Friday, November 17, 2017

Knowing God’s Love



“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
                                                                                                – 1 John 4:11-12

As the moon falls onto the waves crashing upon the beach, the earth rotates through the night.  The gravitational pull of the spinning sphere draws the tide from the depths of the see to the sands of the shore.  It’s consistent and has been for thousands of years, from the moment Adam walked and the serpent slithered along the sandy floor of the garden.  The battle ensued at that time, and has ebbed and flowed ever since.  Today, we look with wonder as the tidal waves crash onto the shores and marvel at the complexity of it all.

Many believe we are in the worst time of history, yet we have no clue of what this world has been through.  Trials have come and gone, and the human race has continued to thrive through it all.  What began as a garden, a perfect paradise if you will; has now evolved into a cesspool of evil, temptation and pain.  Why?   Why was Adam and Eve incapable of obeying the Father’s simple instructions and choosing to surrender to the evil one, the ruler on this earth? 

It’s not a blame game, but we are certainly a by-product of our ancestral chain.  Through ages we have fought each other over pride, greed, selfishness and power.  I propose that the original love God implanted in mankind is absent from humanity today.  We say we love one another, but do we really understand what that even means?  Is it simply affection for one another?  Is it an emotion that makes one’s heart beat a little faster, makes one’s palms sweat and breath quicken?  Do we really understand what the Lord gave us in the garden? 

It makes me wonder, what if Eve had run away; what if Adam had actually stood for righteousness and took his rightful place to lead her away.  Would we even be here?  Would this world then be the perfect paradise that God had so meticulously formed from his very breath?  I know it’s deep and unfathomable to comprehend what might have really become of mankind and this earth.  But, one thing is for sure, had they resisted the evil one on that day, love would have conquered and would have become the nature by which we all live.

We were created in love by the Abba Father, to dwell in love and perfect harmony with Him forever.  Mankind allowed evil to seep into our existence and it has been ever since.  When we say we are born in sin, it ties all the way back to the garden.  For the love that was provided to and for us, became a long distant obfuscated memory over generations.  How long did it take before God’s original plan of a loving human race became unrecognizable?  The single closest resemblance of His love that still exist today, is the love between parent and birth child. 

As DNA and genes are passed through the bloodline, we have an identity with our children and likewise with our parents.  Even multi-generational gaps weaken the love tie, but it’s still there none the less.  Compare this with the love tie you might have with a spouse.  This is a learned or chosen love that you decide to share, not because it was inherent at birth.  The love you share with your family and friends is a pale representation of what the love God had intended.  The temporary lustful love you have for others is nothing more than a selfish intent to satisfy one’s desires, nothing more.

So, how then are we to love one another the way God loves us?  First, in our simple mindedness we must try to understand the depth of God’s love.  Refer back to Deuteronomy 7:9 – “Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands”  This is clue #1 – His love is for a thousand generations and He will keep his covenant, made with Abraham, to love you and bless you.  God has promised His love to mankind for all time, only dependent upon obeying his commands, which we all agree is nearly impossible.  But, in the depth of His love for us, He alone provided a way. 

We all know John 3:16 by heart, “For God so loved the world that He gave is only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.”  This is clue #2 – mankind had become so evil and incapable of loving God and keeping His commands, that in order to find redemption from the sins, it would take a sacrifice which could not be found in this world.  Therefore, because of His immense love for us, He sent Jesus Christ to die for us, so that we could once again be able to kneel in His presence and love Him in return.   Also, reiterated in Romans 5:8 – “
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us

We don’t know this kind of love in our world, for you see, Satan is the prince of this world; and Satan lives by hate, envy, pride, greed, love of self and pleasure.  In this world we cannot begin to understand the love of the Father, and just how intense that love truly is.  Think about the person in this world you love the most.  Now ask yourself, if that person hates me, turns from me, rejects me and degrades me; will my love for them be unchanging, immutable?  Jesus demonstrated this in His life, but no other man in all of time has ever been able replicate it. 

That is why we need Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.  He alone can love the Father as the Father loves us.  Through Him and only through Him can we return love to the Father that He is worthy of.  The more we learn about Jesus and the more we allow Him to work in our lives, the more we become like Him and can love others as He first loved us.


Be Blessed,
Rich


Join us on Facebook @ 10 Minute Reader Daily Thoughts or on Twitter @Sondove
If you would like to be added to the email distribution, please send an email here.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

But By Grace




“Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”
                                                                                                – 2 Peter 1:2

 

As he ran from the door, he pulled the ski-mask off of his head and dropped it to the ground.  He had left the scene with a satchel of large denomination bills and two diamond banded watches.  On the floor of the jewelry store lie several customers and the owners, bound at their hands and feet.  Sirens were blaring in the streets as he ran away from the building.  Suddenly two police squad cars pulled onto the curb in front of him.  He darted to his left into traffic, just missing being hit by a truck as it’s horned screamed into the night air.

He turned down an alley between two buildings and hid behind a dumpster in the shadows.  Red and blue lights strobed against the brick wall as he inhaled and tried to remain still.  The lights faded and then the alley was black again.  He stayed still and quiet.  He asked himself, how long.  How long should he stay here to be sure that they were truly gone.

“Thank you God.  Thank you for helping me get away.”

What was that, he asked himself, as he turned to see a flashlight shining against the brick wall and coming his direction.  He tucked in close to the dumpster trying to make himself invisible.  They walked past the dumpster a few steps, he remained perfectly still until the two police officers were past him, then he jumped to his feet and ran.  He heard them yell, “Stop or I’ll shoot.”  But, he truly thought that they’d never do it, so he kept running. 

His left thigh burned incredibly as he went to take another step, then he heard the shot echo through the alley.  He fell to the ground in agonizing pain as the realization of what just happened raced through his mind.  He knew that the bullet had torn through the flesh of his thigh and his race was over, regardless of how much he wanted to crawl away.

At the hospital they dressed his wound and gave him a shot for the pain.  Then the police took him to the local precinct, booked him and locked him in the infirmary.  They had caught him, red handed with nearly $200,000 and $40,000 in watches.  His brief life of crime had come to an abrupt end that night, as the morphine kicked in and he fell asleep.

In the early morning they came by and gave him some yogurt, bread and coffee, with the warning that he would see the magistrate at 9AM.  Is there anyone they could call on his behalf?  He shook his head no, and rolled over.  You see, he had no-one.  He was a loner, orphaned at a young age, in and out of foster care, dropped out of school and was living in shelters and the local church mission most of his early adulthood.  An hour later he heard his cell door unlock and the officer held out a pair of handcuffs and ankle-cuffs.  After attaching them, he was escorted with a limp down the long corridor and into the courtroom.

He was seated at the table in front of the bench.  There was an empty chair next to him at the table.  The judge entered the chamber and the gavel fell to the wooden bench.  The judge looked down from his bench and called the court to order.  He looked at the suspect and then at the older man on the other side of the courtroom and said quite clearly, “Is this the man who stole from you last evening? “  The clerk looked across at the suspect and nodded his head.  The judge looked at the police officer sitting in the chair near the side door.  “What did you find as evidence of this crime?”  The office laid the satchel of money and the two watches on the table as evidence.

Then the judge looked straight at the suspect.  “Sir, did you take this money and watches from the jewelry store on main street last evening?”  The suspect nodded his head to affirm the accusations, and quietly mouthed the words; “Yes, I did it.”  and tears fell from his cheek to the table.  At the tender age of 20 he knew this was it, he was headed to prison.  The only question was for how long.  As the judge raised the gavel, he questioned to the room.  “Is there any to offer a defense as to why this man should not be sentenced for the crime in question?”

A man stood up from the gallery and walked forward past the table right up to the judge’s bench.  As he past the table where the suspect sat, he paused and laid a keychain with a single vault box key on the table.  Quiet conversation ensued between the judge and the older gentleman, until the man turned around and held his hands out wrists together.  The judge motioned for the bailiff to secure the man and take him from the courtroom to the prison cell. 

Then the judge looked at the suspect and addressed him directly, “You are free to go, Sir.  The key before you will open a lock box at the bank on 5th Avenue, where you will find adequate documentation for insurance to cover your injuries and additional documentation detailing the inheritance, including several bank accounts, vehicles and a house in the sub-burbs; all of which has been granted to you by this gentlemen.  Just then the door closed behind the older gentlemen as they took him away.

Grace – the free and unmerited favor given to one that does not deserve, but rather deserves the full wrath and punishment for their actions.  God's loves us so much, His grace is overwhelming when you truly sit back and think about what we deserve as sinners in this life.  We deserve the full punishment for our actions, but we are forgiven and set free while another takes on the punishment that we should have received.  Such is the life of a Christian.  Jesus Christ took on the pain and suffering that you and I so deserve for our actions.  We are given freedom to enter into salvation and eternal life with God Almighty, by believing and acknowledging Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  Don't take it for granted.


Be Blessed,

Rich

 

Join us on Facebook @ 10 Minute Reader Daily Thoughts or on Twitter @Sondove
If you would like to be added to the email distribution, please
send an email here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

He Hears You




“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”  – Ephesians 6:18

When most people think about armor they think about the protective pieces that cover our body and defend against the attack of another.  I am here to tell you that the strongest element of armor you have at your disposal is prayer.  The communication between you and the Father is the strength from within that conquers all that mankind can put in front of you.  God knows what is upon your heart and mind, for He is omniscient (all-knowing).  The prayer lifted up to God is our recognition of dependence upon Him, it’s not to educate Him on what is happening in our life and what He should do.  He already knows what He should do, I mean, He is God and I’m pretty sure He doesn’t need our advice.

So many of us lift a prayer with the expectation that our desires and interests will be met.  What we often fail to grasp is that our desires and interests are not the deciding factor in whether a prayer is answered or not.  I propose that God has a plan for your life, a desire for who He wants you to become and an interest in what is best for you.  We do not have the full picture when we lift our prayers to the Lord of all creation, some might say our perspective is myopic.  Before the thought enters our mind, and the words leave our lips, the Lord has already recognized the need and whether it is in line with His plan for your life.  There are those times that prayers are lifted which are in perfect alignment with His plan, He was simply waiting for you to acknowledge it.  These tend to be the times when we recognize prayers answered quickly.  There are those times that prayers are lifted which are not necessarily in line with God’s plans and we find that they are not answered in a manner we would like.  Either case though, the Lord is hearing your prayers.  The bible assures us that Holy Spirit will intercede on our behalf; Romans 8:26 tells us “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”  The Holy Spirit is God within you, and therefore He knows what you need even when you don’t.

It was December 2003, we had just come back from Michigan after attending my Grandmother’s funeral.  That night my daughter and I were involved in a car accident.  We both walked away okay, a little bruised and scraped, but no serious injuries.  I had glanced away from the road for nothing more than a second and a car pulled out in front of me.  I was doing 50 mph at the time and ran straight into the backend of their car.  It was determined that I was at fault for not controlling my speed, even though I wasn’t speeding (per se’).  We thought everything was going to be okay, up until a week or so later.  The owner of the other vehicle had chosen to sue us for liability, which is within their right in the state of Texas.  We believed that our car insurance would handle it though, so it didn’t worry us at first.  Then came the notification that our insurance premiums, due the week before while we were in Michigan, had not been paid and our insurance could not cover the claim. 

Imagine our shock and dismay looking at a pending lawsuit for medical care, time off work, transportation and grievances in the area of over a hundred thousand dollars, with no insurance.  In speaking with the insurance company to reinstate our insurance we were told that they could reinstate it but could not cover this claim.  There computer systems would not allow for it to happen.  The first time our agent put the data through it kicked it back out and denied the claim just as she said it would. 

Do you notice that in most dire cases we turn to the Lord in prayer, and I did that day as well.  I was an emotional wreck, having, only weeks prior, attended my Grandmother’s funeral, then to have this happen, fears had formed in my mind of the worst possible case.  Could they take our house?  What if we couldn’t pay?  Where could I ever get that kind of money in a short time frame?  None of this was from the Lord mind you.  Recognize that all of my thoughts were fearful by nature and when I knelt to pray I had no idea what to pray for.  Through my mumbling and quiet whispers of love for the Lord and trust in Him that He would see us through this, I started to regain my composure.

No less than 15 minutes later my wife, Lisa, walked in.  After speaking to the insurance agency, climbing the ranks from supervisor to supervisor, she had been receiving the same answer, “There’s nothing we can do, the computer and software do not allow us to override the dates in the policy.”  But with persistence, Lisa had convinced the agent to re-enter the claim one more time.  When they put the claim through the system accepted it and we were covered with the exception of our deductible.  Some may claim coincidence, but Lisa and I both know that God answered my unrecognizable prayers at the very moment I was crying out to Him.

The world will pose trouble, trials, temptations and evil every day; but God promises that He will be with you to overcome these things.  Prayer is unbelievably powerful, and when coupled with the armor of God provided in
Ephesians 6:13-18 you are more prepared for battle with the enemy than you can ever imagine.  God is good, and nothing in this world can separate us from His love and peace.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Would You Throw the Stone




they say unto him, Teacher, this woman hath been taken in adultery, in the very act. . . But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground. But when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”    John 8:4-7


Jesus came upon the group of Pharisees and Sadducees ready to stone the woman caught is adultery.  I can only imagine how he caught them by surprise when, rather than joining them to stone her, he kneeled to write something in the dirt. Acting almost oblivious to their questions, yelling and anger.  Calmly, Jesus looks up from His kneeling position and asks them a simple question, though he already knew the answer.

“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

I’ve always wondered what Jesus wrote in the dirt.  Perhaps, he was writing the 10 commandments, perhaps a simple word – LOVE, perhaps a few of the sins of those ready to throw the stones.  Is it really important what He was writing?  Probably not.  The reality of the fact that He did not immediately go to the act of executing Justice upon the woman though sent a message to these law makers and Jewish leaders.  The message was loud and clear to them – “The Mosaic covenant is to be followed in all things, and if they weren’t following it in their own lives, how could they condemn this woman.”

We all need to take note of this in our lives.  We are so quick to condemn others for their sin, without looking at our own.  Did you sin today?  The answer is yes, you did.  So did I.  We are all sinners in the eyes of the Lord and if you believe your sins are less sinful than another, than you need to ask yourself this question.  Who will decide the severity of the sinful nature?  You, me, my Pastor, my friends, my enemies; or God Almighty?  You see, you and I are not equipped to judge mankind of their sinful nature.  We aren’t capable of forgiving sin, redeeming sin or sanctifying a sinful life back to a measure of acceptance in the Lord’s eyes. 

The Father, in His loving grace, gave His Son, Jesus Christ, to die once as a price to redeem man’s sin.  There is no second death, no additional measure of redemption that is coming.  His blood was poured out that we might have everlasting, eternal life with the Father in heaven.  We are all sinful in our flesh.  Certainly, we see some sin as an abomination to the Lord’s love and nature, but does that make it less forgivable?  Is God’s grace insufficient for some sin?

A few sins that make most of our skin crawl include: Murder, Rape, Child Abuse, Adultery and many forms of sexual sin and debauchery; will God forgive those who partake of these?  What about lying, cheating, material possession idolatry, stealing, swearing, greed, pride, hate, envy, jealousy and so on; will God forgive these sinful actions?  Who gets to decide?  Are you truly prepared to tell God that He should or should not forgive one man’s actions, without considering the amount of sin in your own life that He has forgiven.

We don’t have to approve of sinful action when we see it.  Keep in mind what Jesus told the woman after all of her accusers had left.  “Woman, where are they? did no man condemn thee?  And she said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said, Neither do I condemn thee: go thy way; from henceforth sin no more.  John 8:10-11

Jesus didn’t forgive her and tell her to go on and continue doing what she was doing, but rather “go and sin no more.”  Repent, turn the other way, make a better choice, turn away from sin.  These are all the same choices we are given every time sin comes our way.  I believe we need to be a little more loving to those who we see living in sin.  Help them understand that we are all sinners and in need of a savior.  Help them understand that Jesus forgives sin and by the grace of the Lord their sin can be forgiven.  But, also help them understand, Jesus requires them to turn from their sin and turn toward Him.  If we loved others, I promise this world could truly be a more peaceful place for all of us.

 

Be Blessed,

Rich

 

Join us on Facebook @ 10 Minute Reader Deep Thoughts or on Twitter @Sondove

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

He Never Listens




“God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?   – Numbers 23:19



We are all guilty of making promises to others in life and then for one reason or another not fulfilling them.  In most cases, I propose it is not with ill intention that we set the expectations with others.  Certainly (and hopefully rarely) there are those that are acting out of vengeance or resentment that will promise certain things with no intention of fulfilling them.  As much as you have broken promises to others, your kids, your parents, your friends and co-workers; others have broken promises to you.  Isn’t it easier to recall the times when others have broken their promises, than to recollect your own transgressions?  I know it seems easier for me.


Many of us think about God with a perspective of our understanding of the people we associate with.  We have no ability to fully comprehend His perfection, omnipotence and love.  There is nothing on this earth today that is comparable to the character of God.  There is nothing we can point to and understand what it means to be truthful in ALL things, to LOVE regardless, to FORGIVE everything or to keep every PROMISE.  There are promises throughout God’s word.  Promises to bring you comfort, peace, security and confidence.  They do not have an expiration date, nor contingencies, but are given from the Lord, God Almighty for you to take hold of. 

A few promises I hold close to my heart:


God cannot lie, or He is no longer perfect
Christ died for all sins, if not than His redeeming blood is not sufficient for any
God will judge all mankind, and there is a heaven and hell, or the whole bible is for naught

Trust in God’s promises.  Discover them, hold on to them and rely on them when you are struggling in life.  He is there in every situation, with an answer for your worries.

Be Blessed,Rich
Join us on Facebook @ 10 Minute Reader Daily Thoughts or on Twitter @Sondove
If you would like to be added to the email distribution, please send an email here.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Be Patient




“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
 – 2 Peter 3:
9


Let’s face it, there are mornings I wake up and read the news and become completely discouraged with the current state of the world.  I look at the poverty, the wars, the corruptness, greed and scandals; and ask myself how much longer.  Have you been there?  Have you found yourself at times wondering, “How much longer God.  How much longer must we wait for your return?”  It’s so hard to look upon all of the evil in this world and not be overwhelmed by the challenge before us as believers in Jesus Christ.  Daily we hear of violent crimes against children, abuse of spouses, murder in the streets, oppressive governments, incurable disease, increases in homeless and unemployed and the deception of world views on our youth, drawing them away from Christ.  There are days I wake up and feel sick to my stomach as I hear the stories of what is happening around the globe to those that stand up for their faith.

This isn’t a new feeling, as much as it seems to be getting worse each day.  Peter, Paul, Barnabas, John and the others struggled with it in the days of the early church as well.  Recall the circumstances at the time; Jesus had died, been resurrected and had appeared to them on numerous occasions.  Then there came that period of unrest as these mighty apostles of our Lord fought the customs and culture of the time, to propagate a belief in someone that had not appeared in 20 – 30 years.  Preaching the return of Jesus Christ was a part of their ministry, but there had to be a vision that it would be within their lifetime.  Their one on one relationship with the man Jesus Christ led them to this belief as I’m sure you can imagine.  They had experienced His physical presence intimately before He died as well as after His death.  To them it was only a short matter of time before they would all be taken up with their Savior.

Peter’s statement here in 2 Peter 3 is unbelievably difficult to grasp when we are faced with a population of over 7 billion.  We are told in Matthew 24:14 that the gospel will be taught to all nations before the end will come.  Are there remote areas of the world that have never had the gospel shared with them?  Certainly, there are.  Some would say that we should quickly take the message to these remote areas, and then Christ will return.  I don’t believe it is that simple.  I don’t believe you can drop a bunch of bibles off in the remote rainforests to jungle tribes and walk away satisfied that the world is now ready.  You see it’s not a checklist. 

Many of us are impatient for Christ’s return because we are unwilling to fight for His cause any longer.  I have discovered that many are tired.  It is not easy to spread the word and to stand up to the worldly views of atheism and other worldly religions.  By allowing ourselves to be drafted into the world perspectives we see the misery and challenges in the world.  We take our eyes off of the One who is above the world.  Do not forget the God to whom you serve.  If you, like me, believe that God is Almighty, Omnipotent and sovereign than you must also realize that He could step in at any moment and put an end to it.

If God chose for Christ to return tomorrow, I pray that you were in a relationship with Him and that you and I would enjoy eternity forever together.  What a unbelievably joyous day that will be for His children.  Of the billions of people in this world, less than 1/3 profess a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  If God came back today, what do you think happens to 2/3 of the world’s population?  Now ask yourself the more difficult question – Who do you know right this minute that, based on your limited view of their life, will not be taken up at that moment?  There is likely someone very close to you that does not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Perhaps there are many, even hundreds that you know.  Do you have compassion for them?  Do you long for them to find the love and forgiving grace that you have?  Are you okay with them being cast into the lake of fire for all of eternity?

God has incredible patience for them.  We must endure through our selfishness and desire to look after ourselves and focus our attention on those they are blinded by the world.  As the Christmas season draws upon us this year I want you to make a list of those you want to truly see the Christ child be born, and take the action to reach out to them during the next 7 weeks.  Let them find the baby in a manger that can bring them salvation one day.  It will be the greatest gift you can give this Christmas.





Join us on Facebook @ 10 Minute Reader Daily Thoughts or on Twitter @Sondove
If you would like to be added to the email distribution, please
send an email here.