★ Thought for the Day – Overcoming Adversity Through Perseverance – Part 3 ★

Today we remember a great man who gave up his life in service to his fellow man.  Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister and activist who is probably the well-known leaders in the civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968.  One of my favorite quotes from him is….

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches.

Motivated by his Christian beliefs, Martin Luther King Jr. persevered to advance the civil rights movement through nonviolence and civil disobedience.  He is an amazing modern-day example of our topic today Overcoming Adversity Through Perseverance.

We are in a series looking at great men and women of the faith exemplified an attribute that aided them to overcome the storms of life.  We started in the book of Daniel with Daniel refusing to pray to another god resulting in him being thrown in the Lions’ Den and then about his 3 friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abedego who refused to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s Statue.  Daniel and his (3) friends were just a few Jews who were taken from their homeland and brought to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar but what we don’t think too much about are those Jews who were not taken away.  Today we will be looking at the lives of two men of God who prophesied to the people of Judah during the same time as Daniel.  The first is the prophet Jeremiah who was left behind in Jerusalem as many of his countrymen were carried away.  He is the author of 2 out of the 5 books of the major prophets — One bearing his name which warns of the impending consequences of Judah’s rebellion and subsequent downfall.  The second is the book of Lamentations that picks up after the destruction of the Holy City.  Like Martin Luther King Jr., Jeremiah was a shining light who persevered in a very dark period of Judah’s history.  He also had his life threatened and was imprisoned several times for preaching an unpopular message that judgement was coming.  Charles Stanley described him this way…

“Jeremiah, who was called the “weeping prophet,” labored for more than 40 years proclaiming a message of doom to the stiff-necked an unrepentant people of Judah.”

The other prophet, who was also a contemporary of Jeremiah was Ezekiel who was in Babylonian captivity like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abedego.  His ministry was also one of perseverance trying to push back the darkness with the light and truth of God’s message to a rebellious people.  In fact before Ezekiel started his ministry or spoke his first message, God told him in Ezekiel 3:4b, 7-9 (NLT):

““Son of man, go to the people of Israel and give them my messages…But the people of Israel won’t listen to you any more than they listen to me!  For the whole lot of them are hard-hearted and stubborn.  But look, I have made you as obstinate and hard-hearted as they are.  I have made your forehead as hard as the hardest rock!  So don’t be afraid of them or fear their angry looks, even though they are rebels.””

I don’t know about you but that does not sound like an assignment I would want!  Hahaha!  Like Jeremiah, his message was not well received, and he too faced great opposition.  God used both men as “object lessons” to convey His plans to a stiff-necked obstinate people.  Tasked with difficult assignments, they had to overcome significant persecution, threats to their life and great personal loss.  So, if you are keeping track, I have added Jeremiah and Ezekiel onto our list of the men and women who pursued God faithfully…The seemingly futile ministry of Jeremiah and Ezekiel to the people of Judah to bring His people back into right relationship with Him.  In the sermon called “God’s Greatest Desire” by Robert Morris, he made the point that

You will be my people, and I will be your God” is one of the most repeated phrases in the Bible.  Genesis 17:7 (NKJV) is where it all started off.  God tells Abraham…

“And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.

Here is the list of passages that Robert Morris mentioned and others that I have found as well that you can refer to (If you want to read all the references for click here.)As I looked at the list of scriptures I found it interesting that in the Old Testament Book Jeremiah, the phrase “They will be my people, and I will be their God” is mentioned (7) times, the most than of any other book!!  I think since Jeremiah was left behind in Jerusalem after King Nebuchadnezzar conquered the Holy City and exiled the people to Babylon, he had a unique perspective of the events.  I recently discovered this one from Jeremiah 32:37-41 (NLT) that beautifully displays the amazing grace of God who promises to restore the people once again to the land even after all the hurt they have inflicted on God!!

“I will certainly bring my people back again from all the countries where I will scatter them in my fury. I will bring them back to this very city and let them live in peace and safety. They will be my people, and I will be their God. And I will give them one heart and one purpose: to worship me forever, for their own good and for the good of all their descendants. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good for them. I will put a desire in their hearts to worship me, and they will never leave me. I will find joy doing good for them and will faithfully and wholeheartedly replant them in this land.”

God is without a doubt in the restoration business!  I forgot to mention this in the beginning introduction to Ezekiel, but Charles Stanley had this to say about him:

“Ezekiel’s prophecies for God’s people can be seen as a companion piece to those of Jeremiah.  While Jeremiah delivered a frightening message primarily of judgment and destruction, Ezekiel’s messages focused more on restoration and reconstruction.”

Ezekiel 36 is a powerful chapter that lays out God’s plan clearly.  Ezekiel 36:22 (NLT) shows how lost the people were.  God promised to bring the people back not because they deserve it but because of how bad they made Him look…

““Therefore, give the people of Israel this message from the Sovereign Lord: I am bringing you back, but not because you deserve it. I am doing it to protect my holy name, on which you brought shame while you were scattered among the nations.”

I pray that is never true of me that I make God ashamed that I call myself a follower of Christ.  I am reminded of Colossians 3:17 (NLT) which says:

“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”

And if I may go back to Dr. King for a moment, that is without a doubt the case with that great man of God!  My prayer is that my actions will ALWAYS represent my Savior well.  The way this happens interestingly enough is found just 4 verses later in Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NLT) which says:

“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.”

Only with a new heart and the Holy Spirit activated in my life can I even hope to fulfill the command in Colossians 3:17!  Right after God promises to give them a new heart and put in a new spirit, Ezekiel 36:28 (NLT) reinforces the familiar promise…

““And you will live in Israel, the land I gave your ancestors long ago. You will be my people, and I will be your God.”

I so love Ezekiel and how he preserved through so much.  We have been going through the book in our Monday morning Bible Study for the past 8 months — lots to unpack from this major prophet!  Going back to the list of scriptures, it is interesting to me that there are (6) mentions of the phrase “They will be my people, and I will be their God” in the Book of Ezekiel, so between Jeremiah and Ezekiel God reminds His people (13) times!  I wonder if it is stated so many times because God really wanted His people to know how much He loved them, and that regardless of their circumstances of captivity that they were in, He desires to bring them back into relationship with Him!  The same is true for us today!  No matter what you are going through whether it is no fault of your own or as a result of bad choices God wants to restore you.  And if you are still wondering what is God’s greatest desire?  Well Robert Morris made this point…“God’s greatest desire is you!”

Through a relationship with Jesus, ANYONE who calls on the name of Jesus is instantly grafted into the Family Tree.  And then these verses from Jeremiah and Ezekiel do not just apply to the People of Israel but to EVERYONE!  God wants to bring ALL people into relationship with Him!  “How can I do that” you say, well I am glad you asked…The answer is found in Romans 10:9-10 (NLT)…

“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.”

That is why Jesus came into this world to be the light that leads us back to the Father.  He achieved what Martin Luther King Jr. said that…

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Jesus is the light of the world and is the epitome of love in its purest form, will you trust in Him today?   If you have already made Jesus the Lord of your life, let’s continue to persevere as Jeremiah and Ezekiel had done and drive out the darkness and hate through our light and love as Dr. King urged us to do!

What to Dig Deeper? 

★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…A SURGEON ★,

In which we studied the ministries of Jeremiah and Ezekiel who were major prophets like Daniel living at the same dark time period in Judah’s history (of the decline of the nation and during the Babylonian Captivity) yet in very different situations.  Jeremiah prophesied while still in the land of Judah while Ezekiel was taken off to Babylon.

★ Back to the Basics – Validity of God’s Word ★

★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #2 – What Are You Feeding On? ★

 

Stay tuned for the next post in the series…

 

 

Continue reading

★ Thought for the Day – Overcoming Adversity Through Faith – Part 2 ★

In our last post ★ Thought for the Day – Overcoming Adversity Through Character ★ we revealed that in the coming months we will unpack stories of different “OVERCOMERS” in scripture who consistently chased after God, and faithfully worked at building His Kingdom.  Men and women who modeled our anchor verse from Joshua 1:8 (NLT) well:

“STUDY this Book of Instruction CONTINUALLY.  MEDITATE on it day and night so you will be sure to OBEY everything written in it.  Only then will you PROSPER and SUCCEED in all you do.”

And just a reminder this was the list of people that we will pick some to explore to draw encouragement from the lives they lived.

We kicked off the series discussing one of my favorite Old Testament characters Daniel and how he overcame adversity through the strength of his character and his faithfulness to God’s Word.  The consistency of which was so strong that his life impacted the whole world (see Daniel 6:25-27)!  Since the book of Daniel is a favorite of mine I thought I would go back to it for today’s Thought as we look at overcoming adversity through faith in Daniel Chapter 3 with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.  You may be thinking who are they?  You probably know them by their Babylonian names Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  We first meet them in Daniel 1:5-7 (NLT), which recalls how Daniel and his (3) friends literally had their identity changed!

“The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were four of the young men chosen, all from the tribe of Judah. The chief of staff renamed them with these Babylonian names: Daniel was called Belteshazzar. Hananiah was called Shadrach. Mishael was called Meshach. Azariah was called Abednego.”

A buddy of mine had this in his study bible that is so helpful to see the reprogramming that was being done to them:

This was common practice to immerse foreigners into the Babylonian culture from literature to learning the language so that they would be ready to enter the royal service.  It’s interesting to me that we hardly ever hear Daniel referred to as Belteshazzar, he is referred to primarily by his Hebrew name for most of the Book but yet his (3) friends are known primarily by their Babylonian names after chapter 1 and never their Hebrew names.  For the purpose of familiarity, I will continue to use their Babylonian names.  Iain M. Duguid made this point:

“These Babylonian names invoked the help of the Babylonian gods, Marduk, Bel, Nebo, rather than Israel’s Lord.”

In every way possible, the Babylonians tried to erase who they were.  Iain drew from the lives Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were living in exile and made it relevant to us today…

“As citizens of heaven, Christians live as aliens and strangers in a land that is not their own and there are times when the world’s enmity to the people of God becomes evident. The hostility of the world is often shown in the efforts it makes to squeeze us into its mold. It wants to make us conform to its values and standards and not to stick out from the crowd…We have to choose daily whether to be a part of this world in which we live, or to take the difficult path of standing against it.” 

And that is where faith comes into play, will we trust in God no matter what threat comes against us or will we buckle under the pressure?  It is a choice that will definitely have consequences, whether they be minor inconveniences or a major life impact to the point of death.  In the post called ★ Thought for the Day – Chain Reaction Catalyst ★, I shared Romans 1:16 (ESV) in relation to Rachel Joy Scott who was a devout Christian that did not waver in her faith and as a result was killed in the Columbine High School Massacre which says:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

It is undeniable that Rachel was not ashamed to the point of giving her life up for her faith.  And in today’s case study of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego we will see that is the case as well.  Daniel Chapter 3 will be the main text for today which starts off with King Nebuchadnezzar setting up a 90-foot-tall x 9-foot-wide gold statue in the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.  He calls all his high officers, officials, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the provincial officials to come to the dedication of the statue and then in Daniel 3:4-6 (NLT) it says…

“Then a herald shouted out, “People of all races and nations and languages, listen to the king’s command!  When you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other musical instruments, bow to the ground to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue.  Anyone who refuses to obey will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”

This presented a major problem because the #2 Commandment is quite clear:

“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea.  You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.”  (Exodus 20:4-6)

Any Jew complying with Nebuchadnezzar’s demand would be breaking this commandment as well as bringing a curse down upon their descendants to the third and fourth generations!  Well as the story unfolds, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego chose not to worship the King’s idol and as a result their enemies brought this rebellion to Nebuchadnezzar’s attention.  I should mention that at the end of chapter 2, Daniel and his (3) friends we promoted to a high position of power (see Daniel 2:48-49) which is probably what prompted some of the astrologers (or Chaldeans) to inform on them, either out of jealousy or political motivation.  The interesting thing is that in verse 12 they single out the (3) friends even though there are many other Jews who probably did not bow their knee to the gold statue, namely Daniel.

“But there are some Jews—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—whom you have put in charge of the province of Babylon. They pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They refuse to serve your gods and do not worship the gold statue you have set up.”  (Daniel 3:12)

As you would expect, Nebuchadnezzar flies into a rage and interrogates to try to get them to change their mind with the threat that they “will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace” if they do not worship the gold image.  Quite a dilemma huh?  Betray the God who created you by worshipping a false god or be immediately burned alive.  Daniel 3:16-18 (NLT) is one of the greatest responses to the threat of death I have ever heard.  Their answer to this impossible circumstance echoes Rachel Joy Scott and is what every believer should be ready to say:

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if He doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.””

All I can say is WOW!  Every time I read Daniel 3:16-18, I am amazed at how Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego courageously stood their ground and overcame adversity through their faith.  In the post ★ Thought for the Day – Be Strong and Courageous ★ I shared about my oldest daughter going to Africa on a mission trip for two months to eSwatini (formally Swaziland) and South Africa; (it’s hard to believe that was a year and a half ago…a lot has changed in the world since then).  While in eSwatini, she learned to say hello in the Swazi language which is “Sawubona.”  One of the other girls on the trip got this tattoo in memory of her time there:

When my daughter came back, we got to hear the meaning firsthand from her friend.  The first part, “but if not” is a reference to Daniel 3:18, that even if God does not save them, their faith will not waver.  “Sawubona” is the greeting they used that literally translates to “I see you.”  Throughout the trip, God reminded my daughter’s friend with every person that greeted her that “He sees her.”  She said…

“So, put together, it means that even if God does not answer her prayers as expected, He still sees her and cares immensely for her God sees each and every one of us.” 

What a beautiful reminder!  In a recent Bible Study one of the guys brought up Jeremiah 1:12 (NLT) that dovetails beautifully:

“And the Lord said, “That’s right, and it means that I am watching, and I will certainly carry out all my plans.””

God will certainly fulfill His plans though it may not be the way we would wish as I am sure our heroes of the story would attest too as we are about to see.  In his rage Nebuchadnezzar commanded the furnace to be heated SEVEN TIMES HOTTER than normal. Then three men threw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the fire but as they did, the flames incinerated the executioners simultaneously.  Some good old retribution against those who would hurt God’s people.  And indeed, God did save the (3) friends.  Daniel 3:24-25 (NLT) says:

“But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?”  “Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,” they replied.  “Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted.  “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed!  And the fourth looks like a god!””

Many believe this is an Old Testament visitation of Jesus who was in the fire with His faithful servants. The King then calls them out of the furnace, and all were astonished because Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not only unharmed, but did not even smell of smoke!  And in one of the greatest reversals ever, Daniel 3:28 (NLT) recounts:

“Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.”

Then Nebuchadnezzar added a threat against anyone who would speak ill of their God and just then in Daniel 3:30 (NLT) the reward of persevering through adversity is given:

“Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to even higher positions in the province of Babylon.”

What an incredible ending!  This story in my opinion expresses the depth of faith we as Christians need to have…

— GOD CAN save us.

— GOD WILL rescue us.

— BUT EVEN IF GOD DOESN’T . . .

    . . . WE WILL STILL TRUST HIM.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego give us a great example to not lose our faith if our prayers are not answered the way we expect.  I am sure that they prayed to not be found out that they would not worship Nebuchadnezzar’s idol and yet they were.  And of course, they certainly would have rather been rescued BEFORE being thrown into the fire but then God would not have been able to display his power by saving His servants and showing to the King and everyone else that He is all powerful.  Like Daniel’s (3) friends, we need to be steadfast and committed to our faith even if the answer may be our “PLAN B.”  We need to trust that there is a reason and God’s “PLAN A” may have a higher purpose.  I will close with this reminder from Isaiah 55:8 (NLT)…

““My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.  “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”

 

Click here for the next post in the series…

★ Thought for the Day – Overcoming Adversity Through Perseverance – Part 3 ★

 

  DIG DEEPER

Check out the song “Another In The Fire” by Hillsong UNITED that is all about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fire.

★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…FAITHFUL ★

★ Thought for the Day – The Unfathomable Payoff of Faith ★

Check out this message called “The Seduction of Pride” by Robert Morris.  He uses the biblical story of King Nebuchadnezzar to show how the enemy uses pride to attack us.

Continue reading

★ Thought for the Day – Overcoming Adversity Through Character ★

On Monday we got Chinese food, and this is the message that was in my fortune cookie:

“Character is much easier kept than recovered.”

Ordinarily I read the fortunes and throw them away but this one got my attention.  Such a simple statement but so, so true.  One my absolute favorite quotes from John Maxwell that I heard at a Men’s Conference echoes this truth:

“I am always one step away from stupid.”

One bad decision can destroy your reputation as a person with character, your legacy and possibly your life.  It got me thinking about the list of men and women in the Bible who consistently pursued after God that I shared 7 months ago in the post called ★ Thought for the Day – Consistency Compounds ★.  Since then I have been adding to the list which are in red.Now of course the number one name that should be on the list is Jesus which Hebrews 13:8 (ESV) proclaims:

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Without a doubt He is the example we should be following as no one has ever lived a more consistent life then the Savior of the World!  But I did not include Him on the list because I thought it would be interesting to look at ordinary men and women.  A buddy of mine asked why I was compiling this list and I told him that I was looking throughout scripture for people who I believe were great examples of what a life of Godly character looks like.  I am NOT putting them on a pedestal as some “Super-Christian,” because we all have has sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard as Romans 3:23 reminds us…But rather to use their life as an encouragement, that like them, we too could overcome the enemy if we consistently seek the Lord!

So, in the coming months we will unpack stories of different “OVERCOMERS” in scripture.  This will be the opposite of the Temptation Series that we did back in 2017, which was all about learning from notable characters like LOT, NOAH, DAVID, ESAU, KING SAUL, THE 10 ISRAELITE SPIES and CAIN of “WHAT NOT TO.”  I pray that you will be encouraged by the people who consistently chased after God, and faithfully worked at building His Kingdom.  People who undoubtedly understood Joshua 1:8 (NLT) well:

“STUDY this Book of Instruction CONTINUALLY.  MEDITATE on it day and night so you will be sure to OBEY everything written in it.  Only then will you PROSPER and SUCCEED in all you do.”

This will be our anchor verse as it gives the battle plan on how to overcome the enemy!  Without further ado, today’s case study of Overcoming Adversity is the Old Testament character Daniel.  The Book of Daniel has always been a favorite of mine.  So many Sunday School Stories have come from there…

  • Daniel and his friends refusing to eat King Nebuchadnezzar’s Food (See Daniel Chapter 1 – Especially Daniel 1:9).
  • Daniel interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream about the shining statue of a man that foretold the downfall of the Babylon Empire; and the subsequent rise and fall of the Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman empires along with the future Divine Kingdom to come (See Daniel Chapter 2Especially Daniel 2:48-49).
  • Daniel’s (3) friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abedego being thrown into the fiery furnace because they refused to worship the Gold Statue that King Nebuchadnezzar set up (See Daniel Chapter 3 – Especially Daniel 3:16-18).
  • Daniel interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream about the tree that was an analogy to his reign. Just like the tree would be cut down, God was going to humble the King because of his pride.  He would be driven from human society for 7 years until Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that “the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world,” at which time then his kingdom would be given back to him.  (See Daniel Chapter 4 – Especially Daniel 4:34-37).
  • Daniel interpreting the “Writing on the Wall,” which signaled the ending of Babylonian reign of King Belshazzar through the conquest of Darius the Mede. (See Daniel Chapter 5 – Especially Daniel 5:29-31).
  • Daniel being thrown into the Lions’ Den because he ignored the law that was passed that for the next (30) days everyone must pray only to King Darius. Instead Daniel prayed to God just as he had always done regardless of the consequences (Daniel Chapter 6).

There is so much we could unpack with anyone of these major stories, but I think that the one that I want to focus on is chapter 6 but before I do, let’s cover some fun facts about Daniel.

First, I am a firm believer that God will equip and promote you in His timing.  In Daniel 1:17 (NLT) it shows that God blessed Daniel, and his (3) friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (also known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abedego) mightily with various gifts.

“God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom. And God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams.”

Secondly, favor is better than success.  Daniel 1:21 (NLT) shows the extent of God’s blessing:

“Daniel remained in the royal service until the first year (539 B.C.) of the reign of King Cyrus.”

Daniel remained in a high position of authority through the reigns of (4) pagan kings!  Now that is supernatural favor!!  Something to consider is the fact that Daniel was a foreigner living in exile in Babylon, he was in a position of power that spanned almost (70) years which is unheard of!  Think about when a new president is elected, EVERYONE is moved out and the winning side replaces them with “their own people.”  Daniel on the other hand, served for 7 decades under a (2) Babylonian Kings, a Mede and then a Persian King.

Lastly…most of the stories about Daniel in the book that bears his name, deal with events when he was under great stress and/or fearing for his life, but in reality, most of his life in Babylon was probably uneventful.  Iain M. Duguid made this point that really opened my mind to this, he said:

“Daniel lived a long life, spanning from the days of Nebuchadnezzar when he was carried off into exile from Judah to the time of Cyrus when the exile came to an end.  His adult life covered some 70 years. Much of that time was probably not very interesting at all. During many of those years, as far as we know, nothing special happened. There was just the difficult regular routine of Daniel’s faithfulness in a faraway land, trying to balance the demands of his two masters, the Babylonians and the Lord.”

I can honestly say, I never really thought of that before!  But like I mentioned in the last post, the routine of 2020 where I am under a mandatory work from home order and the exploding Covid cases has led to this year being one of the most consistent years of my life.  One day looks very much like the next which I think with the exceptions of these (6) well known stories, Daniel’s daily life was probably similar with a steady rhythm.  When I started the list, Daniel was the very first person I added because what we know of his life is the very definition of consistency.

Since that was a very lengthy introduction to the subject of this post, I am going to give you the Cliff Notes version of Daniel in the Lions’ Den (if you don’t you can click here to read it) and focus mainly on the events that preceded the seeming death sentence.  Like with King Nebuchadnezzar (in Daniel 1:18-20) and then King Belshazzar (in Daniel 5:29), Daniel was promoted by the third King to rule over the land, Darius the Mede.  Daniel 6:3 (NLT) recalls that:

“Daniel soon proved himself more capable than all the other administrators and high officers. Because of Daniel’s great ability, the king made plans to place him over the entire empire.”

And just like today, when people are promoted, those who are passed over inevitably become jealous and look for ways to discredit the victor which is exactly the case with Daniel.  In the next two verses it says:

“Then the other administrators and high officers began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling government affairs, but they couldn’t find anything to criticize or condemn. He was faithful, always responsible, and completely trustworthy. So they concluded, “Our only chance of finding grounds for accusing Daniel will be in connection with the rules of his religion.””  Daniel 6:4-5 (NLT)

Not to make this political, but could you imagine someone in governmental office with so much character that the only way that they could be taken down is “in connection with the rules of his/her religion?”  That certainly would be refreshing, but I digress.  In the next 5 verses, Daniel’s enemies come up with a plan to entrap him.  They go to King Darius and play to his ego and propose a law that everyone in the Kingdom must only pray to the King and no other God or else they shall be thrown in the Lions’ Den.  We could go down a rabbit trail here and break down how Darius was susceptible to his administrators and high officials’ deception because of his pride but let’s put a pin in that one and just recognize that the King was played and that pride left unchecked in one’s life can have dangerous consequences both for ourselves and others.  My favorite part of the story is what Daniel did right after the law was enacted.  Daniel 6:10 (ESV) says:

“When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem.  He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.”

Isn’t that amazing?!  Daniel was completely unaffected by whatever anyone did or what laws had changed, he just went home, knelt down as usual and prayed to God, just as he had done every day before!  The rhythm of Daniel’s life was one of praying three times a day and of gratitude despite living the majority of his life in captivity!  When you trust God completely, no king/governmental official, or changes in the law should affect how we conduct our life!  You can read Daniel 6:11-24 but in essence the officials went together to Daniel’s house and found him praying and immediately reported to the king that he broke the law and MUST BE PUNISHED because no law of the Medes and the Persians that the king signs can be changed.  Daniel was not the only one entrapped by this law, the King was too.  So even though he was distraught, the King gave the order and Daniel was thrown in the Lions’ Den.  I do want to note that the consistency of Daniel’s faith was so well known that this pagan king in Daniel 6:16b (NLT) held out hope that perhaps Daniel’s God would indeed rescue his faithful servant!

“The king said to him, “May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you.””

What a testimony!  As the story goes, the next morning Darius ran to the Lions’ Den to see if Daniel was saved and indeed, he was!  Then the King turned his attention on those who tricked him and had all of them along with their families thrown into the Lions’ Den.  Daniel 6:24b says:

“The lions leaped on them and tore them apart before they even hit the floor of the den.” 

In Daniel 6:25-27 King Darius sends a message that “everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel.  For He is the living God, and he will endure forever.  His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his rule will never end.”  And then the chapter simply ends with:

“So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.”  Daniel 6:28 (NLT)

Daniel overcame adversity through the strength of his character and his faithfulness to God’s Word was so strong that his life impacted the whole world!  Consistency is key!  I will close 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NLT) which says:

“So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable.  Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.”

Check out the next post in the series…

 

  DIG DEEPER

★ Thought for the Day – Honest Self-Evaluation ★

Check out this great sermon called “The Deception of Pride” by Robert Morris in which he teaches about the deception of King Darius and the dangers of pride in our lives.  Very applicable message!!

★ Thought for the Day – Consistency Compounds ★

★ Thought for the Day – Consistency Compounds Check-In ★

Continue reading

★ Thought for the Day – The Reward of Resistance ★

It is funny I had planned to post this 6 days ago, but you could say that I faced some resistance!  Pun intended!  I am officially on vacation until 1/4/2021 but it did not happen without working 12-15-hour days to get ready, so I apologize for the delay of today’s Thought.  In the last post called  post ★ Thought for the Day – The Purpose of Resistance ★, we discussed what the context of the miracle of the “feeding of the 5,000” was, and that the resistance we experience in our life can be a training ground for us to be prepared to be the hands and feet of Jesus when people in our sphere of influence are going through a storm of life.  Today I want to continue looking at the second half of Jesus’ day after the Miracle of Multiplication happened.  As a reminder, before the (5) loaves of bread and (2) fish were multiplied to feed 15,000 – 20,000 people, earlier that morning Jesus was told that his cousin John the Baptist was brutally murdered by Herod Antipas (see Matthew 14:1-11).  He then left with his disciples before they had even eaten to the remote place where the miracle happened but when they arrived, there was a great multitude waiting for them to be healed and taught.  Instead of being concerned with his physical or emotional needs, Jesus spent the day pouring himself out taking care of everyone else.  So fast forward to after everyone has filled their stomachs, John 6:12-13 (NLT) gives my favorite detail that is only found here and not in the other (3) Gospels.  The command is given by Jesus Himself that we must finish the leftovers, it’s Biblical!

“After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves.”

This post was started in my mind to be written before Thanksgiving when I read this in my Bible Reading Plan.  It was also built upon while I was on a Bike Ride which I will never forget.  It was November 22, a cold and gloomy Sunday afternoon and I decided to get some exercise in keeping with my 2020 commitment even though it was the last thing I wanted to do.  You may recall that in January of this year I posted my annual “Word for the Year” post called ★ Thought for the Day – Consistency Compounds ★, which was before Coronavirus had broken out in the United States.  In the shared that my word for 2020 was CONSISTENCY and that I wanted to be known as a man who is CONSISTENT in ALL areas of my life:

  • SPIRITUALLY…that my walk with Christ would be stronger than ever as I grow in my daily dependence on the Holy Spirit.
  • PHYSICALLY…that my health would be the best that it ever has been.
  • AND EMOTIONALLY…that my relationships with my wife, two daughters, friends and co-workers would be better than ever and life-affirming.

One other fun fact…Today is 11 months to the day that I made that commitment public and I have done well to keep it.  My wife and I were laughing about how 2020 definitely has been the most consistent in the fact that each day is very much like the last one between the mandatory work from home that I am under and the fact that COVID cases are exploding, we don’t go out much except for groceries.

Anyhow, back to the bike ride revelation.  I laced up the sneakers, put on the helmet and started pedaling and from the very cycle to the last one almost and an hour and half later the wind was against me!  You can see from my screen capture from the Runkeeper that I had an average speed of 11.15 mph which was my 9th fastest ride! Now that may not be much for you, but for a 46 year man who did not exercise regularly before 2020, that is amazing for me and something that had I not been consistently exercising throughout the year, training my body I know that I probably would have given up as a result of the resistance and turned back towards home after the first mile. And when I got home and saw the stats of the bike ride, I realized that not only does CONSISTENCY COMPOUND, but that there is REWARD TO RESISTANCE!  This was without a doubt the hardest one I had ever been on in my life and one that I will never.  As I pedaled and pushed past the exhaustion, the wind whipping against me no matter which direction I went, the story that followed the “Feeding the 5,000” came to mind.  It is covered in Matthew 14:22-33, Mark 6:45-52 and John 6:16-21.  Jesus sends everyone home and gets alone to pray and commune with His Father, to mourn the loss of His cousin and have some time to rest after a long day of ministry and provision for the multitude.  Mark 6:47-52 (NLT) shows that as Jesus was “recharging his batteries” and grieving over the loss of John the Baptist, we see that Jesus still had His eye on disciples, seeing that they were in danger.

“Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land.  He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves.  About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water.  He intended to go past them, but when they saw him walking on the water, they cried out in terror, thinking he was a ghost.”

John 6:18-21 (NLT) gives a little more detail:

“Soon a gale swept down upon them, and the sea grew very rough.  They had rowed three or four miles when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat.  They were terrified, but He called out to them, “Don’t be afraid. I am here!” Then they were eager to let him in the boat, and immediately they arrived at their destination!”

Jesus saw them in the storm and once again left to go to help others.  Now I don’t know how long it typically takes to row 3-4 miles without resistance but there is no doubt that they had to work so much harder because of the gale force winds against them.  I have read some commentaries and it is speculated that the disciples had probably been rowing 6-8 hours against the storm.  Though my bike ride only lasted a fraction of what they went through, I certainly can understand how frustrating it can be to make little progress when you are pressing through adversity but there is definitely a higher purpose for what we go through in life.

In this amazing message called “This is Significant” by Steven Furtick, he spoke about why we go through the storms of life we do, through this story of the disciples struggling to cross the Sea of Galilee.  He made these to great points:

“Resistance is often the greatest place for revelation.”   

Jesus sent the disciples “against the wind because He needed a situation to reveal His sufficiency.”

Or to say it simply…“Resistance leads to revelation.”  And that revelation is found in Matthew 14:32-33 (NLT) after Jesus saved Peter from sinking and they entered they joined the other disciples:

“When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.  Then the disciples worshiped Him.  ‘You really are the Son of God!’ they exclaimed.”

So, we see that the REWARD OF THE RESISTANCE was that the disciples came to the revelation that Jesus is the Son of God!  Whatever you are going through, pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal to you what you need to learn from the situation or hardship because there is a purpose for everything as Romans 8:28 (NLT) reminds us:

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”

In this Christmas season, in the midst of Coronavirus please do not let the enemy have you to focus on the circumstances, the storm you are in but change your perspective and focus on Jesus, the true reason for the season!

I will close on this final thought from C.S. Lewis that is our reward…

“Hardship often prepares an ordinary person for an extraordinary destiny.”  

 

★ Want to Dig Deeper? ★

“The Principles of Multiplication” by Robert Morris in which he shares two principles of giving from the story where Jesus fed the five thousand.

If you would like to read the previous “Word for the Year” posts click here.

#Reason For The Season – 25 Day Series of consecutive posts exploring the Reasons that we should be “Thankful” during the Advent Season.

★ Thought for the Day – What Are You Focused On? ★

★ Thought for the Day – The Purpose of Resistance ★

Today is significant for several reasons.  First as I am sure you are keenly aware thanks to endless commercials and emails, we are just…Marketers want us all to pressure so that we get out there and spend our money.  This amid a worldwide pandemic, political division and social unrest.  My wife sent me this meme which I thought was hysterical……and underscores how this year has been like nothing we have seen before.  Without a doubt, the past 275 days since the mandatory work from home began, we have all had to handle stress and face things none of us have had to before.  Recently I went through my photos on my iPhone to do the 2020 year in review challenge.  As I scrolled, the evidence of how we have been handling the stress.  There were lots of shots of walks and bike rides with my wife and daughters trying to make the most out of this crazy time.  We had some big moments like my youngest daughter buying her first vehicle, a used Ford F150 and graduating high school a year early; as well as celebrating 21 years married to my best friend!  There definitely have been some scary moments as well…My father-in-law falling face first into the pavement causing stitches, a broken nose and fractures in his neck.  And most recently my oldest daughter testing positive for Covid.  I am happy to report that both as recovering well and in fact she was home for our very quiet Thanksgiving celebration.  We also had a heart wrenching moment too as my neighbor and close friend just passed away two weeks (11/25/2020) after losing his battle with cancer.  Today my youngest daughter received her test results that she is positive for Covid.  It has been a challenging year, and as many people have wished 2020 to be over with, as I reflect upon it, I find keeping things in context is important.  This will not be a surprise, but it is important to remember that we live in a fallen world in which our loved ones get injured, contract diseases and pass away.  We are not promised tomorrow, in fact Jesus’ little brother stated in James 4:13-14 (NKJV) this sobering reality:

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow.  For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”

In light of this, we must be intentional in how we live and take inventory of all that we do have in spite of a worldwide pandemic or any other trial.  For me, I am thankful for God’s provision and protection even though I have experienced heartache and struggle.  I know that nothing is a surprise to God, and I stand on the truth that God remains the same forever!  His throne continues from generation to generation as Lamentations 5:19 records. I pray that my words are coming through clearly and that the enemy is not able to twist them as you read this post that you are offended instead of encouraged.  I know 2020 has been a year of destitution, distress and death and I certainly am not making light of all that is going on in the world as unemployment soars, all-consuming fear fills the minds of people on how to put food on the table or the reality of the empty chair at the dinner table.  But I do think when we change our perspective and fix our eyes on Jesus that we will see a difference happen in how the storms of life affect us.  I shared about this in the post called ★ Thought for the Day – What Are You Focused On? ★, which is about when Peter was walking on water (after Jesus invited him to step out of the boat,) and then what happened when he took His eyes off Jesus and began to sink.  If you have been in church for any amount of time, you undoubtedly have heard a sermon or two on this story, but do you know the context how this situation came about?

It all started in the morning when Jesus received the news that His cousin, John the Baptist was brutally murdered by Herod Antipas because of an inebriated oath he made, see Matthew 14:1-11.  John the Baptist’s disciples buried him and then told Jesus of the news of his beheading.  Matthew 14:13 (NLT) says:

“As soon as Jesus heard the news, He left in a boat to a remote area to be alone.  But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns.”

The Gospel of Mark, chapter 6, verses 31-33 (NLT) gives a little more detail:

“Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.”  He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.  So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone.  But many people recognized them and saw them leaving, and people from many towns ran ahead along the shore and got there ahead of them.”

It is so important to read all of scripture so that a full picture and understanding can be reached.  Between these two passages we can see the humanity of Jesus on display.  He wanted to be alone with His Disciples to rest and mourn the loss of his cousin and we also see that they hadn’t had enough time to eat before they set off to the remote place.  With that context, now let’s read Matthew 14:14 (NLT)…

“Jesus saw the huge crowd as He stepped from the boat, and He had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”

There are many incredible things to say about Jesus but this act of selflessness in light of all He was going through shows just how amazing Jesus was.  He could have sent the people away, He had a legitimate excuse after all, His cousin was just brutally murdered, BUT instead He healed the sick, taught them and feed the multitude of people who followed Jesus and the disciples to that remote place.  The “Feeding of the 5,000” men plus the woman and children as recorded in Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-20, and John 6:1-15 is so significant to me not just because of the provision for 15,000 – 20,000 people from (5) loaves of bread and (2) fish but because it all happened as a result of the selflessness of Jesus.  He pushed aside His grief, hunger and put the needs of others before Himself which is why I think it is recorded in all (4) Gospels.  In the post called ★ Thought for the Day – Back Into the Fire ★,

I shared this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer that captures this perfectly:

“We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.  God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions.”

We often say, I want to be more like Jesus, but do we really understand what that means.  When God attempts to interrupt your day with an invitation to partner with Him to change someone’s day, what do you do?  Will you lay aside your desires and be a conduit for God’s love, grace and comfort to flow through you?

I will close with 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NLT) which is one of my favorite passages on how if we will change our perspective perhaps the things that have or are happening which are bad can be used for good:

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 

Did you catch that?  The first part of verse 4 gives us quite an eye-opener, that God “comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.”  Have you ever thought of it that way?  God comforts us so that we will turn around and comfort those in need!  So, I have a better challenge for you, instead of compiling a bunch of photos, let’s follow Jesus’ example that even when things are chaotic in our lives, can we try to turn this year of turmoil and uncertainty and be a comfort for someone else?  I believe there is a purpose to the resistance or the storms of life to equip us to be the hands and feet of Jesus!

Here is the conclusion of Jesus’ day…

★ Thought for the Day – The Reward of Resistance ★

 

★ Want to Dig Deeper? ★

★ Thought for the Day – Are You a Plug or a Conduit? ★

★ Thought for the Day – Interruption or Opportunity? ★

★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…PATIENT ★

In the last post ★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…SPIRIT ★, we discussed the significance of Pentecost for the Jewish people and believers in Jesus.  That day we received the greatest gift anyone could hope for, the Spirit of God who is the vehicle to help us to live the overcoming life.  Today we are going to see that…

It has been a little over (5) weeks since that post, so hopefully you have been exhibiting this attribute, hahaha!  Today marks Day 120 of our family self-quarantining.  As you can see, I have been ticking away the days wondering will it ever end.  The past (4) months have been a bit of a blur and definitely an unusual time for all of us to develop some patience.  Early on in my walk with Christ, I remember a friend of mine telling me that I should never pray for patience because God will give me “opportunities” to develop patience.  Now you may be reading this and be in total agreement with my well-intentioned friend, but I do not believe that is at all what God desires; after all…patience is one of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit as Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT) tells us:

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

I don’t know about you but for so much of my life, I have been impatient whether it be for the next stage of life (ie. I could not wait to grow up so I could get out of school, now I cannot wait to retire so I can relax 😊); or with a project at work that will not end or with wanting people to change that don’t.  This attribute of God has always amazed me, all throughout the Bible His patience is tested over and over through the rebellion of His children and yet He endures!  I am so thankful that God does not give up on me.  So I have come to realize that if PATIENCE is one of the fruits of the Spirit, even though it can be really challenging, I think it is one that if we master it, we will reap the rewards in our walk.  I read this quote somewhere which said:

“A moment of patience in a moment of anger saves you a thousand moments of regret.”

Amen?  Well enough about us, lets look at some scriptures that illustrate this side of God.  When I think about God’s patience, the story that comes to mind is how the Israelites rebelled against God.  If you recall, after God delivered His people from Egyptian slavery, Moses sent (12) spies into the Promised Land and when they returned, (10) of them gave a bad report which lead the people to began to complain and doubt God (See Numbers 13-14).  In Numbers 14:18-19 (NLT) Moses quoted what God said:

““The Lord is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion.  But He does not excuse the guilty.  He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected — even children in the third and fourth generations.  In keeping with your magnificent, unfailing love, please pardon the sins of this people, just as you have forgiven them ever since they left Egypt.””

God is patient but there are consequences for sin.  And the consequences were that the people would have to wander in the wilderness for 40 years for their rebellion.  I love how Luke recorded what Paul said in Acts 13:17-19 (NLT)…

““The God of this nation of Israel chose our ancestors and made them multiply and grow strong during their stay in Egypt.  Then with a powerful arm he led them out of their slavery.  He put up with them through forty years of wandering in the wilderness.  Then he destroyed seven nations in Canaan and gave their land to Israel as an inheritance.””

Even though God rescued them from Egypt and the people rebelled, He still took care of them as they wandered in the wilderness (see Exodus 13:21-22), and then cleared the way for them to enter the Promised Land.  When I read the Old Testament and all the ways the Israelites blew up, I quickly want to judge them and ask how in the world could press their luck and sin against God but then I catch myself and remember that I have failed in my own way over and over throughout my life.  But thanks to the patience of God, He has not given me what I deserve!  2 Peter 3:9 (NLT) says:

“The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think.  No, He is being patient for your sake.  He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”

Thank you, Lord, for that truth!  I will close with one final scripture that supports the importance of developing patiences in our lives.  James 1:12-13 (NLT) says:

“GOD BLESSES those who PATIENTLY ENDURE testing and temptation.  Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.  And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.”  God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else.”

Life as we have known these past 120 days has pushed us to our limits in many ways and yet in other ways I have felt phenomenally blessed as the quarantine has given additional time in the day to sleep, reflect, exercise and spend more with my family.  Yes, I have had my moments of impatience, but I believe when we get to the other side of this pandemic if we trust in God and patiently endure we will be so much stronger and mature.  I would encourage you to pray, stay home if you can or if you must go out please, please wear a mask and keep your distance from others.  Stay safe!

★★ Dig Deeper ★★

★ Thought for the Day – What’s On The Inside? ★

★ Thought for the Day – Overwhelmed or Overcoming? ★

★ Thought for the Day – What’s In Your Sponge? ★

 

Continue reading

★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…SPIRIT ★

In the last post ★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…FAITHFUL ★, we discussed that God’s faithfulness can be counted on, and that He will never leave us or forsake us.  All our days are God’s, He is like a fire defending us…Faithfully!  Today we are going to see that GOD IS…SPIRIT…

A lot can be said of this fact that God is THREE persons in ONE.  God the FATHER, God the SON, and God the Holy Spirit.  In fact we started off a 3-part series called ★ Back to the Basics – The Unsung Hero of the Trinity – Part 1 ★, in which I shared this quote that seems appropriate to start off with…

“The Christian who neglects the Holy Spirit is like a lamp that’s not plugged in.”

So today’s attribute that GOD IS…SPIRIT is near and dear to my heart and my prayer is that by the end, you will see how important He is to be a part of your life as well!  Today in America, the church is celebrating Pentecost, which for Christians is best known in Acts 2:1-41 when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the 120 believers in Jerusalem.  This was in fulfillment of what Jesus promised to the disciples in Luke 24:49 (NLT), which happens to be the last recorded Words of Jesus:

“And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised.  But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.”

But for Jewish people, Pentecost which is the 50 day after Easter, is known for another reason…

“Did you know that Pentecost is a Jewish feast that celebrates Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai?”  Robert Morris

It is also known as the Feast of Weeks or Festival of Harvest (See Leviticus 23:15-21).  The Ten Commandments which is outlined in Exodus 20:1-17, was given to the people of Israel to be guide them as they were going to go to the Promise Land.  The Law as it was known, outlined how His people could approach God and what He desired but the Old Testament is filled with stories of how they failed epically to please Him so that is why Jesus was sent to do what we could not.  In John 14:17 (NLT), Jesus said:

“He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.  The world cannot receive Him, because it isn’t looking for Him and doesn’t recognize Him.  But you know Him, because He lives with you now and later will be in you.” 

God through His Holy Spirit lives with us!  I love this truth by Robert Morris

“Because of the Holy Spirit, instead of being held to the impossible standards of the Old Testament law, we can now walk according to the law of love Jesus speaks about in Matthew 22:35–40.  This is good news because we cannot live righteously without the power of the Holy Spirit.”  From the YouVersion reading plan ‘The God I Never Knew’ by Robert Morris.

Many Christians are living a powerless life as a result of not getting to know the “Unsung Hero of the Trinity.”  The Holy Spirit is A Comforter, A Helper, A Friend, An Advocate, A Teacher and A Guide.

John 4:24 instructs us…

“For God is Spirit, so those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

And then in Romans 8:14-16 says:

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.  So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves.  Instead, you received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as his own children.  Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”  For His Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.”

As a result of the God’s Spirit, we have access God the Father and are His children!  Almost 2,000 on this day we received the greatest gift anyone could hope for, the Spirit of God who is the vehicle to help us to live the overcoming life.  I will close with one more quote from Robert Morris about the significance of this day!

“The day of Pentecost was the first time since the Fall of man that the Holy Spirit empowered men to live righteously.  We know Jesus’ death and resurrection have put us in right standing with God, but the Holy Spirit actually empowers us to live according to that righteous position.”

I would highly recommend you check out this YouVersion reading plan called ‘The God I Never Knew’ by Robert Morris.  It truly is life changing!  And more importantly, get to know the Spirit of God!

★★ Dig Deeper ★★

★ Posts that are All About the Holy Spirit ★

★ Thought for the Day – All About the Big Ten ★

“Spirit Comes, Church Goes” by Joakim Lundqvist as Word of Life Church in Sweden.

 

 

 

Continue reading

★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…FAITHFUL ★

In the last post ★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…FORGIVING ★, we discussed that There is a direct connection between confession and forgiveness.  When we will go to God in humility and turn from our wicked ways, He WILL cleanse us.  And the vehicle for us today is through His Son Jesus Christ.  Today we are going to see that…

This attribute of our Heavenly Father is covered quite extensively in the Bible, here are just some passages which I will cover some of but I would recommend you read them nonetheless…

Deuteronomy 31:6, 32:4, Psalm 86:15, 117:2, James 4:8, Hebrews 10:23-24, 13:5-6 Matthew 28:20, Philippians 1:6, John 6:37, 40, 15:7, Romans 8:28-29, Isaiah 49:15-16 

First off, I would like to start with Deuteronomy 7:9 (NLT) which Moses wrote:

“Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God.  He is the faithful God who keeps His covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes His unfailing love on those who love Him and obey His commands.”

Do you know any one who as soon as they say “I’ll call you tomorrow” or “you can count on me to show up to some event,” you know for a fact you’ll never hear from them or see them as they promised?  I have a few people like this in my life who I know do not intentionally mean to let me down but yet they do. I almost plan on not hearing from them or seeing them and then if they follow through, I am pleasantly surprised. Not this may seem like a trite comparison, but I love what Moses testifies about God that He is the faithful God who keeps His covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes His unfailing love on those who love Him and obey His commands.”  God more faithful then our mother or father or best friend on this earth, He keeps His word for a 1,000 generations!!  Isn’t that awesome?

Hebrews 10:23 (NLT) also speaks of the faithfulness of the Father:

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise.”

There are some action words in the passage that I think we really need to take notice off…We must hold tightly without wavering!”  This of course is easier said than done but true nonetheless.  God did not make us robots, we have a choice to trust the faithfulness of God or to reject Him.  So, if we want the promises, we need keep hold of our own faith. There is a song that came to mind instantly as I started working on this post called “Faithful God” by Zach Neese which has brought me such comfort through many dark days.

If I call, will You come
When I cry, do You hear
I believe every tear
Is caught up by a faithful God
So I will cry until You come
Cast my cares into Your arms
I can’t see past this storm
But I’m counting on a faithful God 

Faithful God
You hold my life secure
All my days are Yours
I believe
My God is like a fire defending me
Faithfully

Isn’t that beautiful?  Every time I sing these lyrics, I feel my faith increase.  I will close with Romans 5:8 which says that:

God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” 

This singular act shows His faithfulness to keep the covenant that He made with us that nothing will ever separate us from Him and that He will never leave us or forsake us as Deuteronomy 31:6 and Hebrews 13:5 reminds us.  All our days are God’s, He is like a fire defending us…Faithfully!  We can count on Him.

 

★★ Dig Deeper ★★

★ Thought for the Day – The Lord is Near ★

★ Thought for the Day – How important is Jesus? ★

★ Thought for the Day – Confidence IN WHOSE You Are ★ 

 

Continue reading

★ Thought for the Day – Consistency Compounds Check-In ★

On January 18, 2020 I posted my Word for 2020 in the post ★ Thought for the Day – Consistency Compounds ★.  As a reminder, my prayer for this year was that I would be CONSISTENT in all areas of my life – Spiritually (that my walk with Christ would be strong), Physically (that my health would be the best that it ever has been), and Emotionally (that my relationships with my wife, daughters, friends and co-workers would be better than ever and life-affirming.). Well today is the 4 month anniversary of that post and I thought it would be good to pause for a post from our “GOD IS…” series and give an update on where I am at.

Today is Day 66 of quarantine and my 10th week of working at home as the result of COVID-19.  I must say that the days and weeks are all running together but I have been blessed to be able work out of my dining room and receive a pay check every 2 weeks, something many people are not as fortunate to be able to.  Though it’s been hard watching the news casts of all those suffering, I have been looking for the silver lining and have see that there are definitely benefits that have resulted.  I can honestly say the quarantine has helped me to stay consistent with my goals for 2020, so like in the first post, I will break this up in 3 parts:

SPIRITUAL CHECK-IN:

Through Facebook Messenger and other video chat Apps, I have been able to stay connected with all the guys that I met with previously each morning at my house and now I am hosting Bible Studies virtually and reaching more men then I was before if you can believe that?!  Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to do this and technology we have been making the best out of a bad situation.  Also you may have noticed an increase in posts as I have been exploring the attributes of God in our “GOD IS…” series.  In the past month, we have looked at (22) different aspects of our Heavenly Father which is far greater frequency then ever before!

PHYSICAL CHECK-IN:

Now if you have followed this blog for awhile, you know full well that exercise has always been a struggle for me.  Whether it was a lack of motivation or just trying to fit it in my day, I always had an excuse for why I did not workout.  Over the past 5 months I am happy to say that the excuses have been kicked to the curb, and especially over the past 65 days I have been more consistent then ever!  I hope you will not think me to be bragging, but I wanted to share this with you from my Fitbit app exercise tracker that shows I have consistently exercised for an entire month straight!!  First time ever in my life doing this!!

EMOTIONAL CHECK-IN:

As a part of the workouts, I have been going on walks with my wife and oldest daughter which has helped also strengthen the emotional connections simultaneously.  My youngest daughter and I have been working on and off together building a bed to look like a Chevy pickup truck (which is her favorite vehicle!)  Many people have been asking me if I am looking forward to going back to the office but honestly, I have been enjoying getting (2) additional hours back in my day since I don’t have to drive to and from work (and also eliminating the stress of the commute).  I do miss my friends at work, but MS TEAMS has helped to keep that community connection.  And one final benefit has been having breakfast and lunch with the family every day which in the past was only possible on the weekend.  Oh, and probably the highlight of the past 65 days was this past Saturday when my oldest daughter cleared out her bedroom so we could have a “Family Dance Night Surprise!”  Yesterday I felt so sore from all the dancing…hahaha!

I share all of this to say, regardless of circumstances we can always improve things if we will consistently look to make the environment better.  I shared this in the post ★ Thought for the Day – What’s On The Inside? ★, but it bears repeating as I am a firm believe of what Marvin J. Ashton once said:

“Be the one who nurtures and builds.  Be the one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart one who looks for the best in people.  Leave people better than you found them.”

A bad attitude can spread like a wild-fire within the home or at work and when you compound that with 65 days of captivity, I man self-quarantine you have all the conditions for a “five alarm fire!”  So regardless of how we feel, we must push through and not allow the media to tear down our spirits or boredom to stop us from getting into the Word everyday or laziness to stop us from going on a walk or riding a bike.  I heard this great sermon called…“New Found Life” by Mondoe Davis who preached on the importance of physical training and how it ties into the spiritual.  He read 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (NLT) which says…

“Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.”

And drew this powerful parallel:

“You are a spirit, you have a soul, and you live in a physical body.  What you feed each one of these aspects of who you are, determines how you will grow.” 

That is what I desire to be “holy in every way” and that my “whole SPIRIT and SOUL and BODY [will] be kept blameless!”  But that is up to you and me, “what we feed each one of these aspects” of who we are, “WILL DETERMINE HOW WE WILL GROW!”  Unlike what the 1977 rock song “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad” by Meat Loaf said…2 OUT OF 3 IS BAD!  We need to be 3 for 3 in our CONSISTENCY!  MIND (SOUL), BODY and SPIRIT running on all cylinders.

Over the past five months, I have been compiling a list of men and women from the Bible who I believe are great examples of what that looks like to be CONSISTENT!  It is far from complete but as I read and study, I will be adding to it.

I am thinking about doing a series on what we can learn which would be the opposite of the Temptation Series which is all about learning what not to.  But this opposing list will help us to see that you it is possible.  When you are consistently chasing after God, and working for the building of His kingdom, the gracious hand of the Lord will be upon you!  That happens when like these men and women, you are determined to make a difference to see lives changed, healed, restored and transformed here on earth!  But the choice is up to you.

 

  DIG DEEPER

★ Thought for the Day – Be Strong and Courageous ★

★ Thought for the Day – Leaving It All On The Field ★

★ Thought for the Day – What’s On The Inside? ★

Continue reading

★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS… FORGIVING ★

In the last post ★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…LOVING ★, we discussed that NOTHING can separate us from the loving arms of God who spare nothing to show us that love.  He has sacrificed His Son for us and given the Holy Spirit to live with us!  Today we are going to see that…

I must start off by asking for your forgiveness since it has been 6 days since the last post…hahaha!  Today’s attribute dovetails beautifully with our last post because God’s love is eternally intertwined with His forgiveness.  As is customary, let’s start in the Old Testament with Psalm 86:5 (NLT) that spotlights this reality:

“O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.”

God is not out to get us, rather He is “ready to forgive” and is “full of unfailing love” if we will just repent and turn away from our sin.  Look at the end of the verse again, who is God’s forgiveness for?  “For ALL who ask for His help.”  Another passage from Isaiah 55:6-7 (NLT) says:

“Seek the Lord while you can find Him.  Call on Him now while He is near.  Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong.  Let them turn to the Lord that He may have mercy on them. YES, TURN TO OUR GOD, FOR HE WILL FORGIVE GENEROUSLY.”

Isn’t that encouraging?  These passages are in the Old Testament shows that God’s desire to forgive you and I has existed for thousands and thousands of years!  He is just waiting for us to turn away from the temptations of the world SO He can GENEROUSLY FORGIVE US.  But we must CHOOSE NOT to take the bait that the devil sets before us!  And if we do, we must humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness!!  Let’s flip over into the New Testament and look at what the Apostle John instructs in 1 John 1:9 (NLT)…

“BUT IF we CONFESS our sins to Him, He is FAITHFUL and JUST to FORGIVE us our sins and to CLEANSE us from ALL wickedness.”

There is a direct connection between confession and forgiveness.  When we will go to God in humility and turn from our wicked ways, He WILL cleanse us.  And the vehicle for us today is through His Son Jesus Christ.  2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) tells us about the Great Exchange that is available:

“For our sake He [ GOD ] made Him [ JESUS ] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 

When we accept Jesus as our Savior and believe that He died in our place, OUR UNRIGHTEOUSNESS is placed on Jesus and HIS RIGHTEOUS is transferred to us!  WOW!  However, the enemy of souls will do anything and everything to thwart that transaction from happening because Satan hates God and hates us because we are the apple of God’s eye (see Genesis 3:15, Psalm 17:8, Proverbs 7:2, Zechariah 2:8).  Ephesians 4:32 (NLT) shows us that we ought to extend forgiveness to others:

“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

Thank you, Jesus, for being the conduit for us to become right with you!!  I have had this beautiful song on repeat of late that so captures the incredible the significance of God’s forgiveness called “Holy Water” by We the Kingdom:

Your forgiveness
Is like sweet, sweet honey
On my lips
Like the sound of a symphony
To my ears
Like holy water on my skin

I will close with the MOST UNBELIEVABLE STATEMENT in the entire Bible from Luke 23:34 (NLT)…

“Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.”

Every time I read this verse, I am always astonished with the Jesus’ selflessness that while “soldiers gambled for His clothes,” and He hung on the cross dying, Jesus prayed for God to forgive His executioners!!  Just amazing!  So much can be said on all that God has forgiven in my life, I could spend the rest of my life trying to express my gratitude and it will never be enough!  It truly is “sweet, sweet honey on my lips!”  Thank you, Thank you, Thank you God for your forgiveness!  You are a good, good Father!

 

★★ Dig Deeper ★★

★ Thought for the Day – 5 Truths That Will Change Your Life! ★

★ Thought for the Day – How Many Licks to Forgiveness ★

★ Re|Engage – Forgiveness ★

 

 

Continue reading

★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…LOVING ★

Let me start off by wishing all the mothers out there a very Happy Mother’s Day!!  And for those of you like me who don’t have a mother any longer here on Earth, I pray God’s comfort on you on this difficult reminder of that fact.  For the women trying to be a mother, I pray that the Lord would open your womb right now In Jesus name we pray!!  Amen!

In the last post ★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS… SIGNIFICANT ★, we discussed that when we magnify or place a greater significance on anything or anyone other than God, we set ourselves up for failure and invite the enemy in to wreak havoc in our life.  Only God is significant and so we must fix our thoughts on Him!  If your thoughts are NOT true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, or admirable than we MUST kick those thoughts to the curb and only “think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”  Today we are going to see that… 

It seems only appropriate that we cover this attribute on a day in which we celebrate the first woman in each of our lives that gave us unconditional and the closest example we have to what God’s unconditional love looks like.  After all, Genesis 1:27 tells us that

“So God created human beings in His own image.  In the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.”

So the love that Mother’s have for their child(ren) is a displaying the attribute that we will unpack today.  Like in the post about God being an INTELLIGENT DESIGNER, there are a ton of passages on this attribute!  The Bible is a God’s love letter to His people.  All throughout the Old and New Testaments we can see the heart of God for His people.  Here is just a fraction of passages that I was looking at initially…

Joshua 1:9, Psalm 23, 86:15, 117:2 Jeremiah 29:11, Lamentations 3:22, John 3:16-17, Romans 2:11, 5:8, Romans 8:39, Ephesians 1:3-5, 1 Peter 5:7, 2:9, 1 John 3:16, 1 John 4:16-17

Psalm 86:15 (NLT) seems like a great place to start to unpack this today’s focus:

“But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.”

Contrary to what Satan would have you believe, the God of the Old Testament IS NOT distant, judgmental or waiting for us to make a mistake so He can punish us.  Instead Lamentations 3:22 (NLT) says:

“The faithful LOVE of the Lord never ends!  HIS MERCIES NEVER CEASE.”

And no discussion of God’s love would be complete with mentioning the MOST POPULAR New Testament passage in John 3:16-17 (NLT)…

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.  God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

Satan though tries to tell us the opposite that God is out to get you and that if you become a Christian that you will have no more joy or fun BUT I can attest that prior to being saved, I was hopeless and very lost indulging in every dark and sinful pleasure that was put before me.  I am now 22 years along the path of following Jesus since I trusted Him as Lord and Savior, and it is still the BEST DECISION I ever made!  I am living proof of the abundant life that Jesus promised in John 10:10:

What I find amazing is that Jesus came to provide this and also show how much God loved us!  Romans 5:8 (NLT)

“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”

He willingly died for me and for you so that we could fully experience His love and receive eternal life!  What a Loving Father we have!!  1 John 4:16b-17 (NLT) gives further testimony:

 “GOD IS LOVE, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.  And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect.  So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.”

As I close, I will say it again, from the opening verse of the Old Testament to the final one of the New Testament, EVERY PAGE displays this attribute of Him…“GOD IS LOVE!”  And that love is so

“No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Nothing can separate us from the loving arms of God who spare nothing to show us that love.  He has sacrificed His Son for us and given the Holy Spirit to live with us!  So today will you turn to Him and believe that GOD IS…LOVING?!

 

★★ Dig Deeper ★★

“How Do I Know God Loves Me?“ by Robert Morris.  He shares how we can confidently know God loves us, even in the midst of pain and suffering.

★ Thought for the Day – Tribute to My Mom ★ 

★ Thought for the Day – What Does The Love of God Mean? ★

★ Thought for the Day – 5 Truths That Will Change Your Life! ★

 

Continue reading

★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…SIGNIFICANT★

In the last post ★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…AN INTELLIGENT DESIGNER ★ we discussed that The Big Bang is true!  God spoke and “BANG” everything was created!  And that every person has a “God-shaped hole” in their heart and at some point, they look for the answer to the question “How Can I Know that there is a God?”  That answer is found in creation which illustrates that there is an intelligent designer.  Today we are going to see that…

I bet that 8 weeks ago if you were asked: “what is significant,” you probably never would have said finding toilet paper or antibacterial wipes on the supermarket shelves.  Or that a date night dining in a restaurant and hitting a movie would incredible to be able . Oh, how life has changed for thousands and thousands of people around the world as a result of COVID-19.  As our resiliency is being stretched to its limits the new significant event is re-opening of the country here in the United States. Texas for instance has started phase 1 of trying to “return to normalcy,” but my chief concern and prayer has been that as we transition from the shelter-in-place quarantine state we have been in, that this nurse’s sign is not prophetic since many areas including where I live have not reached the peak.  Today marks DAY 55 since my family and I have self-quarantined, so like everyone else I too would love to go out on a date with my wife and get back to living but we are being cautious as this is a critical decision which should give us pause especially since the news is reporting that many states that have started re-opening are seeing a spike in cases.  Even though the state is starting to “re-open,” our family is keeping the shelter-in-place status quo.  I consider this virus and the decision of when, and how to reopen the country to be quite important, but I would like us to refocus and consider what truly is significant.  Many things are believed to be significant, BUT only God truly is.  EVERYTHING else pales in comparison to our Father! If God did nothing more for us other than sacrificing His Son to rescue is from the punishment our sins deserve, He would still be worthy of our devotion and worship!  The key is to have the right perspective.  I love what Psalms 86:10-13 (NLT)

“For you are great and perform wonderful deeds.  You alone are God.  Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may live according to your truth!  Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you.  With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God.  I will give glory to your name forever, for your love for me is very great.  You have rescued me from the depths of death.”

And Psalms 150:1-2 (NLT) says:

“Praise the Lord!  Praise God in His sanctuary; praise him in His mighty heaven!  Praise Him for His mighty works; praise His unequaled greatness!”

God is sufficiently great, worthy of honor and praise and far surpassing any other thing or person who is considered noteworthy.  Once we understand the significance of God, we can then shift our viewpoint.  I will close this post with one of the best verses on perspective is Philippians 4:8 (NLT):

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.  Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

David Guzik had this commentary on Philippians 4:8:

“Much of the Christian life comes down to the mind. Romans 12:2 speaks of the essential place of being transformed by the renewing of your mind and 2 Corinthians 10:5 speaks of the importance of casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. What we choose to meditate on matters.  What Paul describes here is a practical way to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

When we magnify or place a greater significance on anything or anyone other than God, we set ourselves up for failure and invite the enemy in to wreak havoc in our life as the mind is the battlefield.  If your thoughts are NOT true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, or admirable than we MUST kick those thoughts to the curb and only “think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

 

★★ Dig Deeper ★★

★ Thought for the Day – True Shalom ★ 

★ Thought for the Day – Annihilating Anxiety ★

 

 

Continue reading

★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…AN INTELLIGENT DESIGNER ★

In the last post ★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…SUFFICIENT ★ we discussed that there is value in weakness, because when we are weak, God is strong.  Today we are going to see that…

Sooooooo much can be said about this attribute!  In my initial “Bible thumping” I found these passages that you can read on your own:

Genesis 1:1-31, Psalm 19:1, 24:1-2, 90:2, 102:24-27, 104:24, 139:14, Nehemiah 9:6, 1 Chronicles 29:11, Isaiah 40:28, Isaiah 44:24, John 1:3, Acts of the Apostles 17:24-27, Romans 1:20, Colossians 1:16, Hebrews 11:3, Revelation 4:11, 21:5

I may cover some of these but this post would be way too long to cover in detail.  This post could a controversial one depending on where you fall on the theory of evolution versus intelligent design.  It may be come to you as a surprise but I believe that The Big Bang is true!  God spoke and “BANG” everything was created!

It’s true, just look at Genesis chapter 1 verses 3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 24”God said…and then there was…”  The whole creation account can be found in Genesis chapter one and then 4 verses into chapter 2.  If you haven’t read it or haven’t read it lately, I would encourage you to brush up on this well known but critical story.  Now if you looked at those 6 verses you may wait what about Adam and Eve?  Well interestingly enough though in verse 27 we are told that:

“God created human beings in His own image.”

It is not until Genesis 2:7 (NLT) that we learn “how” humans were created, not from God speaking BUT… 

“…the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground.  He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.”

In the message “Tear the Roof Off”, John Gray made the point that in all of creation, God spoke and then it was, but in the case of man, God “formed” him and then “breathed” life into Adam!  We are not some cosmic accident, but a deliberate, intentional creation from an intelligent designer!  But how do I know this?  Well I am glad you asked.  Psalms 19:1 (NLT) says:

“The heavens proclaim the glory of God.  The skies display his craftsmanship.”

I find it to hard to look up in the sky and see the brilliant colors of a sunset or the gentle swaying of a field flowers or the rhythmic cadence of the ocean tide as laps against the shoreline and not give pause and acknowledge the handiwork of God!  And in Isaiah 40:28 (NLT) says:

“Have you never heard?  Have you never understood?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth.  He never grows weak or weary.  No one can measure the depths of his understanding.”

Growing up I remember thinking about what would happen if I never woke up, would I just cease to exist or is there an afterlife?  Is there really a God who created all that I see?  Even if you don’t believe in God, I guarantee that at some point in your life you have asked that question for yourself.  One of my favorite scriptures that states this clearly is Romans 1:20:

“For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky.  Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities — His eternal power and divine nature.  So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”

Every person has a “God-shaped hole” in their heart and look for the answer to the question “How Can I Know that there is a God?”  You know it is kind of interesting that evolution is not a fact but a theory, one which has been around for over 160 years and yet it has still not proven but creation illustrates that there is an intelligent designer and according to the Apostle Paul in Romans, we have “no excuse for not knowing God.”

Speaking of the Apostle Paul, I was just reading Acts17:22-23 (NLT) when he was reasoning with the men of Athens in the Areopagus:

“So Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines.  And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’  This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about.”

Can you imagine worshiping in a shrine “To an Unknown God?”  I love what he said next in 17:24-27 (NLT)…

“He is the God who made the world and everything in it.  Since He is Lord of heaven and earth, He doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve His needs — for He has no needs.  He himself gives life and breath to everything, and He satisfies every need.  From one man He created all the nations throughout the whole earth.  He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and He determined their boundaries.  His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find Him—though He is not far from any one of us.”

God’s greatest desire is to draw people to Him and as a result of His creation, we see a sign of His existence with every sunrise and sunset!

★★ Dig Deeper ★★

Check out the message called: “How Do I Know There Is a God?” by Robert Morris in which he explains why it’s important to have a correct worldview and how we can confidently know there’s a God.

★ Thought for the Day – Accidental Existence? ★

★ “Back to the Basics” – God’s Mysterious Plan Revealed ★

 

 

Continue reading

★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…SUFFICIENT★

In the last post ★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…  A SURGEON ★ we discussed that God wants to do heart surgery on His people so that we become more and more like Jesus through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  Today we are going to see that…

So once the heart surgery is done, now we must walk out the Christian life which is not devoid of hardship, whether it as we all have been going through with the plague that has shut down the world!   In the post ★ Thought for the Day – Value in Weakness? ★, I shared that my life verse if from 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NLT) which says:

“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need [other translations say “sufficient”].  My power works best in weakness.”  So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.  That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

This passage is powerful but unless you understand the back story, it is difficult to understand how powerful it is.  In the preceding verses, Paul talked about being blessed by being “caught up to the third heaven” where God is and “heard so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell,” (see 2 Corinthians 12:1-3).  Then the Apostle Paul gives the explanation of the significance of my life verse…

“That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it.  I will boast only about my weaknesses.  If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth.  But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God.  So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.  Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.”  2 Corinthians 12:5-8 (NLT)

As a result of being granted this vision, Paul was given a “thorn in the flesh” to prevent pride from welling up inside.  It is unclear exactly what that may be, but Galatians 4:12-16 gives some insight to what that “thorn” might have been as he mentioned during his initial visit to the Galatia Paul had a “bodily ailment” in which he told them at the end of verse 15 that:

“I am sure you would have taken out your own eyes and given them to me if it had been possible.”   

Three times Paul asked for the “thorn in the flesh” to be removed and yet it was not. God’s answer was…“My grace is all you need.”  As believers in Christ I am sure I know what you answer will be to this question, but really think about your answer to this question…

The kneejerk reaction is “yes of course,” but it’s not easy to be afflicted with a physical ailment, financial hardship or ______ (fill in the blank) praying over and over waiting for a change but what happens condition Even though David Guzik had this commentary on 2 Corinthians 12:9…

“God would show His strength through Paul’s apparent weakness.  To do this, Paul had to believe that God’s grace is sufficient.  We really don’t believe God’s grace is sufficient until we believe we are insufficient.  For many of us, especially in American culture, this is a huge obstacle.  We are the people who idolize the “self-made man” and want to rely on ourselves.  But we can’t receive God’s strength until we know our weakness.  We can’t receive the sufficiency of God’s grace until we know our own insufficiency.”

I love that last statement that “We can’t receive the sufficiency of God’s grace until we know our own insufficiency.”  Do you receive that?  I know that difficult but that is why Paul gave this instruction in Philippians 4:6 (NASB)…

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

God wants to hear from you.  He loves us and though we may not like any other answer but “yes,” BUT we must trust that HE KNOWS what is best for us.  In the case of Paul, who arguably is one of the greatest voices for the Christian faith (other than Jesus of course), was told no in order to prevent him from becoming proud.

So in closing the loop, I wanted to swing back to my theme verse, and close with this final thought that if we want to experience this attribute of “Sufficiency,” we must accept God’s Grace and understanding that when we are weak, if we go to the power source, we will receive all that we need because He is strong!

Will you trust in His sufficiency? 

 

 

★★ Dig Deeper ★★

 

★ Thought for the Day – The Storms of Life ★

 

★ Thought for the Day – Overwhelmed or Overcoming? ★

 

★ Thought for the Day – Fair-Weather Faith ★

 

 

 

Continue reading

★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…A SURGEON ★

In yesterday’s post ★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…UNDERSTANDING ★, we discussed that God gave us Jesus and the Bible to show us how to interact with others and if we will renew our minds daily, we can grow in our understanding of the world and those who are in our sphere of influence. Today we are going to see that…

I wonder if you are thinking, “A surgeon…where is he going with post?” But I assure you God is indeed willing and able! God promised this through the prophets Hosea, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel that He would give us a new heart!

Hosea 10:12 (NLT) is a passage in which God was pronouncing His judgement because of Israel’s sin, and gave this instruction:

“I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that He may come and shower righteousness upon you.’”

God wants to perform heart surgery with each of us in order to draw us closer to Him. Sometimes it means that the “spiritual jackhammer” needs to be used to break up any hardened hearts we may have. ‭This is such a powerful Old Testament illustration of what Paul describes in his Epistles that we need a circumcision of our hearts, (see Romans 2:25-29) but I am getting ahead of myself!

Let’s continue is our journey of the Old Testament and land at Jeremiah 31:33-34 (NLT), where God promises to turn sadness to great joy:

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the Lord. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”

In this passage God is reassuring the people of Judah who are in exile as a result of their sin, that He will restore them and surgically write His instructions on their hearts. I highlighted that text to spotlight this phrase that Robert Morris made the point in the sermon called “God’s Greatest Desire,” is one of the most repeated phrases in the Bible.  He discussed that all God desires is to have a close relationship with His people. It is interesting to note that in the Book of Jeremiah, the phrase “They will be my people, and I will be their God” is mentioned (7) times, more than anywhere else any other book!!

Our final example supporting this inconspicuous attribute of God. The prophet Ezekiel was a contemporary of Jeremiah prophesying to the same people about the love God has for the people of Judah even through they were being disciplined for their sin.  In Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NLT) it speaks to the promised heart surgery that God will do for His people:

“And I will give you a NEW HEART, and I will put a NEW SPIRIT in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.”

Isn’t that powerful?! What a BEAUTIFUL PROPHECY! Unlike Jeremiah, Ezekiel was with the people of Judah in exile so I am sure this Word that God spoke was comforting to him as well. I have another fun fact for you…Circling back on the phrase “They will be my people, and I will be their God;” the Book of Ezekiel has (6) mentions; so between Jeremiah and Ezekiel God says the same thing (13) times! I wonder if it is stated so many times because God wanted His people to know how much He loved them, and regardless of the circumstances of captivity that they were in, God wants to bring them back into relationship with Him! The same is true for us today!

Now you may be thinking this is great and all but I am not an Israelite and all these passages related to them and that time period. But Romans‬ ‭2:28-29‬ ‭(NLT) ties it all together:‬‬

“For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.”
‭‭
Thanks to Jesus the prophecies from Hosea, Jeremiah and Ezekiel have been fulfilled! We are made right by accepting Jesus into our hearts and trusting in Him as our Lord and Savior. I will close with this last passage that will put a nice bow on this attribute. Hebrews 10:15-16 (NLT) says:

“And the Holy Spirit also testifies that this is so. For He says, “This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.””

If that sound familiar, it should, the author of the New Testament book of Hebrews is quoting Jeremiah 31:33! I love God’s Word and the absolute synergies that exist between the Old and New Testaments! GOD IS SURGEON, BUT it only will happen if we will open our hearts, allow whatever hardness to be broken up, allow God to write His law on our hearts so that we can enjoy the new heart He wants to give us! If you have not trusted Jesus as your savior I would encourage you not to wait another day!

If you are ready to make that decision, here is a prayer you can say to accept Jesus as your savior:

God take this broken, sinful person and change my life. I confess I have made mistakes and acknowledge that I am in need of a Savior. I want a relationship with you. Please forgive me. I believe that Jesus came to die for my sins and that He is the bridge that brings me to eternal life with you forever. Today I accept the free gift of eternal life and know that I can never do enough good deeds to earn that salvation. In Jesus Name I pray! Amen!

If you earnestly prayed that prayer you are a new creation, (see 2 Corinthians 5:17!) God will honor that prayer of surrender and will do incredible things in your life!

★★ Dig Deeper ★★

★ Thought for the Day – What is Your Download Speed? ★

★ Thought for the Day – Audience of One ★

Continue reading

★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…UNDERSTANDING ★

In yesterday’s post ★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…AN ARCHITECT ★ we discussed that everything that is naturally found was designed by God and that no matter what the adversity or situation is, NOTHING is impossible for the God that designed the ENTIRE UNIVERSE!  Today we are going to see that…

I shared this in the post ★ Thought for the Day – Understanding is a Three-Edged Sword ★, 6 years ago, BUT it is still relevant today and thought it would be great to start off with:

“Understanding is a three-edged sword.  Your side, my side, and the truth.”  J. Michael Straczynski

The key to understanding people in every situation is seeing all edges of the sword…meaning there is your side, their side and the truth.

The more you can learn about a situation, the closer you will get to the sweet spot of understanding what is truly going on.  If you are open to gaining knowledge from all perspective the the more likely you will achieve true understanding. It’s a process that takes time, a listening ear and a willingness to see things from another person’s point of view…Failure to do so will certainly result in a lack of understanding and could result in conflict.  Now that 6 years have passed, I would like to believe that I have developed a greater level of understanding about life and my interpersonal relationships whether it be co-workers, friends, my wife or two daughters but alas I am still a work in progress. Better but far from perfect…as last night showed me.  I lost my temper with my daughter over her questioning the need to still having restrictions after they lift the shelter-in-place restrictions. We are now on day 46 of the self-quarantining, and willingness to listener her side was in short supply which resulted in hurting her and subsequently me apologizing once I had cooled down.  Now while this type of behavior is the exception now instead of the norm, I was saddened that I had not applied the very attribute that I was going to be unpacking the next day. Ugh!  Perhaps that was a reminder that I need to ensure that daily depend on God and do what Ephesians 4:23-24 (NLT) instructs:

“Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.  Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.”

It is going to require submission to the Holy Spirit, and effort on our part to pursue the things that pleases God so that we can become truly righteous and holy which I believe will lead to a greater awareness and understanding of others.

As we discussed in previous posts God is all-powerful, all-knowing and ever-present so there is nothing that is unknown to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. I am so thankful that NOTHING is unknown to the Trinity.  We serve a God who knows everything that we struggle with and all our hopes and desires we have.  Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT) is a bedrock verse to stand on.

“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe.  This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.  So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”

Jesus did what we could not, not only did He face every trial we go through, He sacrificed Himself so that we can confidently go to God and have access to The Father’s grace and mercy!!  I will close with this final thought from James 1:5 (ESV) says:

“If any of you lacks wisdom [or understanding], let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

God is so good!  He gave us Jesus and gave us the Bible to show us how to interact with others.

★★ Dig Deeper ★★

★ Re|Engage – Understand ★

★ Re|Engage – Conflict ★

“Backseat DJs” by Steven Furtick 

 

 

Continue reading

★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…AN ARCHITECT ★

In yesterday’s post ★Back to the Basics – GOD IS… COMPASSIONATE ★, we discussed that throughout the gospels it says that Jesus “had compassion on them,” or “was moved with compassion for them” regardless of whether he was tired or not, Jesus made time for those in need.  He showed how much compassion He by feeding the 5,000 while just having heard that His cousin John the Baptist was beheaded.  Today we are going to see that…

This one hits close to home as this is what my profession is.  This may surprise you or perhaps you never thought of God as an architect, but I assure you after this post you will see that the Bible does substantiate this claim.  For the past 6 weeks I have been doing the Monday thru Friday Bible Studies virtually to overcome the physical distancing that we must all adhere to.  On Friday’s we are studying 1 Chronicles which is not the typical “go-to” book to do a Bible Study but all scripture “is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (2 Timothy 3:16).  I remember when I read 1 Chronicles 28:19-20 (NLT) recently, I was quite surprised to read that:

““Every part of this plan,” David told Solomon, “was given to me in writing from the hand of the Lord.”  Then David continued, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work.  Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you.  He will not fail you or forsake you.  He will see to it that all the work related to the Temple of the Lord is finished correctly.””

I had not remembered that God not only designed but wrote done all the plans for the original Temple for Solomon to build from!  God was the architect of the Temple that His people worshiped Him, not a human being!  That’s pretty incredible!

Another book of the Old Testament that is shied away from, is the Book of Job which follows a man who had to endure the worst tests any person had to go through (other than Jesus).  If you have not read the book recently, I would encourage you to dig into it. The composition of the book has a series of speeches / complaints from Job and then rebuttals from (4) different men about WHY this happened to Job.  The book then culminates with God giving Job an audience in which He challenges him with these questions…

““Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?  Tell me, if you know so much.  Who determined its dimensions and stretched out the surveying line?””  (Job 38:4-5 NLT).

As an architect myself, I know how much design and effort is put into a set of construction documents for a single building let alone all of creation!!  God is the “MASTER” Architect who created all that we see in the Universe!  Wow!  And through His creation we can know that God is real.

And if that were not enough, in Hebrews 11:10 (NIV) is also shows that God is the Architect of Heaven as well…

“For he [Abraham] was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

This of course is Heaven that Abraham was looking forward to.  You can see that God is an Architect – He can design Temples, lay out the foundations of the world and design a Heavenly City that one day we will all enjoy as a result of trusting Jesus as our Savior.  So why did I choose this attribute of God?  Well it is not just because I am an Architect, though I enjoy a well-designed project and love when you walk through the final product and realize that people will inhabit the spaces that just a year ago did not exist, except on paper (or in this digital age, the Revit BIM Model…Hahaha!)  But the true reason is that everything that is naturally found was designed by God.  Since I have been quarantined in my home for the past 6 weeks, the only activity outside the house besides grocery shopping is going on walks.  Each night I walk for 3 miles and enjoy God’s handiwork.  It is reassuring to know that no matter what the adversity or situation is, NOTHING is impossible for the God that designed the ENTIRE UNIVERSE!

★★ Dig Deeper ★★

★ Thought of the Day – What are You the Architect of? ★

 

 

Continue reading

★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…COMPASSIONATE ★

In yesterday’s post ★Back to the Basics – GOD IS…HOLY ★, we discussed that as a result of God’ Holiness, as His followers we must “BE HOLY” because He is holy and cannot not even associate with a hint of sin.  That is why Jesus sacrifice is so important!!  Today we are going to see that…

I like to start off these posts with Old Testament examples of the attribute we are spotlighting.  There is a passage that comes to mind:

Psalms 145:8-9 (NLT)

“The Lord is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.  The Lord is good to everyone.  He showers compassion on all His creation.”

I so love that the God who is over all the world has such attributes and thoughts towards us.  How beautiful is that…God “showers compassion on all His creation.”

All through this “GOD IS…” series we have been looking at the attributes of God.  The one constant has been how incredible it is that God sent His ONE and ONLY son Jesus to earth to die on a Roman cross to pay the ransom as a result of my sin so that ALL could be saved.  This is what the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) testify to.  God knew we could never do it on our own so He sent a replacement me to pay our debt — talk about compassion!

Here’s a fun fact for you: The Gospel of John covers the last year of Jesus’ life, while  Matthew, Mark and Luke cover first (2) years of Jesus’ ministry.  Did you know that there are very few things that are covered in all (4) Gospels?  In fact, there are only (4) stories in common:

  1. The Death of Jesus.  (Matthew 27:45-56, Mark 15:33-41, Luke 23:44-56, and John 19:28-42)
  2. The Resurrection of Jesus.  (Matthew 28:1-20, Mark 16:1-20, Luke 24:1-12, and John 20:1-10)
  3. The Feeding of the 5,000.  (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-20, and John 6:1-15)
  4. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit.  (Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16 and John 1:33)

Throughout the gospels it says that Jesus “had compassion on them,” or “was moved with compassion for them” regardless of whether he was tired or not, Jesus made time for those in need.  One particular instance was in Mark 6:34 (NLT) which says:

“Jesus saw the huge crowd as He stepped from the boat, and He had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  So He began teaching them many things.”

This is how the day started that lead to Jesus “Feeding of the 5,000.”  One more fun fact, that was the number of men feed, in reality it was probably more like 15,000 to 20,000 when woman and children are considered.  This is such a widely known miracle but for me it always comes back to context.  In the the book of Matthew, the story is located in chapter 14.  Verses 10-14 (NLT) really shows the compassion of Jesus and gives the backdrop of the events of one of the greatest miracles:

“So John [also know as John the Baptist — The cousin of Jesus], was beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a tray and given to the girl, who took it to her mother.  Later, John’s disciples came for his body and buried it.  Then they went and told Jesus what had happened.  As soon as Jesus heard the news, He left in a boat to a remote area to be alone.  But the crowds heard where He was headed and followed on foot from many towns.  Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and He had compassion on them and healed their sick.”

Jesus was trying to get to a solitary place to mourn the death of John the Baptist but instead He spent the day healing the sick and preaching to the masses.  Isn’t that amazing?  Had Jesus not had so much compassion to lay aside His grief over the loss of His cousin, the miracle of the “Feeding of 5,000” men never would have happened!!  Thank you, Jesus, for your compassion to sacrifice everything for us!

★★ Dig Deeper ★★

★ Thought for the Day – What’s Rubbing Off On You? ★

“This is Significant” by Steven Furtick…about understanding why we go through the storms.

 

 

 

 

Continue reading

★Back to the Basics – GOD IS…HOLY ★ 

Yesterday I had this whole post written and then it completely disappeared, so I had to rewrite it from scratch causing me to miss the deadline to post this.  Maybe that was a good thing?  On the rewrite, much more was added.  So…In the post two days ago ★ GOD IS…A FRIEND ★, even if you do not think of God as a friend, He still desires to be your friendship with you!!  As a result with our relationship with Jesus, we are automatically friends of God!!  Today we are going to see that…

I have always thought about the holiness of God like a pristine white shirt and how every time I wear one and eat spaghetti with red sauce, I always get one tiny red spot on it!  This is without a doubt trivial, BUT that shirt is ruined because of that tiny red stain.  That is how I see sin and God’s Holiness, not even a tiny bit of sin cannot be tolerated!

All through the Bible the holiness of God is clearly shown.  I think that the Torah, (the first five books of the Bible), especially highlights this attribute.  The second book of the Torah recounts the deliverance of the people of Israel from 400 years of slavery.  In Exodus 15, Moses and the people sang a song of deliverance about their new-found freedom.  In the middle they ask this rhetorical question, Exodus 15:11 (NLT) says:

“Who is like you among the gods, O Lord — glorious in holiness, awesome in splendor, performing great wonders?”

It is so important to pause and take inventory when God moves in our lives and acknowledge how glorious, how awesome and great He is!

Deuteronomy 23:1-14 is a fascinating passage of scripture in which God instructed His people on how to worship and conduct themselves within the community.  Those who defile themselves must be separated from the camp because of what Deuteronomy 23:14 (NLT) says:

“The camp must be holy, for the Lord your God moves around in your camp to protect you and to defeat your enemies.  He must not see any shameful thing among you, or he will turn away from you.”

Isn’t that beautiful?  So long as the Israelites keep themselves and the camp holy was God was close, protecting them from their enemies. But if He even saw one thing than God would turn away from them.  That is a key differentiator between God and us, there is zero compromise with God when it comes to holiness.  In Leviticus 11:44-45, 19:2, 20:7 God says (4) times that His people must…You know when God repeats something (4) times, you best listen up!!  These words were recorded thousands of years ago and they are just as true for us today.  How do i know this?  Well I am glad you asked.  The Apostle Peter made a call to “Holy Living” in 1 Peter chapter 1.  He starts off in verses 13-14:

“So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control.  Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.  So you must live as God’s obedient children.  Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires.  You didn’t know any better then.”  1 Peter 1:13-14 (NLT)

Part of winning a battle is a good plan of attack.  Peter gives some good advice.  I love the direction to “PUT ALL YOUR HOPE IN THE GRACIOUS SALVATION,” the key is to do our part.  We need to be on the offensive: ready the word, maintaining boundaries from relationships or patterns of behaviors that could cause us to drift from the path or backslide into the past.

In 1 Peter 1:15-16 (NLT) he continues raising the urgency:

“But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.  For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.””

Did you catch the Leviticus quotation?  “You must be holy because I am holy.”  I love the synergies of the Old and New Testaments.  Some people believe that since it was before Jesus, that the Old Testament is irrelevant but so much of the New Testament is built on the foundation of the Old Testament.  So Peter tells us BE PREPARED, BE HOLY and then in 1 Peter 1:17-20 (NLT) we are to BE THANKFUL:

“And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites.  He will judge or reward you according to what you do.  So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time here as “temporary residents.”  For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors.  And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value.  It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.  God chose Him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake.”

How amazing is that last sentence?  God chose Jesus to be our “ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days He has been revealed for your sake.”  Regardless of what horrific report the nightly news offers on a continually loop, God is in control, He Holy, and He loves more than we can ever imagine!  You just need to make the choice that you will pursue holiness.

 

★★ Dig Deeper ★★

★ Back to the Basics – Does God Play Favorites? ★

★ Back to the Basics – Just Believe! ★

 

 

Continue reading

★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…A FRIEND ★

In yesterday’s post ★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…A HEALER ★, we talked about that God desires to heal us completely – mind, body and spirit.  regardless of what I may think, see or feel, the reality is…the OMNIPRESENCE of God IS THE TRUTH and REALITY that I MUST STAND ON.  Nothing is impossible for God.  Today we are going to see that GOD IS…A HEALER…

Depending on your upbringing, church affiliation or lack of exposure to God, this attribute will either resonate deeply or not register at all. For those who fall in the last camp, my prayer is that by the end of this post, even if you do not think of God as a friend, you will at least see that He desires a friendship with you!!

Psalm 139:17-18 (NLT) says:

“How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.  They cannot be numbered!  I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!  And when I wake up, you are still with me!”

Isn’t that beautiful?  Do you hear the intimacy and love in the tone?  From Genesis to Revelation, the love of God is poured out on the pages of the Bible which clearly illustrates His desire to be our friend.  Romans 5:6-11 (NLT) gives a very clear example of this:

“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.  Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.  BUT GOD showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.  And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, He will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.  For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of His Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of His Son.  So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

As a result of my relationship with Jesus, I am a friend of God’s!!  Thank you Jesus!  The same is true for you!  When we started this post, I posed the question if you considered God a friend or not.  After reading this post I pray that you feel the Holy Spirit tugging on your heart to accept the sacrifice that Jesus made for you.  If you would like to learn on how to develop a relationship just check this post called ★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★.

 

★★ Dig Deeper ★★

I did not include this in the body of the post, but I figured you were wondering what song would I choose for this attribute of God… So here it is:  Delirious? – What a Friend I’ve Found (Friend Forever).

★ “Back to the Basics” – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian…Part 2 ★

 

Continue reading

★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…A HEALER ★

In yesterday’s post ★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…A WAY-MAKER ★, we talked about that regardless of what I may think, see or feel, the reality is…the OMNIPRESENCE of God IS THE TRUTH and REALITY that I MUST STAND ON.  Nothing is impossible for God.  Today we are going to see that…

It’s amazing what a profound affect music can have on you whether to bring joy or encourage or comfort.  Without realizing it, music can the tell the story of our lives or at least have the ability to transport us back with the first chord or lyric.  Those who know me, know what a significant part it has of my life.  When I started to write this post, I immediately thought of the song “Healer” that Kari Jobe released back in 2009.  I instantly fell in love with these lyrics that gently reminds us that Jesus is our great physician!

If you passed right over the link, I highly recommend that you listen to “Healer,” perhaps even as you read this post.  Let the truths in this beautiful song wash over you and encourage you.  As so many are facing the fear of COVID-19 whether young or old, this particular attribute of God, more than ever needs to heralded.  Psalm 103:2-3 (NLT) says:

“Let ALL that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things He does for me.  He forgives ALL my sins and heals ALL my diseases.”

And then in Psalm 147:3 (NLT) it says:

“He [God] heals the brokenhearted
and bandages their wounds.”

God is our Heavenly Daddy that we can call out “Abba Father,” (See Romans 8:15-16) and go to Him with all our infirmities.  He desires to heal us completely – mind, body and spirit.  I shared with you about the significance Romans 8:15-16 and the song “Abba” by Jonathan David Helser in the post ★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…A DADDY ★ when God ministered to my Mom right before she passed away from her second stroke in 2016.  And as I mentioned in the opening of this post, to this day I cannot listen to that song without being transporter back to that sunny Saturday in the nursing home courtyard in Cranford, NJ.  The same is true for “Healer,” which was the song I played on my iPod over and over in the ICU when my Mom had her first stoke back in 2010 (just months after Kari Jobe released the song interestingly enough).  There is something about worshiping the God that activates our faith and stirs up hope in hopeless situations.

In 2010 when the doctors told my siblings and I that even if our Mom survived, she would most likely be paralyzed and unable to speak due to the severity of the brain bleed.  Well God supernaturally moved and my Mom defied the prognosis; not only did she not pass away, but she was able to walk (albeit with a walker) and was able to speak (although it was diminished).  We were blessed to have our Mom for another 5-1/2 years because GOD IS A HEALER!  In the post ★ Day 03 – Reason for the Season – Let Hope Arise ★, I wrote about this experience and shared this quote:

“In Scripture, however, hope is void of uncertainty.  In fact, certainty is at its core, because it rests in the stability of God, His character and His will, which are unwavering.  Biblical hope, then, can be defined as, “the confident expectation and desire for something good in the future…Hope is essential to our faith.” From the YouVersion Reading Plan ‘121 Advent.’ (http://bible.com/r/KR)

Hope is essential to our faith.”  All through the Bible there are examples of God miraculously healing people.  Some of the greatest stories about Jesus in the Gospels are about the miracles He performed.  Just one representative verse that comes to mind is Matthew 4:24 (NLT):

“News about him spread as far as Syria, and people soon began bringing to Him all who were sick.  And whatever their sickness or disease, or if they were demon possessed or epileptic or paralyzed — He healed them all.”

HE HEALED THEM ALL!”  God is able to heal anything!  And He desires to partner with us.  James 5:14-16 (NLT) instructs us:

“Are any of you sick?  You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord.  Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well.  And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.  Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”

God is greater any virus.

God is greater than disease.

God is greater than depression.

AGAIN GOD IS A HEALER!  That healing however comes in many forms, it could be supernaturally or through medical professionals or it could be by bringing the person home to heaven.  In 2010, the healing came supernaturally for my Mom but in 2016 God chose to heal / deliver her through “bringing her home.”  That of course is not easy for those who remain behind, but we must keep in mind that we all have a 100% mortality rate.  For believers, death should not be feared as the Apostle Paul said: “to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”  (See 2 Corinthians 5:8)  Though I miss my Mom, I draw enormous comfort that she is in the loving arm of her Heavenly Father who has COMPLETELY healed her of ALL the pain and suffering she was in.

I will close with this beautiful proclamation of faith that the Prophet Jeremiah offers us in the book that bears his name.  Jeremiah 17:14 (NLT) says:

“O Lord, if you heal me, I will be truly healed; if you save me, I will be truly saved.  My praises are for you alone!”

Amen?  May this prayer come true in your life….

Abba father, Daddy we come to you boldly in faith that if we (or anyone we know) are afflicted with any disease or virus or any other infirmity would be completely healed.  Lord we ask for COMPLETE healing that astounds the Doctors and will allow for YOU to be glorified and YOUR miracle working power will shine through.  Please heal us however you see fit.  In Jesus’ name we pray!  Amen.

★★ Dig Deeper ★★

★ Thought for the Day – What does God’s Love Mean? ★

★ Thought for the Day – STRENGTH FOR THE STRUGGLE ★

 

 

Continue reading

★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…A WAY-MAKER ★

In yesterday’s post  ★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…OMNIPRESENT, we talked about the third “OMNI” that God is known.  Unlike Omnipotent (all-powerful) and Omniscient (all-knowing), we discussed how Omnipresent (present everywhere at the same time) is a little more challenging to grasp for our finite minds BUT regardless of our comprehension we should be comforted nonetheless because the God of the Universe is EVERYWHERE!  Today we are going to see that..

Like the rest of the world, as a result of the Coronavirus our family has been attending church “virtually” for the past 5 weeks now.  This past Sunday we worshiped to “Way Maker,” (https://youtu.be/iJCV_2H9xD0) and though we have been singing that song for months now, the truths that are proclaimed speak directly into the current pandemic.  In case you have been living under a rock here is the chorus to give you a sample:

Way maker
Miracle worker
Promise keeper
Light in the darkness
My God
That is who you are

That is WHO the God of heaven and earth is!  HE IS a Way maker — Miracle worker — Promise keeper — and a Light in the darkness!  We have all had to find “our new normal” whether that be attending classes online, or homeschooling our children or working from home or perhaps finding ourselves unemployed as a result of the “world-wide” shut down!  Today I wanted to share these promises declared in this anthem song (which are also all through scripture) as I think we need to be reminded in this time of fear and uncertainty that God CAN and WILL make a WAY no matter how bleak the current circumstance.  It’s funny I first heard the song performed by Leland, but when I went to iTunes yesterday it seems that every major Christian artist has a version (over 30 covers!)  There is a part in the worship experience where you can just feel the Holy Spirit take over and pour out His love.  The lyrics are:

I have had this song on repeat in my playlist!  It is like God is trying to refresh and remind me that regardless of what I may think, see or feel, the reality is…the OMNIPRESENCE of God IS THE TRUTH and REALITY that I MUST STAND ON.  Nothing is impossible for God.  He can make water come from a rock, (not once but twice — See Exodus 17:5-7 and Numbers 20:6-11), He can bring dry bones come back to life, (See Ezekiel 17:1-14), and resurrect what was dead and bring hope to a hopeless situation, (See Mark 5:21-43, Luke 7:11-17, John 11:1–44, John 20:1-23).

Before His death, Jesus said in John 14:6b (NLT):

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one can come to the Father except through me.”

As a result of Jesus death and resurrection has opened unlimited access to the Way-Maker of heaven.  When we put our trust in Jesus, EVERYTHING CHANGES!

Change.  Right now we ALL want change?  We want things as they we B.C. — BEFORE COVID-19.  What are you looking forward to getting back to?  School?  Date nights?  Maybe getting back to work?  I was watching the news the other day about protests that are breaking out all over the country about the shelter-in-place orders and was shocked at this sign:

Isn’t that crazy?  I just gave my youngest daughter the clippers with a No. 4 clip and I’m good for another month!  Hahaha!

I was just watching the sermon “Looking Forward to Normal” this morning and Steven Furtick made the point to not be excited to “get back to normal” but rather we should “look forward to normal.”  Let this time change us, because:

“Faith looks forward.”

You know what my constant prayer through this pandemic, God may you get the glory for the end of this pandemic and may there be revival throughout the whole world.  That God would fulfill the promise of Ephesians 3:20 (NLT)…

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”

God WANTS to DO ABOVE and BEYOND ANYTHING we can imagine in whatever our “new normal” is.  I believe if we would stop scrolling on the Twitter feed of the latest death rate and instead start feeding on the WORD of God, our ANXIETY level would DECREASE and our faith and our PEACE would INCREASE!

I will close Isaiah 43:19 (NIV) speaks of the Lord’s promise of victory in which the prophet proclaimed:

“See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

I truly believe that God wants to something new with each of us during this time of unprecedented stillness and inactivity.  The question is, when things “get back to normal,” will you be the same or will you have been changed as a result of TRUSTING God in these dark times?

 

★★ Dig Deeper ★★

 

★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #2 – What Are You Feeding On? ★

 

Here is another anthem song called “RATTLE!” to add to your playlist by Elevation Worship based on Ezekiel 37:1-14.

 

 

Continue reading

★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…OMNIPRRESENT ★

In yesterday’s post ★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…OMNISCIENT ★, we talked about how God is all-knowing and that we can trust in Him regardless of circumstances.  And the day before that we covered that GOD IS…OMNIPOTENT (all-powerful).  Today we are going to see that…

Out of the (3) “Omni’s,” I think the OMNIPRESENCE of God is the hardest one one to grab hold of.  Dictionary.com defines OMNIPRESENT as being:

God IS EVERYWHERE!  God is not CONSTRAINED to time.  He exists in the past, present and future simultaneously!  Which means that NOTHING escapes His sight!  Proverbs 15:3 (NLT) says:

“The Lord is watching everywhere, keeping His eye on both the evil and the good.”

And Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT) says:

“For the Lord your God is living among you.  He is a mighty savior.  He will take delight in you with gladness.  With his love, He will calm all your fears.  He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”‘

And then Jeremiah 23:24 (NLT) says:

Can anyone hide from me in a secret place?  Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?” says the Lord.”

I love that reassurance that God is always with us regardless of whether we feel like He is.  God has been with us even before we were born, see Psalm 139:7-16 so in these fearful times, knowing the God is omnipresent is so comforting to me.  I love how Robert Morris put it in speaking about God the Holy Spirit:

“The Holy Spirit is omnipresent, which means He can be everywhere at all times, helping everyone.  Isn’t it comforting to know the Holy Spirit gives us access to God who has the answers to everything?”  From the YouVersion reading plan ‘The God I Never Knew.’  

Since God is everywhere, knows everything and has all the power we should trust Him with all that we have!   

 


★★ Dig Deeper ★★

I highly encourage you to read the YouVersion reading plan ‘The God I Never Knew’ by Robert Morris for yourself.

To read more posts about the Holy Spirit click here.

 

 

Continue reading

★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…OMNISCIENT ★

In yesterday’s post ★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…OMNIPOTENT ★, we talked about how the Holy Trinity are (3) distinct individuals — God the father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, each with their own specific functions BUT yet are still the same God.  Each being omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipresent (ever-present always).  Today we are going to see that…

In these crazy times of sheltering-in-place orders, endless newscasts of COVID-19 infection/death rates all around the world and the uncertainty of the future, isn’t it great to know that God IS all-knowing!  Even though the world has been completely blindsided by this pandemic, NOTHING is a surprise to Him!  Psalms‬ ‭147:5‬ ‭(NASB) says:  

“Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite.”

As we scramble to make sense of this, God knowledge is infinite and though He is not the author of this chaos, He is the ONE who can use all of this for good.  I am very critical of the media and their approach to reporting that “If it bleeds, it leads” in the priory of the news segments but I love the final one which typically is uplifting and life affirming.  Through this pandemic people have rallied to help one another and we have seen the extraordinary efforts that the medical profession and first responders are doing day after day for total strangers!  Incredible!  Romans 8:28 in action!

It is no doubt that these are strange days, as one bleeds into the next and there is a total lack of understanding of this virus and ambiguity of what is the correct course of action to “re-open the country her in America” but as the nations of the world are in utter confusion, I draw comfort in the words of Isaiah‬ ‭40:13-15‬ ‭(NLT) in which ‬‬the prophet of the Lord gave this defense of how there is no equal to the knowledge of God, look at these questions:

“Who is able to advise the Spirit of the Lord?  Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him?  Has the Lord ever needed anyone’s advice?  Does he need instruction about what is good?  Did someone teach him what is right or show him the path of justice?  No, for all the nations of the world are but a drop in the bucket.  They are nothing more than dust on the scales.  He picks up the whole earth as though it were a grain of sand.”

If we could truly grab the omniscience of God, and truly trust that He is ALL-KNOWING then I believe that we would have peace that surpasses understanding, and casting aside our anxiety and fear of the future as we have (see Philippians 4:6-8).  In the message “The Three Truths of Palm Sunday,” Robert Morris said:

“Fear not…Don’t let the enemy run away with your mind.”

Have you ever gotten into a downward spiral of negative thoughts, that seem to have a stronghold on your mind that things well never get better?  Well that is because we are in a war with an unseen enemy (see Ephesians 6:10-12).  Satan wants to “run away with our minds” and convince us that ______ (fill in the blank) will never change or get better but he does not know the future and is insignificant compared to God the Father, the creator of the universe!  I love what Randy Alcorn said in his book “90 Days of God’s Goodness”:

“Satan remains under God’s authority at all times.  The devil is nowhere close to being omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, or in any other way on God’s level…Satan is a lion, yes, but a lion on God’s leash.”  

That is awesome!!  Though times look dark, there us always hope, trust in the ONE who knows it all.  Jesus said in Matthew‬ ‭10:29-31‬ ‭(NLT)…‬

“What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin?  But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.  And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”

Why do I worry?  God knows what I need.  He knows EVERYTHING about you and I as Psalms‬ ‭139:1-4‬ ‭(NLT) says: ‬‬

“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.  You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.  You see me when I travel and when I rest at home.  You know everything I do.  You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.”

God knows all and is in control!  Just trust in Him!

 

Continue reading

★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…OMNIPOTENT ★

In yesterday’s post  ★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…GRACIOUS ★, we talked about how God’s grace is available to anyone who trusts in Jesus as their savior and that it God shows no partiality in lavishing us with His grace.  Today we are going to see that GOD IS…OMNIPOTENT…

I love what Randy Alcorn said in his book “90 Days of God’s Goodness”:

“In my experience, most Christians lack grounding in God’s attributes, including His sovereignty, omnipotence, omniscience, justice, and patience.  We dare not wait for the time of crisis to learn perspective!”

I could not agree more, the whole reason why we read the Bible is to learn about the greatness of God so that when the storms of life hit, we will be prepared and know that we can trust Him!  Before we move on talking about the Omnipotence of God I wanted to share this illustration about the Holy Trinity that I saw in a class at my church. 

Isn’t that so powerful?  I have always struggled to explain how the Trinity, but just as H2O is the same chemical that can exist in (3) different states, and have (3) different purposes, so it is with The Trinity that they are (3) separate individuals with (3) distinct functions.  So as we discuss attributes of God with scriptures and quotes that may be more centered about Jesus or the Holy Spirit just know that the Trinity is God in (3) persons.  In the post called ★ Back to the Basics – The Unsung Hero of the Trinity – Part 2 ★, I shared how The Holy Spirit is part of the Triune or Trinity; comprising of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit who are all omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipresent (ever-present always). 

In the next 3 days we will unpack these (3) attributes.  Today is all about how God IS all-powerful!  NOTHING is too difficult for Him!  Psalms‬ ‭147:5‬ ‭(NLT)‬‬ proclaims:

“How great is our Lord!  His power is absolute!  His understanding is beyond comprehension!”

There are so many verses in the Bible that describes this at length, like Isaiah 44:24, Romans 1:20, Hebrews 1:3.  But as I was reading in the Book of John I saw this attribute of God on display.  It was when Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication and…

“The people surrounded him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name. But you don’t believe me because you are not my sheep.  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.  No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and He is more powerful than anyone else.  No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.”  John‬ ‭10:24-29‬ ‭(NLT) ‬‬

I love the certainty of Jesus words: “[God] is more powerful than anyone else.  No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.”  No matter what virus, or economic hardship or adversity we may face can ever take us away from the hand of God!  I will close with ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭19:26‬ ‭(NASB) ‬‬with the testimony of Jesus to the omnipotence of The Father:

“And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.””

★★ Dig Deeper ★★ 

★ Back to the Basics – The Unsung Hero of the Trinity – Part 2 ★

★ “Back to the Basics” – Whose Body Are You A Part Of? ★

 

 

 

 

 

Continue reading

★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS… GRACIOUS ★

In yesterday’s post ★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…A DADDY ★, we talked about how through what Jesus did on the cross for you, we now have access to God like never before, we can call Him “DADDY!”  Today we are going to see that…

Though this oftentimes is used synonymously with merciful, being Gracious or extending GRACE, is very different. 

Mercy IS NOT RECEIVING what you DESERVE.   

Grace IS RECEIVING what you DON’T DESERVE.   

I know I am not worthy of the gift of salvation and yet God sent His Son to die for my sins even though I was living in complete rebellion from Him!  One of my favorite verses on the grace of God has to be from Ephesians‬ ‭2:8-9‬ ‭(NLT)‬‬

“God saved you by his grace when you believed.  And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

No matter how hard I may try “to be good,” or “do good deeds,” I can never earn salvation – IT IS A FREE GIFT!  Romans‬ ‭3:22-24‬ ‭(NLT) echos this point:

“We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ.  And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.  For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.  Yet God, in His grace, freely makes us right in his sight.  He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins.”

NO ONE is perfect and ALL of us have fallen woefully short of the mark is what God desires. So instead of trying to earn our salvation, we should just accept the free gift and work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12).  We are all on equal footing and as Acts 15:11 (NLT) says:

“We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.” 

Regardless of what we do, nothing is beyond God’s ability to forgive, no matter “how unforgivable” we may feel that it is…It is by the UNDESERVED GRACE of God that we are saved!  There is nothing we can do to make God love us anymore or any less!  

I will close this “Grace Challenge” to all of us that Jimmy Evans made in the sermon called: ”The Glory of Grace”:

 

★★ Dig Deeper ★★ 

★ Thought for the Day – Is There Such a Thing As a Free Lunch? ★ 

★ Back to the Basics – Does God Play Favorites? ★ 

”The Glory of Grace” sermon by Jimmy Evans 

 

Continue reading

★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…A DADDY ★ 

In yesterday’s post ★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…PROVIDER ★, we talked about how God is is a provider and that it okay to put Him to the test.  If we will be faithful to bring the tithe  He throw open the “floodgates of heaven” and pour out so much blessings we wouldn’t know what to do with it!  Today it seems appropriate to tie together that God is a provider and that…

There is nothing greater in the world then to hear my daughters still call me “Daddy,” even now in their teenage years.  It is such an endearing name of affection that invokes a sense of connection and deep love.  Jimmy Evans said

“Our God is the greatest Daddy in the World!”  

He showed that love for His children by sending Jesus to bridge the gap that sin created so that we could be reconnected to Him.  Through Jesus we have that connection and can call upon God not just as the Father in Heaven but as our Daddy!  And our heavenly Daddy gave us an amazing gift by giving us the Holy Spirit.  I love this quote from Robert Morris:

“The Holy Spirit wants to pull the curtain back so that you can begin to see God more clearly.”  From the YouVersion reading plan ‘The God I Never Knew.’ (https://www.bible.com/en/reading-plans/15944)

I think that many people are missing a clear understanding of who God is!  My wife and I did a bible reading plan called “Lent: Remembering the Life of Jesus.”  Each day they challenged the reader to write down an attribute of God.  I highly recommend the reading plan to discover who God is!  And if you have not figured it out already, we are in a series that is the fruit of my efforts called “GOD IS” Once I wrote down the obvious 20 attributes, I found that I had to dig down a little harder and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal so of the more subtle attributes that may not be so readily apparent without His revelation and without reading the Bible… For instance, Romans ‭8:15-16 ‭(NLT)‬‬ shows us that we can call God “Daddy”….

“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.”

“Abba,” which in Aramaic is a word derived from baby-language and is translated to mean “Daddy.”  So the Apostle Paul is making the connection that through our relationship with Jesus we can call God our Daddy!  This is really a beautiful reality that unfortunately many people do not see God as,  whether that is because their earthly father was far from a good daddy or maybe because they have been hurt by a pastor or a church. The key is that you should never allow a bad experience here on earth to change our view of God!

This is also very special to me because of a song called “Abba” by Jonathan David Helser which was repeatedly in my playlist at the time my Mom passed away.  My Mom had her first stroke back in 2010 (which completely changed her life).  Since 1,500 miles separated us, we would have weekly phone calls in which I would often share things with with her from what I was reading in the Bible or what I learned from the sermon on the previous Sunday.  After the stroke, the Holy Spirit gave me many opportunities to sow into her spirit the love that God had for her.  In fact, the weekend before she passed away from a second stroke, I “just so happened” to be in NJ visiting her and had a very special moment with her in the courtyard of her nursing home.  I say “just so happened” because God was so kind to arrange it that I be there in NJ just days before it was “her time” to go home to be with Him.  As we sat in that courtyard and the sun warmed our faces, there was a gentle breeze and this lyric from “Abba” played over my Ipod…

          “Abba, I belong to you.” 

Or another way to say it, “Daddy, I belong to you.”  My Mom was close to the end, but our heavenly Daddy allowed me through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to use this song and “to pull the curtain back so that she could see God more clearly” to remind her that He loved her and was with her through this weakened state.  I will never forget that moment and I will always be thankful for the gift that my Daddy gave me to be there because just 2 days later my Mom was reunited with her Heavenly Daddy!

Just know regardless of what anyone here on earth has done to you, all you have the  do is look to God who is “greatest Daddy in the World!”  

★★ Dig Deeper ★★

★ Thought for the Day – Fully Known ★ 

★ Thought for the Day – What Difference Does a Daddy Make? ★

Here is the post that I did in memory of my Mom that talks more about that day in the courtyard called:

★ Thought for the Day – Tribute to My Mom ★

 

 

 

Continue reading

★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…A PROVIDER ★ 

In yesterday’s post ★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…MERCIFUL ★, we talked about how even though God is just, He is also merciful!  Today we are going to see that GOD IS…PROVIDER…

Today is a special day for our family!  Prior to the Coronavirus, most people dreaded April 15 as it was the filing deadline for IRS.  For us, this day is the anniversary of an amazing answer to prayer.  On April 15, 2006 my wife and I went to a Couple’s Breakfast in which the topic was “Reaching for Financial Freedom.”  At the time, we has credit card debt, student loans, a minivan car payment and a ridiculously large mortgage payment we could barely afford.  After hearing the husband and wife speakers speak on the provision of God, we prayed that in one year’s time we would be debt free.  Exactly one year later, we were on a flight to Texas having that prayer answered!  As a result of leaving NJ to TX we were completely debt free (excluding the mortgage).

Philippians 4:19 (NLT)

“And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”

This verse has always brought me great comfort that that the creator of the universe is mindful of me a mere mortal (see Psalm 8:4-8).  In the time of unprecedented chaos and uncertainty, it is so comforting for me to know that my Heavenly Father will provide if I will trust Him.  In my Wednesday morning Bible Study (that we are now conducting virtually), we are reading the Old Testament book of Malachi.  In Malachi 3:10 (NLT) it says:

“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple.  If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you.  I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in!  Try it!  Put me to the test!”

My whole life God has provided for me even when I far, far from Him!  After I came to trust in Jesus in 1998, tithing came natural to me and I have seen move in so many ways!  This morning I received a notification that the Coronavirus stimulus check had been deposited into our bank account which “coincidentally” is the 13 year anniversary of us moving here from NJ!!  God’s timing is perfect in so many ways, and I just love how on a day when so many have to pay the IRS, God orchestrated that we would be blessed with the check on our anniversary of His greatest provision.  God is a provider and a promise keeper!  Just trust in Him!

★★ Dig Deeper ★★

★ Thought for the Day – God Owns It All! ★ 

★ Thought for the Day – Where Does Money Come From? ★

 

 

Continue reading

★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS… MERCIFUL ★

In yesterday’s post ★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…GENEROUS ★, we talked about how God generously sacrificed His Son Jesus for us and gave us the Holy Spirit to boot!  Today we are going to unpack how…

I shared in the past ★Back to the Basics – Validity of God’s Word ★ that many people find the Old Testament confusing, and question how can the God who seems to be doling out vengeance left and right, be the same God who is all about love in the New Testament.  Truth be told, it is hard to see how God could be considered merciful but He is, the problem is a lack of understanding and knowledge of the Bible.  People cannot wrap their minds around the reality that God is both just and merciful!  In the sermon called…”I’ll Arrange It,” Robert Morris said:

“God Is … Just and Merciful.  These seem like they are contrary but they are not. 

Justice: Giving someone what he deserves.

Mercy: Not giving someone what he deserves.”

When I think about justice and mercy, the role that a  Judge plays in trying to keep the letter of the law and simultaneously offering leniency as warranted.  To start the defense of God as vengeful, I thought I’d start off with an Old Testament passage from King David, a man after His own heart.  In Psalm 103:10-11 (NLT) he said:

“He [God] does not punish us for all our sins; He does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.  For His unfailing love toward those who fear Him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.”

And then in Psalm 86:15 (NLT), David said:

“But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.”

There are many other passages in the Old Testament that show the merciful heart of God but I thought I would switch gears and share just one from the New Testament.

As I believe Ephesians 2:3-5 (NLT) says it all…

“All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.  But Godis so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)”

“But God.”  The most powerful two words in the Bible when combined  together. We were deserving God’s justice and wrath,  But God intervened on our behalf and sent Jesus to allow His mercy to flow out to us when we believe in His Son!  Though I deserve death and to be sent to hell, God did not give me what I deserved!  Instead through the death of his son, I am made right in his eyes and I am grafted into the family of God!  Thank you God for your mercy!

 

★★ Dig Deeper ★★

★Thought for the Day – Sweetly Broken ★

 

Check out the sermon called…I’ll Arrange It,” Robert Morris in which he explains how God is fully merciful and fully just at the same time

 

Continue reading

★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS… GENEROUS ★

In yesterday’s post ★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…SACRIFICIAL ★,  we talked about how God sacrificed His Son Jesus for us which lead me to springboard to the next attribute that…

Do you see God as GENEROUS?  I think many people may struggle with this because the enemy has used Tithing and church capitol campaigns as a wedge to push people away from the God.  This post is not about us Giving to the church although that is important but rather how God wants to give to us.  Let’s start off with James 1:17 (NLT)

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.”

I have shared in the past about how far from God I was through my teenage and early 20s and now walking with God for 22 years I can see how He was with me even though I wanted nothing to do with Him.  After my parents divorced at the age of 5, my mom worked hard to raise the 3 of us on a chambermaids salary on her own.  Things were always very tight but in looking back I see how God provided for us with some opportunity to make extra money or an unexpected gift or rebate check.  Somehow we always made it though there was always more “month than there was money.”  I did not know it then, but my generous heavenly was taking care of me long before I ever bowed my knee to accept Jesus as my Lord and savior.   This has been so even into adulthood as well.  I remember when I first heard Deuteronomy 8:18a (NASB) a light bulb went off and confirmed once again how phenomenally blessed I have been…

“But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth.”

It’s funny the things that “just pop in your mind.”  As I was thinking about this post and how God has been generous in the past, I started thinking about Luke 11:1-4 when Jesus gave a model prayer to His Disciples that is commonly known as “The Lord’s Prayer” which says:

I purposely found the King James Version as this is the translation that I learned this powerful prayer in!  The part I was specifically thinking about is…“Give us this day our daily bread.”  God is so generous that after Jesus modeled that we should glorify the Father and prioritize His will, the very next thing He addresses is our needs — “Our Daily Bread.”  And then in just a couple verses later, Jesus says in Luke 11:9-13 (NLT)…

“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for.  Keep on seeking, and you will find.  Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 

“You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion?  Of course not!  So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.”

We must persevere in prayer and if we do how much more will [our] heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.”  As we discussed yesterday, Good Friday is the Day that everything changed for us that God lavishly gave up His Son as payment for our debt, and once we accept Jesus as our savior, we also receive the Holy Spirit which further illustrates God’s generosity.  In the YouVersion reading plan ‘The God I Never Knew.’  (https://www.bible.com/en/reading-plans/15944)  Robert Morris gave this great explanation of all that Holy Spirit does for us:

”The Holy Spirit is a person; He is a Spirit; and He has a soul.  He intercedes for us and through us.  He hears, speaks, teaches, and guides us into truth.  He glorifies Christ, reveals Christ to us, and brings all of Christ’s words to our remembrance.  He shows us the things to come, knows the deep things of God, searches all things, and reveals all things.  Where He is, there is liberty.  He inspired the writers of the Bible.  He reveals the Son to us.  We are convicted by Him, born again by Him, led by Him, filled by Him, and sealed by Him.”

Amen?  God is so generous that not only did He sacrifice Jesus, but also has given us the Holy Spirit to live within us every day!  All I can say is Thank you God!!!  I will close with this one additional scripture on the Generosity of God which is found in Ephesians 3:20 (NLT):

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”

Every good an perfect gift comes from God!  All that I have is because of Him!  My hope in eternal life!  My wife, daughters, my home, my job…EVERYTHING!!

God is able to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think!” 

 

★★ Dig Deeper ★★

★ Back to the Basics – The Unsung Hero of the Trinity – Part 2 ★

$ Building Your Money Muscle $ – For posts on Handling Our Finances God’s way!

 

Continue reading

★ Back to the Basics – GOD IS…SACRIFICIAL ★

Christians around the world are celebrating for today is a great day!  “HE IS RISEN!!”

I have always found the context of when this phrase was first heard very interesting.  Luke 24 opens with the morning after Passover and the woman rushing off to the tomb where Jesus was laid to rest with spices they prepared to give Him a proper burial.  But to their surprise the stone was rolled away and the Tomb was empty.  Luke‬ ‭24:4-7‬ ‭(NLT) picks up that… ‬‬

“As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes. The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.””
‭‭

Today we celebrate that GOD IS…SACRIFICIAL! Romans 5:8 (NLT) says:

“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”

I love what Phillip De Courcy said about the death of Jesus…

“Jesus died because God purposed it!”

Good Friday is so good because God gave up His ONE and ONLY Son to pay the debt that I would never have been able to.  And to think it was God’s plan!  John 3:16-17 (NLT)

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.  God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him.”

Thank for His willingness to do that for us.  But His sacrifice does not stop with Jesus, but in ‭John‬ ‭14:16-17‬ ‭(NLT) Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would be sent for our benefit:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”

The Holy Spirit lives with us know, guiding and directing those who have professed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior!  I love this quote from Robert Morris!!

“The Holy Spirit wants to pull the curtain back so that you can begin to see God more clearly.”  From the YouVersion reading plan ‘The God I Never Knew’ by Robert Morris.  (https://www.bible.com/en/reading-plans/15944)

I think that is what so many people are missing out on today is a clear understanding of who God is!  I did a bible reading plan with my wife called “Lent: Remembering the Life of Jesus.”  (https://www.bible.com/en/reading-plans/18136).  Each day they challenged the reader to write down an attribute of God.  And it has been great, as we are quarantined due to the Coronavirus virus, it has given me time to get “Back to the Basics“ of who God IS.  I will say once I wrote down the obvious 20 attributes, I found that I had to dig in a little harder and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal so of the more subtle attributes that may not be so readily apparent without His revelation and without reading the Bible.  So for the foreseeable future, I am going to share what my pursuit of allowing the Holy Spirit “pull the curtain back so that I can see God more clearly.”  I want to encourage you to share in the comments what you get each day and to share some attributes that you have found in your personal study.

I will close with this final scripture showing the sacrificial nature of God from Isaiah 53:5 (NLT)…

”But He [Jesus] was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.  He was beaten so we could be whole.  He was whipped so we could be healed.”

Thank you God for sending Jesus so that I may have right standing with you.  Thank you Jesus for dying the most unimaginably painful death that any ever has before and since that dark day!!  May we all follow in your SACRIFICIAL example!

Happy Easter!!

★★  Want more?  ★★

If you are disconnected from your church as a result of Covid-19, I would encourage you to watch this Easter message from this weekend called… “The Seven Truths of Easter” – Robert Morris.  He reveals how each of the seven phrases Jesus spoke on the cross represents a life-changing truth.

★ Thought for the Day – He is Risen Indeed! ★

Continue reading

★ Thought for the Day – True Shalom ★

This week is quite significant for many reasons.  Yesterday was Palm Sunday that is the official kick-off to “Holy Week.”  Which you may recall was when Jesus made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  Growing up I always liked this weekend because Palm branches would be handed out at church which we then made a cross with it to keep around the house.  At the time I did not understand the significance of the tradition nor how important Holy Week is.  Friday is of course the day when we remember the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus paid for our sins when He was nailed to the cross.  And smack dab in the middle of the week between Jesus entering Jerusalem and subsequent death on a Roman cross, is the Jewish celebration of Passover is on Wednesday which is the remembrance of when the Israelite people were spared when the angel of death “passed over” their homes in Egypt because they put the blood of a scarified lamb over the doorway.  Besides the religious significance, this week according to the Surgeon General “is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment.”  As I turned on the TV this morning, news report after news report warns that the USA is facing the worst week of the Covid-19 outbreak.  As we have been “social distancing,” (which I have to say I cannot stand hearing that phrase, I prefer “physical distancing” but I digress), the most repeated thing that I have asked, or have been asked, is “how are doing in quarantine?”  So, I will tell you, I am doing good.  Like so many, it has been (3) weeks now that we have self-quarantined.  In these difficult and confusing times, it’s been comforting to be with my wife and (2) daughters, facing this together.  Each of us have been “finding our new normal.”  I have commandeered the dining room as my work space, while our daughters have each found their own place to attend classes online.  One blessing of being quarantined with my family is enjoying having lunch together and then 3 pm coffee time with my wife.  I think the most interesting change is that I am now the one hitting Costco, Kroger or Walmart just trying to find the essentials.  As I got ready yesterday and folded up my bandanna with some of my wife’s hair ties to create a makeshift mask, I felt a little like this guy…

Hahaha!  And I am happy to report that yesterday I hit “pay dirt!”

The media has created such a frenzy with non-stop coverage of empty shelves, the number of infected and sadly the death toll.  There is without a doubt a reason to be concerned and take precautions, but we need to not allow our lives to be driven by fear!  I was reading this YouVersion Easter reading plan called ‘Risen’ by Ray Johnston, and he had this great insight:

“Fear is the darkroom where negatives develop.”

Fear will cause us to act irrationally like hording toilet paper and can open the door to the enemy’s attack.  After I came home yesterday from Winco with my precious paper products, mind you I have not had paper towels in 3 weeks…talk about first world problems…I then gathered with my family to stream the church service.  And the ironic part, the sermon was called “Overcoming Fear” by Jimmy Evans.  This timely message was all about God wanting us to have peace, not fear!  He shared that:

“Fear is a prophet spirit from hell, sent to give us a negative report about the future that will upset us and cause us to make a fear-based decision that God will not honor.” 

That is so, so powerful!  How many fear-based decisions are being made right now?  The enemy loves to use fear as a weapon against us but 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT) tells us:

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

Jimmy Evans also said that:

“God never uses fear!  He uses peace!” 

That got me thinking about the Jewish celebration of Passover this week and the word that they use for peace… “Shalom,” which as you may have guessed, is the inspiration of this post.  I asked a friend of mine who has a lot of knowledge about Judaism what is a trusted definition of the word Shalom and he said:

The basic definition is peace for sure.  But that peace, is a peace that goes beyond just peace with others, but peace with self, circumstances, emotions, etc.  More like the peace of a new born babe in his/her mother’s arms.  Like that.  Where things may be happening but finding that security in God.” 

What a powerful image right?  We can find peace in God like a baby has in its mother’s arms.

This past February, my wife and I went to the XO Marriage Conference and heard Dave and Ashley Willis talk about “Finding Peace in Marriage Conflicts.”  They shared this great definition for Shalom:

“Breaking the authority established by chaos.” 

That is what I believe many of us need to do!  We need to break the authority that we have allowed chaos to have over our lives.  Satan is the author of confusion and it is only when we take captive our thoughts that we can have True Shalom.  1 Corinthians 14:33a (NLT) reminds us…

“For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” (“of Shalom” – see the Tree of Life Translation).

I just reading John chapter 14 in which Jesus comforted His Disciples about the end times.  He book-ended the chapter with an offer of peace.  John 14:1 (NLT) start off:

““Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.”” 

I love the comfort found in John 14:1.  This image reminded me of my many times in detention back in High School where the Dean had me write over and over “I will not _____ .” (Fill in the blank with whatever my offense was that day).  Hahaha!  I hated this punishment, but you know there is something about repetition that helps us learn the lesson.  The same is true for our Life…Jesus gave us the key to ANY situation…“Trust in God, and trust also in [Him].”  There is no better cure for anxiety than praying to the ONE who can comfort, heal and provide for us!

He meant this so much that at the end of the chapter, Jesus made this statement:

“I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart.  And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.  So don’t be troubled or afraid.”  John 14:27

So the question is, do you want to trust in the nightly news or the ONE who created you?  The ONE who is your true provider!  Jesus will provide much more than what your physical needs are, He with give you “peace of mind and heart!”  All you need to do is ask Him for it today.

Pray…Stay Safe in Quarantine…and of course wash your hands!

 

★★ Want to dig deeper? ★★ 

Here are a couple of articles about the Meaning of Shalom:

Check out this sermon called I’m Still Scared by Steven Furtick.

Here are additional posts on fear, doubt, and anxiety that I wrote over the past (6) years if you are interested in reading more on this topic…

  1. ★ Thought for the Day – Mastering Fear ★

  2. ★ Thought for the Day – Crippled By Doubt ★

  3. ★ Thought for the Day – got fear? ★

  4. ★ Thought for the Day – Who’s Chasing You? ★

  5. ★ Thought for the Day – Annihilating Anxiety ★

  6. ★ Thought for the Day – Fair-Weather Faith ★

 

 

Continue reading

★ Thought for the Day – Consistency Compounds ★

Well we are 18 days into 2020, any revelations?  Do you have a Word for the New Year?  Or maybe I should say, have you asked God for one?  For those of you who may not have done this in the past, let me just pause a moment and explain.  Since 2015, as the year draws to an end, and a new page of the calendar is about to be flipped, I ask the Holy Spirit to give me a Word for the year.  Sometimes it has been a phrase and other times a single word.  Here are the past “Words/Phrases” so you can get an idea of what I mean:

If you are interested, just click on the link and you can read the associated post.  There have even been times that it comes before I even ask, as was the case this year.  It was December 29, 2019, and we were at my in-laws’ church in South Carolina that I felt the Holy Spirit impress upon me the word “CONSISTENCY” as my Word for the new year.  I heard John Maxwell at the Gateway Church Legacy Conference talk about consistency in a way I never heard before.  He said that it is the most underrated word in the dictionary which is not sexy or even something that you would love to be called but, in the end, CONSISTENCY COMPOUNDS.

When I think of “compounding,” my 401k comes to mind, and how the interest on the money over time gains momentum and produces a good return on my investment.  Well the same is true when you consistently apply yourself in an area of your life, whether that is committing to a daily quiet time with God, scheduling time at the gym to stay healthy or being intentional with cultivating genuine community with the people in your life.  It all comes down to discipline!  Something that I struggled with for most of my life, but I have come to realize that it is absolutely necessary in order to be consistent.  As Hebrews 12:11 (HCSB) reminds us:

“No discipline seems enjoyable at the time but painful.  Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

As I was looking into my Word for 2020, I came across this Minute With Maxwell called “A Non-Sexy Word That Leads to Greatness,” in which John Maxwell made this powerful point:

“Consistency is the ability to continually do the right thing every day regardless of whether the odds are for you, or the circumstances are favorable.  If you want to go to greatness, don’t go to greatness, go to consistency.  Practice it, that’s the path that will lead you to greatness.”

“Consistency is the ability to continually do the right thing every day!”  I love that!  And just like the verse in Hebrews, we must “practice it!”  No meaningful change happens without work and unfortunately it never happens overnight!  I read somewhere this quote that puts it perfectly…

Small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.”  John Maxwell

2020 is going to be the year that this will be true of me!  I want to be known as a man who is CONSISTENT in ALL areas of my life:

  • SPIRITUALLY…that my walk with Christ would be stronger than ever as I grow in my daily dependence on the Holy Spirit.
  • PHYSICALLY…that my health would be the best that it ever has been.
  • AND EMOTIONALLY…that my relationships with my wife, two daughters, friends and co-workers would be better than ever and life-affirming.

I am not going to grow in my relationship with Jesus and exhibit the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25) unless I connect daily to follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of my life.  I wish after my workouts I would instantly see a difference in the mirror, but I don’t.  My target weight will only be achieved after months of effort.  The same is true for my relationships.  Unless I reach out and put in the effort to show the people in my life that I care and am invested in what matters to them, the connection will be surface level at best.

Over the past 20 days since I received my Word, I have been ruminating over this and looking for an example of someone who has modeled this in their life.  So here goes…

SPIRITUAL MODEL: DAVID.

Now you may be thinking, why would he not choose Jesus?  After all He is the only perfect person who ever lived!  While that is certainly true, I landed on David because he is the only human who is described as “a man after god’s own heart” in the Bible (see 1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22).  David is a complex person and you may remember in our “Temptation Series,” that I used him as the example of what not to (see the post ★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Lust (Part 3b) ★,) but even so, the scriptures are clear that David consistently chased after God with his whole heart!  As a main contributor to the Book of Psalms, you see the love, trust and devotion he had for the Father.  David said in Psalms 119:5 (NLT):

“Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees!”

I want that to be true in my life!  That everything that I think, say or do would reflect God’s Word.  I read a commentary from David Guzik on Psalm 119:5 in which he said:

“This is not only a pious wish; it is also a prayer for the ability to obey God’s Word.  We received God’s commands understanding our lack of ability to keep those commands, apart from His work in us.”

To achieve this I know, I must have a consistent quiet time with God where I daily pray, read the bible and seek the Holy Spirit’s leading in my life.  I have also found that Bible Studies with other believers have strengthen me as Proverbs 27:17 says.

PHYSICAL MODEL: MY WIFE.

Now before you start groaning and judging me that this is some self-serving sucking up, there is no one I know who has consistently made her health a priority in her life.  If you have been on this blog before, you no doubt have seen me post pictures from her Facebook page Fit Family in which she integrates her 3 loves – Faith, Family, and Fitness.  I have been married to her for over 20 years, and she has shown me day after day what it means to live a healthy life, one which is balanced with exercise and proper diet.  Not dieting, BUT good choices with correct portions.  My wife, who is very healthy and loves to workout, made this point to me in the past that the Holy Spirit just brought back to me remembrance, she said:

“You are so disciplined in your quiet time with God, why can’t you be disciplined in your health as well?”

Great question huh?  Now you may think this was rude, but it honestly said in love because she wants to keep me around for as long as possible!  Hahaha!   When she met me, working out and watching what I ate was NOT me at all.  I never exercised and I was a “biggie” size consumer, that the larger the portions, the better.  Through her example I have learned what a balanced life looks like, and over the years I have improved but I am far from consistent.  It is funny that what my wife challenged me with, is actually found in scripture!  I was just reading 3 John 1:2 (NLT) last week in which John offered this greeting to his friend Gaius:

“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.”

So, though I desire first and foremost, to be consistent in my spiritual walk, I realized that I need to be consistent in EVERY part of my life so part of my prayer for 2020 is that I am “as healthy in body as [I am] strong in spirit!”  Last year I hit 45, and with my mom dying from a stroke in 2016, it’s time that I commit to a consistently work at improving my health!

EMOTIONAL MODEL: FRED ROGERS.

Some may be thinking, who is Fred Rogers?!  Others may only know him only as Mr. Rogers, the much-loved host of the TV show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” which was a permanent fixture on TV sets across the country, airing on PBS from 1968 to 2001.  Last Saturday we went to see the movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” for the second time, and as I watched again Tom Hanks brilliantly portray the caring man who was so invested in helping kids understand the world, I was mesmerized all over again and thought this would be the perfect example of emotional consistency!  Interestingly enough, it was not until the credits that I discovered that the movie was based on the 1998 Esquire article called “CAN YOU SAY…“HERO”? by Tom Junod.

I looked up the article and was amazed to see the tag line under the title:

“Fred Rogers has been doing the same small good thing for a very long time.”

That is perfect!!  Both in the movie and in real life, Fred Rogers reached out to everyone and worked to connect on an emotional level that made you feel so special.  The author of the article was jaded by the world and in need of someone to care for him.  As I read the Esquire article, I was moved to tears to read story after story of how profoundly affected people were by this meek man of God who made a simple offer every time “Will you be my neighbor?”  One part that hit me really hard was this:   

“The connections we make in the course of a life—maybe that’s what heaven is!”  Amen?  Jesus made this clear in Matthew 22:37-39 (NLT) when answering the question from one of the experts in religious law who asked him which is the most important commandment?

“Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

The third part of my pray for 2020 is that I will consistently pursue a deeper connection with those in my life as modeled by Fred Rogers and to love my neighbor as much as I love myself!

So, I close with my original question…What’s your Word for 2020?  I encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit for one, it is a great way to center your year as you delve into the Bible in 2020.

If you are interested, you can see the follow-up to this post called:

★ Thought for the Day – Consistency Compounds Check-In ★

 

  DIG DEEPER

If you want to read more about the importance of Developing a Daily Quiet Time with God check out this post called:

★ Back to the Basics – Silencing the Noise ★

If you want to read more about Discipline, check out this post called:

★ Thought for the Day – The Benefit of Discipline ★

If you want to read more about developing impactful relationships, check out this post called:

★ Thought for the Day – Community That Matters ★

 

 

Continue reading

★ Thought for the Day – God Owns It All! ★

My wife sent me this meme that is just plain hysterical!!

Every year around this time I get so frustrated with the excessive consumerism and rampant disregard of civility.  There are so video clips of people beating one another just to get the hottest Black Friday deal all in the name of saving money!  It got me thinking about this image that I saw from Tony Evans:

“The money you have came from God’s trees.  Everything you have belongs to God.”

Have you ever thought of that $20 bill in your pocket comes from trees that the Creator of Heaven and Earth spoke into existence?  (See Genesis 1:9-13).

I know I haven’t.  This image reminds me a lot of Psalms 24:1 (NASB)…

“The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.”

And as Tony Evans stated it…“fear produces poor stewardship.”  When we fail to understand “Who’s the owner,” we get into trouble and fail to “Be a good steward” which is Biblical mandate!  As I was mulling this over, I got excited to resurrect a post called ★ Thought for the Day – Marriage & Money – Part 3 ★ which was part of a 4-part series to help spouse understand how to have unity in our Finances.  Today I am going to cover the major points of contrasting what are the common views of money that people have vs. God’s view of money.  Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount gives a perfect outline how our finances and possessions should be handled from God’s Perspective.  For simplicity’s sake I will refer to it as “Man’s View of Money,” but obviously that goes for the women as well.

Did you know that there are more than 2,350 verses in the Bible instructing us on how to handle money and possessions that God has placed in our care?  In today’s culture of instant gratification and entitlement.  It seems that ought to learn what the Bible has to say.  So, let’s start off with Matthew 6:19 (NASB) in which Jesus started off the teaching on money and possession saying:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” 

Storing up stuff here on Earth is going in the wrong direction.  Christian financial expert Larry Burkett said

“How we handle money is simply an outside indicator of our internal spiritual condition.” 

 

1.  The first view we are going to look at is Debt and Contentment:

72 - Daily Dependence - Debt & Contentment

The amazing thing is that as we are buying all the stuff on credit, we never realize that we are willingly entering into bondage to the credit card company or the car finance department or the mortgage company The world aggressively markets us that we no longer see debt as a problem which is how fist fights break out in Walmart on the day after we “Give Thanks!”  The key is to be a wise consumer and not try to keep up with the “Joneses.”  The question I have for you is…Are you content with what God is doing in your life?  I Timothy 6:6 (NKJV) says,

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain.”

In the past I struggled big time with this, I was not content with waiting to have what I wanted and as a result I brought a lot of pressure into our marriage.  As a result of not being content with what we had, my wife and I have accumulated consumer debt that we have had for years because we did not wait to save up.  And I have to say it has frustrated me so much to be limited in what we can do because monthly credit card minimums.  Have you ever thought about what you could do for the kingdom of God if you were not buried under credit card debt or car payments or a mortgage that you really cannot afford?  Proverbs 22:7 is so true, debt really does make us a slave to the lender, this is another great way to view it!

“The Decision to go into debt alters the course condition of your life.  You no longer own it.  You are owned.  Dave Ramsey

Amen?!  Too often we cannot say no to what marketers are selling, think about it, part of any effective advertising campaign is to make potential customers discontented with their existing product.  These feelings that accompany discontentment are enough to make people buy things they don’t need or can’t afford.  And sometimes it doesn’t even need to be a big screen TV or expensive purse it could just be eating out too much.  I love what Dave Ramsey says about debt,

“Debt is not the problem, but a symptom.  Debt is a symptom of overspending and undersaving.”

Debt is just a symptom of a bigger problem that we cannot say no to stuff and Proverbs 17:18 (MSG) puts a fine point on it,

“It’s stupid to try to get something for nothing, or run up huge bills you can never pay.” 

So how do we erase debt?  You have to choose to say no to what you want and focus on what you need.  You need to learn contentment.  Howard Dayton, from Crown Financial Ministries said:

“If you cannot be content with what you have, you will never be content with what you want.” 

How many times have we seen this play out with celebrities who are on top of the world and are still not happy?  The Apostle Paul knew about contentment and trusting in God’s Provisions.  When he was in prison, Paul wrote in Philippians 4:19 (NASB) about God’s Provisions,

“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” 

If you look closely verse 19 says “all your needs” will be supplied.  Discontentment ignores the provisions of our needs and focuses on what we do not have and conversely on what we want.  We need to get to a place where our circumstances do not dictate whether we have joy or peace.

 

2.  The second view we will look at is a hot button issue and that is Tithing.

72 - Daily Dependence - Tithing

All of these comments under “Man’s View,” I have thought at one time or another in my life.  Growing up and into adulthood, I have seen a lot of hypocrisy in the church on how they handled the money and how they would badger the congregants to give more and more.  These experiences happened in different denominations, so I know that it is not based on church affiliation but on the human heart.  The simple fact is that Man will always let you down, but the key is not lumping God in the same category as a church or pastor that misrepresented Him by their actions.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:20 (NASB),

“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;”

God does not need our money, but He wants our hearts to be focused on the Kingdom of Heaven, not on stuff here on earth.  He knew that we would have an issue in this area which is why God made the requirement in the first place so that MONEY would not have a hold on OUR HEARTS.  The tithe or 10% of our income which is actually the minimum required by God.  Malachi 3:10-12 (NIV1984) says it all,

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.  I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty.  “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.” 

I love this verse because it is the only place in the Bible that God challenges us to “Test” Him.  And if we pass the test, He promises to throw open the floodgates of heaven (or other translations say the “windows of heaven”) and bless us so much that we will not have room enough to store it.  Now that is what I want.  He also promises to prevent pests or the enemy from devouring what we have and that is not just finances and possessions but our marriage, our children and our health.  So, you see we really can’t afford not to give our tithe to the Lord.

Robert Morris made this great point…

“Tithing is believing God can do more with 90% than you can do with 100%.”

Rather than gripping about ““losing”” 10% we should be happy that we get to keep 90%!  Proverbs 3:9–10 (NIV1984) instructs us to,

“Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” 

One thing that I have noticed is that if I do not make my tithes and offerings a priority there will always be something else that will eat up the money.  When it says “First Fruits” here it means above all things, first and foremost, Honor the Lord with your wealth which He has provided for you.  Robert Morris also:

“It doesn’t take faith to pay all your bills and THEN give to God.  Put the kingdom of God FIRST… and see what happens to your provision!” 

If you do that the blessings will overflow!!  If you are not already tithing, I urge you to start and I promise you will never regret giving the Lord.  In Luke 6:38 (NIV1984), Jesus said,

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” 

Your level of giving will be measured against you on what you receive.  My absolute favorite question is…”Is the tithe based on the gross or the net”?  I have asked this question myself and the best answer I have ever heard was, “What do you want to be blessed on??”  You see it is all about the motive and the heart of the giver and how much you trust God.  Rick Warren said,

“God’s BLESSING on you is always in proportion to your DEPENDENCE on Him.  Great anointing is the fruit of great trusting.” 

2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV1984) says,

“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 

If you heart is not in the right place, you will not please God with you giving.  God knew what hold money and possessions would have on our hearts and that is why so much teaching in the Bible deals with this.

 

3.  Stewardship is the next view we will look at. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as:

  • the office, duties, and obligations of a steward – I always love how they define a word with the same word, I thought that was not allowed. A Steward (is defined as a fiscal agent or manager). 
  • the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.

So, when we talk about Biblical Stewardship, we are talking about management of money and resources for God.  This however is not the conventional wisdom of this age.  Let’s take a look at the different views that exist…

72 - Daily Dependence - Stewardship

We need to understand that it is not our money.  God is the owner and we are His managers entrusted with His affairs and His possessions.  If Jesus spoke so much on the topic, don’t you think it may be important for us to understand what we are expected to do as managers of the resources God allows to come into our hands?  I love how Robert Morris makes the point,

“Many believers aren’t aware of this, but EVERY time you get paid, you are facing a test.”

The test is, whether we can be trusted to be a good manager.  Luke 16:10-11 (NIV1984) says,

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.  So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?”

Okay, so then how do we handle money as faithful managers?  I will give you a hint, it is the B-word of finances….You guess it the “Dreaded Budget”.  Yes, we have finally gotten to the part that you have been dying to get to – NOT!  Hahaha!  The budget is the absolute key to winning at money.  John Maxwell put it this way,

“A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.”  

Dave Ramsey suggests using a “Zero-Based Budget.”

The “Zero-Based Budget” approach which is where the Total Expenses = Total Income.  Every dollar is spent on paper before it is spent.  If done this way, when you work through every category on your budget sheet you should end up with a zero (no extra money left over, or extra money spent). 

It always amazed us when the checking account was empty, and we had no idea where the money went.  Though we did not spend large sums of money on expenses items, we were $20 and $50 ourselves to death.  One of my favorite quotes from Albert Einstein is:

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Trying to manage your finances without a budget, without a plan is the very definition of insanity because you will never know where the money went and in most cases you will end up with “more month” then there is money to go around and I don’t need to tell you what a breeding ground for conflict that causes.  The budget is paramount to reduce stress and help control you to control your spending.

 

4.  The number four view is Idolatry and Greed.

72 - Daily Dependence - Idolatry & Greed

Money and possessions cannot make you happy or fill the void, it cannot buy happiness.  Jesus furthers the point in Matthew 6:24 (NASB) when He said,

“No one can serve two masters; (the Message translates this as ‘two gods,’) for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth.” 

Money can become an Idol and if we are not careful, it can replace God.  And no discussion on greed can be complete without us mentioning one of the most famous scriptures from 1 Timothy 6:10 (NLT),

“For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” 

This is one of the most famous and most misquoted verses.  Many people say, “money is the root of all kinds of evil,” but if you look carefully it says, “for the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”  And that love of money can cause us to wander from the faith and cause many problems in our marriage and finances.  It is all about the heart and until you have that right, you will continually spin your wheels and never please God.

 

5.  Worry is number five.

72 - Daily Dependence - Worry

Some reading this post that have lost their jobs due to no fault of their own, so I want to be careful in how I pose this section contrasting Man’s view with God’s view.  But what Jesus is saying here is that we need to put out trust in Him and not be troubled but the nightly news headlines because He is in control.  We need to rely on God and God alone.  Look at this cartoon; 72 - Daily Dependence - The Bible is the Manual To Live ByI love the punch line from the man’s wife,

“Why don’t you stop wondering what is wrong with the world and just read the manual”.

The bible is the one and only manual that will point our lives in the right direction.  As we place our concerns in God’s capable hands, we find a quietness that only He can provide.  God gives peace to those who are quiet before Him as Philippians 4:6 (NASB) says we are to,

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” 

Boy that is a hard one for me sometimes but the longer I walk with God the more I realize when I just put in his hands (and leave it there), He will take care of my every need.  I am not the provider for my family, God is the provider.

 

6.  The final view we will look at tonight is Legacy.

72 - Daily Dependence - Legacy

I saw this comic, and though it is funny, it is also quite sobering!

72 - Daily Dependence - Mountain of Debt ComicBut Jesus made God’s view clear in Matthew 6:33 (NASB) which says,

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” 

God should be ahead of everything else, if we do, everything else will be added to us.  It should be a great concern of ours about the debt just continuing to grow with no thought of the future.

1 Timothy 5:8 (NASB) says,

“But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

If you are not thinking about the legacy you leave, you are considered to have “denied the faith” and are “worse than an unbeliever!”  To add to that thought, Proverbs 13:22 (NIV1984) says,

“A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.”

How much would people change their spending habits if they thought about providing for their “children’s children”….if they thought generational?  One of Dave Ramsey’s most famous quotes is,

72 - Daily Dependence - Dave Ramsey - Live Like No One Else

How we live now will greatly affect how we will live in the future.  And at the risk of making this post a little longer, I wanted to let you know that applying these principles contained in this post will change your life!  We are living proof of it!  For years now, my wife and I have applying ourselves, being a good steward, tithing consistently and working to eliminate the consumer debt and I am thrilled to report that as of November 19, 2019 we are Debt Free!  (…Everything but the house.)  I cannot tell you how liberating of a feeling it is! 

To go along with that thought, I wanted to share an amazing sermon series called Beyond Blessed, in which Robert Morris unpacks what the “Bible says about the importance of wise stewardship and how it’s God’s perfect plan to overcome all financial stress.”  I would like to close with this final thought…

 “God blesses us because He loves us, and He also blesses us so we can be a blessing. Living beyond blessed isn’t about what we’re able to receive; it’s about what we’re able to give. It’s then that we can truly live beyond blessed.”

I pray that you receive that today and that you will commit to “Be a good steward!”  Nothing changes if nothing changes.  I hope that this post is a springboard for you to start your journey to expand your Biblical Worldview of Money and begin to adopt God’s View of how we handle our Finances and Possessions!  May God richly bless you as you trust in Him completely!

Continue reading

★ Back to the Basics – Validity of God’s Word ★

Have you ever questioned the validity or truth of God’s Word?  Now don’t be hasty and give the “Christianese” answer, be honest.  We all have at one time or another questioned the goodness of God, and whether the Bible is true or not.  Many people find the Old Testament confusing, and question how can the God who seems to be doling out vengeance left and right, be the same God who is all about love in the New Testament.  Truth be told, though it may appear that the two don’t align, I assure you that God is the same in first book of the Bible (Genesis) as He is in the last one (Revelation).  The problem is a lack of understanding and knowledge of both the Old and New Testaments.  You may be wondering what does this matter?  I saw this graphic that was illuminating…

Only 9% surveyed actually read all of the Bible, and the bulk of those (30%) who do read it only read several passages or stories.  As I have read the Bible over and over, I see the love of God all over the pages of the Old Testament, but I also see how stubbornly God’s people rejected Him and refused to keep the covenant that God made with them thousands of years ago.  As a result of that willful disobedience, the people suffered the consequences.  You see unless you have studied the whole Bible, the casual reader or Sunday morning attendee will misunderstand and judge God for punishing the Israelites for their sin. That is why you will see on this website, the importance of reading and studying the entire Bible, not just the coffee cup or bumper sticker verses that make you feel good.  But unfortunately, many people just hear the passages of God’s wrath and write off the possibility that God could be good.  But first and foremost, it is important that we establish that the Bible is the Word of God.  The Apostle Paul, arguably one of the most influential writers of the New Testament penned these words in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT) which I would like to start off with:

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.  It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.  God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”

“All Scripture is breathed out by God” and was intended to be a road map or instruction manual for how to live.  In the post called ★ “Back to the Basics” – Follow-Up to Can 1 Conversation Change a Life? ★, I shared this passage and this life lesson from Charles Stanley on how the entire Bible is true, he said:

“The truth of God’s Word applies to all men and women in every culture, in every age, in every walk of life…Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit; the Bible enlightens each individual to recognize personal sin, the need for salvation, and the best possible life course.”

For me, the Bible is the anchor of my life.  I believe that every person has the potential to live a victorious life where you can annihilate anxiety and fear, overcome the past and move ahead in a completely new trajectory of freedom if that Bible on the nightstand or bookshelf would just be opened!  Proverbs 1:7 (NLT) says:

“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”

I read a commentary on this passage that explained…

This fear of the LORD is not a cowering, begging fear.  It is the proper reverence that the creature owes to the Creator and that the redeemed owes to the Redeemer.  It is the proper respect and honoring of God.”

So honoring God is the foundation, or the starting point of true knowledge, how do we follow this command without honor reading His Word in totality?  Last week, I was reading Jeremiah 14:19-22 (NLT), in which the prophet Jeremiah is beseeching the Creator of Heaven and Earth to relent from giving the people exactly what they deserved.  It is such a powerful prayer that I believe we would do well to keep in mind for ourselves today.  Jeremiah does something pretty amazing, he appeals to the very character of God…Not that God needs to be reminded of His faithfulness, but Jeremiah asks some silly questions that he knows the answers to starting in verse 19:

“Lord, have you completely rejected Judah?  Do you really hate Jerusalem?  Why have you wounded us past all hope of healing?”

Let’s stop for a second so I can give you some background on the previous chapters.  God has been telling Jeremiah how far the people have gone away from Him, and what He was planning to do in response.  Perhaps these questions were in earnest, but I believe that Jeremiah knew something that we need to understand today, that God is good and He loves His people.  Jeremiah then flips the prayer to one of repentance, but not just for Judah and Jerusalem but he includes himself as well, although I doubt that the Lord’s prophet would have been considered wicked.  He prayed:

“We hoped for peace, but no peace came.  We hoped for a time of healing, but found only terror.  Lord, we confess our wickedness and that of our ancestors, too.  We all have sinned against you.”

If you read Jeremiah 15:6-8 and Jeremiah 16:10-13, you will find a very clear justification of the wickedness that God spoke to Jeremiah.  The truth is, we ALL have sinned against God!  It does not matter your sex, race, political affiliation, economic or socio-cultural background, EVERYONE has fallen short of God’s glorious standard!  (See Romans 3:23).  But my favorite part of this prayer is the argument Jeremiah gives of “why” God should heal the land!  He prayed:

“For the sake of your reputation, Lord, do not abandon us.  Do not disgrace your own glorious throne.  Please remember us, and do not break your covenant with us.”

Why should God intercede for His people?  Because not healing them would ruin His reputation of being a God who is faithful.  He made a covenant with the People of Judah and so Jeremiah is praying to God to not break it because of the evil His people had done.  The final part of Jeremiah’s prayer that is a great model for us, is to just exalt God for how majestic and powerful He is!

“Can any of the worthless foreign gods send us rain?  Does it fall from the sky by itself?  No, you are the one, O Lord our God!  Only you can do such things.  So we will wait for you to help us.”

That final sentence is just perfect!  Jeremiah is just trusting that God will indeed do what he just asked for!  What boldness and faith!  As you read the Bible in totality, you see the faithfulness of God on every page.

Robert Morris preached an incredible series called “God is…” in which he went through some of the major attributes of God.  The one that hit me particularly hard was called “Beyond You”, in which he talked about how God is faithful and worthy of our trust.  He said:

“Faithful means “full of faith.”  The root of faith is “trust,” and the root of trust is “true.”  The reason we can trust God is because He is full of truth.  The more we know God, the more we can trust Him.  Even when we don’t think He’s being faithful, He is, because He doesn’t lie.”

“The more we know God, the more we can trust Him!”  And the only way to get to know Him is through the reaching His Word.  Jesus made this profound statement in Luke 21:33 (NLT)…

“Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.”

The Bible has been an anchor not only for individuals, but for our country as a whole.  I just read The American Bible Society’s STATE OF THE BIBLE 2019,” which was conducted by Barna Group.  They found:

“Four out of five adults (80%) agree that the values and morals of America are declining…As a follow-up question, adults who said they believe morality is on the decline were asked to determine what they thought was most responsible for declining values from a list of three options…26% attribute the decline to a lack of Bible reading.”

You can see that the percentage among those who believe morality is declining has spiked in regards to Bible reading as opposed to other secular aspects which has dropped since last year’s survey.  I know I don’t have to tell you that morality is on the decline, but to see the correlation with bible reading was an eye opener.  So how do we stem the tide?  The answer can be found in 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NLT) says:

“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”

How different would the world be if everyone humbled themselves, prayed, sought God and stopped sinning?  The key is to…

  • Humble Yourself
  • Pray for guidance
  • Seek God’s face
  • Turn from your wicked ways

I truly feel that we can shed the baggage of the past if we would open God’s Word.  But it comes back to the initial question…Do you believe in the validity of the Word of God?  I pray that you would trust in the faithfulness of God as Jeremiah did and believe completely in the WHOLE Bible. Don’t let the lies of the enemy influence the present which WILL rob the future.

To dig in more on this topic check out: 

★ Thought for the Day – Turn the Other Cheek ★ 

★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #2 – What Are You Feeding On? ★

You can watch all the sermons from the “God is…” series by Robert Morris here:

In the series you “will learn the attributes of God, which will give you fresh perspective into His character and heart. You’ll be encouraged as you learn more about your heavenly Father who never changes and loves you more than you’ll ever know.”

And finally, here is a great song called “Hear Us From Heaven” by New Life Worship which ties beautifully into this.

Continue reading

★ Thought for the Day – What’s Your Blanket? ★

Yesterday we had a strong thunderstorm roll through our area that brought lighting and hail which got me thinking about this this Thought for the Day.  What comes to mind when you read the title of this post?  If you were like me, and grew up with the classic TV show “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” an image of Linus with his security blanket may come to mind.  Or maybe you may be thinking about the Downy Infusions Calm TV Commercial that shows a cute little boy who is awakened by a thunder and lightning storm outside.  As he runs down the hall scared to Mommy and climbs onto her bed, he smells a fragrance coming from one of the blankets that immediately calms him by the lavender scent. Instead of staying in bed with his Mommy, he grabs the blanket and goes back to his bed smelling it all the way.  While I could write about either one of these, the inspiration came from my “four-legged son” Jake, who like the frightened young boy, is also terrified by thunderstorms and goes running to his “Mommy.”  We always know when a storm is coming because Jake starts shaking like a leaf and incessantly panting.  And last night was no different, he was a mess and would not calm down.  I remember one day, my wife sent me these photos because Jake was freaking out so bad that he pushed his way into the shower and then tried climbing onto the bed.

Now as you may be chuckling, it’s actually really sad to see him suffering so bad from the anxiety of the impending storm.  No amount of petting or hugging or soothing words could settle Jake down.  Only one thing helps him…

His ThunderShirt.  Forgive me if this seems like a promotion, but it really works (and I receive no kickbacks for saying so, hahaha!)  The website says that it…

“Applies gentle, constant pressure, similar to swaddling an infant.”

In the post ★ Thought for the Day – Annihilating Anxiety ★, I shared Philippians 4:6-7 (NASB) which says:

“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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

In the post, we talked about how if we go to God with our anxieties, He WILL be help us through anything!!  A common misconception of Christianity is that once you give your life over to God, and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, everything in your life should be sunshine and roses!  BUT THAT SIMPLY IS NOT TRUE!  We live in a fallen, broken world in which God-fearing, Jesus believing, Holy Spirit filled Christians lose their jobs, contract cancer, or experience the death of a loved one.  However, the Bible offers encouragement throughout the pages which can help us to deal with our worry and fear, which is of course is completely normal to experience as we go through the storms of life.  In the post ★ Thought for the Day – Be Strong and Courageous ★, I shared about our daughter heading to Atlanta for a three-day training camp before heading to Eswatini (formally known as Swaziland) and South Africa for a two-month Missions Trip, and the anxiety we were feeling having our first-born child on the other side of the world over 9,000 miles away from us!  God spoke to me through Joshua 1:6-9 to “Be strong and courageous” and trust that she would be alright.  Well the 2 months came and went, and she arrived safely home from Africa with incredible stories of how God worked in and through her.

Today I would like to unpack the context of the anchor passage of Philippians 4:6-7 because as you have heard me say in the past, context is everything.  Like anything, it always come down to a choice.

  • Will you CHOOSE to WORRY or TRUST God?
  • Will you CHOOSE to TRY TO CONTROL EVERYTHING or LET GO and LET GOD HANDLE IT?
  • Will you CHOOSE to LISTEN TO THE LIES OF DEVIL that God is not good, or WILL YOU REMEMBER how He took care of you in the past and BELIEVE that God is faithful?

So, let’s look at the verses that bookend our anchor passage that can help us find where true comfort can be found.  Philippians 4:4-5 (NLT) says:

“Always be full of joy in the Lord.  I say it again—rejoice!  Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do.  Remember, the Lord is coming soon.”

That is a tough one, right?  To “always be full of joy,” easier said than done, but the way we gain victory is “in the Lord,” not through “white-knuckle” effort on our part.  The only think we must do is choose to believe that the Lord is good, that He is for us and not against us, and that He is able to do more than we can ever expect!  As we do this, then the need of a “security blanket” to comfort us through the “storms” will not be necessary.  Comfort which typically is not a blanket or ThunderShirt but rather something that comes from a bottle, prescription or something altogether illegal.  Comfort items that before I came to Christ, I tried to fill the void in my heart but to no avail!  Depression, fear, anxiety WILL NEVER BE CURED with another drink, pill or _______ (fill in the blank.)  If only I knew the truth of Philippians 4 back then!

Let’s look at the other book end which is Philippians 4:8-9 (NLT) which is the application portion…

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.  Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me — everything you heard from me and saw me doing.  Then the God of peace will be with you.”

What we focus on is what we will experience.  We need to “keep putting into practice” and as we do our faith will be built up and our worry will wither away!  It is all about discipline and training ourselves to look to God instead of whatever “blanket” we got to which only covers the problem, it will never fix the root issue!  I will close with this truth from Jimmy Evans,

“Fear is expecting the Devil to move.  Faith is expecting God to move.” 

And in John 16:33 (The Passion Translation) Jesus made this promise…

“And everything I’ve taught you is so that the peace which is in me will be in you and will give you great confidence as you rest in me. For in this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrows, but you must be courageous, for I have conquered the world!””

Through a relationship with Jesus, you can conquer the world!

If you want to develop that relationship, check out these posts:

★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★

★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian…Part 2 ★ 

“The Power of Peace” by Jimmy Evans. He shares a message about the gift and power of God’s peace and how to fight for it in our lives.

 

 

Continue reading

★ Thought for the Day – What is Your Download Speed? ★

Do you know what this is?

If you are old enough to recognize this, here is a trip down memory lane so that you can listen what internet connectivity sounded like back in 1990-something!  Click this link to Hear

For those who have never experienced the dial-up connection speed of the classic 56k modem, it would sometimes take 5-10 minutes to connect to the World Wide Web and many times it would fail, making you start the process all over again.  Those were dark days for browsing the internet and sending/receiving emails!  Hahaha!  What a different world we live in today as we now walk around with supercomputers in the palm of our hand, and if it takes 5 seconds to load a web page, or if an email does not send immediately it feels like forever!  Today the “FCC has defined broadband, or fast internet, as internet with download speeds of at least 25 Mbps and upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps since 2015.”  Many people geek out on download speeds but did you know that there was an Old Testament character who had a download speed that crushed 25 Mbps.

Today’s Thought was inspired from a passage that is not widely preached or read…2 Kings 6:24-30 (NLT) which says:

“Some time later, however, King Ben-hadad of Aram mustered his entire army and besieged Samaria. As a result, there was a great famine in the city. The siege lasted so long that a donkey’s head sold for eighty pieces of silver, and a cup of dove’s dung sold for five pieces of silver.

Forgive the introduction but can you say EWWWWWW… “a cup of dove’s dung sold for five pieces of silver!!!”  That must have been one long siege that not only was it worth so much, but that the people were actually so hungry that they ate dove’s feces!!!  Yuck!  Okay, back to the passage…

“One day as the king of Israel (Jehoram) was walking along the wall of the city, a woman called to him, “Please help me, my lord the king!”

He answered, “If the Lord doesn’t help you, what can I do? I have neither food from the threshing floor nor wine from the press to give you.” But then the king asked, “What is the matter?”

She replied, “This woman said to me: ‘Come on, let’s eat your son today, then we will eat my son tomorrow.’ So we cooked my son and ate him. Then the next day I said to her, ‘Kill your son so we can eat him,’ but she has hidden her son.”

When the king heard this, he tore his clothes in despair. And as the king walked along the wall, the people could see that he was wearing burlap under his robe next to his skin.” 

2 Kings 6:24-30 is one of the most disturbing passages ever!  I cannot believe that the two women even discussed the idea of killing their children, and then worse yet eating them!  But if that’s not sick enough, the fact that one of the women did kill her son with and eat him with the other woman is absolutely unbelievable!!!  I believe if I were in that situation, I would sacrifice myself first!  Disturbing!!!!  I looked up this passage in a commentary and they pointed out that God warned Israel that this curse would come upon the Israelites if they rejected the covenant they made with Him, I don’t have time to unpack this, but check out Deuteronomy 28:52-53 for the context.  But what I wanted to point was what King Jehoram said in 2 Kings 6:31:

“May God strike me and even kill me if I don’t separate Elisha’s head from his shoulders this very day,” the king vowed.”

God promised back in Deuteronomy that a curse was coming if the people disobeyed Him but instead of blaming God, King Jehoram decided to take it out on the Prophet Elisha that the siege happened and was ready to kill him!  It was 2 Kings 6:32-33 (NLT) that blew me away when I read it the other morning!

“Elisha was sitting in his house with the elders of Israel when the king (Jehoram) sent a messenger to summon him.  But before the messenger arrived, Elisha said to the elders,

“A murderer (the King of Israel) has sent a man to cut off my head.  When he arrives, shut the door and keep him out.  We will soon hear his master’s steps following him.”

While Elisha was still saying this, the messenger arrived.  And the king said, “All this misery is from the Lord!  Why should I wait for the Lord any longer?””

Did you catch it??  Elisha got an instant download from God that danger was approaching!  How amazing is that?  The Prophet Elisha was so connected to God that he received an immediate alert that danger was coming for him.  In the post, ★ Thought for the Day – The Holy Spirit is Our Spider Sense ★, we looked at how the Holy Spirit is our “early warning system” about the activities of the enemy, similar to how Spiderman, The Holy Spirit is “Our Spider Sense.”  Just like Elisha, when we have a connection to the Holy Spirit, we will have his protection.  Long before Elisha, God revealed in Job 33:14-18 (NLT) that:

“For God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it.  He speaks in dreams, in visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they lie in their beds.  He whispers in their ears and terrifies them with warnings.  He makes them turn from doing wrong; he keeps them from pride.  He protects them from the grave, from crossing over the river of death.”

God is always speaking to us; the question is are we listening?  Just like God had promised Israel that He would bless them if they would obey, the same is true for us.  In Joel 2:12-13 (NLT), the prophet gave A Call to Repentance…

“That is why the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.  Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.”  Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.  He is eager to relent and not punish.”

And just a few verses late in Joel 2:28 (NLT), the Lord made this promised:

“Then, after doing all those things,
    I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
    Your old men will dream dreams,
    and your young men will see visions.”

The amazing thing is that throughout history, God has been speaking to us, calling us back to Himself, desiring a relationship with you and I!  You may be saying to yourself, these passages are all from the Old Testament well I am glad you asked.  In Acts 2:17 (NLT), as Peter was addressing the people on the Day of Pentecost, he quoted Joel 2:28!

“‘In the last days,’ God says,
     ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your young men will see visions,
     and your old men will dream dreams.”

I truly believe that we are living in the last days and that God is pouring out His Spirit for all who will seek Him… Today, you have the choice, will you open the book and find out for yourself!

I love the Bible and all that it offers…HOPE, LOVE and the PROMISE that God will never leave us or forsake us, as well as the truth of Romans 10:13 (NLT)…

“For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.””