Love People

 

1 John 2:7-11

“Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning.  This old command is the message you have heard.  Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.  Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.  Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.  But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness.  They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.”

The Apostle John calls the people he is writing to “Dear friends.”  John was writing to remind his dear friends about an old commandment they have known from the beginning.  This is also a new commandment that is true in Jesus and those who believe in Jesus.  

The old commandment John is referring to is found in Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Jesus gave His followers the second greatest commandment to follow, “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).  He also told His disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another: (John 13:34).  Loving our neighbor is not optional, it is a command.  All of Jesus’s commands benefit all people.  Loving people is living in the light and proves a person is a true believer in Christ.  A person who says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in the darkness of sin.  The person loving his brother lives in the light and does not stumble.  The person hating his brother walks in the darkness and does not know where he is going because no one can see in the darkness.  The test for genuine Christianity is loving people.

This time of year is BUSY!!  No matter the age of your kids, as a parent you are running around getting everything needed for “back-to-school”!  From the sports physical to school supply list, it is never ending.  I am the first to admit that I get caught up in my own family and getting things done.  Then, I read todays reading and it was a HUGE reminder to me.  I need to stop!  God does not command me to make sure everything is perfect for my kids to go back to school.  He commands me to love my neighbor.  What have I done for any of my neighbors recently??  

This was made clear to me 2 weeks ago.  My husband travels out of the country frequently and on a Wednesday, he found out he had to leave on that coming Sunday for Germany.  He was to be gone for 2 weeks.  This was not a happy surprise to me.  We had end of the summer things we were going to do as a family and he would miss sending his son back to college.  After a bit of time and discussion I came around and decided to make the best of the situation as there was not much I could do to change the fact that he would be gone.  But, one thing that God wanted to make clear to me is that my neighbors cared about me!  The day after he left I received an email from Starbucks.  I had to reread it a few times, but it was from my friend!  She sent me a Starbucks gift card to enjoy with my kids while Tim was out of the country.  She said she knows from first hand experience how it feels when her husband is gone and wanted to make sure I knew she was thinking of me!!  Wow!  When I saw her a few days later I told her how thoughtful it was and she told me how she follows through with every thought she has about how she can bless others.  I was honest, I said, “I have lots of thoughts, but I don’t usually follow through.”  But, I also said that her love for me showed me tangibly what that means, and I will do much better at following through to actually show others that I love them.  

This is our commandment!  That we love one another!  Both, physically and tangibly.  What have you done to go above and beyond to show someone that you care about them?  If you love your neighbor, you are living in the light!  

Choosing to love people well shows the world what God is like.

Wake Up!

Revelation 3:2-5

“Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.  So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent.  Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you  But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.  He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”

This passage in Revelation is written to the church in Sardis, also known as the dead church.  

A few years ago, my husband and I had a heart to heart conversation about the condition of our hearts!  After some soul searching and time, we took a deep look at our lives and realized…we were just like the church at Sardis!  We looked good on the outside.  We went to Church every Sunday.  We participated in a small group.  We had our 3 children with us and in their respective classes.  But…we were spiritually dead!  We had no spiritual life beyond these few practices.  Sadly, this went on for about 2-3 years.  We let all the things of life get in the way (work, opening a small business, soccer, swimming, gymnastics, a new puppy, school).  We had good intentions, but lost our focus.  

This is what happened to the church in Sardis.  They looked good.  Sardis was a city on a hill.  Literally, the city was built on a hill some fifteen hundred feet above the valley floor, which made the city very secure.  The hill on which Sardis was built had nearly perpendicular walls on three sides and the city could only be approached from the south by a steep, difficult path.  The people of Sardis became overconfident in the secureness of their city and on two occasions the city was conquered.  Overconfidence and complacency led to defeat as they let their guard down.

God cared about them so much, that He sent a messenger to them with a warning!  

Wake Up

The phrase, wake up, means to be watchful, awake, and to prevent oneself from falling asleep.  How do I wake up?  First, I need to search my heart.  Are the things I am doing for the glory of Christ, or for my own glory?  Whom do I want to get the credit for what I am doing, Jesus or myself?  Not only must I wake up, but I must stay awake and be watchful.  I must keep a careful guard of my heart.  

Rekindle

“and strengthen the things that remain”

This second part of verse two is encouraging to me!  God has begun a good work in me and does not want it to die.  Philippians 1:6 says, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  God is saying to me…”Get the flame burning again!”  There is hope!  Don’t just look good and go through the motions.

Remember

Go back to the truth of God’s Word, the basics.  Jesus Loves Me!  He wants a true genuine relationship with me.  

This is a huge reminder to me that going through the motions and checking things off the list is not good enough!  God does not care if I show up at church or my small group.  He cares about my heart.  He wants me to be awake and listening.  He wants me to hear His message.  Just like this call to Sardis to WAKE UP…He is telling me to WAKE UP!  Do not let the works I have begun in you die!  His message is for us to be alive for Him and not dead in our own works.  His message is for us to repent and confess our sin to Him.  He wants to clothe us in white garments.  He wants us to confess our sin to Him so that He can forgive us of our sin.  He wants us to be righteous, and holy before Him.  He wants our name to be in the book of life.  He wants to walk with us.  

Do we want the same thing?  He gives us the choice. God wants to use me and you…it is up to us to WAKE UP and have a relationship with him.  That is His deepest desire.

I am thankful for this warning!  God does not want us to die spiritually.  He is reaching out with limitless chances to begin again (and again!) and reach out to Him!  We daily need to WAKE UP and talk with Him.  Yes, it is important to be involved in a local Church and have community with other Christ followers, but what does your heart look like today?  Is it time for you to WAKE UP?

My Phone

I promise that if you see me, I will either be carrying my phone in my hand or it will be in my purse pocket.  It is never far from me.  If I am working in the kitchen, it is on the counter near me.  The most important reason I keep it close is in case one of my children needs me.  But, the other 23+ hours in a day when they are not needing me, I am on my phone for many unjustified reasons…mainly…social media.  I get my news from my phone, updates on friends and family (and updates from people I have never even met in person) and spend more time than I care to admit observing other people’s lives.  It is a temptation for me to get wrapped up in my phone and avoid the things that I need to be doing.

For various reasons, I deleted all social media off of my phone on July 1 and am taking a break from looking at Facebook or Instagram for the entire month.  For the first few days it was just weird, every time I picked up my phone I had nothing to do but check my email and the weather.  Well, that got old real quick.  In fact, I find myself spending more time reading my Bible app, devotions that had been emailed to me, and journaling.  But, now that the month is almost half over,  the TEMPTATION is REAL!  I just want to open my social media apps back up!  

I am definitely not saying social media is bad, but when it is being used in the place of a productive activity, it is sin.  And, in my life this was becoming way to often.  

What is it that tempts you?? 

Today our passage, James 1:13-18 discusses the fact that we will be tempted.  

James 1:13-16

Whenever you feel tempted to do something bad, you should not say, “God is tempting me.”  Evil cannot tempt God, and God himself does not tempt anyone.  You are tempted by the evil things you want.  Your own desire leads you away and traps you.  Your desire grows inside you until it results in sin.  Then the sin grows bigger and bigger and finally ends in death.  My dear brothers and sisters, don’t be fooled about this.

Temptation comes when our own desire leads us away and traps us.  As long as we are in this physical body we are going to be tempted.  There is no sin in being tempted, it is when we give in to the temptation that we fall into sin.  

What are the top five self-reported temptations in America?  According to a Barna survey:

1.  60% of Americans are often or sometimes living in a state of noticeable and debilitating temptation to be anxious or worry.  

2.  60% of Americans are often or sometimes stuck in habits of procrastination.

3.  55% are often or sometimes overwhelmed by the temptation to eat too much.

4.  44% pf Americans admit that they face temptations to overuse electronics and social media.

5.  41% of Americans say they are often or sometimes tempted by laziness or not working as hard as reasonably expected in their occupations.

Is this a complete list of temptations we face?  Absolutely not, anything that lures us from God’s best plan for us is a temptation.

For me, it is really easy to get hung-up on performance and focusing on not giving into temptation.  But, I love that the last two verses of our passage today focus on Who god is and What He has given us.  It gives us all the reason to want to please Him and follow Him.  

James 1:17-18

Everything good comes from God.  Every perfect gift is from him.  These good gifts come down from the Father who made all the lights in the sky, but God never changes like the shadows from those lights.  He is always the same.  God decided to give us life through the true message he sent to us.  He wanted us to be the most important of all that he created.

 

What has God invested in YOU??

The Parable of the ten minas.   Luke 19:11-27

In the parable of the ten minas in the gospel of Luke, we read about a man of noble birth who goes to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return.  Since he will be gone, he calls ten of his servants and gives them each one mina (about 3 months wages) and tells them to put this money to work until he comes back.  When the king returns home, he sends for his servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find what they have gained with it.  

The first servant showed that his mina had earned ten more.  The king was pleased, saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant!…Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities” (verse 17).  

The next servant’s investment had yielded five additional minas, and the servant was rewarded with charge of five cities (verses 18-19).  

Then came a servant who reported that he had done nothing with his mina except hide it in a cloth (Luke 19:20).  The king commanded that his mina be given to the one who had earned ten.  People in the crowd did not think this was fair.  The king responded, “I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away” (verses 25-26). 

The nobleman in this parable is Jesus, who left this world but who will return as King some day.  The servants who are given the mina represent you and me, as followers of Jesus.  The Lord has given us a valuable commission, and we must be faithful to serve Him until He returns.  Upon His return, Jesus will determine the faithfulness of His own People.  

We all have the same job – to live for Christ.  I assume you are reading this Bible Journal daily because you have an interest in living for Christ.  This passage today tells us that we must invest the investment that Jesus made in us.  God has invested many things in each one of us.  Our possessions, our time, our lives, and even the Gospel message has been placed in our care.  God has given us these things and said, “Put ___________ to work, until I come back”. So, we have to ask ourself, “how am I using the things God has given me?  How am I spending my money, my time, and my life?  How am I using the Gospel message?”  And…”What kind of return is God getting on His investment in me?  I hope and long for the day when I hear “Well done, my good and faithful servant”!  

Also read Psalm 129

The Importunate Friend

I learned a new word yesterday…importunate. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, importunate means – troublesomely urgent, overly persistent in request or demand, troublesome.

Today in Luke 11:5-8 we read about the Importunate Friend. In these verses Jesus told His disciples a parable about a man going to his friend at midnight and asking “Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him” (5-6). Midnight is not a very good time to go asking for bread, but having nothing to set before a guest, regardless of time, was unthinkable for a host in Jesus’ day. The friend of the man refuses to help because everyone in his house is asleep. Jesus said, “though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs” (8).

I found it very interesting learning about the housing of the typical poor Israelite family. They often lived in a one-room house. Sometimes, the house also served as a part-time stable for the family’s sheep, goats, and chickens. All family members would sleep in the same room on a raised platform. They slept with their clothes on, covering themselves with the cloaks they had worn durning the day. They would sleep side-by-side on straw mats rolled out at night. Getting a whole family to bed was a considerable undertaking, as parents know. Once children were asleep, parents want to keep them that way. Once the animals were asleep, parents would want to keep them asleep too!

This was going to be a huge inconvenience to get up, unlock the heavy door, wake up the whole family + animals to give the neighbor bread. The man did not want to do it! But, he finally gave in and gave the man what he wanted because of his boldness and shameless audacity in asking in the middle of the night.

Jesus goes on to explain in verses 9-13, how much more will your Father in heaven respond to your bold and shameless requests when coming to him to meet your need. Jesus is not teaching us in this parable that we need to pester God until he finally gives us what we are asking for, but that we are to come boldly and shamelessly before God with an expectation that our need will be met.

Jesus told this parable to call us to shamelessly and boldly ask God the Father to help in times of need. An important difference, however, is that God is not answering from a locked house saying, “Do not bother me”, but He is saying, “ask…seek…knock” (9). If you truly need God, boldly come before Him in Prayer and shamelessly ask Him for what you need.

Also read, Psalm 117

God is in Control

I have definitely been shown in the past half century that I am NOT in control of my life! Most situations in my life have not had the outcome that I expected.

The most recent example of this is what has occurred in my family over the past 6 weeks. Next fall, we will only have 3 members of our family living here in our 5 bedroom home. My oldest 2 children will be off to college and that will leave just myself, my husband and youngest daughter for the next 3 years. Of course this could change in the drop of a hat, because as I stated in the first sentence…we are not in control of our lives. That being said, we have been considering “downsizing”. As this discussion became more prominent in our daily talks, we have had 2 different families, out of the blue, contact us about selling our house. I have spent countless hours cleaning and organizing to have the house “show ready”. Each time the people looked at our house we got very positive feedback. Then it was the waiting process. In the first 24-48 hours it seemed like both families looking were going to take the plunge and purchase our house. This began the excitement and thinking of all that we need to do to get ready to move and find a place to live. Lots of emotions take place in this time frame. Then, after we were at peace with moving, the people come back to say they are going to “Pass” on our house. And…just like that, the planning, dreaming, and excitement are over. We must go back to our normal day to day lives and be content with where we are planted (literally).

During this process we think we knew what the situation would be and even through praying we think we know how God is answering and what is going to happen in the future. Then, it all changes! Just proving to us that we are not in control!

Our parable for today demonstrates how I feel about what we have been enduring over the past month or so. I continue to ask, “where are you god?” “what are you doing in my life, Lord?”

Today we read The Parable of the Growing Seed in Mark 4:26-29

26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain-first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

If we can’t control our own lives, how much more true is that about the kingdom of God??? This parable reminds me (which I need on a daily basis) that I am dependent on God’s grace and mercy. God will bring the kingdom in His good time, even though I don’t know how or when.

I have no idea if our house will sell (it is not even on the market), but God does. Even as I sleep, He is working and moving.

This parable gives us freedom. It reminds us that we are not ultimately responsible for bringing in the kingdom…God is. God is both faithful and trustworthy. This does not mean that we can go about our days without God, we have a role to play. Even though the farmer may not know how the seed grows, he is called to plant, to wait, and to harvest. So also, you and I are called to participate in the kingdom even though it is beyond our comprehension or control. It is not our job to bring it all about, God tells us here in this parable that He will make the harvest happen. But while we wait for the harvest, we are to continue to scatter seed and know that God is at work. It does not all depend on Us! Thank YOU, Lord that we can trust that You will bring the seed to sprout and grow, it is not up to us to make this happen.

As for me, I am reminded that my belief in God gives me freedom. Because I have put my faith and trust in Him, I can sleep at night not knowing how situations will turn out, but KNOWING that He already KNOWS and in His time, His ways will be revealed to me.

Also read Psalm 105

New Cloth

I remember when my son was little and would inevitably wear holes in the knees of his jeans. I did not want to go and buy new jeans for him to run around and play in. Jackson and his friends were always climbing in trees, sliding into bases in the backyard, and running from house to house. All his jeans needed were a little patch. I am no seamstress, so I went to the store and found some iron-on jean fabric patches. I took his old worn-out jeans with holes all in the knees and got my iron out. I followed the directions and ironed these new patches on his jeans. Lets just say, it worked while the jeans were cooling on the ironing board, but as soon as Jackson put them on I knew it was too good to be true. The patch did not move with the old fabric. By the time my son went out to play and came back inside, the edges of the new patch were already pulling from the edges of the old fabric.

The parable we are looking at today illustrates exactly what happened to the patch on Jackson’s jeans!

Jesus said in Matthew 9:16: “No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse.”

So, why is this something Jesus feels we need to know and what is He really saying to us?

To really understand this parable, which is found in Matthew 9:16, Mark 2:21, and also in Luke 5:36, we need to look back on the previous verses. In the few verses before, we see the disciples asking Jesus why He and his disciples did not fast. The disciples and the Pharisees lived a life based on the Old Testament Law. They followed a long list of things they had to do in order to have a right relationship with God. Part of the Law was to fast one or two days a week. The Pharisees became very legalistic about following the rules. They were often fasting with the wrong motives. They did not fast to please and honor God.

In Matthew 9:16, the “old garment” represents the Old Testament law, the old law, the agreement that God had with his people and the things they would do. This was the agreement they had before Jesus Christ came to earth. When Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected into a new life in heaven then the New Testament covenant took place. The Covenant of Grace came into being.

The old garment seems to have a tear in it. The parable here is about the old laws. The people in the Old Testament had to fully follow all of the laws. The problem is that nobody can be perfect and live up to all of the rules. It is impossible to fulfill the law.  Living day by day trying to fulfill the law of God, with the law of God on your mind all the time, will tear you to pieces. You will live with guilt and shame all the time because nobody can follow all the rules all the time.

Jesus’ reference to new cloth was a way of saying that He did not come to patch up an old and worn-out religious system, but to replace it completely with a dynamic new way of teaching. Jesus’ new teaching was salvation by grace through faith in Him. This teaching is not compatible with the teaching of the law under the Old Testament. This new teaching could not be mixed with the old because of the new life and freedom. A new cloth sown on an old garment in Jesus’ day would shrink the first time it was washed and would tear away from the old garment that had already shrunk, making the hole worse. This illustrated that Jesus did not come to patch up the Old Covenant, but to replace it.

Jesus is the new patch, He cannot be combined with the old ways. His way is the gospel of grace. We cannot follow rules to be saved by Christ. He brought salvation to replace our need to follow the Old Covenant rules.

Also for todays reading:  Psalm 93

Does $ make you happy?

Writing these bi-weekly posts is complicated! I am sure each writer of this Bible Journal agrees that each post takes time of prayer, thought, research, study and time spent writing. We all want each post to be personal and soul-touching. We want God to speak to you through these words so that You, the reader my draw closer to our Heavenly Father. That being said, sometimes I dig too deep in what other people have said about my selection of verses for the day. I let their thoughts influence me and begin to think that what I have to say is not good enough. Well, today’s post might be pretty simple, but I believe God has put these simple thoughts in my mind to share with you today. Hopefully, you can draw near to God today and these words will creep into your thinking as you go throughout your day and think about serving God.

Our verse today is Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

We all know that money is important to survive day to day in this life. We need a roof over our head, clothes on our bodies, and food in our tummies. These are our basic needs, then we have all of the other needs that flood into our lives…medical bills, school loans, activity bills, car loans, extra-curricular expenses, and the list goes on and on, it never ends. I think back 20 years and remember when my husband and I were moving from 2 incomes to 1 income so that I could stay home with our soon to arrive newborn. We lived for a long while out of envelopes! Have you ever done this?? There is a certain amount of cash in each envelope and that is all you have for the month! We had envelopes for food, clothing, miscellaneous, entertainment, and emergencies. Every month without fail we would run out of the food money. We would be eating mac&cheese the last few nights of every month! It was not easy, but we ultimately were able to meet our goal of living on one income before our son entered this world. It was worth every bowl of pasta we ate!

This topic of envelopes just came up the other night in our house. We have some changes coming up for our family and we are discussing options as to where God may have our family headed in the next few years. Believe it our not, money plays a huge part in where we see ourselves in the future. We can base our future on what we could have and what the world would see as successful or we can focus on what God has in store for us and bring glory to Him by how we choose to spend our money.   It is fun to dream of “bigger and better”, but ultimately, we know that this will not make us happy. My husband and I came to the delightful conclusion that we are no happier today (not living out of envelopes) then we were 20 years ago! In looking at our future, we cannot put our focus on material possessions or how happy we think something will make us.

In preparation for changes coming to our family, we have been cleaning out our house! Closets, rooms, drawers, desks, storage rooms, and the garage! Why do we collect so many things?!?! In the past month we have donated, given away, and thrown away so much! Things that at one time we must have thought we needed, but only sat around and gathered dust. We are a culture of accumulators! The world around us tries to convince us that we need certain things. That our life will be easier if we have this gadget, or that we will be happier if we only add this ____to our life! Our family has a saying that pops up when we see something that is really enticing. My dad actually started this saying when we were growing up and because he was in the home building business it usually centered around seeing beautiful houses. He would take us to see these houses and we would really wish we could live there. He would say,  “Then We Will Be Happy!!!” We knew that just living in a beautiful house would not make us happy. That saying has transferred even to small things in our lives, like a new outfit, or even just a small un-needed purchase from the grocery store. We ask ourselves, “will that really make you happy?” Maybe for the moment or a couple hours, but ultimately the “happy” feeling will fade and need to be replaced by another purchase. Only God can fix our happy all the time. Our focus has to be totally fixed on God and what He has for us. It is so easy to get caught up in what everybody around us has and it is easy to get discouraged.

Jesus wants us to be content with Him and Him alone. We cannot store up treasures here on earth (Matthew 6:19) because God wants us to serve Him and not the things of this world. We should love God more than things. We should spend more time with God and less time on thinking of what might make us happy. We should sacrifice self for God and desire in our hearts to serve Him more and more each day. Loving God more than things should be our daily goal.

Psalm 80 today is pertinent to this text in Matthew!
Verses 8-10: “Listen to me, O my People, while I give you stern warnings, O Israel, if you would only listen! You must never have a foreign god; you must not bow down before a false god. For it was I , the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it with good things.”

Where do we pray?

Matthew 6:5-6 highlights the importance of where we pray and why. The purpose of prayer is to communicate with God. Our concern should be what God thinks of us and not what others may think. Jesus tells us in verse 6 to pray in secret so that there would be no temptation to impress other people and so that we can receive the Father’s full reward.

Jesus gives us these directions because he saw people praying for the wrong reasons. The hypocritical Jewish leaders pretended to be something they were not. That is what a hypocrite is – someone who acts out a part that is not true in reality. They gave the appearance that they were close to God, but in reality they did not really care what God thought of them. What was important to them was what the people thought. The Scribes and Pharisees wanted the people to think they were pious and close to God, so they made it their practice to pray in such a way as to be seen by men. They made a show out of their prayers. Their prayers did not reach God because they were not meant for God.

Matthew 6:6 says, “But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father secretly. Then your Father who knows all secrets, will reward you.”
Do you have secret place that you can go to be alone with God? Mine is not too secret. It is just the corner of my couch with my Bible, my journal, and usually a cup of coffee. Secret prayer is actually not about the place where we pray. It is about praying, no matter where we are. Look at Jesus’ life of ministry. He did not have a home that he retreated to every night so that He could wake up every morning and have His prayer time on His couch. Matthew 14:23 shows us that Jesus would often withdraw from the crowds and his disciples and pray by himself; “After Jesus said goodbye to the people, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. It was late, and he was there alone”. He was always traveling and finding His secret place of prayer, up on the mountainside (as this Sermon on the Mount began), the Garden of Gethsemane, the wilderness, or a deserted place. It seems the Bible points out that Jesus had most of His alone time with God outside!!! When we are outside, we leave behind many distractions (family members, internet, phones, food, the massive list of to-dos) and we are surrounded by God’s glorious creation. Especially now that the snow is gone and the birds are singing! Jesus lived the habit of secret prayer outside.

When we withdraw from the public to our private place of prayer we can be sure that God is there with us. He comes near to us when we come near to Him (James 4:8). There are benefits to be had for coming to the private place and communing with God. Hebrews 11:6 says that God “rewards those who sincerely try to find him.” When we turn to God instead of turning to anything or anyone else, He is pleased with us and rewards us.

What a blessing to set aside a time of prayer in a secluded place. A place where you can pray without being interrupted. A place where you can pour out even the secret things of your heart. Do you have a place designated that you regularly visit to pray?

We are all SO ready for spring and warm weather. Get outside this weekend and have some secret prayer in God’s creation. Go for a walk, notice the beauty around you and listen to how God speaks to you through His creation.

Psalm 69:16
“Answer my prayers, O Lord, for your unfailing love is wonderful. Turn and take care of me, for your mercy is so plentiful.”

Sermon on the Mount

How can we live a life that pleases God??

This will be our focus over the next 5 to 6 weeks. We are going to take an in-depth look at the Sermon on the Mount. We will explore Mathew 5,6,&7 and hear exactly what it looks like to live as a follower of Christ.

Matthew 5:1-2 is the reason that this passage is known as the Sermon on the Mount: “Now when He saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them…” The Sermon on the Mount is the most famous sermon Jesus ever gave, perhaps the most famous sermon ever given by anyone.

In many ways, Jesus’ teachings during the Sermon on the Mount represent the major ideals of our daily Christian walk. In these 3 chapters we will see Jesus teaching about prayer, justice, care for the needy, handling religious law, divorce, fasting, judging other people, salvation, and much more. The Sermon on the Mount also contains both the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) and the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13).

Jesus addresses our heart in these chapters. How we will live in the reality of our world and all that happens in our daily lives. In the She Reads Truth Devotional, the reference is made that “Jesus transformed the law from a back-breaker to freedom-maker.” Jesus Christ came to fulfill the law so that we may experience freedom. “Freedom from sin, freedom from self. Freedom from hopelessness and death. Freedom from rule-based religion. Freedom to love and be loved by a holy and merciful God.” (She Reads Truth)

Lets look with an open heart over the next weeks as Jesus speaks to us from the hill above. He is not telling us what to do, but how to live. Jesus wants us to be close to Him. To experience freedom in this life, these chapters show us that we will only find freedom in Him.

Also, read Psalm 57