My Shelter

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My health may fail, and my spirit grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
He is mine forever.
But as for me, how good it is to be near God!
I have made the Sovereign LORD my shelter,
and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things You do. 
—Psalm 73:22-26, 28

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Sunday Praise and Worship: Psalm 150

Sometimes it is good to keep our praise and worship simple. So today let’s worship our Lord by praising Him as David did with Psalm 150:

Psalm 150

Praise the Lord!

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heaven!
Praise him for his mighty works;
    praise his unequaled greatness!
Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn;
    praise him with the lyre and harp!
Praise him with the tambourine and dancing;
    praise him with strings and flutes!
Praise him with a clash of cymbals;
    praise him with loud clanging cymbals.
Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!

Praise the Lord!


New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Publishers Inc.

The Marriage Triangle: I’m Sorry #LoveWins

Please visit TRC to read more of the great articles in this issue!

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The Marriage Triangle: I’m Sorry #LoveWins

by Anna Popescu

Back in the 1970’s, a novel came out, followed by a movie with the same name. Its catchphrase became very popular: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” 1 Remember that? 1

As I was deciding what love message to write this article about, that phrase immediately came to mind. So I have two questions:

1. How can husbands and wives live peacefully together if they don’t have to apologize for hurting each other?

2. If we do not have to ask forgiveness for wrongs committed, doesn’t that negate the death of Jesus on our behalf?

One of the realities of marriage is that husbands and wives will have stressful times of disagreement. We are human beings with an inherited sin nature, and as such we often have our own personal agendas. We want things our way because we each believe we’re right.

So, how should we react to something our spouse says that is upsetting to us? Bill and Pam Farrell discuss this in their book, Men Are Like Waffles–Women Are Like Spaghetti 2:

“When your spouse ignites the conversation, you have a choice. You can react and shorten the fuse, or you can diffuse the situation. At times, the best way to diffuse a conflict is to turn the focus of the conversation. When your spouse launches a verbal grenade, it usually has a compliment embedded in it.

One day Pam and I were talking about a project we were trying to get done at home and she said to me, “Bill, you are so picky.” To say that I enjoyed that comment would be a bold-faced lie, but instead of getting angry it occurred to me to say, “I wouldn’t have married you if I wasn’t so picky.”

When your spouse says, “You are impossible,” start humming the theme to Mission Impossible.

Lest you confuse this with sarcasm, remember that the Bible says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1).

These attempts to cut the hot lead before the conversation explodes won’t work every time, but sometimes it is all the discussion needs to remind you that you are in love.

If diffusing the situation doesn’t work, what else can you do to resolve a dispute? Keep in mind that you and your spouse were brought up differently and therefore may react to certain situations in completely different ways.

Don’t Interrupt!

One of the hardest things to do in the heat of an argument is to truly listen to the other person without interruption. This is difficult because we immediately start thinking about what to say to support our own view, and often miss the true gist of what our spouse may be saying.

After 18 years of marriage, Rick and I are still learning how to do this. We are both firstborns, meaning we each are the oldest in our families. As such, we both have the inclination to assume we have the right answers to problems, and so we bump heads about certain issues.

Parents typically use their eldest child as an example when trying to settle arguments about or among their children:

“Why can’t you be as ____ (fill in the blank) as _____ (fill in oldest sibling’s name)?”

“We didn’t let _____ (fill in oldest sibling’s name) do that at your age, so why do you think we’ll let you?”

And as we and our parents get older, there is the tendency for our siblings ─ and even our parents at times ─ to turn to us to handle certain aspects of their elderly life/senior care issues. So it’s no wonder we firstborns think we are always right and that is the main reason we have a tendency to interrupt our spouse so that our opinion can be heard first, because of course we’re correct!

This does not just pertain to firstborns. If the first marriage between Adam and Eve had such problems, why do we think we should be exempt? The key is to find ways to diffuse problems before they become huge obstacles.

Humble Yourself

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit,
but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.
 

Let each of you look out not only for his own interests,
but also for the interests of others.

 Philippians 2:3-4

I wish I could remember more often to say to Rick, “We each have different ideas on how to get this done, but as my husband, I’ll defer to you to make the right decision because I trust that you want the best for us.” That simple statement truly gets his attention, which also causes him to put a lot of thought into his final decision.

If you use that trust statement, make sure you follow through. Go along with his decision without reservation. Don’t second guess his choice after you have already said you trust his judgment.

I need to remember how important this is because, as Rick’s wife, I am to be subject to him as the head of our marriage ─ just as I am to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Head of the Church (His bride).

22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church,
He Himself being the Savior of the body.

24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

Ephesians 5:22-24

Firstborns are not the only ones who have trouble with humility ─ we all do. We have an inherent, prideful tendency to consider only our own opinions so that it is difficult for us to see any other way. We need to pray for the humility to “esteem others better” (Philippians 2:3) than ourselves. That means we should listen to our spouse’s opinion/explanation carefully before thinking that our way is the best.

Forgive as Jesus Does

In 2 Corinthians 7:8-10, Paul writes this to the Corinthians:

8 I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first,
for I know it was painful to you for a little while.

9 Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you,
but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways.
It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have,
so you were not harmed by us in any way.

10 For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience
leads us away from sin and results in salvation.
There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. 

But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.

In verse 10 above, “…the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience…” shows us that we are to be sorrowful (sad) when we have sinned. And “…worldly sorrow which lacks repentance…” is clearly a warning not to conform to the world’s standard of whitewashing our guilt (or pretending we did nothing to be guilty about) rather than repenting of those sins.

When the Holy Spirit shows us that we have sinned against someone, we are to ask that person to forgive us as soon as we can. When someone asks us to forgive them, we must do so right away, whether we feel like doing so or not.

21 Then Peter came and said to Him,
“Lord,
how often shall my brother sin against me

and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you,
up to seven times, but up to
 seventy times seven.

Matthew 18:21-22

Relationships need nurturing to grow closer and stronger. Marriage relationships require that even more. When husbands and wives are willing to acknowledge and ask forgiveness for the ways they have hurt each other, they are taking another step in loving each other the way Christ loves His Church.

Jesus loves us so much that He took the punishment for our sins on Himself. This leads me back to that catchphrase “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” If we do not have to ask forgiveness for wrongs committed, it means that Jesus’ death counts for nothing, and we know that is not correct. If I were to rewrite that catchphrase, it would be “True love means forgiving each other as Jesus Christ forgives us.”

Forgiveness is one of the “key” words of the Christian faith.
If God had not included forgiveness in His plan for humanity,
none of us would enjoy life renewed with Him in heaven.
Without forgiveness there would be no hope at all. 3


1 Love Story, the movie; Love Story, the novel

2 Farrel, Bill; Farrel, Pam. Men Are Like Waffles–Women Are Like Spaghetti: Understanding and Delighting in Your Differences (p. 112). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

3 What Does the Bible Say About Forgiveness? A Biblical Study

 

Happy Valentine’s Day 2017

Welcome to my annual Valentine’s Day post that I believe is so appropriate
for a day that’s all about love. 

The other day I got to thinking about Valentine’s Day and how it’s supposed to be all about love. 1 John 4:19 immediately came to mind, and I knew this was to be my message about  love … God’s immense love … for us.

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The Dimensions of God’s Love

We love because he first loved us. —1 John 4:19

We have all been told how much God loves us. That fact is unquestionable, especially as we look around and see the evidence of His love in all of His creation. God’s love for us can be described as multi-dimensional, so let’s look at the different ways God loves us—the Breadth, Depth, Height and Length of His love—by examining the universe He created.

Breadth

When a man and a woman get married, they usually exchange wedding bands. If you look closely at a wedding band, you cannot see where it begins or where it ends. This circle of metal is therefore used as a symbol of unending love between husband and wife. In the same way, a circle represents eternity.

That is how I think of God’s all-encompassing love for us. I visualize the circle that His arms form to surround the earth. This thought both amazes and comforts me. I am amazed because it shows how big God is. I can’t imagine any human who can hug the whole world. I am also comforted because I enjoy being hugged. But the true illustration of the breadth of God’s love is found in Scripture: But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), —Ephesians 2:4-5

God loved us “even when we were dead in trespasses.” What a truly astonishing thing!

Eternity is a difficult concept for us to understand, but God has it all under control. He loves us so much that He can’t stand the thought of being apart from us, so He has provided us with a way to spend eternity with Him:

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For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life.
—John 3:16

The breadth of God’s love for us is that huge. He made sure that we have a way to be with Him forever—in other words, for eternity. Trying to figure out what eternity could be like is the same as trying to count all the stars in the sky. It is impossible!

I like to imagine what it will be like to spend the rest of eternity with God, but I’m sure my limited picture of heaven falls far short of the truth. All I know for sure is that: But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. —John 1:12-13

Depth

The Grand Canyon ranges in height from 9,000 feet at the North Rim all the way down to 2,400 feet at the Colorado River. Those of us here in the Southwest know that there are no easy ways to get to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. In fact, portions of the Colorado River are barely visible from above because of the depth of the canyon. Now that’s what I call deep, but it is still measurable.

We read in Romans 5:8 that …God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The love God has for us is so deep that it is immeasurable. It is impossible for me to imagine something that cannot be measured. Everything that surrounds us can somehow be measured, whether by weight or volume. But not God’s love. It is bottomless and keeps going on and on to infinity. Even though we don’t deserve any of it, He loves us that much anyway.

We hear a lot these days about “unconditional love.” The truth is that the only true, unconditional love we will ever receive is from God, Who loves us with a pure love found nowhere else. How better to explain God’s love for us in spite of all our sins and shortcomings? The fact that God loves me in spite of myself is the ultimate proof of the depth of His love.

Height

Have you read about those who have succeeded in climbing Mount Everest? This 29,035-foot mountain range is the highest in the world and the most difficult to climb. There are many people who attempt this climb more than once in the hopes of finally being able to complete the challenge of making it to the summit.

I cannot imagine being at a point 29,035 feet above sea level. That is so high that one’s breathing becomes quite labored and therefore requires extra oxygen. But that is still not as high as the heavens. In Ephesians, Paul gives us a taste of what it will be like when we’re in heaven: and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,. —Ephesians 2:6

There is no way we cn ever understand the height of such “heavenly realms.”

I love knowing that those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord will be up in heaven with God forever, seated with Him and serving Him in all His honor and glory. Even though we’ll be higher than we’ve ever been, we will not suffer the usual effects of high altitude such as headaches, nosebleeds or labored breathing. God has made sure of that. I believe that heaven will be the most comfortable place ever!

If then you were raised with Christ,
seek those things which are above,
where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on things above,
not on things on the earth.
For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
—Colossians 3:1-3

Length

It is estimated that right now the universe is at least 46 billion light years in radius. My puny human mind cannot comprehend such a measurement. Look up at the billions of stars in the night sky and then try to understand the lengths to which God will go for us. He could have designed just an adequate place for us to live, but did He? No. He chose to give us a wonderful universe filled with beautiful planets and stars. It stretches on and on, just like His immense love for us.

The daytime sky and the night sky are the same, yet very different. During the day we cannot see the stars because of the light of the sun. At night, the stars and moon illuminate the dark sky. When we are in heaven, things will be greatly changed.

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There shall be no night there:
They need no lamp nor light of the sun
for the Lord God gives them light.
And they shall reign forever and ever.
—Revelation 22:5

No more night? Really? What will that be like? And imagine not needing a lamp to read a book.

Being part of such an exciting eternity with God requires only this:

  • recognize that we are sinners and be truly sorry for our sins
  • believe in Jesus Christ as God’s Son and our Savior
  • acknowledge that He died on the cross at Calvary and that His death paid the penalty for our sins
  • and trust that He rose from the dead on our behalf so that we might live forever with Him—and all because of the length of God’s love for us.

Paul related this aspect to Timothy:

However, for this reason I obtained mercy,
that in me first Jesus Christ might show
all longsuffering, as a pattern to those
who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.
—1 Timothy 1:16

The definition of longsuffering is: suffering for a long time without complaining ; very patient during difficult times. I need this reminder because even though I so often lose patience with the things and people in my life—and with myself—God never loses patience with me. His longsuffering patience is eternal!

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible,
the only God,
be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
—1 Timothy 1:17

Beloved, on yet another Valentine’s Day I am so glad we have a God Who shows His awesome and immense love for us in so many ways, in spite of our sinful selves!

Sunday Praise and Worship: East to West

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Where is your HOPE? Is it in the things of this world or in Jesus Christ? If you’re counting on the stuff of life here on earth to fulfill your HOPES and dreams, you’re in for a big disappointment. Nothing and no one but Jesus can give us the ultimate HOPE of an eternal life of JOY. He died on that cross at Calvary to provide the way for us to live eternally with Him in heaven.

Yes, life is tough, but belief in the saving power of Jesus Christ is your true HOPE! The song “East to West,” sung by Casting Crowns, speaks to the awesome mercy God shows us, and how we can find true comfort in His arms alone.

As you listen to this song, remember to continuously put your trust and HOPE in God:

19 That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors
because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders.
Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them!
“Peace be with you,”
he said.

20 
As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side.
They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord!

21 
Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me,
so I am sending you.”

22 
Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

23 
If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven.
If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

—John 20:19-23, NLT

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If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.

If you’d like to learn how to receive the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, please visit my A..B…C… page to find out more. Or you can email me at faithlhj777 at gmail dot com.

Not So Familiar Christmas Scripture: Isaiah 7:14

This is a great devotional by Dr. David Jeremiah.

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N.Not So Familiar Christmas
Scripture: Isaiah 7:14

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son,
and shall call His name Immanuel.

—Isaiah 7:14

Recommended Reading

Luke 1:34-38

The virgin birth of Christ makes possible His sinlessness. This is one of the most wondrous and marvelous aspects of Jesus of Nazareth. He’s the only person in history who lived righteously on earth – a full life of eating and drinking and socializing and working and talking and sleeping, yet totally free from the taint of sin. There was no moral failure in His dealings, and He was untainted by evil. He was pure and perfect to the depths of His being, and He maintained that purity every moment of His life.

Because our Lord was conceived in the womb of a virgin who had been overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, He was holy and pure, uncontaminated by the blood disease of sin that has infected every other man and woman on the globe. It is a mystery, but it is marvelous; and it’s vitally important. Jesus could not have died for our sins had He not Himself been sinless.

Today take a moment to praise God for providing us such a Savior and for giving us such an amazing story.

 Read-thru-the-Bible
Revelation 1:1 – 5:14

Sunday Praise and Worship: O Come O Come Emmanuel

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Christmas is just around the corner. It is easy to get caught up in the worldly things that surround Christmas. But we need to stop and remember that Christmas is the time of year that we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

The song “O Come O Come Emmanuel” is by Matt MaherAs you listen to this song of praise to God for sending Jesus to be the JOY and HOPE for our salvation, thank Him in your heart for the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Messiah.

The Birth of Jesus the Messiah

18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born.
His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph.

But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin,

she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.

19 Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man
and did not want to disgrace her publicly,
so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.
“Joseph, son of David,” the angel said,
“do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.
For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

21 
And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus,
for he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,

and they will call him Immanuel,
which means ‘God is with us.’”

24 When Joseph woke up, he did as
the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.

25 
But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born.
And Joseph named him Jesus.

—Matthew 1:18-25

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If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.