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When I read a very familiar scripture this morning I decided to start with the scripture before and was blessed.

Isaiah 41:9-10

Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away. Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for i am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee: yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

And the promises that God had for Israel continue.

But the though that God has chosen ME to be his servant struck me. When God chooses us, he doesn’t cast us away, he holds tightly to us; is jealous over us; and wants us to Fear Not. We can have confidence in that.

I sit at work today trying to hold back the tears that come with the beginning of learning, opening and accepting the many gifts that God has given.

I am listening to One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. My mom and sisters follow her blog A Holy Experience. I have read some of her posts but have never been good about sitting down to read or follow blogs. A couple months ago, my sisters took up the challenge that Ann has proposed of making a list of 1000 things that they are thankful for. I thought I can do that, I have been writing my thankfuls down for years. In fact thinking on it now, I probably have thousands of things written in my thankful notebooks.

I began my list.

1. To be Challenged
2. Motrin – I got strep throat this week
3. Hot tea
4. Walks on brisk mornings
5. Flowers

To me it wasn’t any different than any other list, I would just continue the numbers instead of beginning at 1 every night. As I said writing my thankfuls was not new to me. My mom gave me a thankful book probably 15 years ago with the admonition that thankfulness and discontent cannot live together. I was faithful for much of that time to write 5 things I was thankful for each night. I still write them, only now it is on Facebook. I had the concept of thankfulness. I would be grateful for the good things and even those that brought me grief. At the end of the day I would read my Bible, pull out my notebook, find my place, and write the date and 5 things I was thankful for that day. I would close the book and be done. I didn’t put much more thought into it. I would be thankful for things through out the day in my mind and was thankful for all things, but didn’t really appreciate ALL the things and accept them as gifts of love to me from God.

As Ann’s voice is reading the words of her book through my headphones, I pull a piece of scratch paper close and begin a list.

1. The crunch of apples
2. The arrow of a mouse on the computer
3. Quesedillas full of cheese, chicken, and chopped bellpepper and onions
4. Ice Makers
5. Coke fountain drink machines
6. Rain trails on the windows

In naming each thing, I am seeing and receiving the gift. I am being thankful for that moment. In One Thousand Gifts, Ann describes her journey of being full of grace and living fully. It took hold with her list. Through her list of gratitude, she was able to live fully with joy in each moment. As I began to acknowledge each moment, each gift, my heart began to over flow with joy and gratitude to the big God that loves little me. I cannot tell you how many times I had to swallow back the tears and blow my nose so that I could continue work.

I begin to think on my life and the things that I have taken for granted in my thankfulness. And I thought of my house. A number has been put on the days that we have left in the house, and I could no longer wait. I thought of all the times we have had in the house, the flowers in the yard, the parties, the memories. It has been a good 14 years. I had to make a list, I wanted to picture so that I could remember. I don’t plan to forget, but I want to be able to think back to the wood piles, the rack of rain boots in all sizes, the bird houses in the trees, the creek and the green garage door.

I continue my list…and in the naming of the gift, I receive it and am filled with Joy and Grace to overflowing.

2 Samuel 11:1-5

-And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem.
-And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.
-And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?
-And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house.
-And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child.

 

If David had gone to battle with the kings as was his position, this sin wouldn’t have happened in this manner. His place was in the battle as King, not at home. David probably had a convincing reason of why he needed to be home. I’m sure it wasn’t so that he could be with Bathsheba, he didn’t know who she was. Besides the evedence of the sin, two things happened to David because he wasn’t in his place. 1. He provided an opportunity for the Devil to tempt him. 2. He caused a separation in his relationship with God, making it more difficult to stand against the temptation.

We need to be careful to always be in our place. God puts us where he wants us. He is faithful to guide, correct, encourage, nudge, and bring us to where he wants us. When we are in our place he can use us. If we fail to follow direction or to remain stagnat, we risk having a similar situation as David. We may not commit adultery, but we will provide an opening for temptation and we may not be strong enough to resist.

Remain in your place. Seek God and ask him to help you to be in the CENTER of his will. That way there is lots of room for his grace to be with you if you stumble.

 

This world is full of religion. You can find a religion that will fit your needs and make you feel good. But what exactly are they offering you? Do they teach the Word of God? Is a change of heart a requirement for the promise of salvation? Is every level of hierarchy with in those religions built on honesty and truth?

From what I have seen of religion today offers nothing but a false hope, a half truth and hypocrisy. This practice in man made religion has been going on for years. In fact, Jesus preached about it. At that time it was the Scribes and Pharisees that were doing a disservice to those that wanted to seek God. In Matthew 23 Christ brings judgment to those that require acts from the people and not themselves. To those that are more concerned with the “law” than a heart change. To those that are busy about works that make them appear to be righteous but are not sincere in their hearts. He concludes this message with verse 23; “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” The scribes and Pharisees in Bible times were more concerned with acting like a follower of Christ than being one from the heart, as many religious leaders are today. God requires us to pay more attention to the “weightier matters of the law” those that are most important, judgment, mercy and faith.

In my observation of religion I have seen that many have two of the three. Some have mercy and faith. They preach that God is love and will forgive anything as long as you believe. That you can’t live with out sin, but God is merciful just say “I Believe”. Others are full of judgment, have strict creeds that, and are stingy with mercy. There is any combination that can be made. But if you don’t have all three, you don’t have the complete truth that God has for you. The three principles, judgment, mercy and faith all work together and the result is beautiful.

In order to receive mercy through faith, one has to experience judgment. How can you ask for forgiveness if you have done nothing wrong? Romans 3:23 reads “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” Each and every one of us has committed sin. What is sin? Sin is a transgression against God’s law, something that we know is wrong but do it anyways (1 John 3:4) or something that we know we need to do, but we don’t do it. (James 4:17) The Bible tells us that we are all sinners and that God is not pleased with this. Romans 6:1 asks “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” the answer in verse 2 is “God forbid.” His plan for us is that we live in communion with him. We cannot do this if sin remains in our life. So judgment comes through the acknowledgement of sin and the need to seek forgiveness or mercy for them. If we fail to do this and continue living in sin, we have a reward, and that is hell. (Psalms 9:16-17) But let’s not forget God’s perfect plan. He does offer mercy to those that seek his forgiveness for their sins. God sent his son, the ultimate sacrifice so that we could live with out sin. In Matthew 1:21 the Bible states that Jesus came to save his people FROM their sins, not to save them while they continue IN their sins. All we have to do to receive this mercy is to confess our sins. (1 John 1:9) It is hard to say that we are wrong and to say sorry, but God loves a humble heart and will draw them close. Once we have been forgiven it is up to us to choose to live sin free every day. Sin is a choice as we discussed earlier and it is with God’s mercy and grace that we are able to choose to follow him in righteousness. We have a responsibility to keep a tight hold on our salvation, 1 John 5:18 “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” We are born into God’s family when we have sought forgiveness and received it; we then need to keep ourselves so that the enemy of our souls will have no power over us. Now where is faith in all of this? Ephesians 2:8-9 reads “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” We do need to have faith to believe that God can and will save us. That he will keep his promises. Through the power of salvation in us and his presence through the Holy Spirit, we can live each day in a manner pleasing to him. We will not make it to heaven just by doing good things, we cannot save ourselves. We need to accept the blood of Jesus as a payment for our sins and though God’s mercy continue our life with out sin. Our salvation is a work that only God can perform in our lives. It is only when we have acknowledged the judgment of sin and sought mercy through faith that we are able to live as God would have us to, holy, sin free, and in communion with him.

Through all of this we can see that we must have all three, judgment, mercy and faith to live according to God’s plan for his people. Be honest with your self and with God. Don’t be content with just a religious belief, search for a true relationship with God. Seek the truth where ever you go and God will be faithful to bring you to it. It is his desire that you find the truth.

In continuing with our discussion on sin last Wednesday, we explored 2 more of the 10 commandments listed in Exodus 20.

1. Thou shalt not kill, Exodus 20:13. There is a difference between killing and murder. In this statement, the Hebrew word for kill specifically means to murder. In Exodus 21:12-15, the people of God are instructed to handle premeditated murder differently than an accidental killing. We are commanded not to take someone’s life or testimony through hate. If we hate our brother, we are just as accountable as a murderer. 1 John 3:15

2. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Exodus 20:14. In Matthew 5:27-28 defines the concern of adultery in the New Testament, it isn’t just the act of a relationship of a married person and someone other than their spouse, but it is the act of lusting after another person. Lust is adultery in the heart. God is not just concerned with adultery among people, but also between his church, the Bride, and Christ. God commands us to refrain from lusting after another god.

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