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Thriving Faith

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Isaiah 55

55:1 “Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
4 Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples,

5 Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know,
and a nation that did not know you shall run to you,
because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.

6 “Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
7 let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

12 “For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the Lord,
an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” (ESV)

We have not had any petunias in our flower beds, oh in about three-years now. Yet, in a crack in our concrete driveway sprang up this beautiful bouquet of petunias this Spring. So, it’s just a narrow crack, maybe ¼” wide surrounded on both sides by solid concrete. The early church was like that. All around them were harsh, hard, and impenetrable conditions, yet they grew. One by one Herod was after the Disciples, killing some and throwing others in prison.

“But the Word of God increased and multiplied (Acts 12:24).”

The Apostle Peter’s time was up. He was arrested and thrown into prison and Herod intended to bring him before the people and have him executed. But, the people of God prayed and Peter was miraculously set free from prison. Like these petunias growing out of this crack in the hard harsh concrete God’s people can thrive even in harsh conditions such as we are experiencing in our community, state, country, and around the world. These harsh conditions can be overcome through the Word of God and prayer.

Just as it made a difference for Peter, your prayers can make a difference in these trying times we are going through. As our community of faith and our country goes through these difficult times, and we yearn for things to return to “normal”, while we ponder if this is the “new normal”, turn to the Holy Father in prayer. Pray for His Word to increase and multiply, and for God’s people to thrive! If we do that, and sharpen our focus on the Lord Jesus, and look to Him, then it’s all good!

Greater Plans

Jeremiah 29:4-14

4 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord.

Have you, like the apostle Paul, ever prayed that God would remove something from you that distresses you? (2 Corinthians 12:8) Or, like Job, asked that the Lord would just take you to be with Him?

“Oh that I might have my request, and that God would fulfill my hope (Job 6:8).”

When facing obstacles and challenges too big to handle, a certain amount of self-pity is tempting. The problem is that such an emotion is highly addictive. “Why me?” questioners often sink deeper and deeper into the barren gloom and doom landscape. I know that was true for me at one time, following an accident that left me with a crippled right arm and a deeply hurt spirit. I asked that question many times “Why me?”

 

 According to psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein, the heavy times in life need to remind you to take stock of your gratitude, set goals and move forward. When necessary, ask for help to get you off the slippery slope of misery. Develop an attitude of gratitude!

The Lord did not grant Job’s request to be freed from anguish, even knowing that Job had nearly reached his coping limits. With the map of time spread out before Him, God knew that He had bigger plans.

Trusting God is easy for an individual…or nation…when things are going well. But to keep your assurance when everything seems out of control – that is an exercise of your faith. Looking back now I can clearly see God had other plans for me….how about you?

Diplomatic Immunity

Acts 10:34-43
34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42  He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.

You know the frustration. Perhaps at a crowded mall lot on Sunday, or in a busy workday city center…the aggravation of searching for an empty parking place. International politicians in New York City have no such irritations. Thanks to the legal protection known as “diplomatic immunity,” certain luminaries can park wherever they want without fear of prosecution under local laws. In a recent year, for example, diplomats in Manhattan received 143,508 parking tickets, none of which were paid. Russian diplomats alone were responsible for 32,000 citations.

“Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains (Rev. 6:15),”

Some people feel they are above the law, but a day is coming when everyone will be subject to the same rules. The book of Revelation foretells a time when prime ministers and paupers alike will be hiding out in caves as God’s judgment is poured out on those who reject Christ.

Everyone needs the Lord in their life – no one gets immunity. Today, as you bring your requests before the Throne, ask God to guide your President, Senators, and Representatives in Washington D.C., that their decisions may incur His blessings, not judgment.

God to be judge of the living and the dead.43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (ESV)

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