Review: Climbing with Abraham

Amazon:  Climbing with Abraham 30 day Devotional

This 30-day devotional takes the reader, event by event, through Abraham’s life story. The author, David Ramos, systematically guides the reader through every account of Abraham’s life in a separate entry, and it gives the reader a very good overview of what the Bible recorded about him – and what we can learn from his story today. Each entry ends with a “Takeaway – a simple summary of what we can learn from that particular instance in Abraham’s life. In this devotional, you will learn about Abraham, but most of all about an Almighty, intimately involved God Who is just as real today as He was then.

I really enjoyed this devotional, because by reading about Abraham’s experiences separately, I was constantly reminded that he was just a normal human being like each of us, struggling with fear, sin and unfulfilled desires.  Just like each of us, he had to choose to have faith in the God Who conquers even when a situation seems impossible, before he saw the outcome.  This encourages me – I too can have faith in the midst of difficult trials in my journey.  Jesus said, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” (John 15:14)  Through his obedience, Abraham was called the Friend of God (James 2:23) – what a testimony!

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Flawless

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjLlLPZderk

There’s got to be more than going back and forth
from doing right to doing wrong  (Romans 7)
‘cause we were taught that’s who we are…
Come on, get in line right behind me –
you along with everybody
thinking there’s worth in what you do…  (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Then like a Hero Who takes the stage when
we’re on the edge of our seats saying, “It’s too late…”
Well, let me introduce you to amazing grace…

No matter the bumps, no matter the bruises,
no matter the scars;  still the truth is:
the Cross has made, the Cross has made you flawless!

No matter the hurt or how deep the wound is,
no matter the pain;  still the truth is:
the Cross has made, the Cross has made you flawless!

Could it possibly be that we simply can’t believe
that this unconditional kind of love would be enough
to take a filthy wretch like this  (Romans 7:24)
and wrap him up in righteousness?  (2 Corinthians 5:21)
But that’s exactly what He did!

Chorus

Take a breath smile and say:
“Right here, right now, I’m OK, because
the Cross was enough…”

And like a Hero who takes the stage when
we’re on the edge of our seats saying, “It’s too late…”
Well, let me introduce you to grace, grace, God’s grace…

Chorus

No matter what they say or what you think you are,
the day you called His Name He made you flawless!

~ Performed by:  MercyMe
Written by:  Bart Millard, Mike Scheuchzer, Nathan Cochran, Robby Shaffer; Barry Graul; Solomon Olds; David Garcia; Ben Glover ~

Ephesians 2:8-10
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

2 Corinthians 5:17
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:  old things are passed away;  behold, all things are become new.  And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ… reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them… For He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin;  that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”

John 19:30
“When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, “It is finished“: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.”

Further Scripture reading

10 reasons I kissed Halloween goodbye

Original Article found on prophazine.com by Michele Blake.

1. Halloween glorifies evil, not God.

It’s no secret that Halloween is all about witches and ghosts and fear and death.  Haunted houses, Hollywood movies, even neighborhood patios are graced with blood and dead bodies and axe murderers… giant replicas of poisonous spider and cobwebs… scary organ music, skeletons, and gravestones.  Can anyone deny that this holiday glorifies Satan and every evil thing?

“Oh, but our family only dresses in good costumes,” we are quick to point out, as if somehow sugarcoating the evil with smiling pumpkins and sparkly Disney princess costumes somehow changes the meaning of the celebration.

I too continued to dress up for several years, but no matter what creative spin I put on it, eventually I could no longer justify that anything I was doing in respect to this holiday was honoring to God.  Sure, my costumes were cute.  Sometimes they were even sophisticated, clever, funny, or smart.  But none of those things changed the fact that the holiday itself glorified evil, and I could no longer lend my talents and attention to remain part of it.

Most of us know that Halloween is one of the highest, most holy days for witches and Satanists. Even though we ourselves may not be involved in the practice of witchcraft, we give credence to the holiday by celebrating it. If we abhor evil, should we not also abhor any day designated to celebrate it? The Bible says to avoid even the appearance of evil.

“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.  Abstain from all appearance of evil.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22

It also doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discern that the Halloween is all about fear.  Scary costumes, haunted houses, and horror movies are designed for no other purpose than to frighten us.  Seeking out opportunities to be scared is, on this day at least, the highest form of entertainment.  If we do not have a spirit of fear, should we even acknowledge a day whose purpose is to invoke a spirit of fear in us?

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear;  but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” — 2 Timothy 1:7

2. If the seed is bad, the fruit will be bad.

Halloween has never been a Christian holiday.  The foundations of Halloween are occultic, and the symbols and traditions we continue today all have roots in pagan practices.  God tells His people over and over again to avoid all pagan rituals and traditions.

Halloween derives in part from the occult traditions of the Druids, the pagan priests of the Celts, whose fall festival was the precursor to Halloween as we know it.  “To ancient Druids, the end of October commemorated the festival of the waning year, when the sun began his downward course and ripened grain was garnered from the fields.  Samhain… was celebrated with human sacrifice, augury and prayers; for at this season spirits walked, and evil had power over souls of men.”1

When the first Christians came to America, they knew of Halloween’s occult beginnings and banned its celebration.2

“[B]ecause of Christianity among so many of the settlers, Halloween celebrations were not celebrated until the 1800’s when several immigrants from Ireland and Scotland introduced their Halloween customs.  They brought various beliefs about ghosts and witches with them.  Other groups added their own cultural influences to Halloween customs.  German immigrants brought a vivid witchcraft lore, and Haitian and African peoples brought their native voodoo beliefs about black cats, fire, and witchcraft.”3

Today, we have become so accustomed to the traditions of men that we refuse to question them.  Even Christian families have been honoring this holiday for generations.  But doing so ignores the fact that this festival in no way honors God, and in fact celebrates the very practices God abhors:

“When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.  There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, [pharmakeia], Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.” — Deuteronomy 18:9-11

Putting a Christian label over the top of a pagan practice does not make it pleasing to God. In fact, we are to get rid of all pagan practices and have no part of them:

“These are the statutes and judgments, which ye shall observe to do in the land, which the LORD God of thy fathers giveth thee to possess it, all the days that ye live upon the earth.  Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree:  And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place.  Ye shall not do so unto the LORD your God.” — Deuteronomy 12:1-4

God doesn’t want us to keep the ways of the world and sprinkle Christianity on top.  He wants us to elevate Him alone:  His ways, His philosophies, His deliverance, His celebrations.  Any other practice is sin and eventually bears bad fruit.

3. Don’t dine with demons.

Samhain was the one day of the year when the dead were allowed to come back into the world and commune with the living.  People traditionally set a spot for the dead at their table, inviting them in.  Since there was also the possibility that evil spirits would come looking for them, people took to “guising” themselves for protection.  In other words, it’s okay to dine with demons — as long as you wear a costume to protect yourself.

“Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.” — 1 Corinthians 10:21

So are we really supping with demons?  Sharing food with someone represents a sacred connection.  Adam and Eve first ate with God in the garden, but then chose to share an apple without God in the presence of Satan.  Jesus spent much of his time on earth dining with sinners, because that is who He came to save.  The last thing Jesus did before He was crucified was to share a meal with His disciples, and He commands us to continue remembering Him in that way until He comes again.  When we see Him in heaven, it will be at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb!

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock:  if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.” — Revelation 3:20

Satan is the world’s greatest counterfeiter, so he tempts us to sit at his table and join his feast (festival, festivity) by making it as attractive as he can.  He knows we won’t say no if his festival looks like pure evil, so he’s let us create our own G-rated version that we aren’t as likely to resist.

But God says, “… for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? … And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God…” — 2 Corinthians 6:14-16

4. Halloween is an excuse to flaunt sexuality.

It’s true.  Halloween is becoming more risqué every year.  In fact, sometimes I think its real name is “Dress Like a Porn Star” Day.  Girls dress more provocatively, and at much younger ages, on this day than any other.  There seems to be an unwritten competition to have the raciest costume.  For those passing on ghoul or gore, the only other worthy goals seem to be shock and immodesty.

“But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;  Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient:  but rather giving of thanks.  For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.  Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.  Be not ye therefore partakers with them.  For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord:  walk as children of light:  (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)  Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.” — Ephesians 5:3-8

I can vouch from personal experience that when we put on a costume, we often detach ourselves, sometimes ever so slightly, from our inhibitions.  After all, it is much easier to act a tad bit naughty when our real identity is hidden.  It’s almost as if bad behavior is somehow excused when we are in costume — and it’s much easier to explain in the morning:  “I wasn’t actually sinning;  I was just staying in character.”

Even though we are not to have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, we prefer to emulate them and parade them on our Facebook pages as if they are somehow deserving of honor.

“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.  For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.” — Ephesians 5:11-12

5. We play how we practice.

This is one of my husband’s favorite sayings.  He is usually referring to table manners with our sons:  if you use a knife and fork correctly at the kitchen table, then you won’t have any problems when it counts — when you’re at a nice restaurant with your employer or meeting your future wife’s parents for the first time.  How we practice spills over into real life.

The same applies to Halloween.  We think we can entertain the macabre, erect gravestones in our front yards, and prop dead “bodies” on our front porches.  “Oh, but they’re not real,” we demur.  Then we are appalled when a 17-year-old has a fascination with dead bodies and decides to act on his morbid desires.

Do we really have any right to be shocked or even surprised when some among us decide to act out in real life the fascination with evil we insist on holding dear?  We can’t have it both ways:  if we choose to be entertained by evil, we should be prepared for the time when it becomes reality.

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” —Ephesians 6:12

Let us not drop our guard for a moment, or even camp out one night a year “for fun” on the side of the enemy.

6. Are we causing others to stumble?

Even if we don’t believe it’s dangerous to dabble in the ancient pagan practices of Druid priests, have we given any thought to the impact our actions might have on others?

The Bible tells us just how important it is that we not lead His children astray (Matthew 18:6) or cause them to stumble (Mark 9:42).  If we present witchcraft, promiscuity, and the occult in a fun and seductive manner now, are we opening the door to involvement in those practices in the future?

Will our children learn values we want them to learn by participating in this “holy day,” or would they learn better values, perhaps even courage, from seeing us stand up against evil even when our culture says it’s fine?  It probably goes without saying, but what values are we impressing on our children when we send them trick-or-treating?  Is the lie “give me your candy or I’ll play a trick” really becoming of anyone?

If we forego Halloween but give our children a substitute celebration instead, are we sending the message that “I am trying to compensate because I think you’re missing out on something really amazing”?  I want my children to believe what I myself believe:  that we have been given something so much better than this!  No more bobbing for apples in the church basement (a pagan fertility ritual, by the way) when I have true joy in knowing God’s true Son!

7. Be faithful in the small things.

For many Christians, the thought of whether to celebrate Halloween is a small issue, maybe even a non-issue.  After all, it’s only one day a year.  And what harm is there really in a handful of Snickers miniatures and a pillowy pumpkin costume?

Let me answer that this way:

First, our character, integrity, and devotion to God is evident in the small things.  If we can’t be faithful in the small things, how will our hearts be faithful in the big things?

“He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” — Luke 16:10

So, yes, even something as seemingly small as how we handle Halloween is important.

Second, God has told us to focus on what is pure, noble, right, lovely, and admirable (Philippians 4:8).  Is Halloween any of these things?  No, and therefore it is unworthy of any of our time or thoughts.

Third, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” — 1 John 3:8

If God came for the purpose of destroying the works of Satan, why do we then try remember, imitate, and even elevate those very things?

How do we expect we will be able to keep ourselves faithful when the big temptations come alone when we can’t even say no to glorifying evil in what we do for fun?

“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” — James 1:27

But we’ve joined forces with the world.  In fact, instead of keeping ourselves unspotted, we have become one giant spot with it — we are so much alike no one can tell where the world ends and the Church begins.

We need to start keeping ourselves pure in the small things, so that we will be able to stay pure and undefiled in the big things.

8. God wants to bless us — but not in the way the world blesses.

For those of us who love Jesus, why is it so important to entertain the macabre and flirt with the dark side for one day, one week, or one month out of the year, instead of delighting in the joy the Lord Himself has set before us?

“Thus saith the LORD, ‘Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.  For the customs of the people are vain…’” — Jeremiah 10:2

We often say we don’t want to deprive our children of candy, of dressing up, of the “fun” they have by participating in this holiday.  But God has already told us the customs of the world are futile [vain]!

Is this is the kind of happiness we want for our children, we are clearly setting our standards too low.  Seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and He will provide all of the other things we need.  (Matthew 6:33)

“Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.  Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” — Psalm 37:3-4

God in His divine sovereignty did not give us Halloween for our entertainment.  Instead, we thought we were missing something and we hijacked it!  Just like Eve in the garden, we believed Satan’s lie that God was withholding something good from us.  God, however, has far better things in store for us than candy corn and parlor games.  Why do we continue to grovel in the plastic sandbox when God has given us the entire beach?4

We continue pouring time and money into what is overall something that has no lasting fruit and does not in any way glorify God.  Would our time be better spent in prayer, teaching our children about the real dangers their friends face by dabbling in the occult?  As a Christian, I don’t want to spend even a penny of my money on a $7-billion-a-year event that is so dishonoring to God.  As a nation, it is painfully evident where our hearts are.

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” — Luke 12:34

9. There is sin in the camp.

Even if we think our costumes are not sinful (as if it’s the costume that’s the problem and not the fact that we are still giving reverence to the holiday itself), what about others who have decided that there is nothing wrong with their costumes either?  After all, they aren’t really practicing witchcraft, just dressing up as witches.  So do we excuse the dressing up but draw the line at Ouija boards?  What about pretending to cast spells?  We have made ourselves the judges of what is good and evil instead of following God’s command to avoid even the spoils of the enemy.

I have two words to say to that kind of thinking:  Remember Achan.

In Joshua 7, Israel was accursed and could not even stand before its enemies because just one man, Achan, had taken the spoils of Jericho, when God had said no one was to touch them.  By the sin of one man, the entire nation was judged.

“And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?  Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff.  Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you.” —Joshua 7:8-12

It’s just a holiday — what’s the big deal?  The darkness of Halloween is devoted to destruction [accursed] and is in no way honoring to our Father of lights (James 1:17) — and no orange and black sugar coating will make it so.  God is a jealous God, and all pagan beliefs are sinful in God’s eyes.  We can’t choose how much or even how nicely we want to celebrate.

And we need to help hold each other accountable because we may all bear the judgment for sin in the camp.

At this time in history more than ever, we are in great need of God’s mercy on our land:

“If My people, which are called by My Name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways;  then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” — 2 Chronicles 7:14

Yet how many of us are truly humbling ourselves and turning from wickedness?  We say we are followers of Christ, but we refuse to surrender in complete obedience to His Word in even the simple act of turning from a holiday that glorifies evil.

If still we refuse to repent and seek God’s wisdom in every aspect of our lives, we should not be surprised when God further removes His hand of blessing and protection from this great land.

10. Come out from them and be separate.

Perhaps the reason I finally let go of Halloween was precisely because I didn’t want to.

If that sounds like a contradiction, let me explain.  You see, the very fact that I kept coming up with reasons and excuses so I could continue celebrating eventually led me to question my motives.  Why was I hanging on so tightly?  Was it possible that my celebration of Halloween had become an idol to me?  Certainly it appeared so, because still I embraced the traditions of men even when I knew God’s heart on the matter.

“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord…” — 2 Corinthians 6:17

God wants His people to be holy, which means to be set apart.  If everyone else is doing something, and I’m doing it too, that is a good time to examine myself to see if I’m really in the faith.  If people don’t look at me and think I am peculiar (1 Peter 2:9) — if I fit right in with our culture and no one can tell I am any different — then I am probably doing something wrong.

The Bible doesn’t say that we should have less up do with darkness than other people do;  it says have nothing to do with evil.  By even acknowledging and associating with the holiday, I was giving credence to it in my life and opening myself to deception.

It is my prayer that everyone who follows Christ will be open to prayerfully seeking God’s wisdom about the traditions of man.

“Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.  Be not ye therefore partakers with them.  For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:  (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)  Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord..” —Ephesians 5:6-10

~ Article by Michele Blake ~

End notes:

1 http://heartofwisdom.com/blog/should-christians-observe-halloween/

2 http://www.logosresourcepages.org/HalloweenBook/history.htm

3 http://heartofwisdom.com/blog/should-christians-observe-halloween/

4 See also C.S. Lewis’ quote: “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.  We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.  We are far too easily pleased.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses

Love for the lost

Today my heart is breaking.

My heart breaks for those family members and friends who once knew the Truth, but who have been confused by the world’s doctrines.  My heart breaks for those who willfully reject Jesus Christ as the Lover of their hearts and souls.

My heart breaks, because other than praying for them, there is nothing I can do to make them see that Jesus, Who suffered, died and rose for their sakes, longs to be their Saviour, Father and Friend.

Some of these people were taught in Christian ways, and some once confessed Jesus as their Saviour.  Some people have simply never heard the complete gospel.  Which is worse?  The fact is that our choices have consequences, and whether we choose for or against believing in Jesus Christ as Saviour, the consequences are eternal.

I wish I could show these people how much they are loved by their Creator.  I wish I could make them experience the compassion I have felt, being comforted by my LORD when I am in despair, crying out to Him in prayer.

There have been times when I have desperately cried, realizing the greatness of my sin and my own inability to overcome the darkness in my heart, half expecting Him to reprove me with some Scripture about how I should be living for Him.  At least twice, I have experienced a compassionate Friend, comforting me in these moments with the greatness of His unending love.  Without thinking it out, I have visualized Jesus walking to me and sitting next to me in my brokenness, His arm around my shoulder, showing me His incredible mercy and grace when I’ve been whipping myself on the back about my sins.

Psalm 103:8-14
The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.  He will not always chide: neither will He keep his anger for ever.  He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.  For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him.  As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.  Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear Him.  For He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust.

My heart breaks to see loved ones rejecting such an amazingly loving Saviour, not only because I deeply love Jesus, but because I truly love these family members and friends.

It is days like today when I have to remind myself that, just as God drew me to Himself in a most gentle way many years ago (and He still does!), so He is drawing each person to Him every day.  Sometimes, our hearts are hardened by our own reasoning, being blinded by a lack of understanding of what happens in our lives.  Yet, His love continues to call out to us to draw us closer to Him, never differentiating between the individuals that He lovingly created.  (Ephesians 1:16-23, Acts 10:34-35, John 12:37-40, 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:6)

No matter how much we love somebody here on earth, God loves them much, much more.

As I continue to pray for my unsaved friends and family, I thank God that nothing can separate us from His love, the love that He demonstrated to us when Jesus Christ willingly sacrificed His life on the cross and overcame death to make a way back to our Holy Father.

May we never forget that others will know God’s love by the way we love them.  (John 13:35, 1 John 4:11-12)

Finally, may we always have compassion for those who are still lost, knowing that the only reason why we can love, is because God first loved us and gave His life to save us while we were yet sinners.  (1 John 4:19, Romans 5:8)

Romans 8:35-39
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, r famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written, “For Thy sake we are killed all the day long;  we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”  Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.  For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ephesians 3:17-19
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith;  that ye, being rooted and grounded in love may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;  and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.

John 3:16-17
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” ~ Jesus Christ

How deep the Father’s love for us

Welcome to wherever you are

Maybe we’re all different, but we’re still the same;
we all got the blood of Eden running through our veins.  (Romans 5:12)
I know sometimes it’s hard for you to see –
you’re caught between just who you are and who you want to be…  (Romans 7:15-25)

If you feel alone and lost and need a friend,  (John 15:15, Matthew 11:19)
remember:  every new beginning is some beginning’s end!

Welcome to wherever you are:
this is your life, you made it this far!  (Philippians 1:6, Psalm 138:8)
Welcome, you got to believe
that right here, right now,
you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be…  (Romans 8:28)
Welcome to wherever you are.

When everybody’s in and you’re left out,
and you feel you’re drowning in the shadow of a doubt.  (Matthew 14:28-32)
Everyone’s a miracle in their own way!  (Psalm 139:14-16)
Just listen to yourself, not what other people say.  (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22)

When it’s seems you’re lost, alone and feeling down,
remember everybody’s different, just take a look around!  (1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Romans 12)

Chorus

Be who you want to be, be who you are!
Everyone’s a hero, everyone’s a star…

When you want to give up and your heart’s about to break,
remember that you’re perfect, God makes no mistakes…  (Deuteronomy 32:4)

~ Written and performed by:  Bon Jovi ~

http://biblereasons.com/being-unique/

It is well

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

~ Written by:  Horatio G. Spafford ~

2 Kings 4:8-37
And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread.  And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread.  9 And she said unto her husband, “Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.  10 Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.”  11 And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there. 12 And he said to Gehazi his servant, “Call this Shunammite.”  And when he had called her, she stood before him.  13 And he said unto him, “Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care; what is to be done for thee? wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the host?” And she answered, “I dwell among mine own people.”  14 And he said, “What then is to be done for her?”  And Gehazi answered, “Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old.”  15 And he said, “Call her.”  And when he had called her, she stood in the door. 16 And he said, “About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son.”  And she said, “Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid.”  17 And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life.  18 And when the child was grown, it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers.  19 And he said unto his father, “My head, my head.”  And he said to a lad, “Carry him to his mother.”  20 And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died.  21 And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door upon him, and went out.  22 And she called unto her husband, and said, “Send me, I pray thee, one of the young men, and one of the asses, that I may run to the man of God, and come again.”  23 And he said, “Wherefore wilt thou go to him to day? it is neither new moon, nor sabbath.”  And she said, “It shall be well.”  24 Then she saddled an ass, and said to her servant, “Drive, and go forward; slack not thy riding for me, except I bid thee.”  25 So she went and came unto the man of God to mount Carmel. And it came to pass, when the man of God saw her afar off, that he said to Gehazi his servant, “Behold, yonder is that Shunammite:  26 Run now, I pray thee, to meet her, and say unto her, Is it well with thee? is it well with thy husband? is it well with the child?”  And she answered, “It is well.”  27 And when she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught him by the feet: but Gehazi came near to thrust her away. And the man of God said, “Let her alone; for her soul is vexed within her: and the Lord hath hid it from me, and hath not told me.”  28 Then she said, “Did I desire a son of my lord? did I not say, Do not deceive me?”  29 Then he said to Gehazi, “Gird up thy loins, and take my staff in thine hand, and go thy way: if thou meet any man, salute him not; and if any salute thee, answer him not again: and lay my staff upon the face of the child.”  30 And the mother of the child said, “As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee.”  And he arose, and followed her.  31 And Gehazi passed on before them, and laid the staff upon the face of the child; but there was neither voice, nor hearing. Wherefore he went again to meet him, and told him, saying, “The child is not awaked.”  32 And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed.  33 He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the Lord .  34 And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and he stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm.  35 Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro; and went up, and stretched himself upon him: and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.  36 And he called Gehazi, and said, “Call this Shunammite.”  So he called her.  And when she was come in unto him, he said, “Take up thy son.”  37 Then she went in, and fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground, and took up her son, and went out.

The Story

This is a story:
A story about a Hero and a damsel,
a villain and a scandal…
So bend down, untie your sandals,
’cause where we’re going is holy ground.  (Exodus 3:5)

Starts like this:

In the beginning there was the Hero.  (Genesis 1:1)
And the Hero was the Father.
And the Hero was the Spirit.
And the Hero was the Son.
And if this hurts your head already, welcome to the kingdom.
Immutable, inscrutable, infinitely glad-hearted Triune Perfection;
His ancient love reverberated off each Member with no hint of dissension.
Perfect in unity,
Perfect in diversity,
Holy trinity.

And even before the rocks could cry out His Name, He was singing His own praises –
How could He not?
You know anyone else who goes by “The Rock of Ages”?
He needed nothing from no one,
as if something made could improve upon His majesty.
His majesty’s amp was already at 11.
And if this was the end of our story,
that’d be enough for us to glory for a thousand eternities at Him.

But our story isn’t over because one day the Hero started speaking.
And when He started speaking, things started being:  (Genesis 1 & 2)
Light, night, wind, water, mud, moons, seas and spiders,
swimmers and flyers, gallopers and gliders,
Stars and seasons, rhyme and reason to all of it, and all of it was good.
And suddenly all the commotion came to a standstill,
when our Hero bent down and fashioned His damsel.
God leaned over our body of earth,
breathed life into our lungs, made our heart beat from dirt.
He put light into our eyes
He gave us each other and He gave us Himself as a prize.  (Philippians 3:14)
And we were naked and were not ashamed.

But of course, the plot thickens…
Enter stage right The Villain.

The serpent was craftier than any beast in the garden.  (Genesis 3)
He made a beeline for the tree line and found Eve and her husband,
and in less than fifty words he convinced perfectly satisfied people
they were starving to death.
And since that day God’s damsel has known nothing but starving to death;
The poison of asps is heavy on her breath.
We traded the glory of the incorruptible God for a silly substitute
like a school kid duped into giving up his brand new Jordan’s for a pair of worn out tennis shoes.
We became dark-hearted.
Bent inward on a mission to find within ourselves the solution,
like trying to number the stars while gazing through L.A.’s air pollution.
We couldn’t see and we fell in love with lesser things;
and we bought them each a diamond ring,
and we betrayed our Maker, our Husband, our King.

Let me clarify:

‘Cause this doesn’t just apply to the treacherous and murderous –
even the best of us are as bad as the worst of us:  (Romans 3:23)
Outwardly clean, but inside full of dead men’s bones.  (Matthew 23:27)
Like the Taj Mahal, it looks good and all but there’s nobody home.
And one terrible day, we looked around,
but there was no more villain to be found:
he’d crawled inside of us!
Like a virus, rewired us
and now the damsel is the villain as well!
We tied our own self to the train tracks, the horn blows
and careening toward us
is 10’000 tons of God’s wrath;
sounds so loud, you can barely hear the screaming chorus,
“Who will save us from the body of this death?!”  (Romans 7:24)

Enter stage left, Jesus of Nazareth

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  (John 1:14)
He came lowly.
Perfectly holy.
He came like a groom on His way to the altar to meet the bride
and for the dowry, He had no cash so He paid with his life.  (1 Corinthians 6:20)

Are you shocked by the consequence of sin?
Be more shocked at the mercy of Him!
Couldn’t free ourselves, so Christ became our freedom;  (Galatians 5:1)
Couldn’t fill these lungs, so He became our breathing.
We live because He died.  (2 Timothy 1:10)
Once a harlot now a bride.
Sins were scarlet, now made white.  (Isaiah 1:18)
Perfect by proxy,
Saved by a surrogate,
Holy through Him – (Romans 5:9)
the Hero and the damsel are one once again.  (Revelation 19:7)

But wait:

I haven’t told you the best part yet.
See, as if there wasn’t enough Hero already to impress you,
the best part about this story, is this story is true.
The only fairytale that’s not a fairytale:
So long, Mother Goose!
Farewell, Dr. Seuss!

This here’s the genuine article:

God made.
We strayed.
God’s love displayed 
God-Man gives grace,
stands in our place:
Our sins erased,
debt paid always.
So fall on your face,
and give God all praise.

~ Written and performed by:  Jimmy Needham ~

The Author & Finisher of our Faith

We, as humans, think that we should balance out our bad deeds with good deeds.  Mentally, we keep “record” of the bad things we have done, and then we try to balance it out by doing some good deeds in an effort to justify ourselves.

The Bible does say that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20) and that “by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:24).  Further reading of this passage reveals the example of Abraham, who believed, and the works that he did followed his faith in God’s instructions and provision (Genesis 22:1-14, Hebrews 11:19).  The “works” mentioned in the Book of James are NOT trying to justify ourselves in God’s eyes through “good deeds”.  The Bible is clear that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6), and that we are only “justified by His blood” (Romans 5:9), the Blood that Jesus Christ shed for us on the cross at Calvary.  (See also Hebrews 9:22, 1 Peter 1:18-19.)  God wants our works to be done out of our love for Him, doing good deeds to other people because we want to please our LORD (not justify ourselves), and reading the Bible and praying to God because we desire fellowship with our Creator.

As we sincerely desire a love relationship with Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for us (Ephesians 5:25), He will work the good works in our hearts (Philippians 1:6 & 2:13).  We, as humans, like to try to be “in control”, DOING things to buy His favour.  This is not at all what He requires.  He wants us to LOVE Him, above all else.  (Luke 10:27)

This relationship between me and God was NOT initiated by me, or “earned” by any good thing I may have done.  His love for us, His mercy and grace, His kindness, is so great that the God of all the universe, the Creator of all things, desires a relationship with us – broken, frail, sinful human beings.

Our relationship with God (through Jesus Christ, our mediator) is from Him.  He is the One Who does the good works in our hearts and through us.  It was never about us – but it always has been and always will be about Jesus Christ, our God.  All the glory and honour is due to Him!  (Revelation 4:11)

1 John 4:19
We love Him, because He first loved us.

John 15:16
“Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in My Name, He may give it you.” ~ Jesus Christ

Philippians 2:13
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.

Philippians 1:6
Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 12:1-3
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

Ephesians 2:8-10
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Revelation 5:12
Saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.”

Immeasurably more

More than all we ask, than all we seek
All our hopes and dreams – You are immeasurably more
Than we can know, than we can pray;
All our words can say – You are immeasurably more!

There’s nothing greater than Your loveYou’re more than we can imagine!
There’s nothing sweeter on this earthYou’re more than we can imagine!
Our hearts respond to who You are, it’s You, oh Lord, that we adore!
You are more, You are more, You’re more than we can imagine!
You are more, You are more, You’re more than we can imagine!

More than all our sin, than all our shame…
Stronger than the grave – You are immeasurably more!
I can’t help but sing, can’t help but praise!
My heart can not contain:  You are immeasurably more!

Chorus

No eye has seen, no ear has heard
What is coming, what is coming…
Never-ending joy, never-failing love…
You are coming, You are coming!
[x2]

Chorus

~ Written by: Rend Collective
Album: The Art of Celebration ~

Isaiah 64:4
“For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside Thee, what He hath prepared for him that waiteth for Him.”

1 Corinthians 2:9
But as it is written, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.”

Ephesians 3:20-21
“Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”

Grace is enough

I can boast to many works done out of insecurity,
and credit many conversations to my immaturity.
And while I’m misunderstood, You are understanding me,
and showing me how Grace is enough

For everything that I’ve done right, seems like a thousand I’ve done wrong;
And I keep on losing count of all the times my flesh has won…
And when the light of Christ that’s in me, is overshadowed by the fall,
You’re showing me how Grace is enough…

When I feel unworthy, so undeserving –

Still I can come, just as I am,
for I find Your love is free of condition!
So I will run to Your wide-open arms,
where I am accepted, and I am forgiven:
Grace is enough for me
Your grace is enough for me

I’ve been quick at passing judgment, when I’m worthy of conviction;
and at times I’ve measured virtue only based on my religion!
But theology, it seems, is not the things that’s saving me –
You are showing me a Grace that’s enough…

When I feel unworthy, so undeserving –

Chorus

Though I was blind, now I see –
Sweet is the sound of Your grace over me!
You said it all on the Cross –
Your grace goes beyond all that I’ve done…

When I feel unworthy, so undeserving,
You love me beyond all my failing and hurting.
It’s not who I am, but who I can be;
I know You are working Your purpose in me!

Chorus

Your grace is enough – more than enough!
Your grace is enough for me…

~ Don Moen ~

2 Corinthians 12
7  And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.  8  For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.  9  And He said unto me, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  10  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Ephesians 2
4  But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us,  5  Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)  6  And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:  7  That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.  8  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  9  Not of works, lest any man should boast.  10  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Titus 2
11  For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,  12  Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;  13  Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;  14  Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace – how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! 
I once was lost, but now I’m found;  was blind, but now I see!

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear, and Grace my fears relieved! 
How precious did that Grace appear the hour I first believed…

Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far, and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me – His Word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be, as long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail, and mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil, a life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun,
we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’ve first begun!

~ John Newton (1725-1807) ~