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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Jephthah- A Rash Vow

~ Jephthah & Jephthah Daughter ~

Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of an harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah. And Gilead’s wife bare him sons; and his wife’s sons grew up, and they thrust out Jephthah, and said unto him, Thou shalt not inherit in our father’s house; for thou art the son of a strange woman. Then Jephthah fled from his brethren, and dwelt in the land of Tob: and there were gathered vain men to Jephthah, and went out with him.”* (Judges 11:1-3)

God here acquaints us with the unfair pressures that shaped Jephthah’s life. It wasn’t Jephthah’s fault that his father sinned and put him in such a predicament. Nor was it fair for the other sons of Jephthah’s father to treat him in such a way as to make him feel obligated to leave the country, especially since he seems to have achieved some merit in his life: “Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour.” It is a further measure of just how respected he was for his valour that (in spite of the thrusting of him out of the home) when the Israelites were in trouble with the Ammonites, they went to him for assistance (see vs. 4-11).

And so this man, Jephthah, responded to a life-or-death crisis. He would either prevail against the children of Ammon or they would prevail against him and his people. The trial would either make him or break him. To fail would be utterly disastrous; to succeed would mean everything.

Such pressure as this brings out a great deal of what we have. And we are given a picture of how Jephthah thought and how spiritually prepared he was for the crisis of his life by the conversation between Jephthah and the king of the Ammonites.

In verse 12, Jephthah asked the king of the Ammonites, “What is wrong? Why do you want to fight us?”

This king replies to Jephthah, “Israel took away our lands [300 years ago]. Now restore them” (vs. 13).

Jephthah then makes a long reply to the Ammonites in verses 14-27. Basically he says that the lands were not taken because Israel just wanted them. The Israelites merely wanted passage through the lands of Ammon (and Moab) to get to Canaan. But these countries would not give that passage and attacked Israel. They were defeated and their lands taken, but not because of Israelite aggression. Furthermore, they have had 300 years to recover their land and had not done so. Jephthah concludes, “Wherefore I have not sinned against thee, but thou doest me wrong to war against me: the LORD the Judge be judge this day between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon.” (Judges 11:27)

This argument reveals a great deal of knowledge about God and His dealings in the past with the Israelites and their neighbors. It is accurate knowledge. God had indeed done those things, and it had happened as Jephthah related it. What is missing is a current relationship with God, characterized by faith and confidence in Him. Jephthah knows about God, and his knowledge about God is correct, but Jephthah doesn’t know God! Think of this! He is facing the greatest crisis of his life, and he doesn’t know God! He only knows about Him.

All of this comes out in the vow that Jephthah made. “And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.”* (Judges 11:30-31)

A man that knew God and had faith in Him would not feel the necessity of making the vow that Jephthah made. He would understand that God did not want or take pleasure in such an extreme commitment. Jephthah misunderstood the character and nature of God. He thought within himself that God was of a nature to be moved to help by the extremity and severity of his sacrifice, and he still thought this (as did his daughter), even when the full extent of that rash vow became apparent. The awful tragedy of the whole matter is that God was not as Jephthah understood Him. God was all too willing to help and did help them, but God took no pleasure in Jephthah’s vow. As the Lord said at a later time to the Israelites, “They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind.” (Jeremiah 19:5)

Now God could have delivered Jephthah from the consequences of his rash vow, just as God delivered the Israelites from the Ammonites. God could have fixed it so that Jephthah’s daughter, his only child (Judges 11:34), did not come out of the house, but God let it be. God let Himself be misunderstood. God let the matter proceed as it did. There were reasons why Jephthah had not gotten to know God as God really is, and this story stands as a warning to all of mankind of what we can get into if our heart is not taught of God. If we only know about God, rather than knowing Him as He is.

Please note that Jephthah still didn’t know God even after his ignorance bore terrible fruit. His daughter didn’t either. She felt the “necessity” of her father keeping his vow (Judges 11:36). At terrible cost, the vow was kept, and still they knew not that God took no pleasure in it.

There are many Jephthahs today who imagine that God requires or delights in such and such a thing. Many of these imaginations proceed from a profound misunderstanding and misinterpretation of what God is and what He has done in the past.

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.”* (Matthew 23:25)

It is clear that this rash vow of Jephthah was excess. Excess is defined as “The state of surpassing or going beyond limits; the being of a measure beyond sufficiency, necessity, or duty; that which exceeds what is usual or proper; immoderateness; superfluity; superabundance; extravagance.” Think of what it means to be guilty of excess in the eyes of God! A lack of Holy-Ghost-inspired temperance. The strain of people trying to please their idea of what God is without being taught of Him how to worship Him in Spirit and in truth.

“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.”* (Ephesians 5:18) We are quite willing to say that there is no excessiveness in the requirements and dealings of the Spirit of God. Verily, He requires only reasonable service (Romans 12:1), as He defines reasonable. Now folks who are of a mindset to think that the Lord doesn’t care, that He is rather indifferent to much of how we live or do; they also do not have a rightful picture of what God is like, either. Their problem is not the strain of making rash vows; they are more inclined to go to excess in the opposite direction and conclude that God doesn’t really require much of anything. And so we see that if we are not led by the Spirit of God, we will be led by something, and that something will be of a tendency to excess in one direction or the other.

One end of the human reaction scale is compromise and the other end is fanaticism. We submit to your thinking that the right path is not on the human reaction scale at all. Only the Divine Mind knows how we should walk and do (Jeremiah 10:23), and He wants us to know Him and His way for us. “But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.”* (Jeremiah 9:24) It is not in being a “moderate” as we define what moderation is. It is being taught of God in our heart and the fruits that follow of really knowing Him. “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.”* (John 6:45)

~sigh~ But; I digress. Let's continue on with the story and what we can learn from it.

The story of Jephthah and the untaught hearts of the children of Israel does not end with the eleventh chapter of Judges. It continues into the twelfth. Even the deliverance that God had given the Israelites from the enemy without (the Ammonites) did not unite them. There arose internal dissension over who got left out of the victory, etc., and soon Israelite was shedding the blood of Israelite. When God does not keep the house, even when He in mercy gives relief and help for certain needs, things still do not go well overall, for human effort is in charge. When we do not understand God or His ways correctly, it is not enough to recognize that an individual is really, truly saved (an Israelite). Human wisdom will impose artificial barriers and means of identifying which camp you are in. Are you an Ephraimite? “Say now Shibboleth.”* (Judges 12:6) And if you can’t say it just right (by their definition), they will slay you, spiritually speaking.

This is the same thing we read about in Revelation 13:17, “And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” In Jephthah’s time, you were rejected and slain if you couldn’t say “Shibboleth.” In the Revelation, you are rejected and cannot buy or sell if you do not have the “correct” number or name.

The professed Christian world is divided into a multitude of lands, all professing to be Israel. Many people who sing ...

“We reach our hands in fellowship to every blood-washed one,
While love entwines about each heart in which God’s will is done”

... have not the faintest idea of a fellowship really based on just being saved. They recognize what they think is saved… plus something. This plus something can be as simple as being saved plus “attending our services.” The disciples applied an additional test of fellowship beyond salvation when they forbid the man casting out devils in the name of Jesus to continue “because he followeth not with us.”* (Luke 9:49-50) Jesus reproved them for forbidding him. They misunderstood the character and nature of God. We see then that a lack of understanding God leads to more of a lack of understanding of God. It just gets off further and further. The rash vow of Jephthah was grievous, but the civil war was infinitely more so.

God wants to be properly understood. He is seeking for true worshipers who want to know, yea, who will not be satisfied with anything else than to really know, what He is really like (John 4:23-24). Oh, He is seeking for those who want to know Him as He is! There are so many diligent, careful, false worshipers who hold in reverence “another Jesus!”* (2 Corinthians 11:4)

If we misunderstand God’s motives and His character, we are at enormous disadvantage in pleading His promises or properly interpreting what He does or does not do for us. A son that properly understands the character and love of his father expects good things, nor is he disappointed. “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”* (Luke 11:11-13) Do you see from this scripture that God wants to bless you? Do you understand that He is on the giving hand, a God that is near “and not a God afar off?”* (Jeremiah 23:23) To properly understand God is to really admire and adore Him. It will stir firm confidence (faith), complete trust, and rest.

“When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet.”* (Proverbs 3:24)

“God loves to be longed for, He loves to be sought,
For He sought us Himself with such longing and love:
He died for desire of us, marvellous thought!
And He yearns for us now to be with Him above.”

God’s standards are not peculiarity for the sake of being peculiar. He does not delight in us being strange to worldly minds around us just to be strange. It is strange and peculiar to really live holy. It is strange and peculiar not to hold grudges and forgive others their trespasses. It is very strange to be humble and meek, to be little in our own eyes. It is completely foreign to natural human nature to live a surrendered, consecrated life without any ambition other than to please God and be accepted of Him. And God takes pleasure in such a dedicated, plain, careful life. He knows when it begins to become an end in itself, too. He knows when it is too loose and gives undue liberty to the flesh, and He knows when it is strained, stretched, and characterized by rash vows. God is not a God who delights in human stretching and straining. God is not pleased by fanaticism. God is not pleased by compromise.

God knows when our idea of His salvation is characterized by too much leaning to our own understanding—a reasoned salvation of human effort mostly, rather than being filled with the Spirit. There is vastly more to God than intellectualism. God is able to bring you into His pavilion until your soul is filled with a sense of His greatness and your appropriate and rightful (humble) relationship to His bigness. He not only saves us from sin; He can save us from ourselves and the inappropriate use of our capacity. It does not have to go with us as it did with Jephthah. Jephthah did not have to do as he did. He could have settled on this reality: “God has delivered Israel all down through the years. I’ll just trust Him to deliver us again.” How infinitely better this would have been than the path of the rash vow!

Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah. ~ Judges 11:29

We've all heard stories of individuals who have overcome extreme hardship during their childhood years. Children of alcoholics, orphans who never have parents, loss of parents to a fatal crash, childhood disease and so on. These are all difficult circumstances to overcome.

Jephthah was a man who overcame his obstacles and refused to allow his circumstances to prevent him from becoming a great warrior. He was born to Gilead, a result of his father's adulterous encounter with a prostitute. Gilead's wife, who had bore more sons, decided to reject Jephthah, and drove him away from their home saying, "You are not going to get any inheritance in our family because you are the son of another woman." Imagine the rejection this young man felt as he was cast away from his own family.

This experience taught Jephthah to become a hardened warrior. As he got older, his reputation as a warrior became known to those in his country, so much so that when the Ammonites made war on Israel, the elders of Gilead went to Jephthah and asked him to be their commander. Jephthah had to fight off those feelings of rejection from previous years.

"Didn't you hate me and drive me from my father's house?" he responded. He overcame his hurt and pain, and responded to the call God had on his life.

It is said that if we were to help the butterfly remove itself from the cocoon, the butterfly would not be strong enough to survive. It is the struggle that prepares the butterfly to become strong enough to fly. Without the struggle in the cocoon, it could not survive as a butterfly.

The Lord prepares each of us in similar ways. Some of our childhoods seem to have been harsh and born from a seemingly unloving God. However, the Lord knows our struggle and will make our life an instrument in His hand if we will follow Him with an upright heart. He does make all things beautiful in His time if we are willing to be patient.

Jephthah's Rash Vow (Judges 11:21-40)

There are some stories in Scripture that present us with challenging questions, often because they come from a world and a culture far removed from our own, and because we have certain ideas about Scripture that prevent us from hearing the stories in that context. One of those Old Testament stories is the story of Jephthah and a foolish vow he made that cost his young daughter's life (Jud.11:36-40).  With our modern sensibilities, we recoil from the story.  Why did Jephthah sacrifice his daughter?  Since God would never receive a human sacrifice, does that mean that if we say stupid things we should do them even if it is against what we understand about God?

In this case, an unfamiliarity with the nature of Scripture and how the Israelites used narrative to communicate theology causes us problems in hearing this story. There are many things in Scripture that recount past events that are not meant to be presented as positive or as models for our actions today. The book of Judges is an especially good example of that.

Recall, in the book of Judges (21:25): "all the people did what was right in their own eyes."

Throughout Judges, most of the leaders (called a shophet, a "judge" or tribal military chieftain) that emerge are seriously flawed. They were only able to accomplish anything because God worked in spite of their failures.

Jephtah’s Daughter

Names in the Bible often say something about the person, but in this case the young woman in the story is nameless. People without a name seem less real, so leaving the girl without a name minimized the horror of Jephthah's act, and made him more acceptable as a hero of Israel. 

Jephthah means ‘he opens’; the name may refer to Jephthah’s fatal habit of speaking without thinking  -  he opened his mouth to make the vow when it would have been better if he had remained silent.

The vow of Jephtah,  Judges 11:1-11, 29-33.

In return for victory in battle, Jephtah vowed to God that he would sacrifice the first thing he saw on his return home. In the early part of Israelite history, the leader of the clan had extraordinary powers, and under certain circumstances he had the power of life or death over members of his clan. 

The consequences of the vow,  Judges 11:34-40.

Jephtah won the battle and returned home. As he approached his house, his beloved only daughter ran out to meet him, which meant he had to sacrifice her to fulfill his promise. 

When she was told about the promise, she courageously accepted the fact that she must die. For two months before her death she went up into the mountains with her companions, where she lamented that she would never know married love, and never hold her children in her arms. 

When Jephtah returned victorious from the battle, he was greeted by women singers who went out to welcome him. They were led by his daughter. 

‘Then Jephtah came to his home at Mizpah; and there was his daughter coming out to meet him with timbrels and with dancing.’

This was a normal custom of the time, and Jephtah should have foreseen it. Women normally went out to greet returning military heroes with songs and poems. We know of this from other examples, including Miriam (Exodus 15:20) and the women who praised King David (1 Samuel 18:6). 

When Jephtah saw his daughter and realized what he had done, he was distraught with grief, but immediately ‘blamed the victim’, reproaching his daughter for being the one whom he saw first, rather than blaming himself for the vow he had made. 

‘She was his only child; he had no son or daughter except her. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and said “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low; you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow”.

When Jephtah’s daughter heard of her father’s vow, she responded with dignity and restrained anger. She accepted her fate, but on her own terms. 

'She said to him “My father, if you have opened your mouth to the Lord, do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, now that the Lord has given you vengeance against your enemies, the Ammonites”.’

Modern writers object to the daughter’s passive acceptance of her death, wishing she had objected to her father’s vow.

But in the context of the times Jephtah had to sacrifice her, and she had to accept her fate. Her father made a promise on behalf of his people and he believed that God had accepted the promise, giving him victory in return. Now the promise had to be honored despite the terrible cost, and the daughter knew this and accepted it. 

But here's a thought: is it possible she knew in advance about her father's vow, and deliberately come out of the house first, thus bringing the vow onto herself rather than on someone whom her father considered expendable, for example a servant? Could the girl have taken the place intended for someone else? We'll never really know. At least not on this earthly plain.

The daughter’s real reaction to her fate is shown by what she did, not what she said. ‘And she said to her father “Let this thing be done for me: grant me two months, so that I may go and wander on the mountains, and bewail my virginity, my companions and I”.’ 

She preferred to spend the last days of her life with her friends. With them, she mourned the fact that she would never achieve the goal of all Jewish women: to hold her child in her arms. (Judges 11:37-40). 

The exact method of her death is not known. If she was a burnt offering, she would have been first killed with a knife, and then her body burnt.      

An annual festival for young women commemorated the death of Jephtah’s daughter – ‘for four days every year the daughters of Israel would go out to lament the daughter of Jephtah the Gileadite’.

We are supposed to recoil from the monstrosity of Jephthah’s actions. The later community of Israel who included this story in the biblical traditions knew how wrong child sacrifice was, so there would be no mistaking this for a model of right behavior. It would be another example of what happens when God’s people become confused in their thinking about who is really God and how God works in the world. This becomes another lesson for Israel that God will not be manipulated by magical incantations or bargains that we strike with him on our own terms.

That is precisely what Jephthah tried to do in making his vow to sacrifice the first thing that met him on his return home, if only God would help him win a battle. God did not need that bargain to aid Jephthah. Jephthah was yet another tragic figure in Judges who had not yet learned enough about God to know that God does not respond to magic or bargains, which lay at the heart of Ba’al worship. Jephthah’s battle against the Ammonites was not won because of his vow, but because of God’s presence (11:32). His lack of faith in God, and understanding of who God is, cost him his daughter.

The biblical traditions recall that as a great tragedy (11:39-40): 
"So there arose an Israelite custom that for four days every year the daughters of Israel would go out to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite".

In closing; one of the greatest lessons that I have learned from this story written in Judges is that God does not bargain!

As I searched myself I realized that I am guilty of checking myself to make sure that I am completely "good" with God before I approach the Lord with my prayer requests. Are my tithes up to date?, do I have aught against anyone?, does anyone have aught against me that I need to apologize for? am I behind in my Bible reading? and so on.

All of these things are good and the right thing to do but when we only really do them so that God will honor our prayer request(s) then any way that you look at it; that's bargaining. And it isn't going to work out any better for us than it did for Jephthah.

It's God's good pleasure to give us the desires of our hearts and He will - if they line up with His plan for our lives. If it doesn't then He just isn't going to do it. As I type this I am reminded of the Scripture that says something to the effect of what Father who's child ask him for a piece of bread would then give him a snake. God isn't going to give us something that ultimately does us harm in some way.

I Praise God for the Scripture! Scriptures that ever guides us along this journey through life. Don't you?!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

31 Day Prayer Calendar

~ Prayer Calendar ~

2 Timothy 2:10
Lord, I pray that I will obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

2 Peter 3:18
I pray that I  may grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Day 3 - LOVE
Ephesians 5:2
Father, grant that I  will learn to live a life of love, through the Spirit who lives in me.

Psalm 25:21
Lord, may integrity and uprightness protect me because my hope is in you.

1 Thessalonians 5:6
Father, help me not be like many others, but to be alert and self-controlled in all they do.

Psalm 19:10
Lord, may I  regard your Word as more precious than gold and sweeter than honey.

Psalm 11:7 & Micah 6:8
God, help me to love justice as You do and act justly in all I do.

Day 8 - MERCY
James 5:11
Oh Father, grant that I  would be full of mercy and compassion as you are, Lord.

1 Peter 2:17
Lord, help me to show proper respect to everyone, as your Word commands.

Ephesians 2:10
God, help me develop a strong self-esteem rooted in the realization that I am Your workmanship.

Proverbs 3:3
Let faithfulness never leave me,  but bind this virtue around my neck.

Day 12 - COURAGE
Deuteronomy 31:6
Lord, may I  always be strong and courageous in my character and my actions.

Day 13 - PURITY
Psalm 51:10
Create in me pure hearts, O God, and let that purity of heart be shown in my life.

1 Thessalonians 5:15
Father, I pray that I would be kind to  others and good to everyone.

1 Timothy 6:18
Lord, I pray I will be rich in good deeds, generous and willing to share.

Romans 14:19
Father God, help me make every effort to do what leads to peace.

Day 17 - JOY
1 Thessalonians 1:6
Heavenly Father, grant that I will be filled with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.

Hebrews 12:1
Lord, teach me to persevere in all I do, and help me to run with perseverance the race set before me.

Titus 3:2
God, please cultivate in me the ability to show true humility toward all.

Colossians 3:12
Holy Father, I pray that You would clothe me  with the virtue of compassion.

Galatians 6:5
Lord grant that I would learn to be responsible, for each one of us should carry his own load.

Philippians 4:12-13
Father, teach me the secret of being content in every situation, through Him who gives me strength.

Day 23 - FAITH
1 Timothy 6:12
Lord, help me to fight the good fight of faith, taking hold of the eternal life to which I am  called.

Ephesians 6:7
God, help me develop a servant heart, that I may serve wholeheartedly.

Day 25 - HOPE
Romans 15:13
God of hope, grant that I may overflow with hope and hopefulness by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 5:22
God, strengthen me with all power, so that I may have great endurance and patience.

Psalm 42:1
Lord, I pray my soul would pant for you as the deer pants for streams of water.

Day 28 - WISDOM
James 1:5
Father, I pray I  would ask and that you would generously give wisdom to me as you promise.

Luke 18:1
I ask that I will be committed to prayer, and not faint, lose heart or give up.

Ephesians 5:20
Lord, help me to live a life that over-flow with thankfulness, always giving thanks to You.

Ephesians 6:19
I pray that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel of Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Victory Over Fear

Victory Over Fear!

"I do not fear, for God has redeemed me and called me by name - I am His" Isaiah 43:1

We are living in a day where fear is gripping the hearts and minds of people. Fear of the economic crisis, job loss, war, natural disasters, just to name a few. These are all things that seem to be happening today, and Jesus said they would be happening in the last days. We don't need to be surprised. When the world is afraid, God's going to give us supernatural peace. When we're tempted to be afraid, we need to trust. And when we learn to trust, great things are going to happen in our lives.

Isaiah 12:1-2 says, "And in that day you will say O LORD, I will praise You; for though You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation! I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; He also is become my salvation."

God is not mad at you. He's mad about you. God put His anger upon Jesus, and Jesus nailed it to the cross. Then God gave us His Holy Spirit to comfort us, encourage us and strengthen us in difficult times.

Every one of us is challenged or tempted to fear. Fear comes from not knowing who to trust, not knowing what's going to happen, whether you're going to be taken care of or not. You need to know God will take care of you because you're His. You belong to God. How does someone belong to someone else? Somebody has to pay in order to own something, and God paid with the blood of Jesus so He could own you and I. And it's good for Him to own us, because He takes care of the things He owns. You're never going to find God in a dirty heaven. You're never going to find God in a car with Whopper wrappers in the back seat. God takes care of everything He has and you're one of the things that He has.

There are some things that we may not fully understand in this life, but I will trust and not be afraid. Even if you've read and studied the Word, not every question is going to be answered in this life. Most questions can be. But when you ask why did this tragedy happen or that, you need to understand that God is not the author of evil. The simple answer is the devil is the author. And, really, the number one way the devil gets in our life is through fear. And by taking the position as in Isaiah 12:1-2, I will trust and not be afraid… the way he gives us to be free from fear in this verse is by trusting God. Yes, in all your getting, get understanding. Pursue understanding, but in your pursuit of wisdom, if you're missing something, trust God. 

What does the word "trust" mean?

This word "trust" means to be without care; to be secure, safe, sure and to have a refuge. The word, "secure" comes from a word that means without care. When you trust Him, it means to be without care, to cast your cares on Him. If you're a fisherman you can't cast your line a foot or two in front of you. So to cast your cares on the Lord, it means throwing them far from you. You do this by making a decision to trust. It's not a feeling. It's a decision. Then make a declaration. It's a statement of faith. When you're confused, declare "I will trust." When it seems like all the odds are against you, a decision plus a declaration equals deliverance. I will trust and not be afraid. One is the cause of the other. As a consequence of trusting, you will not be afraid.

II Timothy 1:7 says, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind." These are the three things we overcome fear with: power, love, and a sound mind."

Power overcomes fear because, when you know you have the power to change something –you don't have to be afraid of the way that thing is. Love overcomes fear because perfect love casts out fear. 

A sound mind overcomes fear because fear is always a result of thinking something other than what God says. So when you're thinking what God says, all fear will have to leave your life. There's no way that fear can stay in your heart or in your life when your thinking is lined up with God's Word.

Since fear is the number one way the devil gains access to our lives, we need to get rid of it! People steal and cheat because they fear. They lie because they fear the truth won't be enough. They gossip for the fear of being left out. Let me give you the simple steps to breaking out of the cycle of fear:

1. Confess your fear to God.
Fear is sin. I John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

2. You have to seek Him.
Psalm 34:4 says, "Seek Him while He may be found." Hebrews 11:6 says, "Believe He is a rewarder of Him who diligently seeks Him." Spend time with Him – fellowship with Him. He's a rewarder – when you believe that, you'll be rid of fear.

3. Confess the Word.
Psalm 118:24 says, "This is the day the Lord has made." Confess it many times daily - "God never made anything bad. Therefore I expect this day to be a great day. I will be glad in it."

4. Break free from worry.
I can do all things through Christ, which strengthens me (Phil 4:13), but "without Him I can do nothing" (John 15:5). Worry is a subtracting force that will drain you. Which of you can add a single cubit to your life by worrying? Attack worry as a thought that contradicts the Word of God.

Confess these scriptures to attack fear and worry:

Philippians 4:6-8 "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things."

Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace the mind that is stayed on you, because he trusts in You."

Psalm 23:4 "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."

Hebrews 13:5 "Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

I Peter 5:7 "Casting all your anxiety on Him for He cares for you."

Romans 8:31 "If God is for us, who is against us?"

Galatians 3:13 says you're redeemed from the curse. Fear and torment are part of the curse. Therefore, you're redeemed from fear!

You're free from fear!

Confess Psalm 118 and Philippians chapters 3 and 4 every day. God's Word will give you a new hope and change your life forever!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

~ Always Memorial Day ~

Memorial Day, an American holiday observed on the last Monday of May, honors men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades.

Early Observances of Memorial Day

The Civil War claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history, requiring the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries. By the late 1860s Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.

It is unclear where exactly this tradition originated; numerous different communities may have independently initiated the memorial gatherings. Nevertheless, in 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo— which had first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866— was chosen because it hosted an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

Decoration Day

On May 5, 1862, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed. The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.

On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there. Many Northern states held similar commemorative events and reprised the tradition in subsequent years; by 1890 each one had made Decoration Day an official state holiday. Many Southern states, on the other hand, continued to honor their dead on separate days until after World War I.

Evolution of Memorial Day

Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars.

For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, the date Logan had selected for the first Decoration Day. But in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees; the change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.

Memorial Day Traditions

Cities and towns across the United States host Memorial Day parades each year, often incorporating military personnel and members of veterans’ organizations. Some of the largest parades take place in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. Americans also observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. On a less somber note, many people throw parties and barbecues on the holiday, perhaps because it unofficially marks the beginning of summer.

Honoring soldiers, patriots, freedom-fighters past, ancient and future; in the United States and other countries.

On this day we honor the memory of those who have died while in the military service of the United Sates of America. It is also fitting that we remember all those who have died for the cause of freedom, whatever country they are from; for we are indeed all one family and we share each other's common destiny on this planet that God created for us all. 

Likewise, we think of those who died believing they were fighting for freedom, though the political leaders in their comm and may have had other intentions in mind. Our thoughts also turn to those who died defending the cause of truth and virtue, whether or not they donned the uniform of their respective countries; and we think not only of those who thus sacrificed in our generation, but in generations past, all the way back to our first parents in the garden of Eden.

There have been many heroes down through the ages, both celebrated as well as unknown, who have given their all for the sake of a better world.  Their combined efforts have given us what we have today, laying the foundation for us so that we now are on the brink of achieving the most ideal society attainable by mankind.

May we go forward, building on the legacy they left behind, drawing from the courage they exhibited, to bring to fruition a society of freedom and peace for which they helped labor.

The enemies of freedom and civility have provided us with obstacles that have made us strong.  Today we honor the many lives that have been lost in the battles that have been fought that peace and freedom might prevail. 

Today, we also recognize that there may yet be many lives lost, for not only are we closer to achieving the ideal society, but the enemies of freedom have also never been closer to achieving their goal of a counterfeit society of peace -- one of compulsion at the point of a sword.  As this war comes to a head, there will yet be many who will lay down their lives in defense of truth and virtue.

May we be faithful to the legacy we have been given, so that truth and freedom may prevail.

~ A Soldier Coming Home ~ 

A Story is told about a soldier who was finally coming home after having fought in Vietnam. He called his parents from San Francisco.

"Mom and Dad, I'm coming home, but I've a favor to ask. I have a friend I'd like to bring home with me."

"Sure," they replied, "We'd love to meet him."

"There's something you should know the son continued, he was hurt pretty badly in the fighting. He stepped on a land mine and lost an arm and a leg. He has nowhere else to go, and I want him to come live with us."

"I'm sorry to hear that son. Maybe we can help find him somewhere to live."

"No, Mom and Dad, I want him to live with us."

"Son," said the father, "you don't know what you're asking. Someone with such a handicap would be a terrible burden on us. We have our own lives to live, and we can't let something like this interfere with our lives. I think you should come home and forget about this guy. He'll find a way to live on his own."

At this point, the son hung up the phone. The parents heard nothing more from him. A few days later, however, they received a call from the San Francisco police. Their son had died after falling from a building, they were told. The police believed it was suicide. The grief-stricken parents flew to San Francisco and were taken to the city morgue to identify the body of their son. They recognized him, but to their horror they also discovered something they didn't know, their son had only one arm and leg.

The parents in this story are like many of us. We find it easy to love those who are good-looking or fun to have around, but we don't like people who inconvenience us or make us feel uncomfortable, We would rather stay away from people who aren't as healthy, beautiful, or as smart as we are.

Thankfully, there's someone who won't treat us that way. Someone who loves us with unconditional love that welcomes us into the forever family, regardless of how messed up we are.

Tonight, before you tuck yourself in for the night, say a little prayer that God will give you the strength you need to accept people as they are, and to help us all to be more understanding of those who are different from us!

~Author Unknown~


~ Taps ~

Day is done,
gone the sun,
From the hills,
from the lake,
From the skies.

All is well,
safely rest,
God is nigh.

Go to sleep,
peaceful sleep,

May the soldier
or sailor,
God keep.
On the land
or the deep,
Safe in sleep.

Love, good night,
Must thou go,
When the day,
And the night
Need thee so?
All is well.
Speedeth all
To their rest.

Fades the light;
And afar
Goeth day,
And the stars
Shineth bright,
Fare thee well;
Day has gone,
Night is on.

Thanks and praise,
For our days,
'Neath the sun,
Neath the stars,
'Neath the sky,
As we go,
This we know,
God is nigh.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Home Made Beauty - Made Easy

~ Home Made Beauty Treats ~

Let's Face It Gals! We live in a world today where spending money for our own personal beauty products are just plain hard to justify. Someone needs braces, someone needs a new pair of cleats for soccer practice, the washing machine is clanking out it's last breath, the electric bill is twice as much as you expected because your pubescent son has definitely decided that a minimum of three baths a day is a "must do" in order to capture the attention of the equally pubescent girls in his class, your daughter can not possibly carry the same handbag three weeks in a row because my gosh! what would her girlfriends think, and so on and so on it goes ... the drain on our already over stretched budget just boggles the mind.

Now; you know I am there with you experiencing like minded types of budget draining situations in my own household and because of that I have discovered more than a few little tricks along the way to help maintain our ~youthful appearance~ without blowing the bank or taking a second mortgage out on the house.

Earlier I had given you some wonderful ~and simple~ beauty products that you can make at home for a fraction of the price and dare I say? probably much better for your skin. If you didn't catch that post then back up a few pages and look for it. You'll be glad you did.

Well dolls; here's a few more that you can add to your collection. All, of course, done with the intent to Be thrifty, Be wise and Be beautiful!

~ Lavender and Chamomile Eye Pillow ~

Making Eye Pillows

* Shopping List:

Soft fabric, such as silk or satin
White rice
Lavender essential oil
Chamomile essential oil
Needle (if no sewing machine)

The pillow's soft fabric soothes your skin, the lavender helps you relax and the chamomile can ease you into a peaceful slumber.

Step 1: Shop for Supplies:
For a luxurious pillow, opt for soft, cool fabric like silk or satin. You won't need much; about a half a yard can make six or seven pillows.

Lavender and chamomile essential oils are used to help reduce stress, aid relaxation and relieve insomnia.

You can find them at most health food stores. You'll only need a couple drops, so a small bottle of each scent should be enough for several pillows.

Step 2: Start Mixing:
In a small bowl, combine 4 drops lavender and 4 drops chamomile essential oil with 2/3 cup rice, which will give your pillow a little weight. Set the mixture aside and let the oils soak into the rice while you start your next step.

Step 3: Simple Sewing:
Place two 4x7 inch fabric rectangles on top of one another, so that the right sides are facing each other and the fabric looks inside out. Secure with pins placed about 1/4 inch from the edge. With a needle and thread, sew around the edges, removing the pins as you go and leaving a two-inch opening on one side. This project is easy to do by hand, but you can use a sewing machine if you have one.

Step 4: Fill and Finish:
Turn the fabric right side out. Using a funnel, carefully pour your rice and oil mixture into the two-inch hole. Fold the edges of the opening inward and sew them shut. You can use your pillow to help you get a relaxing spa feeling without leaving your home.


~ Luscious Lip Balm ~

Making Lip Balms

* Shopping List:

Almond oil
Essential oils of your choice
Small containers with lids
Glass measuring cup
Medium-sized pot

This moisturizing lip balm is fun to use and easy to make. The beeswax helps protect your lips while the essential oils let you customize your scent.

Step 1: Shop for Materials:
Gather your lip balm supplies. Essential oils give your balm its fragrance. Try lavender for a soothing aroma or peppermint for an uplifting one. Any scent will work, so you can choose your favorite!

You'll want to pick up almond oil, to dilute the concentrated essential oil and honey, which has antibacterial properties that can help soothe chapped lips. You'll also need beeswax, to give your balm its consistency and help seal in moisture. You can easily find it at your local craft store, which is also a good place to look for small, lidded containers to hold your finished product.

Step 2: Melt and Mix:
Combine 1-ounce beeswax with 1/2 cup almond oil in a glass-measuring cup. You may want to use an old or inexpensive cup, as the wax and oil can be hard to clean out. Place the cup in a pan half-filled with water and heat on your stovetop until the wax is melted. You can also melt the mixture in a slow cooker, but be sure to use a liner to protect the inside.

Step 3: Stir and Pour:
When the wax is liquid, remove it from the heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon honey and 3-5 drops essential oils. Pour the balm into your containers and it will harden as it cools. If it appears to be getting too hard, add a bit more almond or essential oil to loosen the mixture.

This same recipe can also be used to make solid perfume. Just add ten to fifteen more drops of essential oil to strengthen the scent. To use your new fragrance, simply dab a little on your finger and apply to pulse points, such as your neck or the inside of your wrists.


~ Bath Oils ~

Making Bath Oils

The basic principle in making bath oils is to select essential oils for their properties and fragrance, then add them to 4 tablespoons of base carrier oil.

The easiest base oils to use in your homemade bath oils are the light base oils such as Castor Oil, Almond Oil, Jojoba Oil or even simple Sunflower Oil.

Pour your base oil into a dark or clear glass bottle or jar. If using a clear glass jar you will need to protect the oils from waning by storing the finished oils in a dark place, a bathroom cupboard is perfect for this.

Add about 20 drops of your chosen essential oils then cover and shake well.

Leave the homemade bath oil to blend and mature for about 2 weeks before using.

How To Use Your Bath Oils

Simply add 1 tablespoon of scented oil to the bath and swish around to disburse. Once in the bath use a sponge to massage the oil into the skin.

Adding oils to a bath really doesn't need to be completed, you can start by adding a single essential oil to your bath water.

Essential oils normally last about 2 years if kept in a cool dark place and you literally only need a few drops so they are very cost effective.

I've listed below those that I would recommend to use as the best singular all rounders that can be used and enjoyed at any time of the year.

Calming Bath Oil

Almond oil
Lavender essential oil
Chamomile essential oil
Vanilla essential oil
Small bottles with lids

For a soothing soak, add 1-2 teaspoons of this scented oil to your bath water. The hot water helps release the relaxing aromas while the almond oil nourishes dry skin.

Step 1: Gather your Materials:
This project uses many of the same supplies as the Luscious Lip Balm, so it's easy to make them both together.

Step 2: Quick Mix:
For a relaxing blend, combine 1/2 cup almond oil with 12 drops lavender, 10 drops chamomile and 6 drops vanilla essential oils. Pour the mix into bottles and shake well.

These scent mixes are just the starting point. Try experimenting with different essential oils to create your own unique fragrance. Have fun with your friends and create bath oils, lip balms and eye pillows with your favorite aromas. You can use them to pamper yourself or give as gifts!

Happiness Oil
This homemade bath oil leaves you feeling warm and happy inside!

4 tablespoons of base carrier oil combined with:
10 drops Sandalwood
5 drops Jasmine
5 drops Rose
5 drops Bergamot

Sensuous Oil
This bath oil has a wonderfully rich and floral fragrance. A simple combination that will leave you feeling very calm and relaxed.

4 tablespoons of base carrier oil combined with:
20 drops Jasmine
8 drops Orange

Revitalizing Oil
All of the essential oils in this recipe have been chosen to help relieve stress and depression. This uplifting oil will defiantly to put a spring back in your step.

4 tablespoons of base carrier oil combined with:
12 drops Geranium
6 drops Sandalwood
6 drops Lemon
2 drops Clary Sage

Alcohol Based Bath Oil
Adding a small amount of spirits will help to distribute the oil in the bath more evenly. You will need to combine;

3 fl oz (100ml) Castor Oil
4 tablespoons vodka or brandy
10 drops essential oil(s) of your choice.

As with the other bath oil recipes, pour into a dark or clear glass jar or bottle (protecting the oils from day light if using clear glass) shake well and leave to mature for 2 weeks. Add 2 tablespoons to each bath and swish it about.

Shampoo Based Bath Oil
Baby shampoo is another very efficient carrier of oils, again helping the oils to disburse quickly and evenly in water.

4 fl oz (125ml) base oil (Almond Oil or Sunflower Oil)
4 tablespoons mild baby shampoo (I personally like Johnson's & Johnson's but a store brand like Equate works just as well)
10 drops essential oil(s) of your choice

Pour the base oil into a glass bottle or jar, add the shampoo and give it a good shake.

Add the essential oil, shake again then leave to mature for 2 weeks, not forgetting to protect the oils from daylight. Add 2 tablespoons to each bath and swish it about.


Before adding any oils to the bath make sure you close the bathroom door so that you can keep as much of the scent in the room as possible.

Add the oils drop by drop and don't be tempted to add more, working on the theory that adding twice as much will get rid of dry skin or a bout of melancholy/anxiety quicker doesn't work and may just end up irritating the skin.

On average you will need about 10 drops per bath, but with some of the stronger smelling oils you will only need 5 drops. Stronger smelling oils include; eucalyptus, peppermint, bay, basil, lime, lemon, thyme, rosemary.

~ 10 Best Bath Oils ~
      in my humble opinion

Bergamot for depression - 5 drops

Chamomile for insomnia or itchy skin - 7 drops

Frankincense for sedative, calming and mood sweetening - 8 drops

Geranium for relaxing yet uplifting and energizing - 10 drops

Jasmine or Honeysuckle for apathy, stress or fatigue - 8 drops

Lavender positive, soothing and relaxing - 10 drops

Neroli for hypnotic with antidepressant properties - 8 drops

Patchouli for energizing and invigorating - 5 drops

Rose for happiness and pleasure very romantic - 10 drops

Sandalwood for sensual and mellowing a good aphrodisiac - 8 drops

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Gift and The Prize

~ The Gift and The Prize ~

Let's Begin At The Beginning:

John 6:28-29.
"Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."

Here was a perfect opportunity to list all the things we have to do to meet God's requirements. Jesus could have rattled off the 10 commandments. He could have repeated the Sermon on the Mount. He could have listed any number of admonitions and restrictions necessary to achieve and maintain God's expectations of us.

But what did He say? "Believe in the one He has sent." Period.

It was a repeat of John 3:16, confirming that belief in the Son is the one and only requirement for salvation.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

A few verses later in John 6 He said that this wasn't just His idea, as if that wouldn't be enough, but that His Father was in complete agreement. And not only would our belief suffice to provide us with eternal life, but that it was God's will that Jesus lose none of those who believe.

You and I have been known to disobey God's will, but has Jesus ever done so? And isn't He the one who's been charged with the responsibility for keeping us?

Let's read it.

"For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." John 6:38-40

Just in case we missed this promise, Jesus made it again even more clearly in John 10:28-30.

"I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one."

The Father and the Son have both accepted responsibility for our security. Once we're in Their hands, no one can get us away.

I have purposely only used words straight from the Lord's own mouth to make this case because I can already hear the choruses of "Yes Buts" mounting as those who refuse to take them at face value get ready to trot out their favorite verses denying Eternal Security, misinterpreted though they are.

The one characteristic of God's that gives us the most comfort is knowing that He can't lie or change His mind or contradict Himself. He can't say something in one place and then say something entirely different in another. He's consistent. If He says that we're saved solely because of our belief in Him, and that He's accepted responsibility for keeping us so, then we can count on that.

As we'll see, anything in the Bible that seems to contradict these simple, straightforward statements has to be talking about something else.

But first, since He puts so much emphasis on belief, let's take a closer look at that word. What does He mean when He says "believe"? It must be more than just a casual thing because reliable statistics show, for example, that 85% of those who come forward to "receive the Lord" at a crusade or other evangelistic outreach never form any connection with a church or Bible Study or in any other way demonstrate a relationship with the Lord afterward.

And Jesus spoke of the seed that fell on rocky places. He said, "This is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution
comes because of the word, he quickly falls away." (Matt. 13:20-21)

If these people were saved and then fell away, all His promises above have been broken. There must be more. So what does it mean to believe?

The Greek word for "believe" is "pistis."

According the Strong's Concordance, it's a "conviction or belief respecting man's relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervor born of faith and joined with it."
In connection with the Lord Jesus, it means "a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God."

The Apostle Paul gave us valuable insight into the nature of this belief. He wrote, If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)

This isn't just some intellectual thing that carries us away on the words of a captivating speaker, only to leave us flat a short time later. It's a conviction that's formed deep in our heart, the realization that Jesus is not just a man. He's the Lord Himself, and He took upon Himself the penalty due us for our sins, which is death. And to prove that God counted His death as sufficient, He raised Jesus from the dead to be seated beside Him in the Heavenly realms. (Ephes. 1:20)

Since God can't dwell in the presence of sin, and since the wages of sin is death, every one of our sins has to have been paid for. If even one remained unpaid, Jesus would still be in the grave. We have to believe that Jesus rose from the grave in order to believe that we will.

It's that kind of belief that gets you saved and keeps you that way, because it sets in motion a chain of events that's irreversible.

There are four links in this chain: You supply two and the Lord supplies two.
A. You hear
B. and believe,
C. The Lord marks
D. and guarantees.

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession — to the praise of his glory.
Ephesians 1:13-14

The word translated "deposit" is a legal term. Today we would say "Earnest Money." It's a down payment that constitutes a legal obligation to follow through with the purchase. If you've ever bought any Real Estate, you're familiar with the term.

If not, here's another example. It's like we've been put on "lay away." The price has been paid and we've been taken off the display shelf until the one who has purchased us returns to claim us. In the mean time we cannot be bought by anyone else, because we legally belong to the one who has paid the deposit.

"You are not your own," we're told. "You were bought with a price." (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

All of this happened at our first moment of belief, before we could do anything to either earn or lose our position. The man on the cross beside Jesus is the prototype for this transaction. Having done something bad enough to get himself executed, he was promised a place in Paradise solely because he believed in his heart that Jesus was the Lord of a coming Kingdom.

Paul made it even clearer when he repeated this incredible promise in 2 Cor. 1:21-22. "Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. This time He removed all doubt as to just Who it is that keeps us saved. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ." What could be clearer?

Union And Fellowship

If the Doctrine of Eternal Security is so clear then why all the disagreement about it?

I've found two reasons:

The first is the two-sided nature of our relationship with the Lord. One side is called Union and is Eternal and Unconditional, based only on our belief. Ephesians 1:13-14 describes our Union with God, sealed and guaranteed. Once we're born again, we can't become unborn. It's good forever. The Holy Spirit is sealed within us from our first moment of belief until the day of redemption.

The second- the other side is called Fellowship and it's a bit more complicated. Fellowship is defined by 1 John 1:8-9 as being both Earthly and conditional upon behavior. It tells us that even as believers, as long as we're here on Earth we'll continue to sin. Since God can't abide in the presence of sin, our unconfessed sins interrupt our Earthly relationship with Him and may deprive us of blessings we might have otherwise received. We're still saved in the eternal sense, but out of Fellowship here on Earth.

When we're out of Fellowship, we're legitimate targets for our Enemy's mischief, just like Job was. His sin was self-righteousness and because he wouldn't confess it, God had to let Satan afflict him in order to bring him to his senses.

For a New Testament illustration, look at the parable of the Prodigal Son. (Luke 15:11-32) Like the younger son, we'll still belong to our Father's family, but won't receive any of its blessings while we're out of Fellowship. And like both Job and the Prodigal, when we return to our Father and confess our sins, we're immediately purified from all unrighteousness and restored to Fellowship.

One reason that many Christians live such defeated lives is that having only learned about the Union part of being a believer, they only know that God has forgiven their sins and that they'll go to be with Him when they die or are Raptured. They don't realize that they still need to confess every time they sin to stay in Fellowship. And so, being deprived of God's providence, they may become discouraged and even stop praying or attending church.

Other believers, who don't understand the dual relationship either, look at the mess they're in and think they must have lost their salvation. Like Job's friends, they look in God's Word for confirmation, and by taking
verses out of context, believe they have found the proof.

Union and Fellowship are not just New Testament ideas.

In the Old Testament, even when Israel was being obedient in thought and action, doing their best to please God, the priests still had to sacrifice a lamb on the altar every morning and every evening for the sins of the people.

1 John 1:9 is the New Testament equivalent of those daily sacrifices for sin. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. It was written for believers who are already saved, but are in danger of being out of Fellowship.

The Gift And the Prize

The other reason people get confused is that there are two types of benefits in Eternity.

The first is the free Gift called Salvation that's given to all who ask in faith irrespective of merit and guarantees our admission into the Kingdom. Ephesians 2:8-9 is the model, saying that salvation is a Gift from God.

The second consists of Heavenly rewards we can earn for the things we do as believers here on Earth. Philippians 3:13-14 are good verses for explaining this. "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

In addition to the Gift, there's a Prize.

A gift is something given out of love, irrespective of merit, and is never taken back. A prize, on the other hand, is something we qualify for and earn. And if we're not careful we can lose it. (Rev. 3:11) Paul had already received the Gift of salvation, it was behind him. Now he was focused on winning the Prize as well.

In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 he explained the difference in greater detail. "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever."

No Olympic athlete was satisfied just to have qualified to participate in the games. Everyone wanted to win the victor's crown. Likewise, we shouldn't be satisfied just to have received the Gift of salvation. We must now live our lives as believers in such a way as to win the Prize as well.

The Bible calls some of these prizes crowns, and while the athlete's crown soon wilted away (it was a wreath of ivy) the crowns believers can win last forever. They're worth making some sacrifices for. That's why Paul said, "I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." (1 Cor. 9:27)

The crowns are identified as:

the Everlasting Crown-Victory (in 1 Cor 9:25,)
Crown of the Soul Winner (in Phil 4:1 and 1 Thes 2:19,)
Crown of Righteousness (in 2 Tim 4:8,)
Crown of Life (in Jas 1:12 and Rev 2:10,)
and the Crown of Glory (in 1 Peter 5:4.)

The difference between the Gift and the Prize is also seen in 1 Cor. 3:12-15. "If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames."

At the judgment of believers, the quality of our work on earth will be tested by fire. Only work that survives the test will bring us a reward. But notice that even if all our work is destroyed in the fire, we'll still have our salvation.


Because it's a free Gift, given out of love, irrespective of merit.

The Lord mentioned other rewards as well. In Matt. 6:19-21 He advised us, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

There are things we can do as believers while here on Earth that will cause deposits to be made to our heavenly account. Some believe that this passage refers to the way we use the money we're given. Do we use it to enrich ourselves, stacking up possessions that far exceed our needs? Or do we use it to further the work of the Kingdom?

Here's a hint.

Our tithe (money, time, talents) is what we owe to God. It's what we do with what we have left that really counts. And with the measure we use, it will be measured to us. (Luke 6:38)

To summarize:

* In the New Testament there are verses like Ephesians 1:13-14 that talk about Union.

* There are verses like 1 John 1: 8-9 that talk about Fellowship.

* There are verses like Ephesians 2:8-9 that talk about the Gift and there are verses like 1 Cor 9:24-27 that talk about the Prize.

Those that stress belief, explain the permanent nature of our bond with God, and are directed toward eternity are Union verses. Those that involve grace and faith are Gift verses. Those that require work and are directed at the quality of our lives on Earth are Fellowship verses, and those that require work and involve eternal rewards are Prize verses.

When you view Scripture from this perspective, all of the apparent contradictions disappear and you no longer have to wonder why God seems to be saying one thing here and something different there. The issue becomes one of correctly identifying the focal point of the particular passage you're looking at. Determine the context by reading verses around it, and assign it to one of the four categories.

Eternal Security

Hebrews 6:4-6 is a passage often cited in opposition to Eternal Security. The entire letter is to Jewish believers who are being enticed back into keeping the Law, so the context is New Covenant vs. Old. And in verse 9 the writer hints that he's been talking about things that accompany salvation. That tells us that verses 4-6 are not related to salvation but things that accompany it. More importantly the idea that a believer could do something to irretrievably lose his salvation is in direct contradiction to the very clear promise that the Holy Spirit is sealed within us from the very first moment of belief until the day of redemption.

So what could these believers be in danger of falling away from due to their sins?

And what could prevent them from being restored?
The practice of Old Covenant remedies for sin rather than invoking 1 John 1:9. They'd be relegating the death of the Lord to the same status as that of the twice-daily lamb. The Law was only a shadow of the good things to come, not the realities themselves. Once the Reality appeared, the shadow was no longer effective.

And what would be their penalty?
Living a defeated life, bearing no fruit, all their works burned in the judgment of 1 Cor. 3.

But still saved?
Yes. Hebrews 6:4-6 is a Fellowship passage.

In closing, let's look at the alternative:

What are we faced with? If Hebrews 6:4-6, for example, applies to our salvation then if we ever sin after being saved we'll be lost forever with no way back, because the Lord would have to be crucified all over again to retrieve us.

The New Covenant would be worse than the Old, not better. They were condemned for their actions. According to Matt. 5 we'd be condemned for our thoughts. They couldn't murder. We couldn't even be angry. They couldn't commit adultery. We couldn't even have a lustful thought. Think of it. No anger, ever. No lust, ever. No envy, ever. No idolatry, ever. No favoritism or discrimination, ever. No impure thoughts or deeds of any kind, ever.

Is this the Good News, the incomparable riches of His Grace? Did God become man and die the most painful death ever devised only to put His children into an even more untenable position than before? Are we saved by grace only to be placed under the constraints of an even more severely administered law?

I can't believe so.

Some take a more moderate view of this saying that God would never take back the gift of salvation, but that we can return it. To justify this position they have to put words in the Lord's mouth. When He says in John 10:28, "No one can snatch them out of my hand," they have to insert the phrase "but us" after "no one".

Same with Romans 8:38-39.

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. They have to insert the phrase "but us" after "in all creation".
None of this defense of Eternal Security is intended to condone sin.

As an indication of our gratitude for the gift of salvation, believers are continually admonished in Scripture to live our lives in a manner pleasing to God. Not to earn or keep it, but to thank the Lord for giving it to us. And to help us do that, the Holy Spirit has come to dwell in us to guide and direct us, and to pray for us. Since the Spirit of God lives in us we are no longer controlled by the sin nature and can choose to please God by the way we live. And even though we do this out of gratitude for the Gift He's already given, which is Union with Him, He blesses us both here on Earth (Fellowship) and in Eternity (the Prize).

And Praise God For That!