Talk the talk and walk the walk

I love cheesecake! Years ago, I found an excellent recipe which has never failed me. I can whip up a delicious, baked-from-scratch, picture-perfect cheesecake–for anyone, at anytime–it truly is an award-winning dessert!(This is not meant to sound boastful; I am just delighted to find a truly reliable recipe!)
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Yet, there was the one time when I mistakenly used a wrong ingredient. Instead of adding a can of sweetened, condensed milk, I grabbed evaporated milk from the pantry (the cans are identical in size). The cake’s appearance still looked yummy, but– wow!–was the flavor of my cheesecake drastically different! I had to dump the entire thing in the garbage!

Aren’t insincerity and hypocrisy a lot like this edible illustration? Both character flaws leave such a bad taste in the mouth—much like my cooking error! Just like it was nearly impossible to tell from the cake’s appearance that the recipe contents had been tampered with, it’s impossible for any of us to know the intentions of the inner heart. We can fool others, but not God.

Sincerity is demonstrated in our behavior, actions and conversations. As you reflect upon the following questions, be honest with yourself and make sure that your testimony for Christ is one which “walks the walk and talks the talk”!

1. Do you love God sincerely?

Ephesians 6:24 “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.”
This verse is a win-win situation. Grace is God’s unmerited favor to us, meaning we have done nothing to earn it! But, grace is also an attribute which signifies acceptance and forgiveness. When we love God –really love Him–grace abounds. Others sense it and are naturally drawn to us.

2. Are you loving others sincerely?

1 Peter 1:22 “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:”

1John 4:11 “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”

Admit it; not everyone is lovable! Life would be very boring if we all came from the same mold! We will sometimes encounter individuals who irritate or upset us. Loving others with a pure heart is probably one of the most difficult challenges we face; however, when we look at the bigger picture and see God as the ultimate giver of love, we can–and should–follow His example.

3. Are you serving with sincerity?

Joshua 24:14 “Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD.”

There’s a simple equation associated with serving: Serving = choice + commitment. Serving with sincerity requires full surrender, with no expectation of a return on what you’ve invested. In this verse, the Israelites were encouraged to not look back on the previous mistakes of their ancestors (choosing to serve false gods), but to make a firm commitment to serve the One True God. One of the benefits to serving the Lord with sincerity is its eternal consequences. Heaven will be all the more glorious because of the time well-invested while here on earth. What is holding you back from serving the Lord? Choose today who you will serve and go ahead—exceed the expectations!

4. Is sincerity seen in your actions?

Philippians 1:10 “That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.”

The apostle Paul’s desire and prayer for the saints (fellow believers) at the Philippi church was that their good deeds (fruits of righteousness) would glorify God. Simple actions, like holding a door open for someone or paying a complement to a stranger, can show others that the Holy Spirit resides inside of you and is at work in your life. Sure, it can be said that you are a “good” person, but allow the opportunity to be one which points others to Jesus Christ. Most importantly, be consistent and kind when others aren’t looking.

Imagine how exasperated God must be with us, when He knows our true potential and sees our wavering convictions and lack of commitment! Don’t settle for a sub-standard version or a foul-tasting substitute of the real deal. Living a life of sincerity is a life with no regrets; it possesses the true ingredients that matter!

What a spectacular reunion!

Three years ago, I wrote a blog for a church website concerning the thirty-three Chilean miners that were rescued from a collapsed mine shaft in San Jose.

I would like to re-post this writing on my personal blog today and use it as a means to offer encourage and hope to our friends and the congregation at Hardingville Bible Church in Monroeville, NJ. Hearts are heavy because their dearly loved pastor, Mark Franklin, has left this earthly life and is now present with the Lord. He is most likely having a spectacular reunion of his own, rejoicing with loved ones and friends that have gone on before him. May that image of joy, laughter and harmony bring comfort and peace to all of you!sunrise1

Dated October 18, 2010:
Last week, like millions of other television viewers, I was captivated by the live coverage of the Chilean miners’ rescue. After a 69-day ordeal of being trapped 2,000 feet underground, the mine workers, initially feared dead, were reunited with their loved ones. It was a spectacular moment to witness, a testimony of love, support and endurance.

Most of us can relate to the exuberance of a reunion. Oh! The joy and anticipation of the arrival…eye contact that requires no need for conversation…the smiles…the hugs…the tears. And yet, for every reunion, there is its preliminary counterpart: the dreaded good-bye.

Who hasn’t bid a teary farewell to a student leaving for college, a husband departing on a business trip, or a family member visiting from out of state? Sometimes the adieu is unexpected or tragic, when terminal illness and death occur. Very few individuals look forward to saying good-bye; however, there is an exception.

Saying good-bye to this present world is actually a home-going celebration for the Christian, a joyous reunion with family and friends who have preceded us. But–best of all–our Heavenly Father awaits us, longing for our permanent return. In Second Corinthians 5:8, Paul confirms that, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” The grandest of all reunions will take place on heavenly turf!

This exact hope is the fundamental event we have yearned for and serves as the source which supplies us with courage and strength in times of despair and wavering. To bask in the glory of God’s Holy presence, means we will never have to be separated again and good-byes never need to be uttered again.

And so shall we ever be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:17b

Retro is NOT in…

The students at my daughters’ school are celebrating Spirit Week. Today is “Throwback Thursday,” a day which highlights the past, the “good ol’ days.” Everyone is encouraged to dress up, reflecting a former era or season of life. For example, it can be the 80’s fashion or a childhood phase. You can see in the picture below, that is the choice my daughters made!
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With that nostalgia theme on my mind, I came upon this Bible passage:

2 Corinthians 6:2 “For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

God doesn’t want us to live in the past; He wants us to focus on the present….and take action. Now means…now! There is a strong sentiment which causes many of us to long for how it “used to be.” How many times have you thought, possibly spoken it aloud, “Oh, I wish I knew then what I know now!”. With maturity usually comes wisdom; however, there is no possibility of us ever turning back and changing what has already happened. We are given the opportunity to seize the present moment and respond appropriately.

Here’s a “throwback” experience: In 1986, just a few months after our wedding, Ted and I moved to a little southern New Jersey town. We had started to attend a nearby church on Sundays but had not felt very refreshed or satisfied there–spiritually speaking. It just seemed like the same humdrum routine.

We did not realize it at the time, but we were searching and God was going to send a rescue team! Ted had a co-worker who was a humble Christian man. As they worked daily together, Ted began to see a difference in the man’s life, something which made him ask questions. Eventually this co-worker was able to share God’s wondrous plan of salvation and Ted trusted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. I didn’t quite understand what was happening although I did sense a change in my husband.

A local Baptist church in the area made contact with us during this same time. The kindness and care they exhibited to us was priceless–I thank God for those who commit to serve Him in ministry and have a desire for spreading the Good News! God had orchestrated the events in our lives which led us to having heart knowledge, not just a head knowledge of what His Son did for us! How glad I was to live in the present and not rely on my past!

In the day of salvation, God “succoured” me–meaning that he aided or relieved me of the sin debt I had for my sins. He had already secured a Way, but I needed to make the decision to trust Him and Him alone. The past is history but the future is His Story.

l have often wondered what would my life be like if I had not responded to God on the “day of my salvation”? My life has not been perfect since that important decision, but I do believe it is a work in progress. I don’t need to look back on the past or attempt a “throwback” because 2 Corinthians 5:17 states: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

Someday, I will be in eternity and the promise found in Revelation 21:4 will make sense, confirming that the most important decision is the one we make NOW.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”