Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Render Onto Caesar What Is Caesar's

In my last post, I shared a word I felt God was calling me to claim for 2020.
2019 is not over, but I'm already seeing how the Lord is preparing me for the upcoming year and my faith is being greatly challenged. I keep hearing my new word in Scripture, in devotionals, in songs, and in prayers. My word is

FEARLESS

As Christians, we are warned many times in the Bible that we may endure persecutions and hardships of many kinds. We are also told over and over, "Do not be afraid", "Do not fear", and "Fear not."
  • Deuteronomy 31:8 “He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
  • Isaiah 43:1 “Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine.”
  • Isaiah 41:10 "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
  • Matthew 10:31 "Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows."

Jesus was continually put in "sensitive" situations with the people surrounding him. Many people tried to use their authority and power to trick him, blame him, and revile him, but he always stood his ground and was ready to respond to their questions and badgering. In the book of Matthew, twice in a row the local so-called religious leaders tried to attack him...

Matthew 22:15-21, 34-46
"Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him(Jesus) in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians."

Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the TRUTH.  You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are." 

"Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”

"But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” 

They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, 
“Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

"Then he said to them, “RENDER TO CAESAR WHAT IS CAESAR’S, AND TO GOD WHAT IS GOD’S.”

"And when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they themselves gathered together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested Him with a question: “Teacher, which commandment is the greatest in the Law?”

Jesus declared, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

While the Pharisees were assembled, Jesus questioned them: “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is He?”

"David’s,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him Lord? For he says:

‘The Lord said to my Lord 
        “Sit at My right hand until I put Your enemies under Your 
         feet.”’ 
So if David calls Him Lord, how can He be 
         David’s son?”

"No one was able to answer a word, and from that day on no one dared to question Him any further."

The Pharisees and Herodians wanted to entangle Jesus over the issue of taxes. If Jesus says they ought to pay, he betrays the Jews who resented the Romans. If he says do not pay, he would be in trouble with Caesar and the Romans. Either conflict could undo him and his influence. The malice in the question springs from envy. Even Pilot knew the Jews were handing Jesus over out of envy. (Matthew 27:18) Caesar’s(the government) influence and our allegiance to them are shaped by God’s superior possession and authority. We render to Caesar(government) the things that are Caesar’s(governments)  as an act of worship to God. (Ephesians 5:22; 6:7) If we don't pay taxes, we are sinning against God.

Jesus’ answer of the greatest commandment is another model of how theological discussion should proceed. The command to love the Lord God with one’s whole heart, soul, and strength was simply a quotation from Deuteronomy 6:5. No man was able to answer him a word,.... They saw the dilemma they were reduced to, either to acknowledge the deity of the Messiah(the truth), or confess their ignorance(and their guilt); and neither of them they cared to do, and therefore judged it to be the 
WISEST TO BE SILENT!!.

Jesus, having confounded the great sects of the Jews, proceeds, in his turn, to propose to them a question for their solution. This was done, not for the purpose of vain conceit and triumph, but:
1.to show them how ignorant(and accountable) they were of their prophecies.
2.to humble them in view of their ignorance. They were wrongly confident in their ability trick and scare Jesus into submission.
3.to bring to their attention the true doctrine respecting the Messiah - his being possessed of a character superior to that of David, the most mighty king of Israel - being his Lord, at the same time that he was his descendant. 

What a perfect example of how we should address those who come against us, who try to do injustices in the name of "righteousness" and their own made up "laws". We are not to fear, but trust in God's protection and His truth to prevail.

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"Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, {the devil will test you}, and you will suffer persecution. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown." Revelation 2:10

We are called to be fearless in the sight of evil man's attacks because God is for righteousness and justice! He will not let the righteous be forsaken.(Psalm 37:25)

Instead of fear, we are to turn our hearts and minds to the Lord in prayer. We are to fully trust Him to carry us through. We are also called to love and pray for our enemies...

 "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," Matthew 5:44

So, today and every day I am saying a prayer....May the Lord also lead you to pray for those who you come across each day in your life. 
Image result for Matthew 5:44 prayer for enemies


Until next time, may you be
...strong and courageous. Deuteronomy 31:6 
in the Lord and in His mighty power. (Ephesians 6:10)


Thursday, November 14, 2019

I've Been In An Endurance Race

Yep! You read the blog title right...I've been in a race!!(Not literally, but figuratively and spiritually.)
I've been quiet here on my blog for quite awhile, but for good reason. It's taken lots of stamina, time, and patience for me to take each step over the past 11 months!!(Just as a reminder: I had shared back in January of this year that My Word for 2019: was ENDURE ) And my endurance continues to be vital, as I continue to run this race with love and commitment in the upcoming year!!

Endurance implies that whatever  is happening is going to take a long time."  Well, it definitely has been and is what I have experienced in the past year.

"To endure is more than just continuing to exist; it is continuing to exist in the same manner as before the suffering began. To “endure” does not mean simply to grin and bear it. Christians will feel sad, betrayed, or even angry at times. These emotions in and of themselves are not bad; they only become sin when we allow them to take root in our lives and produce bitterness, evil thoughts of revenge, or unforgiveness. Believers must remember that everything that comes into our lives is under the control of a sovereign God who has promised, 
"He is working all things out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)
Christians can find hope to endure when we consider the rewards God has promised us. 
“Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised."(Hebrews 10:35)
and
 "By your endurance you will gain your lives."(Luke 21:19)
https://www.gotquestions.org/endure-hardship.html


As I contemplate what God wants me to learn in 2020...WOW! Another decade into the 21st century is almost here!!...I am already picking up that the Lord is leading me to stretch my wings! I have felt Him drawing me to a new "word" for the coming year. It's definitely not an easy word for me to accept. It is one that continually pushes me outside my comfort zone!! I'll be sharing more about it in the next few months. But, here is a (really good) clue in the song below!!!




Until next time, may you be
"... strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience," (Colossian 1:11)



Saturday, January 5, 2019

My Word for 2019: ENDURE

Now that we've entered a new year, I have been contemplating what my word and verse should be. Several different words have come to mind...marathon, fortitude, patience, persevere, resolve, resignation, forbearance.... but the one word I finally chose was endure. Two verses are the sources for what I base my word on: 

 "...and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,," ~ Hebrews 12:2 

"being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great ENDURANCE and patience", ~ Colossians 1:11

In my youth, I excelled in sports that required being fast...and sprinting. In track, I ran the 400 meter dash. In softball, I ran the bases faster than any of my teammates. I've also been one to be more interested in getting things done over doing them slowly and more precisely. I've always hated anything that required long, drawn-out activities. I get tired, impatient, and bored easily.  

Of course, God has a way of strengthening us in our weaknesses by allowing us to endure through different experiences. And I definitely have experienced having to "endure" waiting for many things in my life. Recently, I went on a weight loss journey, and was determined to lose 50 lbs in 6 months. Of course, that journey has taken much longer and, even though I have lost 35 lbs, I'm still working on  the last 15 a year later. I think this journey will continue through the rest of my life. I have also struggled with the disappointment of not meeting my goals on my schedule. I've  struggled with waiting for God's timing for me to be able to travel with my hubby, following his retirement. But most difficult for me has been waiting for the Lord to open my son's heart and invite Him into his life. So, needless to say having "endurance" is what I feel God is trying to teach me about every day!

When I think of endurance and what it means:
Endurance is the power to withstand something challenging. If you decide to run a marathon, you will need lots of endurance to run many miles.(source)

Endurance involves our mind and heart, or the way we react to hardships. A person who endures manifests courage, steadfastness, and patience. Endurance is “the spirit which can bear things, not simply with resignation, but with blazing hope and keeps a man on his feet with his face to the wind. It is the virtue which can transmute the hardest trial into glory  Endurance  can also be used when discussing an exhausting mental situation or stressful time — the endurance to bounce back! (Source)

I know most all of us have felt like giving up at one time or another. I've prayed many prayers over the years. I've waited patiently for God to answer those prayers. Some, He has answered. Most of them, though, I'm still waiting for His answer. Even though it's not been easy(and many times I've wanted to give up). The strength to patiently endure only comes through the power of the Holy Spirit in us!  It is only through Him that I could have endured over the years in many areas of my life. 
caregiving for my mom for 3 years
waiting to travel in our RV
Waiting for the bond of a shared faith with our son.
“The Christian life is not a 100-meter dash but a marathon. Those who lack patience, endurance and discipline will drop out of the race.” 
–Randy Alcorn, 90 Days of God’s Goodness
Endurance builds character and integrity in us. Scripture speaks of this process of character development: 
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18). 
"The life of endurance requires us doing many hard things and often suffering. But these hard things are the very ones that bring purpose, joy, and satisfaction to our lives." (Source)

I've learned that when you hope for something, it seldom occurs as you expect. I must not let my level of satisfaction and accomplishing my goals depend on people who may or may not have direct impact on what I do or how I do it. Often I find myself either feeling disappointed or stressed that something hasn't happened yet or that others who have made promises to me haven't followed through with them.  But, I'm learning that I cannot let other people make choices about my life. 
“Don’t let the expectations and opinions of other people affect your decisions. It’s your life, not theirs. Do what matters most to you; do what makes you feel alive and happy. Don’t let the expectations and ideas of others limit who you are. If you let others tell you who you are, you are living their reality — not yours. There is more to life than pleasing people. There is much more to life than following others’ prescribed path. There is so much more to life than what you experience right now. You need to decide who you are for yourself. Become a whole being. Adventure.” ― Roy T. Bennett

When I start to feel unsure of myself, aimless, or can’t find anything  that makes me lose myself, I have to remember that I need to always turn to Jesus who is the "Author and Finisher of my faith". I should not depend on anyone else, but only God, to come through for me. 

This isn't easy to do. When we make a decision that goes against what others expect of us, we usually will be choosing an uncomfortable and even painful journey. Sometimes, the burden will be so enormous that we will have three options every step of the way: give up, give in, or give it all we’ve got. I hope I will be able to choose the latter. 
Becoming a more resolute person will require me to dig deep and find the will to overcome any obstacles in my path. I cannot change outside circumstances, so I must change my response to the events. Going against the current is tough. When you start doing something different, you’re pointing out where other people are going wrong — so they may get angry and defend why they do what they do.
I know that all I can do is continue to be hopeful and persistent that He will answer in His timing. As I continue to wait, I also must resolve myself to accept this moment and to appreciate that my present circumstances are just as important my future experiences. I need to appreciate and be thankful for all He has done, in spite of what I have to endure. Ways that may help me through this would be to write down my goals everyday, focus on the task I wish to accomplish, and maintain my resolve even when times get hard. If I see something in my life isn’t working, I must be willing to change it up and be flexible, or be willing to embrace my conditions, and to be kind to myself and know that building resolve is a work in progress. 
“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

What is meant to be invites me to let go of the mental struggle that opposes the natural flow of life's events. Life proceeds, regardless of your resistance to it.
"The Christian life is not a sprint ... it is a marathon. Training for one is far different from the rigors of preparing for the other." 

“Jesus has called you to run a race. It’s a faith race. It’s long-distance and multi-terrain.”

Other encouraging verses to help us to endure in our lives: 
  • "But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” (2 Chronicles 15:7)
  • So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Cor. 9:26-27)
  • forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. (Philippians 3:13)
  • “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised” (Hebrews 10:36)
  • “Let endurance complete its work, so that you may be complete and sound in all respects, not lacking in anything.”​ (James 1:4)
  • "Don’t waver in resolve. Don’t fear. Don’t hesitate. Don’t panic. God, your God, is right there with you.” (Deuteronomy 20:3)
  • "Strengthen your resolve and do what must be done." (2 Samuel 2:7a)