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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sweet Aroma

And the priest shall burn all on the altar as a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD.
~ Leviticus 1:9 (NKJV)

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
~ Romans 12:1 (NKJV)

Of all the appealing smells of summer, catching the sweet aroma of steaks on a nearby grill has got to be one of the most enticing. (Note to northern locales: spring is coming.)

The phrase "sweet aroma" appears forty-one times in the Old Testament, always referring to an offering by fire. The offering might be of an animal, grain, oil, wine, or incense. The sweet aroma of offering could not occur unless someone sacrificed something they owned.

In the New Testament, God asks for the living sacrifice of ourselves. It is a holy, acceptable, and reasonable sacrifice. It demands forfeiting what would otherwise be used to please ourselves to please God.

And though it may lack the distinct appeal of steaks on a grill, it is to God the most sweet aroma in the universe.

Dearest Lord, You are worthy of any and every sacrifice we might make to You. Whatever You ask of us, please help our hearts to see it as reasonable. Please help us to discern the great pleasure You receive when we give more than time or money, but give You our very lives.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday Freelance: MARRIAGE, PART II

In a land long ago and far away I heard that it's best to marry someone of a similar background (for compatible expectations), similar goals (compatible destinations), and similar beliefs (compatible travel through life).

I then wore a badge and gun, and one day met a man who did too. Like me he was raised in a Catholic family of eight children, and had recently come to believe salvation comes solely by faith in Christ. We loved the outdoors, time spent reading, travel, and hours the Midwest calls second shift and the West calls swing shift. When the subject of children arose he said two and I said three—close enough for government workers.

One cop in any marriage is difficult enough, so I got a desk job until I became a mother and homemaker. I'd loved the dry sunny Colorado outdoors, but now hide inside from Michigan's damp cloud cover. We've learned to take separate Colorado vacations together—he hangs around deer camp and I hang around dear kin.

He likes his meat and potatoes mild and prefers variety (home-cooked), while I prefer ethnic heat and spice and can reliably cook only the familiar. I exhaustively check ingredients for what's healthy while he heads to the checkout with what's happy. Our five kids might view him as a couch potato and me as a Mexican jumping bean, but of course neither's entirely accurate.

Early on he insisted on a computer I saw no need for and am now joined to at the hip. I resisted his plea to get me a cell phone and now use most of our minutes. People often query his firearms expertise, while I wield the sword of the Lord's Word.

He loves T-shirts and hates ties though I coordinate dresses with accessories even at home. His ideal Sunday afternoon is spent quietly relaxing with the paper, but the more people the better for mine. The cup is inevitably half empty for him and half full for me—and I'll argue even 10% full isn't empty.

His (sometimes boring) steadiness anchors my (possibly rash) impulsiveness. My fluid intensity contrasts his static stoicism, enabling well-rounded perspectives—and misunderstandings. Plentiful tears of laughter or grief color my comedy-drama view of life, defying his dream of a mundane calm life. He shuns the spotlight that I glow in to applaud me.

His work is to step into the world's chaos and restore order. My work is to wait for his day's end and restore him. When I work to restore the world and get in over my head he pulls me out.

We're impossible opposites. Either of us is competent enough to survive alone. Yet we desperately need each other, for neither of us would be wholly who we are without the other.

Who could make two become one without ceasing to be two? The God who hears John say two, Anne say three, then gives us five.

Next Friday, Marriage Part III

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Like God

However, they were expecting that [Paul] would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.
~ Acts 28:6 (NKJV)

Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of [the fruit] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
~ Genesis 3:4-5 (NKJV)

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son ... these He also glorified.
~ Romans 8:29-30 (NKJV)

Satan mixes his lies with enough truth to make them palatable. When the Creator made humans in His image, we were already "like" God. Furthermore, disciples of Jesus are daily conformed to the image of Christ. God goes so far as to allow us to share the glory of His Son.

Yet God alone is God. God is the Sovereign of the heavens and earth and everything in them. He owns us, and allows us to choose whether or not to have Him as ours. He is in control of the circumstances beyond our reasoning or reach.

God is not like us, nor is His love as ours. The love of people can be self-serving. They will disappoint us, fail us, even betray us. God's love is absolute and unconditional, based not on our (un)worthiness, but His capability. God is love, and love—real love—never fails.

The more we trust the love of God, the more we become like God, without ever becoming God. Why would we want to be God, even of our own lives? He's already more than adequate.

Heavenly Father, every effort we've made to be god of our lives has been disastrous. You are perfect and complete. Please make us more like You. Please enable us to trust You more fully.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Those Who Sail With You

"... indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you."
~ Acts 27:24 (NKJV)

"Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you."
~ 1 Samuel 12:23 (NKJV)

God's Holy Spirit carries us in our weakness. Although we do not know what to pray for according to our needs, the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.... If God is for us, what can work against us? This God—who did not even keep back his own Son, but delivered Him to death on our behalf—will He not freely give us along with His Son every other good thing?
~ Romans 8:26,31-32 (author's paraphrase)

Consider those who "sail with you." Some are close family members. Some are members of Christ's family within your circle of life. Some are neighbors, those people who travel the path with you, perhaps cross your path—or maybe cross you.

Why has God brought them into your life? Do they minister to you? Do you minister to them? Are some anonymous faces or are they all precious souls made in the Creator's image? Whatever else their relationship to you, do you carry a burden of prayer for those who sail with you?

Many days I sorrow that I am not able to adequately minister to those who sail with me. (Tuesday was a particularly difficult one.) I am glad for days when God reminds me that He is God and I am not. I am inadequate to supply what only He can. But in His Spirit I am adequate to pray.

Father God, I deeply love the many who sail with me. Their griefs are too much for me to bear, too much for them to bear. Please cause us to fall upon You and allow You to carry us. Please use our burdens to draw us to prayer. Please teach us to pray in groanings when words fail us.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Become a Christian

King Agrippa said to Paul, "In this little you are persuading me to become a Christian!"
~ Acts 26:28 (author)

For Herod feared John [the Baptist], knowing him to be a holy and just man, and kept him safe. And hearing him, he did many things, and gladly heard from him.
~ Mark 6:20 (LITV)

"Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?"
~ Mark 8:34-36 (NKJV)

Paul spoke compellingly to King Agrippa, whom historians describe as mild and unsuspicious, without hostility to Christians. John the Baptist evidently convinced Herod to do many things. Both kings listened agreeably to their preachers. Both stopped short of turning to God in faith.

It's been said that three kinds of people come to church: the curious, the convinced, and the committed. The first come if it's convenient. The second are sufficiently convicted to become a Christian. The third are compelled to do whatever Christ asks, wherever it leads, at any cost.

To become a Christian isn't about showing up in church to listen agreeably to the preacher. It shouldn't be about going only a step further to become converts—genuine believers willing to settle for the basic salvation package. The premium plan costs absolutely everything. But only in full surrender to Christ do we now know and enjoy the fullness of kingdom riches.

Oh Lord our God, You give us the death and blood, the life and love of Your Son. We could be content with no more, yet You bid us to boldly ask for everything. Please help us understand the sacrifices You ask of us. Please reveal to us the much greater rewards You are giving in their place.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

The Accuser

"It is not the custom ... to deliver any man to destruction before the accused meets the accusers face to face, and has opportunity to answer for himself concerning the charge against him."
~ Acts 25:16 (NKJV)

"Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge ... "
~ Matthew 5:25 (NKJV)

So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world "... the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night ... And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony ..."
~ Revelation 12:9-11 (NKJV)

Satan's name means "the accuser." David, Daniel and Jesus are prominent among righteous men wrongly charged by minions of the accuser. The voice from heaven in Revelation testifies that the accuser likewise slanders us "day and night."

Some charges contain some truth. If our adversary brings a charge of which we're guilty, the quickest relief comes in quickly confessing sin to God, who sees both our actions and hearts. The whole truth is that the blood of the Lamb cleanses our sin and leaves us without condemnation.

It's been said the devil speaks condemnation for sin and the Holy Spirit speaks conviction—conviction which leads to repentance and restoration. Once we've done these, the accuser has no grounds to charge us. If he tries, the word of our testimony overcomes his lies.

Father in heaven, many and great are our sins. The sacrifice of Your Son is infinitely greater. Thank you for the blood of Your Lamb. Thank You that no sin is too great for Your forgiveness. Please lead us by Your Spirit to bring every sin to You and to put it fully behind us.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Law

"I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets."
~ Acts 24:14 (NKJV)

We know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless ...
~ 1 Timothy 1:8-9 (NKJV)

"Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold."
~ Matthew 24:11-12 (NKJV)

Thoughts from Scripture about the law of God.

The Law and Prophets are not enemies of Christianity, even when legalistic men wrongly use and apply them to impair Christian liberty.

The law is a good tutor to bring us to Christ, to teach us what sin is, and to exalt God.

Christ came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets in their entirety.

God reveals wondrous things in His law.

Jesus is the Word of God, He is truth, and His law is truth.

Those who love the law have great peace.

We know we are in the final hours of the last days, for we see false prophets deceiving even those within the church, we see lawlessness abound, and we see the love of many grow cold.

Almighty Father, You have exalted above all things your name and your word, and every word you have given us is good. Please teach us to love Your law so we will not stumble. Please teach us to accept Christ's fulfilment of the law on our behalf in grateful, gracious liberty.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

We're Fighting Against God

And so a huge and noisy quarrel broke out.... "We don't find anything wrong with this man! And what if a spirit has spoken to him? Or maybe an angel? What if it turns out we're fighting against God?"
~ Acts 23:9 (MSG)

... stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel ...
~ Philippians 1:27 (NKJV)

But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.
~ 2 Timothy 2:23 (NKJV)

Whatever the disputes between Christians and unbelievers, they are unrivaled by the disputes among Christians. Like Pharisees arguing with Sadducees, we forget we're supposed to be on the same side—God's side. When we fight each other, we're fighting against God.

I often pray that God will enable me to say no more and no less than edifies Christ's body and exalts God. I'm too readily drawn into foolish disputes, and too easily hesitate to contend for the faith.

There are issues of substance—like faith in Christ's blood for salvation, or the inerrancy of Scripture—for which we would give our lives. There are issues of interpretation—like pre-trib vs. mid-trib rapture, or tongues required vs. no tongues allowed—for which we must ask "what if the Spirit has spoken?"

Truly, we're fighting against God if we allow division in the church on matters not critical to faith.

Father God, Your precious Son's last prayer was that You would make us one as You are One. Please forgive us for allowing division to work against Your answer to that prayer. Please grant to us no tolerance for union with the world, and no tolerance for scism among Your people.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Friday Freelance: MARRIAGE, PART I

This week, the words of others. Next week mine.

We fall in love with a personality, but we must live with a character.
~ Peter De Vries

The goal in marriage is not to think alike, but to think together.
~ Robert C. Dodds

A man who really loves a woman doesn't bother trying to understand her.
~ O.A. Battista

Marriage has teeth, and him bite very hot.
~ Jamaican Proverb

You don't marry one person, you marry three: the person you think they are, the person they are, and the person they are going to become as the result of being married to you.
~ Richard Needham

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.
~ Mignon McLaughlin

A woman is as old as she looks to a man who likes to look at her.
~ Finley Peter Dunne

Love at first sight is easy to understand. It's when two people have been looking at each other for years that it becomes a miracle.
~ Sam Levenson

A wedding is an event, but marriage is an achievement.
~ Anonymous

Married life teaches one invaluable lesson: to think of things far enough ahead not to say them.
~ Jefferson Machamer

Love talked about can be easily turned aside, but love demonstrated is irresistible.
~ W. Stanley Mooneyham

Whoever thinks marriage is a fifty-fifty proposition doesn't know the half of it.
~ Franklin P. Jones

A perfect wife is one who doesn't expect a perfect husband.
~ Anonymous

Marriage ... resembles a pair of shears, so joined that they cannot be separated, often moving in opposite directions, yet always punishing anyone who comes between them.
~ Sydney Smith

The marriages we regard as the happiest are those in which each of the partners believes that he or she got the best of it.
~ Sydney J. Harris

What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?
~ Gary Thomas

All that a husband or wife really wants is to be pitied a little, praised a little, appreciated a little.
~ Oliver Goldsmith

Love does not die easily. It is a living thing. It thrives in the face of all life's hazards, save one—neglect.
~ James D. Bryden

Love and time—those are the only two things in all the world and in all of life that cannot be bought, only spent.
~ Gary Jennings

Love is not measured by how many times you touch each other, but by how many times you reach each other.
~ Cathy Morancy

Love is the answer, no matter the question.
~ Anonymous

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Hear Him Speak

"Brother Saul, recover your sight... The God of our forefathers has appointed you to know His will, and to see the righteous One and hear Him speak."
~ Acts 22:13-14 (WNT)

"All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him."
~ Matthew 11:27 (NKJV)

Are you able to sing the words "I once was blind but now I see" because you have seen the Person of Jesus? Do you hear Him speak? Do you know His presence? Have you come to experience His love as something you cannot live without?

The devil and the world would have us believe that God is no more than a vague and impersonal spiritual force. The Lord says He passionately loves you and highly values you. The value of your love—freely given—is so high to Him that He refuses to take it as rightfully His.

Christianity is not about good religion. It is about a very personal and intimate God and His incredible [as in "beyond credibility"] love for you. If you don't believe it's for you, or have not yet experienced it, get to a quiet place and humbly ask Him what the two of you need to get straight. Then wait until you hear Him speak.

Of all His blessings, God's greatest gift to us is Himself.

Oh Lord our God, Your amazing love is beyond the comprehension of our finite minds. Please reveal Yourself and Your love to us. Please show us how to love You in return. You are worthy of our highest love and honor, with all we have.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

You Can Do Nothing

After greetings were exchanged, Paul gave a detailed account of the things God had accomplished among the Gentiles through his ministry. After hearing this, they praised God.
~ Acts 21:19-20 (NLT)

"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing."
~ John 15:5 (NKJV)

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.
~ 2 Corinthians 3:5 (NKJV)

When Paul gave his missionary presentation to the church and reported its successes, he did not claim credit, but described what God had accomplished through him. Paul saw himself as merely an instrument in the hand of the Lord, and the work itself as divine accomplishment.

Are there circumstances in your life which frustrate what you want to accomplish? Are there relationships, ministry / career obstacles, or financial stresses beyond your control? News flash: You can do nothing yourself, but only cooperate with the Lord (or not) in what He's doing.

The acceptance of our utter helplessness apart from the Lord Jesus Christ is blissfully liberating. We need not worry, or strain, or stress. We need only ask for marching orders and comply, trusting our loving Father for all He intends to accomplish through us and in us.

Our Father, You have never failed to work all things together for good to those who love You. Many of Your children are facing situations that defy solution. Please help us trust You, strengthen us, and show us how to be used by You to accomplish Your plans for us.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Savage Wolves

"Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock ... savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves."
~ Acts 20:28-30 (NKJV)

"Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheeps' clothing but inwardly are savage wolves. By their fruit you will know them."
~ Matthew 7:15-16 (ISV)

Paul and Jesus both warned of savage wolves, or false teachers, within the church. Jesus described them with the Greek harpax (greedy, extortionist). Paul called them barus (burdensome).

Two unbiblical extremes within the church are burdensome legalism, and a message which exalts prosperity but carries a burden of doubt. The former is more likely to appear in traditional churches, while vulnerable God-seekers are easily drawn in with the latter. Neither exalts dependence on Father, Son and Spirit.

Whether false teachers "come in" from outside or "rise up" from within, they do not feed the flock, but feed upon it. They use isolated nuggets of Scripture's truth to make their poison palatable. Good teachers are identified not by prosperity but by their fruit.

We must feed upon God's Word often, in church and outside church. Being familiar with the entire Bible shows us whether we're being fed by good shepherds or enticed by savage wolves.

Our Father, thank You for righteousness based not on deeds but upon hearts of faith. Good Shepherd, thank You for giving Yourself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Holy Spirit, thank You for enabling us to exalt God above ourselves when we have too long done the opposite. Holy God, make us fully dependent on You.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

The Whole Armor of God

And the evil spirit answered and said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?" Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
~ Acts 19:15-16 (NKJV)

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
~ Ephesians 6:11 (NKJV)

His disciples asked [Jesus] privately, "Why could we not cast [the spirit] out?" So He said to them, "This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting."
~ Mark 9:28-29 (NKJV)

Spiritual warfare involves far more than invoking the name of Jesus.

To put on the whole armor of God, one speaks truth, lives righteously, takes time to prepare with the Gospel, relies on faith to counter lies, covers one's mind with the submission to the Lord Jesus which is our salvation, skillfully wields the sword of the Word, and remains watchful in prayer.

Remaining watchful in prayer may involve fasting. Among other things, fasting subdues flesh and enables victory over the strongholds in one's life, compels the needs of body to be sacrificed for the needs of spirit, and humbles oneself before God.

The bride of Christ is a warrior princess with a mettle of iron, who trains for no retreat in battle. She is clothed in the whole armor of God provided to her.

Father God, You provide to us all we need for every situation. Please draw us to closely walk with You, and hear Your Spirit's voice, so we may quickly identify the enemy, engage him effectively, and emerge victorious in every battle. Plese increase our dependence on You daily.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mighty in the Scriptures

Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord.
~ Acts 18:24-25 (NKJV)

At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure."
~ Luke 10:21 (NIV)

Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies... And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge ... but have not love, I am nothing.
~ 1 Corinthians 8:1; 13:2 (NKJV)

Apollos, thought by many (including this student) to be the unidentified writer of Hebrews, was called "mighty in the Scriptures." Paul was well-educated by the respected rabbi Gamaliel. Yet others who penned Scripture were the fishermen Peter and John, as well as James and Jude, sons of a lowly carpenter.

Knowing and understanding the Bible doesn't require formal education—though education is valuable. The Father Himself, through His Holy Spirit, reveals the hidden things of Scripture to those with the humble heart of a child, whether learned or not.

Being "mighty in the Scriptures" can puff up with pride. The Father does not honor pride. But if one desires to better know and love the Lord, and to better love and edify fellow man, it is the Father's good pleasure to reveal His treasures.

Knowledge is of great value, but love trumps education every day.

Lord of heaven and earth, our beloved Father, thank You for making Yourself known to those who seek You. Thank You for honoring those who honor you with a humble heart. Thank You for permitting us to glimpse Your magnificence, before which all else shall one day fade.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Word

[The Bereans] received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so... All the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.
~ Acts 17:11,21 (NKJV)

My eyes fail from searching Your word ...
~ Psalms 119:82 (NKJV)

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword ... and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
~ Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV)

I'm hopelessly uninterested in the latest technology innovations. I'm equally boring domestically, content to decorate once and be done with it, and to stick with tested recipes I'm less likely to ruin. But when it comes to the Word of God, I'm a cross between Berean and Athenian, able to spend my time in nothing else but tell or hear some new thing I've searched the Scriptures over.

Forgive the repetition, but I'm convinced not a single verse of the Bible is boring, and welcome the challenge to prove it. I'm continually amazed that I can read an ancient passage I've seen countless times before, and discover some new thing which makes my heart alive with wonder.

The Word of God is alive and powerful, a sword to cut right to the heart of a matter. The Word of God is God Himself made flesh, and is therefore and foremost a revelation of God, of whom knowledge cannot be exhausted.

I'm madly in love with the Word, and I pray it rubs off on you.

Word of God, You are beautiful and wise, omniscient and omnipotent. Thank You for putting us where the Word is plentifully available. Please send the Word quickly and abundantly to those who anxiously wait for Bibles, a treasure above anything else we might own.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday Freelance: REAL LOVE

real love fully accepts a person "as is"

real love sees beyond appearances to the heart of a person

real love sees evil and remembers that all humanity’s got the disease

real love sees the evil in another and looks past it to the good

real love sees the evil that causes hurt and challenges it to get out

real love sees the good in a person and challenges it to come forth

real love sees every person as made in the image of God

real love knows every person is as special as God makes ME feel

real love knows EVERYONE suffers from inferiority complex and needs validation

real love speaks truthfully, without overdoing it

real love sees the pain another carries and draws close to help carry it

real love discovers the right way to meet another’s need

real love recognizes a heart feeling emptiness and offers what will fill it

real love gratefully accepts imperfect gifts given with sincerity

real love remembers to say "thank you"

real love stands ready to says "yes"

real love says "no" when it’s truly best

real love isn’t irritated by the irritating

real love finds the right outlet to dissolve anger instead of burying it or lashing out

real love says "I’m hurt" without causing hurt

real love means that when I know I’ve caused hurt, I hurt too

real love knows it’s EVER needing to say "I’m sorry"

real love knows saying "I’m sorry" means most when it comes with "I was wrong"

real love forgives completely

real love knows what and how to forget

real love knows what and how to remember

real love wants to share what’s most treasured

real love knows that real love means real sacrifice

real love will sacrifice even what’s most dear

real love is willing to go to the grave

real love goes past the grave into eternity

real love loves without dependence on being loved back

real love loves even those who seem unlovable

real love is usually simple but rarely easy ...

... and PERFECT love does not fear

The ultimate REAL LOVE is God’s love. In fact, the Bible says that God is love. History’s greatest "I love you" was written in blood on a hill called Calvary, sent by Almighty God from His throne in heaven as a gift to you personally.

God knows that the evil in our hearts would ruin heaven. Only the blood of Jesus has the power to wipe out sin and clean up our hearts. There’s NO WAY the Father would have allowed His Son to die the way He did if Jesus’ blood hadn’t been absolutely necessary to clear the way for His love. He won’t impose this gift on anyone who won’t admit that it’s needed and doesn’t believe it’s real. He asks those who trust and accept His gift of love and salvation to remember and value it, and to keep trusting in Him and His love.

The same amount of love it took to send Jesus to Calvary is the same amount of love God wants YOU to have from Him EVERY day. If you’re not feeling His love right now, take a moment and ask the Lord to show you if there’s anything between the two of you that’s hindering the flow of His love, that you need to get rid of. Then allow His REAL LOVE to fill your heart. We don’t have to deserve God’s love (He loves us in spite of ourselves!)—we only have to be willing to receive it.

Whenever you want to know more of God’s love, read His love letter to you (the Bible). Talk with Him, tell Him you’re sorry for the times you don’t pay attention Him, tell Him you love Him, and ask Him to show you as much of His love as you can handle. When you’ve received His love, you can prolong it and multiply its power by sharing real love with others—EVERY day.

And we have seen and testify that
the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
Whoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God,
God dwells in him and he in God.
And we have known and believed
the love that God has in us.
God is love,
and he who abides in love abides in God,
and God in him.
In this is our love made perfect,
that we may have boldness in the day of judgment,
that as He is, so also we are in this world.
There is no fear in love,
but perfect love casts out fear,
because fear has torment.
He who fears has not been perfected in love.
We love Him because He first loved us ...
And we have this commandment from Him,
that he who loves God should love his brother also.
~ 1John 4:14-19,21 (MKJV)

REAL LOVE is something to celebrate every day!

Copyright 2004, 2009 Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved
May be reprinted in entirety for free distribution,
or individual lines may be quoted, with credit to author.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

No Whining

The magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into ... the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.
~ Acts 16:22-25 (NKJV)

"The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the LORD."
~ Job 1:21 (NKJV)

Our loudest testimony is not on Sunday morning when we praise the Lord, surrounded by smiling Christians. Our loudest testimony is how we behave under pressure, surrounded by people and circumstances which beat us up.

For Paul and Silas, the inner prison didn't have the first century equivalent of cable TV and three square (or now, pyramid) meals. Feet in "stocks" isn't a typo for "socks," provided for a dank dungeon. "Stripes" describes bleeding welts ripe for infection, not a style of prison garb.

The response of Paul and Silas? No whining, just praying and songs of praise. And the other prisoners were listening.

Is our testimony under far less trying circumstances "no whining"? Do we respond to pain with groans or praise? Do we bless the Lord as loudly when He has taken away as when He gave?

The world's other prisoners are watching and listening to us.

Blessed Lord, You are only good and work only good in the lives of those who love You. Please increase our faith to see Your goodness and sustenance in every circumstance. To those going through difficult times right now—financially, physically, or emotionally—please grant confidence in Your purposes and plans.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

All Things Are Lawful

"Therefore my judgment is that we don't trouble those from among the Gentiles who turn to God, but that we write to them that they abstain from the pollution of idols, from sexual immorality, from [meat of] strangled [animals], and from blood."
~ Acts 15:19-20 (HNV)

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any... Beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.
~ 1 Corinthians 6:12; 8:9 (NKJV)

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.
~ Romans 13:8 (NIV)

Twenty-three years ago I heard and accepted the Gospel's message of salvation, but received no message of repentance from sin. I expected to have happiness once I had neither the curse of death hanging over my head nor the need to worry about sin. I was utterly miserable.

After three years I began to walk with the Lord. I sensed that life in Christ ought to be free of sin, and struggled to understand how to distinguish right from wrong in a world of gray. Living by the law later reassured me, until the religion of legalism produced its own pride-filled misery.

The New Testament teaches a law of liberty and love. All things are lawful for me, yet love for God compels me to honor Him, and love of neighbor means my liberty will not cause injury or offense.

Pure Christianity is not a religion. It is a relationship of unconditional love with God and man.

Gracious Father, You are worthy of our highest love. Obedience to Your commandments is not burdensome, but a happy debt of love. No one is a greater wretch than we have been. Everyone worthy of Your love is worthy of ours. Help us to love one another as You have loved us.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Most Dangerous

They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.
~ Acts 14:19-20 (NKJV)

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
~ Philippians 1:21 (NKJV)

O death, where is thy sting?
O grave, where is thy victory?
~ 1 Corinthians 15:55 (KJV)

Hostile forces stoned Paul to apparent death, then cast him aside as refuse, believing him silenced. The life in Paul was the life of Christ, which can be neither killed nor silenced. After being stoned, Paul went about his business undeterred.

John Eldredge writes, "The most dangerous man on earth is the man who has reckoned with his own death. All men die; few men ever really live." The person who completely crucifies Self is reconciled to death and lives without fear. Is anyone more dangerous?

Would your life change if you discovered you have a terminal illness? It shouldn't, because you already have a terminal illness called mortality. You know not the number of your days on earth. Forfeit them all now. To die is gain, both on the day God lends your final breath, and today.

Live for Self no more, but only for Christ. To do so is to be one who really lives.

Dear God, our lives are contained in You alone. However often Self is crucified, it shows its will to live. Please give all of us the strength to surrender our lives to you so completely that Christ fully lives within us. Let His life in us make us the most dangerous people to draw breath.

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Monday, February 9, 2009


"Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man [Jesus] is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses."
~ Acts 13:38-39 (NKJV)

But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
~ Galatians 3:23-25 (NKJV)

Great peace have those who love Your law,
And nothing causes them to stumble.
~ Psalms 119:165 (NKJV)

The Law of Moses is fairly exhaustive, and impossible to keep. Anyone who believes he is justified by keeping the law must admit his failure and resulting guilt. Being justified comes by faith when one stops serving the law and chooses to serve Jesus Christ.

But before a Christian casts aside the law as useless to attain justification—no longer a master to whom one must submit—it is worth considering how very valuable the law is. Any tutor able to accomplish so much is worthy to retain as a counselor.

For the one cleansed by the blood of Christ, the law no longer exists to be served but to serve. It is no longer master but friend. We are under none of it, and free to enjoy all of it.

Father God, we are foolish people unworthy of Your good and precious law. We seem to either live by the law or leave the law, but rarely love Your law. Please enable Your people to look upon Your law as a beloved tutor which brings us to Christ, and then helps us to know Him.

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ask What You Desire

Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church... And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a girl named Rhoda came to answer. When she recognized Peter's voice, because of her gladness she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate. But they said to her, "You are beside yourself!" ... And when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.
~ Acts 12:5;13-14;16 (NKJV)

"If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you."
~ John 15:7 (NKJV)

I can't be the only one to find humor throughout the Bible.

The believers earnestly pray for Peter's release from prison. God's angel releases Peter. Peter shows up—while they're praying for him—and they leave him at the door, denying it's him, because of course Peter's in prison. Hello! They prayed for him! Didn't they expect God might answer?

Is prayer a mental exercise for comfort? Or to ask what you desire from the King of the Universe, according to His will? Do we absently plead, "God help me find my keys," and just as absently beg for big stuff without really expecting favor? Do we wait patiently for answers?

When I pray in petition, I try to ask according to God's Word and will so He'll view the request favorably; I make requests specific enough that an answer can be recognized and attributed to God; and as a rule, I avoid asking for anything on a timetable, figuring God's timing is best.

I do pray for my readers—by name if I know who you are. Please feel free to leave a prayer request today, or any day. I'll ask what you desire, as God's Spirit leads. You may post it in the blog site comments, or e-mail me privately at

Father, thank You for the incredible privilege to come boldly before Your throne in the name of Your precious Son Jesus. Please lead us to pray according to Your will. Please send to this site everyone whom You wish to bless through it. Please direct my words in prayer on their behalf and the words I write. Please build up Your people in strength and draw us closer to You.

Copyright 2009, Anne Lang Bundy

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Withstand God?

"Who was I that I could withstand God?"
~ Acts 11:17 (NKJV)

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the LORD, and said, "Ah, LORD, was not this what I said ...? For I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm."
~ Jonah 4:1-2 (NKJV)

"The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him."
~ John 4:23 (NKJV)

In Acts 10-11, the Lord challenges Peter to expand his view of God beyond limitations of Jewish law and tradition, and Peter is compelled to yield his preconception.

Who is God to you? Which attribute stands above others as absolute?
Do you have room for a harmoniously contrasting attribute to be just as absolute? Do you attempt to withstand God if contrasts in His nature conflict with your agenda (as did Jonah)?

Our Father's limitless love allows pain to discipline us. Our ruthless Judge requires retribution and mercifully provides it. The Lord's sovereign will cannot be frustrated, yet He ordains human will and forces Himself on no one. The holy King suffers the existence of rebellious evil to manifest His goodness and patience. The terrifying Lion of Judah is the gentle Lamb of God.

Regardless of how we see Him, I AM is true to Himself. True worshipers worship Him in truth.

God of mercy, we long withstood Your grace, long provoked You to Your face. You yet withhold judgment and patiently love us. Please grant to each of us reading these words a richer understanding of who You are, that we might more fully worship and love You.

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Friday Freelance: FINAL COST, PART II

I recently watched the movie WALL•E with my family. The benign humans were disturbing, though probably only to grown-ups.

Imaginatively fast-forward about 700 years, to a time when an environmentally destitute earth is incapable of sustaining life, and obese humans move on floating amigo-carts. The final cost of reliance on robots without any human exertion becomes lack of sufficient muscle tone and bone density necessary to independent mobility on one's feet.

The animators' tongue-in-cheek portrayal may not be too far off from present spiritual reality in much of mainstream Christianity. In the imaginative world of some churches, seeker-friendly worship services balance a good show with a feel-good message about the health and wealth available by faith.

Even in many evangelical churches, there's no motivation to grow in holiness through sanctification (being cleansed of sinful actions and attitudes), because if you've merely said the "sinner's prayer" and "accepted Jesus," you've reserved your ticket to heaven and need only wait on your ride.

Legalism, pride and hypocrisy have given holiness a bad name, and put tolerance in a good light. While years of snobs treating non-conformists as riff-raff needed correction, we've hit the other extreme when we preach that acceptance of a sinner requires acceptance of sin.

The final cost of reliance on grace without any human exertion becomes lack of sufficient spiritual tone and Word density necessary to dependent relationship with one's Lord.

Make no mistake, to confess Jesus as Lord means
obedience and repentance of sin. To receive the Holy Spirit is to cooperate with His work of sanctifying us from all that is unholy. And true holiness is free of pride.

A people used to numbing pain with medicine rather than searching out and eliminating the cause may be inclined to numb the voice of conscience with feel-good church. If we have truly put our faith in Jesus Christ, and name Him as Lord, we are spiritually cleansed by His blood. But our souls also need cleansing.

In the Old Testament, the three agents of cleansing were blood and water—and as a last resort, fire. We can willingly allow our Lord to cleanse our souls with the
water of the Word by regularly spending the time necessary to read and apply the Bible to our lives. It will come at the cost of time spent on something else.

The Holy Spirit yearns to make the church clean for her Bridegroom. If we are insufficiently cleansed with the water of the Word, should we be surprised if the final cost of cleansing is the loss of whatever must be consumed by

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The Lord is Near

There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion ... a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always... [An angel of God] said to him, "Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God."
~ Acts 10:1-2,4 (NKJV)

The LORD is near to all who call upon Him,
To all who call upon Him in truth.
He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him.
~ Psalms 145:18-19 (NKJV)

"For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
~ 1 Samuel 16:7 (NKJV)

I look forward to heaven because there I will see God. I will look upon my Maker. I will see the scars of my Savior. I will bask in the light of love and glory that may be felt.

But I will also see all the saints who have gone before me. I will share sweet fellowship with David and Daniel, Rahab and Ruth, Cornelius and Cleopas. Distinctions such as Jew and Gentile, men and women, lofty and lowly will cease to have meaning in God's presence.

The Lord is near now to those who call upon Him in truth. He hears our prayers. He does not look at success or failures, status or vagrancy, but upon the heart which fears and loves Him.

I hope you're not disappointed that I present nothing fresh and new at the moment. Today the Lord is near this Gentile, and I am simply reveling in His gifts.

Oh Lord our God, how wonderful is the depth of the riches of both Your wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable are Your judgments and Your ways past finding out! How merciful You are to extend Your covenant and salvation beyond the house of Israel to all nations.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Being Built Up

So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
~ Acts 9:31 (ESV)

By the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil.
~ Proverbs 16:6 (ESV)

Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.
~ Galatians 5:16-17 (NKJV)

A goal of every church is being built up in both strength and numbers. The early church was successful with "walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit." Could something so simple be more effectively employed in 2009?

To walk in the fear of the Lord is to appreciate God's zeal for holiness and man's sin-filledness, and know that it will require me to either lay myself bare before Him so He may purge my sin, or wait for a loving Father's good but possibly-painful discipline.

To walk in the comfort of the Holy Spirit is to deny the pride, selfishness and lust of the flesh. Flesh is my natural inclinations (dignity, survival, hunger) turned gratuitously inward rather than submitted to the Creator's use to strengthen me, edify others, and exalt my God.

Simple doesn't mean easy. Being built up as individuals and as churches requires far more than once a week attendance of a feel-good worship service.

Heavenly Father, You offer our souls so much more than the satisfaction of a thriving church congregation. You make us like You, in love and holiness. Let our being built up be because we are filled with Your Spirit, following close behind You, walking in fear and fellowship.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Keep a Cool Head

At that time a great persecution arose against the church ... As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.
~ Acts 8:1,3-4 (NKJV)

The rulers take counsel together,
Against the LORD and against His Anointed...
He who sits in the heavens shall laugh.
~ Psalms 2:2-4 (NKJV)

Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You're not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It's the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith.
~ 1 Peter 5:8-9 (MSG)

My sense of humor is warped enough to find humor in Saul's hostility toward Christianity, which advanced the Gospel into new regions as a precursor to him becoming its greatest evangelist.

The Lord laughs at efforts to thwart His purposes. Jonah simmering in the dark for three days as fish vomit before likewise succumbing to a successful preaching ministry is hilariously God, whose sovereign plan is hindered by neither human nor demon.

Despite certain defeat, the devil still foolishly attempts to frustrate God's plans. Across the globe, Christians suffer intense persecution. The Lord uses it to weed out wannabes and set His people on fire. And what waters God's Word more effectively than the blood of the martyrs?

Twisted humor is a hallmark of warriors—a means by which to keep a cool head for deadly battle.

Sovereign Lord, thank You for calling us to be citizens of the winning kingdom, subjects of the Most High King. Please give our brothers and sisters in chains (BASIC) strength and endurance in the face of persecution. Please make us fervent in faith despite lack of persecution.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Lord Will Repay

"But God was with [Joseph] and delivered him out of all his troubles, and gave him favor and wisdom ... "
~ Acts 7:9-10 (NKJV)

And David said ... "Let him alone, and let him curse; for so the LORD has ordered him. It may be that the LORD will look on my affliction, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing this day."
~ 2 Samuel 16:11-12 (NKJV)

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the LORD delivers him out of them all.
~ Psalms 34:19 (NKJV)

We are facing tough times that are likely to get worse before they get better. God always uses afflictions to work good in the lives of His children, and all deliverance comes from Him, regardless of who or what it comes through.

Unscrupulous people will use hard times to take advantage of the weak, whether they are weak of body or resources. If the righteous suffer at the hands of the unrighteous, it is unfruitful to become angry or bitter. The Lord will repay both the righteous and the unrighteous in due time.

Father, You are our Protector, Provider and Deliverer. In all circumstances, You work good for those who love You. Please help us to keep our eyes and hearts on You, and to respond in all circumstances as honors and glorifies You. Help us to patiently trust in You.

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Monday, February 2, 2009

You Will Be Hated

Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen ... disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.
~ Acts 6:9-10 (NKJV)

"But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit... You will be hated by all for My name's sake."
~ Mark 13:11-13 (NKJV)

But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.
~ 2 Timothy 2:23 (NKJV)

Human nature is to fear Darkness. God's nature is to push it back with Light. If you are Christ's, you are His vessel of Light dwelling amid Darkness. You will be hated by Darkness because it is weakened by Light in you. It will resist, dispute, or arrest you wherever it has opportunity.

Throughout the world, Christians are actively persecuted. Persecution in our nation is not yet as severe as elsewhere. But when the beast soon arises, it will be "granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them ... [with] authority ... over every tribe, tongue, and nation."

We need not worry beforehand. The Lord will give the wisdom and the Spirit in the hour needed. Even now, He is preparing us with small tests. We must learn when to avoid a foolish dispute, and when to contend for the faith.

Do not shrink back from the tests which make you strong.

Lord Jesus, You are the pure and holy Light of the World. You did not shrink back when Darkness reviled You, persecuted You, and killed You. You have utterly overcome Darkness in its every manifestation. Please give us courage to face Darkness when we encounter it.

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

We Are His Witnesses

"And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him."
~ Acts 5:32 (NKJV)

"By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
~ John 13:35 (NKJV)

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
~ Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)

Christians increasingly speak of Jesus' return, anxious for Him to right the world. The fact is, He's supposed to be here already. We are His body—His eyes to see, ears to listen, mouth to speak, hands to touch, heart to love, Spirit to empower. His presence is to be evident now.

Do you or I struggle with anger? With pride? Lust, bitterness, scorn? Or even plain annoyance? For those in whom Jesus' Spirit lives, the question is not so much what would Jesus do, but what is He doing? Is He given freedom to love through us, or does our flesh get in His way?

Whatever wrong thoughts and feelings we struggle with toward someone else, victory may be found in a simple prayer: "Lord, let me see this person through Your eyes, and let Your Spirit lead my response to him (her)."

For better or for worse, we are His witnesses.

Lord, thank You for putting Your Spirit within people cleansed by the blood of Jesus. Please help us yield to Your Spirit, and allow Him to guide our every thought, feeling, word and action. Please bring Your church to function as a whole and healthy body, built up in Your love.

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