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10 Characteristics of a Blameless Life

Imagine entering heaven and approaching God’s throne. Picture yourself as you kneel at His feet and bask in the joy of His presence. All the struggles of life fade away as you praise Him who sits on the throne.

blamelessDo you long to enter God’s holy presence and joyfully worship at His feet? The woman whose “walk is blameless” (Psalm 15:2, NIV) may dwell in God’s sanctuary and live on His holy hill. I long to enter God’s presence, but I’m not sure I would describe myself as “blameless.”

According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, the Hebrew word translated as “blameless” in Psalm 15:2 describes a person with “nothing in his outward activities or internal disposition that is odious to God.”

Good definition, but that’s too general for me to get my mind around. I need some specifics about what a “blameless” life looks like. Thankfully, the Bible tells us. Psalm 15 and 102 describe a blameless life (Read them now if you have time. They are not long.) The following list of characteristics is derived from these two psalms of David.

  1. She practices praise – Regularly contemplate the holy nature of God. Recognizing His worthiness will not only foster praise, we will also be moved to obedience.
  2. She lives with integrity at home – Sometimes we fail to purposefully watch our words and actions at home like we do other places. We tend to let our guard down; to allow our first, sinful instincts to rule. We need to be as careful at home as we are away from home.
  3. She turns away from everything vile or vulgar – “Blameless” woman do not compromise with the sinful ways of the world. We don’t allow ourselves to become desensitized to immorality, crudeness, or risqué humor by watching it, reading it, or listening to it. For a sad example, read my recent post “Holiness is not a Shade of Grey.”
  4. She ruthlessly guards against evil thoughts and behavior (vs 3b-4) – We must proactively rid our lives of every thought and action contrary to the nature and character of God.
  5. She does not use her words to tear others down – Our speech should be edifying and encouraging. That doesn’t mean everything we need to say will be easy. But it does mean it will be helpful to the hearer.
  6. She does not collaborate with ungodly, wicked people (vs 3-4) – The only way to never encounter ungodly people is to leave this life and transfer to heaven. However, we can choose not to enter into agreements, projects, or business dealings with people whose worldview is not Christ-centered.
  7. She embraces honesty – Satan is the father of lies. Anytime we are less than honest we have yielded to the tempter! Let’s commit to total honesty in our own lives and conduct. We should also expect honesty from the people around us and distance ourselves from those who refuse to be honest.
  8. She does not seek gain that brings harm to others – God wants us to use our God-given skills, talents, and gifts to support the Kingdom, serve others, and provide for ourselves and our families. However, any effort for gain or advancement that takes advantage of others is sinful.
  9. She squashes pride and conceit – Pride fosters an abundance of sin. Those who want to live blameless before God will seek humility by keeping both God and ourselves in proper perspective.
  10. She helps, encourages, and protects the godly – God calls us to serve others and meet the needs of those who cannot help themselves. Do we respond when they cross our paths?

This may not be a complete list of “blameless” characteristics, but it’s a start. Let’s keep searching God’s Word, applying what He shows us, and enjoying His holy presence!

Which of these 10 characteristics do you struggle with the most? Why is that, do you think?

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3 Reasons for Joy

Monday Minute in the Word, devotionalTrials fill our lives. This shouldn’t be surprising; Jesus said we would have trouble in this world (John 16:33). Not only do these difficult circumstances bring grief and pain, they also threaten to steal our joy. But believer, Jesus also promised His followers  “no one will take away your joy” (John 16:22). So how should we understand this?

I’ve heard it said that, unlike happiness, Christian joy has nothing to do with our circumstances. Yet, when I looked up the meaning for the Hebrew and Greek words most often translated as “joy” they have essentially the same meaning as “happiness.” Biblical joy can be defined this way:

 Joy, gladness, pleasure, happiness; the opposite of grief and sorrow; feelings that result from circumstances

The difference in fleeting joy and the joy no one can take away is the circumstances on which we base it. If we look to our temporary, earthly circumstances for joy, it will be stolen from us time and again. But if we rely on our eternal circumstances, our joy will be firm and secure.

Although I know my list could be longer, here are three reasons for joy God gives us in His Word:

  1. Salvation (1 Peter 1:5-9) – Peter beautifully shows how rejoicing in our eternal salvation far outweighs the grief of our temporary earthly trials. In the midst of our trials we are “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
  2. God’s Love (Romans 8:35-39) – Paul experienced great hardships and persecutions in this life. In spite of these things he experienced the joy of Christ (Philippians 1:18). How? No matter what he suffered, nothing could separate him from the love of God.
  3. Intimate Fellowship with Christ (John 15:5-11) – On the night He was betrayed and arrested, Jesus wanted to make sure His followers knew how to find their joy in Him. As we “abide” in Christ – stay closely and vitally connected to Him in obedient relationship – our joy will “be complete.”

Are you experiencing this kind of joy? You can! Read these Scripture passages and ask God to show you how to find joy in your eternal circumstances!

What other “reasons for joy” do you see in Scripture? Let’s share them with each other today!

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The Church is Like the Mall Food Court

Have you ever noticed the international flavor of the food court at your local mall? If it’s anything like ours, choices abound from all over the world. Italian, Chinese, Tex-Mex, Japanese, and Cajun. It’s a veritable United Nations for the taste buds.

Diverse origins, unique spices, specific tastes, they each appeal to different shoppers and satisfy varied culinary desires. Yet each restaurant works together to enrich our mall shopping experience. Not only do they share the same floor space in the mall, they often share seating area, signage, and condiment kiosks. Together they are the food court.

Church, Mall food courtLike the Church, the mall food court exemplifies unity within diversity. (Okay, I admit it. It is a bit of a “cheesy” example, but just go with it.)

Unified Diversity of the Body

Had the food court existed in the first century, Paul may have used it as an example himself. But instead, he was left with using the human body to illustrate the unified diversity of the Church. Here’s a taste from Paul’s writings.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, NIV

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 11So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Ephesians 4:3-7, 11-13, NIV

One for All

God calls the church to complete unity even as each member fulfills her unique calling within the body. In fact, God purposefully joins a variety of individuals together for the common good of the body.

When we each operate from our diversity to serve others the entire body will also be working as a unified whole to grow the body and build the Kingdom of God.

Different gifts from the same Holy Spirit. Different work for the same God. Unique individuals unified by our one Lord, Jesus Christ.

No one but our great God could have designed that!

What examples of diversity within unity do you see in your own church?

 

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6 Reasons for Joy

Real, lasting joy is based on our circumstances.

Does that statement contradict what you’ve heard about joy in a Christian’s life?

You’ve probably heard that joy is different from happiness. More than likely, you’ve been told that “happiness” is a reflection of our circumstances, but we experience “joy” in spite of our circumstances.

Well, according to what I see in Scripture, that’s not entirely accurate.

Yes, the Bible says believers can – and should – be joyful even in the midst of life’s trials (James 1:2-4). Because God uses these difficult circumstances to refine our character and purify our faith, we can rejoice in His miraculous work of making us fit for His use.

Reasons for Joy

Believers find joy in our eternal circumstances

But real, lasting joy is also based on circumstances. Wonderful, glorious, eternal circumstances. These circumstances don’t change with the economy or age or loss. The apostle Peter elaborates in his first letter:

 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:3-9, NIV

6 reasons to rejoice

I spotted six specific “circumstances” Peter mentions that should fill us “with an inexpressible and glorious joy!”

  1. New birth – We were dead in sin, but God has given us new life.
  2. Living hope – God will resurrect believers like He did His Son.
  3. Eternal inheritance – Jesus has prepared a place of eternal rest for us.
  4. Protected by God’s power – No one can take us away from God.
  5. Refinement of our faith – God even uses the painful things in our lives.
  6. Love relationship with Jesus – We have an awesome Savior that loves us!

The main Hebrew and Greek words translated as “joy” in the Bible all have similar meanings. They simply mean “joy, gladness, pleasure, happiness” and are used as the opposite of grief and sorrow.  Scripture uses “joy” to refer to feelings that result from circumstances.

So what’s the difference between worldly joy and the joy believers can experience? The difference is which circumstances. The shifting, changing circumstances of this life produce joy that’s fleeting at best. But the eternal, spiritual circumstances, which are founded in a saving relationship with Christ, foster joy that cannot be overshadowed even by the harshest earthly circumstances.

Where does the world usually look for joy? Why can’t we trust our earthly circumstances to bring us joy no matter how great they may be?

 

 

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The God who Heals, Sees, Provides, Protects…

Monday Minute in the Word, devotionalMany of us need healing in one way or another. Whether we face a physical, emotional, or spiritually “illness,” we long for God to intervene, to show His power, to fix things.  And usually we often wonder why He allowed this trial into our lives in the first place.

Recently, God taught me something new through a passage I’ve read many times (See Exodus 15:22-27). Don’t you just love it when He does that?!

Jehovah Rapha

The Israelites were fresh out of Egypt. Seaweed still clung to their sandals from the floor of the Red Sea. They had witnessed the miraculous power of God as their Deliver from a front row seat.

After three days of traveling through the Desert of Shur, the people got really thirsty. But when they arrived at Marah, they discovered the bitter water was undrinkable.  Of course grumbling and complaining commenced.

The people needed for the water to be “healed.” Moses cried out to the LORD. The LORD instructed Moses to toss a piece of wood into the water and it became sweet.  The people drank.

Physical need. God’s divine intervention. Healing.

Our need is an opportunity to experience God in a new way

God revealed Himself as “Jehovah Rapha” – God Heals – through the Israelites’ circumstances. If they had not needed healing then they would not have experienced God as their healer. If there had been no need, their understanding and experience of God would not have been expanded.

God often works through the circumstances of our lives to reveal His nature to us. In the midst of difficulties, we experience God in new and deeper ways. For instance, in illness, we experience the healing power of Jehovah Rapha. In trouble and loneliness, we discover that El Roi sees us, knows our trouble, and cares. (Genesis 16:13). And our needs are provided by Jehovah Jireh (Genesis 22:14).

The Lord is My Rock

Unshakeable Faith in THE Rock

These are just a sampling of the descriptive names for God in Scripture. Psalm 18:2, which is one of my favorites, is filled with beautiful words that help us understand God’s nature and ways toward us.

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield, and horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

I love, love that God is my Rock. Time and again He has proven Himself to be a Rock. He is my Selah, my firm foundation, my unshakeable place, my safe fortress.

In what ways has God made Himself known to you? What descriptive names of God have you personally experienced? I would love for to share experiences and/or Scriptures with us!

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What is love?

What is love? If you believe the movies, it’s defined by two beautiful celebrities locked in a passionate embrace. Our culture equates “love” with sexual attraction.

But that’s not real love. That’s just physical desire. And it’s fleeting at best. Like chocolate on a hot day, it doesn’t last long.

Why do we love? If you follow the example of our culture, we “love” to benefit self. We love those who deserve it or those who can help us in some way.

But that’s not real love. That’s simply shallow selfishness.

Our culture – and even ourselves – cannot teach us about real love. Only God can.

Real Love Defined

But God’s Word has the answers. The Bible defines love. The Bible tells us how to love, who to love, and why to love.

God is love

Real love is divine love. God calls us to love one another like He loves us (John 13:34-35). The Greek word translated as “love” is agape. It is love of volition, not emotion. We can choose to act in love toward another. Agape is also based on the character of the one acting in love and not the worth of the recipient. God loves us because of His perfect, holy nature, not because we deserve His love.

God loves us because of who He is not because of who we are. He loves because it is His holy nature to do so. That’s why God’s love is completely unconditional. It is based on His perfect self.

God’s love should be our example. Not our culture.

We love others because God loved us first. Even when we didn’t deserve it.

How to Love

This is a tall order. Jesus said we are to love each other like He loves us. Jesus gave His life for us. He put our needs ahead of His own and trusted the Father with the outcome. (See John 15:9-14.)

Who to Love

Jesus told us to love three groups of people. First, we are to love our fellow believers (John 15:12). Second, we are to love “our neighbors” (Matthew 19:19). Third, we are to “our enemies” (Matthew 5:43-44).

Huh. That’s sound like pretty much everybody to me.

Why we love

“We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). We are to love others because God loves us. He made us in His image. He calls us to reveal the love of Christ to the world. He is a God of love and we are to be people of love.

Love others like God loved us. Big assignment. But we also have a big, loving God.

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” 1 John 4:16b

Love. God is our reason, our example, and our enabler.

What do you find the hardest about loving others as God loves you?

 

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Do you need a makeover?

Monday Minute in the Word, devotionalAmerica loves dramatic “before and after” stories. We can’t tear ourselves away from The Biggest Loser, What Not to Wear, and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. We cheer with the crowd when they shout “move that bus!” We impatiently wait on the edge of our seat for the ugly duckling turned swan to be revealed. And we groan when the number on the scale is far too small.

I’d like to propose a new reality show. This “before and after” will last much longer than any fashion update, hairstyle makeover, or home remodeling. In fact, this “before and after” will have an eternal impact:

Extreme Makeover: Spiritual Edition

Let’s consider the show’s premise. “Before” the makeover the contestant was truly ugly. Her life was futile and dark. She was separated from God, insensitive, and given over to all impurity and greed. But then the truth of Jesus was applied to her heart. She was transformed and her old life became new! (See Ephesians 4:17-24.)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV

The “after” is indeed glorious! She looks more and more like Jesus every day as she seeks to live a righteous and holy life. She clothes herself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 She is patient and quickly forgives others as God forgave her. And most importantly, she covers herself with love. (See Colossians 3:12-14.)

Now this “before and after” is truly something to cheer about. Are you cheering? Crying? Sitting on the edge of your seat?

And what about you? Have you had a spiritual makeover? It’s never too late for an “after.”

What changes have you noticed in your “after salvation” life?

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Christmas Miracles – Do you believe?

Do you believe in miracles? How about at Christmas? Eight years ago, I witnessed a Christmas miracle.

It was December 24, 2004. Our family had moved to Houston just a few months earlier. It would be our first Christmas in the south after six years in the Canadian Rockies. To me, balmy south Texas did not feel much like Christmas.

Our new church had rented snow machines and excitedly announced there would be “snow” for the Christmas Eve service. But the promise of fake snow did not excite me. It only seemed to highlight the sad fact that we would not be enjoying the view of white-topped mountains from our window on Christmas morning.

snow covered moutains

Then the impossible happened. Middle of the afternoon on Christmas Eve snow began to fall across southeast Texas. And it continued off and on for 24 hours! I danced around in the backyard. Then my daughters and I rushed off to Starbucks because snowfalls are even better with lattes.

The National Weather Service deemed our Christmas snow to be “historic and rare.” South Texas had not had such a snowfall since 1895! Just south of us, Galveston Island received as much as 10 inches of snow and people built snowmen on the beach. I felt like God had worked a miracle just to encourage me. And all of southeast Texas got to benefit from it.

By definition, a miracle is an unusual occurrence that transcends the normal bounds God established for our physical world. He accomplishes these acts by His supernatural means to prove His power and authority. They confirm the working of His grace in our lives (Acts 14:3).

Although that Christmas Eve snowfall in southeast Texas was physically possible, it was indeed rare. In Scripture, we see God working to fulfill His purposes through both supernatural miracles and the manipulation of His natural laws. The way I see it, on Christmas Eve 2004 God manipulated nature into the “perfect storm” to bless His discouraged child.

Do you need a miracle right now? Between now and Christmas, we will be taking a closer look at the miracles of the first Christmas and consider how God could work in a similar way in your life today. When God’s supernatural power collides with your natural circumstances your life will never be the same!

What area of your life needs God’s miraculous work today? Do you believe in miracles?

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Mary Believed

Do you believe that God will do what He says He will do?

Mary and Jesus

Photo courtesy of VisualBibleAlive.com

Two thousand years ago, God’s plan for salvation was put into motion when a young Jewish girl believed God and submitted to His plan for her. The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced God’s plans to bring the Savior into the world through her. Mary’s answer? “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”

And so it was. The virgin, Mary, became pregnant with the Hope of the world.

Soon after the angel’s visit, Mary went to visit her relative Elizabeth who was already six months along with the child who would be a “prophet of the Most High” and prepare the way for Jesus. (Luke 1:76). Elizabeth greeted Mary with these telling words:

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished! Luke 1:45

God make His activity known to Mary. Because Mary believed that God could do what He said and therefore she got to participate in His plan to save the world. And I love her response!

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name.”

Luke 1:46-49

I wonder, have I ever missed out on participating in some mighty work of God because I failed to believe that what He said would be accomplished?

What about you? Do you believe that what the Lord has said to you will be accomplished? Do you believe that His Word is true and powerful? Are you missing out?

What promise of God will you believe today? What mighty act of the Lord are you trusting will be accomplished?

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Thankful for the Unshakeable

Monday Minute in the Word, devotionalUncertainty looms in our country and in the world around us. What will happen in the Middle East? Will the United States plunge over the “fiscal cliff?” Will we be hit with another natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy?

Governments, economies, and nations can topple. Jobs, homes, health, and even life can be lost. All of these things are temporary. None of them were created to last forever. But there is a permanent, unshakeable Kingdom we can depend on – and be thankful for!

When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: “Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.” This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain. Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. Hebrews 12: 26-29, NLT

Every year as Thanksgiving approaches we begin to reflect on the blessings God has poured into our lives. Family, friends, and church. Physical provision, health, and home. Most of us also express gratitude for our salvation in Christ and the abundant life He gives. But how often do we thank God for His eternal Kingdom?

No matter what earthly, temporal things fall away – and one day all of them will be removed – the Kingdom of God will never be shaken. God’s presence, authority, and power are unmovable and steadfast. His Kingdom is firmly established and our God will reign eternally!

If you have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, you are a citizen of Heaven. You have a place in the unshakeable Kingdom of God!

Voice your thanksgiving to God today for His unshakeable Kingdom!

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