Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sibling Matters...Brotherly Love

1 John 4:7, 11, & 12
Beloved friends, let us love one another; because love is from God; and everyone who loves has God as his Father and knows God. 11 Beloved friends, if this is how God loved us, we likewise ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God remains united with us, and our love for him has been brought to its goal in us.

Romans 13:8
Don't owe anyone anything - except to love one another; for whoever loves his fellow human being has fulfilled Torah.

Galatians 5:13
For, brothers, you were called to be free. Only do not let that freedom become an excuse for allowing your old nature to have its way. Instead, serve one another in love.

Ephesians 4:2
& 3 
Always be humble, gentle and patient, bearing with one another in love, and making every effort to preserve the unity the Spirit gives through the binding power of shalom.

2 Thessalonians 1:3
We have to keep thanking God for you always, brothers, as is appropriate; because your trust continues to grow greater, and the love you each have for one another continues to increase.

1 John 1:5
And now, dear lady, I am requesting that we love one another - not as if this were a new command I am writing you, for it is the one which we have had from the beginning.

Important verses to keep in mind from Romans 12:
9 - Don't let love be a mere outward show. Recoil from what is evil, and cling to what is good. 
10 - Love each other devotedly and with brotherly love; and set examples for each other in showing respect. 
17 - Repay no one evil for evil, but try to do what everyone regards as good. 
18 - If possible, and to the extent that it depends on you, live in peace with all people
19 - Never seek revenge, my friends; instead, leave that to God's anger; for in the Tanakh it is written, "ADONAI says, 'Vengeance is my responsibility; I will repay.'" 
21 - Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.

   Leviticus 19:18 says, "Don't take vengeance on or bear a grudge against any of your people; rather, love your neighbor as yourself; I am ADONAI." and in Matthew, Mark, & Luke - Yeshua says that the second greatest commandment is "love your neighbor as yourself" (the first being "love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength") and Yeshua said, "all the Torah & Prophets are dependent upon these two commands." So, obviously, loving one's neighbors as oneself is quite important...
   Loving your neighbor as yourself is actually quite simple, and can be summed up in one sentence; Don't do, say, or think anything to/about your neighbor that you wouldn't want them to do, say, think to/about you. See? Simple. The hard part is applying this, and getting your heart in the right place to do so.
   Love is a choice. It is a verb. So it requires action. If you say you love someone, it means little, unless you have actions to back up what you have said. If I say I love my mom, yet I am constantly arguing with her and am not willing to go out of my way to do things for her - then my actions have contradicted my words, and I do not truly love my mom.
Remember what love IS? 

~ Patient, Kind, Content, Satisfied, Modest, Humble, Respectful, Nice, Selfless, Calm, Easy going, Forgives, Forgets, Bears NO Grudges, Sorry when Others Sin, Takes Delight in Truth,  always Bears Up, always Trusts, always Hopes, always Endures, and Love is Alive Forever (Never ENDS)

Remember what Love is NOT?
~ Jealous, Envious, Boastful, Proud, Rude, Selfish, Easily Angered, Record keeping, and Doesn't Gloat over Others' Sins
   Our love for our siblings must measure up to this standard. I know, it won't always, but, genuine love is what we are aiming for - it is what Adonai wants us to have! As fallible human beings, we must entreat our G-d for His help daily to love others as we ought.
   It is true that often it is those we live with who are the hardest to "get along with". We see all their faults and attitudes - and they see ours too. We must be gracious & merciful with our siblings and family more than with anyone else, really. G-d forgives us, and is abundantly gracious and merciful towards us when we do wrong - should we not follow His example and give abundant grace and mercy towards our siblings?
Grace = Giving others good things that they do not deserve. (ie...a smile from you when your sister has been so mean, and in your opinion, definitely doesn't deserve kindness from you Proverbs 12:16, A fool's anger is known at once, but a cautious person slighted conceals his feelings.)
Mercy = Not giving others punishment/judgement that they certainly do deserve. (ie...not running to tell mom that your brother has been really mean to you and thus deserving of punishment - but rather, letting it go - Proverbs 19:11, People with good sense are slow to anger, and it is their glory to overlook an offense...)
   You know, writing this, I find myself thinking about how my relationship with my siblings has developed over the years. In my humble opinion, we as siblings have gotten along better than most do for all our lives. We've had ups and downs, but, only every now and then have our relationships become strained.....and with a few particular siblings, most of the time, it was my fault.   But just in the past year, my relationship with each of my siblings has been far better, and more peaceful. Maturity has much to do with this, I know. In the past, my mom would often tell be how, as the oldest, I must be more mature and as such be the first one to do what is right.    I know the thing that upset me the most was when I thought my "rights" were being infringed upon. I laugh at this now because I have come to realize that, I have no "rights" as I thought of them. ;-)
  Throughout the years, as you and your siblings grow older, if your relationship with each of them doesn't grow closer and less stressful, I would seriously consider praying hard for maturity.....Our siblings are supposed to be our best friends! [a great book on this subject is called Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends by Sarah, Stephen, & Grace Mally]
   As fallen human beings, rough rides are inevitable, because sin is ever-present. We must learn to avoid harping on other's sins, and allow our love to cover a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Remember, people with good sense overlook offenses - it is their glory! 
   We must fight our sinful nature and be holy, set-apart, and righteous for the glory of G-d! Our L-rd doesn't get any glory when we fight, argue, give quick judgments, take offence easily, or when we get impatient. If we take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), then it will be that much easier to keep from doing the things that do not give G-d the glory. Our relationships with out siblings can be beautiful, full of love, peaceful, delightful, fulfilling, and full of friendship - if we are willing to truly love our siblings as Adonai loves us.
   Honestly, young ladies, you don't have that much time with your siblings - you never have as much time as you think you do - so make the years you do have beautiful. Don't make them horrid by quarreling all the time! G-d has given you the siblings you need to build your character, to help you mature. So thank G-d for your siblings often, pray for them, do things with them that they want to do, talk with them. Don't tear them down! That is probably one of the worst things older siblings can do to younger ones! We must build each other up, and encourage each other!
   Love never fails! It bears NO grudges! This kind of love is beautiful! The world's "love" (which is selfish, and thus,  not true love) cannot be compared to it!
Thank Adonai that He has seen fit to give you siblings today, tomorrow, and ever after!You will not have them forever.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

January 2013 Guest Post

Well, after being absent from my blog due to end-of-year things - I am finally back! 
Happy Solar/Gregorian New Year, everyone! Welcome to 2013!

This guest post is for both December & January. The guest is Mirren Martin, who is here to give us some practical tips to grow in JOY. 


Mirren, you did a wonderful job on this post! It encouraged me and it was truly refreshing to me that all 7 of your tips are centered around Yahovah (the Lord), Yeshua (Jesus), and our relationship with our God! 
Our Father has given you great wisdom and I thank you that you have been willing to share with others here.


7 Practical Ways to Grow in Joy

1. Find time to spend with the Lord Jesus each day . . . the first step in finding lasting joy is having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 
   This promise is found in Psalm 16:11 where our Lord tells us that it is in His presence that we find fullness of joy. How can we be in His presence as humans? We can make time for Him by spending time in prayer, in praise, and in His Word. Here is the first “secret” to growing in joy—disciplining yourself to make the time to make Him your Best Friend—to have a personal relationship with Him. 
   Many Christians are void of joy in their lives. They can’t seem to “find” joy because they search for it from sources (Christian books, Christian movies, Christian friends, etc.—anything inspirational) instead of going to the Source and making time for Him each day. It is all about delighting in Him. It is so easy for us to delight in a best friend or a “special” friend (boyfriend, girlfriend), and we realize that these relationships are only deepened through spending time with that person. You spend time talking and doing things together when you want to further develop a relationship. For some reason, this doesn’t seem to connect with many Christians that, in the same way, if we want to develop a deeper relationship with the Lord Jesus—one that will produce and bring forth joy in our lives—we must take time for Him. 
   He tells us in Psalm 37:4 that as we delight in Him, He will give us the desires of our hearts. What are those desires? One godly desire of many Christians is to experience joy in this world of sin and sorrow. Well, then that brings out the question of “What is delighting?” so that we can delight in the Lord, so that we can eventually experience the desires of our hearts? Delighting is making sure our heart, our love, and our all are His as Mary Ellen Beachy explains in her book Women at the Cross. She goes on to make the exhortation that if we do not spend time with God each day, it is not because we are too busy, but simply because we don’t care enough about Him. Job depended on the Lord and drawing from him so much that in Job 23:12 he talks about esteeming the words of His mouth more than my necessary food. 
   The root of where joy-sapping comes from in Christians’ lives is their choice to neglect developing or desiring a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. As the great preacher Billy Sunday once said: “If you have no joy in your religion, there’s a leak in your Christianity somewhere.” That “leak” often is simply neglecting to spend time with Him. True joy springs out of a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. As Joseph Mermion explains: “Joy is the echo of God’s life within us.” Fullness of joy is found in His presence (Psalm 16:11).

2. Realize that following Jesus’ example will bring forth joy in your life. 
   What was His example?      His example (as you study the gospels and see how he responded to people and circumstances) is one of compassion for others, servanthood, dependence upon his Father, focus on others, endurance under trials and sufferings, selfless living, seeking to bring others peace, etc. So another way to develop joy is to focus on others with these same attitudes and attributes that Jesus did. 
   Joy is an attitude of the heart. The Expositor’s Commentary says that “a Christian’s joy does not spring from his circumstances, but from the blessings that are his because he is in Christ.” Being “in Christ” means that we are His children, but it also means that we are walking in His ways—as mentioned above, walking in His ways will be following His example and striving to take our focus off of ourselves and onto others. We too often fool ourselves into thinking that we will not be happy if we have to practice servanthood, or have compassion on someone who is mean to us, etc. Well, true, it might not be the happiest of situations to force ourselves (for one example) to show love to someone who has just gossiped or slandered us behind our back. This may not make us happy at the time and we may dread showing them love, and even after doing it, we may still feel a little awkward about doing the same type of loving action again. However, happiness is not what we are seeking—too often we think that we have to do all these different things to make ourselves “happy,” equating this with joy. 
   Happiness can often be something we are selfishly reaching toward and so it leads us more into a self-focus. We think that if we get to watch our favorite movie, go to our favorite shopping place, eat our favorite food, or spend time with friends and family that we love, we will be happy. We may feel happy for a little bit of time, however, happiness and joy are very different as happiness is fleeting, but joy is an attitude of the heart. 
   Therefore, in following Jesus’ example, we are seeking joy—not necessarily happiness (but joy can definitely bring forth happiness). It is developing joy that brings us contentment in life. Happiness will continually be fading and re-surfacing, fading and re-surfacing, and that is just “life,” but if we do not have joy, it is more tragic than losing out on a happy moment. Joy can keep us going through the toughest of times, it can keep us from getting depressed, it can make us able to put a smile on our face when our world is collapsing—because true joy is sourced in our obedience to our Heavenly Father as Jesus relays to His disciples in John 15:9-11 when He says, As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in His love, these things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

3. Looking toward our future hope can daily help us grow in joy—that future hope being our Heavenly home with the Lord Jesus. 
   Even Jesus was encouraged when He thought about the future of joy before Him when he was to leave this earth as seen in Hebrews 12:2 where it also encourages us to look to Jesus for our encouragement: Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 
   In Warren Wiersbe’s Songs in the Night he says, “We as Christians should never be sad or depressed because Jesus has died for our sins and we are forgiven. Now, Jesus is preparing us a perfect home in Heaven. We can have perfect joy always knowing that we will someday be with Him in Heavenly glory forever.” Jesus encouraged the disciples by reminding them of their Heavenly home: Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 
   The writer of Hebrews reminds us that the body of Christ will be able to joyfully endure afflictions and that their joy is based on their expectancy of their Heavenly home: for ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance (Hebrews 10:34).

4. Finding and then focusing on specific ministries can grow much joy into life. 
   Much joy flows out of a fulfilled heart. How can one attain a heart of fulfillment? Look for ways to minister! This will “fill” you. For example, when you have a choice to spend two hours on a movie or to spend two hours babysitting your little siblings so that your Mom can have a little free time. Which endeavor will bring you more satisfaction? Will ministering to your flesh and enjoying a two hour movie that may only feed your emotional desires bring fulfillment? Or, will the babysitting (or any ministry you get involved in) bring you more of a feeling of self-worth and that you have done something to bring someone else joy? 
   A major part of growing in joy is seeking to live for others above ourselves and thus getting involved in ministries—however small or insignificant they may seem—will do much to produce a joyful heart and positive outlook on life. A joyful spirit will bring joy to others and that can be a ministry in itself. We want to be like the first part of Eleanor Doan’s quotation (and not like the last part) as stated here: “Some people bring happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.” “Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves” J.M. Barrie said. 
   Warren Wiersbe in his book Turning Mountains into Molehills and Other Devotionals reminds his Christian reader to “never underestimate the influence of even one Christian. You may feel that your life is not accomplishing much; but if you are faithful to the Lord, He is using you as salt to accomplish His will where you are.” So, focusing on using our lives to minister to others can bring much joy. If you aren’t able to get involved in an actual organized or known ministry, then you can—as stated above—simply involve yourself in finding ways to make others feel joy and happiness. This is a ministry in itself. 
   As John Bartlett’s book of quotations states: “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap. The being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” Live to minister and you will grow in joy as well as grow in pleasing the Lord Jesus (Colossian 1:10).

5. Witnessing will increase our joy. 
   When we tell others the Gospel and share about Jesus Christ, not only are we giving them an opportunity to embrace the only true faith and thus secure their eternity in Heaven and not in Hell, but we are also finding the joy of sharing about our salvation. While salvation in the Old Testament was a little different than New Testament salvation, still the concept that God is our salvation and is thus saving us from evil is something that is true in both Testaments. Therefore, we can rejoice! But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation” (Psalm 13:5). 
    The more we focus on our salvation and sharing the true source of salvation with others, it becomes easier and more and more joy-fulfilling—especially when people respond! We should never lose a part of that specific joy that comes with knowing that we were part of God’s plan for saving a fellow human being. It is exciting and it is always something that can be looked back on with joy. Wiersbe says that “we have a sincere, spiritual joy in Christ because our sins have been forgiven.” We should be so excited about this and have the love for people that Jesus had, that we are daily wanting to share with others the joy we have found in our salvation so that they can also experience the same peace. 
   In Philippians 1:27 the Apostle Paul encourages believers to only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” We need to live it and preach it and this will grow our joy! And another wonderful thing is that when we share and someone responds and accepts the Gospel, we have pleased the Lord and brought joy to Heaven: I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance (Luke 15:7).

6. Spending time with family and godly friends can be a true source of growing our joy. 
   Hebrews 10: 24-25 explains that in the body of Christ we have the great opportunity of finding joy in fellowship by drawing from others and giving to others encouragement: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is: but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. The Speaker’s Sourcebook includes this thought from Geike: “It is not what is around us, but what is in us; not what we have, but what we are, that makes us really happy.” What we are as Christians is a part of Christ’s body and His body is the church and His church is called the Family of God. We can find many ways to grow in joy by being with fellow, likeminded Christians. The Speaker’s Sourcebook reminds us that “Joy shared is joy doubled.” Paul expressed in Philippians 4:1 that fellow believers were his joy and crown. We need to look for ways to build relationships with our friends and family members that will be relationships that point each other toward the things of the Lord, toward His Word and then we can prove a great source of increasing joyful times in others’ lives and this will plant a joy in our hearts—the joy of serving Jesus by serving others.

7. Focusing on God’s promises and making them our own will bring lasting joy
   Even in the toughest times, God’s promises will pull us through! In John 16:20- 22 it talks about a few different tough times, but each of these verses ends with the promise that joy will come. Verse 22 ends with the promise that no man can take our joy. Psalm 30:5 ends with the promise that weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. Wiersbe says, “It doesn’t matter what you are going through, if you have Jesus as your Savior, you can always experience joy.” Colossians 1:11 explains: Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness. Ryrie’s study notes for this verse focus on the portion: with joyfulness. Ryrie says: “This is what distinguishes the Christian’s patience and longsuffering from the Stoic’s.” In other words, Christians can show joy even in the midst of times when they are having to exercise patience and longsuffering because they have God’s promises to lean on. After all, it is the joy of the Lord that is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10)! When we have problems growing in our joy, we need to take a moment and focus on one or several of God’s promises to us and we will find ourselves being encouraged and strengthened in the Lord and this will produce joy as we realize that we can trust God’s promises! Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice (Psalm 63:7).  

Thanks again, Mirren, for taking the time to guest post! I hope you are have been encouraged by Mirren's words of wisdom today!