Salt and Light: Matters of the Heart

Everyday we are bombarded with news about horrific crimes, terrorist attacks, hatred, racism, and other ill behaviors that have devastating consequences and a negative impact. Often we debate and talk incessantly about the origins of these actions. We blame parents, teachers, societal ills, and the perpetrators themselves for all of the horrid events taking place daily. Yes, they bear some responsibility, but these actions, however, also stem from the condition of one’s heart. Many people are distraught because they believe that there is no hope for lost generations. Christians believe man’s heart to be wicked because of original sin and that in him dwells no good thing. The truth is that apart from Christ, I (and everyone else) can do no good thing. Without the Spirit of Christ living in me, my soul would be lost. The Bible says from out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Additionally, the Bible says that where your treasure is will be the desires of your heart also (Matthew 6:21). What we value we place close to our hearts. We are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Christians’ heart should be full of salt and light so that they can make a high impact on their communities throughout the world. Apart from God, how can we accomplish this? The Bible says “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve (Jeremiah 17:9-10).” With the help of the Spirit of Christ, we can receive salvation, a new heart from the greatest surgeon in the world, and be rewarded according to the measure of our actions.

Christians, like salt, can and must have a high impact on the world. We can help sustain the world positively and give it flavor. Salt is a preservative that keeps food from spoiling and it gives food great flavor; without salt, food is not as tasty. Regarding Christians as salt, the Bible in Matthew 5:13 says, “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.” As Christians, we are urged to seek God’s heart by flavoring the world with love. To show love, we have to first tell others about the love of God. His love is the greatest love of all because he laid down his life for us, his friends. Knowing Jesus produces a template that enables us to know how to be the salt of the earth. Asking God daily to fill us with his Spirit, will help us bathe in the salt of his love. Like Epsom Salt, he will use us to soothe the aching souls of the weary and the wicked. God will create in us clean hearts and renew a right Spirit within us. With a sincere heart, God will never turn away from us.

Spending time in his word and in sincere prayer will keep us from losing our flavor. We do not want to be like a salt compound that has some value, but has lost its primary purpose, its flavor, and therefore, has become useless. Jesus wants us to seek to know him in a greater and more profound way through intimate prayer. He wants us to have deep roots so that Satan will not choke the words from our hearts because of problems and persecution. God says in Psalms 1:3 that he wants us to be “Like trees planted by the rivers of water that bears fruit in its season” and have “leaves [that] never wither, and “prosper in all they do.” Let’s sprinkle our hearts with the salt of God’s word and with the love of God. Our saltiness will never die and we will be God’s hand extended, prosper, and be instruments of change as we pray and spread his message throughout the world.

Jesus is the light of the world and in him is no darkness. According to the Bible, whoever follows him will not walk in darkness (John 8:12). Light provides direction and guidance. Very few people like to travel to an unfamiliar destination at night. There is insufficient light to provide the way. But, with God’s light we can have guidance and be holy as he is holy. We can encourage others to come into the light. God wants sinners to come to him so that he can provide hope for the world to turn to him and away from our sins. We Christians are to show others the light that lives within us. Our light should shine in dim places. Jesus is the living word, and his light through his word, should permeate one’s entire being. If our light shines before others, God will be glorified through our good works (Matthew 5:16).IMG_0464

Let’s continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ as we become salt and light to others throughout the earth. Pray along with me as I ask God to regularly  “Search me and know my heart. Try me and know my anxieties. And if there is any wicked way in me, lead me in the way everlasting (Psalms 139:23-24).”  Let God be the treasure of our hearts and his word be our daily bread. He continues to do it for me and he will do it for you. Together we can destroy Satan’s Kingdom.

**************************************************************************************

Salvation is a Free Gift:

If you do not know Jesus, you can ask him into your heart. If you desire salvation repeat after me: “in Jesus name, I ask you into my heart. I confess with my mouth and believe in my heart that you, Jesus, were raised from the dead. Forgive me of my sins.” Get connected to a Bible believing and teaching local assembly.  Praise God. Amen.

Advertisements

Why I Love God so Much

img_0415I love the Lord Jesus Christ because He first loved me and He has delivered me from many situations. God is concerned about everything that concerns us, despite the size of the problem. I have fallen victim to many situations, but the Lord has delivered me out of them all. Every situation serves to make me stronger in my faith and more dependent on Jesus. I hope the following testimony will bless your heart. It may seem trivial, but it was no trivial matter for me. God never ceases to amaze me about His love.

Four years ago this month, I was very ill due to a serious but easily treatable disorder that often afflicts people much older than I was. The ongoing treatment, taken once a month for the rest of my life, caused my brain chemistry to change. I suddenly found myself behaving and thinking in a manner that was significantly different from my usual behavior. Some of the behaviors I initially welcomed. None of the behaviors were negative unless committed in excess; however, I began to engage in obsessive behaviors. Specifically, I began to shop excessively and attend performing arts programs excessively. The first year was especially difficult. I had to pray myself out of shopping obsessively (shoes & perfume). After the first year, I still however, continued to attend many cultural events. The problem persisted because I loved the theater, film, and dance. Like an addict, I attended a film or a performing arts show every week. Not only was I spending an excessive amount of money ( I rationalized it because I received significant discounts), but I had little time for other things that I also enjoyed (baking, reading, etc.). Because of my addiction, I was rarely available to go out with friends (I attended about 75% of my activities solo). I knew it was excessive, but I lacked the wherewithal to stop myself.  By the third year, I wanted to get off of this treadmill because the velocity was too great, and my behavior too negligent.  As the beginning of the fifth year was approaching, one of my friends prayed for me. My time suddenly became extremely limited and I had little time for my compulsive activities. I did not renew many subscriptions, and I suddenly became less than interested in all of these activities. When New Years Eve 2016 came, I felt as if I wanted to spend more time reading, cooking, baking, and going out with friends. For one month, I have done all of these activities and more. I’m busy doing more of what I love. I still love the performing arts, but now my interest is tempered. I no longer feel as if I am missing out on something, but that I am gaining an abundant life.

As a result of this experience, I understand how someone can become entangled with something that may be detrimental to one’s life, but with prayer God can work everything out. Some things are lawful, but not everything is beneficial (Romans 12:2). I know that God commands us to cast our cares upon Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). The Bible also says that this light affliction is working for us a far more eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17). If we are called by God and according to His purpose, then we know that ALL things work together for our good (Romans 8:28).img_0416

Let’s pray: In the name of Jesus I pray. I thank you for your love and mercy and for your hand upon my life. I ask that you will help us to abide in you and in your word. Please fill us to overflowing capacity with your Spirit. Help us to put you first by praying and spending time in your word. Help us to turn toward you and away from anything that seeks to hinder our relationship with you. I ask all of these blessings in Jesus’ name I pray with thanksgiving always. Amen.

Fo

Standing on the Promises of God: Faith and Love

img_0311A favorite gospel song of mine from my childhood is “Standing on the Promises of God” (see lyrics at the end of this post). In The Bible, God has given us so many great and precious promises (2 Peter 2:4) that await us, yet some of us never attain these promises because of a lack of faith. Because God is a loving father, He is patient with us and wants the best for His children. He says in His word that He will withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly before Him (Psalm 84:11). Developing faith in Jesus and becoming like Him are the ultimate goals of serving Christ. Knowing that His word is true and acting upon this truth can take us places far and wide within our service to Christ. Faith is never achieved overnight. Looking like Him takes both commitment and endurance. They both require spending time in His word and in prayer. We must also make ourselves available for His use. Once we yield ourselves to Him, he begins painstaking surgery. God is the potter and we are the clay (Jeremiah 18). Seeing all of the lumps and the impurities in our lives, He desires to remove them so that we can resemble Him and have faith. By allowing vulnerability, the Holy Spirit can begin His work, the circumcision of our hearts, (Romans 2:29) so that we can have the mind of Christ and have faith in Him.

Firstly, God wants us to have a heart after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). That may be achieved by knowing that love, mercy, compassion, patience, and kindness are all contained within His heart. For some of us, these behaviors may not come easily. For some of us, they are extremely difficult. For us to have the heart of Christ, we must be willing to allow ourselves to be placed in situations that foster the development of Christ-like behaviors and attitudes. For example, we may have to work with people who are difficult to either like or love. We may even have family who have mistreated and hurt us terribly. In these situations, Psalm 121 says to “Look unto the hills from whence cometh [our] help, knowing that “our help cometh from the Lord.” Furthermore,”He will not slumber nor sleep.” He will be with us forever more. As we mature in Christ, the situations in which we find ourselves will grow in intensity because we are continually going through refinement so that we can look more like Him. God takes us from “glory to glory.” He wants us to look past the imperfections of others in the same manner as he continues to do for us. The Bible says that He will continue to perform the work that He started in us (Philippians 1:6). He is just looking for willing vessels.

Secondly, we have to learn total dependence on Christ. Many of us are either accustomed to depending on ourselves or on someone else. We rely on our regular paychecks. When we are in a grave situation, we ask our closest friends or family to help us. If we want the Lord to use us in an increasing manner, we have to learn to rely exclusively on Him. Maybe, the Lord will allow circumstances to develop so that faith and total dependency can be achieved. We may have unemployment, illness, or children living contrary to the teachings of Christ. Our Lord wants us to know that our deliverance comes from Him not from our own strength or power. It comes from the Spirit of the Lord (Zechariah 4:6).

Lastly, to have faith in Christ and to resemble Him, we must ask the Holy Spirit to help us trust Him more. Faith operates through trust. God asks us in Psalm 3:5 to “Trust in [Him] with all of our hearts and lean not to our own understanding, but in all [our] ways acknowledge Him and He will direct [our] paths.” We must keep an account of all the blessings of God that have been bestowed upon us. The Bible in James 1:17 says that “Every good and perfect gift is coming down from God our father.” We must never forget these blessings. If He has helped us once, He will help us again. Believe the report of the Lord (Isaiah 51:1)!

We are all in the process of refinement as pure gold. If we allow Him to work in our lives, we will have faith to move mountains (Matthew 27:21) and we will have love for one another (John 23:34). Let’s allow His living water to well up inside our hearts so that we can “Shout and sing/ Standing on the Promises of God.”

Lyrics:
Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
Through eternal ages let his praises ring;
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing, standing,
Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
Standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call,
Resting in my Savior as my all in all,
Standing on the promises of God.
[Refrain]

For Christian development read Hebrews 12. May God richly bless you in your service to Him.

My Reflection

Looking in the mirror I see my reflection

Casting an eye back at me

What is it that I see in you

As I gaze gently warmly softly

 

I see the beauty that is within

The love that burgeons forth

Waiting desiring to be loved

Accepted by others

 

I see a candle burning brightly

Lighting up the world

Being and shining forth

Illuminating and enlightening

 

One day that reflection will go forth

And others will see the beauty within

My eyes my  heart my being

And embrace God’s light within me.

 

 

Standing For Something and Not Falling for Anything

Over the last few weeks (really my entire life), I have heard a plethora of negative comments about Christianity as well as seen too few people taking a positive stand for Christianity within the mainstream media (although a few prominent people in the media like Kathy Lee Gifford (click here_____) have made bold and powerful statements). Christians are often misunderstood and, therefore, mocked. Christians espousing morality are often afraid to share their faith because of potential ridicule. Within the media, Christians are sometimes disdained and misrepresented.  In the September 3, 2016 edition of the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof (I disclose that I regularly read his column which most often is about helping out the needy and disadvantaged people of the world) respectfully writes an article, “What Religion Would Jesus Belong To?” (For article Click here_.) He comments on Brian D. McLaren’s new book, The Great Spiritual Migration. (I have not yet read the book). Kristof, says that founders of religion “Are typically bold and charismatic visionaries who inspire with their moral imagination, while their teachings sometimes evolve into ingrown, risk -averse bureaucracies obsessed with money and power.” He says that tension between the two is most “pronounced with Christianity.” McLaren, a former pastor says that Jesus “Often comes across as anti-poor, anti-gay, anti-intellectual, anti-immigrant and anti-science.” Kristof also sites Stephen Prothero’s Religious Literacy,” in which he says that only half of American Christians can name the four gospels and only forty-one percent are familiar with Job. McLaren, ultimately, according to Kristof, asks if Christians could “Migrate from defining their faith as a system of beliefs to expressing it as a loving way of life?” Kristof does acknowledge the altruistic attributes of many Christians, and that some “Pompous hypocrites get the headlines and often shape public attitudes about religion.” We should be measuring a person’s Christianity by what he does, not by what he says. Christianity should never be about wealth and power. A Christian should be measured against biblical beliefs, yet knowing that God is continually perfecting His people (Philippians 1: 6).

Essential Tenets of Christianity

  • Belief that Jesus is the Messiah (the second part of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit);
  • Jesus was crucified and on the third day He rose;
  • If you accept Jesus as your savior, you will have eternal life;
  • Everyone will have to give an account of their actions when Jesus returns;
  • Those who have not accepted Christ will be condemned to the Lake of Fire;
  • Jesus lives within the hearts of His people;
  • Christians are commanded to love everyone as Christ loves the church;
  • Christians are commanded to look after the unfortunate (the poor, the needy, orphans, widows, etc);
  • Practice the Golden Rule (Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.);
  • Study the Word of God;
  • Pray in Jesus’ name and
  • Get baptized

Christian Character

Within Christianity there are carnal Christians and Christians who have a relationship with Christ. Carnal Christians focus more on worldly matters (wealth and the pride of life) instead of on Christ. They operate more from their flesh than from Christ’s spirit. Christianity is much more than a set of rules; it’s about having a relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s not about judging people; it’s about spreading the good news of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:7 and John 28:18-20). The Bible is a Christian’s lifeline. Christians pray and love! Sometimes our message gets clouded in  anti-abortion and anti-gay rhetoric, but love should be our strongest message. We should never hate anyone! We ourselves were once in a perpetual lifestyle of sin. Unfortunately, some of us still are sinning  perpetually because we have not fully yielded our lives to Christ (it is a process).

Many Christians do focus on moral imperatives; however, we should love everyone as Christ loves the church (believers in Christ). There should be a balance of speaking against immorality, while still loving the sinner. Christ loves everyone, yet He points out our wrongdoing. Within Christianity there are hypocrites; they, however, should never speak for the whole. Yes, there are Christians speaking out against the very sin in which they are entangled. Nevertheless, Christianity is about the Spirit of Christ. It is about ministering to sinners, to the sick, and to the needy. Jesus pointed out their sin while still loving them.

There are plenty of Christian organizations that embody Christ’s values of helping out those in need while promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One of the most prominent is Samaritan’s Purse, run by Franklin Graham. His organization helps meet the needs of people all over the world (James 2:14). Their organization epitomizes faith in action. No where in the Bible does it say to migrate away from our doctrine and focus solely on love. We are taught to show our faith through our love-filled actions. We are taught to lay aside besetting sins and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

We are commanded to present the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth so that others can receive salvation (Acts 1:7). We are to give an answer (with gentleness and respect) to anyone who asks for the reason for the hope that lies within us (1 Peter 3:15-16). The gospel should be presented with love. No one should accept Christ out of fear of Hell, but out of love. Jesus says perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). No one is born into Christianity. Each person must accept Christ for himself. Christian influence is not enough. A Christian must believe that Christ is Lord! Christianity loves! Read the Bible; it’s the template for matters of the heart!

For further reflection and encouragement, read the Gospel of John and the book of James.

Finding Intimacy in Christ

image
Intimacy is defined as closeness or friendship with another; it is a state of familiarity. When we value another’s friendship, we desire intimacy with him or her as we share our lives, hopes, disappointments, and dreams. When we call someone a friend, we spend time getting to know him; we talk to our friends often. Moreover, we cry with our friends during both good and bad times. My closest friend is Jesus; we talk and listen to each other daily. He has seen me through some of the most challenging times in my life, while never condemning me for the mistakes that I have made (Romans 8:1). As I get to know Him, my Christianity matures and it causes me to love others the way He has loved me. My goal is to emulate him. Without intimacy with Him, I can never hope to become like Him. Although I have not arrived at perfection, I nevertheless press on to win the prize for which God has apprehended me (Philippians 3:14).

My friendship with Him did not develop overnight. It continues to develop as the years pass. When I began to understand that He wanted a relationship with me, I realized that I did not know how to get started. But, I soon realized that because He is a friend, I could talk to Him in as I would any of my other friends. My conversations first took the form of formal prayer. I then realized that my conversations could be informal. Currently I often talk to Him about my life and about His expectations for me. One of the greatest parts of our friendship is that He listens to me and is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). He says that He even knows my thoughts from afar (Psalm 139:2). And He says that He is acquainted with me in every way (Psalm 139:3). God even knew me before I was formed in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:16; Jeremiah 1:5). How could I call Him my friend, if I never spent time with Him? I get to know Him through His word, the Bible, and through prayer (intimate conversations with Him). I also write in my journal as a form of communing with Him.

Jesus wants us to commune with Him, to dine at His table. If we just open our mouths to talk to Him, we will show Jesus how much we love Him, and He will show us His abundant mercy and grace. If we abide in Him and allow Him to abide in us, we will produce fruit that will remain (John 15:5). He is waiting patiently for us to become His friend, for this glorifies Him! He “Searches the entire earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him .”(2 Chronicles 16:9)

I daily ask Christ to “Search me and know my heart. Try me and know my anxieties, and if there is any wicked way in me, lead me in the way everlasting.” He is faithful to answer my request (Psalm 139:23-24).

For personal reflection read Psalm 139.