Everything happens for a reason….but whose reason is it?

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I know someone who is very fond of saying, “Everything happens for a reason,” meaning that everything that happens is supposed  to happen.   It’s actually a fatalistic view of the world, of course – depending on who says it.

You see, when a Christian says, “Everything happens for a reason,” what he or she means is that the Lord can use anything for the good of His Kingdom.  However, the actual statement, is somewhat faulty.  Let’s examine.

God is in complete control – period.  However, BECAUSE He allows us free will, things happen everyday that are outside the will of God.  For instance:  adultery, murder, homosexuality, unwed mothers, theft, idolatry, gossip, etc., are ALL outside the will of God.   God CAN use those experiences for good, but that is because He can REDEEM a situation – NOT because He condones it.

The things that happened in my past – wait, let me rephrase – the things that I did in my past are there because I chose to do them – NOT because God wanted me to do them, or to have those experiences.  Quite the contrary – had I lived within His will for my whole life, I would have been spared much of the pain of the guilt of sin.  But, I chose my own way for a season.  Some would say, “Everything happens for a reason.”  But, whose reason is it?

The truth is, the things that happened in my past happened for my reasons.  They were what I wanted.  They were not what God had planned for my life.  He knew it would happen.  He allowed it to happen.  And in his infinite grace and wisdom, He chose to REDEEM my life IN SPITE OF WHAT I DID.

That’s the key – in spite of me.  God redeemed my life, saved my soul, and gave me hope not because of me, but in spite of me

God calls us to obedience, and through obedience, He can bless us.  But when we are disobedient, He sometimes allows us to feel the sting of the consequences of our actions so that we can learn a lesson for next time. 

Regardless, we serve a God who is in the Miracle Making Business.  In fact, He has a monopoly on the market.  So, when the world condemns a situation, God can redeem it for His purposes.  This is evidenced by Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”  In my KJV Bible, the word His is italicized.  Emphasized.  Special.  It is THE word to take note of in this verse – HIS purpose. 

So, yes, in a sense, I guess everything happens for a reason.  But, we need to be very careful in placing the blame of reason where it rightly belongs.  Did it happen because God supernaturally caused it to happen (and He can!)?  Or, did it happen because we were living outside the will of God and ignored His laws and precepts?

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When you say, “I’ll pray for you”

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Your cousin’s mother-in-law is going for surgery in a week.  Your cousin asks you to pray.  You say you will.

Your best friend says she is worried about her finances and asks you to pray for God to show her what to do.  You promise to pray daily until He answers her.

Your brother asks you to pray for his marriage.  You agree to pray daily, without fail, until his marriage is back on track and winning again.

But, life happens.  You pray, but the prayers are for things you need just to make it through the day.  You ask God to help you find your lost car keys, make it to the doctor’s office on time, and to make that last $50 stretch until payday.  You remember your promises to pray for your friends and family, so you say a rushed prayer while you drive to the grocery store.  You know you should do more, but the time just slips away.

Does this sound like you?  I’m not judging, because I have been there all too often, myself.  The question is, who are we short-changing when we fail to pray like we promised?

In my humble opinion, we are doing ourselves a disservice.  Don’t get me wrong, the person we are praying for definitely receives a benefit, too, but we miss even more.  We miss the opportunity to go before the God of the universe and plead for a fellow believer.  And sometimes, we have the opportunity to plead for the salvation of another human.  We get to wrestle with demons for that person’s eternal destiny!

But, all too often, we don’t.  We miss the boat.  We throw up a quick prayer and hope God counts it as a real one.  Yes, quick prayers are good sometimes – sometimes they are all we can manage in certain situations!  But, when there is something big – salvation, health, marriage, etc – at stake, we owe God and the recipient more than a few seconds.

I challenge you to spend a minimum of 3  minutes of prayer for EACH person or situation you have agreed to pray for – daily.  For 5 people, that only adds 15 minutes to your prayer time.  You can do it!  (You may need to get up an extra 15 minutes earlier, but, you can do it!)

Bible Reading Challenge!

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Ok gang….sorry I haven’t posted this sooner.  But to be honest, I hardly even crawled out of bed yesterday!  And for me to stay away from the computer completely, well, you know I must be sick!

Anyway, here’s how this will work.

Each Sunday, I’ll post reading schedules for Monday thru Sunday.  Sometime during that week, at least once, to be a “TRUE” participant, you’ll need to post a comment about that week’s readings.  You can post everyday, or you can post once for the week.  Of course, I’d love for you to post each day, but we are all very busy, I understand.  Also, tell your friends, teens, kids, family, etc., to stop by and join our challenge!  I’ll be accepting new participants as the year goes by, but they won’t have the advantage of reading through from the beginning as we will.

Some ideas and hints for your readings:

Because this is reading through the Bible in a year, you may consider making these readings separate from your daily quiet times.  That way, you don’t get caught up on something and fall behind.  Instead, keep a notepad handy, and jot down verses you’d like to go back to later.

Consider making this a family endeavor. Reading aloud may take a bit longer, but the rewards earned by participating as a family will be worth it.

You’ll have two readings each day.  You can read these all at once, or split them up.  The most obvious way to do it is once in the morning, and again in the evening.  However, there are other ways to work it in:  read during your lunch hour at work; read while the kids are napping; in the doctor’s office;  while waiting for your daughter’s ballet class; read during baseball practice, etc.  The most important thing to do is to make it a habit.  It needs to be something you do everyday without fail, without question. 

Finally, and actually the most important of all, pray. Pray before you begin each reading session asking God to open your eyes, ears, heart, and mind to His wisdom and instruction.

Ok, now those are the “rules.”  Here is the schedule through Sunday, January 4, 2009:

Jan 1:  Genesis 1-2             Matthew 1

Jan 2:  Gen. 3-5                   Matt. 2

Jan 3:  Gen 6-8                    Matt 3

Jan 4:  Gen 9-11                 Matt 4

Next installment of schedules due out on the 4th!

Happy reading!

Toni

Hope you had a fabulous, blessed and peaceful Christmas!

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I know we had a great one!  The Christmas season seems to pass by so quickly within the worldly scheme of things.  And yet, we know, that Christmas, as our teacher said yesterday at church, is not simply a “winter event.”  Christmas is a miraculous, wonderful, blessed encounter with the Incarnate Christ!  Immanuel!  Let’s remember that throughout the year – as well as reminding others of the miracle of His birth, His death on the cross, and His resurrection.  As our teacher pointed out, again, these are the very pillars of our faith.  (Ok, he pointed us to Paul, who pointed that out.)  It was an awesome sermon/teaching session.  I think our teachers/church leaders always do a fantastic job, and yesterday they did not deviate from their goal of providing excellent “meat” for us to chew, and making sure they were in line with the Word.

May we Christians spend the entire year being true to the Word – not watering down the Gospel as we present it to the lost world.

Have  a blessed New Year…..and don’t forget to share a few of your New Year’s Goals with us!

Blessings,

Toni

Still waiting for those who will accept….

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the CHALLENGE!

We have about a week left before the end of the sign-up for the Read-Your-Bible-Through-In-A-Year Challenge!

So far, only one brave person has signed up!

C’mon people!  You know you want to do this!  You know you NEED to do this!  All it takes to sign up is a quick comment to this or the previous post about the challenge!  (I do suggest you read the previous one, as it tells how this is going to work….)

God says His Word never returns void, so if we endeavor to read it through in a year – by the end of the year we will have been TREMENDOUSLY blessed and radically changed!

And, wouldn’t you agree, this world NEEDS RADICAL CHANGE?!?!

So – comment and sign up today!  As if being totally blessed by Jehovah wasn’t enough….there will be a few goodies along the way!

So, c’mon!  No more procrastinating!  Comment NOW!

Will you accept my challenge this year?

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I have been feeling a need to do this, so here it is:

I am issuing a challenge to each and every one of you – EVERYONE that reads this blog!

The challenge is this:

Read through your Bible in one year with us!

Now, if you have done it before, GREAT!  Do it again!  And if you haven’t, PERFECT!  Do it now!

Here’s how it will work:

I will post a reading schedule at the beginning of each week.  It will list the daily readings for the week, and be the catalyst for comments during the week on the readings we are doing.  I plan to have some free goodies for those of you who participate (by participate, I mean, leave at least one comment per week on that week’s readings!).  And, there is a distinct possibility of having a drawing mid-way through and at the end of the year….if not quarterly!

So, join with us today….we begin on January 1st!

Leave a comment on this posting if you will be taking up the challenge to Sharpen Your Sword all year long!

Preparing for Battle,

Toni

Love letters

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Imagine this scenario:

You pick up your mail, like usual. As you sift through the endless amount of bills, credit card offers, sales flyers and more junk mail, you see a long white envelope with an actual stamp on it. You pull it from the stack and realize it is a letter from a dear friend you haven’t heard from in years! You pull into the driveway and read the letter before you even put the car in park!

Or, how about this one:

Ladies, you’re being courted (or dating as is said now, though the two are not interchangeable), and your betrothed presents you with a handwritten letter. The letter tells you about the way his life was before you met. It tells you about how great of a love he has for you and talks of future plans and dreams. And deep within, in the middle of the letter, is a wonderful surprise – a marriage proposal. This is definitely a letter you will read again just before you walk down the aisle. In short, it is a letter you will read over and over again, breathing in each and every word as if your very life depended on it.

Try this one:

You receive a poetic love letter from your spouse. The letter is very long, and handwritten, with all types of prose. It begins with the story of your lives together. It tells of the good times, and the bad. There are pages that talk of nothing but hardship, and other pages that are full of blessed memories. There are poems and beautiful language. You read this letter everyday, especially since your spouse is now deceased. You treasure every single word, and you can almost say the entire thing by heart. It is, by far, your most valued possession.

Now, imagine this one:

Imagine getting any of those letters, and only taking it out once a week to read one or two sentences. Imagine only reading the parts that are happy, and not ever bothering with the parts that are hard to understand.

Instead of reading it all, you pick out little bits of information here and there, but you miss the big picture since you never read the whole thing. But, after all, you don’t have time to sit and read the whole thing. Dishes must be washed, laundry folded, errands run, and emails to check. So you miss out on the wonderful words and sweet poetry your friend or loved one put together, specifically for you.

Are you wondering where I’m going with this? It’s been said that the Bible is God’s love letter to us. And it struck me tonight that if it is indeed a love letter – or a letter at all – we have ignored it unopened on the desk corner for far too long. Unlike the long-lost friend’s letter, or the letter from our beloved husband or wife, we open it and read only a verse or two once a week. And we wonder in the meantime why there are days when we just don’t understand what’s going on. There are days when nothing makes sense, and when we ask God to explain it, we wonder why He doesn’t speak to us.

The truth is, He does speak to us still, and has given us something that the early church would have gladly died for – a book that contains His words and thoughts. We have in our hands something of such great value that people die for it everyday. And we leave ours all too often on a shelf or coffee table to gather dust.

Why don’t we give our Bible the same attention and care we give those love letters? After reading those love letters, we can quote so much of it word-for-word, and yet we have a hard time remembering much more than a few scriptures, and then may only know the jist of it. Knowing its address (the book: chapter and verse) is another thing.

So my challenge is this: treat your Bible and the word of God as 1000 times more important than any other love letter you could ever receive. Read it every single day. Read it all the way through (not all at once, of course!) – and then do it again. Carry it with you when you travel. When you feel worried, scared, happy, sad, or blessed, read it. Memorize it – hide its words in your heart.

Do that, and its guaranteed, when the hard times come, you’ll have a direct line to God – His written word. And you’ll have a much easier time of knowing how to handle everything that comes your way.

Spend time in His word today – and be blessed.

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