Handling Our Troubles and Woes

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Every one of us have troubles and woes that we must deal with. They could be physical, financial, legal or emotional, but the person who doesn’t believe that they have any troubles is either deluding themselves or are living an especially charmed life. After all, they live in the same flawed world all of us live in and the troubles come from this world. As a good Christian, though, how do you deal with those troubles that come your way?

One of the first things that should come to your mind would be that you should pray about it. Indeed, you should. There is no trouble that God can’t overcome and the bible is clear about it. We are supposed to ask when we need help. Our Lord’s shoulders are far broader than yours or mine and He can take care of those burdens that we cannot. God does hear our prayers and he answers them. We should additionally thank and praise Him as he solves the problems we have, knowing that they wouldn’t have been solved without God’s intervention.

Naturally, there is a lot more to it than just prayer. There is more to it than just giving thanks when the issues are resolved through the grace of God. Do you know that the bible also tells us that we should be joyful when troubles occur? Consider James 1:2-5

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
It might seem strange that are we are to be joyful when troubles arise, but that is exactly what we should be. It also isn’t easy to do and God knows this. In fact, Jesus knows it first hand. Look at the troubles he went through in order for us all to have a means to be forgiven for our multitude of sins. When you have troubles, you are given a way to increase your perseverance, your strength, your faith and your blessings.
Notice, too, that James didn’t say “if you face trials of many kinds” he said “when”. There was and is no doubt that the trials will occur. Every time they do, though, by having joy you can know that you will be rewarded.
It is important to remember, to, where the ‘tests’ and troubles are coming from. God is not testing you. You’ve given your life for Jesus, so there is no reason God would have any desire to test you. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice and He has already done more than you can ever do to earn a place in God’s kingdom. God already knows your heart. Put in a different way, my family and I have been through two house fires that destroyed everything we owned. Neither was caused by us, and both times we barely got out with our lives. It would be ludicrous to think that a good and loving Father like God would say, “I think I’ll burn their house to the ground to see how much faith they have.” If you have children, can you imagine hurting your children just to test them or to instruct them? That isn’t the act of a good father.
In fact, I firmly believe that the only reason we survived either fire was through the intervention of God. The trouble that befell us came from the defiler, Satan, not God. As a believer in the sacrifice of Jesus, Satan will do anything he can to cause you to turn away from God and Jesus. One of those ways that he has used repeatedly in the bible is to cause doubt and to convince people that the trouble came from God.
“Why is God punishing me?”, “Why is God allowing this to happen to me?”, “Why doesn’t God protect me?”; all of these questions show a mind-set that is being caused by Satan, not God. They all show a weakness of faith and love for God. Though God didn’t cause the trouble, however, He is willing to bless you in ways nobody can even fathom. You need but to ask and believe in him. When He does bless you, he turns the adversity to advantage. That is something Satan hates, because it uses the defilers’ power against him and turns an evil into a God-given blessing. How cool is that?
Does it not, then, make sense that we can be joyful and praise God for using us to defeat yet more wicked plans of Satan?
None of us wants to have to deal with troubles, but we know that we will need to. How we face those troubles can ultimately create the growth we need in order to be best prepared for Jesus’ return. When we show joy and give thanks for the troubles we have, as strange as it may seem, especially to someone who hasn’t yet learned how wonderful Jesus is, we are glorifying God and showing him praise. It is no accident that doing this also helps us to feel far better about those troubles, no matter what they are.
Jesus is AWESOME!

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Understanding the Word ‘Nazarite’

nazarene or nazarite

The word “nazarite” (sometimes spelled ‘nazirite’) can be a little confusing to people who are reading the bible. The reason is that Jesus was occasionally said to be a Nazarene. The two words have different meanings. A Nazarene was simply someone who lived in the small town of Nazareth, which Jesus did according to the second chapter of Matthew.  Notice especially Matthew 2:23 –

and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene. (NIV)

The “he” who is being referenced here was Jesus who was taken to Nazareth by Joseph, along with his mother, Mary. Thus Jesus was a Nazarene. There isn’t a huge thing about this, considering that at the time of Jesus, since Nazareth wasn’t a very large town at the time. There were probably only about 200 people living there and the town was sort of remote. This means that the title was simply to say where Jesus was from, not to define his beliefs.

A Nazarite, however, was someone who followed a specific set of Hebrew rules, to keep themselves holy for God. There were three extremely strict rules that they had to follow. Those rules are laid down in Numbers 6:1-21:

6: 1 The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of dedication to the Lord as a Nazarite, they must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or other fermented drink. They must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins. As long as they remain under their Nazarite vow, they must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins.

“‘During the entire period of their Nazarite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the Lord is over; they must let their hair grow long.

“‘Throughout the period of their dedication to the Lord, the Nazarite must not go near a dead body. Even if their own father or mother or brother or sister dies, they must not make themselves ceremonially unclean on account of them, because the symbol of their dedication to God is on their head.Throughout the period of their dedication, they are consecrated to the Lord.

“‘If someone dies suddenly in the Nazirite’s presence, thus defiling the hair that symbolizes their dedication, they must shave their head on the seventh day—the day of their cleansing. 10 Then on the eighth day they must bring two doves or two young pigeons to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 11 The priest is to offer one as a sin offering[a] and the other as a burnt offering to make atonement for the Nazarite because they sinned by being in the presence of the dead body. That same day they are to consecrate their head again. 12 They must rededicate themselves to the Lord for the same period of dedication and must bring a year-old male lamb as a guilt offering. The previous days do not count, because they became defiled during their period of dedication.

13 “‘Now this is the law of the Nazarite when the period of their dedication is over. They are to be brought to the entrance to the tent of meeting. 14 There they are to present their offerings to the Lord: a year-old male lamb without defect for a burnt offering, a year-old ewe lamb without defect for a sin offering, a ram without defect for a fellowship offering, 15 together with their grain offerings and drink offerings, and a basket of bread made with the finest flour and without yeast—thick loaves with olive oil mixed in, and thin loaves brushed with olive oil.

16 “‘The priest is to present all these before the Lord and make the sin offering and the burnt offering. 17 He is to present the basket of unleavened bread and is to sacrifice the ram as a fellowship offering to the Lord, together with its grain offering and drink offering.

18 “‘Then at the entrance to the tent of meeting, the Nazarite must shave off the hair that symbolizes their dedication. They are to take the hair and put it in the fire that is under the sacrifice of the fellowship offering.

19 “‘After the Nazarite has shaved off the hair that symbolizes their dedication, the priest is to place in their hands a boiled shoulder of the ram, and one thick loaf and one thin loaf from the basket, both made without yeast. 20 The priest shall then wave these before the Lord as a wave offering; they are holy and belong to the priest, together with the breast that was waved and the thigh that was presented. After that, the Nazarite may drink wine.

21 “‘This is the law of the Nazirite who vows offerings to the Lord in accordance with their dedication, in addition to whatever else they can afford. They must fulfill the vows they have made, according to the law of the Nazarite.’”

The story of Samson was about a Nazarite. Samson’s tremendous strength was given to him because he was a Nazarite, and he was born to it. Judges 13:3-5 says The angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, “You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son. Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean. You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazarite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”

Of course, in the story of Samson, he violated the vow of the Nazarite, by drinking, touching uncooked meat and finally by allowing his hair to be cut. His demise was rather horrid, and indeed Samson also violated a number of God’s commandments before he suffered for his actions. Still, the point is that a Nazarite was a person who vowed to never drink alcoholic beverages, to touch dead flesh and to never cut their hair. The last one was so people would know that the man was a Nazarite even from a distance.

This is also an important point for biblical understanding. Jesus is often depicted as having long hair. However, Hebrew law was to have short hair and to be clean-shaven. One can only guess that the people who tried to paint a likeness of Jesus had heard of what the Nazarite vow was and didn’t understand that ‘Nazarite’ and ‘Nazarene’ aren’t the same thing. In fact, since Jesus followed Hebrew laws when they didn’t conflict with the laws of God, it is almost certain that he had short hair and was shaven, per Hebrew law.

Still, this is an excellent example of what happens when people don’t understand a term that is used in the bible. If Nazarite and Nazarene were the same thing, then it would be safe to assume that Jesus had long hair. Since they are not the same, it is safe to assume that he didn’t. Of course what he looked like has little to do with the wonderful message of hope, love, deliverance and his sacrifice for all men and women. However, it is important to understand the meaning of the words in order to fully grasp the meaning and the truth of the bible.


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An Answer to Troubles and Light in the Darkness

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Someone will read this who really needs it. I don’t know who, but there is someone who especially needs to hear this today.

Day after day, we are all surrounded with troubles, obstacles and things that cause anguish, confusion and strife. As Christians, we may even ask why God isn’t preventing the problems we face. This is wrong thinking, but it is a natural tendency because we are all flawed and sinful beings. God doesn’t create the troubles and obstacles; these are things of the world. Where our heart is will cause the fruits we receive from it. In Matthew 15:18-19 (NIV), Jesus says:

18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts–murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.

From our hearts, we get our thoughts and our words, and it is the wicked thoughts that become sinful actions. Thus, the troubles and obstacles we face daily are created within our own hearts. They are reflections of the desires placed there by the great deceiver and defiler; Satan. They don’t come from God. Remember that the bible explains that God is love.

If we allow God to reside in and to fill our hearts, His love and power begin to erode the power we have given to Satan. We give the power to Satan by giving in to the lies and promises he makes. Our desires are played so expertly that we are often not aware that those things we want are things that Satan has instilled within our hearts. Satan also understands better than we usually do that when God lives in our hearts, his power weakens. Because of this, one of his biggest goals is to do all he can to create a chasm between each of us and God.

Most Christians should and hopefully do know that there is tremendous power in prayer. This is a time when we are talking to God and in numerous ways, and in many scriptures, the bible encourages us to pray, particularly when we are troubled. Satan knows all of this, of course. Stoking the flames of desire and strengthening the sin in our hearts is a tool he uses expertly, but in an ingenious way. You see, our pleasures mean nothing to Satan. However, unacknowledged sin forces a wedge between us and our Father.

Psalms 66:17-18:

17 I cried aloud to him, and he was extolled with my tongue. 18 If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;

So by strengthening the sin in our heart, he knows that God will not listen to our prayers. What is sin, though? Each person will define sin a little differently. It can be summed up, though. Sin is the glory of God that isn’t honored. It is the holiness of God that isn’t reverenced. The greatness of God not admired. The power of God not praised. The truth of God not sought. The wisdom of God not esteemed. The beauty of God not treasured. The goodness of God not savored. The faithfulness of God not trusted. The commandments of God not obeyed. The justice of God not respected. The wrath of God not feared. The grace of God not cherished. The presence of God not prized. The person of God not loved.

James put it in another way, very simply, in James 4:17:

Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

One of the problems is that Satan is a master deceiver and he is eloquent. He can present something in such a way that it doesn’t feel sinful. He does this constantly and with expertise. At times, we all fall for it in one way or another. I certainly have. When it comes to strong spirits, and I’m talking about the kind of spirits that come out of a whiskey bottle, I am an alcoholic. My mother and father were both alcoholics, which means that there was a 100% chance that I’d be an alcoholic before I was even born. I cannot have “a” drink, I must have one after the other if I drink that first one.

The sin isn’t in having a drink. Jesus drank wine and turned water to wine. The sin is the overwhelming desire in my heart to have that second, third and fourth drink. Kiss logical thought goodbye, because if I have that first drink, my heart focuses on having more. Time and again, though, I’ve succumbed to having that first drink. I delude myself into thinking that ‘this time’, I can just drink one drink and that there is no harm in it. At the wedding of my very best friend, he offered me a drink. My thought was, “He’s my best friend and it would be an insult to him if I refused. Besides, it is just one drink.”

Do you see the deviousness of Satan here? If the man is truly my best friend, there is no way he would be insulted if I declined and I’ve already proven to myself on many occasions that there is no such thing for me as one drink. If I focus on that desire in my heart, though, I’m forcing my love for God out of my heart. That is exactly what Satan wants. I now refuse to let it happen anymore. Instead, I pray to God and listen to what He has to say in my mind. It doesn’t always make sense. Sometimes it is something that is uncomfortable, just as it is for me to admit to everyone who reads this that I’m an alcoholic. Sometimes I’m told to do things that I don’t believe I can do and my only response that I can make is to have faith in the Father, because he will never tell me to do something that I cannot do. At times, there is no answer that comes into my thoughts at all.

This is the position that many Christians face every day. I’m not talking about the drinking, but of praying and not receiving any answers in your mind; no inspirations from our Father. For a sermon to be written, it is vital that the reverend or pastor receive an inspiration from God, otherwise the words have no meaning. So what do you do when you have sin in your heart, repent for that sin and pray for help in overcoming it, but don’t ‘hear’ anything in your mind from God?

Friends, that is when you do the last thing that Satan wants you to do. You open the bible and start reading. The bible is the word of God and He can and does speak to you in many ways. One of those ways is contained within the passages that occur between Genesis 1:1 and Revelations 22:21. In fact, that should be one of the first resources you use when you have troubles and even before you realize that you have them. Nobody is telling you that you have to be a bible-thumper or that you need to try to cram the bible down anyone’s throats. I hope that nobody even tries to do that, because it can turn more people away from God than it brings to Him. Open the bible and read, that is all you have to do. Continue to pray, secure in knowing that God will help you overcome the sin that you’ve acknowledged and will inspire you in his Word, while conquering your troubles. I detest absolute statements and I just made one, so please read it again. That didn’t come from me, whether you believe me or not. It is a promise of God and it is biblical. Please don’t let yourself become discouraged, because the message is one of joy, love and astounding grace.

The bible contains the answer to your troubles and it will light your way in the darkness. Not one of us is without sin and we can’t avoid sin. God knows this. He gave each of us a beacon, though. Always, always remember that God never turns away from any of us. We can turn away from him, but He is always there and will help us when we falter and fall. Here is one final scripture that is so tremendous that I will leave it to you to read it for yourself, and yes, it is my way of encouraging you to read the bible: Matthew 7:7.

Jesus is awesome!


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The Importance of Salt in the Bible

salt of the earth

In the modern world, heart disease, heart attack and stroke easily account for the greatest number of deaths. More people die from each of these than from all the other illnesses combined. Most modern doctors tell their patients with high blood pressure and risk factors for each of these maladies to cut their intake of salt, because of the sodium. In light of this, it is safe to say that most Christians haven’t given much thought, if any at all, to the importance of salt in the bible and in biblical times and to the meaning of the biblical passages having to do with salt.

In the greatest sermon ever given, the sermon on the mount, Jesus said:

 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.  Matthew 5:13 NIV

Who was He talking about as being the salt of the earth? He was of course including the disciples, but the sermon was being given to the people, the Christians, so He was referring to Christian’s; the people who followed his words, teachings and examples. By extension, that means all Christians, even today. To really appreciate what He was saying, though, we need to understand the importance of salt.

The area around the Sea of Galilee, where the sermon was given, is hot even today. At the time of Jesus, the entire area, including Israel and Judea, was far hotter than it is today. Our world is substantially cooler now than it was back then. However, consider for a moment how important salt is to people in desert regions today. Since a lot of salt is lost through perspiration, the salt must be replenished or a person will die. Sodium is needed to control body temperature.

Further, without refrigeration, meat would spoil in the heat if it wasn’t preserved. Salt was and is a powerful preservative. It was even rubbed into hides to make them last longer. So salt both preserves and replenishes. It was so important in those times that it was used as money on occasion, so it had value, too.

Knowing all of this, we can begin to understand what Jesus was saying to all Christians, to this very day. Every one of us is important to Jesus and to the father. We are the salt of the earth. By spreading God’s word and showing in our actions what the teachings mean, we can help replenish and preserve the souls of everyone we meet. We can be of great value to God and to his kingdom.

At the same time, we are given a warning. The salt around Galilee has many impurities, just as we all do. When it is subjected to the elements of the world, the sodium chloride…salt…can be leached out, leaving behind only the impurities. It still looks like salt, but it has lost its saltiness. Salt that has lost its saltiness is worthless. It no longer preserves or replenishes and can be thrown away, to be trampled upon underfoot.

Likewise, if we let the world wash through us, our zest for Godly things can gradually be leached out until we no longer have worth to God. Our drive for Godly things begins to be replaced with a drive for worldly things. It is doubtful that any Christian wants to be worthless in the eyes of God, so we must all work to stay salty in the word of God. This is done through prayer and through reading God’s word. Jesus also explained this a number of times.

It should bring joy to know that Jesus called you the salt of the earth. It means that you are valuable to God as a preserver and restorer. However, we are each tasked with turning away from worldly things and fighting to retain our saltiness. When we do, by God’s grace, wonderful things happen. This is as true for me as it is for anyone else.


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Are You a Christian Warrior?

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All too often, people have a perception of Christians as being meek, mild-mannered people who won’t stand up and fight. They point out, justly, that Jesus taught love for one another. The bible even says that God is love.

1 John 4:8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

In fact, Jesus is often pictured as an effeminate and frail man. Obviously he was neither effeminate nor frail. Being a builder and crafting both stone and wood means that he was almost certainly stout and muscular.

What about the perception about Christians as being unwilling to fight? This, too, is false. People who honestly follow the word of God to the best of their abilities know that there are times when we must fight. That doesn’t necessarily mean taking a swing at someone, though it certainly could if the reason was righteous, but it should be remembered that there are things worth fighting for. There is also such a thing as righteous anger.

Throughout the bible, though God is love and repeatedly demonstrates a loving attitude of a father toward his children, He is also a warrior. If we were created in His image, it means that all men have hearts of warriors.

Jesus also showed by example. Consider the story of Jesus clearing the temple, over-turning tables and chasing the money changers (cashiers) out of the place. Why did he do that? Because the temple of God was being defiled. Jesus was clearly capable and willing to fight, not for himself but for his Father. He was angry and he fought. John 2:12-16

12 After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.
13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
14 In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.
15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.
16 To those who sold doves he said, Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!
Unfortunately, there are many churches that claim to be Christian but that don’t fight for God and God’s kingdom. They allow, and at times condone, behavior that is obviously against what God and Jesus said in the bible. They don’t stand up against those things and fight for God with their words and actions.
To be sure, there are also churches that do stand up against wickedness and corruption. They are willing to fight for God’s kingdom. Again, that doesn’t mean that they are physically fighting with anyone. Sometimes the best way to fight the battle is to turn the other cheek. Other times, Christians must draw their swords, metaphorically. Properly focused, the fight is just and God has made it plain numerous times in the bible that he stands with us and fights in our behalf.
If you think about it, Jesus was the greatest warrior of all time, hands down. He even conquered death, while making it possible for every one of us to enter into the Kingdom, when the time comes.
The question we must ask ourselves is which kind of Christian we are. Are we willing to fight for what the bible teaches or do we want to be totally passive and let the worldly things overwhelm and surround us? The choice is ours, and it is a personal choice. However, the ways of the world are not the ways of God and there really are times when we must stand up for what is righteous and good.

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Good Lord Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise

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There is an old saying that came from the southeast United States that goes, “If the good Lord’s willing and the Creek don’t rise.” The saying is something a Christian might say instead of making a promise to do something or such. For instance, if someone asks you to meet them tomorrow morning for coffee, it would not be wise to say, “I’ll be there.” It is entirely possible that God may have other plans and since His plans are more important than your own, saying that you will be there to have coffee would be to set yourself up to be a liar.

Put in another way, you would be making a promise you might not be able to keep, even if you have every intention of doing what you said you would. This goes for nearly everything having to do with future events. You have no control over the future. God, alone, has the power to say what will happen an hour, day, week or year from now.

In fact, by saying that you will do something in the future, you are actually saying that your own will and plans are stronger and more important than God’s. Naturally, this probably isn’t what you would mean to imply, but the implication would still be there.

Thus, a far safer response to the question of whether you would meet for coffee the next day would be, “I’ll be there, good Lord willing.” By saying this, you are basically saying that you will be there for coffee as long as it is God’s will. By just adding those three words, you are actually paying respect to God, recognizing Him as the ultimate decision-maker and the most important thing in your life.

So where did ‘and the Creek don’t rise’ come from? I can tell you that this isn’t a meaningless addition, nor did it have anything to do with a stream of water. It had nothing to do with a flood, either. Naturally, if you were going to meet someone for coffee and you had to pass over a stream to do it, but the stream had flooded its banks, you might be prevented from meeting the person. This isn’t where the additional words came from.

In around 1800, there was a tribe of American Indians known as the Muskogee Indians. They lived in the southeast, primarily Georgia and Alabama. In fact, the town of Muskogee, Oklahoma is named after them.

At the time, there were far more Muskogee Indians than there were settlers. Though the Muskogees weren’t mean, vicious or cruel, they didn’t take kindly to mistreatment by the settlers and when it happen, an uprising usually followed.

Now, another name for the Muskogee Indians was the Creek Indians. This is when the whole phrase came into being. For this reason, “Good Lord willing and the Creek don’t rise” actually meant “if it is the will of God and we don’t get attacked by angry Indians”.

The phrase is still in use in the US, though it has been a very long time since the Creeks have had an uprising.


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