To keep my prayer life organized I have been using a three ring binder with tabs, but I am so excited to have just found a prayer app I can use on my phone! It is called PrayerMate and it is a great way to keep your prayer life organized on the go. You can add whatever prayer subject pages you like and add whatever scripture and notes you like to each subject page. You can even set a timer to remind you to pray! I love it! I do not necessarily advocate all the information provided on the “ready-made content & organizations” section (and nor does PrayerMate), but I do recommend the app. I can’t wait to start using it and I hope you will check it out. Now when you are surfing the net on your phone at random times throughout the day…you can pull up your prayer list and take a few minutes to change the world through prayer! Please pray with me. Ephesians 6:18 “…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”
Is this your first Christmas without a loved one present on earth? Or is this Christmas yet another lonely year without them? While Christmas is often spent with family and friends, for those who’ve lost a loved one to death the holidays can become a season of stinging pain and unquiet-ed aching because a cherished one has passed beyond reach to be laughed with, dined with, and enjoyed. This universal loss is agonizing, but Christians have hope because this separation is temporary – it’s as if our cherished one is away on vacation (is heaven not the ultimate awesome destination?!), and in a little while we will join them, seeing their face and hearing their voice again. Whether the time apart from our loved one is a few years or a few decades, we know that when we exhale our last breath we will enter the kingdom of heaven where we are as alive as our loved one because we both have been washed clean from sin and made holy and allowed to stand in the presence of God. What a hope we have within us!
Why do we find comfort in joining our Christian loved ones after death? Because Jesus comforted his disciples that although he were about to leave them upon his death and subsequent departure from earth, Jesus said he would come again to receive them so that they would dwell in that place with Him and His Father (John 14:1-6). Further Biblical truth reveals the hope of those who follow Jesus: 1 Cor 15:51-55 “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed…O death where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”.
If you have not been cleansed of sin (the bad things you do) but want to, then you can now! Only believe Jesus’ words in John 14:1, “…I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” and in Mark 1:15 “…The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” If you have at some time repented and followed Jesus, you may not spend this Christmas or the next with your believing dear one, but you can spend it cherishing them and looking forward to making new memories in just a little while – thanks to the One for whom we celebrate the holiday, sweet Jesus.
Whether you’re a Christian or not, you have likely heard of King David, if from nowhere else but in reference to Michelangelo’s marble Statue of David. In the Old Testament of the Bible and in 2 Samuel 11 you find the story of King David. Having spent his life following the God of Israel, he commits adultery, the woman conceives, and King David has the woman’s husband murdered to cover his behavior. King David later receives consequences for his actions but is still allowed to follow God and be used by God as a great instrument in Christian history.
In the New Testament of the Bible, John 8 speaks of Jewish religious leaders bringing a woman before Jesus who was caught in adultery to see if Jesus thought they should stone her, as instructed in the Old Testament according to Moses’ law. Jesus told the woman that He did not condemn her, but instead told the believer to go and sin no more. (While we might assume the woman is a new believer, scripture does directly say whether she has only just become a believer…nonetheless) Jesus did not say to the woman that she was unable to sin any longer, but to go and sin no more.
Later in John 18, one of Jesus’ closest followers who would later be paramount in building the Christian church after Jesus’ death, Peter denies that he was a follower of Christ, just hours before Jesus was killed. I wonder today if many pastors would still have a job if they denied Jesus in a public way at such a critical time. While Peter was one of the closest followers of Jesus, Peter sinned by lying and dishonoring God, yet God chose to use him greatly to influence the church in the months and years following.
In addition to these few excerpts from the Bible, all throughout Paul’s New Testament writings he admonishes believers to be loyal to God for the salvation they have received and to mature in their faith. Paul himself states in Philippians 3:12, 13, that the he has not become perfect, but “press(es) on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ”.
It is because of scripture like these that I trod along in my faith after having sinned in egregious ways as did these imperfect people in the Bible. I have had seasons in my life when, despite my faith, I was shamefully rebellious, and even now I sometimes fear that others could learn of sins I’ve committed, words I have said. Do I deserve condemnation as did the adulterous woman brought before Jesus? Yes, I do. Have I received consequences for my sins as did David? Yes, I have. But I am grateful that scripture shows a God who does not ultimately condemn the believer who has sinned, but rather He pushes the Christian forward, telling us to sin no more.
For many who use hypocrites, such as myself, as an excuse to say that Christians in the church deserve to be ridiculed…I can agree with them that people in the church are sinners, that we still do things wrong after we become Christians. But to them I extend the scripture taught in the Bible which shows that while we Christians are forgiven and should strive to obey our higher calling of holiness, on this side of heaven you will still see us sin, and that’s one reason why we go to church, to encourage each other as we learn how to become like the only person who never sinned, Jesus Christ.
It is not uncommon for a woman in her thirties from the South to have spent some time throughout her childhood in the pews of a Christian church and to have gained some knowledge of the Bible. From my earliest memories, I recall having strong religious convictions and sharing them with stuffed animals on my bed and friends on the playground. But my spirituality was no different than that of a devout Buddhist, Muslim, or for that matter, I was no different than any other human being trying to to be a good person.
After years of religious activity, both private and public, all of that came to a halt. During my freshman year in college, I was in my dorm room speaking on the phone with an agnostic acquaintance, encouraging him to consider Christian things. In response he challenged me with questions that I could not answer. Baffled by his questions, I retired from the conversation with a final, “Well, the Bible does say that if we seek Him with all of our heart, He will show Himself to us. When we get off of the phone, let’s both ask God to show Himself to us…and if we mean it…and He’s real…He will.” I never spoke to the gentleman again, but after we got off of the phone, I did as we agreed, getting down on my knees, and sincerely asking God to show Himself to me.
A week or so later, God did just that. Like a mosquito buzzing in my mind, I could not escape questioning to what degree I had believed the Bible. I cannot explain it in as much detail as I wish I could, but God pulled back a curtain and allowed me to see His Word in a different light. It was as if I arrived at a travel destination and saw it in person after I had only read about it before. For the first time, my knowledge met with my soul and I understood by experience that I was spiritually dead due to my lack of purity and holiness. I understood that my sin was a direct rebellion against the One who had created me and created the universe in which I lived.
I asked God to forgive my sins on behalf of the blood shed on the cross by the pure and holy sacrifice of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. Since I prayed that prayer, I have always sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit with me, experiencing a life inside of me that I can describe but cannot fully explain. My knowledge of the Bible was not the reason I became a true Christian, and neither was fancy knowledge that answered deep questions about the mysteries of God. God is the reason I am a Christian, because I could not turn away from One so great, once I finally saw Him spiritually face to face.