Word of Encouragement – 8th Feb 2023

Noxon MT, circa Summer of 2014 – (Nancy’s Pic)

Grace, Hope & Peace, Friend;

Why do we sometimes say, “Don’t mention it,” when someone thanks us yet, other times, we feel offended when someone does not say, “Thank you?” Have we been deceived into confusing thankfulness with obligation? If I say, “Thank you,” am I somehow acknowledging I owe you something in return?” Do I say “Don’t mention it,” so you don’t feel obligated to me?

God desires appreciation and since humanity was created His image, (Genesis 1:27) we like to be appreciated; But in the Law God gave Moses, He tied thanksgiving in with peace offerings. (Leviticus 7) Obligation can lead to resentment which disrupts peace, so the usual response to “Thank you” is, “You’re welcome.

The free dictionary online defines “you’re welcome” as; A response to “Thank you” meaning “I was glad to do it and would do it again.” and “You are under no obligation for the courtesy or favor for which you are thanking me.

God’s response to our ‘thanksgiving’ is “You’re welcome. I did it because I love you.

God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

How can our response be anything but, “Thank you?

Come, let’s sing for joy to the Lord, let’s shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
Let’s come before His presence with a song of thanksgiving, let’s shout joyfully to Him in songs with instruments.

Psalm 95:1-2

Abba, Avinu – Daddy, Father – Thank You.

Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You…”

John 11:41b-c

Thank Him,

Word of Encouragement – 7th Jan 2023

PA081 – Hopeful

Grace, Hope & Peace, Friend;

Nancy and Jenny are the type of people who, when they go into a pet store, will look for the most dejected, loneliest kitten to adopt! The one that looks like it has given up all hope.

Paul wrote, “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, who introduced us, by faith, to the hope we have in God’s saving grace.” (Romans 5:1-2)

Then he makes an odd statement; “We also celebrate in our tribulations…”

Celebrate?” Other translations use ‘rejoice’, ‘boast’, ‘glory’, ‘are happy’, ‘are glad for’, etc. Strange reactions to trials, but remember, Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great;” (Matthew 5:11-12)

What possible benefit can we get from trials and tribulations? Paul explains;

We also celebrate in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Emphasis mine

Romans 5:3-5

Jesus introduced us to hope, by faith, and every trial we persevere through increases our faith in God.

Why didn’t God simply create us with hope? He DID! Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden of Eden – He provided everything they needed, – but they rejected Him and believed they could live without Him. But God never gave up on us;

For while we were still ¹helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
¹without hope

Romans 5:6

Why would He do that for us? He loves humanity!

God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:7

Nancy and Jenny love kittens and are drawn to the hopeless. When they bring one home the kitten adapts – some quickly and some over time – and develops faith in ‘their humans.’

That is God’s emotion for us and we are blessed when we respond.

Elohei HaTikvah – God of Hope – Increase my faith in the hope You offer freely.

The Lord has been my refuge, and my God the rock of my refuge.

Psalm 94:22

Jesus introduced us to hope,

Word of Encouragement – 6th Feb 2023

Sunrise – Feb 2022

Grace, Hope & Peace, Friend;

What is the Gospel – the ‘Good News?’ It can be stated in five simple words; “God loves you, believe Him.

Consider this exchange from Acts 16,

Philippian Jailer: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Vs. 30)

Paul and Silas: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Vs. 31)

It IS that simple, but Satan has convinced humanity otherwise; “You don’t need God, you can save yourself by becoming good.” (Genesis 3:1-6)

Even among Christians, we see some of Satan’s influence – “You must do this.” “You must stop doing that.” “You can earn your salvation by following these rules and rituals.” But what did Jesus say?

I am the evidence of God’s love for humanity, believe Him and you have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

But what about all the instructions Jesus gave us on how we are to live? Again, what did He say?

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

John 14:15

NOT,If you keep My commandments, you will be saved.” You cannot earn salvation!

After showing that EVERYONE needs salvation – Jews and Gentiles, – Paul used Abraham as proof that belief/faith has always been God’s plan for salvation. (Romans 4)

When God called Abraham and said, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great,” we read, “He believed in the Lord; and He (God) credited it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:1-6) (That was more than four centuries before the Law was given to Moses!)

Even though he and Sarah were already old and childless, Paul writes, “He did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith… being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.” (Romans 4:16-21)

Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness.

Romans 4:22

And” Paul said, “The fact that Abraham was declared righteous, was not just recorded for Abraham’s sake.” (Vs. 23)

But for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, to us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered over because of our wrongdoings, and was raised because of our justification.

Romans 4:24-25

Jesus is the proof that God loves humanity.

God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

His resurrection is the proof that God declares us righteous. Believe it!

Elohim, Tzur of my Ma’oz – God, Rock of my salvation – Thank You for loving me and declaring me righteous even with all my faults.

Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for the one who comes to God must believe that He exists, and that He proves to be One who rewards those who seek Him.

Hebrews 11:6

Believe Him,

Word of Encouragement – 5th Feb 2023

The Cross – Circa 1976

Grace, Hope & Peace, Friend;

God has ALWAYS loved humanity – we were created in His image for companionship with Him. (John 3:16, Genesis 1:27 & Revelation 3:20) It was humanity that turned its back on God and decided we don’t need Him. (Genesis 3:1-6) But God never gave up on us. When He called Abraham, He told him, “In you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3)
Even after the Abraham’s descendants turned their back on God, Isaiah wrote,

He (God) says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the protected ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Isaiah 49:6

Fast forward to Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome. After saying we are all guilty of disobeying God – Jew and Gentile alike – he asks, “Then what advantage does the Jew have? Or what is the benefit of circumcision?” (Romans 3:1)

If we are ALL sinners, what is the advantage of being chosen by God if we are no better than anyone else?

Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the ¹oracles of God.
¹or actual words

Romans 3:2

Then Paul asks, “Just because some did not believe, does that nullify the faithfulness of God? Of course not! God is true even if every human is a liar!” (Romans 3:3-4)

What do these verses say to us?

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world,” and “Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

Like the Jews, we have been chosen and given the oracles of God – the good news of salvation for all. Do we show God’s love to all creation in word and deed? (Mark 16:15)

Elohim Ha’Ahavat Olam – God of Everlasting Love – May Your love, for all creation, flow through me.

Justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus

Romans 3:24

Entrusted with the Gospel,

Word of Encouragement – 4th Feb 2023

Fishing Net – From ediblehi.com

Grace, Hope & Peace, Friend;

Reading Romans chapter 2, it feels like an indictment of every single one of us!

Therefore you have no excuse, you foolish person, everyone of you who passes judgment; for in that matter in which you judge someone else, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things.

Romans 2:1-2

Several times, in The Sermon on the Mount – God’s outline of how we should live – Jesus told us, it is not just the specific actions that constitute the sin, but our thoughts and desires. (Matthew 5-7) And none of us can say we have never had sinful thoughts or desires. (1 John 1:8) And NONE of us has any standing to judge others.

But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will repay each person according to his deeds:

Romans 2:5-6

And Paul adds, there is coming a day when, “God will judge the secrets of mankind through Christ Jesus.” (Romans 5:16)

God will judge EVERYONE – believer and unbeliever – by the same standard. That is a scary thought until you look at the last 3 words: “Through Christ Jesus.

Jesus came, not to condemn humanity, but to save it. (John 3:16-17)

He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 2:2

Jesus took all sin in Himself on the cross, (1 Peter 2:24) and He paid the penalty – death. But that does not negate what Paul wrote about a coming judgement; “The day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.

We will all be judged (1 Corinthians 3:13) and, “There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of mankind who does evil,” and, “Glory, honor, and peace to everyone who does what is good.” “There is no partiality with God.” (Romans 2:9-11)

Tribulation and distress for every soul of mankind who does evilALL of us.” But not death – Jesus defeated that.

If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet only so as through fire.

1 Corinthians 3:15

Elohim, Shofet Tzaddik – God, Righteous Judge – Help me examine myself and not judge others.

It is He who rescues you from the net of the trapper and from the deadly plague.

Psalms 91:3

He rescued you from Satan’s trap,

Word of Encouragement – 3rd Feb 2023

Acrylic-019 – circa 1976

Grace, Hope & Peace, Friend;

Is it kind or generous to give a panhandler money? Do you know what they will do with the money?

In his letter to the believers in Rome, Paul described the state of humanity since Satan convinced us, “You don’t need God to decide what is right or wrong.” (Genesis 3:1-7)

Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and they exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible mankind, of birds, four-footed animals, and crawling creatures.

Romans 1:22-23

An idol is anything we set up to replace God in our lives. Even things that may sound ‘good’ – like kindness and generosity – can be idols if they are motivated by what we think is right or wrong..

I am NOT saying, “Don’t give money to panhandlers.” God has given us His Spirit to guide us. (John 16:13) The question is, “Are we listening to Him – seeking to bring glory to our Creator through our actions, Or are we just doing what we ‘think’ is right?

I picked on giving to panhandlers, only because everyone has an opinion on the ‘right’ thing to do. But we, as humans, can make idols out of ANYTHING – kindness, generosity, love, jobs, wealth, property, family, friends, preachers, etc.

Jeremiah describes idols, saying,

They are like a scarecrow in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; They must be carried, because they cannot walk! Do not fear them, for they can do no harm, nor can they do any good.

Jeremiah 10:5

Nor can they do any good.

HaShem my Madrikh – Lord my Guide – show me what You want me to do in every situation and let my life bring glory to You.

Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

Psalm 90:2

Bring Him glory,

Word of Encouragement – 1st Feb 2023

FCC production of A Fiddler on the Roof – Sept 2003

 

Grace, Hope & Peace, Friend;

Acts 27 is the account of the start of Paul’s voyage from the Roman barracks in Caesarea to Rome. Leaving the shelter of the Island of Crete, against Paul’s advice, the two hundred seventy-six people on the ship found themselves driven out to sea by a violent storm. Luke wrote,

Since neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small storm was assailing us, from then on all hope of our being saved was slowly abandoned.

Acts 27:20

Paul tried to encourage them, telling them an angel of God had promised to get him to Rome and would save everyone on board. “But” he said, “We must run aground on a certain island.” (Vs. 26)

On the fourteenth night of their ordeal, realizing the water was getting shallower, the sailors prepared to abandon ship – leaving the passengers to fend for themselves. Paul advised the centurion in charge to stop them, so the soldiers cut away the life boat so they couldn’t leave.

As dawn broke, Paul encouraged them to eat saying, “You haven’t eaten for fourteen days. Therefore, I encourage you to take some food, for this is for your survival, for not a hair from the head of any of you will perish.” (Vs. 34)

Having said this, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all, and he broke it and began to eat. All of them were encouraged and they themselves also took food.

Acts 27:35-36

The simple act of one person thanking God encouraged two hundred seventy-five; including Roman soldiers, sailors and passengers!

Paul wrote, “Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) While we may think he was specifically talking to believers; Ask yourself, “Did Jesus only encourage His followers?” The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is about how we are to live in front of everybody!

Our lives are to be an encouragement to everyone around us, not just other Christians! The simple act of showing we have a personal relationship with – and are dependent on – our Creator can lift the spirits (encourage) someone going through a difficult time. Even as simple as saying, “Thank you, He does” when someone says, “God bless you,” for sneezing.

God said He is always with you, (Hebrews 13:5) Do we live like it?

In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:6

Elohei Mikarov – God who is near – Help me to acknowledge Your presence in everything I do, and to be an encouragement to those around me.

And so it happened that they all were brought safely to land.

Acts 27:44d

Live like God is right beside you,

 

Word of Encouragement – 31st Jan 2023

Resurrection circa 1976

Grace, Hope & Peace, Friend;

Standing before king Agrippa Paul said he felt fortunate to present his case to the king, because he was an expert in all Jewish customs and issues. And he outlined his background. Everyone knew Paul’s upbringing as a devote Pharisee – yet here he was on trial for the hope he had in the promises God had made to the Jewish forefathers. The same hope the Jews had clung to for centuries. And he said, “For this hope, O king, I am being accused by Jews.” (Acts 26:1-7) Then he asked king Agrippa,

Why is it considered incredible among you people if God raises the dead?

Acts 26:8

If God created the universe and everything in it, and your hope is based on his promises, why do you think it is impossible for Him to raise the dead? – He created life!

Trained as a Pharisee in the strictest sense, Paul felt it was his godly duty to strongly oppose everything about Jesus and His followers – even to the extent of persecuting and advocating for their death – because they were claiming Jesus was the fulfilment of many of God’s promises. (Acts 26:9-11)

Then Paul encountered the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus (Vs. 12-17) and everything he had been taught was clarified! God was inviting humanity, “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.” (Vs. 18)

Far from contradicting Jewish teachings, Paul was expounding on them. Showing that what Moses and the prophets had prophesied and been fulfilled in Jesus and He offers life freely to all. (Vs. 19-23)

King Agrippa knew Paul was innocent of all the accusations the religious leaders were making against him, and he said to the Roman governor, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.” (Vs. 30-32)

So, the question remains, “Why is it considered incredible among you people if God raises the dead?” (Vs. 8)

Because if you don’t believe that God can raise the dead, you don’t believe that He IS God! That is why, since creation, Satan has tried to convince humanity that God doesn’t exist, that He is not sovereign and that He did not create life.

Through Jesus, God proved He is God!

What is our response?

Adonai Hashem – Sovereign Lord – Show me more of Yourself.

Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your Law.

Psalm 119:18

Believe,

Word of Encouragement – 30th Jan 2023

HRM – The Attah of Igala – Nov 2014

Grace, Hope & Peace, Friend;

Growing up in Nigeria, owners used to paint slogans on their mammy wagons – light trucks used to transport people and goods to market. One popular slogan was, “God’s Case – No Appeal.” The idea of appealing to a higher authority is nothing new.

When the religious leaders brought their charges before the new Roman governor – Festus, He asked Paul if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem to face them in court. Knowing they planned to ambush him on the road to Jerusalem, Paul said , “I have done nothing wrong to the Jewsand no one can hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar.” (Acts 25:10-11)

Where did the idea that we need to find someone to take ‘our side’ come from? Created in God’s image, (Genesis 1:27) everyone was on ‘God’s side’ until Satan convinced us that we don’t need God to determine right from wrong – “Your eyes will be opened, and you will become like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)

With billions of humans around the world, – each with their own opinions of right and wrong – God addressed the confusion by giving us His law – Love God, love people – and He set up a system of judges. The judges were to settle disputes in accordance with God’s law. However, being human, judges have their own opinions of what God’s Law means. Instead of applying God’s Law, they began to ‘interpret’ what God must have meant and a judicial quagmire developed. What is the answer? Will it end?

Yes! God said, “I will put My laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Hebrews 8:10)

That is the process Jesus began, and is continuing through the Holy Spirit – ‘the Spirit of truth.’ (John 16:13) The question is, “Will we continue to listen to Satan’s lies – that we can decide right from wrong?”

HaShofet Kol Ha’Aretz – Judge of All the Earth – Help me listen to Your Spirit and surrender my opinions to Your perfect will.

Teach me Your way, Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.

Psalm 86:11

God’s Case – No Appeal,

Word of Encouragement – 29th Jan 2023

PA076 – Confluence

Grace, Hope & Peace, Friend;

After Lysias, the commander, sent Paul to Felix, the governor, Ananias, the high priest and some of the elders came to Caesarea to present their case against Paul. When they presented no evidence or proof of wrongdoing, Felix put off the trial and, although he kept him in custody, he allowed Paul a certain amount of freedom. (Acts 24:1-23)

In writing his account, Luke noted that Felix had, “Quite accurate knowledge about the Way.” (Vs. 22) I don’t know exactly what that means, but maybe Felix knew of Jesus’ claim that He is “the Way.” (John 14:6) Luke continues;

Some days later Felix arrived with Drusilla his wife, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus.

Acts 24:24

The next verse would seem to fuel the debate between two approaches to “preaching the gospel.” Some emphasize warning people about God’s judgment while others emphasize His mercy and grace.

But as he was discussing righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and responded, “Go away for now, and when I have an opportunity, I will summon you.”

Acts 24:25

Was Paul wrong to talk about, “Righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come?” Of course not! If he was wrong, we need to ignore a lot of what he wrote in his letters. Part of the gospel IS what God is saving us from, what our response should be, and the consequences of a negative response. We will ALL be judged, (1 Corinthians 3:12-15)

So what are we to do – emphasize the warning or God’s mercy? What did Jesus say? When given an opportunity… “Do not worry about how or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given you in that hour. For it is not you who are speaking, but it is the Spirit of your Father who is speaking in you.” (Matthew 10:19-20)

The question is not, “How should we preach the gospel?” The Spirit will guide us. The question is, “Do we divide the body of Christ over answering the first question?” Sadly the church divides over accusations of ‘soft gospel,’ ‘cheap grace,’ and ‘fire and brimstone preaching.’

Each of us is responsible to our Lord and Master for our response to His command to “Preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) And Paul asks,

Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Romans 14:4

HaShem Elohim – Lord God – keep me obedient to what You tell ME to do and cleanse me of the arrogance of judging others.

Graciousness and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Psalm 85:10

Follow His lead,