Monday, March 30, 2009

Chastity vs Lust

Welcome back! I hope you are well today. I myself am happy to be back in the blog of things... lol I don't know about you but I am excited to dive into more of what God has to teach us. Shall we?

Chastity... Not really a word we use in these parts. The word itself gives me a mental picture of the 18th century aristocracy. Reminds me of Shakespeare and having proper etiquette. What about you?

Despite the terminology seeming a bit out dated, the concept is still sound. In other words, what it means is still something God expects us to apply to our lives. Even though society has decided that it is ok to lay aside chastity, God has not.

So what does chastity really mean? It is the quality of being chaste. Not indulging in unlawful sexual activity, remaining pure. It implies moral excellence by restrained behavior. Purity and innocence, freedom from sin or evil. Modest and decent behavior, dress, bearing or speech. It is allied with abstinence or sobriety.

Let's break it down a bit further.

Often chastity is talked about in the terms of abstaining from sexual activity of any sort before marriage. Although it does include this definition, it doesn't end there. It also applies to other topics and areas of our lives. To be chaste could mean that you completely abstain from alcohol or other habits. It also refers to the way we conduct ourselves in behavior. To the way we dress and present ourselves (women specifically on this one). There are many applications in our lives that chastity can be considered a virtue to follow.

To get a better idea, let’s look at the opposite of chastity, the vice of lust. The definition of lust is intense desire, to seek unrestrained gratification. I believe the key word here is unrestrained. The opposite of what chastity calls for which is restraint. When we leave our fleshly desires unrestrained they take us to lust after ungodly things.

Let's tackle the most common application for chastity versus lust first. The topic of abstaining from sexual temptation and remaining pure or innocent until marriage. Of course, Gods word is going to give us the truth about this subject so let’s see what it says.

I Thessalonians 4:3-5 for this is the will of God, your sanctification; that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God.

II Peter 2:11 - Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrams, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.

We are called to a higher standard of morality than those that do not know God. We are called to sanctification and honor. When we roll around in the mud, we get dirty. It is as simple as that. God says that lusts of the flesh war against our soul. Sexual sin is deadly. It is the biggest sin that most men have to fight. It is a sin against not just the mind but of the body and soul. It’s the type that stays with us in all or our senses. When it replays in our head at a later date we recall in not only in our mind but in the other senses of the body. We feel it, smell it, taste it and hear it as well as see it in our mind. This is what makes the temptation to sin again in this way so difficult. God, in his gracious and loving way has provided protection from this by calling us to chastity. If we haven't encountered the sin we have nothing to fight against later.

Matthew 5:28 - But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

We are still called to purity after marriage. If we have sexual relations before marriage with other partners it makes it more difficult not to commit adultery in your heart after marriage. Jesus tells us in this scripture that when we look in lust, it is considered adultery. The best way to avoid adulterous thoughts is to not have the sin from past sexual encounters to draw from.

I am not saying that if you have committed sexual sin or you had sex before marriage that you can not be forgiven. The bible tells us that when we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us. We can be forgiven, mercy abounds where Jesus is concerned. We must take our sin before Christ, ask for forgiveness and then repent (turn away) from it. What I am saying is that we are called to a higher standard once we know what is required of us.

We are also called to purity in other parts of our life.

I Timothy 4:12 - Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

Proverbs 22:11 - He who loves purity of heart and has grace on his lips, the King will be his friend.

Proverbs 11:6 - The righteousness of the upright will deliver them, but the unfaithful will be caught by their lust.

Galatians 5:16 - I say then; walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

We are to be an example for others in our purity. We are called to a life of righteousness, to live upright and faithful. We are to love with purity of heart not deceitfulness. Most importantly, we are to walk in the spirit so we do not fulfill the lusts that our flesh calls out to us with.

We are not to lust after fleshly desires, chasing the all mighty dollar, power or fame. We are not to adorn ourselves with outward things so to tempt others to sin. We instead are to contain our beauty on the inside, in the heart. I Peter 3:4 tells us to let our adornment be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. I want to be precious in Gods sight, how about you?

So how do we start? We ask for God to change us.


Help us to do and be those things that are very precious in your sight. Forgive us of any sin of lust that hides within our hearts. Cleanse us and make us whole in your sight. Then Lord, begin to change us and mold us into those who are chaste, pure and innocent of evil. Create in us a heart of purity. Keep our eyes, minds and hearts pure and free of lustful things. Let us be the thing of beauty you would want us to be.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Happy Saturday

Happy Saturday everyone!

Sorry I haven't started back in the study on virtue as promised. My internet went down yesterday morning and won't be fixed until Monday. Had to go borrow someone elses internet to just write to you today. Pray for me.... I'm having withdraw issues ;) lol Not that I spend to much time on the internet. I have just gotten used to blogging each day and it gives me an outlet for my writing.

I will be back on Monday to write about Chastity vs Lust.

Can't wait!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Heavenly Virtues vs Deadly Vices

Today, I would like to get back to the study we were doing on the subject of virtue. In the next several days we will explore some more of the virtues we should hold in our lives and there vices we should be weary of.

Opposite the seven deadly sins is what is called the seven heavenly virtues. As with many virtues talked about in the bible, there is a vice at the opposite end of each of these. On one end of what is good also on the polar opposite end has that which is bad.

Here is a list of the virtues and vices we will be taking a closer look at in the coming days.

The Virtue of Chastity vs. the vice of Lust
The Virtue of Temperance vs. the vice of Gluttony
The Virtue of Charity vs. the vice of Greed
The Virtue of Diligence vs. the vice of Laziness
The Virtue of Patience vs. the vice of Anger
The Virtue of Kindness vs. the vice of Envy
The Virtue of Humility vs. the vice of Pride

As with most virtues, if we want them to be a part of who we are, we must practice them. Practicing them helps to protect us from the temptation of its counterpart vice.

But before we begin to practice anything we must study it and know it. Once we study and understand, we can then implant the knowledge into our daily lives and begin to ask God to make that quality a permanent part of who we are.

So I hope you will come back tomorrow as we start to get know the Virtue of Chastity and ask God to incorporate it as a quality of our lives.

See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tempted to Stay

What stops you from doing what God calls you to do? What keeps you from total surrender to God? What is it that you trust more than you trust God?

Is it discouragement you struggle with? Are you afraid to succeed? Maybe it’s easier to stay where you are. Maybe you trust where you are more than you trust the power of God?

Often times, God pushes us out of our comfort zone. We are asked by God, to go places that we have never been before. Not because He enjoys punishing us but because He knows that the place He has for us is better than the place we are at.

Recently I have experienced discouragement, making me want to stop right where I am and shut down. It has made me question where I am going, what I am doing and why. What I am learning is that discouragement and fear of moving forward is also a lack of trust.
You see, I know what I am doing right now. I am secure in where God has me right now but to move into uncharted waters..... Well, that's scary.

Even though I have faith in God and what He is capable of, I fear the unknown. I fear taking the steps forward even when I am being called there.

So why don't I trust? Why do I doubt instead of just standing in faith?

It all comes down to trusting God. Trusting that He knows best. That He will catch me when I stumble. I fear I don't know the way. That I won't be able to figure out what He wants from me. And in this, I will screw up His plan.

How prideful of me. Me screw up His plan? I suppose, if I am realistic about it I will see that I can not screw up His agenda. If I stop now though, He will only take His plan and place it in another’s hands. So the question must be asked, do I want to do His will? Do I really want my life to be directed by Him? If I do, then I must step forward in spite of my doubt. I must see the fear and continue all the way through it.

So, I would say if we believe that the plan God has for our lives is for our good then we must continue in it even when we don't see where we going. Even when it seems too cloudy to see the final destination we must hold His hand and trust to step in His footsteps. Like a small child holding the hand of a parent we must trust that where He leads will be safe and better than where we are right now.

Help us go where you lead. To walk where you walk. So when we get to where were going, we arrive by your power not our own.

Monday, March 23, 2009

You Were Chosen

Before the beginning of time, before the creation of the world, you were chosen. Chosen to inherit. Chosen to be called. Chosen for a purpose. Your name was known and spoken before the earth began to turn on its axis. It was also written down in God's book.

Although you may question who you are, He doesn't. He knew who you would be before you were a thought in your mother mind.

You may ask the question "Who am I?" but He does not. He's always known. And now He wants you to become who He intended you to be. So stop asking yourself that question and instead ask Him.

Psalm 33:12-15 - Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance. The Lord looks from heaven; he sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.

God may have chosen the nation of Israel to be His people many years ago, but that doesn't mean he didn't choose you. It is not by default you were chosen, it was by choice. God made a choice. He chose you.

God traced the line of ancestry from Adam and Eve and made a covenant with Abraham. That covenant held then and still does to this day. The nation of Israel came from the bloodline of Abraham. The bloodline of Adam. The same bloodline that bore Jesus the son of God. We the gentiles were accepted into the bloodline of Abraham by the blood spilled on Calvary. And just because the gentiles were grafted into the vine does not make them less acceptable branches. Gentiles were chosen before time too. Made acceptable by Jesus, Jew and gentile are all the same before God.

Before time, God chose you as His own inheritance. God's inheritance is who you are. From His dwelling place, His throne in heaven He looks down and sees you. Knowing all about you, He works in and through you. God does not choose trash or garbage. He does not choose the useless. He is God. He chooses the heart that He knows He can mold. He chooses the heart of gold. That heart of gold my friend is yours. He knew your heart before you did and wanted you to be His.

He knew your heart because he fashioned it. He fashions each heart individually He holds dear. When He chose you, He knew even then what heart He would give you and how He would fashion it. Each part was planned.

Though you may not see it now, all that you have seen and done in your life is molding you. Molding the heart He intended. Molding your heart to be like His. Then when He's finally done molding He will say "Come Home” and beside Him you will be.

But while He is still molding, you are to be working. Working at telling others about Jesus. Loving others enough so they will see His glory. And bringing weary souls to the cross so He can begin to mold them too. That is your purpose. What you are to do.

It is when you finally know who we are that you will begin to do what you were always called to do. And it will be great.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Broken Humanity

As I finished watching the movie "Boy in the stripped pajamas" tonight I could not keep my composure. By the end of the movie I wept so bitterly that I thought my heart might crumble.

You see the movie is about a family whose father is a soldier running one of the concentration camps in Germany when Hitler exterminated millions of Jews. The son of this man is eight years old and starts sneaking out the back. He goes through the woods and finds another little boy across the fence in stripped pajamas. They become friends and meet at the fence.

I began to put myself in that small boys shoes. Losing his mother and sister as soon as he reached the camp. Then one day his father went on work detail and never returns. The sweet tenderness of this small boy ripped my heart to shreds.

My heart wept and then it wept some more. So much that I still at this moment can not seem to regain my composure.

How must God feel? How His heart must break as He watches humanity. As He watches what He created and called very good have such destruction in its heart. What he created with purity and love was turned into evil with one decision by man. It has reeked havoc generation after generation. Time and time again God has shown mercy and humanity has spit in His face. Mocked Him and taunted Him. It is so true, when God said in the bible that we are a stiff necked people.

Tonight, it was like I saw the true depravity of the human man and how with out hope from God we are so lost. I saw the heart of God so filled with love for us and how we turn away.

How can he still love us? How, when we are so undeserving? Such pride, such arrogance that we kill to have power and influence. Millions died in the holocaust and things of this type continue to happen. They happen because of greed for money and power. Ultimately they happen because we think we can be our own God.

But we can not be our own God. And He does have pity on us. He has pity on us because we are ignorant humans that don't know what we are doing. So He makes a way by sending a Savior.

We accept His sacrifice say we will serve Him and still don't yield. Are we so ignorant that we don't understand what we have been given? We have been given a chance at life. Life the way it was meant to be from the beginning. It takes humility. A yielding of our own human inclination to do it our way.

Will we yield so He can love? Will we let Him love us the way He would like to? Don't we see that we are breaking His heart? The God that is the embodiment of what love is, because He is love. Will we not yield to that?

Oh Lord forgive us. We are a stubborn people. Why you love us I do not know but I am thankful that you do. Have mercy on us Lord. Have mercy. Bend our necks and soften our hearts so we can yield. For with out your help we are lost. Without you there is no hope. So I lay hope in your hands and I praise you. For you are mighty and great. I praise you because You are.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Featured Column

I recently started writing a featured column over at The Cypress Times . Scroll down and look to the right side of the page on the home page and you will see my first column titled "What would Jesus, the expert do if....".

Also, I have an article in the Love Is..... section called Love Is... A Gentle Nudge .

Stop by and check them out. Let me know what you think. I Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I Just Want to Walk With You Lord

Life can be so complicated if we make it that way. So much to do and be in life. We start as a child with a knack for dreaming. Life as a child, we think should be like the fairy tales we read. Ask any four to eight year old this question "What do you want to do when you grow up?" and you will get a big dream. At that age anything is possible and life is grand. Princesses live happily ever after and all girls should grow up to live as one. Boys are superheroes and dragon slayers in training.

Unfortunately as we grow older, the pressure begins. Figure out a career, make something out of yourself, we are told. What started out as a walk now has become a run. A run on the wheel of success at life. We get the dream of success firmly planted in our heads early on. Then after high school or college we are ushered into it head on with the expectation we will conquer the world.

I am 47 years old and only now am I figuring it all out. All the wasted years I spent on what most of us think is the highway to success. Only to find out, I was headed in the wrong direction going way to fast. My hope is that maybe I can stop a few others earlier than I did myself.

We are not taught that our place in life is to follow. Instead, we are taught that to get ahead, we must fight our way to the top and lead. In effect, while doing that, we are building pride in ourselves and making an idol out of our own success. We place ourselves in the position as leader and become the one we rely on. We make things happen.

What a deluded belief. And definitely one that Satan would like us to keep at our core. The truth is we were never meant to lead. We were meant to follow. Follow after Christ as our leader. We were meant to be the instruments He uses to accomplish His will. Sometimes He may pick us up and use us, other times we are in a mode of waiting.

I think the most profound discovery I have made in the bible so far has been the story of Enoch.
There is not much written about him in the bible but what is written I believe is vitally important for us to understand. It gives us our place and shows us what is truly expected of us if we really want to please God. It gives us the real reason we are here on earth and were created in the first place. We were created to walk with God and follow along behind Him. Enoch shows us the importance of that.

Enoch was only mentioned twice in the bible. We know that he was a prophet for it tells us he prophesied about the Lord's return in Jude 14-15. But the most profound mention of him is:

Genesis 5:21-24 - Enoch lived sixty-five years, and begot Methuselah. After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.

After 365 years of walking with God, Enoch did not die, God took him. God was so close to Enoch that He wanted him for himself so He took him home. The most important thing that Enoch did that made God love him so much that He could not be without him was "walking with God".

No special works or talent is spoken of. Not one great thing is given to his credit elsewhere in the bible. Enoch walked with God. A close and extremely personal walk with God I imagine. He spent time with God because he loved walking with Him. He had no agenda to get something from God. He was not climbing a ladder to success. He simply walked with God.

I want to be that person. Walking humble with God, no agenda or plan. Not because I am told I have to. Not so I can get to heaven. Not even because I fear the consequences if I don't. Because I love to walk with Him. I want to be that kind of person. The kind of person Enoch was.

Lord, I just want to walk with you. Can you help me just walk..... ?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Macaroni Power!

If you watch cartoons and movies at all, you probably agree that superheroes abound. Why? Because we love to think that there are things more powerful then we are. We really want to believe that there is more power out there than what we can see on the surface.

There are the old standby superheroes like Spiderman, Superman and Batman. They never seem to go out of style. They just reinvent themselves each generation. Then there are others like the Incredibles, Iron man, Power Rangers, Teen Titans and Transformers. There have even been a few women included through the years like Wonder Woman and Batgirl. Despite all the cool names, superheroes aren't real superheroes of course, unless they possess some type of super power.

Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. It's a bird, it's a plane, NO, it's Superman! Wasn't he great.....? He was able to see through buildings with his x-ray vision. He flew through the air at the speed of light. He even lifted huge buildings and pushed a meteor back into the atmosphere. Superman saved the world from disaster every single day.

I just love superheroes, they takes me back to childhood.

Speaking of childhood, I now get to relive mine vicariously through the children in my life. One of those children I do that with is my three year old grand daughter Paige.

Paige LOVES superheroes! She loves them so much that recently her Dad found her standing in the front yard facing the cars parked on the road. She had both hands stretched out in front of her with her hands flat like she was pushing the air back away from her body. Her eyes were closed with her face all scrunched up from deep concentration. After several minutes in this pose, her Dad finally interrupted her to ask. "What are you doing Paige?” She then threw her hands down in disgust and replied "My powers didn't work!”

She was also found recently in the kitchen in only her underwear, with forks and spoons sticking out of them. Every girls gotta have a place for her weapons you know! The apple doesn't fall far from the tree though, because her father was caught doing the same thing when he was about her age. Except when he did it, he put knives down his underwear instead of forks and spoons. Unlike Paige’s incident her father’s was met with panic instead of laughter.

Recently, my darling Paige, if asked what her super power is, will throw her hands up in the air and exclaim "Macaroni Power!" And she really believes it will work when she does it. Not sure what the power of macaroni is but according to her enthusiastic movements while shouting at the top of her lungs it’s certainly something. I half expect macaroni to fly out of her hands, shoot across the room and stick into my walls. Now wouldn’t that be surprising!

What an ability to believe in what seems impossible. The faith of a child. As I have watched her I have begun to ponder our capability to believe like a child again once we reach adulthood. Can we go back and just take things at face value like we did as a child? Can we ever trust like that again?

How awesome that would be. To take God's truth and love at face value and just believe like a child. No doubts, no questioning, just have faith. I want to do that. Just believe without doubts plaguing my mind.

Matthew 18: 1-4 - At that time the disciples came to Jesus saying, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of heaven. "Therefore, whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

O’ My Lord,

If only we could have faith like a child. Help us have that kind of faith. Believing you as a small child does its parents. That we may rest in the assurance of your provision and just follow as you lead. Knowing, believing and resting in the knowledge that what ever you allow in our life is for our best and you truly do have our best interest at heart. Give us childlike faith in your unfailing love and goodness.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Virtue of Love

Sorry to take so long getting to the final post on the virtue of love. I have been fighting a terrible cold the last week and it took me out. I am back though, voiceless and still coughing but feeling better than I have been. Thank you for your kind words and prayers. Let's get back to our study shall we?

Love is..........

I still remember the cute little cartoons that were so popular in the 70's. Opps, showing my age aren't I. I loved those cartoons. Just about anything was described as an expression of love.

But did they really explain what love is?

The dictionary describes love as a deep and tender feeling of affection for or attachment or devotion to a person or persons.

I believe the bible says it best in I Corinthians 13:4-8:

Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it is not rude, 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.

Go back and re-read this scripture again slowly, asking yourself, “Is my love for God these things?" Then I would urge you to read it once again and ask yourself "do I love myself this way?" For one last time read it this time asking yourself "do I love others like this?"

If your answer is no to any of these questions, you have a request to make of God in prayer. That request would be "change me to love like this Lord". We can never love as perfectly as this scriptures picture of love shows us but we certainly can strive for it. Even though we do not have the ability to change our heart to love like this, God does. He will begin to change us if we ask.

Deuteronomy 6:5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength.

Matthew 22:37-40 - Jesus said to him " 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind' "This is the first and great commandment." "And the second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."

Matthew 5:44 - But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.

I John 3:16 - By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us, and we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

We are told to that the two main commandments that we must focus on are to do with love. Love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Love our neighbors as ourselves. We are to love God with everything we have using the description of love in I Corinthians 13. Then we are to love ourselves so we can love others the same way. So many Christians get the love God part. "I Love God with everything I have" they claim. But they are consumed with self loathing or pride. We are to have a love for ourselves the way that God loves us, because of who He is not because of who we are in our flesh. Until we get this part we can not move on to the next and truly love others as God would love them.

Do you Love God with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength? Do you truly love yourself as God loves you? Do you love others as yourself? Sacrificially? Are you willing to lay down your life for them? Do you love your enemy? Do you pray for those that hurt you or do you curse them? Gives a lot to consider doesn't it?

Proverbs 10:12 - tells us that hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sin. If so then it is love that must change us to be more like the image of Christ. That is the end goal for us, to be more like Christ who embodied perfect love. He was the one that laid down His life for us because of his love even though we did not deserve it. I suppose when we think of his sacrifice for us, an unworthy lot as we were, it should make it easier for us to show mercy to others.

Micah 6:8 - He has shown you, O Man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.

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

We have been shown what love looks like by our Savior as He walked here on this earth. It is written down for us to show us the way. We are to walk humbly in His footsteps, showing mercy to others as He has. We can not do that without true love for others in our hearts. That love can only come from an infusion of the Spirit, changing us from what is hypocrisy to true love. It starts with honesty before God. So we pray……


I can not love the way you do. Change me to love your way. Fill me with your love so it can pour out of me to others. I am so far from what love should be but with your help I can do all things. So I place my trust in you to change me.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Story of Fiction for You

Conversations on a Treadmill

“Good Morning beautiful” Sara heard a voice say as she was walking on the treadmill one Thursday morning. She turned her head to see where the voice had come from as she thought to herself. “That voice seems so familiar”. She was sure the voice belonged to someone she knew, but could not quite put her finger on it. Shaking her head slowly she tried to think of who it might be. “Well, no one seems to be around, it must have just been my imagination” she thought. Considering she was in her basement and no one was home, she concluded this must be the case. So she popped the earphones back into her ears and trudged on to finish her daily work out.

Once again the following day, as Sara approached the one mile mark there it was again, that same voice. “Good Morning beautiful” This time it was not just her imagination, she was sure of it. Quickly smacking the stop button on the treadmill, she almost loses her footing. Her feet twist around, torso going one way and hips another. Jerking her head around she looks in all directions for the voice she has just heard. Nothing! No one was around. “How could that be? Am I losing my mind?” She thought to herself. Feeling a bit spooked from the whole experience she decides to finish as quickly as possible. Also concerned that others might think her crazy, she decides to keep the whole unexplainable incident to herself. A few deep breaths to calm her nerves and she starts up the treadmill again. Workout complete, Sara sprints up the stairs to shower and begin her day.

The next day, being it Saturday, Sara decided to skip the treadmill and enjoy the day outdoors. After all it was the weekend and an unusually beautiful day for March in the Midwest. Seventy degree weather is a rarity this time of year. So off she went, hopping on her bike to take a ride through the countryside. A soft breeze blew on her face and the sun warmed her skin as she coasted down the first hill. “What a beautiful day” she thought. “I so love the beauty of nature that you have created” she silently spoke to God. “Thank You” she thought she faintly heard someone say. But the noise from the wind and rustling trees seemed to dull her hearing. The voice was barely audible, so she chalked it up once again to her vivid imagination. “Maybe I need to get my hearing checked” “Or my head examined” she mused as she rounded the bend and headed home.

A chaotic flurry it always is around the Norton house on Sunday mornings. This Sunday was no different. “I need in the bathroom, hurry up!” Sara heard one of the kids shout. “Me too”, another one shouted from the end of the hall. Everyone was scurrying around getting ready for church. “If we could make it to church on time just once, it would be a true miracle” Sara muttered as she hurried to finish dressing.

Like most Sunday’s the Norton bunch was running late and tempers were flaring. By the time they got everyone into the car and were on the way to the church there was not a smiling face to be seen for miles. Even the couple in the car next to them at the stop light didn’t look very happy. Sara was sure she saw the woman wagging her finger at her husband. “I’m not the only one this happens to each Sunday morning” she thinks smugly.
Sara clenches the bottom of her seat with both hands and holds on tight as her husband weaves his way through traffic and yells at the cars “get out of the way!” Now she thinks to herself “the heck with being on time, getting there alive will truly be a miracle”

Sara proudly refrains from letting her dissatisfaction with her husbands behavior slip out and instead decides to bring it up at a later time. “I’ll tell him what he did wrong later. Maybe tomorrow, this is the Lords day” she thinks.

When they finally get to the church and the children get to there appointed classes, Sara and her husband sneak into the service just in time to shake a few hands. Finding the only available place to sit, Sara collapses onto the pew with a heavy sigh. “Why does it always have to be so complicated” she says under her breath. After a few choruses’ of Amazing Grace, her stiff neck loosens a little and she begins to breathe a little easier. As they sing the second song, she begins to feel something that seems foreign to her. “I’ve felt this before” she thinks. “It just seems foreign to me because it’s been so long since I felt this way”. As she lifts her hands to the next song in worship, her heart softens and a familiar love washes over her. It’s God pouring his loving grace over her starving soul.

As always, the sermon was educational yet slightly convicting. Pastor Thomas has such a graceful way with presenting the gospel, while still feeding those already redeemed. As the invitation is given at the end of the service, a part of the message begins to weigh on Sara’s heart. “How’s your prayer life?” Pastor had asked. “Have you been in conversation with God lately?” The questions seemed to vibrate in Sara’s head. Hanging her head, she finally had to answer with a resounding, “NO”. She had done what she thought was her duty. She had said her prayers and brought all her wants before the Lord. But conversation was not a part of it. All Sara could feel at that moment was pure shame. “This must change” her heart told her.

Walking forward to the altar with tears in her eyes Sara fell to her knees. She then began the first conversation with God that she had attempted in a very long time. “Oh Lord, I have neglected my relationship with you too long. Please forgive me” Her heart cried out. A voice responded “You are forgiven my beautiful one. I have been waiting”. It was then that Sara recognized it. The voice had been Him. That familiar voice saying good morning each day had been God. He had been patiently waiting for her to hear Him.

Suddenly, thoughts began to rush her mind. “Last week when I snapped at Lisa, His voice had said “apologize”. I had ignored it.” “When my children had wanted me to spend time with them, His voice had said “You’re being selfish” but I took my own path and said no”. “During the argument with my husband last night, His voice had said “You’re being proud”, but still I ignored it and stood my ground”. Sara was flooded with thought after thought as she realized how far away she had gotten from God. In those few moments as she knelt at the altar, she laid all her shame at the foot of the cross and was forgiven.

Since that day much has changed for Sara. Her conversations with God now begin at day break. They are lengthy, rich in content and continue throughout the day. Most importantly, they are two sided now that she has learned to listen. She speaks to Him as she rises each morning and listens to Him as she goes to bed at night. Her conversations on the treadmill are much more fulfilling now that they are two sided. As she goes the final mile singing songs of praise, she can feel His smile upon her. Shower, breakfast, a fresh cup of coffee, then she opens her bible to soaks in the word. She places her day in His hands and they’re off to face the world together.

Things are different now that He’s in charge. Sara can rest in the knowledge that the creator of the universe loves her enough to personally greet her each morning. She can trust that He is big enough to handle anything that comes her way. Each day she does just that, placing her trust in Him.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Under the Weather

Unfortunately as fast as I tried to sprint, I could not out run the cold that has been chasing me this week. I will not be posting about the virtue of Love today. Hopefully with some rest I will be back tomorrow bright eyed and full of words.

Until then I pray that the Lord will bless you and you will turn and bless someone else today.

Have a great day!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Virtue of Hope

As we enter into the topic of hope today I would like to ask you to first take a few moments and think to yourself about what you put your hope in. If we are alive, which or course we are, we live with a purpose that gives us some kind of hope. Stop right here and take a couple of minutes to ponder what your hope is. What drives you to believe you have hope?

I am assuming if you are reading this you have taken the few minutes to look at your own hope. Let's see if we can expand it, shall we?

Hope. What is it? What does it mean to have hope? How do we get it?

Hope is explained as a feeling that what is wanted will happen; a desire accompanied by expectation. It answers our burning desire for happiness, a desire that God put in every persons heart.

Often I have heard this statement. "Without hope, there is nothing left to live for". Critically ill patients die earlier if they feel there is no hope. People take their own lives when they believe there is no hope left. So how do we find a hope that gives us purpose and makes us want to live?

We are all looking for a little bit of happiness. I myself spent many years saying "when ______ happens then I will be happy" I entered many descriptions into that blank only to reach that goal, not find happiness and enter another description into the blank. I did this over and over again until I finally began to put my hope in eternal things. It is the hope of eternal life, of finally meeting Jesus face to face that keeps me pressing on. It is that final happiness that stirs a hope in my heart. My hope lies in the risen Christ that paid my debt and the promises in His word.

Titus 3:6-7 - whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Titus 1:2 - in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.

When we became Christians, the Holy Spirit was poured out on us through Jesus Christ who saved us. Justice has been served by His unmerited favor on us. We didn't deserve it but because of His love He showed favor on us and died to pay our penalty of death. Now because of His effort we can become heirs in the Kingdom of God. We have a hope now that makes us crave the Kingdom of God and eternal life. This kind of hope doesn't disappoint.

Romans 5:5 - Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Everyday, no matter the circumstances around us, we have a hope that will not disappoint. The love of God has been poured into our hearts. The Holy Spirit, which is also God was given to live within us. God is love. Therefore, we have the living God of love inside us every moment of every day. We only need to abide in the Spirit to find the hope and courage we need.

Psalm 31:24 - Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.

Psalm 71:5 - For you are my hope, O Lord God, You are my trust from my youth.

Psalm 119:147 - I rise before the dawning of the morning, and cry for help; I hope in Your word.

Do not fear; be of good courage, God will strengthen your heart if you put your hope in the Lord. When we cry for help He hears. We can put our hope in Him just as His word shows us over and over. We have a hope of salvation and eternal life. A hope that overflows from the Spirit that lives within us.

It is not in the old law of the Israelites that hope is made perfect but in the Messiah that came and fulfilled the words of the prophets that brings a final hope. It is through Jesus Christ that we can draw near to God once again as Adam and Eve did in the beginning. Through the blood of Christ, restoration is made complete and we have a more perfect hope.

Hebrews 7:19 - for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, which we draw near to God.

So we look forward with hope in our hearts to the return of Jesus on His white horse. Appearing in the clouds and calling us home to be with Him. As He said when He left this earth He has gone to make a place for us with the Father and He will return for us. So we look anxiously forward to that blessed hope and glorious day.

Titus 2:13 - looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

But until then we stand prepared to do as it says in I Peter 3:15....

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.

Take heart my friend we have much to be filled with hope for! Take courage and share with those who are around you. Everyone needs the hope we have.

See you tomorrow when we talk about our final and most important virtue..... Love

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Virtue of Faith Continued

I hope you are well today; I myself am a bit under the weather. Seems I have caught the bug my son had. Sick children need their Mommy for comfort, so needless to say I always catch what he comes down with. Anyway, I am not ill enough to for go writing. I am loving this series! I don't know about you but I am learning so much!

So back to the virtue of Faith. Let’s look at what’s left about faith. We still need to explore what our faith produces and the consequences of it.

We have lots of scripture on this subject so by the time we get done we will have swam through a whole lot of living water. Let’s soak it in and let it change us.

The four gospel recordings show us the life of Jesus here on earth. Throughout His ministry He spoke many times of the great faith of individuals. Some are recorded in multiple places but the ones I would like to look at are in the gospel of Matthew.

First in Matthew 8:5-13 we see the story of the centurion who had great faith. When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, "Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented." Jesus tells him he will come and heal him. The centurion replies "Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come, and he comes; and to my servant, do this, and he does it." Jesus heard it and marveled. He said to those that followed, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!" Jesus says to the centurion, "Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you." And the servant was healed that same hour.

In Matthew 9:21-22 A woman who had a flow of blood for 12 years says to herself, "If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well." But Jesus turned around and when He saw her He said, "Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well." And the woman was made well from that hour.

In Matthew 14:22-33 we find the story of Peter walking on the water. Jesus comes walking on the water to the disciples who are in a boat. Peter says "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." So He says "Come" And Peter comes out of the boat and begins to walk to Jesus on the water. But the wind kicks up and Peter begins to doubt and sink. He cries out "Lord, save me." Immediately Jesus stretches His hand out, catches Peter and asks "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"

Matthew 15:21-28 shows us the gentile woman who shows faith by worshipping Jesus even though she was not an Israelite. Jesus tells her he has come for the lost sheep of Israel. She cries "Lord help me!" But He answers "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs." She replies "Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters table." Jesus then says to her, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire." and her daughter was heal from that very hour.

In all these stories, we see a common theme. For producing the outcome they desired they went to Jesus full of faith. We see that they each sought out Jesus for a miracle of healing and were rewarded because of their faith. This is not to say that each time we approach Christ with something we desire, He will give it to us if we have enough faith. There are many preaching this type of gospel today and it is not biblical. Yes, we are to approach Jesus full of faith when we go to Him with our concerns and requests. But He is not a gumball machine, put in your quarter and out comes a gumball. We are not to serve Christ for what we can get from Him but because of who He is. All things we request must be according to His will, not ours.

Sometimes, when we desire a certain outcome and go to Him in faith, He will grant our desire. If it be within His will, He will grant us the desires of our hearts. We are not in control of the outcome, He is. We approach in faith, accepting that He has the last say, not us. God is more concerned in changing our character than making us comfortable. Sometimes if a trial will improve our character, He will say no and let us go through the discomfort.

James 1:6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.

Some would stand on the above scripture to say that it is lack of faith that causes us not to reap blessings from God. If you read the verse right before this one it is speaking about wisdom. We are told that if we ask for Godly wisdom we are to ask in faith with no doubting.

So what else are we told about faith from the scriptures?

Hebrews 11: 6 - But without faith it is impossible to please God.

Hebrews 12:2 - looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith...

James 1:3 - Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.

I Corinthians 16:13 - Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.

II Corinthians 5:7 - For we walk by faith, not by sight.

I Corinthians 2:5 - that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Colossians 2:7 - rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.

Without faith it is impossible to please God. We can work hard on our own but it is only faith in Jesus that truly pleases God. It is Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith. It is not by our own power that our faith increases but by keeping our eyes on Jesus. Just like when Peter was walking on the water, when he looked away from Jesus, he began to fall. We are to stand fast in our faith, stay strong and brave. Walk by faith not by sight. Keeping our focus always on Christ. Our faith should be rooted and built on Jesus, established to be mature after a time. We are to build our wisdom not in what the world says but in the power of God. Knowing that the testing we endure will provide us with the kind of faith that is patient, strong and ever looking up to Christ.

If we do these things, when we are finished and our time here on this earth is done, we can then state as Paul did in II Timothy 4:7....

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Stand firm in faith my friends.... Come back tomorrow to hear about The Virtue of Hope.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Virtue of Faith

Welcome back to our pursuit of understanding the virtues of the bible. Maybe I should welcome myself back, since I'm the one that didn't write on this subject yesterday as I said I would. Forgive me, I had way too many distractions (husband at home and a sick child) to focus and write. It has also been a long research time on this subject for there is much the bible has to say about it. This may turn into a two parter.... who knows?!

I don't know about you, but I am hungry for what the bible has to say about our faith so let’s get right to it.

So what is faith?

As I began to explore, I found many definitions to what faith is. I also found some definitions that as I read them, my insides screamed "THAT’S NOT RIGHT!" There seems to be many today that are twisting the foundation of what faith is and using it for their own gain.

Even the good old Webster's dictionary had a definition that made my shoulders hunch up and my neck tense. ”Unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence” is what it said the definition of faith is. Well, all I have to say is who ever wrote that dictionary must not have a good understanding of the faith because they were wrong, wrong, wrong. If you look seeking God, there is plenty of proof or evidence out there. Creation itself reveals God. I am not going get into a long exploration of apologetics but there is much to prove the existence of God if you look for it. It is when we begin to question about God that we find the answers to prove we can stand firm in belief.

With that said, here is a more correct definition of what biblical faith is. Steadfastness in belief. Complete trust, confidence, or reliance. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing. Secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God's will.

Faith is a gift of God's grace, so we can know and love God living as His children. Faith is something we receive through Devine grace from God. It is something that grows as we step out in belief and exercise it. It grows to the extent that we practice it. The more we live our faith, the more deeply we come to believe it and know its truth and power.

Like I said earlier, faith is not something we are asked to believe without proof or evidence.

In Acts 17:31 the raising of Jesus from the dead is spoken of as proof that God will judge the world. Also, as we see, in Acts 2:22-36 Peter has grounded his belief in the evidence. He testified to who Christ was. Additionally, there were many eye witness accounts of those that Christ appeared to after the resurrection.

Once again, we'll just go to scripture and let the bible speak for itself. What does it say about faith? What should the object of our faith be?

Romans 1:16-17 - For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."

Romans 5:1 - Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

I Corinthians 15:13-14 -But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen, and if Christ is not rise, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.

Galatians 2:20 - I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The object of our faith is God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are to have faith in the sacrificial lamb that was provided to die on the cross for our sins. Jesus, came to earth, fulfilled prophesy in the old testament, died on the cross to pay the debt of sin for us and rose again on the third day. We are then justified by our faith and have peace with God through the penalty that was paid by Jesus.

Hebrews 11:1 says Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

The author of Hebrews is speaking of the hope of eternal life we have to look forward to. We can put our faith in the future we have not yet seen, eternal life in heaven. Because of our faith in Christ, we have this kind of hope.

I am going to stop here for today....

Tomorrow we will finish our look at faith by exploring what the scriptures say about what faith produces and what the consequences of it are.

Until tomorrow, keep the faith!

Monday, March 9, 2009

I've Been Featured

Hello Everyone,

I've been featured on a brand new site called the Cross-Eyed Blog and Webzine. There mission is to encourage and build up our brothers and sisters in Christ through articles that are relevant to our daily lives and struggles. Through the written word they are hoping to impact Christians and help people live lives that glorify God.

The article written by yours truely is called Into the Light. Please stop by and check out this new website. I believe you will enjoy what they have to offer.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Virtue of Courage or Fortitude

Hello again my friends and welcome back. I am so glad you have decided to continue on this journey with me in exploring virtues. I hope you will stay with it until the end. There is much still to come that will give us great insight into the heart of God. I don't know about you, but I want to know his heart and what he calls me to do. Let’s get started.

The virtue for today is Courage or Fortitude.

Courage is also known as bravery, will or fortitude. In it we are given the ability to confront fear, risk, danger, uncertainty and intimidation.

According to Webster's dictionary the definitions are:

Courage- the attitude of facing and dealing with anything recognized as dangerous, difficult, or painful, instead of withdrawing from it. The quality of being fearless or brave. The courage of ones convictions is doing what one thinks is right.

Fortitude - strong, the strength to bear misfortune, pain calmly and patiently; firm courage.

There is "physical courage" in facing physical pain, or threat of death, while "moral courage" is the ability to act rightly in the face of popular opposition.

This virtue also has vices at its extremes. When we lack courage, we become cowardice and when we have excess courage we can be reckless. The coward often has a hard time standing up for what he believes. While the reckless person might do something like attack an armed robber with bare hands. To usefully exhibit courage in our life we must have good judgment and stay balanced in it. Courage is also something that is developed by doing. Acting courageously over and over will eventually become a habit for us.

If you look through the bible, there are many examples of courageous living. Let’s explore some of them.

In Joshua 2:1-9 we see the story of the harlot Rahab. Joshua had sent spies into the city of Jericho (two brave men), and the King found out about it. Rahab had heard the stories of their God and hide the two men. At nightfall she helped them escape the city walls. Why would she do such a thing? She took great risk in hiding these men. I believe she took great courage because she stepped out in great faith. She heard the stories of their God and believed.

Ezra 10:4 - Arise for this matter is your responsibility, we also are with you. Be of good courage and do it.

The prophet Ezra is weeping before the Lord for the people of Israel. After 70 years of captivity in Babylon they had returned back to the Promised Land only to pick up in sin where they had left off. The people were committing the same sin that angered God and had led them into being taken into captivity. They were taking pagan wives. As Ezra is weeping in prayer and bowing down before the house of God, he is interrupted by a large assembly of men and women weeping bitterly. They confess their sin to him and ask to make a covenant with God and put away their pagan wives.

In the verse above we see the response of Ezra, ”this is your responsibility, be of good courage and do it" In other words; obeying the Lord is our responsibility. We are to be of "good" courage (not bad - cowardice or reckless) and do it. "Just do it" as the Nike commercial would say!

King David was also the picture of fortitude and courage. He lamented to God in his circumstances often but always stood firm in his courage. In 1 Samuel 17 we read the story of David's first great courageous feat. He slays the giant Goliath with a slingshot and one stone. Smack! Right between the eyes and that big ugly giant went down.

But David wasn't alone welding that slingshot. God was with him every step of the way. Just as He was throughout David’s life. When King Saul began to hate David and persecute him, God was with him giving him courage. David was on the run for many years avoiding the persecution, being stalked by King Saul who wanted to kill him. But David took courage, not on his own, but with the strength of God.

Moses also stood in the strength of God and took courage as he stood before the Pharaoh of Egypt and spoke "Let my people go!"

Joshua took courage as he was given the job to lead Israel to the promise land. God spoke these words to Joshua as he readied himself to enter the promise land.

Joshua 1:7 - "Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go."

"ONLY" Be strong and very courageous! I assume this statement was important for him to accomplish the will of God. God is saying DO THIS! Be these things. Strong and courageous. Walk past your fear and do as I ask. I will be with you.

Deuteronomy 31:6 - "Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you."

So how do we approach this as a practical application in our lives?

*First, I would say, when we feel the fear, we continue in obedience anyway. We build our faith and begin to stand on what God says not what is around us.

*We continue to obey even when we are uncertain or can't see the reasoning for what God is asking us to do.

*We fight the urge to withdraw from difficult circumstances.

*We stand on our convictions in spite of criticism or persecution.

*We remain calm and patient living by faith even in the face of trials or tragedy.

We can do these things not on our own power but by the power of God that lives within us through the Holy Spirit. We can stand on the promise above written in Deuteronomy 31:6. He goes with us. We are never alone in our battles or our fears. He will not leave us nor forsake us.

This today was a big long drink of living water. I hope you will soak it in and let it begin to give you the strength to change and become courageous.

Have a great day of the Sabbath tomorrow and come back Monday, when we dive into the virtue of Faith.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Virtue of Restraint or Temperance

So we journey on to our next virtue on the list of many. The virtue of Restraint or Temperance.

I don't know about you but I am beginning to get a fresh look at all the aspects the bible talks about. The things that were written so long ago still apply right here in the 21st Century. How amazing is our God that would inspire a book written by so many different authors but be completely relevant in all generations. Praise you God! You are so great!

Ok, back to the topic at hand. The virtue of Restraint or Temperance, what do they mean? Well, here are the word definitions of each.

Restraint - control of emotions or impulses. Self control, self discipline or self-denial

Temperance- moderation, self restraint in conduct, expression and indulgence of the appetites. Moderation or abstinence from alcoholic liquors

Restraint and temperance are something we have to exercise. Not by our own human power of course but by the help of the Spirit within. They apply to our everyday actions in life that with the power of the Holy Spirit, we are to gain control of. Some types of behaviors we need to avoid others we must gain balance in.

Job 30:11 - because He has loosed my bowstrings and afflicted me, they have cast off restraint before me.

God had allowed great suffering and affliction to come into Job's life. Those around him thought because God had allowed such a thing, they no longer needed to restrain there own impulses to be cruel and to mock. Although God allowed Satan to sift Job like wheat, did not give others the free reign to lower there own virtues.

From what they could see with all the affliction befallen on Job, I assume, they believed that he had been disobedient to God in some way. They took the liberty and decided they had a right to let go and not exhibit restraint. Don't we often do the same, judge others without really knowing and decide we have a right to step over the line. Maybe in a word we say to them or a word gossiped about them.

What we can learn from this situation is that things are not always what they seem and we have no right to make judgment or break our own virtue. As this shows us, Job was not disobedient, nor had he sinned even though others thought so. Those that mocked were the ones disobedient and ended up sinning by not having restraint.

Other scriptures in the bible also talk about restraint. Let’s look and see what they have to teach us.

Hosea 4:2 - By swearing and lying, killing and stealing and committing adultery, they break all restraint, with bloodshed upon bloodshed.

Proverbs 10:19 - In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.

Psalm 119:101 - I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep your word.

So what do we see here? We see that breaking all restraint by swearing, lying, killing, stealing and committing adultery is not a good thing. By the phrase, with bloodshed upon bloodshed, I would take this to mean its never ending. One thing leads to another and another, which leads nowhere but into a pit of sin.

Also we see that restraining our lips is wise and keeping our feet from every evil way helps us keep the word of God. The tongue is like a fire we are told in scripture. When we speak, much sin can come from such a small part of our body. These two scriptures show us that we must watch our spoken word and where we take ourselves so we do not sin. We must be restrained in where we go, what we say, what we allow ourselves to hear and also see. If we do not exhibit self control in these areas we are likely to walk ourselves straight into sin. When we exercise restraint, we are reacting to the temptation by either abstaining or denying it. Either way the temptation is thwarted.

In a time like ours where there is so much choice, we must be extra diligent in the exercise of restraint or temperance. Self indulgent advertisement is everywhere, bidding us - Go ahead, have it your way. Sexual images assault us from every direction. We live in a self absorbed, self indulgent, self gratifying society. If we are going to be successful at walking in obedience to the word of God and living a righteous holy life, we must become intentional at the virtue of restraint and temperance. It will take our concerted effort to abstain from all the temptation around us.

We must eradicate the things in our life that tempt us to be self absorbed, self indulgent people and abide in the Lord. If we are to be victors over sin, we have to incorporate God into all the areas of our lives and begin to follow Him instead of lead ourselves.

For practical purposes, here are some types of behaviors that involve restraint:

*being thrifty or frugal (restraint is needed in spending our money)
*using temperance (restraint in what we eat or drink)
*having sexual morality or chastity (restraint in the area of sex)
*having modesty (restraint with respect to dress, behavior and speech)
*being politeness or having courtesy (refraining from discourteous words or actions)
*having honesty and integrity (refusing to yield to temptation to lie, cheat or steal)

I Peter 2:11 - Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.

Peter sums it all up for us. If we want our soul to be at peace and to maintain closeness with Christ, he begs us to abstain from the things our flesh lusts after. When we rely on Gods power to help us to use restraint our soul will not be at war but at peace.

Tomorrow we will move to the next virtue Courage or Fortitude. Hope to see you then, it's just getting good!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Virtue of Justice

Today as promised, we will explore the virtue of Justice.

We often think of justice only as the verdict determined in a court of law. If you search the scriptures, you will see that God is concerned and attributes justice to the individual also.

We will learn today that justice concerns the individual and a virtue that would be of value to instill in our own lives. It is the description of acting justly with others that we need to concern ourselves with. Almost every issue we would consider as ethical comes under the notion of justice. So if we are to be ethical in our actions, we must begin to act justly with those around us.

As an individual, to have justice, we must moderate between selfishness and selflessness. We must render each and all what is due to them.

First, let’s look at the definition of both justice and just:

Justice - the quality of being righteous, rectitude, impartiality, fairness. The quality of being right or correct

Just - right or fair, equitable, impartial (a just decision), righteous, upright (a just man)

Genesis 6:9 - This is the genealogy of Noah, Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.

Matthew 1:19 - Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.

In these two scriptures, we see two men considered great by God described as just men. Noah walked with God and was perfect in his generations. Joseph when he found out Mary was with child was described as just and did not want to make a public example of her. Obviously, from the description here, being just in your actions is something God would attribute as being good.

So what else does the good book have to say about this virtue? How do we apply it to our lives?

Hosea 12:6 - So you, by the help of your God, return; observe mercy and justice, and wait on your God continually.

Proverbs 4:18 - But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.

Proverbs 11:1 - Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight.

Proverbs 20:15 - It is a joy for the just to do justice, but destruction will come to the workers of iniquity.

Isaiah 26:7 - The way of the just is uprightness, O Most Upright, you weigh the path of the just.

Habakkuk 2:4 - Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith.

Psalm 37:16 - He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.

We are told that we are to observe both mercy and justice and wait on the Lord continually. Therefore, these two are greatly intertwined. When we take the path of just living we are like the shining sun and a delight. Verses dishonesty which is an abomination to God. It shows us that taking this path will bring us joy unlike those who do iniquity who reap destruction.

Our way will be upright and our path weighed by God. The just is also compared to the proud, the just being connected with living by faith and the proud shown as a soul that is not upright. Justice is spoken of as a light like the noonday which would show clearly the path connected to righteousness.

God himself is written about in the scriptures as being just. In Zechariah 9:9 it says He is just and having salvation. 1 John 1:9 tells us if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The God we serve has all good virtues in Him. He is fully just in all circumstances and with all individuals. He is righteous, upright, fair and right in all things. We can rest in the assurance that all things He does are fair and good toward all mankind. But as we see in Zechariah 9:9 and 1 John 1:9, we have a responsibility also. We must accept the gift of salvation that was offered through Jesus Christ, confess our sin and turn from it. In that we then receive the mercy of God.

Micah 6:8 - He has shown you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah tells us that God has shown us the way to go and what is good for us. To accept His son as Lord and master. The Lord requires from us to do justly in our actions, to love mercy and walk humbly abiding in the Spirit with our God.

So as a recap, we can apply justice to our life by:

*Being honest and turning away from things that are deceitful
*Showing mercy and kindness to others
*Living a life of faith through the Spirit
*Walking humbly with God and avoiding prideful living
*Dealing with others in an upright and fair manner
*Avoiding wicked things that lead to temptation of sin

Come back tomorrow.... We will talk about the virtue of Restraint or Temperance.

See you then!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Virtue of Prudence

Lets look today at the first of many virtues that make up living a morally excellent life. Although, we must keep in mind that all things are lead by the spirit, it is of great benefit to see what God would say about these qualities and how we could apply them to our lives.

Philippians 4:8 says My brothers, your thoughts should be wholly directed to all that is true, all that deserves respect, all that is honest, pure, admirable, decent, virtuous or worthy of praise.

The agenda for today is the virtue of Prudence.

Prudence is not a word we really use today, so what exactly does it mean. Prudence is the quality of a person making them capable of exercising sound judgment in practical matters. They are cautious or discreet in conduct, circumspect and not rash. It is the quality of managing things carefully. Also it is often associated with wisdom, insight and knowledge.

2Chronicles 2:12 - Hiram also said: Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who made heaven and earth, for He has given King David a wise son, endowed with prudence and understanding, who will build a temple for the Lord and a royal house for himself.

In this scripture King Hiram is talking about Solomon the son of King David having the quality of prudence (sound judgment) and understanding. This meaning to be good qualities for a person being used by God to build the Lords temple. He attributes Solomon’s sound judgment and understanding to God and considers him a blessing for God and also his father. Using sound judgment and understanding, Solomon would be used by God to build the temple for the Lord.

I could expound a bit about the practical application for prudence but let’s look straight at scripture first:

Proverbs 8:12 - I wisdom, dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge and discretion.

Proverbs 12:16 - A fool's wrath is known at once, but a prudent man covers shame.

Proverbs 12:23 - A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaim foolishness.

Proverbs 14:8 - The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, but the folly of fools is deceit.

Proverbs 14:15 - The simple believes every word, but the prudent consider well his steps.

Proverbs 15:5 - A fool despises his father’s instructions, but he who receives correction is prudent.

Proverbs 16:21 - The wise in heart will be called prudent, and sweetness of the lips increases learning.

Proverbs 18:15 - The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.

Proverbs 19:14 - Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.

Proverbs 22:3 - A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished.

Through these scriptures in Proverbs we are told several things.

First, wisdom dwells with sound judgment. Wisdom and knowledge are two different things. Wisdom comes from God and dwells in the heart while knowledge comes from man and dwells in the head. It is the wisdom of the heart that we as Christians are to acquire. We can have all the knowledge the bible has to offer but with out the transference to the heart wisdom is nowhere to be found. We are wise when we have sound heart judgment and understanding of Gods ways. Wisdom of the heart urges us to apply what we know and become changed.

Next we are told these things about a prudent man. He man covers shame, he doesn't let his anger rage for others to see. He is not boastful of his knowledge. He understands and knows his way in life. He considers his steps and where he is going before acting. He takes correction from authority. He seeks and acquires knowledge about the things he needs to know to make a sound judgment. He or she is a gift from the Lord as a spouse. He does not play with evil but knows to turn away from it.

To be a prudent person, we must know and seek Gods truth. We must seek the knowledge given to us from the bible and ask God to transport it from our head to our heart so we can be changed by it.

To put prudence into practical use we must keep in mind these three aspects:

* We must consider our past experience with any given situation. How did things turn out? Are there things to be done again or avoided that were learned from past situations like this one?

*We must keep an open mind and be receptive to Godly advice or counsel. Always seek and heed the wise counsel of those that are older, more experienced and more knowledgeable.

*Once you have a clear vision of a situation, know your goals, understand any consequences of the actions you might take, consider any special circumstances or obstacles that you may need to overcome. Whether they are external and internal obstacles, such as temptations, injustice or fear, to name just a few, they must be considered.

Although we are to abide in and be lead by the Holy Spirit that lives within us, we are still required to feed ourselves with the knowledge of the word of God. Prudence is just one of the many virtues God word reveals we should acquire.

Tomorrow we move on to the virtue of Justice. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Seven Cardinal Virtues

The first stop on our journey of exploration concerning virtues is "The Seven Cardinal Virtues". This list of virtues was initially derived from Plato.

Plato was an ancient Greek philosopher who lived approximately 400 before Christ. Plato himself was a student of Socrates and the teacher of Aristotle. He was considered to be one of the great thinkers of his time.

Among the seven cardinal virtues were four which were considered "cardinal", a term which comes from the Latin word cardo meaning hinge. The cardinal virtues are called this because they are the hinge upon which the door of a moral life swings.

The other three virtues are considered theological virtues. They are called this because the object of the virtue is the divine being (Theos). The other four virtues at their extreme have vices and are only virtues when they are kept in between the extremes. For these three virtues, faith, hope and love, when God is the object of them, there is no vice in having an unlimited amount.

The Seven Cardinal Virtues: (taken from Wikipedia)

Prudence - proper judgment of reasons for action with regard to appropriateness in a context.

Justice - proper judgment regarding individual human interests and rights.

Restraint or Temperance - practicing self-control, abstention and moderation.

Courage or Fortitude - forbearance, endurance and ability to confront fear and uncertainty or intimidation.

Faith - steadfastness in belief

- expectation of good

Love or Charity - selfless, unconditional and voluntary loving-kindness

I will stop with this today... Tomorrow we will begin to consider each virtue, what they mean to us and how we can practically apply them to our daily life.

Please leave a comment and tell me what these mean to you and how they have worked or changed your own life.

Monday, March 2, 2009

An Exploration of Virtue

I'd like to take you on a journey. A journey to more closely resemble Christ through our virtue. Let’s begin an exploration of the virtue we should all be striving for in our lives.

I'm not sure how many days this quest will take, so be prepared to go the distance. You might need to fill up a back pack with food and water, in case you need to replenish along the way. How ever long it takes though, be assured, with God, every adventure is full of excitement.

So what in the world is virtue anyway?

According to our trusty Webster’s dictionary, virtue is described as:
1-general moral excellence; right action and thinking; goodness or morality.
2-a specific moral quality regarded as good and meritorious.

Moral excellence. Not exactly something high on the priority list of most folks these days, wouldn't you say? Despite the direction of society, God hasn't changed and neither have his expectations of us. We are to live a life of right action, right thinking, and morality, filled with goodness that comes from the Spirit that lives within us.

With all that we have to combat in today’s society, we are still called to the same moral aptitude that was required when Christ walked the earth. Today we hear things like: "If it feels good I should be able to do it", "speaking against gay rights is discrimination" or "everyone does it so we should accept it". These things do make it more difficult to stay committed to virtue, but not impossible. God is looking for those of us who will stand firm in our convictions and stick to the word of God unchanged. But in that, we don't have to go it alone. He promises to be there with us as we stand unmoved and society continues to lose its moral standards.

Where do we begin? Let’s start with the second definition of virtue, the specific moral qualities regarded as good and meritorious. We begin to seek after and grow within us the qualities regarded by God as good and of merit to us. Not an easy task when your sin nature is fighting against it but possible by the power we have been given. The Holy Spirit is what gives us the power to grow and change the qualities within.

Through abiding in Christ and staying in communion with the Spirit, He develops, with our cooperation, virtuous qualities in us. We receive the very qualities possessed by Christ Himself.

John 15:4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

Abiding in Christ is the only way we can truly bear fruit. The virtues of moral excellence, I believe would be considered fruit in our life. As we work out of our virtues, we can then touch the lives of others.

But there is more than just abiding in the Spirit needed. We must begin to study and absorb the word of God. It needs to become part of who we are. The only way it can do that is to consistently dowse ourselves in its living water. Read it, study it, memorize it and meditate on it. We must eat it, drink it, live it and know it. Eventually when we do this, we will breathe it, like its air to us.

It will be the change force used by the spirit to mold our likeness. Then people will need to take a second look when they are around us. Thinking, "wait a minute, did I just see Jesus?"

Stay tuned..... Tomorrow we continue our journey! Let's explore a little more together.