Showing posts with label God. Show all posts
Showing posts with label God. Show all posts

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Pile of Masks: Exposing Christian Hypocrisy ... Book Review

Dustin Renz (the author), was recently introduced at a speaking engagement as - a graduate of Teen Challenge, Southeastern University and Pure Life Ministries. Both Teen Challenge and Pure Life Ministries are residential Christian programs that assist in setting people free from addictions and bondage. The seasons the author spent in those two programs serve as book - ends for nearly ten years of running from God, much like the biblical prophet, Jonah. But like Jonah, the author too realized the desperate situation he was in and cried out to God for mercy.

The author grew up in a middle - class home. He had parents who loved him and they lived a comfortable life. The greatest attacks came not from inside his home, but outside. They moved to Florida from New York when he was in the second grade. It was that year - at age seven - he was first exposed to pornography. All throughout his childhood, pornography continued to be readily available to him, which became a deeply - rooted stronghold in his life.

He became friends with another young boy and frequently spent time at his house. It was there where he was first exposed to satanic music, Ouija boards, horror movies, violent games, hypnotism and even sexual experimentation.

He went to church as a child. He claimed to be a Christian, but he had not been born again.

When he was eleven years old, his parents announced to his siblings and him that they had decided to get a divorce.

He had always been a deeply emotional person and most of his friends were female. He still attended church, but he despised Christians and hated God.

He discovered that he had the talent to rap and began rapping at parties and writing songs.

He spent all weekend partying and all week getting high or drunk before and after school.

He graduated high school, left home and began living with friends so that he could do as he pleased. It became necessary to live in his car to live in his car after having burned all bridges with family and friends.

His father allowed him to stay with him for a couple of weeks to try to help him get straightened out. After a near overdose, he realized he was out of control, and agreed to go to a program called Teen Challenge.

In July of 2002, he found himself in the intake office of Teen Challenge in Tarpon Springs, Florida. He had told his dad on the way to the program that he was not going to let them "brainwash him with all of that Jesus stuff." It soon became evident that God had a different plan!

He experienced what Scripture promises to those who surrender their lives to the Lord: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" He fell in love with Jesus. For the next year, he could not get enough of the Bible. He spent hours in prayer and worship. There was no doubt he had a real encounter was with Jesus Christ!

After graduating from Teen Challenge, he once again enjoyed freedom to do as he pleased - something he soon discovered he was not prepared for. Before he knew it, an addiction to pornography head once again taken control of his life. It was then that he met a girl named Brittany at the Christian college he was attending, and they fell in love. When he confessed to her about the pornography, she made it clear that unless he got victory over that area, there was no future for them.

They got married in May 2005. He justified his secret life. He cried out to God over and over again: repenting, apologizing and promising to do better. Clearly, he was only giving the Lord lip service and empty promises.

Over the coming months, he fell further from God. Soon, he was drinking liquor and abusing prescription pills whenever he had the chance.

He began to visualize becoming famous in the music industry and he was confident that his career would take off soon.

Brittany and he got involved in youth ministry, and he became the Assistant Pastor of their church. Lust grew in his heart, and whenever he was depressed, he would still go back to satanic music in his head for comfort.

When him and his wife was accepted to go overseas to assist missionaries for two years, everything escalated. They began the process of raising the necessary funds to go. He had definite fears about relocating to a foreign country, but instead of taking those concerns to God, he returned with great fervor to the old empty cisterns of this world.

He persuaded himself that when he got overseas, the struggle would end.

Their first daughter, Abigail, was born in May of 2010. This drastic change in their lives caused him to panic. He knew he was not ready to be a father, and the weight of that responsibility was more than he could take.

His wife began sensing that something was not right in his life. He told her that he had been lying and carrying on a secret life during the entire seven years of their relationship. She was devastated and immediately told their superiors. They were flown back to the U.S. and asked to resign.

You would think this would have been enough to bring him to repentance, but instead he grew bitter. His wife took control of their finances and watched his every moment.

When he arrived at Pure Life Ministries in April of 2011, one of the counselors said he looked like a dead man. He only agreed to enter the program in the hopes of saving his marriage, which at that point was almost certainly going to end in divorce.

There was no network television in any of their homes. They were not consumed with the latest technologies like smart phones and video games.

This was the turning point and the Lord began to restore him.

Dustin now have an abundant life in Christ and he has truly become an overcomer.

But the Lord has opened his eyes to the reality that there is freedom for the addict, purity for the lustful, and righteousness for the wicked.

Adam and Eve's oldest son provides for us the earliest example of hypocrisy.

A lifestyle of hypocrisy was at the root of Jehovah's chosen nation, Israel. This can be seen throughout the Old Testament, from the time Moses led Israel out of Egypt, to the time of the Babylonian and Assyrian captivities. It was the people's unwillingness to be fully devoted to the Lord that resulted in countless trial and judgments.

Hypocrisy is the reason that the Israelites were called to make a decision throughout the Old Testament. Perhaps the most popular Scripture where a line is drawn in the sand occurs in the book of Joshua. At this point in history, the Israelites were just setting foot into the Promised Land, but they had already shown their divided hearts on several occasions.

They had absolutely no faith to believe that the God who rescued them from Egypt could provide for their needs.

Jehovah had been good to them and provided for them the whole way.

The Israelites have the choice to either serve the Lord or to worship other gods. There is no middle ground.

Scripture says in 1 John 4:8 that God is love. Our relationship with Him is born out of a response to His love for us. Continually in Scripture, the relationship of God and man is compared to a marital relationship.

Song of Solomon paints a beautiful picture of the intimacy enjoyed between a husband and wife (and, allegorically, of God and man). We are called the Bride of Christ and Jesus the Bridegroom in several places in the New Testament. The Holy Spirit could have used any metaphor to describe our relationship with Him, but He chose to relate it to a marriage.

Listen to the sound of a heartbroken God calling out to His people through the prophet Micah:

My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer me. I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery.

Jeremiah 2:19 sums up a truth he had found to be absolutely certain: "Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe of me ...

When it came to fighting against idolatry and syncretism in the Old Testament, there was one King who stood out above the rest. His name was King Josiah, and he took the throne of Judah when he was eight years old. He lived in a time when the land of Israel was divided into a northern and southern kingdom. The country was in a mess. Jehovah repeatedly sent prophets to the nation to try to get their attention and cause them to repent and turn back to Him. As we have discovered, Israel remained entrenched in idolatry and the worship of false gods.

Josiah became king a few years after Manasseh, who was one of the most wicked kings to ever rule in Israel.

During his reign, many people made idols for a living. There were full-time priests who served at the altars and temples of the false gods. Many in the land were enjoying the 'benefits' afforded to them by sacred prostitution. But Josiah did not fear men, he only feared the Lord and his actions proved it.

Josiah launches an all - out attack on idolatry.

Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did - with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.

1. adjective. emphasizing or observing the letter but not the spirit of religious law; self-righteous; sanctimonious
2. pretending to be highly moral or virtuous without actually being so; hypocritical

By The Close Of The Lord The Old Testament period, the nation of Israel had returned to their homeland after being held in captivity. Jehovah had allowed northern Israel to be exiled by Assyria in 721 B.C. Eventually, Judah was taken into exile by the Babylonians for 70 years. The period between the Old and New Testaments is a duration of four hundred years of prophetic silence. There was no Word from God to His people during this time.

Then John the Baptist appears on the scene and breaks the silence. Israel was ruled by the Roman Empire at this time and Rome stayed in power throughout the life of Jesus.

The Jewish community that Jesus was born into was not the same Israel He would have encountered had He been born one thousand years earlier. A person could cease visiting temple prostitutes and still be completely driven by lust inside. Remember, hypocrisy is always a heart issue.

The Pharisees were a very influential Jew party during Jesus' time on the Earth.

Historically, the people of Israel had broken even the most basic commandments by serving idols and foreign gods. It is important to understand that the sect of the Pharisees had good intentions. It is not fair to assume that every Pharisee was wicked, despite the descriptions given in the New Testament.

We also need to realize that there were some Pharisees who were on the right track. Some did love the Lord and honored Jesus, like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.

1. noun. a person who pretends to be what he or she is not; one who pretends to be what he or she is not; one who pretends to be better than they really are so; or to be pious, virtuous, etc. without really being so.

We Have Looked In-Depth At Hypocrisy in the lives of the Israelites in the Old Testament, and we have also encountered the double-minded Pharisees of Jesus' time. Neither the Israelites nor the Pharisees were born again believers, or even had a full knowledge of the New Covenant.

John Calvin was a follower of Christ with a great understanding of Scripture. He understood what the Bible teaches about looking for spiritual fruit. What he actually taught was that if you are genuinely converted, there has to be evidence of it in your life. He taught that true conversion was an irreversible decision on the Lord's part. He taught that the moment you are converted, your salvation is eternally secure. There would be no way for a true Christian to ever go back into habitual sin and fall away. That is not an option in Calvin's teaching.

Joseph Arminius was also a godly man who studied the Word of God. He agreed with Calvin that if you were truly saved, your life would have spiritual fruit as evidence. The major point they differed on - in regards to the permanence of salvation - is that Arminius believed that a person could fall so far away from God that they could 'lose' or 'reject' their salvation. He believed that humans had more free will in cooperating with God in salvation than Calvin did.

According to Calvin's interpretation of Scripture, the lack of fruit is in itself proof that the person was never truly converted. The Arminians would say to the same person that the lack of fruit is evidence that they either were never saved in the first place, or they are backslidden and in danger of losing (or rejecting) their salvation. Either that person needs to repent (and either return to Christ or be saved) or they are in danger of Hell.

The kind of fruit that we should be looking for is in our character and walk with the Lord.

Hypocrites need to examine whether or not their beliefs actually line up with the whole teaching of the Bible.

In the Kingdom, we humble ourselves and the Lord gives promotion to us. When Jesus gave the parable of the feast in Luke 14, He said:

But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, "Friend, move up to a better place." Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Dustin Renz is a minister with a passion to see the Body of Christ become all that God has created it to be. He is the founder of Make Way Ministries, which exists to see the Body of Christ awaken, mature and arise to its responsibility in these last days.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children - Book Review

Parenting is one of the toughest jobs in the world, and today's culture isn't making it any easier. And when we feel like were struggling, it can be tempting to throw up our hands and simply declare, "All we can do now is pray!"

Once our kids have "flown the nest," our parenting will change dramatically, but our sons and daughters will always need our prayers.

Prayer is one of the most important parenting assignments we've been given. It is an eternal investment in our kids' hearts and souls, and we must never under estimate its impact.

The Battle Begins

Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes. -- Nehemiah 4:14

The things you give to God in prayer - your worries, concerns, and needs - are the ties that bind your heart to his. Our struggles are his entry points.

The more we allow the Bible to shape our prayers, the more our requests will line up with God's plan.

There is no "perfect" family.

Everyone - even that beautiful woman who sits across the aisle from you at church, the one with the daughter who just got engaged and the son who just got promoted - has issues. When it comes to raising our children and pursuing God's best for their lives, we all need huge buckets of his grace, and we are all in this together.

It's never too late to start praying God's best for your children.

It doesn't matter how old your children are. You never stop being a parent. You never stop caring.

Blessing and Releasing Your Adult Child

Our adult children have different needs, but all of them can use the prayer of blessing.

A blessing is not the same thing as an endorsement. It's a way of handing our children's future over to God.

As you pray God's blessing on your children, release your plans and trust in God to accomplish his.

Praying for Your Child's Transition to Adulthood

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. -- 1 Corinthians 13:11 NLT

God's ways are not our ways. Ask him to show you how to pray for your children.

As your children navigate the path to adulthood, ask God to help them be wise and make the most of every opportunity.

God gave our children unique talents and abilities. Trust him to put these attributes to good use.

A Year of Prayer

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. -- Romans 12:12

Choosing one verse to pray all year long expands your time horizon and allows an awareness of God's faithfulness to take root in your prayer life.

When God gives you a promise to pray for your adult child, leave room for him to fulfill it in ways that go beyond anything you could have imagined.

Reading the Bible allows God's message to penetrate our minds, shape our desires, and give voice to our prayers.

Praying for Good Friends and Fellowship

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. -- Proverbs 27:17

We are created for connection. Ask God to bless your child with rich and meaningful relationships.

Ask God to use your children's worldly interests to connect them to people whose passion is for him.

If your child is not going to church, ask God to prompt someone to invite him.

The Bible offers several portraits of friendships marked by loyalty, dependability, and faithfulness. Jonathan became "one in spirit" with David, giving him his robe (symbolic of his identity) and making a covenant of friendship that would last between their descendants forever. Let's ask God to give our kids faithful friends and to draw them into a life-giving relationship with Jesus, the one who gave up his life "for his friends."

Praying for a Future Spouse

"Let her be the one that the LORD has chosen for my master's son. -- Genesis 24:44

When the time came for his son to get married, Abraham had one main request: Issac's bride couldn't be a Canaanite; rather,he wanted her to be someone from his own country. He sent his servant off to do the picking, and when the fellow got to Abraham's hometown, he prayed a very specific prayer: "LORD ... make me successful today ... May it be that when I say to a young woman, 'Please let down your jar that I may have a drink; and she says, 'Drink, and I'll water your camels too' - let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Issac."

Rebekah showed up, gave the servant a drink, and then offered to fetch water for the camels too - all ten of them.

Almost everyone the author has talked to said they wanted their son or daughter to marry a Christian.

When you pray for your child's marriage partner, it's okay to be specific, but be prepared for God to surprise you.

Praising God changes our perspective and releases supernatural peace, hope, and joy.

Pray that your child's sense of identity and worth will be found in Christ rather than in being single or married.

Praying for a Young Marriage

A man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery. -- Ephesians 5:31-32

We do the praying; God does the changing.

When your children get married, your prayers take on a new dimension. Now you're not just praying for him or for her; you're also praying for them.

Consider using the example of biblical characters - real people, with real relationships and real problems - to shape your prayers for your children.

With a Spirit-filled marriage, all good things are possible.

Praying through a Trouble Married or a Divorce

Be patient, bearing with one another in love. -- Ephesians 4:2

Destructive family patterns can be broken. Ask God to break these bonds and set your children free.

"Let's pray to break any generational bonds or patterns of evil."

When you pray for your child's troubled marriage, remember that his or her spouse is not the enemy.

When your children go through painful trials, ask God to use their suffering to produce perseverance, character, and hope.

Praying for a Good Place to Live

God begun by making one person, and from him came all the different people who live everywhere in the world. God decided exactly when and where they must live. -- Acts 17:26 NCV

Finding a good place to live can take time. Ask God to give your children (and you, if they are at home) the strength to "walk and not be faint."

Asking God to give your child wisdom is always a good starting place for prayer.

Sometimes the best way to help our adult children isn't to give them money or even advice; it's simply to pray.

Praying for a Job

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. -- Psalm 32:8

If we want to pray with faith, we must anchor our requests in God's promises.

We can make all the plans we want - and so can our kids - but God is the one who directs our path.

Trusting God with our children's future means being willing to trust his timing.

Praying When Your Children Have Children

I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. -- Isaiah 44:3

Praying for your grandchildren strengthens your relationship with your children and their spouses.

Ask God to provide friends and mentors who will lovingly point your grandchildren toward Christ.

If you have concerns about your grandchildren or how they are being raised, take your worries to God and give his grace time to work.

Praying through a Health Crisis

This is what the LORD ... says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. -- 2 Kings 20:5

Trusting God when we don't know what the future holds opens the door to peace.

Sometimes the key to praying with perseverance is simply to stop looking at your problems and focus instead on who God is and what he has done.

Jesus offers this invitation: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." What a beautiful promise, particularly as we pray for our children's health and safety.

God doesn't just want to heal your child; he wants to take care of you too.

Praying for Mental and Emotional Health

I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. -- Psalm 40:1-3

When you pray your child through a mental or emotional illness, don't let shame or fear keep you from enlisting trusted prayer partners to help you carry your burden.

God is in the business of transformation, and he has promised to renew - body, mind, and spirit - day by day.

An unforgiving spirit can hinder your prayers. Ask God to search your heart - and be ready to extend grace (even to yourself) and receive God's love.

Praying for Protection from Harm

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him. -- Psalm 34:7

If God calls your child to a place or a job that scares you, slip your hand into your heavenly Father's and pray, trusting him to guard what you give him.

Asking God to put his angels in charge of your child's safety encompasses more than just physical protection. We can trust him to stand guard over their hearts and minds too.

When you feel too frightened or overwhelmed to pray for your child's safety, remember that God's power is made perfect in your weakness.

Praying through a Job Loss or Financial Difficulty

When I said, "My foot is slipping," your unfailing love, LORD, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. -- Psalm 94:18-19

The Bible has a lot to say about money. Ask God to help your children to manage it wisely.

When we pray our kids through loss or rejection, it helps to remember that Jesus knows exactly how they feel.

God knows how our children are formed, and what they do with their lives matters to him.

Ecclesiastes 7:12 adds this: "Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves those who have it."

Praying through the Struggles of Infertility

You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. -- Psalm 145:16

As you ask God to fulfill your children's deepest longings, pray that they will be satisfied with the gift of his presence.

When God gives your children a promise, come alongside them and believe it.

Praying for Strength to Resist a Party Culture

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. -- Matthew 5:6

Your adult children may be out of your reach, but they are never out of God's sight.

Today's party culture offers counterfeit joy. Pray that your kids will want the real thing.

We cannot glory - steal from God.

Praying for Protection from Sexual Sin

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. -- Romans 12:2

God loves us unconditionally. Ask him to help you show that same kind of love to your children, even if you don't like what they do.

God's kindness leads us to repentance. Ask God to surround your children with people who will lovingly point them toward him.

Light scatters darkness. Ask God to turn your children from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God.

Praying for Recovery from an Addiction

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. -- Isaiah 61:1

Addiction is a formidable enemy, but the weapons we fight with - including prayer - have divine power to demolish strongholds.

God is always at work in our kids' lives, and he can use the worst things to bring about good.

We cannot control or cure our children's addictions, but we can hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, knowing that he who promised is faithful.

Praying for Your Prodigal

I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart. -- Jeremiah 24:7

Ask God to work in your prodigal's mind and spirit, demolishing arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.

God knows what it's like to grieve over a prodigal child - and to rejoice over his return.

Our struggles are often God's entry points.

Is Jesus Enough?

God doesn't want us to trust in an outcome; he wants us to trust in him.

Heavenly Father...

Whom have we in heaven but you? Work in us and in our children, so that nothing compares to the desire we have for you. Be the strength of our hearts and our portion forever. Amen. -- Psalm 73:25-26

Jodie Berndt is the author of several books, including The Undertaker Wife, Praying the Scriptures for Your Children, and Praying the Scriptures for Your Teens. She and her husband, Robert, have four grown children and two son-in-laws. A Speaker and Bible Teacher, Jodie encourages readers to pursue joy, celebrate grace, and live on purpose.

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Sacred Slow - Book Review

In the beginning, "there was evening, and there was morning - the first day." Time has not changed: it remains one of the few unaltered, original residents of the garden of Eden. Demand it to speed up or beg it to stand still, time will remain steady because it bows to only One. (And we, too, are His servants.)

However, each slow, calm tick of time has ceased to be a sacred reminder of the gift of life (let alone of the Giver of life).

A handful of numbers in the Scriptures have solid significance, and the number seven is surely one of them.

Consider the significance of the number seven in the Scriptures:

Literally, a prime number between six and eight
Figuratively, a symbol with spiritual weight

Seven figures prominently in Scripture as a period of waiting, warring, warning, and wisdom. The number boundaries intentional times, set-apart spaces, moments kissed by the divine, and resting places.

We see further evidence of the Israelites' understanding that their exile was in part connected to ignoring the Sabbath Years when Nehemiah came to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall around 445 BC. Upon its completion, the community made a binding agreement with God. Among their commitments, they stated, "Every seventh year we will forgo working the land and will cancel all debts."

Jeremiah 29:11-13 is one of the most quoted verses in all of Scriptures, and Jeremiah 29:10 is not.

When seventy years are completed: one year for every Sabbath Year God's people refused to embrace.

Listening is an exercise in interdepence, which nurtures a teachable spirit.

Not listening is a posture of arrogance, which ignores the contributions of another.

By not listening, God's people "brought harm to (them) selves."

We still struggle to listen and obey, and not listening is still toxic for our souls and communities.

Since God breathed into us "the breath of life" our divinely touched dust has been honored with a standing invitation to listen for our Creator.

The Genesis narrative introduces God's voice not at the creation of our "formless and empty" planet but at the installation of light. Before the first "Let there be," there was earth, water, and God's Spirit hovering over all. The voice brought light - a light that preceded the creation of the sun.

The Revelation prophecy concludes with God's voice still bringing light. Over all the end-times images and earthly uncertainities rests the clear voice of the bright Morning Star as He assures listeners of His authority and His soon return.

Adam and Eve had heard God's audible voice. However, hearing has never been a synonym for heeding.

In Mark 4:34, we read that Jesus "did not say anything to them (the crowds) without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything."

Perhaps thorns such as the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things are the means to the Enemy's ends, not the ends in and of themselves. The Gospel state that the thorns were the means to a specific end: choking the Word to hinder it from maturing and, thereby, making it unfruitful.

We live in a fallen world. The Kingdom of darkness constantly bombards us with impure and untrue messages about life, faith, spirituality, and God.

The Word heard is not enough. It must be heeded.

We recognize the value of devotions and quiet times. However, these spaces are means to an end, not ends in and of themselves.

Through the door opened by Jesus' sacrifice, you and God are together in one place. In everything you do, God is with you.

God has named you as the work of His hands! Do you know what was in His heart when He created you?

God had tears of love in His eyes as He formed you in the womb. You are saturated with His fingerprints.

Psalm 119 is written to God about God's Word. When studying the psalm, three categories of content stood out to author of The Sacred Slow: the psalmist's relationship with God's Word, descriptions of the power of God's Word, and prayers about God's Word.

We may use a computer, but we must relate to the Bible because the Word of God is alive.

Pick up your Bible and pray. Thank God for the gift you hold in your hands. Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you and lead into truth.

The anonymous pen of Psalm 119 clearly admired, studied, and loved God's Word. As we have already seen, this psalmist - mentor talked to God about his commitment to God's Word (what the Word is) and about his belief in the power of God
s word (what the Word does). The third component of his psalm was to scripture - pray to God for an even greater relationship with His Word.

Psalm 119 is punctuated with many prayer requests, most of which are supported by God's promises.

May God increase our hunger and respect for His life - giving Word.

The Corinthians' early struggle is our daily struggle.

As the Corinthians were deciding what touched their bodies and infiltrated their minds, Paul counseled them to choose options that left a morally positive deposit in their souls.

In truth, everything we do affects all that we are.

In his letter, Paul explained that since Christ has purchased a believer's freedom, the exercising of that freedom must, therefore, honor Christ.

Consider the disciples who were called to be with Jesus. They walked with Him and talked with Him and proceeded to walk by others without saying a word.

Remember the Samaritan woman who spent time alone with Jesus by a well and then brought her whole town to meet Him? However, she was not the first person familiar with Jesus' presence to go into town that day.

The disciples had been there earlier.

We can read in John 4:8, "Jesus disciples had gone into the town to buy food." In town, they interacted with bakers, fishermen, and fruit sellers in the marketplace long enough to buy sufficient food t feed at least thirteen.

So twelve leaders who walked alongside Jesus 24/7 went into a town and said, "We'd like to buy six fish and a loaf of bread." How many people followed them back to meet Jesus?

Not even one.

One Samaritan woman who had spent perhaps less than an hour with Jesus went into the same town and said, "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?" How many people followed her back to meet Jesus?

The whole town!

The author of this book, Dr. Alicia Britt Chole is an award-winning writer. She is a speaker, author, and leadership mentor who enjoys thunderstorms, jalapenos, and honest questions.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Healing Power of Pain & Memory - Book Review

A Crazy, Holy Grace

The author's knows what it means to deal with pain, grief, and grace from a child after his father committed suicide. He shares that God is near even when He is silent.

The author's best writings covering such topic as loss of a loved one.

Loss/death will come to all of us, but we are not alone. God's holy healing grace is always present and available if we are quiet enough to receive it.

Through the gates of pain we enter into joy.

It seems that pain and death are on the rise, lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce, ready or not. Our lives are filled with freak accidents, cancer, and the steady decay of time. Stories of destruction and pain come at us from everywhere - our news, TV shows, movies, and social media sites - because fear and death seem to sell.

Simply put, suffering is universal.

We all have different ways of dealing with our pain, depending on what day it happens to be and how we happen to be feeling.

The author's mother had not only the suicide of his father but two other unsuccessful marriages. She lived to be a great age, and in many ways she remained a valuable person.

The author shares there could be a hundred and six other ways we have of coping with pain.

You don't have to talk about pain, but you have to live out of your pain.

Through the gates of pain we enter into joy.

God says He is with us on our journeys. He says he has been with us since each of our journeys began. Listen for God.

It is to choose to believe that the truth of our story is contained in Jesus's story, which is a love story. Jesus's story is the truth about who we are and who the God is who Jesus says loves us.

"And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart, and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the the way, and when you rise."

Frederick Buechner is the author of more than 30 books and has been important source of inspiration and learning for many readers. He has been awarded honorary degrees from institutions institutions including Yale University and Virginia Theological Seminary.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Brave Beauty - Book Review

Brave Beauty will take you on a journey for girls. It would be a good teaching book for girls and a book to give to girls. It has 100 mini chapters in the book about God.

Lynn Cowell discovered that writing helped her figure out herself. That's why she wrote this book; she wanted to take her readers on a journey to becoming a brave and fearless you!

This book has 100 mini chapters and it would be a good teaching book for girls.

We will see:
who God says you are
Look at people in the Bible and see how they handled hard things
Get to know more about God and how He can help us
Learn how God words can help us become fearless and brave

There are quizzes and questions throughout the book.

When Lynn was in the third grade, someone gave her a little gold book that read "Five Year Diary" on the outside. If she could remember who gave her, her first diary she would thank them.

At the end of each mini Chapter is a courageous call, is a prayer, "In Jesus' name, Amen."

Have you already asked God to make you a part of his family? If you haven't yet, you can simply ask God to make you His child and you, too, will belong.

There was a man in the Bible named Nicodemus, who felt a little confused. He heard about Jesus and saw miracles Jesus was doing, but he didn't really understand who Jesus was. He decided to go directly to Jesus and ask Him to explain.

Nicodemus was a leader in the church, but that didn't mean he had all the answers. Nicodemus approached Jesus at night, with questions and that was a brave approach.

The first thing Nicodemus wanted to know was who Jesus was.

Now Nicodemus was even more confused than when he came. He asked Jesus, "How can a man be born again when he is already old? He cannot get inside his mother's body again!"

Jesus explained to Nicodemus he could choose to become a part of God's family.

Jesus shared that when God's son, Jesus, came to earth, He made it possible for all of Nicodemus's sins to be forgiven. Then he could become a part of God's family and join God in heaven one day.

The price of our sins has already been paid (John 3:16). Jesus did that for you and me! It's a gift He gave us because He loves us so much.

When a family decides to adopt a child, they make that choice because they have a lot of love in their hearts and they want to share that love.

The Bible explains it this way: "God decided in advance, before we were born, to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. Ephesians 1:5 (NLT)

One of the promises that God made to us is that He will never leave us or forsake us.

As our father, God promises to take care of our needs. (Matthew 6:32) God already knows the things we need and He will take care of those needs.

God gives every person, including you, the ability to make a choice. You can decide whether or not you obey Him and experience His blessings. This decision is completely yours whether you are going to be a part of God's family or not.

I'm a part of God's family and I want you to be a part of it too.

Lynn shared when she would read her diary, it was fun reading about when she was younger.

Maybe when she talked about her struggles you would think, "Me too!" Your personality, body, even your family isn't the same as others so sometimes you have a hard time liking yourself just the way you are.

When God created you, He made you great from the very beginning.

Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV), says "The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing."

If you read through the Bible, you'll find lots of people who at one point or another felt unloved or rejected. Even Jesus was "looked down on and passed over." Isaiah 53:3 (MSG)

Remembering who we are in God's eyes help to heal the hurt that comes from meanness.

When Lynn was younger, she would often forget to do the chores her mom asked her to do. (Or was that really Lynn putting it off until she forgot on purpose?)

Lynn shares their has been times, that she felt like God has forgotten her.

You, too, know what it is like to feel like you haven't been remembered; left behind and left out.

God will never forget you!

When Lynn was younger she didn't mind being sick. When she was sick it meant she was able to stay at home from school with her Mom. All day long, her mom would bring her food and drinks to help her feel better.

In Matthew 14, we can read a story about Jesus meeting a lot of sick people. Jesus cousin, John the Baptist had just died. He wanted to be alone, but His boat landed, where there were many people, thousands of people, waiting for Him. They had heard He could heal their illnesses. Instead of wishing they would go away, verse 14 tells us, "... he had compassion on them and healed their sick."

After Jesus healed them, they didn't go away. His disciples told Jesus, "Send these people away so they can go and buy food for themselves." Jesus didn't want them to be sent away. Instead, He told the disciples to figure out a way to feed them; all 5,000 of them. All they found were five loaves and two fish. Jesus took what they had and miraculously fed everyone.

Jesus wants to protect you as you keep your eyes on Him each and every day.

When Lynn was a young woman her daddy passed away.

One day when her dad was getting ready to die, she was staying with him at the hospital. It was her birthday and her heart was sad to know that she was saying goo-bye to her dad. When she was going home from the hospital, she heard a song on the radio that talked about being completely healed and the way that healing came was by going to heaven and getting a new body.

Her daddy was dying, but her heart felt peaceful.

Just because you are young, doesn't mean you don't experience hard things in life. Parents divorce, love ones die, moves take us from our friends, and people do hurtful things. God is your refuge, strength, and help in trouble.

One day during fourth grade, Lynn's friend Liz asked her to come over after school. Lynn's mom had a rule that she couldn't go to anyone's house if there wasn't a parent there. Both of Liz's parents worked away from the home during the day. Lynn's mom had told her to never mess around with cigarettes.

Why didn't she listen to her mom's wise advice?

She didn't listen because she wanted Liz to like her.

At some point, you could find yourself in a situation similar to Liz. It might involve a TV show, a computer, a movie, a video, a friend, or a boy. There will be pressure, just like King Neb put pressure on Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to bow down to his statue in Daniel 3.

The girl who is brave finds God's best; His plans for good for her life. The girl who runs with the "in" crowd all too often will miss it.

In fact, some friends might completely turn off the road of choosing what is right. You may have fewer friends or for a time, you may feel alone.

The tests of our character - the tests that we are taking and passing to become a brave beauty - can be the same way.

Passing tests isn't a school thing, it's a life thing.

At eight years old, Justine wasn't exactly sure what cancer was. But she did know her parents told her that her brother, who was only eighteen months old, had this thing called cancer.

Justine may not have understood how serious this illness was, but she did understand one thing: her family needed God to heal her brother.

God answered their prayers; God did heal her brother. Yes, God performed miracles in the Bible and He still performs miracles today!

In fact, Jesus says that if we only have faith the size of a tiny seed, nothing will be impossible for us.

Small people can see God do big things. Justine did!

There was a woman in the Bible who had an illness that was worst than Lynn's little cold. Her story is told in Mark 5:25-34 (NIV). This woman had been bleeding for twelve years. "She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse." (verse 26)

"When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, "If she touch his clothes, she would be healed." (verses 27-28) Immediately, Jesus' power went out of Him and into her. Her bleeding quit and her suffering stopped.

The woman had shown great bravery when she made her way through the crowd and touched Jesus' clothing. She had shown confidence in God, believing she would be healed.

The woman extended her faith when she reached out her arm. God met her; her prayers were answered.

As Lynn read her journals, she saw how God answered her prayers.

Ephesians 3:20 (MSG) Whatever big thing you can dream, God can do bigger.

Too often social media is all about making us feel good and important. We were made for one reason: to point others to the way, the truth, and the life: Jesus.

You need to be brave: brave enough to believe God has a big purpose for you.

Ella had broken one of her family's technology rules, watching a video she knew was wrong. Being ten was hard sometimes.

Ella couldn't sleep at night and her stomach had been hurting for days.

She went to her mom, sobbing, and confessed what she had done wrong.

Ella's mom hugged her and thanked her for being honest. She told Ella how brave she was to come and tell the truth. That didn't mean that honesty was a guarantee there would be no consequences or punishment for her actions.

The most important truth we need to know is that Jesus died to forgive us for our sins.

Lynn found a story in the Bible that doesn't get told much, probably because the names are so hard to pronounce.

Take a few minutes and read Exodus 1:15-17.

The women in this passage, Shiphrah and Puah, unlike Lynn, had every reason to be terrified. Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt was ruthless. These two women were trained midwives - they were trained to help women through childbirth. Pharaoh was trying to get rid of the Israelite people. Pharaoh's plan was to command the women to destroy the little boys when they were born.

These women didn't care who was making the command. They feared God and did not do what the King of Egypt told them to do. They let every baby live; girl or boy.

Exodus 1:17 says the women "feared God." What the women felt toward God was respect and awe because of His power and holiness.

Shiphrah and Puah chose to obey God over fearing Pharaoh.

The author, Lynn Cowell is a part of the Proverbs 31 Ministries, speaking and writing to women of all ages. Lynn and her husband Greg have been married over 30 years and are parents of Zach, Mariah, and Madi.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

People and Creatures Enter the Ark - Genesis 7:1-10

God said to Noah, "Now board the ship, you and all your family out of everyone in this generation you're the righteous one.

"Take on board with you seven pairs of every clean animal, a male and a female; one pair of every unclean animal, a male and a female; and seven pairs of every kind of bird, a male and a female to insure their survival on earth. In just seven days God will dump rain on earth for forty days and forty nights. God will make a clean sweep of everything what he has made. Noah did everything that God had commanded him to do. Noah was 600 years old when the flood waters covered the earth. Noah and his wife and sons and their wives boarded the ship to escape the flood. Clean and unclean animals, birds, and all the crawling creatures came in pairs to Noah and to the ship, male and female, just as God had commanded Noah. In seven days the floodwaters came.

It was the six-hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month that it happened: all the underground springs erupted and all the windows of Heaven were thrown open. Rain poured for forty days and forty nights.

That's the day Noah and his sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth, accompanied by his wife and his sons wives, boarded the ship. And with them every kind of wild and domestic animal, right down to all the kinds of creatures that crawl and all kinds of birds and anything that flies. They came to Noah and to the ship in pairs - everything and anything that had the breath of life in it, male and female of every creature came just as God had commanded Noah. Then God shut the door behind Noah.

Reference summary used from The Message Bible

People and Creatures Return to the Earth - Genesis 8:13-19

In the six hundred first year of Noah's life, on the first day of the first month, the flood had dried up. Noah opened the hatch of the ship and saw dry ground. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month, the earth was completely dry.

God spoke to Noah: "Leave the ship, you and your wife and your sons and your sons wives. And take all the animals with you, the whole menagerie birds and mammals and crawling creatures, all that brimming prodigality of life, so they can reproduce and flourish on the earth."

Noah disembarked with his sons and wife and his sons wives. Then all the animals, crawling creatures, birds - every creature on the face off the earth - left the ship family by family. Noah built an altar to God. He selected clean animals and birds from every species and offered them as burnt offering on the altar. God smelled the sweet fragrance and thought to himself, I'll never again curse the ground because of people. I know they have this bent toward evil from an early age, but I'll never again kill off everything living as I've just done.

Extolling the majesty of the Lord - Psalm 89:1-15

Congregation of the saints or holy generally refers to angels. In the courts of heaven, a myriad of angels praise the Lord. This scene is one of majesty and grandeur to show that God is beyond compare. His power and purity place him high above nature and angels.

Justice and judgment (righteousness) mercy and truth surround God on his throne, they are fundamental aspects of the way God rules. As God's ambassadors, we should deal with people similarly. Make sure your actions flow out of justice, righteousness, and truth because any unfair, unloving, or dishonest action cannot come from God.

Reference summary used from The Life Application Bible, KJV, Tyndale Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, IL

God's Promise Realized Through Faith - Romans 4:13-25

That famous promise God gave Abraham - that he and his children would posses the earth was not given because of something Abraham did or would do. It was based on God's decision to put everything together for him, which Abraham then entered when he believed.

If those who get what God gives them only get it by doing everything they are told to do and filling out all the right forms properly signed, that eliminates personal trust completely and turns the promise into an iron clad contract! That's not a holy promise; that's a business deal.

A contract drawn up by a hard nosed lawyer and with plenty of fine print only makes sure that you will never be able to collect. But if there is no contract in the first place, simply a promise - and God's promise if that - you can't break it. This is why the fulfillment of God's promise depends entirely on trusting God and his ways and then simply embracing him and what he does.

God's promise arrives as a pure gift. That's the only way everyone can be sure to get in on it, those who keep the religious traditions and those who have never heard of them.

For Abraham is father of us all. He is not our racial father - that's reading the story backward. He is our faith father. We call Abraham "Father" not because he got God's attention by living a faithful life, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody.

Isn't that what we're always reading in Scripture "I set you up as Father of many peoples?" Abraham was first named "father" and then became a father because he he trusted God to do only what God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing.

When everything was hopeless Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn't do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples.

God himself said to him you're going to have a big family, Abraham!

Ceremonies and rituals serve as reminders of our faith. They instruct new and younger believers, but we should not think that they give us any special merit before God. They are outward signs and seal that demonstrate belief and trust. The focus of our faith should be on Christ and his saving actions, not on our own actions.

Paul explains that Abraham pleased God through his faith alone, before he ever heard about the rituals that would become so important to the Jewish people. We too are saved by faith. It is not by loving God and doing good that we are saved; neither is it by faith plus love or faith plus good works.

We are saved only through faith in Christ, trusting him to forgive all our sins. For more on Abraham, see his profile in Genesis 18.

The promise (or covenant) God gave Abraham said that Abraham would be the father of many nations and that the entire world would be blessed through him. This promise was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus was from Abraham's line, and truly the world was blessed through him.

Paul points out that the promise to Abraham to be the father of many nations extended beyond Israel to all the nations of the world. Abraham never doubted that God would fulfill his promise. His life was marked by mistakes, sins, and failures as well as by wisdom and goodness, but he consistently trusted God. His faith was strengthened by the obstacles he faced.

His life is an example of faith in action. If he had looked only at his own resources for subduing Canaan and founding of a nation, he would have given up in despair. But he looked to God, obeyed him and waited for God to fulfill his word to him.

Reference summary used from The Message Bible and The Life Application Bible, KJV, Tyndale Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, IL

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Jesus, Mediator of a better Covenant - Hebrews 8:1-8

In essence, we have just such a high priest right along side of God, conducting worship in the one true sanctuary built by God. The assigned task of a high priest is to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and it's no different with the priesthood of Jesus.

If we were limited to earth, he wouldn't even be a Priest. We wouldn't need him since there are plenty of priests who offer the gifts designated in the law.

These priests provide only a hint of what goes on in the true sanctuary of heaven, which Moses caught a glimpse of as he was about to set up the tent-shrine. It was then that God said "be careful to do it exactly as you saw it on the mountain."

But Jesus priestly work far surpasses what these other priest do, since his working from a far better plan. If the first-plan the Old Covenant had worked out, a second wouldn't have been needed. But we know the first was found wanting, because God said.

Reference summary used from The Message Bible

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Circumcision Event Remembered - Acts 7:1-8

Then the Chief Priest said, what do you have to say for yourself?

Stephen replied, friends, fathers, and brothers, the God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was still in Mesopotamia, before the move to Haran, and told him, leave your country and family and go to the land I'll show you.

So he left the country of the Chaldees and moved to Haran. After the death of his father, he immigrated to his country where you now live, but God gave him nothing, not so much as a foothold. He did promise to give the country to him and his son later on, even though Abraham had no son at the time. God let him know that his offspring would move to an alien country where they would be enslaved and brutalized for four hundred years. 'But,' God said, I will step in and take care of those slaveholders and bring my people out so they can worship me in this place.

Then he made a covenant with him and signed it in Abraham's flesh by circumcision. When Abraham had his son Issac, within eight days he reproduced the sign of circumcision in him. Issac became father of Jacob, and Jacob father of twelve 'Father,' each faithfully passing on the covenant sign.

This High Priest was Caiphas, the same High Priest who had earlier questioned and condemned Jesus.

Stephen launched into along speech about Israel's relationship with God. From Old Testament history he showed that the Jews had constantly rejected God's message and his Prophets, and that this council had rejected the Messiah, God's Son. He made three main points (1) Israel's history is the history of God's acts in the world; (2) People worshiped God long before there was a temple; (3) Jesus death was just one more example of Israel's rebellion and rejection of God.

Stephen wasn't really defending himself. Instead, he took the offensive, seizing the opportunity to summarize his teaching about Jesus. Stephen was accusing these religious leaders failing to obey God's laws - the laws they prided themselves in following so meticulously. This was the same accusation Jesus had leveled against them. When we witness for Christ, we don't need to be on the defensive. Instead we can simply share our faith.

Reference summary used from The Message Bible and The Life Application Bible, KJV, Tyndale Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, IL

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Sabbath Commandment ... Exodus 20:8-11

The Sabbath was a day set aside for rest and worship. God commanded a Sabbath because we need to spend unhurried time in worship and rest each week. A God who is concerned enough to provide a day each week for us to rest is indeed wonderful. To observe a regular time of rest and worship in our hurried world demonstrates the importance of God in our lives while having the extra benefit of refreshing our spirits.

Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don't do any work - not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and Sea, and everything in them; he rested on the seventh day. Therefore God blessed the Sabbath Day; he set apart as a holy day.

Reference used from The Message Bible and The Life Application Bible, KJV, Tyndale Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, IL

You Are God's Choice ... Deuteronomy 10:12-22

Often we ask why, "what does God expect of me?" Here Moses gives a summary that is simple in form and easy to remember. Here are the essentials: (1) fear God (have reverence for him). (2) walk in his ways. (3) Love him with all your heart. How often we complicate faith with man-made rules, regulations, and requirement. Are you frustrated and burned out from trying hard to please God? Concentrate on his real requirements and find peace, respect, and love.

God required all male Israelites to be circumcised, but he wanted them to go beyond performing the surgery to understanding its meaning. They needed to summit to God inside, in their hearts as well as outside, in their bodies. If our hearts are right with God, then our relationship with other people can be made right too. When your heart has been cleansed and you have been reconciled to God, you will begin to see a difference in the way you treat others.

Reference summary used from The Message Bible, and The Life Application Bible, KJV, Tyndale Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, IL

Abram Called and Blessed ... Genesis 12:1-3

God promised to bless Abram and make him great, but there was one condition. Abram had to do what God wanted him to do. This meant leaving his home and friends and traveling to a new land where God promised to build a great nation from Abram's family. Abram obeyed, walking away from his home for God's promise of even greater things. God may be trying to lead you to a place of greater service and usefulness for him. Don't let the comfort and security of your present position make make you miss God's plan for you.

Abram moved out in faith from Ur to Haran and finally to Canaan. God then established a covenant with him. Not only would this nation be blessed, God said; but the other nations of the earth would be blessed through Abram's descendants. Israel, the nation that would come from Abram, was to follow God and influence those with whom it came in contact. Through Abram's family tree, Jesus Christ was born to save humanity. Through Christ, all people can have a personal relationship with God and be blessed beyond measure.

Reference summary used from The Message Bible and The Life Application Bible, KJV, Tyndale Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, IL

The Lord's Words Become Actions ... Psalm 33:1-9

Because David was an accomplished harpist, he frequently spoke about musical instruments throughout his Psalms. He undoubtedly composed music for many of the Psalms, and he commissioned music for Temple Worship.

A Person's words are measured by the quality of his or her character. If you trust what God says, it is because you trust him to be the God he claims to be. If you doubt his words, you doubt the integrity of God himself. If you believe God is truly God, then believe what he says!

All God's words are true and trustworthy. The Bible is reliable because, unlike people, God does not lie, forget, change his words, or leave promises unfulfilled. We can trust the Bible because, it contains the words of a holy, trustworthy and unchangeable God.

This is a poetic summary of the first chapter of Genesis. He is the Lord of creation, the almighty God. Because he is all powerful, we should reverence him in all we do.

Reference summary used from The Message Bible and The Life Application Bible, KJV, Tyndale Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, IL

Sunday, September 24, 2017

A New Covenant of the Heart - Jeremiah 31:31-34

God would inscribe his law upon their hearts rather than upon tablets of stone as were the Ten Commandments. This change seems to describe one experience very much like the new birth and God is making the initiative. When we turn our lives over to God he, by his Holy Spirit, builds into us the desire to obey him.

The Old Covenant, broken by the people, would be replaced by an new covenant. The foundation of this new covenant is Christ. It is revolutionary, involving not only Israel and Judah, but even the Gentiles. It offers a unique personal relationship with God himself, with his laws inscribed on hearts instead of on stone. Jeremiah looked forward to the day when Jesus would come to establish this covenant. But for us today, this covenant is here. We have the wonderful opportunity to make a fresh start and establish a permanent, personal relationship with God.

Reference summary used from The Life Application Bible, KJV, Tyndale Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, IL

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Nations Will Know The Lord - Spirit Filled Heart: Ezekiel 36:32-38

God said his people should be ashamed of their sins. The people had become so callous that they had lost all sensitivity to sin. First they had to remember their sins, then despise them, and finally repent of them. As we examine our lives, we may find that we too have lost our sensitivity to certain sins. But if we measure ourselves against God's standard of right living, we will be ashamed. To regain sensitivity we must recognize our sin for what it is, feel sorry for displeasing God, and ask his forgiveness. The Holy Spirit will guide us, making us responsive and receptive to God's truth.

God said that if the people asked, he would come to their aid. We cannot expect his mercy, however, until we have sought new hearts from him. We can be thankful that his invitation is open to all.

Reference summary used from The Life Application Bible, KJV, Tyndale Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, IL

Friday, September 22, 2017

Noah Found Favor With the Lord - Genesis 6:1-8

AND it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them.

Genesis 1:28 ... And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth (creepeth) upon the earth.

That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.

Deuteronomy 7:3,4 .... Neither shall thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.

For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD, be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.

And the LORD said, My Spirit shall not always strive with man,

1 Peter 3:19,20 ... By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison.

Which sometime were disobedience, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be a hundred and twenty years.

Psalm 78:39 ... For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.

There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination (whole imagination) of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (everyday).

And it repented the LORD that he had made men on earth,

Numbers 23:19 ... God is not a man, that he should not lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hate he said, and shall he do not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

and it grieved him at his heart.

Isaiah 63:10 ... But they rebelled, and vexed his Holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, he fought against them.

Reference summary used from The SouthWestern Co., Publishers & Booksellers, Nashville, TN

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Master's Mind - Book Review

The Master's Mind: The Art of Reshaping Your Thoughts

In fact, the Master has a whole different list of attributes in mind for us: hope, strength, beauty, joy, love, creativity, freedom, power, peace, patience, goodness, laughter, organization, effectiveness, and purpose.

Between the flesh, the world, and the Devil, we don't know what to think, and, therefore, our lives are filled with hurt, pain, and regret.

Jesus died to save us from our sins and set us free. He made a way for our souls to be rescued from our enemies.

It's time to return to the Master's Mind.

In approximately AD 31, Jesus Christ of Nazareth was asked the seemingly impossible question: "What is the greatest commandment of God?" Jesus simply replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength."

If we can master our minds and bring our thoughts into alignment with the Lord's will and perspective, the rest of our lives will follow suit.

Praise the Lord that He has told us who He is, who we are in the light of Him, and what we have been placed on this earth to do.

God does the rescuing and the saving. Our job is to steward what He has given us.

What we think determines our action. Martin Luther King Jr. determined that he would not rest until all people were viewed as God intended - equal. Mother Teresa determined that the poor would not be forgotten. Our Lord Jesus Christ walked His entire life on earth with a focus on completely obeying His heavenly Father, including the determination to end up on the cross to save us from our sins, as we see in this passage from Luke: "When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51).

The Bible tells us of an ancient high-ranking official who made a personal choice that would dictate the rest of his life and effectiveness. His name was Naaman, and he was a Syrian army commander who had leprosy, a terrible skin disease. Knowing that he was desperate for healing, his little servant girl told him of a prophet in Israel who could heal him by God's power. Figuring that it was worth a shot, Naaman went to see the prophet Elisha. Elisha sent a messenger to tell Naaman that he would be healed if he washed seven times in the Jordan River.

Naaman was furious. He believed that the prophet was simply going to "call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure" him (2 Kings 5:11). When things didn't go the way he thought they should, he stormed off in a rage.

His attendant hurried after him and convinced him to reconsider. Sure, washing seven times was unorthodox, but what if it could heal him?

He relented - and came out healed from leprosy.

Naaman's false assumptions, ignorant thoughts, and prideful heart almost cost him his healing. What are we believing today that is keeping us from God's best?

It's true of God: Isaiah 14:24 tells us, "The LORD of hosts has sworn: As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand."

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place. (Acts 17:26)

Before the New York firefighters and police officers ran into the collapsing Twin Towers on the fateful day of 9/11, they thought about it. Their heroic choice to risk their lives to protect others from a burning building was the result of truly stunning thoughts: Their job is to rescue others and put them before themselves. They would not let fear dictate their response.

"The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasures produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." (Luke 6:45)

Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who was explaining that our characters and beliefs determine the lives we live. Doing one thing on the outside doesn't make up for thinking another on the inside.

And when it comes to matters of faith, we spend the majority of our energy on sin management, completely avoiding the core issues. We'll never experience transformation until we address the thoughts at the root of our problems.

Bad thinking is dangerous. Wrong thinking can keeps us ineffective, wasting time on things that aren't important instead of living the lives God has for us.

Paul wrote in Romans about the distorted thinking common to humans and the consequences it brings. Since our sin nature is rooted in how we think our thoughts continue to be the primary block between us and God.

Jesus spoke about lust being equated with adultery.

Adam and Eve were the best of us: unadulterated humanity, good, pure, and perfect. But the day they ate the fruit that God told them not to eat, all of that changed. With their rebellion, sin entered the world and chaos was unleashed.

If you do not know the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love He demonstrated on the cross by dying for your sins, now is the time to engage with that truth.

God knows our plight. He knows we are hopelessly lost. When Adam and Eve threw away our birth right, He launched a redemption plan. The plan came to fruition approximately two thousand years ago, when God entered humanity and joined us where we were, in all our messiness. Doing all that we could not do, the God-man, Jesus Christ, offered up His perfect life - not only to satisfy our debt sin, but also to trade with us, the lost, so that we might be found and set free. We acknowledge that He is the King and His way is right. We offer open rights in which He can dwell by the power of His Holy Spirit so that we are never alone - not now, not ever.

"The most important thing about us is not what we do, but who and whose we are in Christ."

All He asks is that we stop fighting and let Him do what He does best - be our Savior and King. Paul the apostle wrote, "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God" ((Romans 5:1-2).

By definition, grace is "undeserved favor." Grace isn't earned; rather, it's given out of the goodness of someone else's heart.

Grace even cuts at the heart of the oldest and greatest of sin: pride. The same sin that caused the fall of Lucifer stirs in our souls. Once grace takes hold again, we experience peace.

God is working in us, and we can have faith in that process. But we also need to be aware of the biggest enemy of them all: the Devil.

The Devil is real, and he's a bad guy. He introduced the sin that brought down our world, he's a bully who picks on us every day, and he doesn't fight fair.

Listen to the apostle Peter: "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" (1 Peter 5:8-9).

Sin takes us from where we should be to where we should not be. Sin ruins our thoughts and poisons our hearts.

Sin is godlessness.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

Therefore, God will never lead someone to sin; doing so goes against His very nature. He will test believers by putting them through difficult training that will strengthen them and reveal their current conditions (like a refiner's fire).

Satan seeks to harm.

God's intention is always for believers to emerge from a trial better than when they started, either in strength or in knowledge. He promises that every situation will have a way out - an escape hatch that can be utilized through obedience.

As we've seen, the Bible says that Jesus was tempted, yet was without sin. It also says, "In your anger do not sin" (Ephesians 4:26 NIV).

Acting on sin is temptation.

Praise the Lord that He is with us and that the Holy Spirit is helping us navigate all of this!

Nebuchadnezzar made a name for himself as a warrior king. He won the famous battle of Carchemish against the Egyptians the year he was called to throne. He fused his alliance with the Medes by marriage and expanded his territory by military force until he controlled much of the Middle East and all the trade routes across Mesopotamia.

He was so impressive that Saddam Hussein sought to claim his reincarnated personality. Hussein named one of his guard divisions after the ancient king and began rebuilding ancient Babylon in his honor, inscribing on the bricks, "To king Nebuchadnezzar in the reign of Hussein."

This great and powerful king lost his mind.

God leveled Nebuchadnezzar for pride and arrogance, and once that was done, he lifted his hand immediately and miraculously. Nevertheless, his story reminds us that even the might fall sometimes, and no mind is invulnerable.

Everybody remembers Mister Rogers' Neighbor right? But did you know that it aired from 1968 to 2001, produced 895 episodes, and earned four Emmy awards?

There's a reason that a Presbyterian reverend from Pennsylvania received the coveted Peabody Award, the Ralph Lowell Award, more than forty honorary degrees, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

He wanted to use children's imaginations as God intended them - to think through new perspectives.

You and I are precious - and so is every human on earth.

On the day Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they sold their souls to the Enemy.

Jesus Christ needed to come to set us free. We are free to become what He created us to be and not be forced into the mold of our enemies.

Our Master paid for us.

Even if we are free, we still need a Savior. We are still designed for relationship with God as our Father. We are still built for His glory. We are not our own.

We long to worship.

Christianity needs to be a thriving relationship with God filled with the Holy Spirit and all the incredible blessings He has given us. We need to be so filled up that the Holy Spirit forces out evil.

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit gives us "living water."

Paul says that we have been raised with Christ, which means we are a new creation, born again with all the sin of our lives dead and gone.

Transformation always begins in our thoughts.

When Jesus told His listeners to "repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 3:2), He did not simply mean "feel terrible for your wickedness now that I'm here." Repent doesn't only mean to turn away but to change one's mind and start agreeing with God.

Jesus Christ is the One who can set us free, not just when we get to heaven, but increasingly so right here on earth.

God will hold us accountable for how we manage our minds and handle our hearts.

One of the precious tools God has provided is supernatural protection for His children. The apostle Paul called it the armor of God in Ephesians 6:11-18.

Lance Hahn is the senior pastor of Bridgeway Christian Church in Rocklin, California. His first book, How to live in fear mastering the Art of Freaking Out, Chronicles his personal struggles with panic disorders and offers tools for thriving through fear. A popular speaker who enjoys writing, Lance is a husband to Suzi and father to two daughters.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Sunday - The Peaceful Kingdom - Isaiah 11:1-9 - 9/3/17

Assyria would be like a tree cut down at the height of its power never to rise again. Judah (the royal line of David) would be like a tree chopped down to a stump. But from that stump a new branch would grow - the Messiah. He would be greater than the original tree and would bear much fruit. The Messiah is the fulfillment of God's promise that a descendant of David would rule forever.

The Messiah is Jesus Christ.

How we long for fair treatment from others, but do we give it? Only Christ can be the perfectly fair judge. Only as he governs our hearts can we learn to be as fair in our treatment of others as we expect others to be toward us.

Judah had become corrupt, and now it was surrounded by hostile foreign powers. The nation desperately needed a revival of righteousness, equity, and faithfulness. They needed to turn from selfishness and show justice to the poor and the oppressed. The righteousness that God values is more than reframing from sin, it is actively turning toward others and offering them the help they need.

It is incredible to think of hostile animals living at peace. It is even more incredible for hostile people to live at peace with one another. And one day the whole world will acknowledge that Christ is Lord.

A golden age is yet to come. Not all of this was fulfilled at Christ's first coming. For example, nature has not returned to its intended balance and harmony.

Reference summary used from The Life Application Bible; Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; Wheaton, IL