Do you ever look back and wonder how you got to the place where you are now? You ponder all the roads you traveled, the many places you stopped, and the adventures along the way and you feel unbelievably blessed.
God gives so many wonderful blessings in this life. One of the best blessings He gives are friends. Companions to share adventures and struggles with. God puts these beautiful people in our lives to help build, strengthen, and share our faith.
The only catch to this blessing is that in order to have friends we must be friendly (Proverbs 18:24)! We must be willing to invest in people and unselfishly seek their best interests. When we are friendly, we experience the best from people. If we are willing to give of ourselves, we gain encouragement to succeed, support during difficult times, and a motivation to keep us from quitting.
One of the best reasons for God giving us friends is to remind us that He is our friend. Jesus, the Son of God, chose to be our FRIEND. He emptied Himself, to provide for His friends. This love should motivate us to be His friend and be a friend to all mankind.
Jesus our Friend is the reason we are blessed to be together and in this place!
“ Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.  You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.  These things I command you, that you love one another.” — John 15:13-17
“Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands! Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise.” Psalms 100:1-4
Psalm 100 is all about coming into God’s presence in a way that honors Him and puts our hearts in the right place. While each line fairly bursts with joy and can be meditated on individually, the psalm as a whole is a call to worship. As we begin to gather, the psalm provides inspiration and direction. Coming before His presence with singing is more than an outward action; it’s a heart that’s already blessing the Lord. To enter His gates with thanksgiving begins before we enter worship. A thankful heart is a sign of connection with our Lord; it is a heart poised to receive from God.
In the Old Testament language, coming into His courts means we are getting closer to the temple’s inner room where God’s presence dwelt. But in the New Testament experience, we already have access to God because Jesus’ death removed the veil separating us from His presence. (Matt. 27:51) Now, we press in closer to God, giving Him the praise He deserves for who He is and what He has done.
There is no “formula” for entering God’s presence. Some of you may say in private, “I don’t know how to talk to God,” but our God is not impressed by fancy words and sees the intent of the heart. The HEART! Psalm 100 inspires us to prepare our hearts and mind as we prepare our bodies and clothes. It reminds us that we are not just ‘going to church’ or praying; we are coming into the presence of a living, giving God to whom we owe the deepest gratitude and worship. Let us hear this call to worship as clearly as they did thousands of years ago and press into Him with thanksgiving, praise, blessing, and prayer.
God has listened and heard our voices in prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected our prayers or withheld His love from us! In our present time, many are seeking ways to approach God and can’t find the words. In prayer your words may be those of the Bible, church tradition, an inspirational writer, or spoken from the depths of your heart. Whatever words you use be meek, pray humbly, pray trustingly … pray daily ... pray thankfully.
“Before they call I will answer, while they are still speaking I will hear, says the Lord.” Isa.65:24-25
Paul speaks in 1 Timothy 4:12 to be “an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” When choosing a spiritual leader, it is definitely a tall order to fill - from a human perspective. When God appoints a spiritual leader, character, not age, is the determining factor. Let’s reread 1 Timothy 4:12 completely: “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”
When God calls a spiritual leader from His people, that person will be effective only to the degree that he is in a solid, life-changing, life-giving relationship with the Father. Serving God calls for Godly people, but even for the saintliest among us, service is not a right. Rather, service in God’s kingdom is a privilege given to those who walk with God and who reflect His character.
If you are blessed to be in a position of leadership, ask God regularly to help you serve Him with a humble awareness of the privilege He has granted you. Ask the Father to make your life a Godly example that others can emulate for their good. If you are led by Godly leaders, pray regularly for them, thank God for them, and express your
appreciation to the leaders themselves. Humble servants who faithfully handle the Word of God are a rare and precious gift to the church and ought to be treated as such.
“The woman bore a son called his name Samson; and the child grew, and the Lord blessed him” Judges 13:24
A male baby was born as a gift of God to Manoah and his wife. He was dedicated at birth as a lifelong Nazirite, which meant he could not cut his hair, drink strong wine, or touch a corpse. Ultimately Samson violated all three restrictions, but in Samson’s youth the Lord blessed him. God give him amazing strength and unbelievable victories. While growing up I would see the Bible movies about this man Samson and I was so impressed by the strength given to him by God. I would ask God to give me the strength of Samson and the wisdom of Solomon. This was my daily prayer while growing up in my youth. Have any of you ever had this same desire?
You see, Samson knew Gods’ great blessing on his life, but this man's susceptibility to sensual pleasures was his downfall. Let us learn from this. Samson was defeated not by his enemies, but by his lack of self-control. This is something to ponder. Sadly, he was unaware when the Lord departed from him (Judges 16:20). It is possible to be so preoccupied and distracted from God that we, like Samson, do not even notice the Lord’s strength departing from us. Our God is not obligated to save us from adversity we encounter as a result, especially if we have brought it on ourselves.
Sadly, Samson ultimately forfeited God’s blessing on his life and ended his days in humiliation and grievous bondage. Like a lot of people, Samson‘s life had held great promise, yet he took God’s blessing for granted. As a result, Samson's downfall was great which is a pity.
As I grew and matured as a man I knew He had blessed me with great natural strength and I remember what happened to Samson. Not only did God bless me with natural strength, but I also received mental and spiritual strength as well. With these blessings come great responsibilities and accountabilities. We all have these strengths and will always have these blessings if we stay obedient to His Word.
What lesson does Samson’s life have for us today? God is my Helper - Psalm 54:4; God is My Salvation - Psalm 62:7; God is My Strength - 2 Samuel 22:23, Habakkuk 3:19; God is My Refuge - Psalm 46:1; God Gives Wisdom and Knowledge - Ecclesiastes 2:26; God Knows Your Heart - Luke 16:15;
His Presence with Us, AMEN!
Colossians 1:9-14 “that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him”
Are you living a life that is pleasing to God? If you were pressed to give an answer how would you respond? We tend to define “PLEASING GOD” by our own experiences & beliefs, our likes and dislikes, and our positions about life and liberty. Maybe we think pleasing God means, having been baptized for the remission of sins which is extremely important for salvation! Or, it's the absence of certain vices … not coveting, murdering, stealing, committing adultery, and other BIG sins. This too is extremely important.
Is this ALL that is required? What is The litmus test for fully pleasing God? Is it the one who believes just like me? They must love the people that I love, show disdain for the people I don’t like, and can’t be pleasing to God unless they do. We want to live lives that please God so we want everyone to think, act, and feel the way we do about all of the issues. The Bible does communicate the idea about “Pleasing God” so consider these verses … Matthew 3:17, Matthew 17:5, 2 Corinthians 5:9-11, and 1 John 3:16-24. Pleasing God is absolutely essential to our relationship with Him. This cannot be overstated!
Here are some thoughts about what “PLEASING TO GOD” looks like from a Biblical perspective.
1. WE MUST BEAR FRUIT (John 15:1-8, Galatians 5:19-25) It is not a matter of trying harder, it is a matter of drawing closer. We don’t go out to bear more fruit ... we seek to draw closer to Him and the fruit will come naturally. How do we know if we are doing a good job? It’s whether or not we are different in the day to day world. The life that pleases God is the one that glorifies God in daily living. It is seen in how we do our job; how we treat our co-workers; the tactics we use and won’t use to make a profit; the way we handle our mistakes; the way we treat our family, friends, and neighbors.
2. WE MUST CONTINUE TO GROW CLOSER TO GOD (James 4:8) There is a difference in knowing God and knowing about God. It’s not only about information but also about transformation. Both are equally important! When you read the Bible, do you read it to discern God’s will or do you read it to prove a point? Now there’s nothing wrong with defending the faith (Jude 3) but our reason for reading and studying the word of God should be to draw closer to God in our relationship. In Philippians 3:10, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” and in 2 Peter 3:18, “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Bible study must be all about God and our relationship with Him. An added benefit is that we know, understand, and are able to defend the truth of our Great God.
3. WE MUST ENDURE TROUBLED TIMES WITH FAITH & PATIENCE (Romans 8:18-39) God is in control! Neither circumstance nor people can overthrow His plan. There is a purpose in the things that happen. God only does Good (James 1:17)! God never makes a mistake...NEVER! This world is not our home so don’t let the happenings of this world get you down. Therefore, in hard times…we don’t complain...we trust. We don’t walk away...we listen and try to learn. We don’t despair...we hang on tighter. And, we trust God because He is in control!
4. WE MUST BE GIVING THANKS (1 Thessalonians 5:18) How much do we complain? We must learn to open our eyes to REALITY and the reality is that we take too many BLESSINGS for granted!!! We may never fully understand in this life how much God has truly blessed us. However, counting our blessings will be a good start. We must realize that In Christ we have indescribable blessings. We must live in a way that expresses gratitude for the amazing gifts that God has given! We might not fully understand them but we can certainly live and express our thanks to God for all He has given.
Notice in Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Again, Are you living a life that is pleasing to God? I have no doubt that you talk about faith but the question to ask is: do they see faith in your living? Look at your life . . . What do YOU see? Hopefully a life that is pleasing to God!