Be the Light

This month we are looking at how Jesus is the light and how we can let His light shine through us. Today’s Bible Journaling is from Revelation 21:23, “And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (NASB) It’s hard for me to imagine Heaven. There is no need of sun or moon, and it is light continuously. That to me is mind-boggling! But our verse tells us that what illuminates Heaven is the glory of God and that Jesus is the lamp used to reflect that light.

Jesus has told us in His Word that He is the light. (John 8:12) He goes on to say that if we follow Him, we will not be in darkness and will have the light. When we ask Jesus to be our Lord, Master, and Savior, He comes to live inside of us and our lives are filled with His light. When we allow His light to shine through us, we also become a light to others around us. Walking in the light of Jesus requires us to be obedient to His Word and live in such a manner that Jesus shines through us. We become a vessel for His light to shine out so that Jesus is seen in us.

The adage, “Actions speak louder than words” fits so well here. Many times, what we do screams louder than what we say. I remember my parents giving me the, “Don’t do what I do, do what I say” line. The only problem with that was, their actions spoke louder to me than their words. We are to be lights in this world so that others will come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

It is so obvious that we live in a dark world. Everywhere we look the atmosphere around us is getting darker. There are times when it can get very scary when we hear of the things going on around us. It seems that Satan is having a hey-day. Sometimes I wonder how long God is going to let this nonsense continue. But then I remember that I must do my part to put light into this darkness. When I live according to God’s Will and Plan, I am allowing Jesus to shine through me so that those around me can see the right pathway to take.

We are to live in such a way that those who don’t know Jesus will find our lives attractive, drawing them to know who Jesus is, and desire to have what we have. Our lives are to be a witness to the unbeliever. When they see us living like Jesus, it attracts them, and they desire to know what it is in us that is different from themselves. This is the reason Peter says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear…” (I Peter 3:15 KJV) We are to be that light in a dark world, guiding them to Jesus. When they ask us, what is so different about us, we can tell them it’s Jesus living in us, and then share with them our story of how we came to know Jesus and what He has done for us. We are to be a witness! We are to be that light!

When we act just as the world acts, it’s like hiding our light under a bushel. (Luke 11:33) No light gets out, and unbelievers can’t see any difference between them and us. Our actions speak louder than our words. As Believers, we are held to a higher standard. We are to be the example to them of what a Christian is and how a Christian speaks and acts. We must allow Jesus’ light to shine through us to them. Be that light that shines so that Jesus is reflected.

What are You Harvesting?

As we continue our series on seasons, we are continuing to look at the harvest. Hosea 10:12 says, “Plant the good seeds of righteousness and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that He may come and shower righteousness upon you.” (NLT) As I was reading and thinking about this verse, I asked God to show me what I needed to focus upon. The more I looked at the verse, the second part of it seemed to come to the forefront. As important as it is to plant good seeds of righteousness, the thought came to me, “You can’t plant if the ground is hard or not prepared for planting.”

As I remember how my Grandpa worked in the fields on his farm, I know he had to prepare the soil for seed. The ground would be hard from the winter snows and he needed to disk it to loosen up the soil. Seeds don’t grow in hard soil, at least not very well. So, can we “plow up” the soil of our hearts on our own? The next part of the verse gives us the answer; “now is the time to seek the Lord”, why? So that He can shower righteousness upon us. We have no righteousness on our own, therefore we would not have the seed to plant unless it came from God. When we plant righteousness, our harvest is love.

To plow up the soil of our hearts, we must be willing to allow God to do a work in us that will provide a climate conducive to growth. I know in my case; stubbornness can be a real problem. God, at times, needs to work overtime to get me to understand what it is He wants of me. Even when I understand, it may be something I’m not really wanting to do. Sometimes there are things that I’m doing that may be a comfort zone for me and I’m not willing to give it up. But it may be just that thing that may be hindering me in my walk with the Lord. I must do the hard work of “plowing up the hard ground” of my heart so that I can sow the seeds of righteousness to gain a crop of love.

When we look to God, He will help us. We don’t have to try on our own to remove the seeds of unrighteousness from our hearts, in fact, we can’t remove them ourselves, and we can’t plow up the old soil on our own either. We must “seek the Lord”. It is only with His help that the unhealthy soil and unrighteous seed in our hearts can be removed and replaced with good soil and then He gives us the seed of righteousness to plant in our hearts. As we continue to seek Him, walk closely in the pathway He has provided for us, we will gain a harvest of love – love toward God and love toward others.

As I look at the context of this verse, Israel is being chastised by the Lord. Hosea was God’s “mouthpiece” to the Israelites, delivering a message from God. Verse 13 says, “But you have cultivated wickedness and harvested a thriving crop of sins. You have eaten the fruit of lies – trusting in your military might, believing that great armies could make your nation safe.” Israel turned their backs on God, deciding to do things in their own strength, not relying on God to guide them. Now, the Lord has come to the point where discipline must be meted out. Hosea Chapter 11 is God’s declaration of love toward Israel, and how He wants them to turn back to Him. He catalogs their sins, and in spite of all they have done, He still loves them.

God desires for us to walk with Him. He wants us to trust Him. He wants obedience from His children, and He desires more than anything to give us His blessings. He wants to shower upon us His love and righteousness. He wants us to harvest a thriving crop of love.

We Are No Longer Enslaved By Sin

We can so easily become enslaved to sin. It’s part of our human nature. 2 Peter 2:19 says, “They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption, since people are enslaved to whatever defeats them.” (CSB) Peter was addressing the issue of false teachers in the early church. There were those who were teaching heresy to the early church and misleading new Christians away from the faith. Peter is warning them to beware of false teachers. There are those in our midst today that would lead Believers who are not mature in their faith away from the freedom found in Jesus. They deny who Jesus is, saying He was just a good teacher, or deny that He is the Son of God, or say it’s ok to do such and such and still be a Christian, even though Scripture plainly says it is sin. They cleverly manipulate Scripture to fit what they are teaching.

Peter points out that they are “slaves of corruption, since people are enslaved to whatever defeats them.” That seems to be the crux of the problem. Whatever happens to defeat us enslaves us. We all have things that are stumbling blocks, things that we just can’t seem to get victory over. The enemy has us enslaved, chained if you will, and he continues to keep us in bondage until we turn to the One who can break the chains that hold us.

Faith in Jesus Christ can give us power over those things we struggle with. When we accept Jesus into our hearts and lives, the Holy Spirit comes into us, and it is through Him that we receive power to be able to overcome the sin in our lives. We still must make a conscious decision to turn away from sin, but it is He who gives us the strength and power to be able to turn our back on it and walk in a way that is upright and pure.

The song, “Break Every Chain” is such a powerful song. It talks about having power in the name of Jesus. “There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain!” God does not expect us to be able to defeat the sin in our lives on our own because He knows we are incapable of winning a fight with the Devil by ourselves. It is because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that we can stand up against the enemy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtyVdC7E6Wo&list=RDEtyVdC7E6Wo&start_radio=1

I love this song because it reinforces to me that I don’t have to be chained by the sin that trips me up. I can ask for God’s help to defeat the enemy and help me overcome those things in my life that I know are displeasing to Him and break the chains that hold me.

Jesus breaks the power that sin has over us. We can then walk in freedom, knowing that when we come to a bump in the road, trip, and fall, we can get right back up with the help of Jesus and walk on the pathway He has set before us. Now, it may not be easy winning a battle over something we struggle with, but we are not alone. Jesus walks with us and He promises to always be with us. (Hebrews 13:5) We know the enemy would like nothing better than to see us fall and remain defeated. We must look to Jesus to help us to overcome our failings and the sin that “so easily besets us” (Hebrews 12:1 KJV) It is only through Jesus that we can be free from the power that sin has over us!

We are Free from the Power of Sin

As we continue to look at the subject of freedom, today we learn that we are free from the power that sin has over us. Romans 6:22-23 says, “But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NASB) We are all born in sin, every single one of us. As babies we have the selfish desires of being the center of everything, our needs and wants are top priority over everything else. As we grow older, hopefully, we learn not to be so self-centered, but there is still that within us that wants what it wants when it wants it. That attitude is ingrained in us from birth…and as such, it is the sinful part that was handed down to us from Adam.

The Apostle Paul tells us in our Scripture today that when we accept Jesus as our Savior, He frees us from our sins, and we are sanctified. I looked up the definition of sanctification in Dictionary.com. and sanctification is defined as “to make holy; set apart as sacred; consecrate; to purify or free from sin.” When we become Believers, we are set apart for God’s glory and to be used by Him to be an example of what God has done in us. Our attitude, our actions, our speech, everything about us is to reflect Jesus Christ living in us. Does that mean that after we become Christians we never sin? No, of course not! We are still human and fallible. However, Jesus made a way for us to be reinstated when we fall. His death on the cross and His shed blood covers us when we come to Him and repent of our sins. Does that mean we can just keep on sinning because we can continue to ask forgiveness? No! We are not to make a habit of sinning. We are to live lives that are set apart, holy, and consecrated to God.

The Christians in Rome dealt with this very problem. Paul tells them in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (NASB) It is true, God’s grace covers us when we sin, but we are not to abuse His grace toward us. Because Jesus paid for the penalty of sin, God has declared that we are sinless and perfect in His eyes, and it is He who gives you the power to overcome sin. God has sanctified us, made us holy, and because of this, we must live our lives in a way to give honor and glory to Him.

We can’t overcome sin on our own, we need the power of the Holy Spirit to help us defeat those things in us that would lead us into areas of sin. Temptation is not sin, however; succumbing to it is. When we delve into sinful attitudes and actions, not desiring to repent but continue, we can find ourselves in trouble. We can put ourselves into situations where we easily fall prey to the traps of the enemy. Each one of us has areas in our lives that we battle with daily. It is then that we must turn to Jesus, ask for His help and hold onto His hand, allowing Him to guide us in the pathway we are to go.

For me, I struggle with my weight, like a lot of us I suppose. I find that my “I want what I want when I want it” voice pops up more times than I like to admit. I fight that every single day. I’m not much on exercise either. My motto has always been, “Exercise will kill ya!” (LOL) My overindulgence in eating and not exercising is, for me, sin. I need to overcome my selfishness and seek God’s power to overcome in this area of my life. I have moments where I am successful, but then there comes a time when I’m tired of being good on my diet and I’m back where I started. Living a sanctified life isn’t always easy, but through the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s leading, we can be successful. We then can experience the freedom that comes in relenting to Jesus and turning our back on those things that lead us into sin.

Because of Jesus’ sacrifice and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can put our rebellion behind us and be free from the power and penalty of sin. We can rejoice, knowing that through Him we are free!

I Walk in Freedom

As we continue our study on freedom, our Bible Journaling Scripture today is from Psalm 119:45, “I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments.” (NLT) What does walking in freedom mean? Politically, walking in freedom involves following the laws that have been set forth by our Constitution and legislators. As long as we abide by the law of the land, we have freedom. When we violate those laws, our freedom ends, and most likely will end up with a loss of that freedom.

Spiritually, our freedom comes when we follow God’s laws and when we accept Christ as our Savior. He frees us from our sin. As we mentioned in our last post, just because we are free to do what we want, we should not go against the precepts that God has laid down for us, or we will we be in bondage to sin and depravity. We are not to continue in sin for we will find ourselves in a position of rebellion and back to the bondage of sin, and discipline will be given to us for that disobedience. Just as we are free in our country to live as we please, when we violate the laws of the land, there is a punishment that will be given. Break the speed laws and we receive a speeding ticket. Do it too many times and we lose the privilege of driving. The same holds true with following God’s commandments. When we violate the precepts found in the Bible, God has no choice but to administer a “come to Jesus moment”. Willful sin cannot be a part of the Believer’s life. Yes, we do sin, but we are not to make it a continual choice, we are not to live in sin. When we sin, we are to ask God’s forgiveness and endeavor to do better. He promises to forgive us of our sin (I John 1:9) and set us free.

The Apostle Paul dealt with this with the early church. In I Corinthians 6: 12 Paul writes, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” (NASB) Meaning, we can do what we feel is right, but it may not necessarily be the best thing for us to do. Peter struggled with this in that he seemed to act according to who he was with. In Galatians 2:11-21, Paul confronts Peter. Peter was eating with the Gentile Believers until some of James’ friends from Jerusalem came, and then he ate with them and distanced himself from the Gentile Christians. He was afraid of what the Jewish Christians would say if he ate with the Gentiles. This caused some Jewish Believers to follow Peter’s example, and Paul had to correct Peter publicly, because it showed inconsistency in his behavior. There was nothing wrong with eating with the Gentiles. However, the Jews had been raised not to eat with uncircumcised people (Gentiles), who were considered sinners. Therefore, Peter, even though he had the freedom to eat with the Gentiles, didn’t show the Jewish Believers the freedom that he had in Christ by his actions.

In other instances, if we know something we do that we do not consider sin, is a stumbling block to those who see it as sin, and we cause that person to backslide, then we are abusing our freedom and causing a fellow Believer to fall. Romans 14 deals with this very thing. In this example Paul is talking about eating meat that has been offered to idols. If a fellow Believer considers it sin to eat meat and we don’t, then it is advisable not to eat meat in their presence, that way we will not cause them to stumble. Their faith may not be as strong as ours, and so we must help them continue in faith and to grow.

Freedom also involves a level of maturity in how we act, speak, and show our faith. As an example, in some circles, Christians believe it is ok to drink alcoholic beverages. They believe they have that freedom as Believers, and they may have. However, as I see it, there is inconsistency in their walk with the Lord. Yes, the Bible says it is ok to drink, but not to get drunk. The Bible even says to drink wine as a medicine for your stomach. (I Timothy 5:23) But like my Pastor says, “When you take one drink, you are drunker than you were before.” It is not a good idea to engage in behavior that the world engages in because it will ruin our witness before them. They will say, “Well, if they can do that, what makes them different from me?” It can show them that God hasn’t made a difference in our lives and they feel that there is no desire to become a Christian.

So, walking in freedom requires us to use discretion in how we live. If we want to be consistent, show the world that Christ has made a change in us, and be an example to others, we must use our freedom wisely, and then we will be truly free.

Clinging to God Brings Life

Our relationship with God is determined by how close we are to Him. In today’s Bible Journaling, God says we are to cling to Him because this is our life. Deuteronomy 30:19-20 says, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” (NASB) Our life comes from God, physically and spiritually. In order to receive the blessings of God, we must choose the pathway He has laid out for us and we must be obedient to His Word.

In Hebrew the word “L’Chaim” means “to life”. This is a common toast given at Jewish weddings. It is a blessing upon the new couple for a long and happy life. In our Scripture today God is encouraging Israel to turn from their rebellion by being obedient to Him, and walking closely to Him, thereby choosing the life God gives over the death that disobedience and rebellion brings. Israel had been contentious from the moment they came out of Egypt. They were always complaining, going against everything the Lord had directed them to do, and because of their disobedience, a whole generation were kept out of the Promised Land. Israel continued, even after being in the Promised Land, to rebel and follow the idols of other nations. This brought about judgement upon them. God had to punish their disobedience. However, He promised restoration if they chose to follow Him and live the life He laid down for them. He had given them the law by which they were to follow. If they chose to follow Him closely, life was theirs, if not then they would receive curses.

It is the same for us as Believers. God desires a close relationship with us, and He wants us to stay close to His side, live holy and pure lives, offering our last ounce of devotion and love to Him. By walking in the pathway He has for us, we receive eternal life. Blessings will be ours; a life of peace and joy will be our reward. By accepting Jesus as our Savior, and promising and endeavoring to live holy lives, we are guaranteed salvation and a life in eternity in Heaven with Him.

We must remember also that our lives are a shining example of the work God has done in our hearts. When we live pure, holy, and clean lives before the world and love God with all our heart, it is a testament of what Jesus has done for us. Our obedience brings a light that shines, reflecting Jesus’ light in us, and directs them toward God. When we live lives that are so radically different from the world, it becomes a beacon. Just as a lighthouse gives out light to keep ships safe in the harbor, the light of Jesus directs the world to a safe harbor into the arms of God and life.

When we read our Bibles in daily study and quiet time, pray, gather with fellow Believers, follow the instruction given in His word, and show love to others, we are choosing life over death and blessing over curses. Not only do we benefit from obedience to God, but so do those around us. They see how our obedience to Him affects our lives and it makes them desire what it is we have. We witness to others with our lives. The adage, “witness to others and when necessary use words” is so appropriate and true. Our lives are an open testimony of what God has done in us. Love God, live in obedience, and show His love to others. That is how we win this world for Jesus and receive life!

God Calls Us His Children

Bible Journaling page was traced from a Pinterest post from Carmen Ramirez.

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from I John 3:1-3, “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure.” (NLT) God loves us so much that He calls us His children! What an awesome thought!

God refers to Believers in different ways. He says we are His children; He says we are lambs; He says we are His bride! I love that He calls us His children! That makes Him my Abba Father! I can go to Him with everything that concerns me. Joys, sorrows, victories, defeats…anything that I experience, I can tell Him about it. His love is never ending. His love is more than I can comprehend.

There is one requirement for a person to be considered God’s child. Each person must decide in their heart what they will do with Jesus. Will He be accepted into that person’s life or rejected? To be God’s child, we must accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, ask forgiveness for our sins, and promise to live for Him. From that moment on, our lives must be lived for Him in everything we do and say. We must exhibit a pure life that only comes through faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior. When we do this, the Bible says we are Born-Again. (John 3)

There are several references in the Bible where Born-Again Believers are called children of God. The Apostle Paul states in Galatians 3:26, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” (KJV) Jesus said as much in Luke 20:36, “Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.” (KJV)

As His children, we are required to keep ourselves pure (verse 3), and as human beings, that can be difficult at times. But we must stay close to Him to accomplish purity in our lives. Once we wander away from Him, it makes it more difficult to stay pure. Obedience to God is needed in every area of our lives. We realize that we are not perfect, and God knows that also, after all, He created us. But He requires that we persevere in living holy, pure lives for Him. Daily Bible Study and prayer, fellowshipping with other Christians, church attendance…all these things help us to live holy lives before Him. We often stray and get off the pathway He has laid out for us, and when that happens, God, as our Father, disciplines us. He disciplines out of love, not as an overbearing task master, but He gently leads us back to where we belong. The writer of Hebrews explains, “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” (Hebrews 12:11 KJV) Job 36:10 (NASB) says, “He opens their ear to instruction, And commands that they return from evil.” As a loving Father, He disciplines us so that we overcome our rebellion, our mistakes, and our sin.

He knows what is best for us, just as earthly fathers know what is best for their children, and desire to keep their children safe and happy. God wants us to experience the best in life that He has to offer us. He loves us and wants our obedience and a close relationship with His children. He wants us to talk to Him every day, He wants to shower us with His blessings. He wants us to get to know who He is and enjoy His presence with us. I am so glad He loves me enough to discipline my rebellious ways. It is then that I can truly enjoy a life of peace and joy with God as my Abba Father!