Your Vision for 2020 – Part Five: Our Blessings in Christ.

God wants to bless you. He says so in Deuteronomy 28:2, “And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you…” and the verse continues, “…if you obey the voice of the Lord your God” (ESV). You may say, “YAY! God wants to bless me! But uh oh, there’s a catch!” And you would kind of be right, except that God doesn’t ever trick us, so there isn’t really a “catch”. But God is telling us something about how and why he wants to bless us.
Moses wrote the book of Deuteronomy near the end of his life, when the people of Israel were under the Law. Chapters 4 through 26 recount what God expected from his people as they prepared to cross over the Jordan river into the promised land. Deuteronomy 28 describes the blessings that God desired to shower on his people when they showed themselves to be obedient, and the curses that would follow their disobedience. Under the Law, God’s blessings were contingent on the people’s compliance, and his curses followed rebellion. God had laid down the Law through his servant Moses, and he expected his people to keep it (See Exodus 19 and 20).
But remember, God has always had a plan for the redemption of humanity, and each book of the Bible fits together to build up a blueprint for that plan. For example, Genesis 1 begins with creation, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (1:1), and John chapter one begins with a description of Jesus as the Word of God at the time of creation, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1).
Let’s read on and see what else John wrote about Jesus: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth… For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:14,16-17 ESV). The Greek word for grace is charis, which means loveliness, merciful kindness, favor, liberality, a reward, and a gift. The unearned favor of God is for those who believe in salvation by faith. The Law was given through Moses, but God’s grace comes through Jesus Christ.
In Matthew 5:17 Jesus said ““Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (ESV). Jesus did not come to destroy the Law. He came to fulfill all its requirements. He went on to explain, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (5:20). The scribes and Pharisees were sticklers for their interpretation of the letter of the Law – but even they could not keep it perfectly. And, Beloved Friends, neither could we, or any other human who has ever lived except for One, and that One is Jesus. Not only was he sinless, and not only did he keep the Law perfectly, but Jesus himself received the whole punishment that was coming to humanity for the breaking of the Law in his death at the cross. His righteousness far exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees.
Since this is true, we have the right through Christ to claim and enjoy all of God’s blessings and we do not need to fear that God will strike us with any kind of curse (See Galatians 3:13). However, we must understand that God will not bless sin, because sin is always harmful. Instead, as John wrote, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 ESV).

God’s blessings and the unique talents he designed for each of us are intended to work in harmonious partnership. To illustrate this, we can picture all the skills of the Proverbs 31 Woman fitted together with all the blessings of Deuteronomy 28:2-14. We imagine her working with her hands, while God blesses her basket and her pantry. We can picture her planting and harvesting, while God blesses the fruit of her ground. We see her as a merchant, a teacher, a homemaker, a mother, while God blesses her going in and coming out. We can picture God blessing her ministry in the city and the country. We find God taking a personal interest in her home, her work, and her family, because God says, “And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 28:2 ESV).
Unlike under the Old Covenant, receiving God’s blessings doesn’t depend on our personal righteousness, or on how well we keep God’s laws. Today, under the New Covenant, God says yes and amen to all his blessings for us because we are in Christ Jesus (See 2 Corinthians 1:20). God doesn’t give us gifts and talents and expect us to go it alone. He desires us to come to him like Solomon did, with a listening heart, seeking wisdom and understanding. God wants to bless the work that he created us to do because he wants to help us grow, prosper and succeed as a testimony to his goodness. God works with us and through us. Jesus said, “My Father is working right now, and so am I” (John 5:17b GW).

When we place all our trust in him, then like he did with the Proverbs 31 Woman, God will redeem us from poor choices we’ve made in the past. As he did with David, God will lead us through trial and testing to find the way forward. As he did with Solomon, God will establish our hearts in wisdom. He will teach us to live and work and love and prosper in his ways, that are full of grace and truth.
As King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (ESV).

 

The Widow’s Might

Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which makes a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood." ~Mark 12:41-44

We will get back to the widow shortly, but first let us take a look at the events leading up to this point. This is not a random event.

Jesus has just made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding in a donkey. He knows the trial and execution are ahead and He is ready to face His accusers, the religious leaders of the Sanhedran. They have been waiting like snakes for the opportunity to challenge Him.

As He is leading His disciples, He curses a fruitless fig tree. He proceeds to the temple where He overturns tables and chases out the money changers of the fruitless "den of thieves" that it has become. Later they notice that the fig tree has withered and died as deeds of wickedness eventually do. (Mark 11:12-24)

He teaches His disciples how to keep an attitude of faithful prayer and forgiveness. They are going to need to know how to handle all that is coming. (Mark 11:25-26)

All too soon there is another encounter with the accusers who relentlessly question His authority. He has them dumbfounded and outraged. He compares them to wicked vine dressers who have rejected the truth and destroyed the vineyard. They challenge Him about taxes, about the resurrection, the Kingdom of God, and the submission of King David. Boom, boom, boom, the scene is intense. (Mark 11:27- 12:37)

He uses the opportunity to teach the disciples about the hypocrisy they are witnessing as these leaders obliviously live it up, while the vulnerable are left to fend for themselves. (Mark 12:38-40)

It is here that our sweet little widow enters the scene. Unaware of the chaos and minding her own business, she comes to the Temple to make her faithful offering before God. As women, we can relate to her vulnerability. She is older, single and very poor. And whether or not she notices, Jesus sees her and praises her faith. We know He makes a little go a long way.

Her example is seared into history. Her two mites were and still are mighty. Stay mighty faithful, beloved ones, He sees you also, your offerings not just of mere tithing, but also of love, prayer, study, time, effort and faith.

Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." ~Jesus, Luke 12:7

Comfort for Today – We are Loved!

After his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, just a few days before the crucifixion, a Pharisee came to Jesus, wanting to test him. He asked, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Jesus responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:36; 37-40 ESV).
Jesus made it clear that everything written in the Law and all the words delivered by the Prophets depend on love. Love of God and love of others. But have you ever felt like all the love-giving depends on you? After all, Jesus said that the biggest and greatest commandment is that we love God with everything we’ve got, and once we do that, we are supposed to scrape together whatever is left over and use it to love our neighbors! Have you ever felt like you’re in a one-sided love affair with God and you’re trying your best to love him with all your heart and soul and mind, and it’s so exhausting you just don’t have any love left over for everybody else?
If so, Beloved Friends, take heart and rejoice because you’ve got it backwards! Listen, 1 John 4:19 says, “We love [God] because he first loved us.” God’s love is not stingy, and it never runs out. God does not need us to love him first so that he can love us back. That is not what Jesus was saying to that doubting Pharisee!

Let’s examine what Jesus was talking about. Remember, he spoke to the Pharisee before the crucifixion happened, and the Pharisee – literally a lawyer – was trying to trick him into saying something that would contradict the Law. But Jesus had already proclaimed, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17 ESV). Jesus fulfilled the Law because he was completely without sin: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV), and the very last chapter of Luke tells us that Jesus explained the fulfillment of all the Law and the Prophets concerning himself to the two disciples who walked with him on the road to Emmaus after the resurrection (Luke 24:27). And finally, Jesus told Nicodemus, a different Pharisee who visited him under the cover of night, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17 ESV).
God the Father sent God the Son into the world to save us. Not because God needs us to love him, but because he first loved us. God sent his Son into the world to save us, because he loves us. Jesus came to take the punishment for our sins to set us free from the curse of sin and death, because he loves us. We did not have to love him first. We couldn’t love him first, because we were lost in sin! Jesus had to bring the love of God to the world, before the world could even begin loving him back. “For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son!”
You see, the Pharisee came to Jesus and asked him a question in terms of the Law. A question about commandments. Jesus answered the Pharisee in terms of Love. We can understand Jesus to have said something like, “Love fulfills the Law, and I am about to show you, in action, exactly what that means at the cross.” God is not demanding love from us. That idea is Pharisaical, based on the legalism of the Pharisees. That is why Jesus answered the Law in terms of Love. Because the greatest of these, is Love (See 1 Corinthians 13).

So, Beloved Friends, we don’t have to struggle to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, spirit, body or anything else, because God created us to be empty vessels. We are meant to be filled with God’s love, and an empty vessel cannot pour out. Before we can love God, or our neighbors, first we must be filled with the love of God – which we receive from God – so that his love in us is overflowing! We love from the overflow, not the emptiness! Therefore, loving God with all our might means bringing our empty selves to him to be filled with his love. God doesn’t need us to pour into him, he desires us to come to him so that he can fill us with his love, so we can then pour out to others. Come to God empty and go forth filled! To us it has been freely given so we can freely give! (See Matthew 10:8).
The apostle John wrote, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God…So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:7,16 ESV).
We don’t have to struggle to love God. Our part is to know and believe the love that God has for us. And we have the proof of God’s love at the cross where the Law was fulfilled, by Love, Himself.
So, for today, and every day, we can take comfort in knowing that we are loved, for all time, no matter what. Because God is Love.
Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at Speak Comfort. We love you!

Your Vision for 2020 – Part Four: Begin with the Heart.

Deuteronomy 28 begins with this promise: “’And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God’” (v. 1-2, ESV).
The phrase “faithfully obey” is translated from the Hebrew word shama, which means to listen and understand in order to know how to be obedient. In this, God was not speaking of a kind of blind obedience, but that he should be approached with a hearing and obedient heart. We find an example of a hearing heart in the story of King Solomon’s accession to the throne of Israel:

Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David… At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”
Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.
 “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a dream. (1 Kings 3:3-15 NIV)
What do we know about King Solomon from the verses above? First, that he loved God, and he put that love into action by being obedient to the principles his father King David (who was a man after God’s own heart) taught him. Second, Solomon understood that it was his destiny to step into the position that God had promised. Third, Solomon admitted that in relationship to God and his plan, he was both a servant and a child. Fourth, Solomon comprehended that ministering to God’s people was the focus of God’s plan for him. And finally, the new king realized that he could not accomplish this daunting task without God’s help.
Because all of these things were apparent to Solomon, when God asked him what kind of assistance he wanted the king didn’t ask for wealth or might, but wisdom. He asked God for an understanding heart.
Sometimes when we picture God, we have the incorrect idea that he is sitting on his throne up in heaven, scrutinizing our every move and just waiting for us to make a mistake so he can smite us with a heavenly hammer. But this could not be further from the truth! As we can see from the verses above, the desire of God’s heart is to bless us! He’s not a cranky old man, he is our good, good Father, and not only does he desire to bless us, he also wants to teach us and develop us. Why? Because he loves us and has already created a plan for us that will bring glory to his name and demonstrate his grace to the world. God’s desire is for us to succeed and not to fail, to be the head and not the tail!
Notice that when Solomon asked God for a discerning heart, not only was God pleased with his request, but he also said that he would give him wealth and honor, as well as wisdom. Jesus says this in another way in Matthew 6:31-33:
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (ESV)
Jesus was describing what Solomon demonstrated. When God asked him what he wanted, Solomon replied, “But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.” Solomon realized that there was no way that he could do what had to be done in his own strength. He knew he had to depend on God every step of the way. Because God has already built into his plan everything we need to accomplish it, we begin each day and each task by asking God for wisdom, discernment and guidance. Contrary to how things operate in the world, God is not teaching us to become self-sufficient. He is teaching us to depend exclusively on him. When we begin by seeking wisdom, then God provides everything we need to keep his plan moving forward. To succeed, we must surrender.
Paul wrote about this in his first letter to the church at Corinth:
…but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (ESV)
By worldly standards, Solomon was not of noble birth. His father was a shepherd boy, an adulterer and a murderer and his mother was an adulteress. Those ignoble beginnings could have canceled God’s plans for Solomon before they even got started. BUT Solomon had something in his favor! He knew that whatever God asked him to do, he didn’t have the ability to do it, and he was humble enough to ask God for help. The destinies that God had planned for David, and Bathsheba, and Solomon were much bigger than they could manage. But God called them anyway. God asks us to do things that are too big for us, because he never intended for us to do them alone.
We don’t have space to add it all here, but when you have a few minutes, please turn in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians and read what Paul (who before his conversion was a fire-breathing, church persecuting Pharisee) wrote  in chapter 2 about how he came to preach the gospel in weakness, fear and trembling, and notice how he instructs the church that “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (v. 9 ESV).
When our hearts are right with God, when we seek first his kingdom, his wisdom, and his righteousness, he will supply what we need to fulfill his design for us. King David gives us a picture of this in Psalm 23 as Christ, the Shepherd of our souls, leads us on paths of righteousness, for his name’s sake.
In Part Five of our series, we will explore how our blessings in Christ help us accomplish our God-given destiny. God Bless and please stay tuned!

Bad Fruit, Good Fruit – Part 4

Faithfulness

Faithfulness (being full of faith) is continually acting in faith, according to God's will and believing that God is sovereign and righteous in all circumstances, moving on our behalf for our good.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. ~Hebrews 11:1-3  

"...for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. " ~Jesus, Matthew 17:20  

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. "Lord," he said, "my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly." Jesus said to him, "Shall I come and heal him?"  The centurion replied, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, "Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.......... Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would." And his servant was healed at that moment. ~Matthew 8:5-10, 13  

In the Parable of the Talents, to the first servant (and second) who used his gift wisely: "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'" ~Matthew 25:21

Great Is Thy Faithfulness - Chris Rice

Gentleness

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. ~Colossians   

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. ~Proverbs 15:1  

The message of the Gospel is usually not easy for unbelievers to receive, so our gentleness is more important than we realize. Our state of mind, our tone of voice, our approach all matter. To ease our minds, our goal is not to prove anything, but to merely have productive interaction and conversation that glorifies Jesus. It is God's work to change hearts and minds toward Him.  

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. ~Proverbs 16:24 

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. ~Philippians 4:5   

As believers we have the responsibility to lovingly and delicately correct other believers who are in error. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. ~2 Timothy 2:24-26

Your Gentleness - David Brymer

Self Control/Temperance

Self Control - temperance - discipline - disciple - being a purposeful follower in word and in deed.  

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. ~1 Corinthians 9:24-27   

I beseech you therefore, brethren (and sistren), by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. ~Romans 12:1-2

Give Me Self Control - Sovereign Grace Music

I Have Decided - Elevation Worship

The Fruit Producer

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you: I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. ~Ezekiel 36:26-27  

"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem (your community), and in all Judea and Samaria (your nation), and to the ends of the earth. " ~Jesus, Acts 1:8

But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in You. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. ~Romans 8:9-11

When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. ~John 16:13 

And because you are sons (and daughters), God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son (daughter), and if a son (daughter), then an heir of God through Christ. ~Galatians 4:6-7

Fire of Your Spirit - Sarah Liberman

Something New for the New Year! We’d Love to Hear From You!

Hello Everyone! We are happy to announce that our development team has created a beautiful new Comments section for our Speak Comfort family.
Please take a moment when you can to visit and enjoy some of our our readers’ comments, and if you like you can also share your thoughts with us by clicking on Reader Comments on the navigation bar, above.
Thanks so much, and we look forward to hearing from you!
Jeanette and Suzanne
“You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all” (2 Corinthians 3:2 ESV).

Bad Fruit, Good Fruit – Part 3

Patience/Longsuffering

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:6-7

Longsuffering is not only about waiting without being anxious, but also about mercy and forgiveness. God gives this to us and we are to give it to others.

So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm. ~Joel 2:13

My Brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. ~James 1:2-4

For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. ~Psalm 30:5   

...fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him Who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. ~Hebrews 12:2-3

While I Wait - Lincoln Brewster

Kindness

The Hebrew word is Chesed (ha sed) - loving kindness. It basically means, selflessness in giving and serving.

Love your neighbor as yourself. ~Mark 12:31

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish,will give him a snake? If you, then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. ~Jesus, Matthew 7:7-12

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who , being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death--- even on a cross! ~Philippians 2:3-8

Kindness - Chris Tomlin

Goodness

Goodness is a true commitment to choosing right over wrong, good over evil. Every day we make many choices, most of them seemingly insignificant. Being good, is simply doing the right thing.

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. ~Romans 12:9 

The Lord is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; He knows those who trust in Him. ~Nahum 1:7  

"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in its house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. " ~Jesus, Matthew 5:14-16 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. ~Galatians 6:9-10

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. ~Romans 12:21 

Reminder: each of these - love, joy, peace, patience, etc...are elements of the Holy Spirit which work together as fruit, singular, not plural. None stand alone individually nor do they work without love.

Goodness Of God - Jenn Johnson

Excellent teaching series by Bill Cloud:

Bill Cloud: The World That Was

 

Your Vision for 2020 – Part Three: Clothed with Strength and Dignity.

How does the Proverbs 31 Woman inspire our vision for 2020 and the years ahead? Was she someone that we can identify with today? What is it about her that intrigues us, three thousand years after Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs? What kind of a woman was she?
If you’ve ever wondered whether God has designed a place for you to express your talents, then you need look no further than Proverbs 31 to encounter the woman whom God sees as more precious than jewels. She is an example of a woman who is active and fulfilled in every area of her life - in relationships, in the home, and in the marketplace. Her ministry flows from wisdom and kindness and her hands are open to the poor and needy. She is creative, strong and cheerful because she knows that she is blessed. Her reputation is dignified, and her work is productive and valued.
We may think that this paragon of virtue is too good to be true but remember what we studied in Part Two of our series. This laudable lady had also drunk deeply from the well of grief and remorse. She understood pain and suffering, but she knew the joy of redemption and God’s unmerited favor. In so many ways she is like us. And in many more ways, she is exactly what God designed us to be.
She seems so fulfilled! How can we be like her? What does it take for us to discover and manifest God’s specific design for each of us?
Beloveds, it’s not about who we were, or what we’ve done, or how hard we are willing to work. Bathsheba didn’t go from the pit to the palace and from pity to praise overnight. And she didn’t become the Proverbs 31 Woman on her own steam.
She underwent a process of maturity from being the woman who cheated on her husband Uriah, which resulted in his being murdered, to being the woman whom Solomon described as an excellent wife, who does her husband David good and not harm, all the days of her life (v. 10-12). This wasn’t due to a simple change of location or spouse, but of a fundamental metamorphosis of character.
A transformative third party had to step in to effect this change. King David and Queen Bathsheba had to surrender to a higher authority, and place someone who was without sin on the throne of their hearts to govern them.
Of course, you already know that I am talking about our Lord Jesus, and that for us to be fulfilled in any way at all, we must first make him and him alone the Lord of our lives.
I’m also talking about something in addition to that. When we look at the Proverbs 31 Woman as an example of how much harder we should be working, and of how far short we always seem to fall no matter how much we are willing to do – then we are looking at her through veiled eyes.
She is not an example of what we should be doing. She is an example of what we could be receiving from God, if only we would settle down and let him manifest the unique blueprint he’s knit together in each one of us.
God made a way for Bathsheba to become the Proverbs 31 Woman. He made a way for David to become the husband and the king whose wisdom was known at the gates and who sat in authority among the elders of the land (Proverbs 31:23). And God wants to open that same way for us, not just for this year, but for all our years into eternity.
In Part One of this series we explained how God defined a plan for each one of us from before the creation of the world. God designed each of us to express the plan he knitted together in us, so that our good works would give him glory. God desires for his glory to shine into the world through his people, like a light on a hill.
King David wrote in Psalm 37:3-5, “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act” (ESV).
The difference between Bathsheba and the Proverbs 31 Woman that she became is that Bathsheba followed the desires – or we could say, the lusts – of her “natural” or earthly heart, while the redeemed and sanctified Proverbs 31 Woman followed the desires of God’s heart for her. When we trust in the Lord, he gives us, not the lustful desires of our earthly hearts, but he aligns our hearts with his heart, so that our desires and God’s desires are a match. When the desires of our hearts are aligned with the desires of God’s heart, then the work that we do in the world is fulfilling for us and brings him glory. God makes a way for us through the alignment of our hearts with his heart and our desires with his desires.
God created the first man and woman in his image - to be in relationship with himself, to demonstrate his character, and to reflect his glory. The image of God in mankind was tainted by the fall, but God’s image in us was restored through our new birth in Jesus Christ.
As image-bearers, we are designed to express God’s nature through what he has fitted together in us as our giftings – the talents and abilities that God built into us from before the beginning of the world. God designed the eye to see, the ear to hear, the heart to pump blood, the feet to travel, the skin to defend us from outside invaders. Each piece of our bodies has its perfect part to play, designed to support the function of the whole.
We are the Body of Christ on earth, and each of us has been endowed by God with certain abilities. We have each been provided with the talents necessary to glorify our Creator, and to live out our own unique callings.
Knowing what God’s call is for our lives is not something that we have to struggle to figure out. When we examine our examples in Proverbs 31, we see that the man and woman described there are going about their day-to-day lives, doing all the things that are set before them to do, without worrying or complaining. The work that they do is fulfilling, whether it is in the home, the marketplace, or in service, because they are fully utilizing the gifts and talents that God placed in them. God placed unique gifts and talents in each of us so that by expressing them, we would give him glory and enjoy life more abundantly (John 10:10).
How does Solomon’s description of the Proverbs 31 Woman and her family present us with an example of the desires of God’s heart for us? Here are some examples:
Have you always dreamed of becoming a chef? See Proverbs 31:14-15, “She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens” (ESV).
Do you work in farming or real estate? See Proverbs 31:16, “She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.”
Are you interested in promoting good health and wellness (or are you an athlete)? See Proverbs 31:17, “She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.”
Are you skilled at working with your hands? See Proverbs 31:13,19, “She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands…She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.”
Are you involved in ministry? See Proverbs 31:20, “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.”
Fancy a career in meteorology (or science)? See Proverbs 31:21, “She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household is clothed in scarlet [or in double-thickness].”
Are you interested in design? See Proverbs 31:22, “She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.”
Do you dream of running a business? See Proverbs 31:24, “She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant.”
Do you find joy in teaching? See Proverbs 31:26, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”
Are you a homemaker? See Proverbs 31:27, “She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”
Are you raising wonderful children? See Proverbs 31:28, “Her children rise up and call her blessed…”
Are you a newlywed, or celebrating a golden anniversary? “…her husband also, and he praises her.”
Can you envision a career in law or politics? King David is our example in Proverbs 31:23, “Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.”
Do you love composing and performing music? David is our example again! For inspiration, spend some time in the Book of Psalms!
And finally, if you feel called to work in writing and social media (like we do here at Speak Comfort!), take note of Proverbs 31:18, “She perceives that her merchandise is profitable, Her lamp does not go out at night.” (lol!)
As you can see, whatever the desires of our hearts, God’s plan has got us covered! The beauty of this is that we don’t have to excel at everything, but God has a blessing and an anointing for the unique gifts and talents that he intends for us to use. And we don’t have to wrack our brains to figure out what God’s call for us is about. All we must do is stop and recognize where our talents are and what brings us the most joy.
As Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (ESV).
As our series continues, we will look at how God gives us provision, equipping, and anointing for the work he created us to do.
Please stay tuned!

Bad Fruit, Good Fruit – Part 2

The Good Fruit Of The Holy Spirit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucufied the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. ~Galatians 5:22-25

This is great news, Beloved Ones!!!

Love

Notice that love is at the top of the list because it is the embodiment of all of these elements working together. Love is not a mere feeling, it takes decision as well as action. The Love Chapter truly says it all.

If I speak in the tongues of men or angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all my possessions to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails..........

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. ~ 1 Corinthians 13 - The Love Chapter

Your Love Never Fails - Jesus Culture

Joy

I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.....down in my heart to stay!!! Ah, precious memories of Bible school days with cookies and juice.

Joy is about celebrating Who God Is. God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing to Him a psalm of praise! ~Psalm 47:5-7

Joy is contagious. For the Jews, it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor. In every province and in every city to which the edict of the king came, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear (Godly fear) of the Jews had seized them. ~Esther 8:16-1

Joy transcends circumstances. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, ~James 1:2

Joy - For King & Country

Peace

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. ~John 14:27

...and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. ~Ephesians 6:15  ...a vital element of the armor of God.

We live in a world full of trouble, Jesus told us to expect it. We are not here in this life in this time to blend in with the world or to get along quietly. The Gospel of Peace is about God's peace which is in bold opposition to worldly peace. Worldly peace is a false peace which proclaims that everyone has their own personal way to know God and get to heaven and that Jesus is merely one of them. Jesus contradicts this notion as He states, "No one comes to the Father except through Me." ~John 14:6

The Gospel of Peace is for joyful proclamation! So we are to be ready and unafraid, secure and complete in the Lord, content in our hearts as we face a variety of obstacle and circumstances, living truth, and speaking truth in love so that others may have it also. The Hebrew word is Shalom.

"I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." ~Jesus, John 16:33

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ~Romans 15:13

Shabbat Shalom - Joshua Aaron

If you have not seen this beautiful series, The Chosen, by filmmaker Dallas Jenkins, it is a must see:

The Chosen - series - free app for phone

Christian Post Review of The Chosen

 

Bad Fruit, Good Fruit – Part 1

What should be the fruit of a follower of Christ? Should we stand out in the world or should we blend in? A better question might be, "should unbelievers be able to see the evidence of whom be belong to?" The enemy has a goal to create gray areas of confusion, especially within the church and to give the world authority over what happens there. What happens if your church begins to favor worldliness over God's Word or when your church/denomination divides over cultural issues?

But you (believer) are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who were once not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. ~1 Peter 2:9-10

Before we discuss the good fruit that comes from the Holy Spirit, we need to take a look at the bad fruit of worldliness to help us in wisdom and discernment as the gray areas increase.

"Beware of false prophets (and false believers), who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them." ~Jesus, Matthew 7:14-20

Worldly Works Of The Flesh

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are:

adultry, fornication (this includes homosexuality - 1 Corinthians 6:9) - any sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and one woman.

uncleanness - morally or spiritually impure, continually ignoring the call of the Holy Spirit

lewdness - anything such as foul language, music, pornographic images, etc. that promotes sexual promiscuity

idolatry - includes any obsession that consumes us and interferes with our worship of the One true God, Who Is Yahweh, Who sent His One and Only Son, Yeshua/Jesus to save us from sin. He is not Allah, Buddha, Hari Krishna, Yoda, popular TV New Age Guru, nor is He a god who can be molded together with popular Bible verses while throwing out the rest of scripture that makes one feel uncomfortable.

sorcery - witchcraft and occult practices, including mind manipulation, ouija boards, tarot cards, communication with the dead, human sacrifice (including abortion), etc.

hatred - Folks, speaking even harsh truth (in love) and presenting scripture and facts is not hatred. Hatred is when one feels such contempt for another person that one or more is/are willing to do anything to bring their downfall including lying, cheating, stealing, etc.

contentions - continuous quarreling about trivial issues

jealousies - involves at least three people, one person being jealous over another person's relationship with a third person or people

envy - between two people, one envious of the other one's blessings

outbursts of wrath - out of control anger, harsh words, throwing objects, slamming doors, etc.

selfish ambitions - putting one's personal well being above others

dissensions - not being able to settle arguments by agreeing to disagree which eventually leads to incivility

heresies - false teaching and belief that clearly contradict scripture

murders - purposely causing the death of an innocent person or people including the unborn. It is Biblical as well as  (US) constitutional that a person, either perpetrator or victim, is innocent until proven guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt is a just court of law.

drunkenness - purposeful and constant abuse of alhohol and drugs, using as a means to escape unpleasant circumstances

revelries - boisterous partying with no regard for decency and civility

and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in times past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. ~Galatians 5:19-21

Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles (unbelievers), that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. ~1 Peter 2:11-12

It is important to note the difference between temporarily falling into sin, and continuous practice and promotion of sin, calling it good and acceptable. Praise God for His unending mercy and grace in allowing repentance, which means coming into full agreement with God and His ways and allowing the Holy Spirit to remove the sin in our hearts which bears bad fruit to get us back on the right track.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us. ~1 John 1:8-10

Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. ~James 1:22

Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My Word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My Words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's Who sent Me. ~John 14:23-24

Fruit has always been an issue. Nothing new under the sun here:

Did America Have A Christian Founding? Yes And No.

How bad can evil progress? Chaurisse is a survivor of Satanic Ritual Abuse. Please take some time to listen to her testimony. And pray for the children who suffer in this daily, that they would be set free and justice take place. Awareness is the first step in the help they need.

Programmed By Freemasons: You Won't Believe What She Survived