Don’t Criticize Yourself

<strong>Don’t Criticize Yourself</strong>

Most of us don’t realize that as followers of Jesus Christ, we should not criticize ourselves or even think negative things about ourselves!  Does that surprise you?

This is a lesson the Lord had to teach me, and one that He also needs to remind me of from time to time.  It’s a favorite tool of the enemy to get us thinking disapproving things of ourselves, but we must not do it

Here are some of the Scriptural reasons to help us to understand the deep, spiritual  importance of this:

  1. So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.  (Gen 1:27 NIV)

Every human being on earth, whether Christian or not, has been created in the image of God.  Since that is true, EVERYONE deserves to be treated with respect—including ourselves!

  • I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.  (Ps 139:14 ESV)

Since, each human being was given life by the Lord, each individual is a wonderful work of the Lord.  We would never contemplate criticizing one of God’s works, would we?  Then why do we think it’s okay to think pessimistic thoughts about ourselves?

  • . . . everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made.  (Isa 43:7 NASB)

We have each been created to bring God glory.  Our thoughts are much better ordered and employed to meditate upon God and to think worshipful thoughts about Him. Also, it is productive to think of ways to bring Him glory and honor.

  • Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?  (1 Cor 6:19 NKJV)

We, as believers, do not belong to ourselves but we belong to God.  Each Christian is a temple of the Holy Spirit.  Just think about the enormity of that honor.

  • . . . and to clothe yourselves with the new nature, which was created according to God’s image in righteousness and true holiness.  (Eph 4:24 ISV)

Our ‘new nature’ since salvation is the one that has ‘put on Christ.’ (Rom 13:14; Gal 3:27)  Our born-again spirit was sealed by God in righteousness and true holiness.  There is nothing within us that we are able to criticize because we belong to God.  Glory to God!

Meditate upon how very important you are to the Lord, and the fact that you belong to Him.  God is with you. Rejoice in His truth!

Being Strengthened & Established

<strong>Being Strengthened & Established</strong>

As we live our daily lives as believers and followers of Jesus, there should come times when we are strengthened and established, or recognized, in our faith.  Let’s take a look at some Scriptures concerning this topic:

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established—that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.  (Rom 1:11-12 NKJV)

Paul was writing to believers in Rome, saying that he wished to see them in order that he could impart [pass on] a spiritual gift to a number of them, and that he could encourage them in their faith—and be encouraged himself by them. 

First of all, do you realize that praying for each other is encouraging? 

And do you also realize that by praying for one another, we may reveal our own spiritual gifts and may even pass them on?  Well, it’s absolutely true! 

But I know that when I come to you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.  (Rom 15:29 NKJV)

Paul was confident that when he saw the believers in person, that he would be operating in the FULLNESS of the blessing of Christ’s gospel.  What faith!  This demonstrates the confidence of a man who relies completely upon the Word, and lives his life accordingly.  Glory to God!

So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.  (Ac 16:5 NIV)

When we are strengthened in our faith, we can’t help but share our experiences and testimonies with others.  When we do that, other people visit our churches in order to discover what is happening.  Their curiosity is provoked, and they want to investigate for themselves.

When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.  (Ac 19:6 NIV)

Praying for people, as you touch them, is a biblical and correct form of prayer.  This verse tells us that when Paul did this, the people that Paul touched came under the influence and presence of the Holy Spirit.  As a result these same people actually spoke in tongues and prophesied.  Hallelujah!  These are biblical results and we should be encouraged by them, and use them as our example.

A key tactic we can use to strengthen our faith is to read the Bible, and to the meditate upon it daily.  God bless you.

The Kingdom of Heaven

<strong>The Kingdom of Heaven</strong>

The terms “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Kingdom of God” are synonymous; they represent  the same thing.

“Many people think of the kingdom of God as heaven or as the church. However, the kingdom of God is not an actual physical place. A working definition of God’s kingdom from a biblical perspective can be seen as God’s universal reign as Creator and Christ’s exhaustive work as Redeemer. Since God is eternal, His kingdom is eternal. The Kingdom of God transcends time and space.” 

(Source:  https://www.ibelieve.com/faith/what-is-the-kingdom-of-god-10-things-christians-need-to-know.html)

Let’s see what the Bible says:

. . . and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  (Mt 18:3 NKJV)

In order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, one needs childlike faith and trust in the Lord.  Just as earthly children trust their parents for their daily needs, we also must place our faith and trust in God the Father for daily shelter, food, protection, and all of life’s necessities.

Jesus told them another story:  The kingdom of heaven is like what happens when a farmer plants a mustard seed in a field. 32 Although it is the smallest of all seeds, it grows larger than any garden plant and becomes a tree. Birds even come and nest on its branches.  (Mt 13:31-32 CEV)

And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”  (Mk 4:30-32 RSV)

The Kingdom of Heaven is compared, in these Bible passages above, to a mustard seed that grows into a mighty plant whose branches become a home for birds as well as a protection from the shade for other animals. 

Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  (Joh 3:5-6 NKJV)

The Kingdom of God is a spiritual rule over the hearts and lives of all who have become part of His kingdom by submitting to His authority, and by accepting Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord.   

Wherever God’s faithful people are gathered is where the Kingdom of God can be found.  God will meet us wherever we gather, whenever we call upon His Name. 

A relationship with Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord is the basis of the Kingdom of God.  It impacts all actions, thoughts, relationships, families, institutions, and governments.  Everything on earth will come into contact with God’s Kingdom. 

This Kingdom has grown all over the earth, and is still growing and overcoming all obstacles in order to touch the hearts and minds of people everywhere.  Glory to God most High!

Be Filled With the Spirit

<strong>Be Filled With the Spirit</strong>

We are instructed in Ephesians to “be filled with the Spirit.”  What should we understand about this command?

And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ . . .  (Eph 5:18-20 NKJV, emphasis added)

This passage tells us not to be drunk with wine (which is a form of alcohol, at times referred to as ‘spirits’), but that we should be filled with the Spirit—meaning the Holy Spirit.

Have you ever seen someone who is under the influence of too much alcohol?  They are often out-of-control, and will frequently act in ways which are outlandish and even shocking for them.  In Ephesians, the word dissipation is used which means overindulgence, debauchery, and intemperance.  When such ones recover their sobriety, they may feel ashamed of their actions while they were intoxicated. 

However, when one is “full of the Spirit,” we mean a person has allowed themselves to be controlled and guided by the Holy Spirit.  This often results in our encouraging each other with Scriptures and with spiritual songs, giving praise and thanksgiving to the Lord.  This is a way of overflowing with the joy of the Lord in giving praise and thanksgiving to the Lord who is perpetually worthy to be praised!

Let’s turn back to the Bible and see what other wisdom the Lord would like to share with us.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything that I have told you.  (Joh 14:26 ISV)

The Holy Spirit will teach us everything that we need for life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3) and will remind us of the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, namely, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, He will testify about Me . . .  (Joh 15:26 NASB)

The Holy Spirit is also called the Spirit of truth, and the Holy Spirit testifies [gives evidence; affirms; confirms] to us about Jesus.  The Holy Spirit teaches us about the love of Jesus for mankind as well as all of His other beautiful attributes.

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.  (Ac 2:4 NKJV)

One evidence, on the day of Pentecost, of the infilling of the Holy Spirit was the fact that all those who were filled spoke in other tongues [unknown languages, that is, unknown to the speakers].  This experience of speaking in other tongues is still available today to anyone who desires it.  Just ask, by faith, the Holy Spirit to give it to you in Jesus’ Name.  God bless you.

Joy & Safety

<strong>Joy & Safety</strong>

This may seem like a quirky combination to write about, but I hope that you’ll take time to study this along with me.

Not only does the Lord want us to be filled with joy, but He also wants us to know that we are safe and secure thanks to Him.

You have put joy in my heart, more than when their grain and new wine are abundant.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, Lord, have me dwell in safety.
  (Ps 4:7-8 NASB)

This Bible passage above acknowledges that the Lord has placed joy in our hearts.  He is the author of joy!  Also, it talks about our sleeping peacefully because the Lord causes us to live in safety.  What wonderful blessings!

For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord; I sing for joy at what your hands have done.  (Ps 92:4 NIV)

We may rejoice and have joy because of God’s righteous and upright acts. 

When you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.  (Pro 3:24 NKJV)

This verse again speaks about our sleep being sweet and peaceful because our faith in God allows us to be free of fear.  Glory to God!

I lie down and sleep; I wake again, for the Lord sustains me.  (Ps 3:5 RSV)

Even our ability to awaken on any given morning is because the Lord sustains our very life.  Think about that!

I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.  Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.  (Ps 16:8-9 ESV)

In this Psalm, David is discussing the fact that he was aware of God’s presence with him at all times.  David felt God’s face before him, and God’s presence at his side.  As a result, it filled David with joy and rejoicing.  This also made him feel secure (protected, sheltered, and safe).  We are just as beloved by God as David was.  God’s presence is always with us, and His Spirit dwells within each and every one of us.   We are His temple.  (1 Cor 6:19 NKJV)  Hallelujah!

Generosity Pleases God

<strong>Generosity Pleases God</strong>

Generosity teaches us to trust in God.  When we are generous to others, we demonstrate the fact that we trust in God as our source and our Provider.  We also follow the example of Jesus, who was generous with everything that He had.

You shall supply him liberally out of your flock, out of your floor, and out of your winepress. From that with which the Lord your God has blessed you, you shall give to him.  (Deu 15:14 MEV)

From the good gifts with which the Lord has blessed us, giving to others is one of the numerous ways that we can give back to the Lord. 

Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.  (Pro 22:9 ESV)

When we give an offering to the poor, or when we give a donation to a ministry that helps the poor, then we are promised by God that we will be blessed. 

In everything I showed you [by example] that by working hard in this way you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed [and brings greater joy] to give than to receive.’”  (Ac 20:35          AMP)

The Lord says in His Word that ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  This is another fine testimony in favor of generosity.

 If we can encourage others, we should encourage them. If we can give, we should be generous. If we are leaders, we should do our best. If we are good to others, we should do it cheerfully.  (Rom 12:8 CEV)

Here again, the Bible teaches us that ‘if we can give,’ our giving should be generous (substantial, lavish, plentiful, big-hearted).

Let each man do according as he hath purposed in his heart: not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.  (2 Cor 9:7 ASV)

The above Bible verse reminds us that God loves a cheerful giver!  What more do we need to know? 

When we release our tight hold upon the things of this world, we instantly free ourselves from every kind of bondage and trap.  As we look to the Lord—our Savior and Redeemer—as our Provider, He will prove Himself to be more than generous to us.  For has the Bible not said: And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  (Phil 4:19 ESV) Praise the Lord!

The Lord is Faithful & Upright

<strong>The Lord is Faithful & Upright</strong>

The Bible tells us in many different verses that God is not only faithful, but that He is upright.  What do these terms means to us?

Faithful means the fact or quality of being true to one’s word or commitments, as to what one has pledged to do, professes to believe, etc.  Titus 1:2 reminds us that God cannot lie!  This tells us that we may trust whatever He says.

Upright means morally erect; honest; just; conforming to high, moral standards. 

Now let’s look at these Scriptures:

For the word of the Lord is upright; and all his works are done in faithfulness.  He loves righteousness and justice; the world is filled with the gracious love of the Lord.  (Ps 33:4-5 ISV) 

According to this passage, God’s Word is upright, honest, and just.  All of God’s works are done in faithfulness, according to what He has promised.  Glory to God!

Our Lord, you are true to your promises, and your word is like silver heated seven times in a fiery furnace.  (Ps 12:6 CEV)

This Bible verse reminds us that God’s promises are true (genuine, valid, sincere), and that they have been tried and tested—just like fine silver.

The Lord is your mighty defender, perfect and just in all his ways; your God is faithful and true; he does what is right and fair.  (Deu 32:4 GNT)

How reassuring to read this Bible passage above!  God is declared to be our mighty Defender who is perfect and just (good, fair, honest, honorable) in all of His ways. 

For the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness; the upright will see His face.  (Ps 11:7 NASB)

According to the Scripture shown above, all who are upright (honest, respectable, righteous) will see God’s face.  Hallelujah!

The earth, O Lord, is full of thy steadfast love; teach me thy statutes!  (Ps 119:64 RSV)

Lastly, we see the Lord’s love described as steadfast which is just another word for faithful, reliable and trustworthy.

As you can see, based upon what we have just studied, God is indeed faithful and upright!  He is worthy to be praised!

The Tough Decision to Follow Jesus

<strong>The Tough Decision to Follow Jesus</strong>

The Scriptures remind us that when we make the decision to follow Jesus, we should “count the cost.”  (Lk 14:27-29)  In other words, Jesus wants us to know what it means to fully follow Him.  This is a serious subject with genuine consequences.

Just as the building of a physical house has a definite cost, so does the decision to follow Jesus have a cost.  We’re told that we must take up a CROSS and deny ourselves, in order to follow Jesus.  Let’s read what the Scriptures have to say:

And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.  (Mt 10:38 KJV, emphasis added)

Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.  (Lk 14:27 NASB)

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  (Mt 16:24 NRSV)

When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  (Mk 8:34 NKJV)

First, we must deny ourselves!  What does that mean?  It means that we put Jesus and the Holy Spirit in charge of our lives.  We give up the throne that is our life, and ask Jesus to sit on the throne and to direct us by His Spirit.  We cannot follow Jesus and the world’s way at the same time.  Neither can we serve God and money at the same time.

Following Jesus may mean that we lose relationships, dreams, material things, and even our lives.  Our relationship with Jesus must take priority over everything else in our lives and must be of the supreme importance to us. 

We must, in essence, declare:  “I’d rather have Jesus than anything.”

If a day comes when someone threatens us with death if we do not renounce our faith in Jesus Christ, then we should happily choose Jesus and eternal life above staying here in our earthly body.  Pray for God’s blessings and grace in order to live boldly for Jesus.

May God’s grace strengthen you and empower you.

Jesus’ Sacrificial Love

<strong>Jesus’ Sacrificial Love</strong>

A sacrifice is something given up for the sake of others.  Anything sacrificial is connected to a selfless act or a selfless course of action.

Jesus’ love for His Father and for mankind was a sacrificial love.  In order to obey His Father and to redeem mankind back to a relationship with God, Jesus became the Lamb of God (Joh 1:29, 36) who was slain before the foundation of the world.  (Rev 13:8)  In Bible times, the animal that was frequently used in sacrifices to God was a perfect, unblemished lamb.

Let’s see what the Bible says about such love.

We know what love is because Jesus gave his life for us. This is why we must give our lives for each other. 17 If we have all we need and see one of our own people in need, we must have pity on that person, or else we cannot say we love God.  (1 Joh 3:16-17 CEV)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  (Joh 13:34 ESV)

Live lovingly, just as the Messiah also loved us and gave himself for us as an offering and sacrifice, a fragrant aroma to God.  (Eph 5:2 ISV)

If you have a friend who is in need of food and clothing, 16 and you say to him, “Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat hearty,” and then don’t give him clothes or food, what good does that do?  (Jas 2:15-16 TLB)

But do not forget to do good and to share. For with such sacrifices God is well pleased.  (Heb 13:16 MEV)

So not only did Jesus show us what love is, but the Word of God encourages us to model this same type of selfless love back to a hurting and needy world. 

We are encouraged to live our lives as an offering and sacrifice which is a fragrant aroma to God.  We are urged to do good to others and to share food and clothing with those in need.  In this way, we share the love and goodness of God with others.  God bless you.

God Speaks to Us

<strong>God Speaks to Us</strong>

The Word of God gives us multiple instances of how God has spoken to His people over the centuries.  The written Word of God, the Bible, is one way that the Lord communicates with His people.  In His Word, He gives us instructions and promises which will lead us, guide us, and encourage us.

. . . and said to Moses, “If you speak to us, we will listen. But don’t let God speak to us, or we will die!”  20 “Don’t be afraid!” Moses replied. “God has come only to test you, so that by obeying him you won’t sin.” 21 But when Moses went near the thick cloud where God was, the people stayed a long way off.  (Ex 20:19-22 CEV)  The Jewish people who followed Moses didn’t want to hear God’s voice!  They wanted Moses to speak with the Lord and to be their intermediary.  They wanted to receive their instructions from a man rather than directly from the Lord. 

From heaven he spoke to you in order to teach you, and on earth he showed you his great fire from which you also heard his words.  (Deu 4:36 NET)  God speaks to us in order to teach us, to encourage us, and to bless us.

Then you and your son and your grandson will fear the Lord your God. You will obey all His Laws that I tell you, all the days of your life. And then you will have a longer life.  (Deu 6:2 NLV)  One of the Bible’s promises concerning obeying God’s instructions is that we will have a long life.

This is the one who was in the assembly in the wilderness together with the angel who spoke to him at length on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to you.  (Ac 7:38 NASB)  God’s Words are living words.  (See Heb 4:12)

There are multitude of ways that God communicates with mankind.  He speaks to us through the beauty and majesty of His creation.  Also, he speaks to us by the Holy Spirit through dreams, visions, and our inner thoughts.  As we’ve already mentioned, the Lord converses with us through the Bible. 

Two Bible passages remind us that we who follow Jesus, our Shepherd, hear His voice and know His voice.  (Joh 10:16, 27)  This should reassure us, and encourage us.  Place your faith in God and in His Word, for God cannot lie!  Glory to God!