Is God for real?

Does God Exist?
 “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20, NIV)
  • Creation has been designed
  • Creation proves cause
  • Creation reveals a moral creator
Does God Care About Whether I Believe in Him or Not?
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV).
  • God’s love is unconditional
  • Belief in God brings eternal life
Does God Love Me?
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him” (1 John 3:1, NIV).
  • God’s love is a gift
  • God’s love compels our love
 “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:9-12, NIV).
  • God sent His own Son because He loves us so much
  • God atones (forgives) for our sin through the gift of Jesus
Does God Want Me to Be Happy?
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10, NIV).
Worldliness chokes out the happiness that is found in Christ
  • Jesus came so that Christians could live a full life
Does God Help Me Know Him Better?
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3, NIV).
  • His power is enough
He gives us everything we need
 “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8, NIV).
  • God is approachable
  • He will respond
Is God Enough for Me?
God is All-Powerful. “ For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16, NIV).
God is All-Knowing. “O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways” (Psalm 139:1-3, NIV).
God is Everywhere. “Can a man hide himself in hiding places So I do not see him?” declares the LORD “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the LORD. “Am I a God who is near,” declares the LORD, “And not a God far off?” (Jeremiah 23:23-24, NIV).
How Do I Know What God Wants Me to Do?
God has spoken His will for man.In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe” (Hebrews 1:1-2, NIV).
  • God has always communicated His will for man.
  • He has spoken in various ways and at different times.
  • Now He speaks to man through His Son.
Jesus selected specific writers to communicate His will through His Word.But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come” (John 16:13, NIV).
God communicated His will through His Spirit. “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26, NIV).
How Can I Find Out What God’s Will for My Life Is?
From belief in Jesus.I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13, NIV).
From His Word.All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV).


Does God love me?

Does God Speak Today?
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe” (Hebrews 1:1-2, NIV).
  • God Spoke in Times Past
  • God Speaks Today Through His Son
Does God Know Me Personally?
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God” (Luke 12:6-8, NIV).
  • God knows us personally
Has God changed through the years?

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100:5, NIV).
  • The love of God is enduring
The love of God passes through to every generation.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him” (1 John 3:1, NIV).
  • God blesses us with relationship with Him through Jesus
We are God’s family!
What Does Creation Tell Me About God’s Love?
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27, NIV).
  • God loves us
  • He created us in His own image

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world” (John 17:24, NIV).
  • God loves His son

Through relationship with Christ we know who God is, and how we can love Him in return.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” (Ephesians 1:3-5, NIV).
Who Is Jesus?
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV).
  • Jesus is God’s own son

Belief in Jesus brings eternal life,.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NIV).

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him” (1 John 4:8-9, NIV).
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:6, NIV).
How Do I Know God Loves Me?
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:10-11, NIV).

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10, NIV).

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4, NIV).

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:1-3, NIV).

How Can I Show My Love for God?
I can step out in faith and believe in Jesus.Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16, NIV).
I can be willing to make positive changes in my life to be pleasing to God.Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38, NIV).
I can courageously share my faith in Jesus with others.If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9, NIV).

I can make a life-commitment to Jesus by being baptized.  “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21, KJV).


Is the Bible for me?

How does God communicate His will to me today?
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe” (Hebrews 1:1-2, NIV).
  • God Spoke in Times Past
  • God Speaks Today Through His Son
How Does Jesus Speak Today?
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come” (John 16:13, NIV).
  • God’s Spirit guided the Apostles into ALL truth.
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26, NIV).

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21, NIV).
How Do We Know the Bible Reveals God’s Will?
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV).
  • God’s Will is Revealed Through His Word.
  • God’s Word is valuable for all of life’s circumstances.

How Do We Understand the Bible?
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth
” (2 Timothy 2:15, NIV).
  • Understanding the Bible takes some effort
  • Efforts to know God’s Word better will be rewarded.
Why Do We Trust the Bible?
  • We trust the Bible because it is historically accurate
  • We trust the Bible because it is consistent
  • We trust the Bible because it is scientifically accurate
Do We Follow the Old Testament or the New?
The Old Testament is valuable as a schoolmaster that points God’s people to His New Will in Christ.Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24, NIV).

The Old Testament was valuable as a tool to bring us to faith in Christ.But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (Galatians 3:25, NIV).

The Old Testament was done away with when Jesus died on the cross.having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross?” (Colossians 2:14, NIV).
How Does the Bible Help Me Understand God’s Will?
The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:7-11, NIV).
  • God’s Word is perfect.
  • God’s Word is enduring.
  • Knowledge of God’s Word brings reward.
What Does Knowing What the Bible Teaches Do for Me?
And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe” (1 Thess. 2:13, NIV).
  • The Bible Contains the Word of God.
  • God’s Word is at work in the lives of believers.

“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17, NIV).


Ever feel like you were invisible?

Years ago, there was a popular television show called “The Invisible Man.” Each week the audience was treated to a fanciful narrative describing humorous anecdotes from the life of a man who actually lived his life in secret, or invisible. From this perspective, numerous jokes arose illustrating the life of an invisible person. Why did the invisible man flunk math at school? He couldn’t count his fingers! How many children does the invisible man have? None. He’s not “apparent!” How do you know if have just walked into an invisible man? You start to hear a voice saying, “Watch where you are going!” These silly questions and answers illuminate an altogether more significant concern-what if a person feels like they are actually invisible?
Paul, the Apostle, wrote to Timothy about one who is invisible, and it isn’t you, or me. He emphasizes the invisible nature of God in 1 Timothy 1:17: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (NKJV). It is a reality, of course, that God is “Spirit” and His being is invisible to the naked eye. But, is this always the case? Is God always invisible?
In context, we understand that an important distinction between our perception of being invisible to others, and God’s invisible nature, must be made. Are we invisible? Of course not! Is God invisible? Absolutely! But if God’s nature is invisible, how can anyone ever see Him, or more importantly, develop faith in Him?
Here’s the theological underpinning of how our invisible God becomes quite visible:
From the very onset, there is with Paul an acknowledgement that he was a real jerk when he came to know Christ. However, God, according to Paul, “enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry” (NKJV). In the text he goes on to own his own “junk” revealing a greater work of grace on his life. “Although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (vs. 13-14).
Hence, Paul’s ignorance and unbelief caused his very visible traits, which in turn, ignited the grace of God. Where there is sin, there is a Savior. And, though our sins are very visible, our invisible God becomes extravagantly observable in the gifting of His grace. “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life” (vs. 15-16).
So, where does this leave us? We are not invisible, far from it. Our actions through ignorance or in willful sin, betray us every time. This is when God “shakes” His invisible nature and becomes visible in the redemption of our souls. He doesn’t overlook our sin, He forgives it by grace. In doing so, all eyes are directed at Him. It is no wonder we become like a “city that is set on a hill [which] cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14b, NKKV). I am visible. You are visible. And, most importantly, in the right circumstance, God is visible! This can only happen, of course, when we allow God to transform our lives revealing His, dare I say it, “visible” nature!


Ever experience a “Bushusuru” moment?

In 1992, while still enjoying a bump in the national opinion polls from his success in Desert Storm, President George Herbert Walker Bush took to the international stage. His much anticipated, and widely celebrated, trip to Japan was intended to highlight his diplomatic prowess and world-wide popularity. During a televised state dinner with Japan’s Prime Minister, President Bush became very ill and vomited all over the Prime Minister after which he collapsed to the floor. As it turns out, he quickly recovered from his ailment and completed the meal. However, a new slang word became popular in Japan which describes vomiting on someone called “Bushusuru.” Simply put, it means “to do the Bush thing.” I suppose it goes without saying, but who would want to be known as one who “does the Bush thing” and vomits all over other people?
I’m sure you have a few people like this in your lives. They are the people who bottle up feelings and emotions only to release them at will all over you. They feel entitled as though they have a “right” to speak their mind whether it soils the hearts of others, or not. But what if “they” becomes “me” and I end up doing the same thing? What does the Bible instruct our hearts to do with spiritual illness and immaturity that results in “Bushuru” moments?
A happy life results from developing the ability to “bite your tongue.” “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies” (1 Peter 3:10, NLT).
Learning to say the right thing at the right time arises out of gracious, or grace-filled, conversation. “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone” (Colossians 4:6, NLT).
Cautious, even deliberate, communication is an encouragement to others, not a detriment. “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (Ephesians 4:29, NLT).
Develop the “class” to “shut up every chance you get! “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut” (Proverbs 10:19, NLT). Limit your conversations to few words. You don’t have to share everything you know, after-all. “A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent” (Proverbs 17:27-28, NLT).
In the end, a conscientious soul owns his own junk without dumping it on others. We don’t have the “right” to throw up all over the people in our lives. Conversely, we have the responsibility to control what we say making certain that what comes out of our mouths is uplifting, and never discouraging. “If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless” (James 1:26, NLT).


How can I tell if someone has true faith, or not?

Faith is measured by God by what a person believes, but more importantly, how he lives his life. “How would I know that I have faith?” “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Romans 12:3, NIV).
People who have faith have it because they faithfully follow God’s Word. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17, NIV). To hear the promises of God everyday will surely build your faith. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV). “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, NIV).
People who have faith build their reward by living the way God desires. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6, NIV).
People who have faith live by faith. Their actions prove their faith. To know what it means to live by faith, you should know what faith means. Romans 1:17 says, “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” If a person claims to have faith, but is hateful, he does not have faith. “He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (I John 2:9-11, NIV).
If a person “talks big” (brags) about faith, yet doesn’t follow the truth of God’s Word, they are deceiving themselves, and others. “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him” (I John 3:18-19, NIV).
Faith filled followers of Jesus are lovers of God’s people. The faith-less claim to have faith, but then reject other believers to suit their own purposes. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (I John 5:2-3, NIV).
Having faith doesn’t imply that we will always live perfectly. Satan still operates in the world, trying to bring Christians down. We will stumble at times. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (I John 1:8-10, NIV). In the end, the difference between a child of God and a child of Satan is that God’s children pick themselves up after they fall and try to live righteously again.


Six things Satan cannot do to rob your faith!

Satan cannot force you to sin, it is your choice. “It’s my own lusts, desires, and selfish wants that make sin appealing enough to cause me to step into it. The more I justify my desires and wants, the more I will want to sin in order to get them” (James 1:13-15, NIV). My free will causes me to sin. The devil can’t make me do anything. Satan may place a bad idea in front of me, but it’s my own fault if I step into it. Sometimes, I only see the full consequences after I fall.
Satan cannot take away your will to grow your faith. God will always give you the power to withstand temptation when you ask Him. But you need to remember to pray and ask God for that strength. I can sometimes think that I’m standing strong when I’m actually standing in my own pride and determination. Then, I will soon fall. But when I lean on God and His strength, He is faithful to help me to walk right on by any temptations that threaten me (1 Corinthians 10:12-13).
Satan cannot continue harassing your faith once you have rejected and resisted him. Satan can whisper that I deserve better; he can invite me to get what I want the quickest, easiest way possible. He can even make lies sound truthful. However, once I make up my mind that I’m going to do it God’s way, Jesus will give me the power to follow through with my commitment and Satan has to flee. James 4:7 says that when I submit myself to God and resist Satan’s schemes, he will flee.
Once I embrace Christ by faith, Satan cannot control me anymore. When I allowed God into my soul, He locked the door behind Him. I have to say yes to Satan’s whispers, lies, and temptations in order for them to have any power in my life. Unfortunately, sometimes I do still agree with those lies—at least in a particular moment. But even after I’ve stepped in the wrong direction, I can retreat, repent, and head back to the One that my soul really loves.
Satan cannot steal your faith. Job lost everything: friends, kids, wife, status, and health, but he never lost his faith in God. Sure, he had a lot of questions. He also didn’t understand why God had allowed such things. But he stayed faithful to God. When I put on the entire armor of God daily (Ephesians 6:13-17), I am protected by a belt of truth as well as God’s righteousness. Shoes of peace cover my feet and help me to share the good news. A shield of faith stops arrows of lies that come at me. A helmet of salvation gives me confidence to go forward. And God’s Word is given to me as ammunition. Then, I can stand firm against Satan’s lies.
Satan cannot rob you of God’s love and forgiveness. Although I am fighting in the great battle of good vs. evil, I am able to hold my ground because God is on my side. God gives me eternal life and I will never perish. Problems will arise in my life, but in the long run they will seem much smaller. No one can snatch me away from God’s love (including Satan), for my Father in Heaven is more powerful than anyone or anything. His Hand will hold me securely (John 10:28-29).


Lord, I’m concerned about my faith. How can I learn to love you more?

If you are feeling this way, you have already begun the journey towards a deeper faith and abiding love for God. First, you have admitted that you feel a “faith problem” has kept you from the love you desperately desire. And second, you recognize that the remedy is learning how to love God in a deeper, more profound, way. In this spiritual conundrum you may be tempted to feel you are all alone, but nothing could be further from the truth. Most, if not all, Christians feel this way from time to time. So, “buckle up” for a mini-journey into the indescribable quest of knowing and loving God more.
It all begins with delight. The Christian life the New Testament describes simply cannot be lived if our hearts do not love and treasure God.
No one sells all they own for a field, unless it holds a much more valuable treasure (Matthew 13:44).
No one forsakes sin to trust and obey Jesus, unless his salvation holds out far more pleasure than sin (Luke 19:8–10).
No one will — and no one can — draw near to God without believing He richly rewards those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).
No one counts their own righteousness as loss, unless they believe Jesus’s righteousness is the only thing that grants him the inexpressible joy of knowing the Father (Philippians 3:9–10).
No one leaves “houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands” for Jesus’s sake without the incentive of a far greater reward (Matthew 19:29).
No one willingly suffers for Jesus’s sake, unless he believes his afflictions aren’t worthy to be compared with the eternal weight of glory awaiting him (2 Corinthians 4:17).
You might be discouraged at this point, because your capacity to delight in God seems so small. Don’t despair or beat yourself up with condemnation. I feel the same way, and so does every Christian I’ve ever met. We all need and want more love for God.
And here’s the great good news: God wants to enlarge our capacity for joy-filled love for Him. He expresses this clearly through prayers in Scripture. The apostle Paul loves to pray for more, both for himself and for his churches. Here’s how he prayed for the Philippians: “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9–11, NIV).
We are not destined to live the rest of our lives with small love and small faith. God wants more for us, and he wants us to ask Him for it with persistence. “But let me tell you, even if he won’t get up because he’s a friend, if you stand your ground, knocking and waking all the neighbors, he’ll finally get up and get you whatever you need. “Here’s what I’m saying: Ask and you’ll get; Seek and you’ll find; Knock and the door will open” (Luke 11:8–9, The Message). So, let’s ask and not lose heart, and He will answer our prayer! (Luke 18:1).


If you are fearful of the storms of life, how do you feel about the calm?

Recently a celebrated and admired life-coach to the rich and famous identified the greatest barrier to success to be fear of failure. Fear of change, fear of failure, and even fear of success sometimes paralyzes people keeping them from the goals they desire. For example, the “millennial” experiences fear of being independent from family to the extent that they avoid opportunities for advancement and shun independence. Likewise, parents are sometimes are fearful that their children will no longer love them if they are disciplined, so they try to be best friends instead. In either case, fear causes failure.
During the ministry of Christ, we witness first-hand just how powerful a force fear can be in people’s lives. In Mark 4:35-41 we learn of an occasion in which the Disciples and Jesus found themselves traveling at night across the Sea of Galilee when a storm appeared. This sudden storm, common to the region, came about quickly when “there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat” (Mark 4:37, NASB).
The word translated “gale” refers to the momentum of the storm as that similar to a mighty whirlwind, or hurricane. Needless to say, the storm Jesus and his disciples experienced was likely the fiercest , most dangerous, one they had ever seen. It’s no wonder Jesus inquired of them after they had awakened him from sleep, “why are you so afraid?” Clearly, they were terrified about the storm occurring outside the boat and were nearly paralyzed with fear.
The surreal scene unfolds as the Lord of the universe commands the wind and the waves to “be still.” We know from the language used that the calm that occurred was immediate, and complete. Not a ripple of water stirred in the Sea after Jesus’ command. It is within the calm of the moment that faith came into focus, or lack thereof.
It is interesting that Jesus places the blame of their fear on a lack of faith. He said emphatically, “do you still have no faith?” After Jesus said this to his Disciples, it says that they became “very much” afraid. In other words, the storm that happened outside the boat caused them to be afraid, but it was the reality that the one who is greater than the storm was, in fact, inside the boat!
Fear arises out of impending peril from a hurricane-force storm, but it also arises out of the realization that the same one who created the elements themselves, even the storm, is actually in the boat with us! What does this mean practically for me, and the storms of my life?
Fear causes stunted spiritual growth. Jesus said, “why do you still have no faith” (Mark 4:40, NASB).
Fear keeps us from trusting in Jesus. When we experience storms, we fail to trust in him to see us through. The “calm” he provides reveals the awesome power of God to save.
Fear prevents us from reaching our full potential. Whether you are afraid of the storm, or even the one who calms the storm, success in life depends on a deep abiding faith.
The truth is that fear keeps us from experiencing not only respite from the storms of our lives, but more importantly, it keeps us from true faith in the one who calms the storms. The Lord said, “fear not, for I am with you” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB).


Uh oh! I think Satan may have “friended” me on Facebook!

Although social media has no doubt changed the way we think and live, but how beneficial is that for those in Christ? Social media can be an effective platform for the spread of the gospel. There are plenty of Christ-centered resources in the online community that I use on a daily basis to help me grow spiritually. But if we’re honest, we probably spend a small portion of our time advancing our spiritual growth, while the rest is spent on aimless scrolling. We spend hours a day consuming endless information, pictures, and videos without any safeguard for our minds. For Christians, this can become dangerous territory. After all, Satan is described as going about like “a lion seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8, NIV).
Satan uses Facebook to destroy your marriage. It starts with a “like” here, and a “like” there. She’s only a friend. You justify the innocent interaction of the “like” button because it doesn’t cross any solid lines. Sooner or later you are hiding conversations from your spouse. Before you know it, you’re involved in a mental, perhaps even a physical affair. Many studies show that Facebook is the most common place that an affair starts.
Satan uses Facebook to dominate your thoughts. Aimlessly scrolling through the mind-numbing newsfeed is one of the most dangerous things a Christian can do. We live in a pornographic culture and it is almost impossible to avoid while scrolling. Couple that with the ease of giving into lustful thoughts and it’s a disaster for holy living. The temptation to scroll back up for one more look is even more dangerous because it’s privately done. Satan will whisper that it’s okay to look because there’s no harm. Who’s going to know? It can be your little pet sin. Matthew 5:8 tells us that the “pure in heart will see God!” Keep your heart pure and fixed on the Father. Get rid of anything that might hinder that. It’s absolutely worth it, and absolutely deadly if you don’t. “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7, NIV).
Satan uses Facebook to occupy all your time. Social media is a very handy tool that Satan uses to rip your attention and affection from God. If you compare your daily amount of time spent on Facebook to prayer, how does it measure up? Psalm 1 tells us the blessed man meditates day and night on the Word of God. How can we know what to pray unless we meditate on His Word? How can we read the Word, much less meditate on it day and night if we’re constantly scrolling through social media? We’re simply choosing the pleasures of this world rather than spending time with the God of the universe. It’s that simple. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14, NIV).
Satan uses Facebook to create self-worship. I don’t mean devil worshiping as in pentagrams, black robes, or any of that garbage. What I’m talking about is much more subtle and inward-focused. Social media can train us to worship the idol of self. We essentially create mini shrines of ourselves, striving for praise via the almighty “like.” Satan wants you focused on yourself. If you’re inward-focused, you won’t be focused on Jesus. Satan wants your source of self-worth to only be found in the empty praise and attention of others, not the atoning blood of Christ. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3, NIV).
Facebook is your friend when you use it to God’s glory. It should never be the place to air out personal grievances, to say things in the cyber-world you wouldn’t say face to face, and certainly not the place to have an illicit affair. In 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul tells us to glorify God in whatever we do. This includes social media. We can either wield Facebook for God’s glory, or Satan’s.


A hidden king and a pool of blood!

So, what’s in a name? Expecting couples scour the internet looking not just for a name for their new edition, but more precisely, the perfect name. Girl’s names, boy’s names, all have something in common. They not only identify the recipient, but also describe them. Given my last name (“Price”), we were encouraged to name our child “Half (Price),” or “Sale (Price),” by not-so-funny friends. But, given the history of mankind, there are a couple of names widely avoided by those “in the know.” Few people would name their little girl “Jezebel,” or their son “Ahab,” for example. This wicked pair were rightly regarded as the evilest pair ever to rule Israel.
It was the prophet Elijah who first exposed their wickedness, but others would soon follow suit. Their reputation, and their wickedness, was evident for all to see. It’s no wonder Elijah took such a visible stand against them. When Elijah pronounced God’s judgement on them, though they were at the height of their power, he forever sealed their fate.
King Ahab devised a scheme in which he could be hidden, at least to the enemy. He struck a deal with Jehoshaaphat, King of Judah, wherein he would disguise himself to the enemy. The enemy then, armed for battle, were not looking for a common soldier, but only the king himself. Ironically, when the armies of the king of Aram saw Jehoshaaphat dressed in his royal clothing, they turned to attack him, but when he “cried out” (surrendered), they spared his life because he wasn’t Ahab, the king of Israel.
Ahab’s scheme to remain hidden, however, didn’t fool the armies against him. A marksman took his bow and shot at random a Soldier that just so happened to be king Ahab himself. It was just a crack in his armor that did him in, but once the arrow hit its target there was no hope for survival. Here’s the gruesome part. King Ahab, clutching to life, directed his chariot to retreat where he spent the whole day bleeding to death. The Bible says that “he died at evening, and the blood from his wound ran down his body to the floor of the chariot. Ahab died in a pool of his own blood” (1 Kings 22:35, NASB).
It gets even worse. After his death, his blood-soaked chariot was brought to the pool of Samaria where the “dogs licked his blood” (1 Kings 22:38, NASB). To add insult to injury, this particular pool was the location where the prostitutes bathed. How’s that for a tragic end to a despicable life? What do we learn from the death of a wicked king? First, no one can escape the judgement of God for nothing is hidden from Him. Second, no one can escape the consequences of a wicked life. And third, the bloody aftermath of wickedness affects everyone, even the innocent.
What is God telling us in this odd, but all too real, tale? Is it simply that the wicked will be punished and suffer for their sins? Or, is there something to this whole pool of blood thing?
I’m reminded of another person on a different afternoon, in a place not too awfully far from the pool of Samaria. He was the crucified innocent lamb, but His blood was spilt not for a single sin of His own. His blood dripped, then poured, from His body until he breathed His last. But this King of Kings is not hidden, nor is He guilty. By His blood, we are cleansed. We gather at the “pool” of the cross and partake in His salvation. And, this is not hidden! It is a spectacle of grace and the fulfillment of a sacred promise.


The Shiloh Supper: A call to impatient praise!

It was more than a meal, it was a yearly feast at Shiloh where Elkanah had brought his two wives, Phinennah and Hannah, for a sacrifice. In the course of tradition, Elkanah gave a portion of food to his wife who had bourn him sons, but to Hannah who hadn’t, he gave a double portion. Vexed as she was because of her barrenness, Hannah could not complete her supper at Shiloh, and instead, left the table to retreat to a place of prayer. Surely the Lord would hear her prayer of anguish and bless her accordingly.
While in surrendered prayer to the Father, she prayed in silence moving only her lips to convey her requests to God. Eli, who had been watching nearby, assumed she was drunk for only the righteous pray out loud. When confronted she answered his charge and clarified her intentions.
She had prayed these words to the Father: “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head” (1 Samuel 1:11, NIV). What an audacious request during what most would consider the most inopportune moments. The reality of her circumstance so troubled her heart that she couldn’t fully participate in the Shiloh supper. She had been given a double portion because of the unfairness of her predicament and was even accused of being intoxicated. At this point in the narrative should we feel sorry for her, or, question the decision to exchange tradition for personal gain?
When we find ourselves broken and in desperate need of an answer from God, what are we to do? Should we pretend and go through the motions of faithfulness, or, do what Hannah did?
As we “unpack” this narrative we are faced with some obvious truths. First, life moves on regardless of our personal anguish. Second, depression is a normal human response to anxiety. And third, God is the appropriate object of worship and recipient of praise even when the answer seems elusive. Jesus instructs His children to “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” Matthew 7:7-8, NIV).
James, the half-brother of Jesus, said about the subject of persistence: “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:6-7, NIV). It makes a difference what you believe when you pray. If you believe that God is able, but also that He is willing, your persistent prayer will be answered.
Hannah received an answer to her impatient prayer because it was important to her to be heard, but also answered. Her faith commitment to dedicate her child to the Lord should He answer her prayer is much more than a down payment of desire. In other words, it’s not that she wanted it so badly, it’s that the faith of her heart depended on God to gift her by grace.
Have a persistent prayer? Step away from the table, offer God the desires of your heart, and see what He does in response.


Empty Worship: When God has had enough!

It’s Sunday morning and the sights and sounds of worship are unmistakable. Individuals from every corner of the community are gathered together in an assembly of worship. Each, from his or her own life experiences, brings to the sacred gathering an offering of praise, of devotion, of commemoration, and of sacrifice. This collective expression is rooted, however, in the heart of each worshipper individually. Each one participating to bring glory to God, or perhaps, for another reason altogether.
Some people worship because of habit. At some point they made a decision to be faithful in their attendance to worship and have ever since habitually been present. But are they? Present, I mean. Others worship out of a sense of guilt. They reluctantly participate because they feel they have to. What would family and friends think if they did otherwise? Still others worship from a disposition of obedience. They have determined that God wants them to worship and that it is pleasing to Him when they do.
The prophet Isaiah uncovers a disturbing truth about God’s disposition when worship is done for the wrong reason. Our Lord declares: “When you come to worship me, who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony? Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me! I want no more of your pious meetingsI cannot stand them!” (Isaiah 1:12-14)
There appear to be two issues that conspire to invoke God’s judgment regarding worship, and worshippers. First, there is the way (how) we worship. And second, there is the why (motive) we worship. An individual can be faithful in worshipping in the way God instructs us to worship, but still not be pleasing to God. Consequently, the “why” an individual worship can get lost in the “trappings” of worship.
So, when did worship become empty in the current culture? Perhaps our story is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. Like the children of Israel, we have the “forms” of worship down pat. We know what to do, but do we embody “why” we should do them.
Apparently, even God has His limits. He observes the empty worship of “going through the motions” and it troubles Him to the point of turning a “deaf” ear to our praise. He sees our pageantry (entertainment) driven worship as empty and without meaning. Worship such as this is a waste of time, and energy.
The truth about worship that is pleasing to God is that it must be transformative rather than a matter of habit, guilt, or even obedience. God’s people worship not because they have to, but because they want to.
The worshipper, then, doesn’t crawl into worship, but more nearly, leaps into it. Of this, God never gets enough! Why do you worship? Is it because your soul aches for communion with a loving Father? Why we worship matters to God.
Authentic worship is… worshippers expressing praise because they cannot get enough of Him!


What happens when God invites a “dead dog” to His table?

I bet you never thought you’d ponder this subject, huh? Inviting a “dead dog” to the table seems a bit morbid, if not downright absurd. The table is place of dining, conversation, and even thanksgiving; but never a place for a “dead dog.” Believe it or not, there is an occasion in Scripture when God did just that-invited a “dead dog” to His table, and there’s an important lesson to be learned as a result.
Here’s the back story that creates a mental picture hard to ignore. In 2 Samuel 9:1-13, we read the story of King David having a conversation with one of Saul’s servants. At this point in the story, Saul, Israel’s first King, had died in disgrace and David, his successor, was seeking out whether any of Saul’s leftover servants were worthy of redemption. When he discusses this with a man named Ziba, he discovers that one of Johnathan’s sons was still alive, and worthy of a shot at grace. Johnathan, or course, was Saul’s son, but more importantly, had been a treasured friend of David. They literally grew up together.
Mephibosheth, the servant in question and grandson of Saul, was exactly the kind of servant David was inquiring about. David’s desire was to find someone, anyone, from Saul’s reign worthy of receiving God’s mercy. Mephibosheth was just such a servant, but there was a catch. He was crippled in both of his legs.
When called by King David to appear before him, Mephibosheth posed this odd question: “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?” What an odd thing to say, don’t you think? Perhaps his self-deprecating image of a “dead dog” referred to his lack of usefulness to the King because of his disability,” or, that his position as a forgotten servant of a dead King rendered him useless, or “dead?” There are many truths to derive from this encounter.
First, there is always room at the table of God’s provision for more. Second, despite a person’s past, they are still worthy of fellowship at the table of God’s mercy. Third, despite possessing a low spiritual self-esteem, individuals can find a warm welcome among others at the table of grace.
All of these lessons are important, but how to they relate to you? Is there any comfort in this encounter? Is there any grace left after so much water has passed under the bridge?
I suppose it’s fair to say that most everyone feels a bit like a useless “dead dog” when invited to the Lord’s table of grace and mercy. Our past, our circumstances, even our physical limitations, conspire to keep away from the table altogether. We may even ask ourselves, “why me, Lord?”
To which the Lord replies, “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed” (Hebrews 12:12-13, NIV). “Dead dogs” are invited to the table because they matter to God, and most importantly, they find healing in Him. Abba Father, give us the grace of receiving… grace!


Making Amends: How God atones for the damages of sin.

Years ago, a conscientious soul, broken from the disease of alcoholism, established what we now refer to as Alcoholics Anonymous. His name was Bill Wilson, but around the “tables,” he was known simply as “Bill W.” He, along with his partner “Dr. Bob,” developed the “Twelve Steps” that millions hold dear to this day. Each step leading to the next is a milestone, but more precisely, a point of confession and action. These steps form a basis upon which a soul can first understand the gravity of personal responsibility, then move towards reconciliation with others, and reconciliation with God (higher power). The end result is sustainable sobriety, but the alcoholic understands that making amends is essential to wholeness and reconciliation.
In Leviticus chapter six, we learn that God has also placed in reach of seekers a divine process of restitution. In this exercise, souls are described as not only harming themselves with the aftermath of sin, but also harming those around them.
“Suppose you cheat in a deal involving a security deposit, or you steal or commit fraud, or you find lost property and lie about it, or you lie while swearing to tell the truth, or you commit any other such sin. If you have sinned in any of these ways, you are guilty” (Leviticus 6:2-4, NLT).
This list of sin goes on and on and illustrates that the trail of spiritual indiscretion affects everyone, particularly those closest to us. How does a person go about making things right, or, make amends?
“You must make restitution by paying the full price plus an additional 20 percent to the person you have harmed. On the same day you must present a guilt offering. As a guilt offering to the Lord, you must bring to the priest your own ram with no defects” (Leviticus 6:5-6. NLT).
This “payback” function of reconciliation involves personal accountability, but also a willingness to right the wrongs inflicted on others. Such is also the case in our lives. Without making amends, there can be no forgiveness. This also means there can be no healing.
Sometimes people think that grace provides an umbrella of forgiveness through which no amends are necessary. God’s grace covers ours sins, therefore we can “reboot” and move on, right?
The text offers a different process for redemption. Once the moral inventory of life illuminates our sin, responsibility causes the penitent soul to make things right first, then, seek the Lord’s forgiveness. In the Old Testament the process was clear: “Through this process, the priest will purify you before the Lord, making you right with him, and you will be forgiven for any of these sins you have committed” (Leviticus 6:7, NLT).
So, not a “twelve-stepper?” Perhaps you should start. In doing so, you might find yourself at the altar of God’s grace having fully made amends to others embracing a greater truth.


Four Steps to Forgiveness

A Sunday School teacher had just concluded her lesson and wanted to make sure she had made her point. She said, “Can anyone tell me what you must do before you can obtain forgiveness of sin?” There was a short pause and then, from the back of the room, a small boy spoke up. “Sin,” he said. The young boy got the picture didn’t he? He knew that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NIV). This means we each are in the same condition-sinners in need of forgiveness.
The good news about forgiveness is that Jesus wants His people to be forgiven of sin and has done everything possible to accomplish this-even death on the cross. “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you” (Acts 13:38, NIV). Therefore, “blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered” (Psalm 32:1, NIV).
We each can gain access by faith into grace which makes God’s forgiveness possible. When we believe, confess, repent, and are baptized we accept by faith the free gift of God’s grace and are saved. However, our lives can, and do, become entangled in sin again. What do we do in order to access the continual cleansing God can provide?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal every sin. “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24, NIV).
Confess each sin specifically. “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13, NIV).
Make amends to others when necessary. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).
Accept God’s forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NIV). God assures us in this exercise of grace that we will be continually cleansed through the daily living out of faith. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7, NIV).


Eight ways to bring Christ back into Christmas!

Give God one very special gift just from you to Him. Let this gift be something personal that no one else needs to know about, and let it be a sacrifice. David said in 2 Samuel 24 that he would not offer a sacrifice to God that cost him nothing. Maybe your gift to God will be to forgive someone you’ve needed to forgive for a long time. You may discover that you’ve given a gift back to yourself. Perhaps your gift will be to commit to spending time with God daily. Or maybe there is something God has asked you to give up. Make this your most important gift of the season.
Set aside a special time to read the story of the birth of Christ in Luke 1:5-56 through 2:1-20. Consider reading this account with your family and discussing it together.
Plan a project of good will this Christmas. A few years ago, my family adopted a single mom for Christmas. She was barely making ends meet and didn’t have money to buy gifts for her small child. Together we bought gifts for both mother and daughter and replaced their broken down washing machine the week of Christmas.
Give a surprise gift of service to each member of your family. Jesus taught us to serve by washing the disciples feet. He also taught us that it is “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35, NIV). Giving an unexpected gift of service to members of your family demonstrates Christ-like love and service. You might consider giving a back rub to your spouse, running an errand for your brother, or cleaning out a closet for your mother. Make it personal and meaningful and watch the blessings multiply.
Set aside a time of family devotions on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. Before opening the gifts, take a few minutes to gather together as a family in prayer and devotions. Read a few Bible verses and discuss as a family the true meaning of Christmas.
Attend a “Christmas Service.”
Send Christmas cards that convey a spiritual message. This is an easy way to share your faith at Christmas time. If you’ve already bought the reindeer cards—no problem! Just write a Bible verse and include a personal message with each card.
Write a Christmas letter to a missionary, a preacher, a teacher or someone else who has impacted your life for the better. Everyone needs encouragement, especially those who selflessly minister to the needs of others.


Are you feeling salty?

Picture yourself sitting at the dining room table with family and friends for a big meal. On the table are all of the seasoned dishes you enjoy most. They have been carefully cooked according to long held family recipes and the combined aroma makes your stomach ache. With the passing of each course, you fill your plate until it is overflowing. As you secure your first bite you notice something odd. The first bite seems a bit bland as do all of the bites to follow. You quickly remedy the situation by requesting the salt be passed to you so you can further season your meal. Your meal to follow is not only seasoned appropriately, but tastes delicious. Salt makes all the difference in the world, don’t you think?
If you add salt to your meal, you are not alone. Last year alone the United States produced 43 metric tons of salt for various uses. Believe it or not, over eighty-percent of all salt produced was marketed and used for industrial purposes, not for consumption. World-wide salt for consumption by people is estimated at six-percent. So salt fuels everything from salt licks for cattle, to industrial cleaning applications, to melting snow and ice on the ground. Dare I suggest that without salt the world is an unproductive unsavory place? It is, therefore, no surprise that Jesus used salt as a metaphor to describe His followers. “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt has lost its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men,” (Matthew 5:13, NIV). You are the salt of the earth, which means you are valuable. Just as salt appears in various forms to accomplish a wide variety of purposes, God has seasoned you to be fruitful and to serve faithfully. By being “salty” we become a catalyst for positive change regardless of our circumstances. To be ”salty” is to be useful for God’s purposes.
What happens when a follower of Christ loses his saltiness? First, he is no longer distinguished from the world. He is just like everyone else. Which means an ”unsalty” person is bland and makes no real difference in this world. Jesus says that when this happens it is too late to reverse the outcome. Second, the unsalty are only good to be trampled on by others and lead boring mundane lives. To be salty is to live a full enriched life filled with promises and blessings.
How do I know when I have either lost my saltiness, or, are in the process of losing it? When your heart no longer pounds at the saving good news of the God’s Word, then the process is underway. The Good News is that being salty is within your reach and God can use people who have a “salt problem” regardless of their condition. Be “salty.” God desires you to flavor this world with His Spirit in you.


I know how to handle the good days, but how do I handle the bad?

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).Life’s like that. Just about the time you think you have it all figured out, some new adventure disrupts your confidence and flies in the face of your conclusions. Nobody has life figured out.
Here are some practical suggestions for you to consider:
Don’t run from trouble – You can’t go fast enough. Trouble will find you. Face it head-on and with determinate faith. There is no temptation bigger than you can bear if you put your confidence in God (1 Cor. 10:13). And there’s no problem that can’t be solved if you keep in touch with your spirituality. Even the fear of death is conquerable if you have sufficient trust in your Master (Heb. 2:14-16, 1 Cor. 15:51-58).
Don’t let discouragement rob you – Discouragement is one of the Devil’s most functional tools. It wrestles a man down by robbing him of his faith, and in doing so, saps his energy to keep on. It strikes every age, every spiritual level. It causes faith to flag and determination to become impotent. It’s a power-grabber, discouragement is. But faith is still the answer. Trusting confidence in God will triumph over discouragement. But, you have to engage it. You have to shove your faith in front of the discouragement before it can conquer it. Listen to what God said: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). Do you believe it?
Remember, down doesn’t have to mean out – Just because you lose a battle now and then doesn’t mean you’ve lost the war. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back into the life again. There’s work to be done, people to see, prayers to make, lessons to learn. Activity is the key to winning. Don’t ever quit. Only the weak quit. “Brethren, I count no myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Paul, in Phil. 3:13-14). “I press,” said Paul. You must do so too, for he closes the admonition with “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded.” Are you?
And remember, most of all, that you and God make a majority – There is no force on earth strong enough to separate you from His love and to keep you out of His kingdom. Not even death itself can do it. Certainly, we may boldly say, “…the Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do to me.” Paul said, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us.” Stay with God and you can’t lose, folks.
And finally, remember that Solomon said, “In the day of prosperity rejoice; in the day of adversity consider, for God hath set the one over against the other…” (Eccles. 7:14). Don’t try to second-guess Providence, or ask “why me?” Relax and let it happen. Don’t ask, “Why has God allowed this?” Rather, ask, “What does He want me to do with this?” Allow the good days to cause rejoicing. Allow the bad ones to increase your learning.
Life is happy for those who love God and are keeping His commandments, no matter what comes along. After all, life is constructed of two things: good days and bad days.


Is the grass always greener on the other side?

Years ago Erma Bombeck, prolific writer and comedienne, penned a book entitled, “The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank.” In the book, she describes the impossible situation that paralyzed her family all having to do with a malfunctioning septic tank located underneath the front lawn of her home. She noted in comic fashion that the grass is always greener over the broken septic tank.
We often find ourselves in search of greener grass on the other side of the fence, or over the septic tank, as it were. We are reminded of this when we read the story of Lot and Abraham in the Old Testament. When Abraham asked Lot which portion of the land he desired, Lot chose the fertile portion likely that possessed green grass. Like us, Lot simply wanted something better.
When the neighbor gets a new car, we automatically begin desiring one even better for ourselves. We might even be tempted to desire the same neighbor’s circle of friends, or other material blessings. Green grass in someone else’s life becomes an obsession in ours if we aren’t careful.
We fail to realize, however, that even though the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, it still has to be mowed, right? With blessings comes responsibility. The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5, NIV).
There is an art to being content in any circumstance. Paul makes this abundantly clear in Philippians 4:12-13: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Paul is teaching us a valuable lesson. First, Paul acknowledged that his needs were small in comparison with God’s will though he spent much of his ministry enduring horrific torture and imprisonment. Second, he reminds his readers that he has experienced both ends of the spectrum – living an abundant life, or one in need. Regardless, Paul explains in definitive ways that he is content in every situation because of God’s strength through Christ. And, it is Jesus who provides the inner strength to break the cycle of always looking for greener grass on the other side of the fence.
So, whose fence are you peering over in your life? Are you willing to set aside your current circumstance and instead trust in God to supply your needs? Make it a goal to be content in every situation giving God the glory for providing all that you need. Perhaps you will experience greener grass on your own side of the fence.


How do you hug a porcupine?

One of the sweetest most tender gifts God has blessed His people with is relationships in the Body. God could have chosen for us to follow Him solo without the support and help of others. However, God determined in His infinite wisdom to surround each of us with relationships in the Church. These relationships help us in a variety of ways.
First, relationships in the Church remind us that we are all imperfect and in need of the same thing-the blood of Jesus to cleanse us (Romans 3:23). Second, spiritual relationships empower us as we spur one another on to good works (Hebrews 10:25), Third, fellowship with each other empowers us in our own walk with Christ (1 John 1:7).
Having accepted the value of relationships in the church, we still must acknowledge an obvious truth. The truth is that though as Christians we love one another, sometimes we don’t always see eye to eye. At times we have genuine disagreements, at other times we have personality conflicts. In either case there develops a strain in these relationships. Sometimes we encounter a person who is hard to love. They are like a porcupine-very difficult to love. So, how do you hug a porcupine? The answer is…very carefully!
The good news is that God gives us instructions to how to love someone who is hard to love.
• Accept the current condition of their soul and remember that we are all made in God’s image for His purposes (Genesis 1:27). • Recognize that God isn’t done with us yet. We are all His workmanship and are constantly in a state of growth (Ephesians 2:10). • Forgive relationship missteps and offenses just as Christ forgives us all of our shortcomings (Luke 17:3). • Overlook the spiritual immaturity we observe in others, and instead, lead by example, not merely in words (1 Cor. 8:13). • Embrace wounded souls who are difficult to love and love them as God does (1 John 4:7-8).
Without a doubt, one of the most powerful tools Satan has at His disposal is division. If he can divide God’s family from each other, then He wins. If the church can be so dedicated to unity, to shared purposes, and to a common goal of Heaven, nothing can divide us.
So, when you encounter a brother or sister in Christ who is difficult to love, take heart. God’s greater plan of unity can erase the past and provide a new path to healthy relationships. Get out there and love the unlovable! You may have to hug that porcupine very carefully at first, but in the end, God can bring unity of spirit.


A casket full of sex tapes!

It has been reported in The Daily Caller (December 24, 2018) that Hugh Hefner, the infamous owner and publisher of Playboy, purposely placed all of his private sex tapes and documents in a cement-lined casket and buried it in the ocean just days before his death. Reportedly, the items buried contained video tapes, audio tapes, pictures and other memorabilia related to his extensive sexual escapes with scores of women through the years. Marylin Monroe, Pamela Anderson, and scores of other women were said to have appeared in the illicit material. Clearly, Mr. Heffner was trying to hide, or destroy, the evidence of a lifestyle he wished to be removed from his dubious legacy.
The real question is not what Mr. Heffner was hiding, but more importantly, why was he was hiding it? It is not uncommon, of course, that most of us will face feelings of regret for the mistakes of our past when we face our own mortality. Like Mr. Heffner, we sometimes go to great lengths to hide, or cover up, the sins of our lives. This reckless desire to rewrite history doesn’t really solve the problem, does it?
While most all of us recognize the fact that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), we often go to great lengths to hide or eliminate our sin which can cause us to be lost. Our “secrets,” though hidden from others, are unfortunately visible to our God. The natural law of sin we understand from the Bible is that the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), and that God sees what is done in secret. The Psalmist declares in agony “You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence” (Psalm 90:8, NIV).
So, at the beginning of our lives we exist in a state of sinlessness. Along the way we accumulate what every soul does-sins that separates us from the God we love. “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2, NIV). Whether we realize it or not, though we have hidden our friends from our sins, God sees what is done in secret. In other words, you cannot tuck away your sins in a casket and bury it in the ocean in order to remove your responsibility for committing them.
What am I to do with the truckload of sins that define my life? Like you, I have committed more sins in my life than I can even remember. In one way, or another, I have likely committed sins that I would just assume others not find out about, not even God. However, the reality is that my life is naked and bare before the God of the universe who knows me better than I know myself.
Thankfully, God has provided a way in which He himself will remove my sin once and for all.
Jesus the Christ was given to man as a gift-sacrifice in order to forgive sins. “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant” (Hebrews 9:15, NIV).
Individuals, sinners alike, can access the removal of sin by the grace of God. “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5, NIV).
Through the new birth (baptism), sinners can be saved from the sins they have been forgiven of. “And this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21, NIV).
As you face the reality of sin, and your own mortality, don’t bury your sins in a casket, instead, bury them in the watery grave of baptism with Jesus. Your faith including belief, repentance, and confession will allow you to be the recipient of a true and perfect promise. God is “faithful” and “just” and will forgive your sins (1 John 1:9).


“But Lord, I don’t want to be a Millennial!”

Through the years psychologists and anthropologists have determined characteristics that are shared by people who are born in certain time periods. “Baby Boomers,” for example, are defined as individuals who were born immediately following Word War II and during the military conflicts that followed. They have been described as religious, hard-working, dependable, patriotic, and were largely financially successful. Other labels have been used to describe the generations who followed. “Generation X,” and “Generation Next” followed them in the decades since.
Unfortunately, the current generation, referred to as “Millennials,” have faced some criticisms regarding the particular characteristics that define them at times. These characteristics often include decreased motivation for financial success, lack of financial independence from family, personal entitlement, minimal religious affiliation, and decreased patriotism. With the current political and societal environment, it’s no wonder why many who “fit” within this age group are desiring to “opt-out” and forge a new future.
If this is you, listen closely…
First, your value as a person doesn’t come from a group of people you happen to share a birthday with. Whatever generation you were born into, it is God who determines your value. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1a, NIV).
Second, you have the ultimate choice as to how you intend to spend your life. Only you can decide to be different, it won’t happen by accident. “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15a, NIV).
Third, you have an opportunity to make a real difference in this world if you really want to.  By sharing your faith. Ultimately the success of the gospel rests in the hearts and actions of each generation. You can make a difference. “Go ye therefore and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:18, NIV).
Fourth, you can determine to overcome the stigma some millennials have created by their actions. Become independent from your family. Make the tough choice to move out-and move up. Take responsibility for your own actions. Don’t wait for the world to provide for all your needs. Take ownership of your current circumstance and chart your own course in life. “His divine power has given us everything we need…” (2 Peter 1:3a, NIV).
So, why can’t “Millennials” become the next “Greatest Generation?” The answer is that there is no reason why they can’t! Perhaps the time has come for “Millennials,” like you or someone you know, to reshape the stigma into promise. So, “Millennials,” you got this! Now, go do it!