Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Difference


For anyone who is running from God today, I would advise against it. Christian song lyrics today are popular when they talk about God pursuing us.  It is true that without His calling us, we are unable to come to Him.  However, that is not the same as knowing His will and running away anyway.  Jonah ran and God did not coax him to return, but rather He put Jonah in a place where he had no other option but to repent of having run away and to call on God for help, promising to do His will as he should have done in the first place.

The prodigal son ran off to enjoy the world and squander his inheritance, but his father did NOT run after him to retrieve him and bring him to his senses. His father waited patiently for him to return and welcomed him back with great joy. His story could have ended tragically if he hadn't "come to himself" and realized how much better it was to be under his father's authority, which he had unwisely thought that he wanted freedom from. Isn't that exactly what the world promises us today?  "Freedom"?

We can learn from the prodigal son that our Father knows best and we only harm ourselves by rebelling against Him. His father patiently waited, watching and longing for his return, but at no point did he force him to do so. He was an adult making his own choices, good or bad. God does not violate our free will, which is a gift from Him, in accepting His gracious, merciful offer of salvation by grace through faith. Neither does He force us to remain faithful to Him in our thoughts, words and deeds.  If we truly believe in our hearts as well as our minds, then we (during this present age) have His Spirit within us to conform our desires and our will to align with His. Even so, we have the capability to resist.  If God wanted robots, He would have certainly have designed them instead, but He didn't.

God allows unpleasant and even unbearable circumstances in our lives so that we will cry out to Him in repentance and return to Him if we have strayed.  Even if we're not being deliberately wayward, our faith needs to be tried to be proven genuine. God has NO interest in false confessions of faith, fair-weather worshipers or people who believe in a God they have constructed in their own minds instead of in Him as He revealed Himself to us in the Holy Bible.  Will we trust Him no matter what our circumstances, as Job did when He was tested? Don't tempt God by running away from Him as fast as you can, thinking that is the way to get attention the way a wayward child in our society might do.  Just as with our own children, the attention gained by that kind of behavior will not be positive.

People who want to justify their "inability" to stop sinning often point to Paul's claiming to be the "worst of sinners." Paul was NOT referring to delighting in and taking pride in sin.  Paul was a Pharisee who believed in God, but rejected Jesus. The Pharisees enjoyed their power and status among the people and were not willing to give it up, even for God's own Son. They CHOSE unbelief, insisting that God's plan to deliver them must match their expectations of it. Like other Pharisees, Paul kept the LETTER of the law, but not the SPIRIT. One of his greatest sins had been to persecute Christians, and therefore Jesus, IN IGNORANCE. Paul wanted us to know that there is forgiveness for ANY sin, NOT that we are meant to continue sinning after coming to faith and NEW LIFE in Christ. He didn't contradict himself under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. His words need to be taken in light of the rest of Scripture.

There is great joy in heaven when a sinner repents and Jesus said he was here to seek the lost. However, there is a difference in the way that God lovingly seeks one who is lost due to their own ignorance and the way He deals with one who willfully chooses to be "lost." If you belong to the one, true, living God and yet insist upon going your own way, then you can be sure that there will be suffering in your future. Just ask Paul. God disciplines each one He loves and all the Father gives to Jesus WILL come to Him. You will be glad of it when you look back and realize what nearly happened to you when you thought you knew better than God what was best for you. You'll be so relieved that God loved you enough to bring you to your knees and never let you go.

It's your choice if you want to do this the easy way or the hard way. I recommend submitting to God willingly as soon as possible. Don't look around you and think that nothing bad happens to other people who rebel against God. Either they will be "getting theirs" eventually on this earth, or they are not His at all. You worry about you and your own relationship with Him. He'll deal with them in His own way and His own timing.

To anyone who claims to believe in and belong to God and yet lives in a way that mocks His holiness and mighty power, as if He doesn't know and see what they are doing:  You are TEMPTING God.  Stop, NOW.  There are only two options. 1) You will be disciplined by God and it will not be pleasant, but it is far preferable to the other option: 2) You do not actually belong to Him!  In that case, you may do whatever you want, but it will result in your eventual punishment NEVER ending, because you have rejected the ONLY way to have your sins forgiven and washed away.

I recommend repenting ASAP.  Tear off the bandage that's hiding your sin and let God attend to you as His dear child so the healing can begin.  It will hurt for a while, but with time it will be forgotten and replaced with joy in Him.  God wants ALL to be saved.  This is your invitation to put your trust in Jesus, repenting of your unbelief as well as the sins that caused your separation from God.

Scripture Verses:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:44

Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,  “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”  But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.  But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up.  Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep.  So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”  And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.  Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?”  And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”  Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.  Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous.  He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.”  Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them.  Therefore they called out to the LORD, “O LORD, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you.”  So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging.  Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.   And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Jonah 1:1-17

Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, saying, “I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.  For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me.  Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’  The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head  at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God.  When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.  Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.  But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!  And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land. Jonah 2:1-10

And he said, “There was a man who had two sons.  And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them.  Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.  And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need.  So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs.  And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.  “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’  And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.  For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.  “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.  And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.  And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’  But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him,  but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.  But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” Luke 15:11-32

These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved.  For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error.  They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.  For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.  For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.  What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” 2 Peter 2:17-22

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:34-36

And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15 

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:24

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.  Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,  holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Philippians 2:12-16

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.  They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.  They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.  But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,  and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.  Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,  and give no opportunity to the devil.  Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.  Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:17-32

Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise prophecies,  but test everything; hold fast what is good.  Abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.  But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,  idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,  envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:13-26

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?  But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.  He will render to each one according to his works:  to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.  There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.  For God shows no partiality. Romans 2:4-11

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,  casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:6-10

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:6-9

And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”  Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason?  Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.  But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.”  And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. Job 1:8-12

Then Job answered the LORD and said:  “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.  ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.  ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’  I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;  therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”  After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” Job 42:1-7

And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. Job 42:10

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”  Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”  Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”  Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. Matthew 4:5-11

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?  You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.  You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.  Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?  But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:1-10

"But He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold." Job 23:10

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.  You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.  Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.  As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.  Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. James 5:7-11

Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.  For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. Isaiah 48:10-11

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.  It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.  Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:3-14

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.  For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.  Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.  The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” Revelation 3:15-22 

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.  But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.  To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:12-17

And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Acts 22:8 

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day.  I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.”Acts 22:3-5

“My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews.  They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee.” Acts 26:4-5

For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,  but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Romans 7:22-24

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

So he told them this parable:  “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’  Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Luke 15:3-7

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10

For I [Jesus] will show him [Paul] how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” Acts 9:16

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:10-12

And when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.  Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.  And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. Acts 5:40-42 

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. John 6:37-39

Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!  For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.  Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.  Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.  He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.  Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!  Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.  For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.  In just a little  while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.  But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.  The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him, but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming.  The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose way is upright; their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.  Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked.  For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous. The LORD knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever;  they are not put to shame in evil times; in the days of famine they have abundance.  But the wicked will perish; the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures; they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.  The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives;  for those blessed by the LORD shall inherit the land, but those cursed by him shall be cut off.  The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.  I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.  He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing.  Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever.  For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.  The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever.  The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice.  The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.  The wicked watches for the righteous and seeks to put him to death.  The LORD will not abandon him to his power or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.  Wait for the LORD and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off.  I have seen a wicked, ruthless man, spreading himself like a green laurel tree.  But he passed away, and behold, he was no more; though I sought him, he could not be found.  Mark the blameless and behold the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace.  But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed; the future of the wicked shall be cut off.  The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.  The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him. Psalm 37:1-40

Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.  But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.  For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.  For they have no pangs  until death; their bodies are fat and sleek.  They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.  Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment.  Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies.  They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression.  They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth.  Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them.  And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?”  Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.  All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.  For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning. If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the generation of your children.  But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.  Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin.  How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!  Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.  When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart,  I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.  Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.  Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.  But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works. Psalm 73:1-28

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” Hebrews 3:12-15

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:15-29

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?  Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 11  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.  Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.  What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!  Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?  But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.  I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.  For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.  But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.  But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:1-4, 11-23

Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you.  But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have.  For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.  What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit? 1 Corinthians 4:18-21

But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.  But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:31-32 

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,  for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 1 Timothy 2:1-6

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, 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 with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Romans 10:8-10

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. Revelation 22:17 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Shack?

Because the movie based on the book is coming out soon, I would like to share this post by a sister in Christ, Sunny Shell, author of the blog "Abandoned to Christ."



http://www.sunnyshell.org/2009/05/biblical-review-of-shack.html

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Beautiful, Part Twenty (Final)

What is devotion?

As the writing of this booklet went along, it became my worship, praise and prayer—a work of love for my Redeemer and King: a devotional hoping to inspire devotion in others.

de·vo·tion (noun): 1) love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person, activity, or cause. Synonyms: faithfulness, fidelity, constancy, commitment, allegiance, dedication, fondness, admiration, affection, care; 2) worship. Synonyms: devoutness, reverence, godliness, holiness, sanctity 3) prayer: solemn request or expression of thanks to God.

Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. Psalm 73:23-25

My prayer is that everyone who reads what is written here will be filled with an ever-increasing desire to truly know the one, true God. (To know Him is to love Him—we can’t truly love anyone we don’t know.) I pray that we would all understand that our personal value lies not in our appearance or in our circumstances, but in His infinite greatness and love for us, and that will never change. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Romans 11:29 That we will freely offer Him our whole hearts, souls and minds; that we would surrender our flawed, selfish will to His perfect, good and pleasing will, so that He can do wonderful things through us, by His power. Heavenly Father, please help us to be humble and to rely entirely on Your strength and wisdom, putting our trust in You alone, Lord. Please help those of us who belong to You to keep our focus on You and to shine Your light on this dark world, unmasking lies and chasing away the deception; wake up the slumbering believers and those still dead in their sins so that we can be ready for Your return. Please make us like Jesus: tireless, selfless, wholly devoted, holy and set apart for You, wise, loving, filled with grace and mercy; and please give us Your peace and strength, no matter what happens. Help us to remember that it’s all about You. You are worthy, and since you never change, fail or make mistakes, then all is well, all the time. In Jesus’ holy, precious, wonderful name, Amen.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39

"Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." Luke 15:7

Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:13

If you are already a member of the Body of Christ, then please join me in inviting others. Until the Book of Life is opened in heaven, we should treat everyone as though their name is written there even if they don't know it yet, don’t you think? God doesn’t want anyone to perish and neither should we. We need to share the gospel with as many people as we can, live our lives in such a way by the power of the Holy Spirit as to be a good example of what God's children are like (walk in the Spirit), and let Him do the rest--because only He can.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. Romans 8:5-9 

"I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star." ...The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! Revelation 22:16-17, 20

You are invited to drink the water of eternal life.

To learn more, these websites are highly recommended:
www.gotquestions.org
www.gty.org

©Tricia Berg March 2016

This is Part Twenty (the last) of a series.  You may download the entire devotional in a "pretty" format here or in a basic, small file size format with highlighting here.  Please note the document has been edited since originally made available, so feel free to re-download the latest version.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Beautiful, Part Nineteen

Can’t we have both?

No. The Bible is very firm on this. You can’t have one foot in and one out of your old worldly life. This world exalts pride and appearance, but God values humility and looks at the heart. We are not meant to blend in with the world and go along with the flow, but that is exactly what is happening among Christians in our country. We have not only accepted the world’s lax morals and practices, but we criticize each other if someone tries to live in a holy manner, saying they’re being judgmental, legalistic or trying to earn their way to heaven. But we were meant to be set aside for God and to be unified in spirit, by His Spirit. When we behave the same as unbelievers or argue amongst ourselves, God is not glorified. How can the world see how wonderful He is if we don’t show them?

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. Ephesians 4:17-19

Therefore be very careful how you live—not as unwise but as wise, taking advantage of every opportunity, because the days are evil. For this reason do not be foolish, but be wise by understanding what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 John 2:15 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:4

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

There are warnings in the Scriptures about the dangers of wealth such as we have in this country. We are flooded with messages that we need certain things (LOTS of them) to be happy–that appearances are high priority. Any rich person will tell you that you can’t buy what is truly important–for starters: happiness, love, health. Christians know that the greatest gift of all, salvation, is free.

And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, "Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God." Peter began to say to him, "See, we have left everything and followed you." Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life." Mark 10:23-30

"'I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see." Revelation 3:15-18

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 1 Timothy 6:6-11

Paul scolded the believers of the Corinth church due to their filing lawsuits in civil court against one another. He told them it would be preferable to take financial loss than to treat fellow believers that way—and worse yet, they even dealt dishonestly with others themselves.

I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers! 1 Corinthians 6:5-8

Does God’s Word really have power?

This booklet is filled to the brim with Bible verses. Why? Because the Word builds faith. So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17 This generation reads the Bible less than any previous generation, despite having more opportunity than ever before. If we don’t know what it says, then how can we follow it? People have become satisfied with little snippets of Scripture and the interpretation of so-called teachers with an agenda (usually involving people-pleasing and profit-making). They don’t recognize when a verse has been cut short or twisted in order to fit the meaning to support a particular (unbiblical) viewpoint.

"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it." Isaiah 55:10-11

It’s popular today to say we’re “spiritual not religious,” but that could mean anything. Don’t be ashamed of Jesus—He’s perfect exactly as He IS. Many of us are uncomfortable with passages that don’t sound “loving” to us, but we need the whole Bible to get a true picture of the God we worship (or we have made Him into our own version of Him instead of who He really is). He gave us many warnings that we can’t heed if we don’t know about them. We need to get into the Word. It’s the key to eternal life as well as protection from the evil one. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. ... Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand your ground in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Ephesians 6:11, 13

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:23-25

This is Part Nineteen of a series.  You may download the entire devotional in a "pretty" format here or in a basic, small file size format with highlighting here.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Beautiful, Part Eighteen

What now?

Here is the way I look at it. If this life is all about Him, and it is, then ALL IS WELL, ALL THE TIME. Why? Because He never changes, never fails or forgets, never loses control or becomes less worthy. He knows what He is doing—we can trust Him. When we keep our focus on Him instead of ourselves, there is never any reason to worry or despair. He is able. He never expects anything from us without providing us with the needed strength and wisdom. Whatever happens, He either caused or allowed, and He has a good plan for it (for those of us called according to His purpose). (Romans 8:28)

Many people have stumbled over the grief caused by the passing of their loved ones, but our family and friends have always been meant to be temporary blessings from above. They don’t really “belong” to us and were never to have been placed above our relationship with God. Those who truly belong to Him can never be shaken from His grasp (John 10:28-29, Romans 8:38-39). When this short life is over, that is the beginning of the best part, which lasts forever.

Do you have stress, worry, anxiety and fear? Wouldn’t it be great to have all of that taken away, to be replaced with peace? Only God can do that. He is a solid rock—faithful and steadfast. God alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. Psalm 62:6

Cast your burden upon the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never allow the righteous to be shaken. Psalm 55:22 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27

Where is the love?

When I started writing this, it was in response to how it grieves my heart when people don't comprehend and appreciate the true cost of their salvation to Jesus. He deserves so much more from us—as we have just seen the Bible teaches. Once I “woke up” and realized this for myself, I was very distressed at the lack of love I had shown Him in nearly 20 years since I had come to know the Lord as my Savior. This message from Jesus to the Church in Ephesus got to me in particular: But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place--unless you repent.” Revelation 3:4-5

I made a list of what I did when I first became a believer. It was sad how many things on that list had fallen by the wayside. Even my prayers were long on worry and short on trust. As I sought to know and do God’s will and to please Him, I came to understand two things had been missing from my Christian walk: knowing God well enough to genuinely love and trust Him, and submission to the Holy Spirit. We can’t love and trust anyone we don’t know very well. (I’ve already covered how to know Him–the Word.) And without the Spirit, none of us could believe in God or love Him at all, let alone understand the Word and His will and have a desire to do it. Without His ministry, there is no hope whatsoever of victory. Jesus overcame. We need to rely fully on Him in order to triumph over our old self that loves the world and pleasing itself instead of God. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. Romans 8:7-9 (Also Philippians 2:12-13 above.)

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is God’s good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. Colossians 1:28-29

I had bought into the world’s idea of “my rights” and the American “dream,” among other things. That is not the example that Jesus, in whose steps we are to walk, set for us. He was meek and humble—He told us that the greatest is the least—the lowest servant. “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:11-12 It’s one thing to listen to a sermon and know these things in your head, but an altogether different thing to actually do them. I realize now that there is only one “right” that is important: But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13

Giving up all of the rights to our life is exactly what we do when we become followers of Jesus, His disciples. (We weren’t told to go and make believers, but rather disciples (Matthew 28:19)—only God can give the gift of faith. Ephesians 2:8-9) That is why Jesus said to count the cost before following Him. (Luke 14:25-33) Paul said: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

This is Part Eighteen of a series.  You may download the entire devotional in a "pretty" format here or in a basic, small file size format with highlighting here.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Beautiful, Part Seventeen

How can we be sure there is only one God?

His very name, “I AM” (Yahweh in Hebrew, abbreviated as Yah) declares that He is the ONLY God, and that there never has been and never will be any other. (If you don’t think you’ve heard of God being called Yah before, you probably didn’t realize that Hallelujah means Praise Yah. Names ending in “ah” in Hebrew mean to, by, from or of God–such as Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah. Names ending in “as” in Greek are the same way. e.g. Zechariah and Zacharias.) God has existed forever—before He invented time for us to live by—and will exist after time ceases to be kept—for eternity. We can know by His name that He will never change. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

God has always been holy and perfect, and always will be. When we see ourselves and our situation from the perspective of His greatness, it truly does fill us with awe that He could love us and want us to be with Him forever. It is incredibly humbling. Knowing what it cost Him inspires tears of true repentance, gratefulness for forgiveness, mercy and grace, and an overwhelming desire to worship the only One who is worthy of all praise, glory and honor: our beloved, cherished and adored Maker, Redeemer, Lord, King and Sovereign God.

“Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no Savior.” Isaiah 43:11 "Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” Isaiah 45:22

To you, Lord, belongs the greatness, and the valor, and the splendor, and the endurance, and the majesty because all that is in heaven and on earth is Yours. To you belongs the kingdom, Lord, and you are exalted as Head over all. 1 Chronicles 29:11

They lift up their voices, they sing for joy; over the majesty of the Lord they shout from the west. Therefore in the east give glory to the Lord; in the coastlands of the sea, give glory to the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise, of glory to the Righteous One. Isaiah 24:14-16 a

Do Christians worship three “gods”?

No. When we refer to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we are acknowledging God is three distinct Persons, who are all One God. (The word “Trinity” is not in the Bible, but neither are many other words that are accepted and used by Christians.) Here are just a few of the verses that make this truth plain:

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20 "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My [Jesus’] name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you." John 14:26

Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he [Jesus] has poured forth this which you both see and hear. Acts 2:33 You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. Acts 10:38

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14 How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Hebrews 9:14 According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: may grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. 1 Peter 1:2

Is Jesus God?

Many people say that Jesus never “claimed to be God.” They say He was a good man and a prophet and nothing more. That is simply not true. Jesus was criticized for healing on the Sabbath, to which He replied that He is Lord of the Sabbath. (Matthew 12, Mark 3, Luke 6, Luke 13, Luke 14, John 5, John 7) He was given authority from the Father to forgive sins. (Matthew 9, Mark 2, Luke 5) The “crime” with which He was convicted was the “blasphemy” of claiming to be God’s Son. He accepted worship because He is one with the Father. Those who refused to believe were not interested in the truth, but only in condemning Him and retaining their power over the people. (Matthew 23, Mark 2:27-28, Luke 6, Luke 13:10-17) He is the Word who was with God and was God before the beginning of the world. (John 1:1-2, John 17:5) He is the Alpha and Omega. (Revelation 1) When people mistakenly worshiped anyone other than God in the Bible, they were chastised. (Acts 10:25-26, Acts 14, Revelation 22:8-9) No one was ever chastised for worshiping Jesus.  Those who worship the beast and take his mark in the hour of trial coming on the whole world will be punished in the Lake of Fire eternally. (Revelation 19:20)

“I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”  They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” John 8:18-19 

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.” John 8:42 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’  But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word.  Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”  So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”  Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”  So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. John 8:54-59

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;  and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:16-17 

He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him!” Matthew 17:5 

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.  For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,”  we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.  And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,  knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.  For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:16-21 

So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”  Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me,  but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”  The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.  Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?”  The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”  Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’?  If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—  do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?  If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me;  but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”  Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands. John 10:24-39

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”  Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”  Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.  Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.” John 14:6-11  “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” John 14:20 

And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?”  But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”  Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy.  What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Matthew 26:62-66 (Also Mark 14:61-64)

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them.  While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.  And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,  and were continually in the temple blessing God. Luke 24:50-53 

When the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they were terrified and said, “This man really was God’s Son!” Matthew 27:54 

Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!”  And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. Luke 23:47-48

My prayer is that each of our hearts will cleave to our Lord's heart and that our most intense desire would be to please Him. I pray that when He returns for us, whether it is for those who have passed away before us and all of us still living, or just our own time to go, that we are ready. “You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.” Luke 12:40 Let’s not let a day go by without thanking and praising God for all that He has done for us, for making us His dear children, for the promise He made that He will take us to be with Him forever and never cast us out.

“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." John 6:37-40

This is Part Seventeen of a series.  You may download the entire devotional in a "pretty" format here or in a basic, small file size format with highlighting here.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Beautiful, Part Sixteen

What is God like?

Any artist will tell you that they put their heart and soul into what they “create.” This includes artisans of all kinds—painters, sculptors, musicians, composers, authors, etc. So it is with God (except that He really creates whereas we only use what He gave us and copy Him). We can see his BEAUTIFUL character by what He made—the amazing variety, the perfect symmetry, the intricacy and fine balance of His designs, from the vastness of the scope to the finest detail. God has shown us what He is like. Everything He made was good and even very good, when it was finished. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Genesis 1:31

Despite the passing of thousands of years and the introduction of sin and decay long ago, His creation still displays how wonderful its Creator is. All we have to do is look around us at what He made (if we can see past the obstructions made by men). We need microscopes and telescopes to see much of it, yet we’ll never truly understand and fully appreciate everything.

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. Colossians 1:13-20

Have you ever given someone a gift and they didn’t even bother to acknowledge it, let alone thank you and tell you if they liked it or not? Didn’t it rob you of your joy in giving that gift? Imagine how God feels when we do that very same thing to Him! We constantly take the credit for things He has done, fail to be thankful for all of the blessings He gives to us, and we even complain incessantly. Not only is it shameful of us to treat our God that way, but it makes us look bad to the world–as if our Father doesn’t take care of us, or He didn’t teach us how to act any better than that. We are cheating God out of His joy. It’s a bad habit that has to stop! For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 1 Peter 2:15 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. Ephesians 5:4 (also see Romans 1:21 above.)

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. ...And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. ...Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 1:11-12, 3:15-17, 23-24

So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's. 1 Corinthians 3:21-23

God recorded for us in the Scriptures everything that we need to know—how it all came to be and even what is going to happen before it comes to pass. All Scripture is breathed out by God... 2 Timothy 3:16 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. John 14:29 He reveals Himself through His Holy Word—His character, His values, His nature. He tells us why we are here and what He desires of us—how to please Him and what He hates. (Proverbs 6:16-19) God’s adopted children are meant to be lights in this dark world, showing what He is like as well.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world... Philippians 2:14-15

Who started this rebellion against God?

Satan. He wants to be God, but having NO chance of success, he set out to bring low the crown of God’s creation. Man was created in God’s image, and so Satan has been attacking us out of hate for God ever since the beginning. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

“How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning! You have been thrown down to the earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world. For you said to yourself, ‘I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars. I will preside on the mountain of the gods far away in the north. I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High.’ Instead, you will be brought down to the place of the dead, down to its lowest depths. Isaiah 14:12-14

Satan’s favorite method of attack is lying. It has worked well for Him for thousands of years. Make no mistake, he is the one behind the big bang and evolution theories, abortion, the breakdown and redefinition of marriage, and the doubts cast upon gender identity and roles. These are all part of his offensive weapons against God. He doesn’t want us to realize who we really are—extremely valuable in God’s sight. He knows that human life will seem to have far less value to us if we think we came to be by accident and are no better than animals. And he doesn’t want us to realize his attacks are orchestrated, not just an “inevitable change of the times.”

...Did God really say?”... Genesis 3:1 But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God..." Genesis 3:3-5

“Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:43-33

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12

Eve was deceived, but she was still kicked out of the Garden of Eden, along with Adam, who was led astray by Eve. They both should have known better, but they made excuses just like people do to this very day. The man said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate." Then the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." Genesis 3:12-13 Those who are redeemed by the Lord will be permitted to eat from that tree in the future.

He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:24 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Revelation 22:14

Our sinful nature rebels against Him and yet He is patient, kind, long-suffering and slow to anger. God’s power is absolute, but He doesn't use it the way people do. Our use of power is tainted by sin—oppressing, abusing, deceiving and taking advantage of others. His power is matched by His infinite and perfect love and wisdom.

"Yet even now," declares the Lord, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments." Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. Joel 2:12-13

This is Part Sixteen of a series.  You may download the entire devotional in a "pretty" format here or in a basic, small file size format with highlighting here.