Tell me how

During my life as a Christian, well to be more precise during the thirty years since becoming a Christian I have often been asked how does a person become a Christian. Some ask why can’t I just believe in God? In truth Jesus Christ is God but some have difficulty with that. Then I was often told by people that they didn’t believe in ‘religion’, whatever they meant by that. My reply was that I don’t either! I was playing devil’s advocate for I knew what they really meant, they had no use for a God. Yet having said they were not religious they asked me why I believed. When I told them I didn’t believe in religion I added that I believe in relationship. I believe in having a relationship with God and not in religion per se. Religion could never save me but God could. Why do I need saving and from what? I will let the following lesson explain…. How Do I Have a Relationship with God? (Matthew 18:21–35 …..and do read this passage if you can) The Problem
Satan, the great deceiver, clothed himself as a serpent, one of God’s good creatures, and set out to trick Adam and Eve into disobeying their good and gracious God. After creating Adam and Eve, God had told them not to eat of the fruit of a certain tree in the Garden of Eden. But Satan suggested that God wasn’t being honest when he warned of the results of eating the forbidden fruit. The great deceiver’s ploy succeeded, and Adam and Eve willfully rejected God and his promise of life together in the garden.
The Solution
Even before Adam and Eve sinned, God had a plan to get people back into a relationship with him. When he replaced their clothes of fig leaves with the skins of animals, he signaled something important—it would take the blood of another to cover the sins of humankind. God’s plan began with the founding of a brand-new nation through which he would reveal himself and his plan to restore humankind. For more than 1,600 years, every Biblical story of the chosen people of Israel would point to the coming of the solution. God’s solution to the problem of sin was made complete through the sacrifice of his Son. Here is the decision a person should make from the heart, placed into a prayer of acceptance to God. Dear God, I can’t, but you can. I believe in Jesus, who is God. I believe he died and rose from the dead. I place my faith in Christ to make me right with you and give me eternal life. I have no other plan but to have faith and to trust you. I am doing a 180 today and pointing my life toward you. I will no longer run away from you, but toward you. Then there comes an outward declaration to the world—a way for us to demonstrate our faith decision: “I profess you with my mouth, out loud for others to know where I stand. And I publicly express my full devotion to you through baptism.”                                                                      KEY VERSE
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)                                                                                                                       KEY IDEA
I believe a person comes into a right relationship with God by Christ’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.                                                                                             KEY APPLICATION:                                                                              What difference does this make in the way I live?
We seek to please God because of what he has done for us, not to earn a relationship with him.
We walk in grace – and offer grace to others. Let us not forget Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant recorded in Matthew 18:21–35. It would be wrong and inconsistent for us to refuse to offer grace and forgiveness to someone else in light of the grace and forgiveness God has shown to us.
Taken from NIV Believe

Shirley Anne

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Think on this

Easter Meditation (Isaiah 52:2–3)

It is nearly Easter, and we will hang crosses on the walls of our homes and churches. How do we think of it when it’s a decoration? With all of our present-day associations with the cross, an object of Christian identification and adoration, it is almost impossible to see the cross for what it actually was. And when we fail to understand the cross, we fail to properly understand what our Lord suffered on our behalf: shame.

Jesus despised the cross. To even speak of the cross in his time was disgusting. It was a punishment reserved for the worst of the nation’s criminals. It was designed to bring about the utmost torture to lawbreakers.

So to say that Jesus “endured the cross, scorning its shame,” is not to say “poor Jesus.” It is to say that Jesus loved us so much and was so submitted to the Father that he not only endured torment, but also public humiliation. And when it was over, he was exalted to the highest place of dignity and honour in the universe. A believer’s prayer Jesus, Lord of glory, you came to earth and took the form of a servant and willingly suffered an unimaginable death on the cross. You died for me, a sinner. You paid the penalty for my sins. Such amazing love is utterly incomprehensible to me. Help me to understand that the path to glory often requires a sojourn through difficulties and challenges, but that you are always with me. I seek to follow you in all my ways. I know that serving you is true freedom. In your name I pray. Amen.

Taken from Once a Day 40 Days to Easter

So what will you be celebrating? Chocolate eggs, Easter bunnies? Both have nothing to do with Easter nice as they may be. I love chocolate but more importantly I love Jesus my Saviour without whom I would perish but with whom I have a life everlasting and reconciliation with God.

Shirley Anne

Rock Solid

Rock Solid (Luke 6:47–48)

The futuristic Space Needle spikes from the Seattle skyline. Stretching approximately 605 feet into the sky, its spire pierces the clouds that often veil the earthquake-prone city. Although its height can seem frightening, especially when the Needle sways, it is actually safer than many tall buildings. The architects who designed the stunning structure kept one principle firmly in mind: the larger and higher the building, the stronger the base needs to be.

The Space Needle’s foundation is 30 feet deep, weighs 5,850 tons and contains 250 tons of reinforcing steel. The foundation is as heavy as the Needle, enabling the airy structure to withstand a wind velocity of 200 miles per hour. In 2001 it withstood an earthquake of 6.8 on the Richter scale. It is estimated that it can endure even greater shocks because the architects doubled the 1962 building code requirements.

Jesus, the master builder of strong, resilient women, likens our spiritual foundation to a building with a strong, immovable base. In his analogy, he tells of a wise builder who “laid the foundation on rock” (verse 48). We know that sooner or later, floods will come in one form or another: illness, financial problems, a relationship breakdown, societal calamities, terrorism or natural disasters. If we don’t take Jesus’ words to heart and put them into practice, we are on shaky ground. But if we build our spiritual lives on what he says, we can withstand anything that shakes us.

And what strong words had Jesus given his followers? Love your enemies and be good to them (see verses 27–36). Exchange kindness for anger, silence for gossip, a sweet spirit for bitterness. Don’t judge others but accept them as God has accepted you. Forgive, because you have been forgiven (see verse 37). Be generous, and generosity will come back to you when you most need it (see verse 38). Be more concerned with your own purity than about the purity of others (see verses 41–42). Care about the goodness of your heart because your words will reveal, no matter how good an actress you are, what’s really inside (see verses 44–45). The rock solid foundation isn’t an abstract notion. The “rocks,” ironically, are a soft heart and a gentle spirit. And those can only come from the Rock of Ages, Jesus Christ.

Oh and by the way it applies to men too!

Taken from NIV Women’s Devotional Bible

Shirley Anne

A fresh start

A Fresh Start (Isaiah 53:4–12)

“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 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

We are now into the second month of the year. For some it will be their first ‘second month’ and for most it will be just one of many that they have lived through. Yet whoever they are, whoever we are we all know that it could also be the last ‘second month’ of our lives. What then? What have we to look forward to? Oblivion? Re-incarnation? Hell? Heaven? Do we cease to exist beyond the grave? For those of us who believe in God, believe in Jesus Christ and what he accomplished on the cross for ourselves and for all who would believe there is hope. There is the assurance of life eternal. Christ died for us all so that if we believe we have the assurance our sins are forgiven, that we are made holy, that we are made righteous before God and that we are welcomed into His kingdom. If you don’t already know Jesus, if you have no relationship with the Father then make this the year of fresh beginnings, a fresh start. There is no need to wait, just come as you are and call upon God to reveal Himself to you. Let Jesus take your burden of guilt and shame, your misdeeds and unbelief and be transformed by his love. You can know this much right now………God loves YOU. Why not take the time and get to know how much He loves you through Jesus Christ who died for YOU.

Shirley Anne

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

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