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

Here is the very first Daily Dependence post which has been updated with an audio podcast called ★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★

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Does the title of today’s Thought surprise you?  One day in the office, a co-worker said to me, “I hate religion.”  He was surprised by my response when I said “so do I.”  Knowing that I am a Christian, he naturally assumed I was “Religious.”  I told him that “Religion” is just “Man’s” way of understanding or attempting to connect with God.  Unfortunately though people are hurt and oppressed by “Man-made” rules and then they blame God for what people say or do to them.  Mark Twain once said:

That is so true!  He gets blamed all the time for what people do in “His name,” but what God really desires is to have a personal relationship with us, through His Son Jesus, where we include Him in all aspects of our life.  I truly believe that you can “Hate Religion” and…

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★ Thought for the Day – The End is Near…? ★

Today we are going to off ramp from our Temptation Series and take a look at what the Bible has to say about “The End Times.”  For those who may not know what I am referring when I say “The End Times,” let me give you the Cliff Notes overview from a Christian perspective or worldview.  You may have also heard of it referred to as the end of time, end of days, last days, final days, or Armageddon.  It is a future time-period described in the last book of the Bible called Revelation.  John, the last surviving disciple of Jesus Christ was visited on the Island of Patmos by Jesus Himself.  He was given a unique glimpse of what future events will come to pass.  Within the 22 chapters of this book of prophecy, John is shown some terrifying judgments for the people left behind after the Jesus “raptures” or takes up His Church.  People who do not believe in Jesus at the time He returns will go through what is called the Tribulation, a 7 year period of judgement and great suffering.  This will precede the second coming of Christ which is spoken about in Chapter 19 of Revelation.  In the final battle between good and evil, Jesus will throw down the Antichrist along with his power structure and usher in the Kingdom of God with His Millennial reign (a thousand years of peace.)  This doctrine is called “Premillennialism.”  Here is a chart I found that is a great visual to help understand the timeline.

Even though we are pausing from the Pitfalls of Temptation, one could say that many of the signs that we are living in the End Times is indicative of the rampant immorality and yielding to carnal desires.  So do you think we are living in the End Times?  I saw this comic which made me chuckle…

In my teenage years and early 20’s, I was in NYC often whether for recreation or attending college.  I have seen people on the street corner and subway station with a sandwich board or sign proclaiming loudly this message that “The end is near!”  Many passerby’s, inducing myself avoided eye contact but you have to admit when you turn on the nightly news or check your twitter feed, the similarities are undeniable.  Jesus said in Luke 21:8-11  (NLT) in response to His disciples of what will be the signs that the “End Times” are near:

“He replied, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and saying, ‘The time has come!’  But don’t believe them.  And when you hear of wars and insurrections, don’t panic.  Yes, these things must take place first, but the end won’t follow immediately.”  

Then He added, “Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and there will be famines and plagues in many lands, and there will be terrifying things and great miraculous signs from heaven.”

Sound familiar?  Sounds a lot like that “crazy guy with the sandwich board,” but more importantly it is what CNN is reporting daily.  Before you start to think that I have gone off the deep end, I want to assure you that if you call yourself a Christian or Christ follower there is nothing to fear because Jesus will come back and Rapture [or take up] His Church to Heaven before all the terrifying events occur that the Book of Revelation tells of, (see Luke 17:26-35.)

Typically there are two positions that people take towards “End Times” prophecy and reading the Book of Revelation…either they will avoid it at all costs because of fear or because of the complexity.  Or they will embrace it and try to learn and understand this elusive book.  I fall in the discovery category myself and recently I have been spending a lot of time studying the subject.  In full disclosure, I am far from an expert on the subject matter but I have in the course of my walk with God I have listened to great teachings from:

  • Kevin Brennan, (my Pastor from our old church in NJ who led me to Christ in 1998.)
  • Woodrow Kroll, (the former radio host of “Back to the Bible” and a spiritual giant in my development as a Christian after I was saved.)
  • And most recently Jimmy Evans (who you may know from Marriage Today.)

My resurgence in to studying the Book of Revelation was actually fueled by my 13-year-old daughter who asked to read it with her.  When I asked her out all the books to read, why Revelation?  She responded:

“Because it is a complicated book and I want to understand it!”       

At first I was hesitant because I felt unqualified to lead her in the readings but in the end we read it together along with the Charles Stanley Life Principles Study Bible and it was incredible!  I am also a firm believer of what Revelation 1:3 (ESV) says:

“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.”

So if you are fearful or reluctant to read this mysterious book of prophecy, I want to encourage you to start reading it for yourself along with a good study Bible from with a respected teacher.  As I have been taking in as much End Times teaching as I can to share with my daughter, I listened to an incredible series from Jimmy Evans who preached from 5 different vantage points that demonstrate how we could very well be living in the End Times.  (I have copied the links below if you want to check out for yourself.)  As I was listening to one of the messages, Jimmy Evans shared 2 Timothy 3:1-8 (ESV) which talks about the “Godlessness in the Last Days”…

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.  For people will be

1.    lovers of self,
2.    
lovers of money,
3.    proud,
4.    arrogant,
5.    
abusive,
6.    
disobedient to their parents,
7.    
ungrateful,
8.    
unholy,
9.    
heartless,
10.  
unappeasable,
11.  slanderous,
12.  
without self-control,
13.  
brutal,
14.  
not loving good,
15.  
treacherous,
16.  
reckless,
17.  
swollen with conceit,
18.  
lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
19.  having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. 

Avoid such people.  For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.  Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.”

I “bulletized” or restructured this passage to go along with the observation Jimmy Evans made about how the Apostle Paul uses (19) different measures of the immorality in the End Times.  Jimmy Evans said:

“Why does he use 19?  It explains the full spectrum of immorality.  Immorality isn’t just about sexuality.  Immorality is about our character.  And when a person becomes immoral, it affects every fiber of their character.  It’s like cancer.  Once you become immoral it just goes into every area of your being…Immorality destroys people’s lives.”

2 Timothy was written circa A.D. 66-67, so when you read this list it is quite interesting to see how much our culture, almost 2,000 years after these words were penned, perfectly reflects this passage!  Immorality is all about our character and we must be very careful about the compromise we allow into our lives.  I wholeheartedly agree that immortality is like a cancer that will eat us away if we do not keep up our defenses.  Jimmy Evans broke down these (19) measures into (4) categories:

1.  Exultation of Self and Narcissism
2.  Rejection of Authority
3.  Rejection of Moral Standards
4.  Disloyal, Unloving and Verbally Viscous  

Before Jesus Christ intersected my life in August 1998, I must confess that many of these categories were true in my life.  As I shared with you in the last post ★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Alcohol and Drugs (Part 2) ★, my life was full of unrighteous behaviors and as we unpack all the pitfalls or traps we can find ourselves from the various temptations that Satan lays out in front of us, every one of them can fall into one of these (4) categories.  Psalm 14:1 (ESV) says:

“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”  They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good.”

BUT for those who know they are a sinner and believe in God’s plan of salvation through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus, you will see that there is hope though the restorative work of Jesus in us!  This week on the Church calendar is called “Holy Week,” which is the remembrance of all the events that led up to Jesus’ betrayal, suffering, death, burial and resurrection.

It started on:

For the believer this is a special week as we remember the brutal sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross as part of God’s rescue plan for humanity.  John 3:16 says:

Praise God that He made a way for us to have eternal life!  I love this graphic that illustrates our need perfectly…

The matter is black and white.  SIN is the PROBLEM and JESUS is the ANSWER!  Our choices, the temptations we decide to indulge in will lead to sin, which then in turn separates us from God.  We can try all kinds of things to bridge the gap from doing “good deeds” or trying to be “religious” or deceiving ourselves that we are moral because we haven’t done ______ (fill in the blank) like he/she has.  BUT hear me in this; NOTHING can help us cross the divide except faith in Jesus!  2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT) says:

“For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” 

All past, present, and future sins that anyone will ever make was paid once one and for all on the cross when Jesus took our place.  Every person that will ever call on Jesus is covered by His redemptive blood and is available to anyone who asks (see Ephesians 2:8-9.)

If you are reading this and have never made the choice to follow Jesus, I want to encourage you accept God’s salvation plan through the death and resurrection of His Son.  All you need to do is pray to God to receive eternal life.  Below is a simple prayer you can pray to start your relationship, the words you say really don’t matter, there is nothing special about them, but the emotion and belief in your heart does.

God take this broken, sinful person and forgive my sins.  I want a relationship with you I am in need of a Savior.  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.  Please forgive all my sins.  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 Romans 10:9-10 and 2 Corinthians 5:17!)  You can contact me at DailyDependence@gmail.com if you have any questions about your new life in Jesus Christ; I would love to discuss your decision more.

Now for those who are believers in Christ and you have the truth in you so the second coming of Jesus should not be something to worry about, nor should reading the book of Revelation be something to fear or dread.  As believers in Christ, (including those of you who may have just prayed that prayer to receive Christ…) we will not experience any of the frightening imaginary that John speaks of.  I believe it is important to study Bible prophecy because though the cross and resurrection is critical to remember and be thankful for, even more importantly is the fact that Jesus is now on His throne in Heaven making intersection between us and God the Father (see Romans 8:32-34.)

The cross is the emblem for the Christian faith but He’s not on it anymore and ultimately unless we study prophecy we will not know the signs and the times of His Second coming.  We must not be ignorant of the future.  Revelation 16:15 (NLT) says:

“Look, I will come as unexpectedly as a thief!  Blessed are all who are watching for me, who keep their clothing ready so they will not have to walk around naked and ashamed.”

Jesus used similar language in Luke 12:37-40 when He warned everyone to be ready for His Second Coming.  The Apostle Paul also described the second coming of Christ as “a thief in night” 1 Thessalonians 5:2.  And in 2 Peter 3:10, the Apostle Peter also said the same thing “the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief.”  The enemy wants you scared but the only people who need to be afraid are those who are not following Jesus.  Read the verse again “Blessed are all who are watching for me.”  We should all be eager for His return. 

Many people question “why do bad things happen to good people” and “why do good things happen to bad people.”  The answer…Sin.  We live in a broken and fallen world and just like those (19) measures of Godlessness that we read earlier in 2 Timothy, there is without a doubt evil in this world but take heart, judgement is coming for all those who commit unspeakable acts and refusing to repent and turn to God.  Revelation 19:11-16 (NKJV) gives a vivid picture of Christ’s return on a White Horse:

“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.  His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.  He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.  And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.  Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.  And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.  And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:  KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

This imaginary could be disturbing but if you are a believer in Jesus, there is nothing to worry about.  I love what Woodrow Kroll said:

“The book of Revelation is a great book of encouragement if you are on the right side.  You have to be on the victory side.”

And if you haven’t figured it out yet, the victory side is with Jesus!  Revelation 11:15 (ESV) says:

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

Jesus is coming back for all His followers and then will judge the world after the 7 year tribulation has ended.  I want to ask one more question for those who still are undecided on whether to accept Jesus as your savior or not…

If you were to die today, would you be ready to meet Jesus?  Are you right now ready to stand before Jesus? 

I urge you not to wait until it is too late.  Like Jimmy Evans, I too believe we are living in the End Times and the last thing you want to do is to delay the decision to follow Christ and be left behind when Jesus returns for His Church! 

The Choice is yours, what will you do with this truth you received today?

 

Today’s post covered a lot of ground so to help you in your development; here are several different resources…

If you would like to read more about God’s restorative power check out:

★ Thought for the Day – But God… ★

Though we are halfway through I made a Holy Week Reading Plan to read in my own devotion time if you would like to follow along with the last week of Jesus’ last week on Earth.

If you want to catch up on our Temptation Series you can check out these

★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding a Whole “LOT” of Trouble ★

★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Alcohol and Drugs (Part 2) ★

If you would like to study more on the End Times here are the resources that I mentioned earlier:

  • Back to the Bible broadcasts from Woodrow Kroll called:

Journey through Revelation

  • Sermon series from Jimmy Evans on the End Times called:

 Israel at a Tipping Point

 Truth at a Tipping Point

Technology at a Tipping Point

Time at a Tipping Point

Morality at a Tipping Point

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Alcohol and Drugs (Part 2) ★

Today is Part 2 in Our Temptation Series.  If you have missed the previous post, we first introduced the series using Abraham’s Nephew “Lot” as a case study called ★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding a Whole “LOT” of Trouble ★.  As we develop each temptation trap or “pitfall,” we will use a biblical case study as well as someone who I know or myself to make it current.  I have combined these two “pitfalls” that we can fall victim to into one post since they typically go hand in hand.  At least they did for me.  I learned this lesson the hard way as I failed in both areas and was trapped in a downward spiral of self-destructive behavior involving alcohol and drugs.

In the post ★ Thought for the Day – The Family Juggernaut ★, I shared about how my family of origin was wrecked by neglect, alcoholism, drug use, verbal attacks, physical abuse, and adultery all by the time I reached 5 years old!  Not surprisingly, that was the year that my parents divorced.  My teenage years and early twenties were characterized with drugs and alcohol, living life far from God and doing whatever felt good and benefited me.  I used the excuse that I came from a broken home to self-medicate my problems away instead of facing them head long.  I hated the face I saw in the mirror and so I surrounded myself with people who would no challenge me to change but instead accepted me because they were involved in the same self-destructive behaviors.  The people I associated with liked to party and drink excessively and I had no problem joining in and that has not changed 27 years later.

“According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 15.1 million adults ages 18 and older had Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).” 

“According to the 2015 NSDUH, an estimated 623,000 adolescents ages 12–17 had AUD.” Source: NSDUH Alcohol Facts and Statistics

What these statistics don’t comment on is the problem that abusing alcohol can escalate to more serious narcotics.  I remember my first time that I experimented with marijuana (or pot) like it was yesterday.  I was 15 years old at a party and had consumed so much alcohol that when the joint went around the circle I was too intoxicated to say no.  It is hard enough to resist temptation but when you surround yourself with the wrong people, compromise will always follow.  My drinking problem placed me in no position to make the right choice, and was the gateway to a life of illegal drugs that lasted almost 10 years before God used my girlfriend (now wife,) to lead me out of that dark life.

Now you may be thinking to yourself that I don’t remember reading anything in the Bible that directly says do not do drugs, but I think we can all agree that the effects of prolonged drug use can have devastating effects.  In a great article call “Don’t Let Your Mind Go to Pot” John Piper made this great parallel:

“In regard to drunkenness — and a marijuana high is a kind of drunkenness — the Bible says,

‘In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder [or viper].  Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things.’  (Proverbs 23:32-33). 

In other words, it leads away from the kind of sober-mindedness and self-control that is essential in using the mind for the glory of God.”

Amen!!  John Piper also said:

“In everything you do, ask yourself: Is this making Jesus look like the treasure He is?”  

So if you are rationalizing that marijuana or other drugs are not mentioned in the Bible, ask yourself, is hitting the bong or snorting that line of cocaine making Jesus look like the treasure He is supposed to be in your life?  Whether it be the temptation of drugs or alcohol, yielding to either only feeds your sinful nature and the Bible has much to say about that!  Galatians 5:19-21 (NLT) says:

“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. 

Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”

What a list!  We will unpack much of these pitfalls in the next 5 posts.  Verse 21 is also quite sobering (no pun intended)…“anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God!” 

Our case study today from the Old Testament that best exemplifies yielding to the temptation and its disastrous consequences is the man Noah.  You may be thinking to yourself, wait a second, “wasn’t he the man God used to build an ark to save two of every kind of animal from the flood that God was sending to punish the world because of the increasing immorality?”  The answer is yes!  Genesis 6:9-19 says:

“These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.  And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.”

As a result of his righteousness, God saved Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives from destruction.  The whole epic story can be found in Genesis Chapters 6-9 but what is not really ever discussed is what happens after the flood recedes and God makes His covenant with Noah and all his descendents to never flood the Earth again.  We remember the rainbow in the clouds as a sign of the covenant but what happens after that?

Genesis 9:18-28 recalls how after the flood had receded Noah planted a vineyard and one night he got drunk and was found inside his tent naked by his youngest son Ham who shamed his father by telling his two brothers about being passed out drunk.  But instead of joining in their brother’s disrespect, Shem and Japheth covered their father’s nakedness.  Verses 24-27 recounts:

“When Noah woke up from his stupor, he learned what Ham, his youngest son, had done.  Then he cursed Canaan, the son of Ham:

‘May Canaan be cursed!
May he be the lowest of servants to his relatives.’

Then Noah said,

‘May the Lord, the God of Shem, be blessed, and may Canaan be his servant!
May God expand the territory of Japheth!
May Japheth share the prosperity of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant.’”

Wow that seems extreme doesn’t it?  But that is exactly what happens when we allow alcohol (and drugs) to have priority in our lives.  It will result in us doing and saying things that we would not normally do, and ultimately will wreak havoc in our lives and the one’s we love.  Noah was 601 years old when he left the ark (Genesis 8:13) and lived until he was 950 (Genesis 9:29).  It’s sad to me that after that night of drunkenness there is nothing more to report about this righteous man who was the only person in God’s eyes worthy to be saved in all the earth.  There is nothing to support this, but could it be that his vineyard became an idol and his yielding to the temptation of alcohol rendered Noah ineffectual or useless to expand the Kingdom of God?   

I have been doing a bible study with my neighbor on the Book of Genesis and God showed me something that I never saw before.  When you look at the dependents of Noah’s three sons:

You can see that the blessing on Shem’s descendants and the Curse on Canaan and his descendants came to pass.  We discussed Abram (also known as Abraham) and Lot in the previous post about how God blessed them both who were in the lineage of Shem.  Abraham was the patriarch of the Israelite’s who were constantly plagued by the highlighted names above who were not only the descendants of Canaan but also from Ham’s other sons as well.  When you think of it, centuries of wars and death can be traced back to one night of drunkenness!

Proverbs 20:1 (NLT) says:

“Wine produces mockers; alcohol leads to brawls.
     Those led astray by drink cannot be wise.”

And that is certainly the case for Noah.  Perhaps the reason why we read nothing more about Noah’s subsequent 349 years after the miraculous survival from the flood is because he was led astray and spent those years in conflict with his son and grandchildren as a result of Noah’s pride being hurt.  I read a great article called “Wise Up About Alcohol” by James MacDonald in which he advocated complete abstinence from alcohol which was quite compelling.  In his conclusion, he said:

“The Bible does not require abstinence, but I believe it recommends it as the wiser choice.

‘Abstain from all appearance of evil.’  1 Thessalonians 5:22
‘I will not be brought under the power of anything.’  1 Corinthians 6:12
‘You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ John 8:32

You say, ‘Free from what?’ — free from addictive patterns of sinfulness that don’t lead to the righteousness which can be found in Christ alone.”

Now whether you agree with complete abstinence from alcohol or not, don’t miss the point that we need to be to be aware of the hold that it has on us.  In 1 Corinthians 6:12 (NLT), the Apostle Paul says:

“You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’ — but not everything is good for you.  And even though ‘I am allowed to do anything,’ I must not become a slave to anything.”

Now 1 Corinthians 6:12 is a warning about “Avoiding Sexual Sin” which will unpack in the next post but I wanted to highlight the last part of the verse which says:

“I must not become a slave to anything.”

The ESV translation says “I will not be dominated by anything.”  When we cannot say no to another drink or another hit, snort or pill of __________ (fill in the blank) then that is exactly what is happening!  We are a slave to alcohol and drugs and have allowed our lives to be dominated!  I would be remiss if I did not mention one of the most quoted verses on temptation from 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT)…

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience.  And God is faithful.  He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand.  When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.”

Charles Stanley has this life lesson:

“We will face temptation just as the Old Testament saints did, but we do not have to choose disobedience to God.  Why?  Because the power of sin over us was defeated at the Cross.  If we’ve trusted Christ as our savior, His Spirit lives in us – giving us the power and wisdom to overcome our sinful impulses so we can obey Him.  So whenever you are tempted, ask God to remind you of the terrible consequences that would follow the transgression and to fill your heart with love and obedience for Him – because that is a sure way of escape.”

I love, love, love that advice to that “whenever you are tempted, ask God to remind you of the terrible consequences that would follow the transgression.”  How much different would our lives be if we were to pray this?  And if we would, I believe that we would see the fruition of Galatians 5:22-25 (NLT) manifested!

“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!  Those who belong to Christ 

 Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.  Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.”

You know the expression, ‘save the best for last?’  When you look at the ninth “Fruit of the Spirit,” it is self-control.  I think mastery of this area can unlock the key to overcoming temptation and avoiding the consequences that will result if we fail to.  I will close with this from John MacArthur about what it means to live in the Spirit:

“The Spirit-filled life is overflowing with gratitude, joy, right relationships, and good behavior — quite a contrast to those enslaved by alcohol.  You may not be seeking your joy in drugs or alcohol, but are you seeking to be filled with the Spirit?”  From Living Under The Influence

Are you seeking to be filled with the Spirit?  The answer to that question will speak volumes to whether you will continue to yield to alcohol and drugs and whether the truth of God is in us!

“Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.”  1 John 3:19 (NLT)

Here is the next installment of the Temptation Series called:

★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Lust (Part 3a) ★

If you’re interested in digging deeper, check out:

★ Thought for the Day – Who Are You Imitating? ★

Here are some great articles called:

“Wise Up About Alcohol” by James MacDonald

“Don’t Let Your Mind Go to Pot by John Piper

Living “Under the Influence” by John MacArthur 

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Chain Reaction Catalyst ★

Weird title for a Thought for the Day huh?  Well I hope it was interesting enough to get you to click on the link.  Today I want to unpack the idea of being a “Chain Reaction Catalyst!”  Now the term chain reaction may not be foreign but just so we are all on the same page, I will share the definition in the context of this post from what Dictionary.com defines a Chain Reaction as.  It is:

“a series of events in which each event is the result of the one preceding and the cause of the one following.”

Some examples of chain reactions, is what happens after the first stick is set ablaze in a book of matches or after the initial domino is pushed.

Now you probably have heard of a catalyst in relation to a chemical reaction.  In preparation for this Thought, I googled “what are examples of a catalyst,” and this is one result I found:

“The catalytic converter in a car contains platinum, which serves as a catalyst to change carbon monoxide, which is toxic, into carbon dioxide.”

Why am I sharing this?  Well it is because the dreaded “check engine light” is currently on in my car.  The error code that I was told suggests I have a problem with my catalytic converter.  And in the movie, Rachel’s step father also had an issue with his catalytic converter also.  I found the coincidence too funny not to share.  Okay “squirrel moment” is over…

Dictionary.com defines a Catalyst as:

a person or thing that precipitates an event or change

a person whose talk, enthusiasm, or energy causes others to be more friendly, enthusiastic, or energetic.

So a Chain Reaction Catalyst is someone who causes a series of positive events to happen as a result of their influence.  I believe that God desires every person who calls themselves a believer in Jesus to be bold in sharing their faith and being a world changer!

Last night I was watching the movie “I’m Not Ashamed” with my family about a girl who embodied what it means to be a Chain Reaction Catalyst. The movie came out last Fall (10/21/16) but unfortunately we missed seeing it in the Theaters.

For those who are not familiar, it is based on the inspiring and powerful true story of Rachel Joy Scott who was the first student killed in the Columbine High School shooting on April 20, 1999.  It’s hard to believe that we are coming up on the 18 year anniversary of that horrific day when 2 students went on a shooting spree.  At the time, it was one of the nation’s most deadly mass shootings.  This movie was incredible, not because of the acting, though it was good, or because of the screenplay, in which the way the story unfolded was exceptional.  No, what made the film extraordinary for me was the fact that it was drawn from the actual journal writings of Rachel Joy Scott.  A lot of the dialogue and scenes came straight from Rachel’s own words and were also influenced by her mother Beth.  In the movie we catch a glimpse of her mother’s faith in action.  Proverbs 22:6 (ESV) instructs us that we should:

“Train up a child in the way he [she] should go; even when he [she] is old he [she] will not depart from it.”

There is no doubt that Rachael’s mom had a significant influence on the fine young woman she became and clearly trained her up in the way she should go.  Rachel was just 17 years old when one of the shooters asked her “Do you believe in God?”  She answered yes to the question even though she knew it would end her life.  I was thankful that the movie handled this in a very sensitive way.  I can remember that heart wrenching day like it was yesterday, and to this day I cannot hear the name “Columbine” without horror and sorrow welling up inside.  As a new Christian, having only just given my heart to Jesus in August of 1998, Rachel being a devout believer, or “Christ Follower” resonated with me.  What would I do if I was confronted with that question?  The movie title was based on Romans 1:16  (ESV):

“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.

As I sat on the couch with my 16 year old daughter watching the movie, there was a beautiful moment as a young Rachel traced her hands and wrote these prophetic worlds:

“These hands belong to Rachel Joy Scott and will someday touch millions of people’s hearts.”

I found this on the memorial website for the Columbine High School shootings.   What is unbelievably miraculous is that through her witness and death, Rachel’s story of compassion and love for her fellow students and desire to be a world changer has done just that.  She reminded me a lot of my daughter who is just one year younger, who also was part of the school outreach program called “Rachel’s Challenge” which is an anti-bullying program that promotes Rachel’s belief that she wrote in an essay just a month before her murder:

“I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same.  People will never know how far a little kindness can go.”

That is so powerful!!  We will never know how far a little kindness can go!  It’s hard to believe this was penned by a 17 year old!  The intent of Rachel’s Challenge is to start a chain reaction of the same kind of compassion in school’s everywhere!

The question I want to pose to you is…Do you want to be a world changer?  Do you want to make a difference?  Than we need to follow Rachel’s example and stand up for what we believe in, for what is right!  Romans 12:2 (ESV) says:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

We are instructed by the apostle Paul to be in the world but not of it!  To be a catalyst of change, we need to fix our eyes on Jesus and allow Him to use us and guide us, even if others don’t understand or persecute us for our faith.  We need to be unashamedly proud to be a Christ Follower.  But that does not happen without work.  Much like as an athlete has to train and discipline themselves to improve; we have to put in the work to grow in our faith.  I shared in the post ★ Thought for the Day – Community That Matters ★ about Colossians 2:6-7 (NLT) which says:

“And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow Him.  Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him.  Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. 

As our roots grow in Christ, our faith will be strengthened and we will be equipped to help others.  Charles Stanley had this great life lesson on these 2 powerful verses from Colossians and the life we can have in Christ…

“How did you receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior?  By faith.  And that is exactly how you grow in maturity – by faith.  The ability to accomplish all God has planned for you is within you through the presence, power, and wisdom of the Holy Spirit.  So if you wish to develop your relationship with Him and become all you were created to be, you must willingly surrender yourself to His promptings and trust Him, no matter what He commands you to do.”

You might not be able to change the whole world, but you can change the lives you come in contact with.  Just like Rachel Scott, you never know how many lives you can change and what ripple effect will start but your single act of compassion.  Whether it would be that person sitting alone at the lunch table at school or the person in the next cubicle that you know is going through a tough time or maybe a neighbor who does not know God well and needs to develop a relationship with Jesus.  It all comes down to whether you be that match or that single domino that will be the Chain Reaction Catalyst that will make a difference not matter what the cost!

God has given everyone us talents, skills and gifts to impact this world.  The question is…Are you using them for His glory?  Or do you use then for your advantage or personal gain?  I don’t mean that you take advantage of people or scam people but that you’re missing the opportunities God has provided to use your gifts to spur others on to deepen their faith!  I will close with this quote from Rachel Joy Scott’s persona journal…

“I am not going to apologize for speaking the name of Jesus.”

Our lives are in God’s hands, we can make a world of difference if we are willing, and if we are not ashamed of our faith!

Go out today and be a Chain Reaction Catalyst!

 

If you would like to read more on this topic check out:

★ Thought for the Day – Who Are You Imitating? ★

★ Thought for the Day – Stand Up for What is Right ★

★ Thought for the Day – Talent vs. Integrity ★

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★ Thought for the Day – Candy Land Christianity ★

Today’s Thought for the Day will tie together (2) Fortune 500 Companies that have helped influenced the culture we live in and how people view Christianity.  At the time of post, according to the Fortune 500 List, the first company Hasbro just missed the top by ranking at 550 but their impact on our families is significant.

103 - Daily Dependence - Fortune 500 - Hasbro

103 - Daily Dependence - Family Game Night InfographicI am not sure if they coined the phrase “Family Game Night,” but clearly Hasbro has done very well capitalizing on their products.  I found this Infographic on The Board Game Family website that is from a study conducted in 2013 by Wakefield Research Group for the Hasbro Gaming Company.  They found that:

“91% of those polled said playing games gives their family’s mood a positive boost.  And 96% of families who play games together say that they feel close!”

103 - Daily Dependence - Family Game Night Statistics

In a world in love with their smart phones, iPads and Tablets, I bet in the past 3 years that statistic above is probably much higher than 61% of families having a hard time disconnecting from their devices.  There is so much competing for our attention these days.  Now I know it is self-serving that Hasbro sponsored this survey and that they found that families playing games = happiness, but as a participant in our own Family Game Nights, I can testify that is definitely true!  There are so many great memories just from these few games that I pulled out of our game cabinet…

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And there definitely are members who have dominated…For instance, my youngest is the master of monopoly, my oldest daughter rules in Rummikub, my wife baffles us with the number of words she finds in Boggle, and I have a lot of success in Scrabble.  Hours upon hours of great family bonding have been spent competing with each other.  It’s interesting though as I dug through the cabinet, I was surprised to find that we no longer had Candy Land.  103 - Daily Dependence - Candyland Game BoardI remember racing to arrive at “Candy Castle” first with both of my girls but I guess we gave it away at some point.  I googled Candy Land and found this on Wikipedia that jogged my memory of why we no longer have the game:

“Candy Land…requires no reading and minimal counting skills, making it suitable for young children. Due to the design of the game, there is no strategy involved: players are never required to make choices, just follow directions.  The winner is predetermined by the shuffle of the cards.”

Besides the fact that the game is rated for ages 3 and up, (and I now have two teenagers), the underlined sentence above is why we don’t have the game any longer.  Now in our family everyone is extremely competitive so a game that has no challenge, no strategy or choices really has no place in the game cabinet…hahaha!  But I think that people view Christianity in the same way sometimes; if you were to become a Christian your choices are limited and you have to follow a bunch of rules…But that is a lie from the enemy!  It reminds me a powerful scene from 2014 God’s Not Dead movie in which Mina’s mother who is suffering from Demetria has a moment of lucidity and compares a life outside of God as a Comfortable Prison Cell, (click here to watch). 103 - Daily Dependence - God's Not Dead - Comfy Jail Cell Quote

The devil wants you to believe that life is more fun without God and that if you become a Christian you will be controlled and have no options just like if you were playing Candy Land.  Jesus said in John 10:10 (ESV) that:

103 - Daily Dependence - John 10-10
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

The thief, aka the Devil or Satan wants to ruin your life, whereas God sent Jesus to rescue us.  His offer is far greater than any counterfeit that the Devil tempt us with, but unfortunately many fall into the trap that life outside God’s involvement is better, and instead of landing on “Candy Castle,” you will end up in “Molasses Swamp”…okay no more Candy Land references… Jesus is extending a life line to every one of us if we will grab hold of it.  He is our lifesaver!  Acts 13:38-39 (NIV) instructs us…

“Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.  Through Him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.”

And in John 8:36 (NIV) Jesus said,

“So if the Son [Jesus] sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Here are some additional Bible Verses about the Freedom we have over sin and darkness when we follow Jesus that would be good to memorize if you struggle to remember the truth.  How are you with memorizing scripture?  If you are like me, it’s a struggle to remember where key verses are located but I believe it is okay if you can’t recall the exact “chapter and verse” in the Bible so long as you get the truth in your heart…THAT IS WHAT MATTERS!  A trick I have that may help you is to google the part of the verse I remember and 9 out of 10 times I find what I am looking for.

But there is someone, or some fish who does not have that luxury…Dory.

103 - Daily Dependence - Finding Dory

Were you wondering when I was going to get to the second Fortune 500 Company?  Well just to be consistent, here is the ranking and stats of Disney in the prestigious list…

103 - Daily Dependence - Fortune 500 - Disney

103 - Daily Dependence - Walt Disney

Walt Disney was a master at creating a fantasy world that everyone wanted to be a part of.  This castle for instance at Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Florida is an icon of his legacy.  Every child knows the Magic Kingdom as being “The Most Magical Place On Earth” (and the parents agree, all their money “magically” disappears!)  In the much-anticipated sequel to the 2003 blockbuster hit Finding Nemo, 103 - Daily Dependence - Finding NemoDisney has landed gold with the reprisal of the forgetful Blue Tang Fish. In Finding Dory, which has quickly become the #1 U.S. hit of 2016, grossing $437.8 million (according to Box Office Mojo.), we learn all about Dory’s past and how she was separated from her parents, as well as the background on her unusual introductory statement…

“Hi I’m Dory and I suffer from short-term memory loss.”

I was amazed at how good the sequel was, and the issues that were tackled like raising special needs children, being orphaned, friendship and the importance of family!  The movie is also unique in that it is the most “family friendly” offering from Disney in years, which as avid movie buff and a discerning parent of what I expose my children to, I appreciate the good lessons without the questionable content to worry about.  103 - Daily Dependence - Family VacationI was thinking about the movie last week when our family went on vacation to North Carolina for a family reunion, (which was so special since it has been 3 months ago that we lost my mom.)  To get there, we decided to do a cross-country drive from Texas which was a first for us.  We also added a stop at Destin and Pensacola to hit the beach which was amazing!  All in all we logged 2,740 miles and had an amazing family time as we sang, played games and talked.  But for those who have driven hundreds of miles you know how wearisome it can get…As we were driving my wife made pun off of Dory’s other catch phase…“Just Keep Swimming…”

103 - Daily Dependence - Just Keep Swimming Alt 1

As the miles rolled on, she said, “Just keep diving…driving…driving…” Hahaha!  But I think there is a great life principle to gain from Dory’s optimistic outlook.  She had to overcome a disability, being separated from her parents and being alone, and yet she had an incredible perspective: “Just Keep Swimming!”  Or another way to say it is you keep going when you face adversities in life.  I think too often people have an unrealistic view of the Christian Faith.  They think just because you are a Christian that they should never have any problems.  But that simply is not the case because when you become a Christian you become an enemy to the little god of this world, the Devil.  I shared about how opposition will always come when we serve God in a post called ★ Thought for the Day – Opposition Will Come ★, (which would be good for you to read also.)  Ultimately opposition is a good thing.  Strange statement?  Not really when you are looking through the correct lens.  I love how Jack Graham said it:

“Perhaps today you’d admit that you’re a little discouraged by how difficult the Christian life can be.  If so, I want to offer you a word of encouragement: The opposition you face is actually a sure sign that you’re doing something right!  Because if the devil leaves you alone, that means you must not be worth trying to discourage!”

Easier said than done right?  But I think with the right perspective, we can persevere and flourish.  How do I know this?  John Chapter 17 reveals the heart of Jesus with an incredible prayer for you and me.  We don’t have time to unpack the whole prayer but in verses 13-14 he prayed to God…

“Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy.  I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.  I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.”

Now you may say this does not cover me but in just four verses later Jesus prayed…

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.   I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.”  (John 17:20-21)

I know I talk often about spiritual warfare, that we have a very real enemy who wants to steal and kill and destroy” you and I as we covered already.  And now we see Jesus praying for our protection.  You see people have a skewed perspective of Christianity because Satan is always on the prowl (see 1 Peter 1:8).  But I encourage you to persevere and just keep chasing after God like Dory example has shown us.  I will close with this final though from Susie Larson:
103 - Daily Dependence - Susie Larson - Your Beautiful Purpose - Potential

Embrace that truth today!

If you are interested in reading more, check out:

★ Thought for the Day – Anxious to Do the Will of God? ★ 

★ Day 11 – Reason for the Season – Following Jesus Will Cost You ★

 

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★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #3 – Adoration That Matters ★

Today is the final segment in our series of the 3 Worthy Pursuits…Prayer – Word – Worship.  We first introduced these pursuits in the post ★ “Back to the Basics” – Never-Ending Pursuit ★ in which we saw through the life of Jonah that God will go to great lengths to re-direct us from our disobedience.  The first Pursuit of our series was called ★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #1 – Opening the Pipeline ★ in which we saw how critical prayer is through the Prayer of Jabez from 1 Chronicles 4:10.  In the second post ★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #2 – What Are You Feeding On? ★, we covered the importance of reading God’s Word, the Holy Bible.  In today’s post we will unpack the final Pursuit…Worship.

100 - Daily Dependence - Worship EmojiWhat is worship?  It is a noun?  Is it a verb?  Yes…It’s actually both. 

Let’s start off with what Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary had this simple definition of worship as:

  • the act of showing respect and love for a god especially by praying with other people who believe in the same god
  • the act of worshipping God or a god
  • excessive admiration for someone

Before we get too deep, too fast, I wanted to look at that last meaning…excessive admiration for someone.”  Another word for admiration is adoration which means 100 - Daily Dependence - Five Below Storedeep love.  My youngest daughter without a doubt has a deep love for Five Below. Any time she gets some money she wants to go shopping.  I have to say I am a fan of the store myself because you can some pretty cool stuff for $5 or less.  One visit, as we went through the aisles, I saw this mug which blew me away!

100 - Daily Dependence - I love Me Mug

What a sign of the times!  We live in such a self-indulgent culture that screams look at me, listen to what I have to say, it’s all about me.  You don’t have to go too far down on your Twitter or Instagram feed before you see an example of person making that proclamation of “I love me” through their excessive selfies!  I saw these alarming statistics on infogr.am site:

100 - Daily Dependence - Selfie Statistics

“1 million ‘Selfies’ taken globally each day!!!”  Not that is a “whole lotta lovin” of oneself!!  The Apostle Paul talked in 2 Timothy about the coming “Godlessness in the Last Days.”  In verses 1-2 he said:

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,”

And the list goes on, you can read the rest in 2 Timothy 3:1-5.  Doesn’t that sound very familiar to today’s culture?  Now am I saying that taking a selfie = Godlessness?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!  I have taken my fair share with the people in my life to capture a moment.  But what I am saying is that we need to be very careful that being a “lover of self” is a slippery slope!  We need to renew our mind each day and not follow whatever is trending on Twitter!  See Romans 12:2.

In our last post called ★ Thought for the Day – Are You a Parasite? ★ we talked about how reading God’s Word, and “doing” what it says will move us from being babies in the faith to mature in our walk with God.  The same is true for our worship.  We need to not be so self-centered that everything has to be all about us and follow what 1 Corinthians 13:11 (NLT) says:

“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.”

When we were babies it was true that the world did revolve around us but that was due to our helpless state but just like as the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians, we need to put away childish behaviors and start adoring the One who truly matters!  1 Chronicles 29:11 (NLT) gives us another way to live…

“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty.  Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom.  We adore you as the one who is over all things.”

Going back to Merriam-Webster’s definition…Worship is “the act of worshiping God or a god.”  The strikethrough is based on what the Jesus said in Luke 4:8:

And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.’”

Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy 6:13 from the Old Testament.  So how do you Worship God?  In how you treat others (see Luke 6:31-35, Mark 12:29-33), how we take care of people in need (see Matthew 25:31-46, James 1:27), and even how generous we are (see Matthew 6:19-21, 1 Timothy 5:8).  Another way to Worship God is through music.  David, who was called a man after God’s own heart, played the harp and loved to worship God through music.  He wrote in Psalms 150:1-6 (NASB)

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty expanse.
Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
Praise Him with trumpet sound;
Praise Him with harp and lyre.
Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord!

I love that declaration…”Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!”  What a call to action!  This should be freeing to all of us because David said “Let everything,” not the talented or gifted, so if you are shy or feel like you do not have a good enough voice, memorize Psalms 150:6 and Worship the Lord whether in your home, car or church!  We live in such an incredible time period where there are some many different genres and styles of worship, from classic hymns to modern praise and worship.  How doesn’t matter as long as you do!

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I love what worship leader John David Hessler said…

“Songs become like a diving board to get us back in to the deep water of the Lord’s heart.  I love how a song can somehow contain an eternal moment inside of it.”

I cannot agree more with that!  I love music of all kinds but especially worship music.  I always have music playing whether it be in the house, car or wherever I go with my iPhone.  But I think that my favorite times of listening to worship music is when I am in church because as I am experiencing “an eternal moment” along with others which users in Holy Spirit’s presence because God inhabits the praises of his people, see Psalms 22:3-4.  Referred to as “Worship Service” or “Corporate Worship,” the gathering together of other believers in Christ to sing praises to God leads us into the final definition that I would like to delve into…Worship is…“the act of showing respect and love for  a  God especially by praying with other people who believe in the same God.” The strikethrough and capitalization of “God” is based on 1 Corinthians 8:6 (ESV) says:

“yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”

God is worthy of our worship and is just waiting for us to turn from our wicked ways, see 2 Chronicles 7:14…The question is will you worship Him?  Will you give up on focusing just on what you want and what make you happy?  Will you look for opportunities to help others, to look out for the overwhelmed, under resourced and people far away?

Though we examined each PURSUIT separately, they are intrinsically linked…at some point you need to realize your brokenness and need of a change in your life, resulting in a PRAYER to God to accept Jesus as your Savior.  In response to that prayer, you start developing a relationship with God through reading His WORD.  And the outcome of gaining knowledge of God and His Son, your love and adoration deepens which leads to WORSHIP.  This is a picture of what happens during a church service, whether you attend on Saturday or Sunday.  Regardless of what denomination or congregation you belong to, if it is a Bible preaching church, each PURSUIT is represented during the corporate time of honoring God.

I will close with this last thought that I think encapsulates the truest sense of Worship…

“Worship is so much more than the songs we sing on Sunday morning.  It is the life that we live the rest of the week.”  Unknown

And how could I talk about worship and not give you a song too?  Here is an incredible song called “Simplicity” by Rend Collective.  Let this just fill your spirit!

Here are a couple of lyrics…

I come with my broken soul
To you the perfect one
To worship you in spirit and truth
Only you 

Give me a childlike heart
Lead me to where you are
Cause I’m coming back to my first love
Only you

You’re the reason I sing
The reason I sing

I pray that today you would focus on Adoration That Matters and live your life worshiping the One true God and give your heart to His Son Jesus Christ!

If you would like to read more on this, check out the post ★ Thought for the Day – Sweetly Broken ★

 

 

 

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★ “Back to the Basics” – Follow-Up to Can 1 Conversation Change a Life? ★

96 - Daily Dependence - Follow Up to Can 1 Conversation Change a Life 3About a year ago we posted ★ “Back to the Basics” – Can 1 Conversation Change a Life? ★, in which we looked at how one conversation between Jesus and the Pharisee Nicodemus changed his life and how if we will be open to listening to the call of God, we could be used to change the life of others.  I shared in ★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #1 – Opening the Pipeline ★ about how I had a fantastic conversation with a man in the next seat on the flight home from Indiana which has continued with us texting back and forth about God and matters of faith.  I have also been trading emails with a member of my project team about life.  We went from discussing the Presidential Election to Trump’s Wall to handle immigration to what he thought about God which opened the door to the subject of today’s post.  I would like to use his 6 questions to delve into the hot-button topic of “How God could send someone to Hell that never heard the gospel?”  At the end of this post I will give you two messages from Pastors that I greatly respect and have sat under the teaching of for years (one in person and one through Podcast.)  But I digress…I will paste my answer to each question in order of how he asked them…

1.  Why is there not a Gospel of Jesus?  So much was written by flawed men. 

Though man is certainly flawed, the Bible was written by the direction of God.  Part of my faith is that the Bible is the inherent Word of God.  The first thing to understand is that though Jesus’ name is not on the top of any book, every word in the bible is inspired by God through the Holy Spirit.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for 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.

2.  How can Christianity which is all about Christ claim that all people who don’t accept Jesus go to hell and suffer for all eternity?

Regardless of the racial, social or economic background, every single person has been told of the existence of God…By God Himself.  God has placed a God-shaped hole in everyone one of us.  Every person has questioned where they came from, how they came about and ultimately what will happen after we breathe our last breath.  The question is, do you look up or do you rebel against the truth?  Also any sentient being cannot look at the magnificence of a sunrise, or the gentle breeze across halcyon wheat fields or the giggle of a child’s laughter and not wonder if there is not something greater than themselves.  Again the question is, do you open your mind up to the possibility or repress the stirring?  Pastor Robert Morris made statement:

“The Bible says that since the beginning of time, God has revealed Himself to every person both internally and externally.  Every person is born with a conscience, given to them by God, that gives them guidance about right and wrong.  Scripture says that creation itself is proof of His existence, and promises that every person who makes an effort to seek God will find Him.  Therefore, no one has an excuse.  We can see God if we’ll only look.”

Ultimately you have to understand that

“There is no one holy like the LORD, Indeed, there is no one besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God.

Because God is just and holy many people see these 2 attributes as negatives, but there has to be consequences for Sin.  But what many people struggle is that:

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

3.  Could you believe that a person like the Dali Lama who is kind and completely about peace in the world would go to Hell?

This question is a difficult one to answer.  I cannot truly answer that question because God is the who judges and will decide who is destined to go to Hell or not.  Jesus did say in John 14:6 (NLT),

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

The question though is from the presupposition that there are actually kind and good people.  Romans 3:10-12 (NLT) says,

“As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous— not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless.  No one does good, not a single one.”” 

And Romans 3:23 (NLT) says:

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”

Sin is very real and though people may strive to be kind and peaceful; there is no one who is perfect.  See Romans 3:24-26 and Romans 5:12-17.  To make matters worse, 2 Corinthians 4:4 which talks about how “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe.”  It is interesting to note that people were never intended to go to Hell.  God created Man to have a relationship with Him and set Him in the Garden of Eden which was paradise on earth.  Robert Morris made this point:

“Hell was created for Satan and his angels, (see Matthew 25:41) when they inexcusably and rebelliously rejected God without cause.  God sent His Son so that no one else would ever have to go there.  God gave every person a free will.  We can choose to love Him or to reject Him.  The people in heaven are those who have chosen Him.  Many others reject Him, in spite of His unlimited goodness.  Our eternal destiny is not His choice, but ours.  Hell wasn’t created for people, but according to Isaiah 5:14, it was enlarged because people inexcusably reject God.  So, the question is, ‘How could anyone reject a loving God?’”

Isn’t that a fascinating thought?  Instead of viewing it from the perspective that God is sending people to Hell, the truth is that People are choosing to go to Hell because of their blatant rejection of the free gift of salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross!  You can read more on this in the post ★ Thought for the Day – But God… ★.

4.  How do I have faith when Christianity and all other religions say we go to hell if we don’t believe?  Christianity is all about Jesus and Christianity says we go to hell when for many life is stacked against them even to the point they may not have even heard of him?

In addition to what I stated above, in a message that I just heard, Steven Furtick made this profound faith…

“The Opposite of Faith is not doubt.  The Opposite of Faith is certainty.

Faith is meant to be more than a formality.

Faith was meant to be more than a feeling.

Faith was meant to be more than a formula.

In fact if you can reduce it to a formula and make sense out of it, it ain’t faith.”

It’s normal to have doubts and to question but in the end, there will be some things we just will never know this side of heaven.  Hebrews 11:1 (NLT) says,

“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”

God is the only one who knows whose heart belongs to Him and whose has rebelled.

5.  Is the simple answer that parts of the bible while true there maybe parts that are not because they were not written by Christ?

As I mentioned above, The Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that the entire Bible is true.  Charles Stanley made this statement.

“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 my anchor of my life.  I believe if people truly want to grow in their faith and live a victorious in life than dusting off the Bible on the nightstand and opening it up is a necessity!  In an older post called ★ Thought for the Day – All About the Big Ten ★, I wrote about the importance of knowing the whole Bible because of its relevance to our life.  Check it out; it looks through the lens of the Ten Commandments.

6.  What do you think is the greatest sin with respect to sins against others? 

There are definitely sins that I believe are worse than others, rape, murder, child abuse to name a few but the Bible has something very different to say.  In asking this question I asked if he were referring to the Ten Commandments or perhaps “The seven deadly sins” – Pride, Envy, Wrath, Gluttony, Lust, Sloth and Greed but regardless of what he was asking, there is a really easy answer that comes from Jesus’ little brother James where he said;

“For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.” So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law.

So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.”  James 2:10-13 (NLT)

We as humans are broken, sinful people in need of Savior to rescue us from ourselves, see Psalms 14:1-3, Romans 3:23-26 and Romans 5:8-9.

I will tell you what I told him, that I am truly honored that you have opened your heart for us to dialogue about God and to share with you what I have learned through the study of His Word.  I will close with this final truth of Who is God and what do we mean to Him…James 1:16-18 (NLT)

“So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 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. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.”

We are His prized possession and all God wants from us is a relationship with Him!  Here is a blog I wrote that expands much deeper called…★ “Back to the Basics” – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian…Part 2 ★, would love to hear your thoughts!

Here are so follow-up resources…

★  “Tough question…How can a loving God send people to Hell” – Robert Morris

http://gatewaypeople.com/ministries/life/events/the-end-what-happens-next/session/2011/08/13/a-tough-question#.TkvLcu7ZdUB.gmail

★  “Functional Faith” – Steven Furtick

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=935vFzx722c&sns=em

Check back soon as we will be posting ★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #2 – What Are You Feeding On? ★  that will continue our series of the 3 Pursuits that will lead to a successful life!

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★ Thought for the Day – But God… ★

Last year I posted this ★ Thought for the Day – What is the X-Factor of Leadership? ★, which examined how the X-Factor of Leadership is humble service to others through the example that Jesus gave to His 12 disciples.  On the eve of Jesus’ brutal death on the cross, He celebrated one last Passover meal together with His disciples, the people closest to Him.  Referred oftentimes as “The Last Super,” Jesus gave us a powerful demonstration and pattern to follow of what servant leadership is all about when He, the Son of God took on the role of a slave/servant and took hold of a jar of water and basin and washed His disciples’ feet.  One by one, foot by foot, Jesus humbled Himself and cleaned the day’s grime from their sandal-wearing feet…POWERFUL!  If you missed it, I encourage you to check it out because it will give you some needed background to this post.

Yesterday was “Good Friday,” which for Jesus was anything but that.  For us though, it changed everything!  By dying on the cross, Jesus stole the power of death and provided a pathway for you and me to overcome the Devil and have eternal life!!  But before we celebrate Easter and Jesus’ Resurrection, I thought we could look at the events leading up to Sunday.  Last week, my Pastor gave a great overview of Holy Week which I was very familiar with having grown up Catholic.  His sermon encouraged me to spend some time just reading and meditating on the events of this week through the Gospel of Luke.  If you are interested in reading what happened, they are recorded in Luke 19:28 – 24:12.  For those not familiar, Holy Week is the time period from Palm Sunday when Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem to Resurrection Sunday (aka Easter).  As I studied the story of Easter in Luke, I discovered some interesting things.  On Palm Sunday Jesus was heralded as a King riding in on the back of a Donkey and though we all know what happens just 5 days later on Friday, I was amazed about how Jesus made the most of every opportunity.  In Luke 21:37-38 it says that:

“Every day Jesus went to the Temple to teach, and each evening He returned to spend the night on the Mount of Olives.  The crowds gathered at the Temple early each morning to hear Him.” 

Even though He knew what awaited Him, Jesus spent each day teaching the very people who later would call for His crucifixion!  Michelle Myers made this astute observation:

“The crowd shouted “Hosanna” on Sunday…and shouted “Crucify Him!” on Friday.

Good Friday was a horrible day but I think that Saturday was probably the saddest day because all the hopes and expectations that Jesus’ followers had were crushed, and crucified on that cross along with Him.  Today’s “Thought,” is all about the transition period between the death of expectations and the resurrection of the dead.  And how, if you find yourself in that circumstance today, whether you are a believer in Jesus or not, there is hope in these two powerful words…BUT GOD!

95 - Daily Dependence - But God

Before that though, I would like to give a little context.  Luke 22:1-6 offers the background…As the Festival of Unleavened Bread (also called the Passover) was approaching, the leading priests were looking for a way to kill Jesus.  In verses 3-5 it says:

“Then Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve disciples, and he went to the leading priests and captains of the Temple guard to discuss the best way to betray Jesus to them.  They were delighted, and they promised to give him money.”

One man from among the inner circle accepted a bribe to betray His master.  As Judas waited for his opportunity, Jesus continued to show love to him even to the point of washing his feet!!  And the amazing thing, Jesus knew as he was washing Judas’ feet, see Luke 22:21-22 and John 13:18-30 which recalls when Jesus made the announcement that one of them would betray Him!  In the late 15th-century, Leonardo da Vinci captured that moment in his famous painting called “The Last Supper” 95 - Daily Dependence - Leonardo da Vinci - The Last Supperas each disciple, including Judas asked Jesus if it was them.  Shortly after, Judas left to put his plan in action.  Unaffected by his departure, Jesus warned Peter and the other disciples that Satan was going to “sift each of them like wheat” and that the spiritual warfare was going to be intense.  He also prepared them for what their life was going to be like after He was gone, see Luke 22:31-38What love!  Just hours before He would be viciously tortured and nailed to a Roman Cross, 95 - Daily Dependence - Crown and NailsJesus cared so much for these men that He would wash their feet, celebrate with them and offer counsel for the future!  After the Passover meal, Jesus did what He had been doing all week, and went with His disciples to the Mount of Olives to pray for strength for what Friday was going to bring.  In Luke 22:47-48 it recalls how Jesus was betrayed and arrested.  As He pleaded for His disciples to pray that they will not fall into temptation, the passage says:

But even as Jesus said this, a crowd approached, led by Judas, one of the twelve disciples. Judas walked over to Jesus to greet him with a kiss.  But Jesus said, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” 

When I read these words, God spoke so clearly into my spirit that “WE ARE ALL JUDAS!” 

WE ALL HAVE betrayed Jesus in our disobedience and choices that we have made.

WE ALL HAVE sinned and fallen short of what God desires for our life and…

WE ALL HAVE NO POWER to overcome sin without Jesus.

BUT GOD can change us if we will open our hearts!  Look at this amazing truth from Ephesians 2:1-9!

95 - Daily Dependence - But God - Ephesians 2 - 1-9

BUT GOD!  Two little words but when they are combined the impossible is possible!  When we say yes to Jesus, “we are made alive with Christ,” it’s like hitting the “reset button.”  95 - Daily Dependence - Nintendo Game System - ResetThe “reset button” is probably one of the greatest inventions on video game systems.  Do you remember what game system this is from?  Long before Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, or Sony PlayStation there was the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).  For those who remember this, you are old like me.  Hahaha!  This classic 80’s game system 95 - Daily Dependence - Nintendo Game System 2was a major pastime of my childhood.  Hours upon hours were spent playing games like Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, Donkey Kong Jr. and The Legend of Zelda to name a few.  The reset button was a constant go to when I was “knocked out” by Tyson or killed by a barrel or failed to rescue Princess Zelda, I would immediately jump up and hit the button which was like a do-over or clean slate.  95 - Daily Dependence - Martin Parker Street Art - Reset Your LifeI saw this sign creation from street artist Martin Parker that so perfectly illustrates what the purpose of the Cross and the reality of Easter!  We all get the opportunity to “reset our life” when we recognize that we are in need of a savior and surrender our will to God.  When we come to the end of ourselves and see that we cannot be “good enough” or “do enough” to earn our way to heaven.  When we see the cross for what it truly is, the ransom payment for our past, present and future mistakes!  God wants a relationship with you and me and so He provided a way though the death and resurrection of His Son.  In the post ★ “Back to the Basics” – Never-Ending Pursuit ★, we looked at the life of Jonah and saw an example of how God will move heaven and earth in order to pursue you and me!  God did the same thing when He sent Jesus to Earth.  1 John 4:9 (NLT) says:

“God showed how much he loved us by sending His one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him.”  

As I have been studying the book of Jonah recently, it is amazing the jewels that are contained in this well-known story.  Jonah and the Fish is not just a children’s story made up to teach a life lesson about the price of disobedience but was a true story.  Jesus validated Jonah’s miraculous experience in Matthew 12:40 (NLT), Jesus said:

“For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.”

Yesterday was the remembrance of how Jesus was crucified over 2,000+ years ago and the payment for the sins of the world.  He died on Friday BUT GOD raised Him from the dead 3 days later!  Today as we wait for Resurrection Sunday, I want to put these two powerful words on the sticky side of your brain…“BUT GOD!”  You may feel like things will never change…that your circumstance is hopeless…that things are hopeless.  But that is simply not true!  I am living proof that nothing is impossible for God.  All you need to do is open your heart!  Hebrews 2:14-15 (NLT) is an amazing verse to show that when you accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, you can be alive and free!!

“Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood.

For only as a human being could He die, and only by dying could He break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.

Only in this way could He set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.”

Jesus came to set you and I free, will you accept Him?  Revelation 1:18 (NKJV) says,

“I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen.  And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.”

Jesus left the majesty of heaven and became flesh and blood to deliver a message of hope to a world desperately in need of a Savior.  He is ready to extend grace and mercy to you today.  So what should our response be?  Will you surrender your life to Him?  If you are ready to make a decision that will change your life, here is a simple prayer you can pray:

God take this broken, sinful person and forgive my sins.  I want a relationship with you I am in need of a Savior.  I believe that Jesus came to die on the cross for my sins and that He is the bridge that brings me to eternal life with you forever.  Please forgive all my sins.  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 prayed that in earnest, welcome to the Kingdom of God!  I encourage you to find a bible teaching church and pursue your new relationship with Jesus!  If you want to read more about developing your faith, check out our segment on the blog called “Back to the Basics”

Now for the believer who may be struggling today or perhaps your walk with God has been in a lull…I want to challenge you to make a change today!  Worship Pastor Wade Joye made this statement that resonated in me!

“Easter is not an event we celebrate; it’s a reality we live in.”   

Just like Christmas, Easter should not be a “one and done” event.  It should be part of our DNA.  Don’t be a “Chreaster”… (a person who calls themselves a Christian but only attends church on Christmas and Easter.)  If you want to have a vibrant faith, then you need to put in the work.  We are doing a series right now about three worthy pursuits of God that will change the trajectory of our life with God.  Through Prayer, Reading God’s Word (the Bible) and Worship (both in song and church attendance) we can live a victorious life!  Paul instructs us in Romans 8:11 (NIV)

“And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”

As a believer in Jesus Christ, the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead is in you!  If you are in need of refreshment of your Spirit today, ask and you will receive that!  Jesus is the Resurrected King who is ready to resurrect you and me.  If you want to grow you need to make steps to do things differently.  Nothing changes if nothing changes!

In anticipation of Easter tomorrow, I will close with this…“He is Risen!”

I pray that this year, you will experience Christ in a new way!  Happy Easter!

 

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★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #1 – Opening the Pipeline ★

In our last post ★ “Back to the Basics” – Never-Ending Pursuit ★ we dug into the life of Jonah and saw through his life how God will go to great lengths to re-direct us from our disobedience.  We also introduced that we would be doing a 3 part series of how if we would respond to God’s “Never-Ending Pursuit” of us that would result in a victorious life for us.  As a refresher the trilogy of posts will delve into these 3 Pursuits…Prayer – Word – Worship.

94 - Daily Dependence - Prayer Word Worship BannerSimple enough right?  But I know myself; in the busyness of life establishing (and maintaining) a consistent “quiet time” can be a challenge.  Not familiar with that term?  You can check out this post called ★ Back to the Basics – Silencing the Noise ★ that goes in-depth about it but in a nut shell, it is simply being intentional about having a conversation with God through prayer, reading the Bible (Word) and for me I enjoy having worship music on.  This could be at night or in the early morning, or any time in between that does not really matter, what matters is spending time with God.  The pursuit of our Father in Heaven is all He desires!  God wants a relationship with us.

94 - Daily Dependence - Prayer EmojiSo in our inaugural post of this series let’s talk about “opening the pipeline” aka – Prayer.  In 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NLT) we get a very clear picture of what God is desiring:

94 - Daily Dependence - 2 Chronicles 7-14 - If My People Would Pray“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.”

“If my people” would “humble themselves and pray and seek” Him and turn away from sinning, God will hear us and forgive us!  Wow!  This is not an obligatory prayer before your meal, or a lukewarm petition.  God’s desire is for us to truly want to pray, to be passionate in our time with Him.  And it is not intended to be a monologue…that you tell Him all that you need and then say Amen…It should be a dialogue where you listen for a response which could be an impression you feel or something that you comes to mind.  And this is something that is developed over time.

Before I accepted Jesus as my savior and pursued a relationship with God I know I prayed many milquetoast and meaningless prayers where I bargained with Him like God let me pass this test and I’ll go to church this week, or God get me through this hangover and I will never drink again.  The problem with these prayers is that they were not sincere and were just attempts to bribe God to get me out of trouble.  Too often we pray when things are terrible for God to help us out but once that is done God gets nothing…no thanks, no gratitude even if He did everything we prayed.

There is a song by the late great country singer Johnny Cash called a “Boy named Sue.”  He tells the story about how his father named him Sue and that he spent his life fighting everyone as a result of it.  The song most certainly is fictitious but in the Bible there is a man who was the equivalent to Sue.  His name was Jabez.  In 1 Chronicles 4:9 it says that:

“His mother had named him Jabez, saying, ‘I gave birth to him in pain.’”

The name his mother gave Jabez literally means…“he causes or will cause great pain.”  Now that may not seem like a big deal, but in Old Testament times, a person’s name was an indication of his future.  And a name like Jabez was like a curse that would predestine a person to a life of ridicule and grief just like the “boy named Sue.”  However, Jabez rose above the curse with a very simple prayer.

In 1 Chronicles 4:10 Jabez cried out to God saying:

“Oh, that You would bless me indeed,
And enlarge my territory,
That your hand would be with me,
And that you would keep me from evil,
That I may not cause pain!
So, God granted what he requested.”

Jabez was a man who knew the power of prayer and is a great example of how to open the pipeline to God.  First and foremost we can learn that just like Jabez, we need to believe with all our heart that God will honor our prayer.  Now Jabez’s prayer may seem to be common sense but how many of you have ever prayed so boldly?  Most people feel that they should be grateful for whatever they have and it’s better not to press your luck by asking for more since there is so much suffering in the world.  That is completely opposite from the truth.  If you look at the first part of his prayer:

94 - Daily Dependence - 1 - Oh, that you would bless me indeed

Jabez is asking God to provide him with resources.  Now don’t misunderstand me, that does not mean that you can ask God for a Rolls Royce or a mansion in Beverly Hills.  As we discussed in the post ★ Thought for the Day – Where Does Money Come From? ★, “God is not a vending machine!  Too many pastors and churches have sown into the “prosperity gospel” where you “give to get,” or in this case that you are praying for God to give you with lots of stuff!   That is not what blessing means.  The kind of blessing Jabez is talking about in a biblical sense is to ask God for “supernatural favor.”  It is asking God to bless us not with more of what we can do for ourselves, but for Him to do the miraculous through us to glorify the kingdom of God.  What a different perspective then the conventional though of our culture.  God has so many blessings for us and is just waiting for us to ask for them.  In Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV1984) it says:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Jabez asked and he received.  The prayer of Jabez is a special prayer asking for God’s blessings.  But something you have to realize is that God’s blessings are not always the blessings that we think that they ought to be.  The blessings that He will bestow upon us are so much more abundant than we could even imagine.  When Jabez asked God to “bless him indeed” he didn’t say “God I could use a new car, or a million dollars”; rather he left it up to God to decide how, when and where to bless him.  He prayed that God would give him nothing more and nothing less than what God had planned for his life.  The blessing can come in many different forms and for reasons that you would never expect.  In the second part of Jabez’s Prayer he asked for God to:

94 - Daily Dependence - 2 - Enlarge my territory

Now when I first read that I immediately thought of real estate.  That Jabez wanted more land but what he was really asking for was more influence, more responsibility and more opportunity to make a difference for God in his life.  Asking your territory to be enlarged is a very dangerous request though.  You are saying to God give me a greater sphere of influence and more opportunities to impact people for Christ.  It is being totally open for God to use you as a tool for His purpose.  That means stepping out of your comfortable schedules and routines and being ready at any moment to fulfill God’s master plan.  It means seeing “interruptions” as “opportunities!”  This was true for me on Thursday on my flight home from a business trip in Indiana.  My plan was to plug-in my ear buds to relax with some music and write this post!  But as a man sat down next to me and proceeded to talk with me, God opened an incredible door to speak life into his situation.  Though I was exhausted from 2 days of meetings, and had other plans for the 2 hour flight, I was thrilled to be able to partner with God to share the truth from His Word to help encourage him.  It truly was the highlight of my day!

When you ask for your territory to be enlarged, it is an awesome responsibility but the rewards are immeasurable.  More than any other part of the prayer of Jabez, this concept of “enlarging my territory” has to be the most bizarre and unexpected request.  How many people do you know go up to their boss and say “would you give me more work and responsibility?”  Most people feel that whatever they are currently doing is enough and that they do not have the skills to handle anything more.

Through the Holy Spirit, He will speak the words of encouragement or healing or compassion that the person needs to hear.  That is what happened to me on Thursday!  The man in seat 16A asked me if I was a pastor but I am not, I’m an architect, and he kept saying “how is it that you know all of this?”  The answer unequivocally is God!  That is the point of this part of Jabez’s prayer, by asking for “the expansion” you are taking a huge leap of faith and trusting that when you are reaching out to people who God will give the words to speak when you are open to be used, He will break all the boundaries and restraints holding you back.  The third part of Jabez’s prayer:

94 - Daily Dependence - 3 - That your hand would be with meIs the equivalent of the Star Wars catch-phrase…“May the Force Be With You.”  Jabez realized that once God started to bless him with resources and expanded his territory that he was going to need help.  It is all too common for people to ask for more responsibility and once it has been given they feel overwhelmed and begin to doubt themselves.  It is at this point that we need the hand of God to carry us and work the impossible through us.  In his book “The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life,” Bruce Wilkinson said that:

“The Hand of God is a biblical term for God’s power and presence in the lives of His people…As God’s chosen, we are expected to attempt something large enough that failure is guaranteed…unless God Steps in.”

I shared some of this in the ★ Why I Do What I do ★ section of the blog, starting this blog was a huge step of faith because of the commitment level.  It takes much more effort than just throwing up a status update.  But God certainly expanded my territory through this blog and without a doubt has had his hand on my preventing epic failure.  He has equipped me with a boldness to share things from my heart and do things that I never imagined possible.  It has been an amazing experience!  The fourth part of the Prayer of Jabez states:

94 - Daily Dependence - 4 - And that you would keep me from evilThis is critical to pray.  As God blesses us, and our territory is expanded and the supernatural power is surging through us, we are most vulnerable to stumble and fail.  When you are enjoying spiritual victories and seeing God’s unbelievable plan unfolding it is easy to feel invincible and impervious to the attacks of the devil.  But, Jabez knew that once you start treading on the devil’s territory, a giant target would be placed on you.  You become public enemy #1 in his eyes.  I can attest to that fact.  With the devil’s attention focused on you like this, it’s best if you don’t try to play with temptation.  Don’t fall into the devil’s trap by testing your strength to resist from sinning because that is the quickest way to fail.  Bruce Wilkinson made this point in the book that:

“It is better to stay out of the arena than to challenge the lion.”

What is the best offense?  A good defense!  And that of course as you can already guess, is prayer!  In the book of Matthew, Jesus told the apostles how to pray, “The Model Prayer” found in Matthew 6:9-13 is often referred to as the “Lord’s Prayer,” or as I knew it growing up, “The Our Father.”  The final verse shows how important to pray to God for deliverance:

“And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.”  Matthew 6:13

In regard to temptation it is best not to press your luck.  If there is no temptation we will not sin; so stay clear of situations that will lead you to sin or cause harm to you or someone else.

There is such a tremendous power in prayer.  When Jesus was on the earth He was always praying to the Father.  In fact the only thing that the apostles ever asked Jesus to teach them was how to pray.  Jesus’ ministry was not just about healing and preaching but about praying.  He lived a life of Prayer.  It was through His prayers that God worked all the miracles and wonders.  In the life of Jabez, here was a man who started off badly but ended victorious from a simple prayer.  And let’s not miss the final part of that prayer…

94 - Daily Dependence - 5 - That I may not cause painI love the self-realization of Jabez, to know that he is fallible and in need of God to protect him from hurting other people.

And God’s response…“So, God granted what he requested.”  I heard a missionary say once:

“That when we work, we work.  But when we pray, God works.

God will work in your life through your prayers.  When you pray, you are opening up a pipeline to the creator of heaven and earth and the possibilities are endless!!  Your pray doesn’t have to be a formal, rehearsed prayer but rather God desires it to be one from the heart.  You don’t have to have your eyes closed or be in church.  Sometimes the most powerful prayers can be in the car as you’re driving to work or school.  Regardless of what you are doing, or who you are with, God will honor your prayers and welcome the fellowship time between you and Him.  Talk to God like a friend and open your heart to Him.  The miraculous can be done with a prayer!

If you are interested, you can check out the second installment called

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

that covers the Pursuit of Feeding on God’s Word!

or

If you the introductory post, you can go here:

★ “Back to the Basics” – Never-Ending Pursuit ★

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★ “Back to the Basics” – Can 1 Conversation Change a Life? ★

In our second installment of the “Back to the Basics” series we are going to answer the question…

If you missed our first post in this series, you can got back and read it here ★ “Back to the Basics” – Religion vs. Relationship – Part 2 ★.  This juxtaposition between “practicing a Religion” or “having a Relationship with God” is the starting point of everything!  I believe that for you to move forward in your faith you have to get this straight in your mind, it is the core of what God desires for all of us.

So let me ask you this question…Do you consider yourself a Glass “Half Empty” or “Half Full” Type of Person?  Or another way to look at it is…76 - Daily Dependence - How do you view life

It really makes a difference, because your response to this question can really influence your answer to the one posed in this Thought for the Day.  If you tend to view life through a “half empty,” or pessimistic lens, than you many think that people can never change so how could 1 conversation make that big of a difference.  But if on the other hand, you have a “half full” or optimistic viewpoint, than you may approach this with a more open mind…which I pray you will!

Contrary to how these Thoughts for the Day are usually developed, I will ask you a series of additional questions to get to our answer.  The conversation we will be looking at is recorded in Chapter 3 of the Book of John between Jesus and a religious leader of that time named Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin.  At the risk of going down a rabbit trail…I want to give a little background.  As a Pharisee, Nicodemus was part of a group of Jews who thought that they kept all God’s rules perfectly and were above reproach.  What made this conversation unusual was that the Pharisees were stanch opponents to the teachings of Jesus and were so self-righteous that they believed they were incapable of being wrong.  Interestingly if you look up the word Pharisee in the dictionary, you will see one definition as being “a hypocrite,” which Jesus continually called them.Okay, let’s get back on track…The text that we will start at is from John 3:2-7 (NLT),

After dark one evening, he [Nicodemus] came to speak with Jesus. 
 
“Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
 

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.  Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.  So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’”

STOP…now let’s start with the questions….
When you hear that phrase “born again,” what comes to mind?  It can be confusing if you have never heard accurate teaching on what it means.  Here is a link newspring.cc/watch/stepup/born-again to one of the best on messages I have ever heard on what it means to be “Born Again” from Clayton King (NewSpring Church) if you want to learn more on this.

Some people have the impression that being “born again” is some sort of brainwashing or that people who call themselves “born again Christians” are crazy because they have seen some eccentric preacher on TV in the middle of the night or knew some person who spoke about it in “Christianese” terms that unless you knew the context you will never understand the meaning and it just sounds like nonsense.  Well lets look back in our text because Nicodemus had questions too…

In John 3:8-12 (NLT) Jesus finishes His thought with…

76 - Daily Dependence - John 3-3 - Born Again“The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”

“How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.

Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things?  I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony.  But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things?”

I love what Jesus said in verse 8…“The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”   You can’t see the wind and yet you know it exists because you feel its effect, it is the same way with the move of the Holy Spirit.  You see, when you ask Jesus to be your Lord and savior then the Holy Spirit comes into your life that will transform you into a new person and making you “born again.”  You may have heard it as “being saved” or “salvation” or “as You are a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ.  Max Lucado nailed it when he said, “Christianity, in its purest form, is nothing more than seeing Jesus.”  So…
76 - Daily Dependence - How much evidence do you need to believe in Jesus
76 - Daily Dependence - Answer

“No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven.  And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.”  John 3:13-15 (NLT) 

In the brief time Jesus was on earth He did incredible miracles from healing the sick, making the blind see, the lame walk and even raising a man from the dead!  The author of the text we are looking at was one of Jesus’ closest disciples and was there to record this conversation which does not show up anywhere else in the Bible.  He also state stated in the very last verse of this book that…

“Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.”  John 21:25 (NLT)

So that leads us to our next question…

76 - Daily Dependence - Do you know why Jesus came to earth76 - Daily Dependence - Answer

“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.”  John 3:16-17 (NLT)

I am sure that you have seen “John 3:16” written somewhere whether held by a fan in the stands, or on a t-shirt, or spray painted along the road.  It is a foundation verse and probably the most quoted verse about how much God loves us and why Jesus came to earth.  God sent His son to die so that we could have eternal life with Him!  You can read more on this in previous blog called ★ Thought for the Day – Sweetly Broken ★.

76 - Daily Dependence - What happens if you don't believe76 - Daily Dependence - Answer

“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.  And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.  All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed.  But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”  John 3:18-21 (NLT)

This reminds me of one of my favorites quotes from John Wooden which I have shared before but it fits so perfectly…

“There is a choice that you have to make, in everything you do.  So keep in the mind that in the end, the choice you make, makes you.”

So the choice is yours, but know what you decide about Jesus will have eternal consequences!

76 - Daily Dependence - Answer

Myrrh…You may remember hearing about the Three Wisemen from the east who followed a star to Bethlehem to bring gifts to Jesus.  Part 1 of the answer is found in Matthew 2:11 (NLT):

“They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

Part 2 of the answer is found in John 19:38-40 (NLT)…

“Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body.  When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away.  With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night.  He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes.  Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth.

You are probably wondering why this question is in here…Besides being a fun bible trivia question, the answer is found in Verse 39…Look who is mentioned there…Nicodemus!!  Even though he was a Pharisee and had a lot to lose by assisting Joseph of Arimathea in preparing Jesus’ body for burial, it is clear that he made the decision to follow Jesus and accept the salvation that is available to everyone!!! So can 1 Conversation Change a Life?  I think it is clear!!  Yes, if you will open your mind and heart to Jesus!!

I will close with this quote from Clayton King’s message on be “Born Again,” (that I posted the link to above.)

“Salvation cannot be achieved.  It can only be received and it’s received when you believe.  You can’t achieve your salvation, you can’t earn it.  You can’t work for God’s love, it’s already there, it was they before you were born.

Jesus is willing to save you, but He’s also able to save you.  It’s one thing to be willing, it’s another thing to be able.  He’s the only one who is able to save you…”

 

If you would like to like to pray to accept Jesus, go to this blog post…

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

It has a simple prayer that you can lead you in making the best decision of your life!!  Please message me if you would like to learn more!  I pray that you will make the decision to trust Jesus, I promise you will never be disappointed!!

If you are interested there is a follow-up to this post called:

★ “Back to the Basics” – Follow-Up to Can 1 Conversation Change a Life? ★

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

74 - Daily Dependence - Religion Vs RelationshipThis is the first installment of our new segment called “Back to the Basics,” where we are looking into the fundamentals of Christianity, and getting back to the roots of our faith.  Though this is titled “Part 2,” you are not crazy, you have missed the one that was specifically titled “Part 1.”  Rather this is an extenuation and building upon of our very first blog post which is called ★Thought for the Day – Religion vs. Relationship ★ that really captures what “Daily Dependence” is all about!!

An atheist was taking a walk through the woods.

“What majestic trees!  What powerful rivers!  What beautiful animals!” he said to himself.

As he was walking alongside the river he heard a rustling in the bushes behind him.  He turned to look. He saw a 7 foot grizzly charging towards him.  He ran as fast as he could up the path.  He looked over his shoulder and saw that the bear was closing in on him.  He looked over his shoulder again, and the bear was even closer.

He tripped and fell on the ground.  He rolled over to pick himself up but saw the bear right on top of him, reaching for him with his left paw and raising his right paw to strike him.

At that instant the Atheist cried out: “Oh my God!”

Time stopped.
The bear froze.
The forest was silent.
As a bright light shone upon the man, a voice came out of the sky:

“You deny my existence for all of these years, teach others I don’t exist, and even credit creation to a cosmic accident.  Do you expect me to help you out of this predicament?  Am I to count you as a believer?”

The atheist looked directly into the light and said, “It would be hypocritical of me to suddenly ask you to treat me as a Christian now, but perhaps could you make the BEAR a Christian?”

“Very well,” said the voice.

The light went out.
The sounds of the forest resumed.
And then the bear dropped his right paw, brought both paws together and bowed his head and spoke: 

“Lord, bless this food, which I am about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord Amen.”

74 - Daily Dependence - Lord Bless This Food

I love that joke for two reasons.  The first, for the zinger of a punch line.  The second reason is for how telling it is of human nature.  Just like that atheist, aren’t we the same way?  It’s only when were in trouble that we call on God.  Well this post is  going to dig into the roots of our faith.  Religion vs. Relationship…This is very personal for me because there is so much ambiguity between these too seemingly opposing words which has wreaked havoc in my life.  I would like to break them apart and talk about one at a time.  Religion is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as a…

“Belief in and worship of God or gods. A specific system of belief or worship, etc., built around a code of ethics, a philosophy of life, etc.”

Let’s define Religious as well.  Religious is defined by the same dictionary as:

  1. Devout; pious,
  2. Of or concerned with religion,
  3. Conscientiously exact; scrupulous.

So religion can be a belief system based on a code of ethics or a philosophy.  It can also be the catalyst for wars, such as the Crusades, (in the Middle Ages) which were expeditions undertaken, to “deliver” the Holy Places from Mohammedan (or Islamic) tyranny.  Or it can be the fuel for hatred and the cause of much pain when misused.  Jonathan Swift once said,

Processed with Moldiv

“We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”

“Religion” often times is a big turn off to the “unchurched” or non-church attendees.  Now when I am talking about religion here, I am referring to the system; the organization, and policies that have been established by human beings.  Adjectives such as “Holy Rollers”, “Hypocrites” and “Gossips” are often used to describe churchgoers.  Why is that?

James 1:26-27 gives us God’s reasoning…

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Religion has a way of altering people’s way of thinking and how they interact with unchurched people.  And whether an unchurched person misinterprets it or not, “religion” can turn someone off from getting to know the “reason” for the “religion” or should I say the source of the religion.  I know this well because I used to be one of them.  I grew up going to church and saw people not living the way they pretended to be, acting all high and mighty, gossiping about other people, when in reality they were far worse than those they spoke about.  I also had bad experiences with the church leaders being greedy for money.  So I decided religion is nothing that I wanted to be a part if it means that you turn into a hypocrite or become “money hungry.”  I blamed God and I walked out on Him and didn’t look back for many years.  See at that time I didn’t have a “relationship” with God, I only had “religion” and didn’t understand things as I do now.  I went to church on Sundays and attended a parochial school, but that was it.  I had set those church leaders on a pedestal, holding them to a higher standard, and let me tell you whenever you do that, you are just setting yourself up for disappointment because they are just human, just like I am, and just like you are; and humans make mistakes.  Do you know what is the saddest thing about being hurt by some form of religion?  The ultimate loser in the deal is God.  He is the one who is hurt the most.  You may not believe that but it is true.  Not only does God feel our pain but also the hurt that comes from our blaming Him for what man does to us.  Mark Twain said it perfectly,

          “God:  The most popular scapegoat for our sins.”

Isn’t that the truth?  Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that religion is bad.  I am not putting down any religion in particular.  Religion is good, but in it’s the proper context.  There is a huge difference between having religion (or beliefs) and being religious (or self-righteous).  I firmly believe that you must have a set of beliefs or doctrine that is Christ centered and that you should belong to a church that you regularly attend for accountability sake, because it is nearly impossible to live righteously on your own, without some form of support and teaching.  What is critical to realize is that “religion” is there to facilitate our relationship with God, not to be ritualistic or for appearances.

In Mark 2:27-28, the Pharisees were accusing Jesus’ disciples of breaking the law by picking grain on the Sabbath.  Jesus replied and said to them,

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” 

In other words, don’t get hung up on technicalities, man was not created to serve the day, but the day was made for man to honor God.  Or another way to look at it, don’t focus on the day, focus on the “One,” who the day was created for to honor!

Religion can come in many different forms and deep down, whether people want to admit to it or not, everyone has a need to believe in something…And the reason why is because we were all created with a “God-sized hole in our heart,” that only God can fill.  Here is the point; all people have a need to believe, not in a “religion” but in a relationship, a relationship with God, our creator and father in heaven.  Take a look at the definition of relationship.

Noun: Relationship

– A state of connectedness between people (especially an emotional connection).

Now let’s insert “God” into that definition.

Relationship: A state of connectedness between people “and God” (especially an emotional connection).

God desperately wants to be connected with you and me.  He wants it so bad that He sent His son to Earth to show us the way.  (See John 3:16). When Jesus walked on this earth He spent all His time preaching about love, not about religion.  He talked about the love that God has for His children and what we need to do to see the father in heaven.  One day, an expert in the law, tested Jesus with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus responded in Matthew 22:37-40 saying,

“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Notice He did not say to keep the Sabbath holy or not to commit adultery or not to commit murder.  You see if you love God with all your heart, soul and mind you will honor His day.  And if you love you neighbor as yourself, there is no need to say do not commit adultery or murder because it naturally would not happen.  Jesus had an uncanny way of cutting through all the bureaucracy, all the ritualism, all the hypocrisy, to get to the heart of the matter.  Essentially, He said to stop thinking so provincially…just keep these two commandments and you will keep all the rest.  Obviously with a radical teaching like this, Jesus faced a lot of opposition.  He continually had problems with the Pharisees trying to thwart His ministry.

The name Pharisee in Hebrew means separatists, or the separated ones.  They were also known as Chasidim, which means loyal to God, or loved of God, which is extremely ironic in view of the fact that during this time, the Pharisees were the most bitter, and deadly, opponents of Jesus Christ and His message.

In chapter 23 of the book of Matthew, Jesus made it very clear what his feelings were about the Pharisees.  Starting in verse 6-7, He said that the Pharisees:

“Love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them `Rabbi.’”

In verse 27-28:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.  So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”    

Now those are some harsh words and these are just the tip of the iceberg; within the same chapter and in other parts of the bible Jesus has much more to say.  I have one more definition for you…Webster’s dictionary defines the word Pharisee as:

\Phar”i*see\ (f[a^]r”[i^]*s[=e]), n.

One of a sect or party among the Jews, noted for a strict and formal observance of rites and ceremonies and of the traditions of the elders, and whose pretensions to superior sanctity led them to separate themselves from the other Jews.          

A self-righteous or sanctimonious person, preaching not practicing.

Note the last part of that definition…“A self-righteous or sanctimonious person, preaching not practicing.”  It is clear that Jesus’ statements and their frequent citations through the bible have resulted, in the word “Pharisee” becoming a synonym in the English language for “hypocrite.”

Jesus, himself, hated “Religion” when it was twisted and misused as in the case of the Pharisees.  The lesson to learn from the Pharisees’ example is that self-righteousness is not righteousness, and that God’s true people are to live according to all of God’s Word, not just certain parts that are most convenient or to one’s liking.  Jesus preached about having a relationship with the God, the father in heaven, not about lifeless rules or empty religious traditions.  But rather a relationship whereby we can pray to God saying Abba, Father which loosely translated means daddy.  God is our daddy in heaven with outstretched arms just waiting for us to take one step in His direction.       

In his book Reading between the Lines, Gene Edward Veith explains:

“That the heart of our religion is a relationship with God – and relationships thrive on communication.  We can’t know people intimately by merely being in their presence.  It takes conversation to share thoughts and personalities.”

We need to work, to cultivate our relationship with God.  It is not something that just suddenly happens.  Just like our earthly relationships, we need to put in the time and effort.  If we don’t we could fall away from the faith.

Christianity is real; it’s alive and anything but boring.  A relationship with Jesus is personal.  He’s there for you and me, just waiting to hear from us.  He is the forgiver of sins and our deliverer.  God loved us so much that He sent His son to die for our sins so that we could have everlasting life.  Jesus was the sacrificial lamb for our sins.

There is a bridge in Portland, Oregon that spans the wide Willamette River, called the Marquam Bridge.  It was built-in the mid-1960s; and was designed to accommodate a freeway that was still on the drawing boards at that time, which was to be called the Mount Hood Freeway.  But the freeway was never built.  Oregon voters opted for a light rail line instead, and plans for the highway were scrapped.  If you drive to the east side of Portland over the Marquam Bridge on the upper deck of that two-decker freeway, you can catch a 74 - Daily Dependence - Marquam Bridgeglimpse of the exit that drops off into empty space.  It juts out just a bit from the bridge structure, and then it is cut off as though sliced by a giant knife.  The “exit,” permanently blocked, now goes nowhere, except into the waters of the Willamette far below.  You can see Mount Hood in the distance…but you can never reach the high slopes via the Mount Hood Freeway, because the freeway doesn’t exist.  That’s the picture of man’s relationship with God ever since the fall of Adam and Eve.  We might understand that there is a God and even yearn to reach Him but that is impossible because of the distance between Him and us due to Sin.  That separation between man and God is too great to make it across by ourselves.  But God provided a way to bridge the gap over 2,000 years ago, through the death of Jesus on the cross.  He came to show us the way to heaven and only through Jesus Christ can we cross that gulf to God the Father.

74 - Daily Dependence - The Importance of Jesus

All you need to do is…

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”  James 4:10

Today is the day is to establish or reestablish the relationship that all of us need with our creator.  Open the eyes of your heart and see what God is offering.  Maybe you have lost your way or maybe you are like me and have been hurt by “religion” and you are far from God right now  or maybe you are like that atheist walking in the woods never having sought God before.  Well today can change all of that.  If you are backsliding, you can rededicate your life to Christ.  There is nothing that could stop God from forgiving you and taking you back.  If you fall into the “damaged goods” category from being hurt by religion, I pray that your heart would be opened and that you would break the cycle of blaming God for the sins of man.   And finally, if you are sitting here tonight and you do not have a relationship with God listen to that voice you head, that tugging on your heart by the Holy Spirit and enter into the greatest relationship you could ever have by dedicating your life to Jesus.  Regardless of where you stood with your relationship with God when you started reading this post, you don’t have to stay the same way.  Humble yourself and give up the control of your life to the Lord so He can lift you up!

I want to extend the offer to anyone who does not know Jesus as your Lord and Savior.  If you don’t know what I mean it’s easy.  Give up the control and give your heart to Him.  All you need to do is accept the forgiveness that is available through the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross.

All you need to do is acknowledge that you are sinner and in need of a savior and truly sorry for your sins.  Today start anew and trust in Jesus who was the payment for our sins.  Just pray this simple prayer…

Lord I am a sinner.  I have tried to run my life and failed, I cannot do it on my own.
I need a savior.  Please wash me, cleanse me, and create in me a new heart.
I am sorry for my sins and I believe that Jesus died as the payment for those sins.
Please take my life I freely give it to you.

If you earnestly prayed that prayer, you are a new creation
(see Romans 10:9-10 and 2 Corinthians 5:17)!
God will honor that prayer of surrender and will do incredible things in your life! 

74 - Daily Dependence - New Creation - 2 Corinthians 5-17 - New Creation

Here is the next installment of the “Back to the Basics” series, called ★ “Back to the Basics” – Can 1 Conversation Change a Life? ★, I pray you will be blessed!

★ Act Like Men – “Paul’s Clarity” ★

Day 20 - Paul's Clarity

Daily Dependence - Section 3 - Stand Firm in the FaithI love the start of this study!

“Keeping the faith is not a two-minute drill; it’s a long obedience and faithfulness over years.” 

In our got to have it now, microwave culture, the idea of anything lasting more than 30 seconds seems to be an antiquated ideal.  But keeping the faith is…

“Consistent trust in Christ.… Protecting it from distortion…[and] Passing it on to others.  Faith doesn’t grow or deepen when we cower in secrecy. Faith strengthens as we go public.”

That is a great summary of “how” to keep the faith. I love the final part especially, that our “Faith strengthens as we go public.”  Going Public about Faith in Jesus, is an area that many people, men and women alike have great difficulty doing. Whether it’s an inferiority complex, doubt about what to say, or just plain laziness, many people will not speak up about their beliefs. The Apostle Paul  however, is a great example that if we want to “Act Like Men,” and become more like Jesus, then we need to step out of our comfort zone!

“For Paul, standing firm in the faith meant keeping it personal, keeping it pure, and keeping it going. Through his suffering, God gave him an immense clarity about what keeping the faith is all about.”

How about you?

Here is the next installment. . .★ Act Like Men – “Clarity In Conflict” ★

or

If you want to read previous Act Like Men posts click here.

 

Continue reading

★ Thought for the Day – Sweetly Broken ★

66 - Jeremy Riddle - Sweetly BrokenThis post was inspired by a reader who requested this topic on the “►► You Opinion Matters…” page to see a blog on what if…

“People turned their lives over to Christ daily!”

Well that topic is what we are all about here, so here goes….

Turning your life over to Jesus is the best decision anyone could make!  Another way to say it is surrender…not something that many people like to talk about or do.  When you think about the word “surrender,” images of criminals with the arms raised to the police come to mind don’t they?  Surrender is giving up, or yielding control to another, and accepting the outcome. In the case of police, turning oneself over is accepting the consequences of criminal behavior and inevitable punishment for the crime…but surrendering or turning your life to Jesus, it is just the opposite…in that transference, we accept His grace and forgiveness in place of punishment for our criminal behavior (sin).  Quite a difference!

So before we start to discuss the surrendering daily, the first question to ask…have you surrender to Jesus at all?  You may be reading this and wondering what is this person even talking about…let me just run through a couple scriptural truths…

You have seen “John 3:16” I am sure all over the place, whether held by a fan in the stands, or on a t-shirt, or spray painted along the road or maybe even seen it on Tim Tebow’s face.

66 - John 3-16 Appearances

John 3:16 (NLT) proclaims…

“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.”

And verse 17 goes on to say,

“God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him.”

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NLT), the Apostle Paul said,

 “I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.”

God sent His son to save you and me!  He loves you more than you can ever imagine and sent Jesus to establish a “relationship” with us… You can read more on this in previous blogs called ★ Thought for the Day – What Does The Love of God Mean? ★  All this was done so that we could have eternal life with God and Jesus in heaven; but as you well know, there are consequences to sin and Jesus was the payment for those sins, as Isaiah 53:5 (NLT) prophesied over 700 years earlier about the death of Jesus…

“But He 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.”

So with all that said, what is the hold up to turning to Jesus?

Here are some common Excuses for not surrendering…

Don’t know You Are Chosen!  

Some people will not surrender to Jesus because they think of our Heavenly Father as a “Cosmic Killjoy” or as an angry God just waiting for us to mess up so that He can punish us; but as you read those verses above look at the lengths that He went to establish a relationship with us!  He truly loves you and I…we are CHOSEN, not because of anything we have done but simply because God loves us…You can read more on this in a previous blog called ★ Thought for the Day – You Are Chosen! ★

Don’t know that there is a difference between Religion Vs. Relationship!

66 - Robert Morris - SurrenderI have shared in the past about how growing up I had virtually no connection to God and quite honestly wanted nothing to do with Him as a result of the words and actions of “religious” people.  I struggles hearing one thing from the pulpit and then seeing another thing outside the four walls of the church.  Hypocrisy was my excuse for not surrendering to God.  Robert Morris made this point,

“Sometimes our religion gets in the way of our relationship with God…you have to make a choice to follow Jesus and to submit your will to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and that’s when salvation occurs.”

You can read more on this in a previous blog called ★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★

Don’t know that there is Value in Weakness!  

Many people struggle with viewing Christianity as a crutch, believing that if they surrender to Jesus, they are weak, but that is the farthest thing from the truth!!  It takes a strong person to admit when they are wrong…You can read more on this in a previous blog called ★ Thought for the Day – Value in Weakness? ★

Don’t know you don’t have All the Time in the World!  

And finally the biggest excuse of all, is to toy with the idea of accepting Jesus as Lord and savior but to put off the decision for whatever reason.  Maybe because of the feeling that God is a “cosmic killjoy” and so you want to keep having fun so you will make that decision to turn your life over to later.  Or maybe it is a feeling of unworthiness that you need to “clean yourself up” before coming to Jesus, not realizing that you are “chosen.”  Or maybe your pride is getting in the way because you don’t want to admit that the way you are running your life (or not running it,) is not working.  Whatever the reason, Matthew 24:36 (NLT) is clear about the end times:

“However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen [when Jesus will come back to judge the world], not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself.  Only the Father knows.”

So don’t wait, make the decision today, you will never regret it!!…You can read more on this in a previous blog called ★ Thought for the Day – All the Time in the World ★

Okay, so now that we have covered the critical first surrender, let’s talk about surrendering daily.  My pastor has been talking for the past few weeks about “living on mission” where you live, work and play, having an eternal perspective in all that you do.  When we talk about surrendering our lives daily to Jesus, it will result with us living on mission for the kingdom of God.  Philippians 2:5-8 (NLT) has some insight for us…

“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.  Instead, He gave up his divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.  When He appeared in human form, He humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”

So the first step of surrendering daily to Jesus is humility.  Everything that Jesus did illustrated His humility and was done for our benefit to know how we ought to live.  Now as you live out life in humility, does that mean you will get it right every time?  Absolutely now!  My mother was named after the late country music legend, Loretta Lynn who made this astute statement,

“Nobody’s perfect. The only one that ever was, was crucified.” 

I like that so much!!  So often the enemy screams lies at us that as followers of Jesus we should be perfect and when we don’t measure up that must mean that we are no good or don’t have enough faith.  But that is just a lie because he knows that if we truly surrendered to Jesus we would be unstoppable, see James 4:7-8.

“I Surrender” is one of my favorite songs off the “Cornerstone” album from Hillsong Live.  As you continue to read, let this song play in the background and wash over your spirit. 

Here are a couple of verses from this great example of what turning our lives over to Jesus daily looks like…

Here I am
Down on my knees again
Surrendering all

Like a rushing wind
Jesus breathe within
Lord have Your way

Lord have Your way in me
I surrender
I wanna know You more

As we surrender, we are putting aside our desires, our agendas and our thoughts and placing it all on God’s capable shoulders.  ‭Hebrews‬ ‭12‬:‭1-3‬ (NLT) gives great advice.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. 

And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. 

Because of the joy awaiting him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.  Think of all the hostility He endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.”

Jesus “endured the cross, disregarding its shame”…why, because of the “joy awaiting Him.”  So if you want to me more like Jesus and serve Him daily, realize you will face opposition and harsh words from non-believers because of what it says in 1 Corinthians 1:18 (HCSB),

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved.”

But don’t let naysayers stop you from reaching out to them because that is What Jesus Would Do.

“Every decision we make will ultimately result in regret or reward for all eternity.”  Marty Collier

While here on earth Jesus dealt with His fair share of scoffers and cynics but with humility and He lived a life that was without a doubt “mission minded,” doing His father’s will.  But following Jesus will not only bring insults but will also cost you as he warned in Matthew 16:24-27 (NLT)…

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.  If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it.  But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.  And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?  Is anything worth more than your soul?  For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of His Father and will judge all people according to their deeds.”

Now surrendering to Jesus daily may not actually cost you your life but it may cost you friends who don’t want to be around you because the light you emit will shine a spotlight of their sin.  I love what Lara Casey said…

66 - Daily Dependence - Lara Casey - Made New In Christ“Every day we are given the opportunity to be made new in Christ, not by our might but by our surrender.”  

It really is about Surrender vs. Self-Reliance.  Are you strong enough to admit that you need Jesus and surrender daily to Him or will you pride get in the that like a strong-willed 2-year-old, you say “I can do it on my own?”

The key to happiness is full surrender to God.  I know I have already shared a song in this post but I would be remiss to neglect to share Jeremy Riddle’s song Sweetly Broken” that displays the heart of a person who is “Sold-Out” for Christ, daily surrendering their lives to Him…

At the cross You beckon me
You draw me gently to my knees, and I am
Lost for words, so lost in love,
I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered

What a priceless gift, undeserved life
Have I been given
Through Christ crucified

You’ve called me out of death
You’ve called me into life
And I was under Your wrath
Now through the cross I’m reconciled

In awe of the cross I must confess
How wondrous Your redeeming love and
How great is Your faithfulness

My favorite part by far…

“And I was under Your wrath / Now through the cross I’m reconciled”

Wow!!  Because of Jesus, we are a “new creation,” (see 2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB) and have eternal life through faith in Him, so there should be nothing stopping you from surrendering daily and serving Him with everything in you!

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

45 - Daily Dependence - About the Big 10

What do you know about the Ten Commandments?  Is this what you think of when you hear these two words?45 - Daily Dependence - Charlton Heston with Ten Commandments  Moses with the Stone Tablets as played by Charlton Heston in the movie the “Ten Commandments?” Or do you think of them as an antiquated list of rules of everything that you should not do from your childhood Sunday School Lesson?  Do you know any of them…Can you list all 10 Commandments?  When was the last time you read the “Big 10”…Bigger question, how often (if at all), do you read the Bible?  I just read an article that stated:

“The number of people in America who do not identify with any religion may be at an all-time high, but the Bible still holds an important place in the lives of many Americans, a new report suggests.

According to a study, “The Bible in American Life,” conducted by the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture, 50% of Americans read some form of scripture in the past year, and 48% of those read the Bible.  Four in 5 read it at least once a month, and 9% of Americans say they read the Bible daily.”

Source: “American Bible Reading Statistics Reveal Who Is Studying The Good Book And Why,” Posted: 03/14/2014

This is a sad statistic when you think that only 9% of Americans read the Bible daily, it is no wonder that people don’t have a knowledge of the bible.  The purpose of the study was to understand better how Americans use the Bible in their personal daily lives and how other influences, including religious communities and the Internet, shape individuals’ use of scripture. You can download the report here.

Are you part of the 9%?  This “Thought for the Day” is not intended to condemn you for not reading the Bible, rather it is intended to emphasis the importance of knowing the Bible for yourself and not relying on passed down information from your parents or forgotten Sunday School lessons or just flat-out misinformation to stop you from reading the Bible for yourself.  I know that the thought of reading the Bible at all, let alone everyday can ne intimating but it is so worth it for it is the blueprint for life!  There is incredible wisdom the pages that can help you in your marriage, connecting with your children, your finances…you name it, it’s in there!  I am not going to lie to you, some weeks are better than others but I try read hard to read some amount of scripture each day.  Just recently, I read about the Ten Commandments which is outlined in Exodus 20:3-17 which are listed below from the New Living Translation (NLT).

Big 10 - #1Big 10 - #2Big 10 - #3
Big 10 - #4Big 10 - #5Big 10 - #6
Big 10 - #7Big 10 - #8Big 10 - #9
Big 10 - #10

#1   “You must not have any other god but me.” Exodus 20:3

#2   “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

#3   “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.” Exodus 20:7

#4   “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.”  Exodus 20:8-11

#5   “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12

#6   “You must not murder.” Exodus 20:13

#7   “You must not commit adultery.” Exodus 20:14

#8   “You must not steal.” Exodus 20:15

#9   “You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.” Exodus 20:16

#10  “You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:17

Many people view God as some sort of “cosmic killjoy,” and believe that Christianity is all about what you cannot do…but if people only knew what the bible says, that is the farthest thing from the truth.  Yes we study and learn what the Old Testament says, like the Ten Commandments, but when Jesus came to earth to restore the relationship between us and our Heavenly Father, everything changed!

Big 10 - SummarizedIn the New Testament Book of Matthew, it recounts when an expert in religious law, tried to trap Jesus with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

“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.’”  (Matthew 22:37-39 NLT)

You see the Ten Commandments can be summarized with these two mandates which all centered on love.  If you love God with everything you have within you, and you love your neighbor as yourself, then the “Big 10” will be fulfilled automatically!  When you believe in Jesus and have a relationship with Him everything changes.  How do you develop a relationship with Him you may ask?  Well just like making friend on the playground or when you started dating, you get to know to know them.  The same is true here, by reading God’s Word (the Bible), you will get to know your heavenly father, all that Jesus did when He came to earth and so much more!

Do you see how different the Bible can be when you know it?  I highly recommend that you get yourself a Bible and start reading today.  You can even get it electronically.  I use the “YouVersion” App (www.youversion.com) which is a free Bible on your phone, tablet, and/or computer.  YouVersion is a simple, ad-free Bible that brings God’s Word into your daily life anywhere you go.              45 - Daily Dependence - YouVersion App 45 - Daily Dependence - YouVersion App - Screen
You can jump to anywhere in the bible, highlight passages that are important to you, and start Bible Reading Plans.  My 10-year-old daughter has discovered that she can actually listen to it being read to her as she reads along…It has made reading the Bible so easy.

45 - Daily Dependence - Dusty BibleHow are you on your Bible Reading?  It doesn’t matter how much or how often you read, just start today and earnestly seek to know God and His Word better.

So dust off your Bible and get reading…you will never regret the time investment, it will pay dividends for generations to come!

If you would like to read more on the significance of reading the bible check out:

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

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★ Thought for the Day – You Are Chosen! ★

Your skin isn't paper, don't cut it. Your face isn't a mask, don't cover it. Your size isn't a book, don't judge it. Your life isn't a film, don't end it. You are beautiful.
Your skin isn’t paper, don’t cut it.
Your face isn’t a mask, don’t cover it.
Your size isn’t a book, don’t judge it.
Your life isn’t a film, don’t end it.
You are beautiful.

This quote is so powerful and critical for people to not only know these truths but to believe them!  I recently read an article that stated…

“An estimated 13 million students are bullied annually, according to government statistics.”

Let that set in…13 million!  Bullying is a major issue that does not end once a student gets home, but continues on through social media, long after the final school bell rings.  Any type of bullying, whether verbal, physical or in cyberspace should never be tolerated and needs to end!  October is “National Bullying Prevention Month.”  I want to encourage everyone to Speak Up and Stop Bullying if you see it going on because the ramifications can be enormous!  At a minimum, feelings of inadequacy because of a lack of friends will result, but more than likely, depression will set in.

Just look at the what happened the other day when an incoming high-school freshman named Hannah reached out to Taylor Swift on Instagram, (Sunday – 9/7/14) to share her heartbreaking fears of being bullied in the new school year.  The 24-year-old singer responded so compassionately to her High School fan that it made headlines.  You can read the article here that shares the exchange.

Taylor Swift has a new single called “Shake it Off” which the main chorus makes this declaration:

‘Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off

It is a catchy song but the message is that bullying IS going to happen and we need to take hold of our feelings and “shake it off.”  I agree to a point but there is more that we need to do but let me know get ahead of myself…

Depression and hopelessness are real, and if you are suffering from this, know you are NOT alone!  Beside millions of other people who are experiencing some form of depression, God is with you always, even if you do not have a relationship with Him, God is just one prayer away…All you need to do is take one step in the His direction and just like a Daddy running to His child that is hurt, so your Heavenly Father will come running to you!  God is just waiting for you to make a move in His direction.  But sometimes that is so hard to conceive of a loving father in heaven right?  Do you know why that is?  Because of the war that we are in.  What war you ask?  The war for our mind, for our life, for our eternal soul…we are in a spiritual battle with a very real enemy…the Devil tries very hard to cause doubt, confusion, and disillusionment about God’s character and about our identity as a “Child of God.”  That is why allowing depression to continue is so dangerous.  So many people suffer from it but never talk about it because of the stigma that society places on it.  Whether it is from fear of people minimizing your feelings or not wanting to appear weak or ________ (you fill in the blank)…The silent killer of souls continues to rage on.

DO NOT ALLOW the depression you feel to keep you isolated, because this is the Devil’s greatest tactics…He works hard to isolate us from God, from other people and ultimately destroy us with our own negative thoughts of hopelessness.  This is called Spiritual Warfare (see Ephesians 6:11-17 for more detail)…It is real and depression is a bi-product of the battle.  So how do you overcome depression…easier said than done right?  In His mercy and love, God gave us His Word (the Bible) to be a road map that can help you navigate out of your depression.  You have heard the saying…“You are what you eat,” well the same is true for your mind and emotions, they will be focused on whatever you feed them, (or don’t feed it.)  Reading the Bible is not something for religious fanatics or weirdo’s, it is for anyone who wants to live a life of peace and joy, which only will come when you understand your Identity in God.  You can choose to remain angry and rebellious, refusing to trust God, but I guarantee you that you are not going to achieve peace or joy trying to handle your problems on your own…We were never created to do that.  We were created to having fellowship with God and Jesus and they will carry the burden…see Matthew 11:28-30 for proof.  One verse that has given me comfort in times of trouble is Psalm 27:13–14 (NLT) which says…

“Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living.  Wait patiently for the Lord.  Be brave and courageous.  Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.”

Wait patiently, be brave and courageous through this season and know that regardless of anything you have done, God will always love you and be with you.  You are His child and He Chose you from before time existed!  You may be thinking, how do I know that, well I am glad you asked…

46 - Daily Dependence - Ephesians 1 - 3-4 - Blessded by AdoptionEphesians 1:3-6 (NIV) says…

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship [daughtership] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One He loves.”

God says we are CHOSEN!  You are an adopted child though Jesus Christ!  All you need to do is make the decision to release the guilt, the shame, the hurt, whatever it is, and accept the free gift of Grace and Salvation through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection for the payment of ANY past, present and future sins!  (See Romans 10:8-13 to read more).

Maybe you are a Christian already, but still struggle with depression or insecurities or guilt, James MacDonald made this profound statement during his “I AM: Finding your Identity in God” series that I pray will wash over your spirit and that you will receive the grace of God.

"There's no reason in the universe for a follower of Jesus to be living under Behavior Insecurity.  That's what the cross is all about, that's what the empty tomb is all about...You're forgiven!  You're forgiven!  Stop letting the enemy drag you through the mud of your past!"
“There’s no reason in the universe for a follower of Jesus to be living under Behavior Insecurity.  That’s what the cross is all about, that’s what the empty tomb is all about…You’re forgiven!  You’re forgiven!  Stop letting the enemy drag you through the mud of your past!”

Kick the negative thoughts and the enemy to the curb!!  You are loved and forgiven!  God is just one prayer away.  What will you do?

 

If you are interested in reading more on this topic check out this post called:

★ Thought for the Day – All the Time in the World ★ 

In the 1995 film, “The Usual Suspects,” the protagonist made this statement:

18 - Daily Dependence - Usual Suspects
“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

Brilliantly delivered by Kevin Spacey, I have never forgotten the line and profound reality.  If you asked, most people would say that they believe in some sort of higher power or as I do, in an all-powerful and loving God; but ask how many believe in the Devil and the response will be quite different.  The Barna Research Group released findings from its nationwide survey of adults’ spiritual beliefs and found:

“Four out of ten Christians (40%) strongly agreed that Satan “is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.” 

From the Article: “Most American Christians Do Not Believe that Satan or the Holy Spirit Exist,” 4/10/2009

4 out of 10 people believe that the Devil “is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.”  In the past 10 years, there has been an enormous increase in the amount of Hollywood offerings focusing on the Devil, demons and other evil incarnations.  It is ironic that people will go in droves to watch about the Devil and his unseen activities on the silver screen, but then turn around and say that he does not exist.  Sadly, I would say that the “trick” is working quite effectively.  James MacDonald put it this way,

“Satan…Disguise, Divide and Destroy.  He comes to us as an angel of light.  He gets us isolated by ourselves, and then he takes us down.”

 

Much like Kevin Spacey’s deceptive portrayal of an ineffectual and innocent crippled man in “The Usual Suspects,” Satan’s activities are not obvious; he comes in unassuming forms and in unexpected ways.  That is why we need to “Be selfcontrolled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  (1 Peter 5:8 NIV84)

18 - Daily Dependence - Too Busy
“Satan’s greatest lie: You have plenty of time to get right with God!”

This haunting picture is a great reminder…People think they have all the time in the world to live their life however they wish, indulging in anything and everything.  Maybe tomorrow or next year or sometime in the future they will change.  In Matthew 24:36 (NLT) Jesus gives some insight about the end times:

“However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself.  Only the Father knows.”

No one knows the hour when the end will come; or to put it plainer, when YOUR END will come, so don’t wait, “get right with God” and accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for the redemption of your soul.

 

 

 

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

Click here if you would prefer to listen to the Podcast of this blog post.

 

Does the title of today’s Thought surprise you?  One day in the office, a co-worker said to me, “I hate religion.”  He was surprised by my response when I said “so do I.”  Knowing that I am a Christian, he naturally assumed I was “Religious.”  I told him that “Religion” is just “Man’s” way of understanding or attempting to connect with God.  Unfortunately though people are hurt and oppressed by “Man-made” rules and then they blame God for what people say or do to them.  Mark Twain once said:

That is so true!  He gets blamed all the time for what people do in “His name,” but what God really desires is to have a personal relationship with us, through His Son Jesus, where we include Him in all aspects of our life.  I truly believe that you can “Hate Religion” and be a Christian too!  Or maybe a better way to describe myself would be a “Christ Follower.”  I may say that I am a Christian, but above all else, I desire to be more and more like Jesus and that only happens through me pursuing a relationship with Him and God daily.  Hence the name of this blog…“Daily Dependence.”  I read somewhere this amazing quote that expresses how I feel perfectly…

So the question I have for you is…

Do you have a “RELIGION” or do you have a “RELATIONSHIP?”  There is a huge difference!

This contrast between religion vs. relationship is critical to understand.  In 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NLT) of the Bible, The Apostle Paul talks about what Jesus did to have a relationship with us, he said,

“For I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed to me.  Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said.  He was buried, and He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.”

God’s rescue plan for you and I was to send Jesus, His One and Son just in case we would decide to have a relationship with Him.  Imagine getting this text from God?

It would be pretty great huh?  But I would submit to you that we have that in the form of the Bible which is God’s love letter to you and I.  He desires a relationship with us not empty religious rituals or just following some “made man” rules.  When you have a relationship with someone it is out of love not coercion or obligation.  And to prove how serious God was to have that relationship with us, He sacrificed His Son as payment for our sins, who He then rose from the dead 3 days later (which is commemorated on Easter Sunday,) so that IF ANYONE believes in JESUS they will be saved from the consequences of their sins and will have eternal life in heaven, (see John 3:16).

Romans 10:9-10 (NLT) says:

“If you confess with your mouth 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.”

The relationship I have can be yours too, all you need is to pray a simple prayer and ask for forgiveness and acknowledged that you are a broken sinful person (which we all are, especially me,) and tell God that you accept Jesus as the payment for your sins; or another way of saying it, that you accept Him as your savior.  If you are ready to start a relationship with the God, our Heavenly Father and His Son, below is a prayer you can pray to start you on the journey.  The words you say really don’t matter, there is nothing special about them, but the emotion and belief in your heart does.  Make this your prayer today:

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! 

Please contact me DailyDependence@gmail.com if you have any questions about your new life in Jesus Christ, I would love to discuss your decision more.  God Bless!

 

If you are interested, here is another post that further develops this Thought called: 

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