.

Taken from NIV The Jesus Bible

Shirley Anne

What a benefit!

‘Made in the image of God’. That is how human beings are described in The Holy Bible. However, that is a stumbling block to many for they would say that if it is so then God must be as bad as we are! They are wrong. God could easily have made us bad as He could have made us good. Why then did He make us good and are we in fact ‘good’? The first man was perfect and without sin just as God intended but God gave him a free will, he was tempted and fell into sin. That meant separation from his Creator for God cannot look upon sin. From that day to this mankind was doomed unless the break could be healed. By our sins we are separated from God forever. God however shows us just how much He loves us. Imagine you have a child whom you love dearly and would do anything for. Imagine (and every child is like this) the child is naughty and disobedient and you are at your wit’s end wondering what to do. You still love the child but you have to discipline it and show the error in its ways, showing them right from wrong and hoping they will choose right. In the same way God shows us the right way but not all of us will respond. The little child cannot make amends just as we cannot make amends before God for our sinful ways. God provides a way that we can be right with Him. He provided a sacrifice which if we accept will heal the rift between us. He gave Jesus who takes away the punishment we deserve and places it upon himself. If we believe this then we become right with God…………forever!

Shirley Anne 

How Does Jesus’ Gift of Salvation Benefit Believers? (1 Thessalonians 5:9–10)

When humans sin, they create a barrier between themselves and God. The price for sin is death (see Romans 6:23); however, 1 Thessalonians 5:9–10 indicates that by his grace God provided a substitute for us: Jesus, who “died for us” to pay the penalty for our sin.

To better understand the salvation Jesus provides, we must view it in the broader context of the story of the Bible. Genesis details the creation and rebellion of the human species. Humankind’s rejection of God and God’s response is the theme of the remaining narrative of the Bible—it colours every page. Old Testament prophecies point to a time when the world as we know it will end and judgment will take place. However, these prophecies also point to the coming Messiah who will redeem the lives of those who trust in him.

Salvation is not only a future reality but also a present one. Jesus rewarded the faith of the bleeding woman and of the blind man and literally saved them from their afflictions, as the Greek word translated “healed” actually means “saved” (see Mark 5:34; 10:52). Faith has a reward dimension in this life, sometimes in tangible benefits like physical healing and sometimes in intangibles such as comfort, peace, security and freedom.

Salvation also has a spiritual quality that benefits believers—both now and in eternity. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:9–10 that believers will live with Christ in this world (when we are “awake”) and in the next (when we are “asleep”). Because of Jesus’ salvation, believers can be confident about both the present and the future.

Taken from The Case for Christ Study Bible

Shirley Anne

It is finished

 

Cross

IT IS FINISHED (John 19:30)

“It is finished”—a simple sentence, made of only three simple words, but the significance of this sentence has eternal consequences for billions of people. When Jesus declared, “It is finished,” he indicated that his work of salvation was finished; that he had paid the full price for our sins. The cross is about so much more than a man enduring pain and suffering; it is about so much more than a man being abandoned by his friends and family. The cross is about Jesus, the eternal Son of God, being forsaken by his Father. Jesus, who had forever been one with the Father, was willing to come to earth and identify with sinners like us. He was even willing to become our sin (2Cor 5:21), so that on the cross he could die in our place. On the cross, the hellish punishment that we deserved was placed on him; he willingly endured God’s wrath in order to set us free.

The prophet Isaiah says of him, “You who have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes people stagger” (Isa 51:17)—this is what Jesus did on the cross for everyone who believes in him. Our sins have been paid for, and the work of redemption is, gloriously, “finished”!

Jesus, I shudder to think that you became my sin. It’s unimaginable what you must have endured to finish this fight for us. Thank you, Saviour. Amen.

Taken from NIV The Jesus Bible

Yes my friend Jesus did that for YOU. Maybe you don’t believe in Jesus, maybe you don’t believe in God but I ask you this….just what do you believe? Are you simply a by-product of The Universe? Were you thrown together by chance? Are you a believer in evolution? None of these things will save you from the wrath of God. Be sure of one thing, you are destined to die and you will face judgement, we all will. You will be judged on what you have done in your life both good and bad and you will accordingly come up short. Only those whose sins are already paid for in full will escape God’s wrath. The ONLY way that your sins can be paid for is through Jesus Christ. If you believe in your heart that God sent him and that he died that you might go free, if you place your trust in him and ask him to be your Saviour then you will be saved. Don’t take your chances elsewhere for there isn’t an ‘elsewhere’.

Shirley Anne

Doubting generation

Many a time I have been told by people not believing in God that The Bible is a fairy story, a book filled with nonsensical thoughts and ideals, a man-made text. God they say was made up, invented by men to keep people under control, someone they could be fearful of if they didn’t tow the line. Well naturally they would say that from their standpoint of unbelief and their uneducated minds. Who can possibly make comment on something they know little about or refuse to look into? The evidence for God is all around us, there isn’t a real excuse for not believing. Many approach the subject with closed minds or preconceived ideas and simply stubbornly refuse that the idea they are wrong is possible. Maybe they have experienced troubles in their lives, hardships and poor health. There are many reasons for them not to put their faith in God, in their minds that is. What they don’t know or are willing to accept is that God, apart from Him being real, loves them dearly. ‘If God loves me so then why do I suffer? Why is there such hatred in the world? Why doesn’t He step in and change things? Why does He withhold nice things for me?’ is often asked. Well the truth is this, if  God didn’t love you He would give in to your requests. Sounds a stupid answer at first glance but if God didn’t allow suffering how would we benefit in understanding what suffering was? When we understand that God doesn’t always answer in the way we expect then we understand just how much He loves us. We learn from suffering, we learn from being refused, we learn from discipline. What father doesn’t teach us in the same way? He loves us this way so that we know that when we receive from Him it will only be for our good. Why did He allow Jesus Christ to suffer for our sins? He did it to show just how much He really loves us. In this life we are here to learn and to love our Creator. He died that we may be set free. He left us not alone but gave us His Spirit to guide and teach us, to help and support us and He gave us His Story in the written word, The Bible. Everything we need to know about life and how to live it is in there. Everything we need to know about our Creator is in there, Father, Son and Holy Spirit…..

Shirley Anne

A bible from 1859.
A bible from 1859. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How Do We Know the Bible Is True? (Hebrews 4:12)

According to the Bible, all Scripture is God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16). Peter confirmed this when he said that those who wrote the Bible were not speaking on their own but spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet 1:21). Many parts of Scripture are directly attributed to God through use of phrases like This is what the Lord says (e.g., Ex 4:22). Finally, Jesus often quoted from the Old Testament and affirmed it as being God’s Word.
Prophecies that were later fulfilled are corroboration of the accuracy of the Bible’s claim to be God’s Word. For example, the vision recorded in Daniel 7 correctly predicted the rise of the Medo¬Persian Empire, the Greek Empire under Alexander the Great, and the Roman Empire.
Archaeological discoveries are also important evidence of the Bible’s accuracy. For example, for many years King David was believed by some to be a fictional character. But recently a composition from a king of Syria referring to the “house of David” was discovered at Tel Dan. This writing provides tangible evidence that ancient rulers indeed recognized the dynasty of David in Judah.
Another reason for confidence in the Bible’s authenticity is its internal consistency. The Bible is actually a compilation of 66 books written over a period of 2,000 years by more than 40 different authors, and yet there is a unified message and a striking theological coherence—something that clearly speaks of God’s guidance throughout the process of writing, transmit¬ting and assembling the Biblical texts.
It is important to remember that the original Biblical documents no longer exist. We are dependent on copies, and copyists can make mistakes. However, scholars have carefully tracked the accuracy of ancient manuscripts from different centuries, and their consistency gives us good reason to be confident in the Bibles we read today. Furthermore, rigorous standards were applied to determine the canon—both by the Jews, who determined the collection of books that make up the Old Testament Scriptures, and by the early church, which decided the books to be included in the New Testament.
Taken from NIV Quest Study Bible

Shirley Anne

No VAT

The Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ
The Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Value added tax,.,…in case you are not from the UK. VAT is a tax levied on any transaction involving the exchange of money here in the UK. As far as the purchasing of goods was concerned it used to be referred as purchase tax. As with any tax funds received are used to finance the various needs of the nation but though many people may grumble about such things they do understand the necessity for it. Nobody likes paying taxes I suppose. People like getting things for free, nobody refuses a free gift do they? Oh yes they do! Somehow a free gift means a hidden price to pay, an ulterior motive or agenda. Surprisingly there are such things as free gifts, we have all received them at some point in our lives. How many of you receive birthday presents? The catch here is that we in turn return the compliment to the giver at the appropriate time making it not really free at all yet if there were not any catches, no price to pay, no VAT or anything else some people still remain suspicious! There are those who expect everything for nothing thinking the world owes them a living they beg, borrow or steal rather than work for it. They don’t pay VAT, they don’t pay for anything if they can avoid it. Little do they realise there is a price to pay eventually. I have offered many people a free gift though not I but The Lord, I am simply a messenger. That free gift is rejected more often than it is received. It is the free gift of everlasting life through Jesus Christ and it is free, nothing to pay for it has all been paid for by Jesus’ death on the cross. People think they have to earn it to receive it so they reject it. Jesus asks they come as they are and simply believe. People think their access to Heaven is automatic…..it isn’t. It is only possible through Jesus Christ. He paid the price for each of us. All we have to do is repent and ask Jesus to be our personal Saviour, all free, nothing to pay, no VAT or anything else! What a wonderful gift is that! This Christmas why not receive the free gift of life, the only gift that will last forever…….

Shirley Anne

Never ending story

No not the movie…..life! Do you ever feel you are on a treadmill going nowhere? Yes you do things, you have a routine, you change your routine as often as you feel but nothing really changes does it? Recently retired and when working having purpose really meant nothing either, it simply meant I had something to occupy my time. I still have things to occupy my time, it is simply a different routine. We set goals in life or just live for the moment or maybe we do both but in the end everything we do eventually leads us to the next for we are never satisfied. It is like food for our souls, it is our thoughts which spurs us on, they are what keep us moving forward and ever seeking something that in fact we seldom find if we are truthful. Life can be very satisfying and rewarding but none of it really lasts. We aim to satisfy our physical needs first and foremost and neglect our spiritual needs though the two are inseparable, at least whilst we live. We are driven by what we think but we can change what we think. If we are comfortable with the changes we continue in them or we can make an attempt to do so but in the end if we are not happy we revert. No matter what we do in life, what choices we make along the way can we really say that we’ve been happy one hundred percent of the time? Our thoughts might tell us otherwise and in reality we know we are never fully happy, never fully satisfied with our lot. So our lives are a never-ending struggle with ourselves and our situations. Some resign themselves to never achieving their hopes and dreams and others think they’ve hit the jackpot when they think they have. It is all an illusion, a passing fancy and we have to make the most of it until we die. How often have you heard the expression ‘Life is for living’? Did it have an effect on your choices thereafter? We can but do nothing else but live out our lives as best we can and be happy and contented. In this world there is nothing else.

Story of My Life (album)
Story of My Life (album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Ecclesiastes 1

Everything is meaningless

The words of the Teacher, son of David, king of Jerusalem:

‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’
    says the Teacher.
‘Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.’

What do people gain from all their labours
    at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
    but the earth remains for ever.
The sun rises and the sun sets,
    and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
    and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
    ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,
    yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
    there they return again.
All things are wearisome,
    more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
    nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
    ‘Look! This is something new’?
It was here already, long ago;
    it was here before our time.
11 No one remembers the former generations,
    and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
    by those who follow them.

It is a never-ending story……..until we die

Shirley Anne

For all have sinned

Romans 3:9-18

No one is righteous

9 What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin.
10 As it is written:
There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.’
13 ‘Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practise deceit.’
‘The poison of vipers is on their lips.’
14 ‘Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.’
15 ‘Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 ruin and misery mark their ways,
17 and the way of peace they do not know.’
18 ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Psalm 14

(For the director of music. Of David.)

1 The fool says in his heart,
‘There is no God.’
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.
2 The Lord looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.

Ecclesiastes 7:20

20 Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous,
no one who does what is right and never sins.

Some realise these things and endeavour to do something about it but the truth is they cannot. By ourselves we are helpless but for those who trust in the Lord God and in Jesus Christ there is hope. There is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. Jesus is the Name.

I was watching the appalling events which took place on Monday evening last week when a suicide bomber took his own life and the lives of many around him, injuring many more too. It was considered an act of terrorism by the perpetrator as with many other acts of a similar nature which have taken place in these past few years. ‘All done in the name of religion’ is a frequent expression used by those who pass comment. Probably true but based on a false religion and totally against the will of God, the Only True God, not a god of wickedness and evil but a God who is loving, kind, merciful, faithful, righteous, holy and who gave His Son to save all those who repent and turn to Him. I pray for those who have suffered because of evilness in this and other ways but I pray more for the lost souls who follow a false god in the hope they will be rewarded for their evil deeds. They will face their Creator and have a lot of explaining to do.

Through Jesus we are saved and we turn away from and resist the evilness that is sin………

Shirley Anne

A work in progress

No matter what we do in life we have to learn or have learned how to do it. We don’t come into this world full of the knowledge and capability to do anything, we learn it. We get wiser, or should do, as we go along. One of my favourite responses I give (in jest) when asked how I know the things I know about doing electrical work is that I make it up as I go along. Well obviously I don’t else the work would be shoddy, unregulated and unsafe and my reputation for being a good worker would be lost. We have to learn everything or get nowhere. For many years my life had been empty without the knowledge of my Saviour. I had been very resistant to the belief that there was a God, I just didn’t want to know about such things. When asked if I believed I would respond by saying no and I don’t want to. Because I had no knowledge I couldn’t believe and yet God Himself points out in Scripture that we are without excuse as the evidence is all around us in Creation. Many simply do not ask of themselves where it all came from and some have endeavoured to search for rational and natural explanations. The truth of the matter is that before Creation there wasn’t any nature or reason, they came about, as with all things, through Creation. The next big question they fail to ask of themselves is who created it all if it was indeed created? God points out in Scripture that all things that were made and have their existence came about from nothing! God is saying that He made matter from something that wasn’t previously there. God isn’t believed because they want to know who made Him. The truth is that God has always been. When I became a Christian believer all those years ago I will be honest and say that although I was searching for answers to these questions and others I had also been searching for God. If we search wholeheartedly for God He will be found.  ‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’ (Jeremiah 29:13). However, that wasn’t the end of the matter. I had found the truth that is God, I found the truth that is Jesus Christ and He my Saviour and invited Him into my heart. I was saved! Saved from eternal damnation and I didn’t need to do anything myself except to simply believe in Jesus’ saving power. Now I could have rested on my laurels  and did nothing more but once you discover the truth about God I tell you, you want to know more and more is revealed to those who seek it. I am a work in progress, saved but in need of refinement….and that will continue till the day I die when all will finally be revealed…….

Isaiah 40:5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’

Revelation 15:4 Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.’

The message is simple….God through His Word, that is Jesus Christ, created all things. He loves you so much He came in the flesh to die for all your sins (wrongdoing, rebellion, yes, even unbelief), paying the penalty for them and setting you free..forever. Are you ready to accept this free gift of love?

Shirley Anne