★ “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 – Stay the Course ★

79 - Daily Dependence - Independnece DayYesterday we celebrated America’s Independence Day, the remembrance of July 4, 1776, the day that represents the Declaration of Independence and the birth of the United States of America as an independent nation; which marked freedom from tyranny!  Today’s Thought for the Day may seem familiar to you.  You may recognize this expression from former Presidents who used it to encourage the country to persevere with the mission the U.S. was involved in.  But in thinking of 1776, my remembrance goes back to 2000 and the film “The Patriot” which was set in that time period.  Mel Gibson portrayed Benjamin Martin, an unassuming man who is forced to join the American Revolution when the British threaten to take his farm away from him (full disclosure, I stole that description from IMDb.)  At one point in the movie, we are introduced to this phrase as Benjamin Martin is remembering his late wife’s encouragement to persevere.  It was a powerful scene but it is the phrase “Stay the Course” that I want to focus on today.

I have been reading about the life of King Solomon in my quiet time recently.  He was such a fascinating character in history.  Incredible things were accomplished during his reign over the nation of Israel – the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, unity in the nation, peace and prosperity like never before.  Solomon started off so strong in following and serving God…(you can read about in this post ★ Thought for the Day – Who Are You Imitating? ★ that I recently shared,)…But unfortunately just a few chapters later, the Bible recalls how he was led astray.  Let’s test your Bible knowledge…do you know what caused that?  It was not a crafty business associate or peer pressure or anything external.  It was the lust of his flesh. 1 Kings 11:1-3 (NLT) says…

“Now King Solomon loved many foreign women. Besides Pharaoh’s daughter, he married women from Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon, and from among the Hittites.

The LORD had clearly instructed the people of Israel, “You must not marry them, because they will turn your hearts to their gods.”

Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway. He had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines. And in fact, they did turn his heart away from the LORD.”

My friend made this astute statement,

"1 Wife = A Good Thing!     2+ Wives = Problems!"  Eddie Rubio
“1 Wife = A Good Thing!  2+ Wives = Problems!”  Eddie Rubio

And boy is that what happened to Solomon.  1 Kings 11:4, 9-13 (NLT) goes on to say…

“In Solomon’s old age, they turned his heart to worship other gods instead of being completely faithful to the LORD his God, as his father, David, had been.

The LORD was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.

He had warned Solomon specifically about worshiping other gods, but Solomon did not listen to the LORD’s command. So now the LORD said to him,

“Since you have not kept my covenant and have disobeyed my decrees, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants.  But for the sake of your father, David, I will not do this while you are still alive.  I will take the kingdom away from your son. And even so, I will not take away the entire kingdom; I will let him be king of one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, my chosen city.”

The wisest man who had ever lived was destroyed by HIMSELF!  All that Solomon built during his reign was destroyed in the very next generation as the nation of Israel “reaped what he sowed!”  Scary!!  May that not be so of me!!  Such a sad reality but how many of us willfully choose what we know will harm us!  I heard a pastor say once,

“Choose to sin, choose to suffer,” 

Such a simple concept to understand but yet why do we fail so often?  David’s prosperity without adherence to God’s Word lead him to places he never dreamed he would.  Now I am not saying that if you are rich and living a comfortable lifestyle that your life will go tragically bad, not at all!  BOTH David and his son departed from the path to satisfy what their flesh wanted instead of following God and the consequences were catastrophic.  For David it resulted in adultery, an unplanned pregnancy and murder.  For Solomon it resulted in the dissipation of his integrity and devotion to God, the end of peace in Israel and ultimately the fracturing of the nation after his death under the rule of his son Rehoboam who succeeded Solomon.  If want to study this some more check out 1 Kings 11:‭14, 23, 26, 33‬‬ (NLT) which shows how one man’s sin affected an entire nation as God raised up adversaries to oppose Solomon for his disobedience.

1 Kings 11:‭39‬‬ (NLT) says,

“Because of Solomon’s sin I will punish the descendants of David—though not forever.’” 

Solomon is a great cautionary tale for all of us!  I encourage you to “Stay the Course,” and follow the advice from 1 Timothy 6:12 (NIV)…

78 - Daily Dependence - 1 Timothy 6-12 - Stay the Course
“Fight the good fight of the faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

“Fight the Good Fight.  Take hold.”  Those are strong action phrases.  Staying the Course is not something that just happens.  It is hard work sometimes and the decision will cost us temporary gain or pleasure for the BETTER prize of eternal life.  There is no more important decision to make then to trust Jesus and continue to develop your walk with God.  Every 4th of July, we celebrate our freedom, our Independence, but  what I would like to leave you with is that true freedom comes from God through His Son’s sacrifice on the cross. Jesus provides true freedom over sin and darkness!  Meditate on this truth from Romans 8:1-2 (NLT) about the “Life in the Spirit” that we can enjoy when Jesus is our savior:

“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”

In every aspect of our life we need to stay focused on obeying God’s Word and not allow any distraction, any influence or any momentary pleasure to steal away the life we can have in Jesus!  Just a side note…we focused a lot on men here but the same can be true for women as well.  Also realize to that it is not just the physical temptations that can lead us astray, but also power and the love of money can too but that’s a whole other Thought for the Day!  Stay tuned!

As promised, here is. . .★ Thought for the Day – Stay the Course…Part 2 ★

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

You have heard the expression before that,

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”  Charles Caleb Colton 

I have tried telling my daughter that when her sister is echoing everything that she does but to no avail…hahaha!  But whether we realize it or not, we are imitating someone…it could be the latest pop sensation, or a Hollywood movie star, or the newest offering from the fashion runway…We are continually influenced by the culture around us. The question of the day is…Who is that?  And to further the thought…Is it good for us?  1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV1984) says,

“Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.””

This is a principle that I have tried to pour into my daughters’ spirit throughout their lives.  That they need to decide now whether they will be a leader or a follower?  I love this quote from Tom Lane,

77 - Daily Dependence - Leader or Follower
“You’re either an influencer or you’re being influenced.”

The people you surround yourself with WILL, NOT MAYBE, influence you to go down one of two paths, the one that leads to destruction or the one that leads to life.  77 - The Path to Life or DestructionToo dramatic?  Maybe, but also true nonetheless.  Experience has taught me that if you don’t set standards up beforehand of the people you will associate with, when the time of decision comes whether to take that first sip of alcohol as a teenager or that first experimentation with illegal drugs, you will be in no position to make the right choice. It is hard enough to resist temptation but when you surround yourself with the wrong people, compromise will always follow.  Perry Noble made this great statement,

“The first step away from God is always a small one.”

I can vouch that this is the truth!  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.  Jesus referred to the two possible paths or gates in Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV)…

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

I barreled through that wide gate and spent so much time on the wide path to destruction, but let my hindsight be your foresight…Who you hang out with is critical!!  Ephesians 5:1-2 (HCSB) gives us the direction to follow,

“Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. And walk in love, as the Messiah [Jesus Christ] also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.”
“Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. And walk in love, as the Messiah [Jesus Christ] also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.”

“Be imitators of God.”  Not really a bumper sticker you see is it?  But imitating God, being more like Jesus Christ, and less like the world around us will keep us of the path that will lead to life.  I love this image of a son imitating his father moving the lawn. The same is true with Jesus.  When He was here on earth, Jesus continually said that He does only what He has has seen His Father doing.  One reference (out of many), is found in John 5:19 (NLT)…

“I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself. He does only what He sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.”

Jesus Himself imitated God the Father and so should we.  Let’s look back at the last portion of verse 2 of Ephesians 5…Jesus “gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.”  Could there be something in sacrifice that could unlock the key to happiness?

One of the most famous Kings of all time was Solomon. Son of King David, Solomon is known for being the wisest man who has ever lived…but do you know how that came to be?  It wasn’t from any human effort of exhaustive learning, but from an act of humility and reverence to God.  At the beginning of his reign as King of Isreal, Solomon had presented an extravagant offering to God.  1 Kings 3:5 (NLT) says,

“That night the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want?  Ask, and I will give it to you!””

Stop…What would your answer be?  Money, power, fame, you fill in the blank ______.  My guess it would be something that would bring happiness to your life right?  I am no different, I highly doubt it would not have been so selfless as Solomon’s…1 Kings 3:7-9 (NLT) records his answer,

“Now, O LORD my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around.  And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted!  Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong.  For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?” 

Wow!!  That is amazing!  What an example for us today!  How many of us would like to be presented with a “blank check” like that from God?!  How many of us would answer like Solomon with such humility and self-awareness of his shortcomings?   Look at the result in 1 Kings 3:10-14 (NLT).

“The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies— I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life! And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.” 

If we get our priorities right, God’s favor and blessing will follow!  And once that happens who knows where God will take you?  You and I know about the wisdom of Solomon as a result of his humility and obedience, or you could say his imitation of God.  Now as you read 1 Kings, Solomon made his fair share of mistakes but by all accounts Solomon was a world changer!  Lysa TerKeurst said in her book, ‪”The Best Yes”…

77 - Daily Dependence - Lysa TerKeurs - Humility“Humility opens the door of opportunity. In hard conversations, if I truly want to be heard I must humbly approach the conversation.” 

Like Solomon, to be a world changer, humility is key!  Even though he was king, Solomon realized his need for wisdom to govern the people and look at the opportunities that followed!  If we want to be on the path of life, to be a positive influence to the people around us, our friends, our spouse and/or children…to be a world changer, then we must make sure that we are imitating the “One” who created everything and approach people in humility!  When you do, your happiness will not come through imitating culture, but through service to the One person that really matters, Jesus Christ!

I will close with this last thought from Marty Collier,

"The path to happiness is holiness." 
“The pathway to happiness is holiness.”

When you imitate God, you will be on the path of life which will lead to holiness and will bring you far more happiness than anything else in the world!

If you would like to read more on this topic, here is something I posted that you may like, called:

 

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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!

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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? ★

★ Thought for the Day – Back Into the Fire ★

Happy Memorial Day!!  Today is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces.  I think though, many people just look forward to the 3-Day Weekend and do not really consider that the freedom they enjoy came at a high price!  Freedom in NOT free.  I just want to say…THANK YOU to all the men and women who have served in the armed forces, and extend my condolences to all the families that are missing someone at the table today as a result of their service in battle. Thank you!

As I thought about the significance of Memorial Day, my mind drifted to another group that deserves recognition as well.  In my opinion, one of the most impressive and honorable professions is being a firefighter but there is no day that recognizes these incredibly selfless people!

75 - Daily Dependence - Day in the Life of a FirefighterI have a neighbor who is also a great friend that is a firefighter and when I mentioned to him today that it is a shame that firefighters do not have a day of their own to honor their service, do you know what his response was??

“We’re privileged enough to do this job…..one of the best….service to community!”

Wow!!  I expected no less of a response from this man who is “on fleeck,” but it really made me think about how remarkable firefighters are…When everyone else is running out of a burning building, fearing for their lives…these brave men and women are running into the blaze!  What kind of person places themselves in harm’s way to help those in need?  Someone…who has been in a fire and knows all too well the dangers, and in spite of the risks, they go back into the fire to rescue those in peril!  Individuals who are courageous and willing to do whatever it takes.  Jesus said in John 15:13:

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Now that certainly is the ultimate sacrifice!  In this post, I want to parallel what firefighters do everyday with what I believe God wants from those who claim Jesus as their Lord and savior.  Jesus paid the price for our sins so that we could have eternal life, and in return He asks for us to be “His hands and feet!”  2 Corinthians ‭1‬:‭3-5‬ (NLT) says,

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 

For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.”

Did you catch that?  The first part of verse 4 gives us quite an eye-opener, that God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.”  Have you ever thought of it that way?  God comforts us so that we will turn around and comfort those in need but in our self-absorbed culture, many people are just focused on their needs and don’t look to extend a hand to those suffering…But there is a very clear directive here, When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”  God does not deliver you from a hardship, a disease or an addiction, only to help you…but expects us to take what He did for us and reach the people who He has placed in our sphere of influence with the same comfort and hope that God poured out on us.  Our response to God ought to be not only one of gratitude, but also one of willing submission to go anywhere, and do anything to return the comfort we received.  In a recent message called the “The Gift of Interruption,” Holly Furtick made this great point:

“Some of life’s greatest invitations come packaged as interruptions.”  

She also quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer that:

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

Do you allow God to interrupt your day?  Do you have room in your schedule to respond to the call to help someone??  This is something that I need to keep in mind as well, when I receive a knock on my door from a neighbor, a text from a friend or a call from a family member who is in need, my first response should be “yes,” now…”what is the question.”  Rather than see it as an interruption, I need to see it as an opportunity!  Susie Larson made this great statement…

“In those places he [God] rescued us from, He sends us back to rescue others.” 

Love that!  Just like firefighters who go back into the fire to rescue people, God wants us to go back into the dark places that He rescued us from to help guide those who are suffering and shine the light of Jesus into their hopeless circumstance.  Galatians 5:13 (NLT) says,

“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.”

Just like we talked about taking Memorial Day for granted, we should never take the freedom Jesus provided for us on the cross for granted!  Colossians 1:13-14 (NLT) reminds,

“For He has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.”

And we certainly should never allow the busyness of life to stop from helping others in need.  So if God has delivered you from an addiction, look to help others with theirs.  If your marriage has been revitalized or resurrected then look for a way to walk alongside others in their marriage, whether that be one on one or participation in a class.  If God has healed you of a disease, look for ways to 75 - Proverbs 11-25encourage and bring hope into the lives of people suffering.  And if you do, Proverbs 11:25 (NLT) give this motivation…

“The generous will prosper;  those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.”

I will close this thought from Liz Curtis Higgs, who said,

“God often does the counter cultural thing. He does what we don’t expect. He does what we sometimes don’t even want. There are things God asks us to do that are so hard that it has to be God.”

It may be uncomfortable to have a conversation with someone struggling with an addiction, or you may feel unequipped to counseling a couple struggling in their marriage, or you may not want to relive your painful experience by walking with someone with a disease.  But ultimately, that is the very purpose that God in mind when He rescued you out of the fire, so that you would go back in!!

★ Thought for the Day – Grief is a Passage, Not a Place ★   

“Grief never ends…But it changes.  It’s a passage, not a place to stay.  Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith…It is the price of love.” Unknown

In John 11:35, it simply says:51 - Daily Dependence - John 11-35 - Jesus wept

“Jesus wept.” 

Jesus wept.  The shortest verse in the Bible, but shows that even the Son of God understands what we go through during the loss of someone we care about.  Go to God in your grief and draw comfort from your Heavenly Father.

“But a key truth on which we can stand is this—our God is a good God! Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the LORD is good.” God is a good God. We must begin here. Though we don’t understand His actions, we can trust His heart!”  Max Lucado, Traveling Light

Will you believe that God is good?  He is big enough to handle any problem you bring His way.  Trust God with your pain and grief.

 

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★ 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
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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 – What Does The Love of God Mean? ★ 

44 - Daily Dependence - Love of GodWhat does the love of God mean?  God’s love is infinite and beyond comprehension.  His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts (see Isaiah 55:8-9).  Last summer our family was introduced to Lyme’s Disease, a debilitating disease that affects the neurological system when my wife contracted the awful disease.  For those that are not familiar with what Lyme’s Disease is….It is a bacteria that enters your body from a deer tick bite and wreaks havoc on your body, that left untreated can cause paralysis and in some cases death.  As I think back on last summer, and the sickness that we went through as a family, I see how our Heavenly Father was there with us, providing everything we needed, every step of the way.  It is hard to understand the reality that God is not linear…He is not constrained to time as we are.  God functions in the past, the present and the future simultaneously, which means He knew what we would be going through, what we would need and ultimately what would be born out of the adversity our family went through.

Our church started a sermon series based on a book called “Draw the Circle” by Mark Batterson.  It was July 10, 2013, the day our family started to read the “Draw the Circle,” 40 Day Devotional, which the author, warned would be filled with spiritual warfare and boy was he right!  I see now that God knew that the tick bite my spouse received was going to start to have it‘s effect and that we were going to have to press into His presence and His Word more than we have ever done in the past…so He provided a conduit to do that within the pages of this powerful devotional!

The amazing thing about God’s love is, that it is always there, it only needs to be asked for…We did a whole lot of asking, seeking and knocking as the Jesus said to do in Luke 11:9.  We have seen so much fruit produced out of this adversity in each one of us from the smallest to the biggest.  What the enemy meant for harm, God used it to draw our family and I closer to one another and more importantly closer to Him!  We also got to see Proverbs 17:17 (NASB) in action…

A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.”

…as Family and Neighbors came alongside of our family to provide prayer, all-day care, meals, plumbing repairs, lawn service, and many other “little things” that were lifesavers.  You always “wonder,” if you were in a tight spot, whether people will come to help you, but now we “know!”  We were even blessed by having our Senior Pastor just a text, a Facebook message or call away.  God provided for us from the smallest need to the biggest of needs!  Psalm 27:13–14 (NLT) 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."
“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.”

We did a lot of “waiting for the Lord” as my spouse struggled with the terrible side effects of the Lyme’s disease.  We also waited for something to break loose in my job situation.  At the time, the job I was at, was a terrible place to work at, (probably the worst I have even been at), and the “white-knuckle commute was unbearably long and arduous.  As each day, each week, and each month passed by, we wondered why nothing was happening with either the job conditions improving, or some other opportunity to come about.  The job never changed (but got worse) and the long commute remained the same, but I changed.  The “Draw the Circle” Devotional is one of the best books I have ever read, which God used to help me considerably.  My attitude has radically been changed and God has helped me to refocus my attention on what really matters rather than my circumstances.

As we waited for healing, and a job change…something changed in our family, we truly started to stand on God and His Word and have lived out Philippians 4:4-7 (HCSB)…

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.  Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

We felt that the Lord was near, and we experienced His peace in the midst of the storm.  God knew the storm was coming, so He orchestrated resources like the Draw the Circle devotional and the companion sermon series at our Church, prayer intercessors and helpers for our physical needs, a renewed frequency and fervency of reading the Bible, and ultimately a new level of Faith that we would have never experienced had our family not gone through this with Lyme’s Disease and my work conditions.   Through this season in the “wilderness,” we have become completely different people.  I can honestly say that we truly understand James 1:2-4 (MSG)…

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.  You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.  So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely.  Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”

The pressure at times, was more than we thought we could bear, but as we pressed into God’s presence through prayer, God sustained us, carried us and loved us through this terrible season and has produced maturity and birthed into our spirit a new faith-life in our family like never before!

So what does God’s love mean?  In the simplest terms, He will never leave us, never forsake and will always be there to help us through whatever season we find ourselves in, just like any good Daddy would do!

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

★ Thought for the Day – STRENGTH FOR THE STRUGGLE ★

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

17 - Daily Dependence - Saving Mr BanksDisney’s “Saving Mr. Banks” pulls the curtain back to allow moviegoers to learn how the beloved 1964 classic “Mary Poppins” almost didn’t make it to the silver screen because of the author’s reservations and fears of what Walt Disney would do to her beloved book.  At first I was skeptical about watching a movie about Mary Poppins, but before the end credits started to roll, I was tearing up and feeling that this incredible film had made it to my top 10 list!  From the writing to the acting to the cinematography, there was not a single thing that I was not captivated by!

As they flashed back and forth from 1961 to P.L. Travers’ childhood, the director brilliantly illustrated what a difference a Daddy makes in the life of not only a child but also the entire family.  The film shows what an involved, tender and very loving man her father was (at first) and how she cherished and idealized him.  Unfortunately, decades later, the effects of alcoholism and a tragic event, plagued the author’s life and paralyzed her from living her life.

In his book “What a Difference A Daddy Makes,” Kevin Leman makes this bold statement:

Daddy’s have the God-given responsibility to support and train up their children in the way that they should go (see Proverbs 22:6) and to be the best earthly example of what their heavenly father is like…that is the difference a “Daddy” makes!

 ★ ★ Please share this blog with all the “Daddys” you know! ★ ★

 

 

 

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