Enduring Love

February is traditionally the month of celebrating love. The following is the love story of a very close friend and a wonderful way to end this love month!

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Enduring Love

Boarding the Greyhound bus late, she observed it was nearly filled to capacity with cramped travelers. As she stood at the front of the bus scanning the interior, her gaze identified only one empty seat remaining. Reeling as the bus pulled out of the station into traffic, she quickly slid into the vacant space.  She gave a perfunctory nod to the man sitting in the window seat who was preoccupied reading a book. With the dim overhead reading light shining directly on his head, she dismissed him as bald, and assumed he was elderly.

Silence reigned between the two people for much of the journey. Then at one point when she shifted her position, their eyes met. In the astonishing moment that followed, she felt a spark of attraction toward the handsome stranger with closely cropped blond hair. She mentally reversed her first impression. Names and college information were readily exchanged in the short time remaining. They were both college freshmen in Boston traveling to their separate homes in Maine for their first holiday weekend. She had just enough time to share her reluctance to investigate the city of Boston alone. Reaching her destination first, she departed at the station as the bus lumbered away. Its thick plume of exhaust dispersed in the night air along with any thoughts of a future encounter that may have materialized from the serendipitous meeting with the handsome stranger.

Incredibly, during the following week a letter arrived in her college mailbox from the man she’d met on the bus, inviting her to tour the city of Boston on foot. From that first pedestrian date, their relationship blossomed into a friendship of sharing and caring. Their college years were a whirlwind of fun and exuberant dates; of enviable cultural and educational experiences.

Their friendship gradually transformed into ardent, committed love. The day he proposed marriage and slipped a shimmering diamond ring on her finger, the world was ablaze with irrepressible hope and promise. Their hearts overflowed with ebullient love!

In June they graduated from college and were married. Dreams were fulfilled; prayers answered. Over the ensuing years, people who knew the couple well expressed the unsolicited observation that their marriage was “made in heaven.”

During her first months at college, she had prayed that God would choose her life-long partner. Perhaps her motivation for seeking God’s help was selfish; she likely felt inadequate to make such a monumental life decision herself. It was a tentative act of faith at best, but our Lord honors any amount of trust and reliance, accepting minuscule amounts of sincere faith.

Jesus explained to His disciples, “‘I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed you can say to this mountain, “move from here to there” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible to you’” (Matthew 17:20, NIV). Jesus was not teaching that His disciples could literally displace mountains, but that when large, looming problems are fully relinquished to the Lord, they are either minimized or resolved when faith is bathed in prayer.

Mustard seeds were some of the smallest known to man in Jesus’ day. When planted, the seed grew into a tall shrub in one season, serving as Christ’s metaphor to illustrate the result of implementing a small amount of faith to gain a large victory. It is God’s desire that our hesitant faith will gradually mature into constant dependence upon Him, no matter how difficult, large, or impossible each situation may seem to us. God is “able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20, KJV).

Our Lord is jealous for our exclusive adoration and devotion. With ever increasing amounts of submission and obedience the couple extended toward their Lord, the greater the abundance of joy and peace He heaped upon their marriage. God delighted in their companionship, He lavished them with His redeeming love, and He accepted them as His friends.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him.
In this way, love is made complete” (I John 4:16, NIV)
.

God’s eternal love reaches its full expression on earth through those who believe and serve Him, designating us as His current disciples.

God has been consistently faithful to the couple whose meeting He orchestrated nearly fifty years ago when He answered a dubious prayer. According to His perfect plan, executed in His precise timing, a miraculous introduction of future marriage partners was initiated with coy smiles and whimsical sparks in the improbable environment of a crowded bus cruising the Interstate at 70 mph!  “Nothing, you see, is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37, The Msg.).

Faith vs. fear – what does the Bible say?

Another good one from GotQuestions?

Faith vs. fear –
what does the Bible say?

Answer: Faith and fear cannot exist together. Faith is described in Hebrews 11:1 as being “certain of what we do not see.” It is an absolute belief that God is constantly working behind the scenes in every area of our lives, even when there is no tangible evidence to support that fact. On the other hand, fear, simply stated, is unbelief or weak belief. As unbelief gains the upper hand in our thoughts, fear takes hold of our emotions. Our deliverance from fear and worry is based on faith, which is the very opposite of unbelief. We need to understand that faith is not something that we can produce in ourselves. Faith is a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9) and is described as a fruit (or characteristic) which is produced in our lives by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). The Christian’s faith is a confident assurance in a God who loves us, who knows our thoughts and cares about our deepest needs. That faith continues to grow as we study the Bible and learn the attributes of His amazing character. The more we learn about God, the more we can see Him working in our lives and the stronger our faith grows.

A growing faith is what we desire to have and what God desires to produce in us. But how, in day-to-day life, can we develop a faith that conquers our fears?

Read the rest here.

The Saga of the 4 Chaplains

74 years ago today, four Army chaplains committed an amazing act of faith, courage and bravery that has never been forgotten.

Although the Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart were later awarded posthumously Congress wished to confer the Medal of Honor but was blocked by the stringent requirements which required heroism performed under fire. So a posthumous Special Medal for Heroism, The Four Chaplains’ Medal, was authorized by Congress and awarded by the President on January 18, 1961.

It was never given before and will never be given again. 

This story is definitely worth reading!

On Feb. 3, at 12:55 a.m., a periscope broke the chilly Atlantic waters. Through the cross hairs, an officer aboard the German submarine U-223 spotted the Dorchester.

The U-223 approached the convoy on the surface, and after identifying and targeting the ship, he gave orders to fire the torpedoes, a fan of three were fired. The one that hit was decisive–and deadly–striking the starboard side, amid ship, far below the water line.

Captain Danielsen, alerted that the Dorchester was taking water rapidly and sinking, gave the order to abandon ship. In less than 20 minutes, the Dorchester would slip beneath the Atlantic’s icy waters.

Tragically, the hit had knocked out power and radio contact with the three escort ships. The CGC Comanche, however, saw the flash of the explosion. It responded and then rescued 97 survivors. The CGC Escanaba circled the Dorchester, rescuing an additional 132 survivors. The third cutter, CGC Tampa, continued on, escorting the remaining two ships.

Read the entire story here.

Grounded in Reason … The Four Factors of Faith

Shared from GraceThruFaith.

Grounded in Reason …
The Four Factors of Faith

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. Luke 17:6

Abraham had waited 20 years for the son God had promised him. He and Sarah even had a son with the help of a surrogate mother, but the Lord had told him Ishmael was not the son He had promised.  Finally Isaac was born, the one through whom God would bless all mankind (Genesis 21:12).  But some years later, before any of these blessings came to pass, God directed Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering. Though heart broken, Abraham took Isaac to the place the Lord had picked out, built an altar there and placed his son upon it (Genesis 22:1-10).

The Prophet Elijah was beside himself. The Israelites kept vacillating between worshiping God and Baal. Their indecision was driving him crazy and he let them know it. “How long will you waver between two opinions? If God be God then worship Him. But if it’s Baal, then worship him.” After much prayer he arranged a public demonstration. Challenging the priests of Baal to a contest, he had two altars built and two bulls slaughtered and placed on the altars. The people gathered to watch. Then he told them that whichever god sent down fire to consume the offering is the one they should worship. Everyone agreed, and the priests of Baal began calling their god.

All morning long they danced, cut themselves with knives as part of their religious ritual and called out to Baal.  During the afternoon Elijah began taunting them, suggesting their god was perhaps busy or traveling or in the bathroom, and they became even more ecstatic in their worship, but alas, no fire. Then about sunset Elijah had his altar doused in water three times and began to pray, reminding God of their earlier agreement (1 Kings 18:16-37).

The court was in a panic. The King of Babylon had just ordered the execution of all his advisers for failing to interpret a dream. Daniel, like the calm in the midst of a raging storm, promised the King’s assistant that he would interpret the King’s dream, thus saving the lives of all the advisers. Then he ran home to pray with his friends. He hadn’t a clue as to what the dream was or what it meant, and was counting the Lord to tell him (Daniel 2:1-18).

Read the rest here.

Wholehearted #Faith


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By Patricia Knight

When Scripture refers to the heart, it does not allude to the muscular pump located in our left chest. Heart and soul were commonly interchanged in Greek literature. The soul is identified as our invisible psyche where Jesus abides. The heart/soul symbolizes our intellectual, moral, and emotional control central. It contains personality, shelters memory and love, the longing for God, and is the only part of a believer transported to heaven immediately following physical death.

In modern times our hearts are described as the epicenter of our emotions and worship. It is a wellspring of life in which wickedness must not be allowed to take root. Jesus knows the thoughts and motives of our hearts at all times, discerning whether we are wholeheartedly devoted to him alone, hard-hearted unbelievers, or indifferent to His love and sacrifice. “For the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

God is involved in the heart affairs of our lives. He is far more interested in our souls, the inner characteristics of a follower of Christ, than with our outward features.

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearances, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

“Amaziah was 25 years old when he became king. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly” (2 Chronicles 25:1, 2a). Amaziah typically manifested obedience toward the Lord, but after conquering a pagan country, he brought their gods home. “He set them up as his own gods, bowed down to them, and burned sacrifices to them. The anger of the Lord burned against Amaziah” (2 Chronicles 25:14-15).

Amaziah began his 29 year reign as king with zeal and determination to uphold God’s laws. What caused Amaziah’s downfall? At one time he apparently served the Lord with his whole heart. Though we have few details of King Amaziah’s  career, evidently he suffered gradual loss of commitment and devotion to his Lord and to his people. Selfishness and greed replaced wholehearted devotion. He no longer possessed intense passion for leading a nation with God as his priority and guide.

To serve God wholeheartedly is to express in thought or action, in the most exuberant but sincere way, with every part of one’s being, a dynamic commitment to walk with our Lord. Jesus commanded, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you  love your neighbor as well as you do yourself’” (Luke 10:27, The Msg.).

What do our individual lives disclose about our heart focus? Do we display the fervent desire to serve God? Do we possess the eagerness and energy that should flood our hearts when we pray? Exhilarating joy bursts into wholehearted service when we are committed wholly to our Lord. Jesus gave His life as the ultimate gift to redeem our sins and to secure for us eternal life. As our response, Jesus expects a wholehearted relationship of absolute devotion, intense love, and unmitigated obedience. Jesus then extends to us dynamic power to follow his commandments.

Caleb was one of twelve Israeli men sent into the Promised Land for a fact-finding mission. Upon their return, ten of the spies claimed exaggerated details, intending to evoke fear among the masses. Caleb and Joshua presented realistic, encouraging information, asking the people to depend upon God’s power to lead them into triumphant victory in the new land. “God said, ‘Because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to’” (Numbers 14:24).

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Many parents instruct their children from an early age, “Do a job well or don’t do it at all.”  If secular teaching devalues half-hearted efforts, our love and service for our Lord must attain a much higher standard. “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17).

The adverse of wholeheartedness toward God was best exemplified by the Pharaoh of Egypt at the time Moses was negotiating release of the nation of Israel from slavery. God created ten major, horrific plagues affecting every aspect of the Egyptian’s lives. With each increasingly ugly plague, Pharaoh weakened his resolve to let God’s people go, until he begged Moses to appeal to God to discontinue the most current plague. Exhibiting patience and mercy, God granted Pharaoh’s request. But, when Pharaoh witnessed evidence of relief from the plagues, he sunk into his old behavior with an unyielding hard heart, ultimately refusing to permit the Israelites to travel. Pharaoh’s hardened heart revealed a consistently sinful life of unbelief, dispassion, and bitterness.

Hardheartedness implies refusal to take God and His Word seriously. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened by his own deceit. Later, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart permanently to accomplish His purpose of releasing His children from slavery. If it had been available in Pharaoh’s lifetime, his heart/soul ECG would have printed a straight line of apathy and death.

Suppose your name and life accomplishments were included in Scripture, exposed for all generations to read.  Would God declare you as wholeheartedly devoted to Him? Or, would He have to clarify, as He did for King Amaziah, that you did right in God’s eyes, but not wholeheartedly? There are times in life when we display eager enthusiasm, animated dedication, or intense thirst. We love a spouse wholeheartedly; we often pursue a hobby with energy and commitment; we may thirst after knowledge. Most of us would accept a financial windfall with wholehearted ecstasy.

Why is a wholehearted lifestyle often applied to our physical endeavors, but ignored in our spiritual relationship to our Savior? Jesus desires that we open our heart/soul as His residence, to proclaim complete trust and zeal toward Him. Our relationship then becomes a wholehearted witness to the world that we are passionate and effervescent about serving our Savior. Let us perfect our wholehearted health and outreach, glorifying our Lord as we serve Him and others.

“So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective” (Colossians 3:1-2,The Msg.).

Faith is a wholehearted affair!

#Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed

Holding a small mustard seed in the palm of a hand.

As long as we have unsolved problems,
unfilled desires, and a mustard seed of faith,
we have all we need for a vibrant prayer life. 

—John Ortberg

Mustard seed faith is sometimes a difficult concept but one that is very important to understand. The mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds found in the Middle East, but that smallest of seeds grows into one of the largest plants. Jesus therefore used this illustration several times to show us that even the tiniest grain of true faith can do very great things.

14 When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus,
falling on his knees before Him and saying,

15 
“Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill;
for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.

16 
I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.”

17 
And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation,
how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?
Bring him here to Me.”

18 
And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him,
and the boy was cured at once.

19 
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said,
“Why could we not drive it out?”

20 
And He said to them,
“Because of the littleness of your faith;
for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move;
and nothing will be impossible to you.

—Matthew 17:14-20

We see here the central need of faith, without which nothing can happen. When Jesus spoke about removing mountains he was using a phrase which the Jews knew well. A great teacher, who could really expound and interpret scripture and who could explain and resolve difficulties, was regularly known as an uprooter, or even a pulverizer, of mountains. To tear up, to uproot, to pulverize mountains were all regular phrases for removing difficulties. Jesus never meant this to be taken physically and literally. After all, the ordinary man seldom finds any necessity to remove a physical mountain. What he meant was: “If you have faith enough, all difficulties can be solved, and even the hardest task can be accomplished.” Faith in God is the instrument which enables men to remove the hills of difficulty which block their path. —William Barclay

Beloved, having and holding onto true faith is difficult in hard circumstances, but it is possible. In our own physical strength we cannot move mountains. We can’t make something from nothing. We cannot by ourselves change someone’s heart and mind about something. These are under God’s care and control.

What it does mean is that if we rely on the fact that God knows what is best for us, we can rest on the assurance that His ways and means are perfect. And if we believe—have true faith—in that fact, we will be able to pray with a faith that will steadily grow.

Just like that tiny mustard seed.

We will then understand that what we may regard as unanswered prayers are actually part of God’s grand design to mold us into becoming who He wants us to be—completely and absolutely trusting that His ways are best.

Know Jesus and #Believe

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Faith

that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.

For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?

And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!”

But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?”

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

–Romans 10:9-17

It may be that the reader feels a difficulty in believing. Consider that we cannot believe by an immediate act. We come to faith by degrees. There may be such a thing as faith at first sight, but usually we reach faith by stages: we become interested, we consider, we hear evidence, we are convinced, and so led to believe. Evidence weighed and knowledge obtained lead up to faith.

It is true that faith in Jesus is the gift of God, but he usually bestows it in agreement with the laws of mind. Therefore we are told that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). If you want to believe in Jesus, hear about him, read about him, think about him, know about him, and so you will find faith springing up in your heart.

Hear much concerning Jesus. Souls come by the hundreds to faith in Jesus through a ministry that presents him clearly and constantly. Few remain unbelieving under a preacher whose greatest subject is the crucified Christ. Go to the place of worship to see Jesus, and if you do not even hear the mention of his name, take yourself to another place where he is more thought of and is therefore more likely to be present.

Read much about the Lord Jesus. The Bible is the window through which we can look and see our Lord. Read with devout attention over the story of his sufferings and death, and before long the Lord will make faith secretly enter your soul. The cross of Christ not only rewards faith, but causes faith.

If hearing and reading are not sufficient, then deliberately set your mind to end the matter. Either believe or know the reason why you do not believe. See the matter through to the utmost of your ability. Pray that God will help you to make a thorough investigation and to come to an honest decision one way or the other. Consider who Jesus was, and whether the foundation of his person does not entitle him to confidence. Consider what he did, and whether this also must not be good ground for trust. Consider his death, resurrection, ascension, and eternal life that interceded for sinners, and decide whether this does not entitle him to be trusted. Then cry to him, and see if he does not hear you. If you want to know Jesus, get as near to him as you can by studying his character and appealing to his love.

At one time, I might have needed evidence to make me believe in the Lord Jesus, but now I know him so well, by proving him, that I should need a very great deal of evidence to make me doubt him. It is now more natural for me to trust than to disbelieve. Act after act of trusting turns faith into a habit. Experience then brings to faith strong confirmation.

–Adapted from Around the Wicket Gate by C. H. Spurgeon