Whining Versus Encouragement

Spring has sprung, to quote a long oft-quoted poet, and my heart sings in anticipation of how God will reveal Himself this summer. Oh, I know He lives when I see the green haze of new growth on farmers’ fields. He makes each day a new day for us to pick up where we left off the day before, or begin anew, whatever is needed so we can walk as His holy children.

At a recent weekend event, we were challenged to go seven entire days without complaining. Have you ever tried to last through one whole day, never mind seven, with no whining, no complaining? This is hard. We are perpetual complainers; aren’t we?

We whine when we have a pain in our leg, forgetting to thank God that we have a leg to complain about. We whine that our hot lunch is cold when so many people in the world are lucky to get lunch at all. Our complaints extend to how tired we are after a productive day of writing when we should be thankful that the words flowed so well.

The Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:14 says, “Do everything without complaining or arguing.” Then when he writes to the Thessalonians in chapter 5, verse 11, he says, “Encourage one another and build each other up…  Instead we complain that our glasses are scratched or our shoes have a hole in them. I don’t know about you, but people who spend their time expressing the misery in their lives but nothing else, soon lose my attention.  I listen for the words that say they are content with their lot in life, thankful that they have glasses or shoes, but they complain that their oatmeal was cold that morning.

I recently read a story to my grandchildren about a family of rabbits who lived through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Not once did they hear Jesus complain about the way he was treated. Not one word of whining was heard as the soldiers lashed Him with that cat of nine tails. When they demanded He be crucified, He never objected. When they pounded those rusty nails through His innocent hands, He asked His Father to forgive them.

I don’t know about you but Jesus is my example for gracious living, for enjoying the benefits of getting up in the morning and looking out my window to the absence of snow. He sets the tone for how I will receive my neighbor who only wants to talk when I have a writing deadline to meet. His example makes seven days of no whining possible.

I challenge you. Try not whining…and you will be surprised how often you do…for seven whole days. If you catch yourself, you start again at day 1. Pretty soon you will discover that you’ve got a glass that’s half full instead of half empty. You will find that your day shines brighter and that love fills your heart more often than hate or discontent. Have a great day, for the next seven days, and then seven days after that. Not whining but thankful.

For further study: 1Tim.4:12-16; 2 im.1:3; 1 Thess.5:9-11; Heb. 12:1

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Win a Copy of Redemptive Justice

What happens when truth is perverted to suit the circumstances? Christine Smith, owner of Finders Keepers Investigative Services, and Jeremy Goodman, owner of Goodman Investigations, discover the answer when they decide to help a woman recover her children from a Mennonite village in Mexico. Drug running and human trafficking are justified by Church Elders who place money and control above the people they are supposed to lead. Christine’s new faith explores the contradictions in the search for Redemptive Justice.

Prologue

Long stringy hair fell forward covering her face. The child wanted no one to see her tears, especially those who taunted her, criticizing her lack of ability to articulate even the simplest words. She hated school but most of all she detested recess. The bullies controlled the yard, waiting for someone to torment.

She settled farther into the corner of the small closet. This had become her safe place. Her solitude, however, left room for the dark thoughts. You’re worthless, they whispered. Your mother loathed you. She couldn’t stand being near you. That’s why she ran off. 

Sarah stared at her feet, wet tracks sliding down her face to the brown muslin dress she wore. She slid a paring knife from her pocket. She turned it over and slowly poked her finger on the sharp blade. Red liquid oozed from the cut. Using her blood, she sketched a line on the bare wall next to her. The appendage found refuge in her mouth.

Her bottom hurt where she sat on the rough-hewn plank floor. She closed her eyes. Images of night time betrayal surfaced. Her eyes flew open again. Pushing the long sleeve to her elbow, she surveyed the scars that decorated her arms. Her father liked to use a hot poker when she didn’t meet his expectations. She coated another digit with blood and then began to draw some more. Soon, the stick figures of her mother and brother adorned the wall.

The bell rang. The girl jumped. She yanked her sleeves down to cover the recent wounds. Waiting until nearby footsteps grew faint; she opened the door an inch at a time. Undetected, she crept from her hiding place and scampered to the classroom. She scrambled to her seat as soon as she crossed the threshold.

“Sarah.” The loud voice drew everyone’s attention. “You’re late.”

She looked at the voice of authority standing at the front of the room. His scowl sent shivers down her arms. “Sorry, sir.” Her thin voice echoed in the silent room of children, all trained to obey unconditionally. The belt bruised their skin at school and everyone feared the same when they got home afterward. She stared at her desktop, tracing the etched ‘stupid’ that someone had carved just for her. Hopelessness, not a familiar word, but her sense of a dismal sameness, an awareness of never escaping, overwhelmed her.

The day dragged as her teacher taught reading and how to spell from the Bible. Each student had their own book of scriptures, but outside of school, flipping the pages was never permitted. Only the adults in their community could interpret the High German language inside. They made sure all the passages about obedience and, for the women, submission, were read every Sunday. Although she was fluent, she spoke Plattdeutsch with all the other kids walking to and from school.

Today, the passage described love. That puzzled her. Love was what her father said when he visited at night. But the Bible described it as something good, a word seldom spoken in her world. I wish I was brave enough.

It wasn’t the first time she considered ending her life. I am worth nothing except to cook and clean for the family. I don’t care about the whole lot of them. The rebellious thought caused a frown to appear on her angular face, 

“Sarah, pay attention.” He shouted the words, the venom dripping from his lips. He’d make sure her father understood her failings. Rebuke happened often when she got home. 

The girl stood beside her desk to repeat the end of day prayer. Sarah’s thin body shivered. Home was a place of dread, a never-ending list of work to do. Supper took a great deal of preparation on the wood heated stove. She was the only one to do it since her mother left.

Her soul hungered for an excuse not to go there. However, her feet shuffled absentmindedly along the one dusty street in their small village. The uncluttered grey walls of the house appeared all too quickly. She saw her father before he detected her tiny frame as she entered through the gate. When he lifted his head, she shuddered. He motioned her toward the house; his angry glare telling her she’d better not be slow with the evening meal.

The child sighed as she pushed the wooden door inward with her foot. Brick walls encompassed four rooms. The larger one contained kitchen furnishings with some open shelves for dishes and staples like flour and salt. Vegetables lay beneath the floor in a root cellar which also stored barrels of preserved meat. The other three were bed chambers, one for her, one for her brother, and one for her father. When her mother left, that room became his alone.

She flexed her shoulders to ease the proverbial ache and tiredness. Exhaustion spoke of little sleep and restless nights. Her bones ached but … I gotta get going. She’d make stew. Her father complained not so much when she cooked that dish. After gathering the supplies she needed, Sarah began by stoking the fire and added a couple of logs. Her arms strained with the weight of the rough wood but there was no one to help.

I wish I had a gun. She emitted a long slow breath. Nobody cares. She remembered the weapon she’d seen her father use to hunt wild boar down by the river. It was so long and too heavy. Her reflections tumbled over themselves as she scraped the peel from potatoes and carrots she’d carried upstairs. God, are you real? She looked heavenward. So far away. Is that the heaven the Bible talks about? He doesn’t listen either

Her stomach rolled around mixing the bile into a bitter reflux. She gagged but nothing came out. She was used to the emptiness but she dreamed of more. Sarah drew in an exasperated breath. Life was about marriage as soon as she turned thirteen and babies after that. The girls in her village worked from sun up to sun down and sometimes long after. The boys were waited upon, favoured as were the men.

She couldn’t afford to be sick. But she was anyway. Her head throbbed as she stirred the stew. Stepping away, she set bowls on the table, with cups of milk. In the centre, she placed a loaf of bread baked early that morning before school began. The smell of the simmering food forced her insides to rebel again as if they wanted to expel the stuff before she’d eaten it. She brushed at the lone tear that left a trail down her hot face. Maybe second grade will be different.

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Immortality For All

 

Beth Moore, in her latest Bible study on James, states, “Let’s live as those who cannot die,” when she talks about Jesus’ intervention through an angel in freeing Peter from prison. I have to wonder, “Do I live as one who cannot die?” and “What would that look like?”

Christians know that if they’ve accepted Christ’s finished work on the cross, they will enter eternity as soon as they exit this earthly shell we call a body. We cannot die. The apostle Paul writes in Philippians 1:21 “For to me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” But do we live that way? For most of us, fear of the unknown or fear of consequences stops us from venturing into avenues of ministry when the Lord calls. We see ourselves in all our mortality, afraid to endanger our life and yet, the Lord promises us that whether we get to remain on earth a little longer or are taken to be with Him, we win…we live.

If I were to live as one who cannot die, would I say yes more often when faced with an opportunity to share Jesus with someone? Would I talk to that homeless person sitting in the doorway over there, and would I walk the street at night looking for prostitutes and drug dealers hoping for an opportunity to lead them to Christ…if that’s what Jesus placed on my heart? Maybe I’d follow through when an opportunity arose to house a homeless teen. Or maybe I’d obey a little more quickly when God asks me to give an outlaw biker a cold glass of water.

During the formation of the early church, the disciples knew that many in authority looked to stamp the effects of Jesus Christ right off the face of the earth, just as some would do today if they could. That didn’t stop them. Peter, even when he knew that Herod had killed James, the brother of John, kept on preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ. Consequently, he was imprisoned, chained between two guards, awaiting a death sentence.

Paul, once known as Saul, a Pharisee who persecuted the early church, was imprisoned many times. He kept on preaching, teaching, and praying for the believers. He knew he could not die so he lived with that in mind. He knew that one day he’d be in heaven walking side by side with his Lord. His plan was to take as many people with him as he could. He was building treasure in heaven.

God does not want us to walk around as defeated Christians. He wants us to be victorious, to act victorious, since it was He who defeated death in the first place. This is good news. This places a responsibility on our shoulders to make sure that everyone we come in contact with knows this also. The Lord of heaven and earth offers life to all who will acknowledge that He is King of kings and Lord of lords. With that life we can build treasure in heaven, just as Paul and Peter did while they walked the earth. Let’s live as those who cannot die, victorious because Jesus gained the victory, rejoicing because this is happy news to be shared with one and all.

For further study: Rom.2:7; 1 Cor.15:53-54; 2 Tim.1:10

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God’s Timing

As I drive through the Missouri countryside, I catch a glimpse here and there of fall color. There are some reds and yellows but they, at this time of year, are scattered amongst the greens of summer. I know in the next couple of weeks, the color will increase and that’s a wonderful thing, but I also know that this will herald in the cold winter months. Yuck.

My head spins with deadlines ahead, articles to write, workshops to attend, and commitments to family. We’ve just completed 3 months on the road, a month at home, and now another 3 weeks of traveling, and while I love the activity, there are times when sitting at the feet of my Savior is much preferred. Today is one of those days.

God brought a reality to mind this morning during my study and devotional time. Everything is in His time, not mine. His timing is perfect because He can see the big picture. I can’t. Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 tells us that there is a time for this or that but then in verse 11, it says, “God has made everything beautiful in its time. He also set eternity in the hearts of men… It’s all about God, what He does, and when He does it. I can agonize over deadlines but, as always happens, the work will get done as long as I spend time with Him first, keep Him in the picture, and stop trying to do it all by myself.

A lot of writers feel that their life of writing is a solitary profession, and in some ways it is. But if they’d remember that God is part of it, they’d know that He sits in the next chair collaborating, sifting, and planting ideas. Each book contains just the insights He wants to implant in each of my reader’s minds, just at the time when they need to hear them. Isn’t that astonishing?

He’s enthroned above the heavens and yet, He knows when it’s the right time to teach us this or that, to bring this person to our door or to the other end of a cell phone. He allows events to happen at the very moment when they will either teach us to look to Him alone or turn us away from Him (our choice) and He knows which avenue we’ll take. 

Am I rambling? God’s timing is both encouraging and confusing at the same time. I feel encouraged that God knows me so well and yet, I wonder, “Why now?” Those are the times when I need to search His word, seek His face, and spend a lot of time with Him. “Oh…I guess that’s why.” Amazing.

For further study: Ex.2:23-25; Ps.74:10-18; Ps.75:2; John 11:5-7; 2 Pet. 3:8-9

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Electronic Friendships – Are They Enough?

It’s better for us to eat a Twinkie with a friend than to eat broccoli alone.” This is a quote I heard recently when studying the idea that God has created us with a connection requirement. Yet our world teaches us superficial love. We’ve become increasingly more self-reliant, depending on no one for anything as the electronic age puts distance between relationships.

Dr. Carolyn Anderson, an ophthalmic surgeon, entrepreneur, and speaker as well as a columnist, recorded some findings about friendship, the real face to face kind. I quote this from a recent blog. “One study found that people with the most friendships decreased their risk of early death by 60% over a nine year period; that people with a number of close friends live on average 7-8 years longer than those who don’t maintain strong social connections. Harvard Medical School found that the more friends a woman had, the less likely she was to develop physical impairments as she aged, and the more likely she was to lead a joyful life. The loss of a close friend is equivalent to the risk factor of smoking.”

According to the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, a sense of being loved, cared for, and listened to fosters a sense of meaning and purpose, reduces stress-induced wear and tear on the body, and lowers heart rates, blood pressures, and stress hormones. Researchers estimate that, within a given time period, individuals who lack social networks are two to three times more likely to die from any cause than people who have lots of relatives and close friends.

In a recent article on adult health by Mayo Clinic staff members, they stated that good friends prevent loneliness, increase your sense of belonging and purpose, boost happiness, reduce stress, improve self-worth, help you cope with traumas such as divorce, serious illness, job loss, or the death of a loved one, and encourage a person to change unhealthy lifestyle habits such as excessive drinking and lack of exercise.

In the book of Hebrews, chapter 10:24-25 we are admonished to encourage one another and in 1 Peter 4:7-8 we are called to love one another deeply. When God could very well read our minds, we are told to ask and seek Him for His answers to life’s problems. Relationship…God wants one with us and He wants us to have lots of relationships with others, especially those who are also His children. That’s why we should go to church, get involved, and even join a small group.

Kids today send anywhere from 10-100 texts a day but rarely have a face to face conversation with anyone. Even the boy/girl bantering back and forth with young teens is superficial, done through texting. Medical research proves that we were created with a need for real friendships, real face to face encounters, and with the more people the better. Their research proves that “It’s better to eat a Twinkie with someone than to eat broccoli alone.

For further study: Matt.5:23-4; Rom.12:19-21; Philemon 1:8-9

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Meet Lorana Hoopes

I’d like to introduce you to author Lorana Hoopes. 

Lorana Hoopes is an English teacher in the Pacific Northwest where she lives with her husband and three children. She is often seen at the local dojo where she enjoys kickboxing to stay in shape. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, writing, and playing with her children.  She is an active member of her church choir and loves to sing. She also has a love for theater and has directed and performed in many plays both at schools and in the community.

Originally from Texas, Lorana’s conservative views were formed at a very early age when she discovered that her maternal grandmother was informed that if she didn’t have an abortion that she could die. Her grandmother’s choice for life allowed Lorana’s mother and therefore Lorana to be born and fostered an appreciation for all life. Lorana was a member of the FCA in her high school and also gave a presentation on Creationism and the dangers of abortion to her classmates.

Lorana has since become a prayer warrior with Human Coalition. You can join her team Heartbeats to pray with her. She has also started writing a pro-life blog. Lorana’s wish is that her children grow up in a world that revere’s life at the moment it begins, conception.

  1. How old were you when you wrote your first real story and what was it about? I think I was 12, and I was writing a story about a camp experience I had with a mysterious sound. I thought it was good then, but I read it years later and cringed.
  2. What’s your biggest writing challenge? Time. Currently, I work full time and have three small children, so my writing is generally pushed to about 9pm  at night. Then I’m tired and can’t get out what I want to say. I have three book ideas in my head right now and no time to write lol.
  3. What prompted you to write your first book? I was watching a woman wave her poster about loving her reproductive rights as I got my daughter out of the car. I looked at my three kids and was saddened by how people don’t realize abortion is killing a baby. I didn’t want to write it at first because I felt like the book wouldn’t be very popular in today’s culture, but God kept laying the words on my heart until I finally gave in.
  4. What is the biggest challenge to publication? Publishing isn’t a problem. I enjoy being able to self-publish, but getting the message out and advertising my book is hard. Most book tours don’t work for Christian fiction. The market is small and needs to be targeted. I haven’t figured that part out yet.
  5. How important do you think social media is today with regards to you as a writer? I’d like to think it’s not, as I’d rather be writing, but I think it is. People want to know you before they’ll jump in and read your books, so it is important to be out there talking to people about things other than your books all the time.
  6. Which writers inspire you? Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti inspire me, even though they don’t write Christian romance. My hope is that my characters feel as real as theirs did to me.
  7. What’s the most helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received? To make an outline. I wrote my first three books without planning much out, and while they were good, I felt like I really improved them when I gave them an outline with problems and solutions at certain points along the way. Also, hearing that characters should shift in chapters. That really helped me too.
  8. Outside of writing, what accomplishment are you most proud? I teach English, and some of my students really struggle with writing. When they pass standardized tests, it is a good feeling. I’m not really a fan of standardized testing, but I know how stressful it is for kids and I try hard to prepare them for it. It is rewarding when they get it.
  9. Tell us about your book. (Title and story blurb.) My heartbeats series actually has three books. The Power of Prayer tells the story of Callie – a focused lawyer who has her whole life planned out until she is left at the altar. Her inability to cope leads her into making poor choices and she nearly loses her job. Forced to take some time off, she meets JD, a strong man of God, who begins to plant the seeds of God’s love, but Callie is not in a place to hear them. When she returns to her normal life, she finds out that one of her poor choices has left her pregnant. Her fiancé, who she had taken back in a moment of weakness, doesn’t want the baby and pushes her to have an abortion, but after research and the story of a sidewalk prophet, Sandra, she is unable to. After her fiancé leaves for the final time, Callie realizes JD is the kind of man she wants to spend her life with, but she has no way to find him. She must rely on the power of prayer.

Where It All Began is my second book, and it tells the story of Sandra. Sandra was training to be a nurse and her boyfriend was working to become a doctor. When she ends up pregnant, he convinces her that they are too busy to raise a child right now, and while Sandra doesn’t want to have an abortion, she feels that she has no other choice. After the procedure, she spirals into depression, turning to alcohol and losing her relationship anyway. Then she meets Henry Dobbs, a Christian man who shares God’s love with her, but she wonders if his God would ever forgive her? When Hearts Collide is technically the third book though all the books can be read out of order. It follows Amanda, one of Sandra’s prayer warriors to college where she meets Jess, a toxic, guarded girl with a troubled past. Amanda falls for the wrong guy, narrowly escaping a tragedy, which brings the girls closer together. Then Amanda must be there for Jess when she finds out she’s pregnant. Will she get her happily ever after? My latest book is going to start a new series. When Love Returns is the story of Presley and Brandon who were best friends in high school until Morgan stole Brandon’s heart. Now, five years later, fate has thrown them together again, but will they be able to move past old hurts or will their stubbornness keep them apart forever?

  1. What activity (cause, charity, or organization) consumes your time when you’re away from the keyboard? My church. I recently joined the worship team where I sing, so every other Tuesday night I am practicing and every other Sunday, I am there for three hours leading worship. I love it though.

    The Power of Prayer: https://www.amazon.com/Power-Prayer-Heartbeats-Novel-ebook/dp/B01EKL9G3G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1495139821&sr=8-1&keywords=lorana+hoopes

    Where It All Began: https://www.amazon.com/Where-All-Began-Heartbeats-Novel-ebook/dp/B01LS2S7Y4/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1495139855&sr=8-2&keywords=lorana+hoopes

    When Hearts Collide: https://www.amazon.com/When-Hearts-Collide-Heartbeats-Novel-ebook/dp/B01MQOZQB9/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1495139855&sr=8-3&keywords=lorana+hoopes

     

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Conduits of Salt and Light

Jesus Teaches about Salt and Light

This morning I decided to look up the word conduit. In Webster’s online dictionary, a conduit is a pipe or channel for conveying fluids, such as water. Or it can be a tube or duct for enclosing electric wires or cable. A conduit is a means by which something is transmitted. For example, an arms dealer served as a conduit for intelligence data.

We might, if we were a teacher, be a conduit of information, or a conduit of academic excellence. A pastor is a conduit of spiritual excellence and information, if he is a good one, but he can also be a conduit of false teachings, if he chooses to step outside the Biblical accounts and teachings.

Have you ever seen yourself as a conduit? Do you allow something to flow through you into the lives of the people around you? Jesus, in Matthew 5, in verses 13-16, tells us that we are the salt and light of the earth. He said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (NIV)

Jesus expects us to allow Him to flow through us into the lives of the people with whom we come in contact, the people He places in our path. He wants us to be their seasoning, a preservative of His values. He wants us to allow his light, His Shekinah glory, to shine through us to allow others to see that we serve a living God who loves them. He wants others to see His glory in the work we do and the deeds we do for others because we love Him.

We are a conduit, if we are living as Christ asks us to. When we go into a dark place, people see us everywhere because we are a conduit of His light, and when others curb their language around us, we are a conduit of His values. Does that scare you? It should place upon you a great sense of responsibility…especially if you claim to be a Christian.

By our actions, we can be a conduit that turns people away from Jesus. If we choose to hide His light by acting inappropriately or by continuing to walk in the dark places, then we are a conduit of hypocrisy. If our language and actions are no different than those of the sinful people we hang with, we preserve nothing of Jesus’ values.

Take a moment to assess your life. Notice the times when you are the perfect conduit of Christ’s values and glory and then take notice of those times when you fail miserably. It’s at those times when He loves you the most as you kneel before Him, ask forgiveness, and strive to do better the next time. Today is the beginning of another opportunity to get it right. Go in the power of the Holy Spirit and shine.

For further study: Lev. 2:13; Mk.9:50; Luke 14:34

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Expect a Blessing

I looked up the word expectation in the dictionary and wasn’t surprised by what I found. Expectation is the act or the state of expecting, an expectant mental attitude, something we look forward to, or a prospect of a future good or profit. Christians have expectations. They expect honor, security, prosperity, and freedom from fear. These are called blessings and most believe that they come from God. However, there is a proviso.

In verse one of Psalm 112, the Psalmist who remains anonymous says, “How joyful (blessed) are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands.” (NLT) Actually, there are two provisos. If we EXPECT to receive blessings, then we must first fear the Lord or show Him due respect and position in our lives, and obey His commands. And these are only some of the blessings.

The picture that comes to mind when I think of expectation and blessing is one that women and men all over the world have experienced at one time or another in their life, a new baby. Whether naturally born or adopted, we call ourselves expectant parents as we look down the road toward that moment when we will hold that little bundle in our arms. We forget all the pain, weight gain, hoops we’ve leaped through, everything, when we finally have the blessing in front of us. At that moment, our expectations are everything we envisioned. Aren’t they?

Can you see blessing as finished joy in this context? I can and I did, with every child that we were given and one that we will meet in heaven. Blessings from God make us feel as if we’ve been showered with His assurance that we’re on the right track. But it is a direct result of our deep commitment to Him and what He asks of us. Little bundles of joy, in the humanly realm, didn’t just happen. We had to be committed, and follow some guidelines in order to produce or receive a healthy child.

Sometimes we expect God to gift us with His blessings just because we exist. We shake our fist when our expectations are not met. Yet we’ve done nothing to fulfill our part of the covenant.

Jesus tells us we are blessed in many situations that, if someone should ask, we wouldn’t consider a blessing at all. But, when we look at the alternative, and how our walk with God could be affected, we see how blessed we are in our circumstances. It’s all about eternity, and relationship. If we have assurance of an eternal home with Jesus because we’ve asked Him to be top priority in our lives, and we’re building a relationship with God, so we walk closely with Him, then we have been blessed indeed.

For further study: Rom. 8:19; Phil.1:20; Heb. 10:27

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Trials Now, Blessings Later

Charles Stanley, in his Handbook for Christian Living, stated, “Becoming a child of God will cost you nothing because it cost Christ everything. However, becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ could possibly cost a great deal.” In the book of Luke, chapter 6, verses 20-23, Jesus is talking to his disciples. He turns to them and says, “God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours. God blesses you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied. God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh. What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man.  When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way.” (NLT)

What does it mean to be a disciple? Jesus was giving these instructions to His disciples and He doesn’t sugarcoat it. He doesn’t make discipleship sound as if it is a bed of roses. Does He? Charles Stanley continues by saying, “Being a disciple – or follower – of Jesus Christ is essentially this: when your desire and God’s desire are in conflict, you go with what God wants.” He calls this battle a daily occurrence and I’m guessing, for many, a minute by minute occurrence sometimes.

The Beatitudes, both here in Luke and in Matthew, are a blueprint for right living, for being a disciple. These verses give us a clear indication about what Christ expects of us and on first inspection, these seem like rules that are nearly impossible to live by consistently. However, I suspect that Christ knew this and that’s why He left us the Holy Spirit to help us along.

No one wants to be poor and yet I can’t help but marvel at the strong faith people in third world countries have in comparison to the majority of people in North America. They have nothing and we have everything. People do not seek to be hungry or to hurt so badly that weeping becomes a daily way of life. Yet, Jesus reminds those who are in these circumstances, that things will not always be this way. The poor will inherit the kingdom of God, the hungry will be fed, and those who weep will be comforted. Being a disciple of Jesus Christ may have some hard times but one day, it will be a time of celebration.

Are you a disciple of Jesus Christ? Do you set aside your wants and desires to follow the path God has planned for you from the time you were born? Has your life begun to reflect God’s will more often than it used to? One day you’ll look back and wonder why some of your desires were all that important because following Jesus, living as His disciple, has become the most meaningful life you could imagine. Gather closer to Christ. Walk where He wants you to walk and watch out. Life could get interesting.

For further study: Gen.12:3; Deut.7:13; Ps. 29:11; Rom.10:12

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Jesus Gives Instructions for Life

The Beatitudes (Be Attitudes)

Matthew 5

 

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Attitude Adjustment

The book of Matthew, chapter five, begins the greatest sermon ever preached, as far as I’m concerned. In this chapter and all the way to the end of chapter seven, God gives us clear direction on how we are to live our lives as Christians. He covers a plethora of topics, leaving no doubt that He loves us and wants only the best for us. But He also wants us to share His love with other people.

He begins by using the term BLESSED. This is a term used to tell us that those whom He considers blessed, He affirms. We are blessed because we practice wise living based on the verses from the Sermon which, as I’ve said, is a practical guide for righteous living. BLESSED means finished joy.

The words in the beginning of chapter five, referred to as the Beatitudes, are intended to comfort suffering believers. Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who are down, depressed, or frustrated. How often have you thought of a wayward child, a sister who shows you nothing but distain because you are a believer and felt as if God was letting you down? He says that’s when we are BLESSED. We sorrow for another human but consider God.

We are BLESSED when we mourn, when we are humble but still seek God and all His righteousness. The pure in heart will see God and as they show mercy to others, mercy will be shown to them. We are BLESSED when we work to keep peace and we are BLESSED when we are persecuted because we adhere to the belief that Jesus is real and we love Him.

Can you think of a time when you’ve mourned for a loved one who does not walk in God’s footsteps? Do you sit quietly when others brag about their riches and achievements knowing that you have the greatest gift of all but they aren’t listening?  Do you thirst for more of God every day? Is your heart pure, protected from the evils around you and do you show mercy toward others?

Matthew, chapter five tells us that we will be comforted, shown mercy, and inherit the kingdom of God. We will see God and be called His sons and daughters. That is why we are BLESSED, why we have finished joy when the world looks on us as deluded, bigots, and hatemongers.

Revelation 3, verse nine, says that someday, everyone will know that He loves us. For now, though, we need just remember that we are BLESSED, no matter the circumstances in our lives. We can wait for the rest, for the best is yet to come.

For further study: Ps. 2:12; Ps.32:2; Ps.33:12; Luke 1:48; James 1:12

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