Showing posts with label Jesus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jesus. 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.

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

Friday, September 22, 2017

Jesus tells about remaining Watchful - Matthew 24:36-51 ... Excerpt from the Bible

It is good we don't know exactly when Christ will return. If we knew the precise dates, we might plan to keep sinning and then turn back to God right at the end. Heaven is our only goal; we have work to do here. We must keep on doing it until death or until we see the unmistakable return of our Savior.

Christ's Second Coming will be swift and sudden. There will be no opportunity for after thought., last-minute repentance, or bargaining. The choice we have already made will determine our eternal destiny.

Jesus purpose in telling about his return is not to stimulate predictions and calculations about the date, but to warn us to be prepared. Will you be ready? The only safety is to obey him today.

Jesus asks us to spend the waiting time taking care of his people and doing his work on earth, both within the Church and outside of it. This is the best way to prepare for Christ's return.

Knowing that Christ's return will be sudden should motivate us always to be prepared. We are not to live irresponsibly - sitting and waiting, doing nothing; seeking self-serving pleasure, using his tarrying as an excuse not to do God's work of building his kingdom; developing a false security based on precise calculations of events; or letting our curiosity about the end times divert us from doing God's work.

"Weeping and gnashing of teeth" is a Phrase used to describe despair. God's coming judgment is as certain as Jesus' return to earth.

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

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Sunday - Called to Preach - Acts 9:10 - 20 - 8/20/17

(Jesus Calls Saul/Shaul/Paul on Damascus Road - Saturday - 8/19/17)

Paul was an outstanding missionary, theologian, and writer of the early church.

Paul was born in a Jewish family in Tarsus. Paul's family was of the tribe of Benjamin. Paul probably came from a family of tentmakers or leatherworkers and, according to Jewish custom, was taught this trade by his father. Apparently the business thrived and Paul's family became moderately wealthy.

The true way of the Lord was one of the earliest names for Christianity. The glory of God (or Christ) is often described as the light. The street called Straight, which runs through Damascus from east to west. Saul, like the prophets, was chosen for a special purpose.

Saul's conversion marks a turning-point in the history of the early church. The encounter with Christ was followed by three sightless days: Saul was identified with Jesus in his death and three days in the grave, and identified with him too in baptism and newness of life.

The Way was the name given to the church before the people of Antioch invented the new name 'Christian.'

Damascus, a key commercial city, was located about 175 miles northeast of Jerusalem in the Roman province of Syria.

As Paul traveled to Damascus, pursuing Christians, he was confronted by the risen Christ and brought face to face with the truth of the Gospel.

Paul refers to this experience as the start of his new life of in Christ. At the center of this wonderful life was Jesus Christ - Paul did not see a vision, he saw the risen Christ himself (Acts 9:17).

Anyone who persecutes believers today is also guilty of persecuting Jesus because believers are the body of Christ on earth.

Paul opened his eyes - but could not see - he was temporarily blinded.

Ananias was sent by God to Paul. He greeted Paul as "Brother Saul." Ananias feared this meeting because Paul had come to Damascus to persecute believers and take them in chains to Jerusalem. But in obedience to the Holy Spirit, he greeted Paul lovingly.

Immediately after receiving his sight and being with the believers in Damascus, Paul went to the synagogue to tell the Jews about Jesus Christ. Paul took time alone to learn about Jesus before beginning his worldwide ministry, but he did not wait to witness. Although we should not rush into a ministry unprepared, we do need to wait before telling others what has happened to us.

Reference summary used from The New Oxford Annotated Bible with The Apocrypha RSV; The Life Application Bible, KJV, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, IL; and The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary

Friday, July 21, 2017

6 of 6 ... The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life - Book Review

This fourth soil of the heart is what every Christian should strive for in their walk with God for this is the fertile ground that bears fruit for our Lord.

The other three soils were not allowed to dominate the heart. The heart did not allow any of the five thorns to take root, spread and dominate its soil to the point where it choked and suffocated the Word of God. To get the fourth point where it chocked and suffocated the Word of God.

We must hear the Word of God, gladly receive it into our hearts, understand its message of truth, then hold fast to it in order to bring forth fruit reaping a harvest thirty, sixty, a hundred times of what has been sown.

We must also receive this word into our hearts to enter into this blessed fourth soil. The Greek word for "receive" means to accept deliberately, willingly, favorably and readily and to embrace with favor and delight.

We are God's tilled field according to 1 Corinthians 3:9.

Simply being a Christian does not guarantee that the soil of the heart is in this fourth category. We have a responsibility before God to guard the soil of our heart and, as James says, "get rid of all uncleanness and the rampant outgrowth of wickedness."

The Word of God must also be understood if we are to abide in this fourth category of soil. All spiritual growth comes by the way of understanding the Word of God. Without understanding the seed cannot grow and produce fruit.

The next requirement of this fourth soil of the heart is that we keep and hold fast the Word of God in an honest and good heart.

The soil of our hearts is most fertile when it is living love by helping, caring for, rescuing and comforting others.

Secondly, the Word of God must be kept in a heart that is a beautiful representation of Jesus Christ so people can see our good deeds and glorify our Heavenly Father.

The last requirement of the fourth soil of the fourth soil of the heart is that it brings forth fruit with patience. The Greek word for "patience" means steadfastness, perseverance, and to remain or abide under.

Look at the patience of the farmer. He does not plant his seed and then rushes to his window the next day expecting to see a full harvest.

God's desire is that we bear much fruit, and this is His faithful promise.

Our heart needs steadfast patience and endurance to finish the race God has called us to and fully accomplish the will of God in our lives. Without this patient and endurance our heart's soil will fall into the second or third category of soil in the parable of the sower and the seed.

No one exercised more patience when he lived upon the earth than Jesus Christ.

Only when we look to Jesus can we run the appointed race with patience, steadfast endurance and not grow weary, faint, or lose heart. How many lives have been wasted by a lack of patience!

When all of the requirements of the fourth soil are met, Jesus makes an astounding promise that we shall reap a harvest thirty, sixty to hundred times what was sown. This is a yield of three thousand, six thousand and ten thousand percent.

Is this the return that we are having in the church?

Sadly, very few Christians have ever reached this forth soil. The world with all its philosophies, mantras, formulas, and education can never manufacture, replicate or create the fruit of the spirit in the human heart.

Idols have more influence on the condition of the heart than any other thing in the world! Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis and the introduction of sin into the human race, the heart has become an idol factory countless idols to love, worship and obey.

Isaiah 24:5 states that the entire earth has been polluted by idolatry and a curse has devoured the world.

The Bible is the life manual and instruction book on the ways of God and its urgent warnings against idolatry should not be ignored.

All humanity has been seduced into the snare of idolatry. Idolatry is based upon deception.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned us "Wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leads to destruction and many enter therein" (Matthew 7:13).

Hosea 4:6 says, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge."

God never lies about about who He is and what He will do.

Perfect order, peace and joy are restored when the Almighty is exalted, praised and worshipped.

The Bible teaches that the heart is the battleground of idolatry.

The heart was never meant to be a place for idols. Idolatry turns the dwelling place of God into a pagan temple.

The heart becomes what it worship.

So what exactly is an idol? An idol is anything that is more valued, loved, sought after, desired and honored than God.

What are you most devoted to?

Your eyes guide your heart as all idolatry begins with the gaze of the eye.

How could Aaron, that stood by Moses and witnessed firsthand some of the most amazing manifestations of the power of God, be so easily persuaded to fashion a false god for the children of Israel?

You can never serve two masters.

It is too dangerous to leave even one piece of any idol in the temple of our hearts. We should never utter the name of any other god, but Yahweh.

Every idol has a spirit from the kingdom of darkness behind it that drives a person to love and worship it.

Baal was believed to be the giver of life, and entire nations were devoted to Baal because they believed he was the one who would sustain their farms, flocks, and families.

The first usage of the word "believe" in the entire Bible concerns the faith of Abraham in the name of Yahweh (Genesis 15:6).

Do you have a heart for God or an idol?

Too often we have honored God with our lips, but our heart is far from Him.

We will not be able to hold our ground as Christians and stand fast in the Lord, if we allow His mighty works, powerful words and glorious presence to fade from our conscious thinking.

The Spirit of God is always teaching, leading, comforting, encouraging, helping, enlightening, reminding and instructing our hearts so we live for Christ, and do not forget God or His precious words of life.

The old nature brings to the mind, the lusts of the flesh, and the seductive trappings of this world. The new nature exercises its influence to bring us to a place where God is supreme in all our thoughts, motives, and emotions.

Doesn't God deserve to be your first love?

Lord help me to never, ever forget you!

The author, Tim Rowe has a doctorate and bachelor's degree in biblical studies, history, and classics. An attorney and author. President of Goodness of God's Ministries and lives in Indianapolis with his wife and son.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

5 of ... The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life - Book Review

The Third Soil of the Heart: The Choking Weeds - Five Thorns to Avoid

Let us examine the third soil of the heart and what happens when the Word of God is sown into it.

In this third soil of the heart, the seed of the Word of God fell among the seeds of thorns and both began to grow in this fertile soil. This word "thorn" in the Greek means a thorny plant, a bramble bush, briers, and thistles.

Israel in Bible times had a great variety of these thorny weeds throughout its land. Giant thistles, growing to the height of a man on horseback, frequently spread over regions once rich and fruitful. Prickly roses abound on the lower slopes of Hermon.

Thorns are carriers of spiritual disease and allow rebellion, lust, and idolatry to ride into the human heart.

The First Thorn: The Cares of This World. (Matthew 13:22; Mark 4:19). The Greek word for "cares" in these verses means an anxious worry that distracts and divides the mind. These anxious worries and cares are indicative of a heart that does not trust God.

Unrepentant sin is a major cause of anxiety in the heart. Anxiety, worry and fear are sin, and should have no place in the heart of a christian.

The Second Thorn: The Cares of This Life. The second thorn in the Parable of the Sower is "the cares of this life." The same Greek Word is used for "cares" so these are still anxious worries that divide and distract the mind and agitate the heart with fear, but it is a different category of cares.

Jesus perfectly illustrates these anxious cares in the Sermon on the Mount and commands these worries have no place in the heart of the child of God.

The Third Thorn: The Deceitfulness of Riches. Millions of people have been corrupted, ruined and destroyed by the deceitfulness of riches. Riches can turn the heart away from God quicker than almost anything on earth.

John Wesley said wealth had destroyed the godliness of more people than other things. This thorn illustrates the eternal truth in the Sermon on the Mount that "where your treasure is there your heart be also" (Luke 12:34).

The Fourth Thorn: The Lust for Other Things. The fourth thorn in the Parable of the Sower are "the lust for other things."

Lust is excessive desire that has gone overboard and adrift from the heart of God that seeks self-satisfaction, self-gratification and self-pleasure as its ultimate thrill ride. Lust has no perception of eternity and no realization of its deadly consequences to the heart.

The Fifth Thorn: The Pleasures of This Life. The fifth and final thorn in the Parable of the Sower is the "pleasures of this life." The Greek word for "pleasures" is "hedone" which means delight, pleasureable, sensation, and sensual pleasures. Hedone is an unrestrained pursuit of anything that over stimulates the senses, stopping at nothing to gorge the body's sinful inner cravings.

Tim Rowe, the author, has a doctorate of jurisprudence and a bachelor's degree in biblical studies, history, and classics. He is the president of Goodness of God Ministries and lives with his wife and son.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

2 of - The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life - Book Review

When King Solomon had the Ark of the Covenant brought to the temple at its dedication, he had the Levites play cymbals, harps, lyres , & trumpets. Singers raised their voices to praise God with this magnificent musical accompaniment. The glory of the Lord filled the temple with a cloud after this musical display. (2 Chronicles 5:12-14).

When a vast army of Moabites, Ammonites, & Meunites came against Jerusalem, King Jehoshaphat & all of Judah stood before the Lord & prayed. When the Israelites returned to Jerusalem in victory, they went to the temple of the Lord with harps, lutes, & trumpets praising God in music & song. (2 Chronicles 20:21-22,28).

In 2 Chronicles 29:25-28 we read that King Hezekiah opened the doors of the temple & cleansed it from idolatry, one of the first he did was reestablish music & song there. He furnished the Levites with cymbals, harps, trumpets, & all the instruments of David.

After rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah immediately established the singers in the temple.

The book of Nehemiah indicates in the time of David there were directors of music for the singers & songs of praise & thanks. Nehemiah realized how important music was in the service of God in the temple & for the worship of God among the people.

After Jesus instituted communion as a memorial of His death, Matthew 26:30 says, "When they had sung a hymn, they went to the Mount of Olives." Mark 14:26 states that Jesus sang this hymn along with His disciples right before He prayed in Gethsemane shortly before He was crucified. This was probably not the first time that they had sung together, but this is the only time recorded in Scripture that our Lord sang.

This hymn is believed to be from the psalms called the "Great Hallel" or the "praise Psalms," which were Psalms 113-118 & 136.

A song can lift us into the presence of God & comfort our hearts even in life's darkest hours.

Paul & Silas was severely beaten for preaching the gospel & thrown into prison with their feet in stocks, but they sang praises to God in the midst of this seemingly hopeless situation. God moved with a great earthquake that shook the entire foundation of the prison & they were set free.

Throughout time, great men in Church history have understood the profound effect of music on the heart & the importance of godly music in the life of a Christian.

Martin Luther, who is credited with igniting the flame of the Protestant Reformation, was a wonderful composer.

One of his greatest hymns, which was one of my favorite growing up, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."

Martin Luther had a legendary love for music. He often played after dinner with his family & guests & composed songs for his children. Music was not just a recreational tool for Luther - it was an integral part of his life & he found a source of strength & comfort in music.

Luther was well aware of the power of music & insisted that its proper use was "to the glorification of God & the edification to man."

During the Wesleyan Revival in the 18th Century, Charles Wesley wrote more than six thousand hymns, including some that became classics of the Church, like "O for a Thousand Tongues to Sink," "Jesus, Lover of My Soul," & "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing."

Listening to music is not meant to replace a Christian's time in studying & mediating on the Bible, or prayer & intimate fellowship with the heavenly Father & our Lord Jesus.

Music either pulls you into the heart of God or pulls you into the heart of God or pulls you into the heart of the world. God is crying out to the Church & to every Christian believer, "Do not be ignorant or fooled by music & think your listening choices are harmless to your walk & relationship with me!"

Since the fall of Lucifier, music has been a major weapon in the battle for the heart.

Often our greatest songs of praise are borne in trials & temptations.

Many Christians today have lost the song in their hearts for God. When the heart is bitter & unforgiving, when the heart forgets God, when the heart becomes entangled with the things of this world, it loses its song.

In Exodus 15, the children of Israel sang the right song when they were delivered from the army of Egypt, but they sang it on the wrong side. They should have been singing this song even when they were in bondage in Egypt, not simply after a great miracle & deliverance from God.

Our God will never fail us. Our God will never leave us, or forsake us, & His strength is perfect in our weakness.

Yes, indeed - God is my Salvation. God - yes God! is my strength & song, best of all, my salvation!

Our song is never a song of anxiety, fear, or worry. He is our strength, our defender, our provider, & our deliverer. We should be raising the roof with our praise - song to God.

We cannot keep silent about the wonder of our God & His amazing works. God cries when the song of our hearts goes silent.

Don't lose your love song for God by turning away from Him when things get tough.

Yahweh your God is there with you, the warrior-Savior. He will rejoice over you with happy song, he will renew you by His love, He will dance with shout of joy for you (NJB).

This song of God is a hymn of deliverance; victory, & Salvation. Psalm 32:7 says that God "surrounds us with songs of deliverance." God sings because He knows that He has made you in Christ & that He has given you a name & divine destiny.

But God, says, "No matter anyone says, you are my beloved, My treasure, My pearl more valueable than all the treasures of the earth."

God sings to us. We sing to God.

Nothing is more important to our life than the thoughts that occupy our minds on a daily basis. The critical question becomes "What are you thinking?"

Our hearts are built on the foundation of our thoughts. The heart is molded & shaped by our thoughts. Thoughts are the blueprint of the hear, & the heart becomes the image of its thought. We are what we think.

We can't ignore the importance of our thinking if we want to love God with all our heart.

Tozer encourages Christians to "form the habit of a holy thought life."

God commands us to love Him with all our mind (Luke 10:27).

Our thought life should prepare our hearts for the Lord so that He might live & reign from its throne room. King David, in his last admonishment to his son Solomon & the children of Israel, exhorts them to frame their thoughts carefully so God can prepare their hearts to love & serve Him above all else.

The heart is like a mirror, reflecting the image of its thoughts. God should be the only image that dominates our thinking.

The author, Tim Rowe has a doctorate of jurisprudence & a bachelor's degree in biblical studies, history, & classics. An attorney & author. He is the president of Goodness of God Ministries & lives in Indianapolis with his wife & son.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Leading Up to Victory Over Death - Monday through Sunday - 4/16/17

John 19:31-37 ... Monday: High day, especially holy since it fell on the Passover. Blood & water indicate the reality of Jesus' humanity & perhaps the new covenant & baptism. Jesus fulfills the passover.

I John 5:6-12 ... Tuesday: The Spirit's witness to the water (Jesus' baptism) & to the blood (the cross). Eternal life is in (living union with) Jesus, God's Son, & nowhere else.

Psalm/Tehillim 34:15-20 ... Wednesday: The Lord Breaks No Bones (None of Jesus Bones was Broken)

John 19:23-25 ... Thursday: A Roman Custom. Providence controlled even the soliders' behavior.

John 19:26-27 ... Friday: Indicates Jesus' real humanity & concern for human values.

Luke 24:1-12 ... The first Resurrection ... Saturday: Suggests that Jesus' disciples as a group often included others than those of the inner circle.

John 20:1-10 ... Sunday: Resurrection Day - The first day, Sunday. The empty tomb indicates actual resurrection, not mere immortality. The other disciples was younger. Peter shows characteristic boldness. Jesus body escaped without the linen cloths being unwound. The napkin which had been wrapped about his head, lay apart, still rolled up. Believed, faith grasped the evidence that Jesus had not been resuscitated from a swoon, or stolen; he had been transformed without corruption into his resurrection body. The title, Teacher, & Mary's effort to hold (cling to) him, were to be abandoned for the new relation with him as the ascended Lord.

Monday - Jesus' Side is Pierced - John 19:31-37 - 4/10/17

Tuesday - The Spirit, Water, & Blood Agree - I John 5:6-12 - 4/11/17

Wednesday - The Lord Breaks No Bones - Psalm/Tehillim 34:15-20 -4/12/17

Thursday - Soliders Casts Lots for Jesus' Clothing - John 19:23-25 -4/13/17

Friday - Jesus' Final Words to His Mother - John 19:26-27 -4/14/17

Saturday - The Women & Peter were Amazed - Luke 24:1-12 - 4/15/17

Sunday - God's Love as Victory Over Death - John 20:1-10

Reference summary used from The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha Expanded Edition, An Ecumenical Study Bible, RSV

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sunday - God's Saving Love in Christ - John 3:1-16 - 4/9/2017

Verse 14 (crucifixion) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so the Son of man be lifted up:

Nicodemus personal name meaning "innocent of blood." John identifies Nicodemus as a Pharisee, "a ruler of the Jews," that is, a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council, & as a "teacher of Israel," that is, an authority on the interpretation of the Hebrew scripture. Nicodemus coming at night suggests his timid & his trek from the darkness of his own sin & ignorance to the light of Jesus. Nicodemus greeted Jesus with a title of respect, "Rabbi" (teacher), recognizing Him as a God sent teacher whose signs bore witness to the presence of God. Jesus replied that Nicodemus could never see the Kingdom of God without being "born again" or "born of water & Spirit." Nicodemus could only marvel at the impossibility of such a thing.

True to his name, Nicodemus defended Christ before his peers who were unaware that one of their number might have believed in him.

The reference to Nicodemus' initial coming at night highlights his later public participation in Jesus' burial. Nicodemus contribution was enough aloes & spices to prepare a King for burial, & so he did. On a deeper level it recognized that in His role as King of the Jews.

The Pharisees were the most devout of Jews. The Kingdom of God is entered, not by moral achievement, but by a transformation wrought by God. Birth into the new order is through water (referring to baptism; & the Spirit). Jesus descended from heaven to bring eternal life, (participation in God's life), through being lifted up on the cross.

Reference summary used from: An Ecumenial Study Bible, The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha RSV & Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunday - God's Love Manifest - John 15:1-17 - 3/19/17

The grapevine is a profilic plant: a single vine bears many grapes. In the Old Testament grapes symbolized Israel's fruitfulness in doing God's work on the earth. In the Passover meal, the fruit of the vine symbolized, God's goodness to His people.

Christ is the vine, & God is the husbandman who cares for the branches to make them fruitful. The branches are all who claim to be followers of Christ. The fruitful branches are true believers who by their living union with followers are as good as dead & will be cut off & cast aside.

Jesus makes a distinction between two kinds of pruning (1) separating & (2) cutting back branches. Fruitful branches are cut back to promote growth. God must sometimes discipline us to strength our character & faith. But branches that don't bear fruit are cut off at the trunk, because not only are they worthless, they often infect the rest of the tree.

Prayer, joy, & soul-winning are also fruit.

Abiding in Christ means (1) believing he is God's Son (2) receiving Him as Saviour (3) doing what God says (4) continuing in faith (5) & relating to the community of believers. Christ's body Jesus says to only live a truly good life is to stay close to him, like a branch attached to the vine. Apart from him our efforts are unfruitful.

When a vine bears "much fruit," God is glorified, for daily He sent the sunshine & rain to make the crops grow, & constantly be nurtured each tiny plant & prepared to blossomed. What a moment of glory for the Lord of the harvest when the harvest is brought into the barns, safe & ready for use! This farming picture shows how God is glorified when people come into a right relationship with him & begin to "bear much fruit" in their lives.

Joy comes from a consistent relationship with Jesus Christ. The joy of living with Jesus Christ daily keeps us levelheaded no matter how high or low our circumstances.

We are to love one another as Jesus loved us, & He loved us enough to give His life for us. Give all the love you can, & then try to give a little more.

Jesus made the first choice --- to love & to die for us; to offer us eternal life. We make the next choice --- to accept or reject His offer. Without His choice, we would have no choice.

Reference summary used from the Life Application Bible KJV, Tyndale Publishing House, Inc., Wheaton, IL

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Saturday - Thankful for God's Steadfast Love - Psalm 40:1-10 - 3/4/17

Waiting for God to help us is not easy, but David received four benefits from waiting: God (1) lifted him out of his despair, (2) set his feet on firm ground, (3) established his goings (steadied him as he walked), & (4) gave him a new song.

The religious ritual of David's day involved sacrificing animals in the Tabernacle. Today we often make rituals of going to church, taking communion, or paying tithe. Make sure you give God the obedience & life-long service he desires from you.

Jesus portrayed this attitude of obeying & serving God (John 4:34;5:30).

God shows his righteousness & faithfulness to his people in his offer of salvation. David boldly proclaimed this to those around him. We want to tell other people what God has done for us. Since it is natural to share a good bargain with others or recommend a skillful doctor, then we should also feel natural sharing what God has done for us.

People who are faithful to us accept & love us, even when we are unloveable. Faithful people keep their promises whether promises of support or marriage vows. He loves us in spite of our constant bent toward sin, & he keeps all his promises he has made to us, even when we break our promises to him.

Reference summary used from the Life Application Bible KJV, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois

Friday, March 3, 2017

Monday - Christ Died for Us - I John 3:11-17 - 2/27/17

We must love other Christians.

Cain destroyed his brother Abel when God accepted Abel's offering & not Cain's (Genesis 4:1-16). People who are morally upright expose & shame those who aren't. If we live for God, the world will often hate us because we make them painfully aware of their immoral way of living.

John echoes Jesus' words that one who hates another person is a destroyer at heart (Matthew 5:21,22). Christianity is a religion of the heart; outward compliance alone is not you is an evil cancer within you & will eventually destroy you. Don't let a "root of bitterness" (Hebrews 12:15) grow in you or your church.

Real love is an action, not a feeling. Sometimes it is easier to say we'll die for others than to truly live for them, which involves putting others' desires first.

Christians must show their love, & one way to do that is to provide money or material possession to help others' needs. How clearly do your actions say you really love others?

Reference summary used from the Life Application Bible KJV, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Sunday - The Source of All Love - I John 4:7-19 - 3/5/17

In reality, love is a choice & an action. God is the source of our love: he loved is enough to sacrifice his son for us. Jesus is our example of what it means to love; everything he did in life & death was supremely loving. The Holy Spirit gives us power to love; he lives in our hearts & makes more & more like Jesus. God's love always involves a choice & an action, & our love should be like his.

The world thinks love is what make you feel good, & it is willing to sacrifice moral principles & others' rights in order to obtain such "love." Our definition of love must come from God who is holy, just, & perfect. At the same time, if we truly know God, we must learn to love as he does.

"Only begotten" means God's unique Son.

Love explains (1) why God creates; (2) why God cares; (3) whey we are free to choose; (4) why Christ died; & (5) why we receive eternal life.

Nothing sinful or evil can exist in God's presence. He cannot overlook, condone, or excuse sin as if it never happened. We can be acquitted (Romans 5:18) by his atoning sacrifice ("propitiation").

Jesus is the complete expression of God in human form & he has revealed God to us. When we love one another, the invisible God reveals himself to others through us, & his love is made complete ("perfect").

John isn't telling us how many people to love, but how much to love the people we already know. Our job is to faithfully love the people God has given us to love, whether there are two or two hundred of them. If God sees we are ready to love others, he will bring them to us. God provides us the strength to do what he asks.

When we become Christians, we receive the Holy Spirit. God's presence in our lives is a proof that we really belong to him & gives us the power to love. If you lack assurance of your salvation, listen to the Holy Spirit within you (Romans 8:16).

The day of judgment is that final day when we will appear before Christ & be held accountable for our actions. We can look forward to the judgment, because it will mean the end of sin & the beginning of a face-to-face relationship with Jesus Christ.

If we ever begin to dear eternity, heaven, or God's judgment, we can remind ourselves of God's love. We can be confident of what lies ahead if in this life we have determined to be more like Jesus.

God's love is the source of all human love, & it spreads like fire. In turn, they love others, who are warmed by God's love through them.

Reference summary used from Life Application Bible KJV, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Saturday - Support Ministers Generously - I Corinthians 9:3-12 - 2/25/17

The apostle Paul used himself as an illustration of giving up personal rights. The apostle Paul had the right to hospitality, to be married to bring guests, to be paid for his work; but he willingly gave up these rights to win people to Christ. When your focus is on living for Christ, your rights become comparatively unimportant.

Jesus said that workers are worthy of their pay (Luke 10:7). The apostle Paul echoed this thought & urged the church to be sure to pay their Christian workers. We have the responsibility to care for our pastors, teachers, & other spiritual leaders. It is our duty to see that those who serve us in the ministry are fairly & adequately compensated.

Reference summary used from the Life Application Bible KJV, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois

Friday, February 24, 2017

Friday - Practice Mutal Discipline - Matthew 18:15-20 - 2/24/17

These are Jesus' guidelines for dealing with those who sin against us. Jesus' words are not a license for a frontal attack on every person who hurts or slights us. They are designed to reconcile those who disagree so that all Christians can live in harmony.

By contrast, we should go to the person first, as difficult as that may be. Then we should forgive that person as often as he or she needs it.

Ideally, the church's decisions should be God-guided & based on discernment of his Word. Handling problems God's way will have an impact now & for eternity.

Jesus looks ahead to a new day when he will be present with his followers not in body, but through his Holy Spirit. Two or more believers, filled with the Holy Ghost, will pray according to God's will, not their own; & thus their requests will be granted.

Reference summary used from Life Application Bible KJV, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Tuesday - The Sower & the Seed - Luke 8:4-15 - 2/21/17

Jesus often communicated spiritual truth through parables - short stories or descriptions that take a familiar object or situation & give it a starting new twist. By linking the known with the hidden & forcing listeners to think, parables can point to spiritual truths. A parable compels listeners to discover the truth for themselves, & it conceals the truth for themselves, & it conceals the truth from those too lazy or prejudiced to look for it. In reading Jesus' parables, we must be careful not to, read too much into them.

Why would a farmer allow precious seed to land "by the way side," upon rocks, or among thorns? He is using the acceptance method of hand-seeding a large field - casting it by handfuls as he walks through the field. That some of the seed produced no crop was not the fault of the faithful farmer or the seed. The yield depended on the condition of the soil where the seed fell. It is our responsibility to spread the seed (God's message), but we should not give up when some of our efforts fail. Remember, not every seed falls on good soil.

God told Isaiah that people would hear without understanding & see without perceiving, & this is what happened to Jesus. The parable of the soil was an accurate picture of the people's reaction to the rest of his parables.

Wayside people, like many of the religious leaders, refused to believe God's message. Hard-rock people, like many in the crowds who followed Jesus, believed his message but never got around to doing anything about it. Thorn-patch people, overcome by materialism, left no room in their lives for God. Good-soil people, in contrast to all the other groups, followed no matter what the cost.

Reference summary used from the Life Application Bible KJV, Tyndale House Publishing, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois