I’ve lived in the same old farm house for the last thirty-one years. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s my home. When I’m at home, I know that I’m sheltered from the many storms that have blown through over the years. This old house has endured blizzards, hurricanes and tropical storms, yet it has stood firm, despite being more than seventy-five years old. That could be because the floor joists beneath this old house are whole logs (with the bark still on them), and there are actual 4″x4″ posts, (as opposed to today’s 4″x4″ posts, which are really only 3.5″x3.5″) in the walls, and the 2″x4″ boards truly are 2″x4″ as well, (not today’s 1.5″x3.5″).
At any rate, when I’m in my home, I feel safe and secure. If I’ve been out in the world, and someone hurts me, I long for the security of my home. Whenever I leave my home for a long period of time, I always feel great joy, when I return to the house I live in, because home is where my heart is.
The same thing can be said spiritually and emotionally. Where we abide is where we live. Where do you live?
4 *Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it *abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you *abide in Me.
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who *abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.6 If anyone does not *abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.7 If you *abide in Me, and My words *abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
ménō, men’-o; a primary verb; to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy):—abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, tarry (for), × thine own.
For many years, I lived (abided) in Jesus, and I was quite happy there. I’ve preached and shared the gospel with many people, and I’ve been blessed to rejoice in the salvation of others, who came to know and love Jesus. Yet, because we live in a fallen world, bad things happen, even when we’re in our homes, where we feel safe and secure.
Six years ago, my back started hurting, causing weakness and shooting pains in my legs. I’ve dealt with back pain my entire life, off and on, and when it started, I figured it was just another flare up, and soon I would be back to normal, but that’s not what happened. Before long, my back and legs were hurting constantly, and within a year, I had to stop doing prison ministry, and shortly thereafter, I had to leave my job, because I was no longer able to work. The constant pain began to consume me.
During the next six to eight months, my mother passed away, and my children and grandchildren moved far away, to other states. I fell into a deep depression. I was totally overwhelmed by the darkness of pain and depression, and my faith began to waver and wane. I was no longer abiding in Christ; I was now abiding in pain, depression, guilt and anxiety.
Because of the constant, chronic pain, I was unable to spend as much time as I wanted to spend with my mother before she died. And although I had shared the gospel with her many times over the years, I was unable to do so, while she lay dying, and I was consumed with guilt because of that. I questioned my own salvation. “How could God continue to love me, when I couldn’t even minister to my own mother?” I thought.
9 Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; *abide in My love.10 If you keep My commandments, you will *abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and *abide in His love.11 These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.
12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.14 You are My friends if you do what I command you.15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.16 You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.17 This I command you, that you love one another.
Over the next several years, I continued to abide in pain and depression. I no longer prayed, because I was so disappointed in myself, and I was sure God was too. I no longer felt His presence. I simply lived in my pain and depression. This was now my new abode, and to be frank with you, I’ve been miserable.
Then, just this week, while reading, I was reminded of the scriptures above, and I heard the Lord whisper to my heart, “Abide in Me. Abide in My love.”He was telling me to live, dwell, endure, tarry, stand in His love; in Him! I still have the same physical pain, but I don’t have to live in and wallow in it. Instead, I choose to immerse myself in His love for me. His love didn’t stop because I didn’t share the gospel with my mother one last time before she died. My pain isn’t a punishment from God. It’s just a part of life in this fallen world.
33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.
Losing my mother, my chronic pain, and having my children and grandchildren so far away from me are just a few of the many sorrows and trials I will endure, but I don’t have to try to go it alone. Jesus tells me to take heart, because He has overcome the world. I’m not alone and unloved, for His love is unending, just as He is, for God is love (1 John 4:8b).
I am so very thankful to serve the God of all grace, who remains faithful to us, even in our frailties. Yes, I continue to have chronic, sometimes debilitating pain, but I don’t have to live in pain. Instead, while living with pain, I will live in Christ. Where will you live?
The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure, like a pearl of great value… Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, Son of Man, King of kings and Lord of Lords, is the Treasure; He is that Pearl of great value! Now, when the merchant and the man discovered this great Treasure, (Jesus), what did they do? They sold everything they owned, so they could get that treasure. There was nothing more important to them than getting that Treasure, the Pearl of great value. Likewise, nothing should be more important to us than Jesus, our Pearl of great value…
23 Then He said to the crowd,“If any of you wants to be My follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow Me.24 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it.25 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?26 If anyone is ashamed of Me and My message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when He returns in His glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels.27 I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God.”
These words of Jesus are offensive to most people, including we, who call ourselves Christians. Instead of trying to follow Jesus on our own terms, we must do as He says…
23 Jesus replied, “All who love Me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make Our home with each of them.24 Anyone who doesn’t love Me will not obey Me. And remember, My words are not My own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent Me.
Do you love Jesus? If you do, you will obey Him. If you don’t obey Him, then you don’t love Him. Do my words sound harsh? They’re not my words. Jesus said they’re not even His own words, but those of His Father.
Before you take offense at what I’ve written, I should let you know that it’s taken me almost a week to write about this Pearl of great value, because I’ve had to deal with the fact that I haven’t been treating Jesus like the Treasure He is, for far too long…
Father, please forgive me for giving up on You. Forgive me for doubting, Lord, help my unbelief! Please forgive me for ignoring You, Lord, my Pearl of great value. Forgive me, Lord, for trying to live on my own terms, and for refusing to carry my cross daily, following You. Forgive me, my Lord, for trying to hang on to my life as I wanted it to be, instead of giving it up for Your will, instead. Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your steadfast love. According to the greatness of Your compassion, blot out my transgressions, and cleanse me from my sins. Against You, and You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are just when You speak, and blameless when You judge…
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit away from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then, I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You!
As we study this parable about the treasure and the pearl of great value, the story of the rich young man immediately came to my mind. Do you remember how the young man questioned Jesus about how to obtain eternal life?
17 As Jesus was starting out on His way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to Him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good.19 But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’”
20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”
21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
This man seemed to do everything right. He obeyed all of God’s commands, but when he stood before (Jesus) the Pearl of great value, he failed to recognize His worth. Although he was willing to obey God’s law, he was unwilling to give up his earthly treasures, unlike the merchant and the man, who discovered the buried Treasure and the Pearl of great value. Jesus, who felt genuine love for this man, even tried to make everything clear to him, saying that if he sold everything, he would have Treasure in heaven, but the man failed to recognize the Treasure(Jesus) speaking to him… and so, with a sad look on his face, the man walked away from the greatest Treasure he could ever hope for, because he already had so many possessions that he couldn’t bear to part from…
23 Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!”24 This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God.25 In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”
26 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.
27 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”
Mark 10:23-27 NLT
Hear me now… People throughout the world are seeing Jesus’ miracles, signs and wonders, even in this day and age, while here in the United States, we see few, if any. Do you wonder why this is? It is because we already have so many treasures of our own, that we don’t hunger or thirst for that Pearl of great value. Even the poor of this nation, (and I am counted among the poor) are not truly poor in comparison to the rest of the world…
You see, though I have very little money to live on each month, it is still more than others around the world have… I still have plenty of food to eat… I have a car (it’s old, but it’s paid for, and it runs)… I have a computer… I have medical care when needed… Do you see? In this nation that I love, I lack for nothing that I need, and I praise God for that.
Yet, this fact remains. My poverty is not poverty as the world knows it. Because all of my needs were met when I was able to work, and now they are met by the government, to whom do I run, first, when another need arises? Who am I depending on? When my back pain became unbearable, did I turn to Jesus first? Or did I turn to the doctor? When the doctors could offer me no help for the pain, and offered instead, a very risky surgery that could do more harm than good, was I angry with the doctors? Or did I get angry with Jesus, that Pearl of great value, who still hasn’t healed me in the last four or five years?
Until right now, I haven’t even admitted this to myself. I stopped asking Jesus to heal me, because I didn’t want to be disappointed if He didn’t. So, I became more and more depressed, for the last four years, and my faith began to shrink. I just gave up on the great Treasure. Now, instead of praying regularly, I seldom bothered to talk to Him. Instead of enjoying His presence, I wallowed in my pain. Unlike Job, when I lost my health, I also lost much of my faith… much of it, but not all of it.
For the God who saved me many years ago, remained faithful to me, in spite of my unfaithfulness. Though I had lost hope in Him, in His great mercy, He restored my hope. Then, as I began this study, about the great Treasure, I was convicted, because I have neglected this Pearl of great value. How could I write about this great Treasure, when I have failed to fully appreciate His value?
For almost a week, I watched TV, played video games, and did what I could, to ignore this study. I didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t want to deal with the fact that I had not treated Jesus as the great and wonderful Treasure that He is. Then, yesterday, as I tried to nap, I heard a still small voice whispering to my spirit, and reminding me of other times when He’s healed me. In 2004, I had a hyperactive thyroid that was so bad, the doctor was talking about doing a procedure to burn out my thyroid gland. I was taking blood pressure medicine, and still my blood pressure was through the roof. I shook with tremors constantly. My heart rate was super high, and I suffered many other symptoms because of it, but I remember praying for God to heal me one night at church, and He did! To this day, my thyroid is normal, and so is my blood pressure, heart rate, etc.
As I thought of how the Lord has healed me in the past, I felt His presence strongly, and felt as though He was saying, “Trust Me. Ask Me to help you, and believe that I can and I will do it for you.” I had stopped asking Him to heal my back several years ago, after living with the pain for more than a year, because I couldn’t bear the thought of asking Him for this, and being disappointed. Instead, I chose to live with no hope, and without hope, there is only disappointment…
Then I began to wonder, “What if I’m the one who keeps derailing me? What if God is ready to heal me, but I keep giving up on Him, before He can act? What if He chooses not to heal my back? Does this in any way devalue Him? Is He not still, the great Treasure? Isn’t He still the Pearl of great value?”
There is much more to this study, but for today, I leave you with this thought… Is Jesus your great Treasure? Is He your Pearl of great value? Or do you, like I have done, treat Him as something of much lesser value?
31 Here is another illustration Jesus used:“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field.32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.”
What is the Kingdom of Heaven? Some say that the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God are two different things, but, if you examine scriptures, Jesus spoke of them interchangeably…
30 Jesus said,“How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it?31 It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds,32 but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.”
18 Then Jesus said,“What is the Kingdom of God like? How can I illustrate it?19 It is like a tiny mustard seed that a man planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds make nests in its branches.”
So, again, where or what is the Kingdom of God? How do we find it?
3 Jesus replied,“I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
4 “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
5 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.7 So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’8 The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”
The first thing we need to understand about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven, is that only those who are born again will be able to see and enter it. He also tells us that the Kingdom belongs to those who are poor in spirit…
3 “Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are the poor in spirit [those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].”
Jesus makes it clear in this verse that the poor in spirit (those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant) have the kingdom of heaven… He doesn’t say that the kingdom will be theirs, using the future tense. He spoke in the present tense, meaning this is already so.
Therefore, since Jesus tells us that we must be poor in spirit to receive the kingdom of heaven, and that we must also be born again, in order to even see it or enter it, we must be poor in spirit in order to be born again. For it is when I was poor in spirit, that I recognized my absolute need for a Savior. Because I am poor in spirit, I know that apart from Jesus, I can do nothing. I needed and I still need Jesus, and in order to be a part of His kingdom, I needed to be reborn. I was already born of water from my mother’s womb, so now, I needed to be born of the Spirit.
4 “Blessed [forgiven, refreshed by God’s grace] are those who mourn [over their sins and repent], for they will be comforted [when the burden of sin is lifted].”
It is because I was (and still am) poor in spirit, that I began to mourn (repent) of my sins, and I cried out to Jesus to forgive me and save me. In that instance, He heard the cries of my heart, and I was born again. He had not only forgiven my sins, He had also cleansed me from all unrighteousness. I was no longer the same. I had been transformed, not because of my goodness, but because of His mercy and goodness. Immediately, I became a part of the Kingdom of God, because His Holy Spirit came to dwell within me. For, His temple is not in a building made by human hands. According to His word, His temple is now within my body…
19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
The kingdom of heaven is here on earth, among His children, who have been born of His Spirit. When two or more of us gather together in His name, He is here, in the midst of us. If you have been born again, you are a part of His kingdom, and you can see it…
So, what is this kingdom like???
31 Here is another illustration Jesus used:“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field.32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.”
Therefore, the tiny little mustard seed represents the word of God, planted into the hearts of man. Then, that tiny little seed grew into an enormous tree, which represents the growth of the church. Think about it, on the day of Pentecost, there were only about one hundred and twenty (see Acts 1:15) Christ followers, but after the Holy Spirit blew in, settling on them in the upper room, they rushed out into the streets, rejoicing. Before the day was over, three thousand more believers had been added to their number (see Acts 2:41)! Everyday after that, more and more believers joined them, as the church continued to grow enormously (see Acts 2:46-47). Within a short time, the number of believers grew to five thousand (seeActs 4:4)! As people were healed and witnessed many miracles, signs and wonders, crowds of men and women began to believe (see Acts 5:14)! Indeed, as God’s message spread, the number of believers greatly increased. Even some of the priests became believers (seeActs 6:7).
The church grew amazingly fast, and amazingly large. Just look at how many people claim the Christian faith today. In fact, as that mustard seed grew into a huge tree, birds came and made nests in it… Do you remember that the birds represented the evil one, snatching the word away from the believers in the first parable we talked about inSowing Seeds Begins with Prayer?
Whenever scripture speaks to us in parables, they don’t change. For instance, leaven (yeast) always represents sin. The seeds in these stories, represents God’s word. Likewise, the birds represent the evil one. Whenever the word of God goes out, the enemy seeks to destroy it or snatch it away. In this case, we see that the enemy has built nests within the church. So, what does this mean?
In the parable we discussed yesterday, inThe Wheat and the Weeds Know the Truth, we saw that the weeds, which were planted by the evil one, grew up right alongside of the wheat (true believers). Likewise, today, we see the true believers (the church) represented by the mustard tree, and nesting within its branches, are the birds (those sent by the evil one, to snatch the word of God away from the believers). Do you wonder if this is even possible? Look at this warning from Jesus…
24 For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones.25 See, I have warned you about this ahead of time.
There are deceivers in the church, right now. They are in the pulpits, on committees, and in the pews. Some may seem righteous, but their hearts are black. Therefore, it is vital that you know the Truth, and the only way to know Truth is by having a close relationship with Jesus. Talk to Him and study His word.
16 Rejoice always;17pray without ceasing;18in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
31 Jesus said to the people who believed in Him, “You are truly My disciples if you remain faithful to My teachings.32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:31-32 NLT
15 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit.18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire.20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.
Beloved reader, if you walk in close obedience to Jesus, you will not be fooled by the birds in the tree. Even if you are momentarily fooled, God will open your eyes to the truth, and when He does, you must proclaim the truth of God’s word to others, so that they will not be fooled. I’m not telling you to kill the birds, because the Lord will remove them, when the time is right. I’m telling you to speak the truth in love and walk in truth.
15 But speaking the truth in love [in all things—both our speech and our lives expressing His truth], let us grow up in all things into Him [following His example] who is the Head—Christ.
24 Here is another story Jesus told:“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field.25 But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away.26 When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.
27 “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’
28 “‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed.
“‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked.
29 “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do.30 Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’”
We learned yesterday, from Sowing Seeds Begins with Prayer, that the good seed that was planted, represents the word of God that was planted in the hearts of people…
1 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He existed in the beginning with God. 3 God created everything through Him, and nothing was created except through Him. 4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and His life brought light to everyone.
Jesus is the word of God. He is the living, and the spoken word of God. Every scripture that has ever been inspired or God breathed, points us to Jesus. And Jesus made it clear that He is the only Way to God. He made it clear that He is the Truth, and that He is Life. Those who hear this and understand this, represent the good seed that the farmer spread onto the ground…
Let’s look at a portion of the prayer that Jesus prayed for those representing the good seed, on the night before He was crucified…
13 “Now I am coming to You. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with My joy.14 I have given them Your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.15 I’m not asking You to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do.17 Make them holy by Your truth; teach them Your word, which is truth.18 Just as You sent Me into the world, I am sending them into the world.19 And I give Myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by Your truth…”
This is such an important passage for the good seed. Do you see what Jesus said? He gave us God’s word. He gave us Himself. When we become the good seed, by hearing and believing God’s word, He makes us holy.
Jesus knew that He would be crucified the next day, and so He asked the Father to make us holy by His truth. Do you remember who Jesus said the Truth is? God’s word, Jesus, is Truth. We become holy, good seed, by God’s Truth – Jesus…
25 But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away.26 When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.
Who is the enemy of God? We all know that the devil is God’s enemy, but did you know that the devil isn’t God’s only enemy?
1 What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you?2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.
4 You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.5 Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit He has placed within us should be faithful to Him.
42 Jesus told them,“If God were your Father, you would love Me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on My own, but He sent Me.43 Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear Me!44 For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.45 So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe Me!46 Which of you can truthfully accuse Me of sin? And since I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe Me?47 Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don’t listen because you don’t belong to God.”
The weeds that were planted among the wheat or the good seed, weren’t just the devil. It included religious leaders, and people who call themselves men and women of God, though they really hate the truth. Paul even warned Timothy about this…
1 You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times.2 For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred.3 They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good.4 They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God.5 They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!
Beloved, Jesus didn’t tell these parables just because He liked telling good stories. He was telling them to prepare His people then and now, and to warn them. Today, in the church, (I’m not talking about the various buildings, where people attend services. I’m talking about the people themselves, who claim to be Christ followers.) there are many false beliefs and practices, which have sprung up over the last two thousand years, since Christ’s death and resurrection. Some false beliefs and ideas came from merging true Christianity with pagan practices. Others came from people trying to make Christianity more appealing to the masses, by ignoring obedience, and making Christianity more worldly. Still other false practices and beliefs came from the very pit of hell, in order to deceive the people of God.
Because of this, we have men and women in the pulpit, preaching lies to their congregations. Some deliberately deceive their followers, while others unwittingly do so, as they repeat the lies that they have been taught, ignorant of the truth themselves. That is why it is vital for each person to pray to the Almighty in Jesus’ name, asking Him to reveal the Truth to them. Also, when you read a book by a Christian author, or a post, such as this one, pray and seek the truth in the scriptures for yourself. I’m human, and though I don’t want to mislead anyone, I do make mistakes. See if what I’m telling you lines up with the word of God. Likewise, whenever you read something by any Christian author, see if it lines up with God’s word. Beloved reader, you don’t want to be mislead, because God isn’t going to separate the weeds (the deceivers) from the wheat (true Christ followers), until the last day…
27 “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’
28 “‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed.
“‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked.
29 “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do.30 Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’”
The deceivers and the deceived continue grow along with the lovers and believers of the truth. Therefore, pray, study and read God’s holy scriptures, for in them, you will find the truth…
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
Later that same day Jesus left the house and sat beside the lake.2 A large crowd soon gathered around Him, so He got into a boat. Then He sat there and taught as the people stood on the shore.3 He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one:
“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds.4 As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them.5 Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow.6 But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died.7 Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants.8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!9 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
When Jesus walked the earth, fulfilling the Law and the prophets, He was here to seek and save those who were lost. Yet, He knew that He would soon be leaving the earth, and He needed to prepare His disciples to continue His ministry, when He was gone. Of course, He knew that we would have His Holy Spirit living within us, but there were still many things He needed to teach us about ministry. Therefore, He shared this parable with the people.
Later, after He explained why He spoke in parables to His disciples, (see Why Parables) He explained the meaning of this parable…
18 “Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds:19 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts.
Have you ever tried to share the love of Christ with someone, and he/she just doesn’t get it? Even though the reality of Him is so real and so clear, this person simply can’t grasp what you’re saying. This has nothing to do with a person’s intelligence. I’ve known people who have read the bible from cover to cover, without ever hearing it speak to them. It often seems like the most logical people believe in the most illogical things. They’re more willing to believe in “coincidence”, rather than God’s answer to someone’s specific prayer. Or, they might believe in some unproved theory, such as evolution or a cosmic disaster from which life evolved, rather than seeing the evidence of God’s creative design.
The reason for the disbelief of many of these people is found in Matthew 13:18-19 NLT. Though they have heard the word of God, before it reached their hearts, the evil one came and snatched it away. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge a person has, if the word of God never reaches his/her heart. Therefore, don’t be discouraged when you meet someone like this, because you now know how to pray for him/her. Pray that God’s word would reach this person’s heart, and that its roots would grow deep…
20 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy.21 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.
When I ministered in prison, I can still remember how mightily the Lord would work on the hearts of the women. I remember one woman, in particular, who was so on fire for the Lord, and when she was released, she asked me to come to her home and pray for her, her new home, and her children, which I gladly did. I took her to church with me, and she wept through the whole service. She was so thankful to God for setting her free, and so was I, but, within a month, she was using crack again, and prostituting herself. She ended up going to another prison. It broke my heart. I continued to pray for her for several years after this (I still pray for her, whenever I think of her, like now), and I visited her at the other prison, and again, after she was released from that prison. The last I heard, she was living with a man that she wasn’t married to, but she was no longer using drugs. Still, sadly, she also wasn’t walking with the Lord. Oh, she knew the Christian lingo, but the fruit she bore, told another story.
I was really discouraged by this, and yet, it’s clear to me now, that she represented the rocky soil spoken of inMatthew 13:20-21 NLT. Father, I pray, in Jesus’ name that You would break the rocky soil of my friend’s heart, until it is no longer hardened against Your word. And I pray, Lord, that You would once again sow the seed of Your word into her heart, so that those seeds would take root, and those roots would grow deep into her heart. Let faith grow strong within her, and rekindle the love and the joy she once felt for You, in Jesus’ name.
22 The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced.
Have you ever met someone who worries about everything, all the time? As I read Matthew 13:22 NLT, my heart goes out to someone that I love dearly, and I’m moved to pray for this beloved person, for whom I haven’t known how to pray. In all honesty, I simply get so frustrated with this loved one, that I don’t even bother to pray. Father, forgive me for my impatience, and please touch the heart of this loved one, and remove the thorns of worry and anxiety that plague him/her constantly. Lord, just as You sent Your word and healed many others, I ask You to send Your word to my loved one, after the thorns are removed, and heal him/her, in Jesus’ name.
23 The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
Of course, everyone wants to minister to someone who will truly hear and understand God’s word, but having lived with farmers for the last thirty-five years, I’ve learned a few things about soil. Did you know that not all soil is good for planting? Most times, soil has to be worked, fertilized and prepared for planting. Then, once it’s been planted, it needs to be weeded and tended. Knowing this, isn’t it just possible, that Jesus told this parable to the disciples (and to us too!), so they wouldn’t just give up on people?
Perhaps, we need to begin praying for God to work the soil of the hearts of those we love and minister to, so they will be prepared to receive the word of God, when it is planted…
I love the parables of Jesus. They give me something to ponder and pray about. My prayer is that my ears would not simply hear the words, but that I will listen to His words, heed them, and understand them. Father, open my ears, that I may hear. Open my eyes, that I may see, and open my heart and mind, so that I may understand Your words and live in obedience to them. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
Jesus often spoke to people in parables, and His disciples asked Him why He did this…
10 His disciples came and asked Him, “Why do You use parables when You talk to the people?”
11 He replied,“You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not.12 To those who listen to My teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.13 That is why I use these parables,
For they look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand.
14 This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says,
‘When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. 15 For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes— so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to Me and let Me heal them.’
16 “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.17 I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it.”
These words sound harsh to many, but they give me hope. Have you ever tried to share the truth of the gospel to someone, and no matter how clear it is to you, they just don’t get it? Indeed, they don’t even want to hear about this Jesus, who has captured your heart. Have you ever walked away from a situation like this, feeling like a failure? I have…
Yet, perhaps the failure wasn’t mine. Perhaps, in His great wisdom, this was part of the lesson that Jesus gave His disciples (that includes all of His followers), so that they would continue in the work that He gave them, even when they felt as though they had failed. I have shared the gospel with friends, family, people I love, and with enemies, sometimes, with great success. Other times, I’ve faced abysmal failure, which left me feeling ill-equipped and unworthy of sharing this Good News.
Yet, as I read these words of Jesus, my heart wonders, “Is it possible that they heard, but they didn’t listen? Could they have seen, and yet not seen?” Again, I am reminded of something else Jesus spoke to His disciples…
44 For no one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws them to Me, and at the last day I will raise them up.
When I think of the prophets of long ago, crying out for the people of God to repent, they weren’t welcomed with open arms and open hearts. No, they were mocked, scorned and ridiculed, at best. Many were even assaulted, and murdered for sharing God’s Good News. Many were killed by the religious leaders of their day.
So, why is it, that I expect things to be easier for me? Why is it, that I expect the church to embrace me in love, when I don’t have any words that will tickle their ears? Though I speak the truth in love, most still don’t want to hear it.
15 For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes— so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to Me and let Me heal them.’
Still, we must continue to speak the truth in love, and proclaim the good news whenever we are given the opportunity…
1 I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when He comes to set up His Kingdom:2 Preach (proclaim) the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.
3 For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.4 They will reject the truth and chase after myths.
5 But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.
Beloved, Jesus commanded all of us to go and make disciples of all nations. Every man, woman and child, who comes into a relationship with Jesus Christ has been given the honor and the privilege of sharing the Gospel with those we come into contact with. Therefore, let us not be discouraged when it seems that no one is listening, or that no one really cares. It is our joy and honor to speak the truth in love, and trust the Father to draw whomever He will to Jesus. It is also our privilege to call upon the Lord to open the eyes, ears, hearts and minds of those with whom we share the Gospel, and let Him reap the results.
I ministered in prison for ten years, and during that time, I saw many of the same women leave and return to prison again and again. Sometimes, I was certain they had finally seen the light, only to watch in sorrow, as they returned to prison again and again. Yet, I don’t believe my time there was wasted, because I only know what the Lord led me to speak and do. I don’t know who really listened and understood in their heart, but God does. My time wasn’t wasted, because I obeyed Him, and I drew closer to Him, as He filled my heart with love for the women I ministered to. We may never see all of the results of our labor, before our time in this life is finished, but let us be like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all of the prophets who have gone before us…
13 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth.14 Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own.15 If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back.16 But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
Father, I pray that You would continue to give us, Your children, eyes to see and ears to hear You. Give us hearts that are willing to obey You and walk humbly with You, O Lord. Show us Your ways, and let us not look to the right or to the left, but help us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on You.
Please help us not to be discouraged by what seems like failure to us. Instead, give us a willing spirit to speak Your word in and out of season, no matter whether it is received by others or not. And when our work here is finished, Father, let us be able to join Paul in saying…
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.8 And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of His return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to His appearing.
Today is the day that millions of Christians around the world celebrate Christ’s resurrection. After suffering, bleeding, and dying for the sins of mankind, Christ descended into hell, to preach to those men and women who died in the great flood.
18 Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but He died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but He was raised to life in the Spirit.
19 So He went and preached to the spirits in prison—20 those who disobeyed God long ago when God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat. Only eight people were saved from drowning in that terrible flood.
What a wonderful reason to celebrate! Jesus suffered and died for our sins (yours and mine) once, for all time, in order to bring us safely home to God. He suffered a physical death, and then He was raised to life in the Spirit. And because His love for mankind extended even to those who were dead, He even went and preached to those spirits who were in prison, every single man, woman and child, who had died in the great flood. The scriptures don’t say what came of that, and I’m not going to even venture a guess. All that I can say for sure, is that those lost souls were blessed to hear the Good News of the Gospel of Christ.
Now, you may be wondering what any of that has to do with us, and rightfully so. You see, even though this is the day we celebrate the resurrection of our Savior, I can’t help but think about the many people who are teetering on the edge of a great precipice. For, although many faithfully attend church on Easter Sunday, dressed in their beautiful new springtime fashions, and many claim to be children of God, how many truly do know Him? And does church attendance have anything to do with it?
The fact is that for many years, I went to church, took my children to Sunday School, was a fairly nice person, and whenever anyone asked about my religion, I said I was a Methodist or a Christian, even though I really had no relationship with Jesus. I did my best to teach my children right from wrong, and I went to church, because I thought it was good for my children. I didn’t go because I needed to go to church. I had no idea that I, like many of you today, was teetering on the edge of a steep cliff, ready to fall into the deep abyss of hell, below.
Beloved reader, do you know that it’s not enough to say you’re a Christian, if you don’t have a relationship with Jesus? It’s not enough to go to church every Sunday, or only on the special Sundays, if you have never asked Jesus to forgive your sins. Beloved, it isn’t enough to be a good person, because the fact is, that no one is good enough to be a child of God.
10 As the Scriptures say,
“No one is righteous— not even one. 11 No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. 12 All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.”
Think about it, beloved reader. What would have been the point of Jesus suffering and dying for the sins of mankind, if we were already good enough to get to heaven without Him? If that was the case, He could have stayed in heaven, and we could have worked our way there. But that wasn’t the case, because as the scriptures clearly say, there wasn’t even one person who was good enough.
Therefore, knowing that none of us could come to the Father on our own, Jesus made the way open to people like you and me. He knew that based on our own merit, each and every one of us was condemned to death…
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Beloved, there is only one way to reach the Father, and that way is through Jesus Christ, His One and only Son. You see, long ago, before the foundation of the world, God, through Christ, made this way for mankind. Now, how is that for love? Before He made us in His own image, He knew we would sin and rebel against Him, and He could have just changed His mind and said, “Forget it. They’re too much trouble,” but He didn’t. Instead, He made a way for us, the Only way.
6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.
4 Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes.5 God decided in advance 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.6 So we praise God for the glorious grace He has poured out on us who belong to His dear Son.7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins.
You see, beloved, God doesn’t care about your pretty new Easter outfit, or your new Easter bonnet. He cares about you. More specifically, He cares about your heart. Whom, or What do you love best? For that is your real God. Do you love Jesus? Or do you love family, friends, power or money more? Beloved, it isn’t what we call ourselves that makes us a Christian or not. WHO or WHAT we have placed first in our hearts that really matters.
Let me just briefly share with you the depths of God’s love for you…
16 For this is how God loved the world: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.
9 Therefore, God elevated Him to the place of highest honor and gave Him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Beloved, God has made the way of salvation very clear, and contrary to what many believe, there is NO other way. Therefore, if you are teetering on the edge, I beg you to cry out to Jesus! For if you teeter on the edge for too long, you may find that it’s too late.
Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt.
I am a woman who is truly blessed. I don’t have a lot of friends, but the friends I do have are wonderful, and would do anything for me, and I would do anything for them too. My husband of 35 years has been my best friend, and rock, through many trials in my life. Frankly, I don’t know how I could have gotten through many of those trials, if it hadn’t been for him.
Yet, much as I love my husband, when I read the prompt, “friend,” the One that I thought of was Jesus. Jesus knew me before I was born.
4 Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes.
When I think about that, it blows my mind. I don’t know you, but I do know me, and if I’m going to be totally honest with you, I was not born holy and without fault. In my life, I’ve lied and cheated, cursed God and others, and murdered those whom I hated in my heart. Yet, in spite of this, Jesus chose me!
16 You didn’t choose Me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using My name.
15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, 16 for through Him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through Him and for Him...
… 21 This includes you who were once far away from God. You were His enemies, separated from Him by your evil thoughts and actions.22 Yet now He has reconciled you to Himself through the death of Christ in His physical body. As a result, He has brought you into His own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before Him without a single fault.
Imagine that! I was an enemy of Christ, yet He chose me! Then, through His death and resurrection, He changed me and brought me into His presence and presented me holy and blameless, without a single fault to His Father. How amazing!
Yet, as wonderful, merciful and kind as all of this was, it wasn’t enough for my Savior. I would have been happy to be His servant all the days of my life, but Jesus had a better plan…
9 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved Me. Remain in My love.10 When you obey My commandments, you remain in My love, just as I obey My Father’s commandments and remain in His love.11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with My joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!12 This is My commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.14 You are My friends if you do what I command.15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in His slaves. Now you are My friends, since I have told you everything the Father told Me.16 You didn’t choose Me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using My name.17 This is My command: Love each other.
This scripture passage explains the relationship I have with my best Friend, Jesus. The first sentence sums up His feelings for me, when He says, “I have loved you even as the Father has loved Me.” Jesus is the One and only Son of God, the Father, and here, He states unequivocally, that He loves me (and all of His disciples), the same way His Father loves Him.
As a woman, I can’t say that I know for certain how a father loves his son. However, I would imagine that a father’s love for his son would certainly be as strong as a mother’s love for her son, and as a mother, I have a fierce love for my children. I would go to war to protect my children from harm, and when I think of the love God has for His Son, I know that it must be stronger than you and I could ever imagine. Therefore, when Jesus said, “I have loved you even as the Father has loved Me,” He was speaking as the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He was speaking of a strong and passionate love, that we cannot, in the frailty of our human emotions and thoughts, even begin to conceive.
Jesus then ordered His disciples (all who love Him and follow Him), to remain in His love. The Greek word for “remain” in this passage is menō, which means:
to remain, abide
in reference to place
to sojourn, tarry
not to depart
to continue to be present
to be held, kept, continually
in reference to time
to continue to be, not to perish, to last, endure
of persons, to survive, live
in reference to state or condition
to remain as one, not to become another or different
to wait for, await one
When we examine the Greek meaning for this word, we get a clear understanding of what Jesus meant when He ordered His disciples (those of us who follow Him too!) to remain in His love. He was saying, “Stay here in My love. Don’t depart from My love. Tarry (wait) in My love. Continually be present, here in My love. Endure, survive, live in My love. Remain as you are now, in My love. Wait, here in My love for Me.”
He was essentially saying that He wants us to remain in His love, just as He remains in His Father’s love. In other words, He wasn’t asking us to do anything more than He did, by remaining in His Fathers love. Honestly, I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be, than in the midst of His love.
So, how does one go about remaining in Jesus’ love? He makes this abundantly clear to us…
10 When you obey My commandments, you remain in My love, just as I obey My Father’s commandments and remain in His love.
The way to remain in Christ’s love is to obey Him. Obedience isn’t a very popular concept in today’s culture. Indeed, most people prefer to live in total rebellion to God’s word. Yet Jesus says that if we obey His commandments, we remain in His love, as He obeys His Father’s commands and remains in His love. Many people look at obedience as drudgery, but Jesus’ outlook on obedience was entirely different…
11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with My joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!
He wants us to be filled with His joy, so He tells us to obey Him and remain in His love, so that our joy will overflow! So, what exactly are we supposed to obey, in order to be filled with this overflowing joy???
12 This is My commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Jesus’ commandment is a very simple one. We are commanded to love each other, the same way He has loved us, stating that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. We are afforded the hindsight to understand that Jesus spoke these words to His disciples on the night before He was crucified. They had no way of knowing, as we do, that Jesus was getting ready to demonstrate His great love for His beloved friends, (which includes every disciple then and since then), by laying down His own life, for all of mankind…
Then, He finishes this discourse by telling His disciples how much they (and we) meant to Him…
14 You are My friends if you do what I command.15 I no longer call you slaves, because a Master doesn’t confide in His slaves. Now you are My friends, since I have told you everything the Father told Me.16 You didn’t choose Me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using My name.17 This is My command: Love each other.
If I remain in Christ’s love, by loving my fellow disciples, then I am no longer merely His servant. When I am obedient to His command to love one another, I have become a friend of Jesus Christ, Messiah, the Anointed One, the King of kings and Lord of lords.
It is as I remain in the love of my best Friend, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, that I am able to love others, as He loved me. It is because of His great love, (He calls me His friend!), that I am filled to overflowing with unending joy. How thankful I am to have the Friend, who sticks closer than a brother.
A friend of mine wrote a short post on Facebook, thanking God for listening to us, and for not only listening, but for speaking to us as well, and the Spirit within me leaped for joy. Have you ever taken the time to meditate on that thought?
Just think, the God and Creator of the universe and all that is within it, not only hears my voice, but He recognizes it from the noisy cries and shouts of billions of people, and animals, and machinery. He hears my weakest whisper in the midst of bombs going off, gunshots ringing, and the shouts of angry mobs, and in spite of all that the God of all must do, He’s not too busy to pause and listen to me. And just think, with all that He is doing, to prepare for great and terrible day of the Lord, He makes time to speak to me, and not just to me, but to everyone who calls upon His name!
Just stop what you’re doing right now, and think about that for a minute… If you are a child of God, He listens to you, when you cry out to Him, and even when you’re too weak to utter His name, and when you don’t even know how to pray or what to pray for, He sends His Spirit to pray for you…
26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.
I don’t know about you, but I find that so encouraging. When I am at my weakest, and everyone else has turned their backs on me, God hears my cries, and He answers them. When I have failed God, and broken His heart yet again, in His mercy, He still listens to me when I cry out to Him.
16 Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He did for me. 17 For I cried out to Him for help, praising Him as I spoke. 18 If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. 19 But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. 20 Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw His unfailing love from me.
I couldn’t even begin to count the number of times God has heard my cries and delivered me. And when I have forgotten how great His love is for me and for you, He reminds me yet again, by listening, and responding to my cries. And get this, this love that I’m telling you about is not just aimed at me. He loves you just as much as He loves me. His love for us knows no bounds. If you won’t take my word for it, then take King David’s…
4 I sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears. 5 They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces were not ashamed. 6 This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles...
15 … The eyes of the Lordare on the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry. 16 The face of the Lordis against those who do evil, To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles.
Imagine that! It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around this, yet I know it is true, because this poor woman has cried out to the Lord over and over again, and He has heard my cries and delivered me from all my fears.
How can I help but respond with love to the One who loves me with such a fierce love? How can my heart not beat faster at the sound of His voice? How can I not love the One who sacrificed everything for my sake? How can you not love the One who gave His all for you, and leans close to hear your voice?
1 I love the Lord because He hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. 2 Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!
Thank You Father, for the great love You have for Your children. Thank You for hearing our voices above the cacophony all about us, and most importantly, thank You for actually listening and responding to us, too. Thank You, Lord for Your still small voice, and help us, help me, to be still, and listen.
Help me to wait on You Lord, and teach me how to bless You, just as You bless me. Lord, I pray that those who read this will rejoice in You, because no matter what’s going on in the world, You still have time to listen to Your children, and to answer them. Father, in Jesus’ name, I pray that You will continue to hear us when we call upon You, and that You will continue to answer and show us great and mighty things that we don’t know. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
What’s the most significant secret you’ve ever kept? Did the truth ever come out?
Don’t Tell a Soul!
I grew up in a house of secrecy, where things weren’t what they seemed. To the world outside, we seemed to be a normal, happy family, but inside, was a different story. That’s not to say there weren’t happy times, because there were. However, the abuse within, made my happiness fleeting.
Within the house, there was a lot of fear, anger and bitterness, which was hidden from the rest of the world. The most significant secret I ever kept was when my stepfather began molesting me as a little girl, and for several years after.
The first time it happened, I did exactly what they tell children to do in school… I called my mother at work, and told her what he had done to me. Thus, the biggest secret in our household began. I called my mother at work, around 3:00 that afternoon, as soon as the man I called “Daddy” left the house. As soon as Mom answered the phone, I burst into tears and told her what my “Daddy” had done to me. She spoke softly, so no one else in the office could hear her, “Did he rape you?” she queried.
“No,” I responded as I tried to hold back my tears and listen to her.
“Okay,” Mommy replied. “Your sister will be home in a few minutes, so you should be alright until I get off work. He won’t do anything else to you, while she’s there. Now don’t say anything to her, because you don’t want to hurt her, right?”
“Yes Mommy. I won’t tell her.”
“Good. We’ll talk about this more, when I get off work tonight. Okay?”
“Okay, Mommy.” I was disappointed that she wasn’t going to come home right away and hold me, because I was so scared. I then began to imagine what would happen when Mommy got home from work.
I pictured her coming home and telling my “Daddy” to leave, and never come back. Things would be hard, I figured, but I would help my Mommy with the cooking and cleaning, and I would take care of my little sister, too. It would be hard, but we loved each other, so it would work out.
Isn’t it sad that things seldom turn out the way we hope and imagine they will? When my mother got home from work, instead of confronting my stepfather with the truth, she kept the fact that she knew the truth, secret. Instead, she simply told him that I had called her up and told her that I was afraid of him. He then, kept His secret from her, and responded that I was afraid of him, because I had been bad, and he’d had to spank me.
My mother, then came to my room, and asked if my stepfather had spanked me for being bad. I was genuinely confused. “No Mommy. I told you what happened.”
She nodded her head, and then said, “I don’t think you have anything to worry about anymore. I told him you’re afraid of him, and he said you’re afraid because he had to spank you.”
“But Mommy, that’s not true!” I cried.
She nodded and continued, “Now, don’t tell your sister what happened. You don’t want to hurt her, do you?”
“Okay,” I choked out, but inside, I was crying, “What about me??? Don’t you care about hurting me?”
“One more thing,” my mother said. “Your daddy wants to talk to you. Okay?”
What could I say? Did I really have a choice? “Okay,” I said, trying not to cry.
Mom walked out, and a few minutes later, my stepfather entered my room. I had a hard time looking at him. My eyes stared into the distance, at nothing. I just couldn’t make myself look at him, as he told me that he had talked to Mom and told her that he had spanked me, and that’s why I was afraid of him. He told me not to say anything else to Mom or anyone else, because I didn’t want to hurt my sister, did I? I’d already been through this with Mom, so I just nodded my head in agreement. He then left my room, and Mom entered the room again.
“I don’t think you have to worry about anything happening again, but if it does, just let me know, and we’ll figure out what to do next, okay?” I nodded silently, as she continued. “Let’s not tell anyone about what happened, okay? You don’t want to destroy our family, do you?” I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders, as I agreed to keep the horrible secret. It was abundantly clear that my feelings, and my safety weren’t as important as everyone else.
And so, I kept my secret for more than twenty years, because I didn’t want to destroy my family. Meanwhile, over the years, I felt as though my life was crumbling around me. I felt unloved and unlovable, until I met Jesus, who began to rock my world.
As I came to know and love Jesus, He began to speak truth to me. It was He who told me my worth…
13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
Psalm 139:13-14 NASB
As He began speaking life to me, He also spoke the truth to me. It was He who led me to let go of the lies and the secrets that had bound me for so many years…
Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
Psalm 51:6 NLT
31 Jesus said to the people who believed in Him, “You are truly My disciples if you remain faithful to My teachings.32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:31-32 NLT
Jesus wanted me to let go of all the lies and secrets, and to begin living my life in truth. I wanted to obey Him, but I was extremely frightened. After living for most of my life shrouded by secrets and lies, I was afraid to let go of them, and begin living a life of truth. What if I destroyed the family? Finally, after living a life of secrecy and lies for most of my life, with the love of the Lord enveloping me, I broke the vow of secrecy that I had been forced to agree to, as a child.
I was terribly afraid that when I revealed the truth, I would destroy my family, but it didn’t. When I first revealed the truth, my family drew closer together, in their anger and rage against me. It broke my heart, as it became clear that my pain didn’t matter to them. Yet, although my family turned against me, God was closer to me than ever before, as were my husband and my children…
Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close.
Psalm 27:10 NLT
I can truly say that during that difficult time, God remained close to me. And though my family forsook me, He held me close. Eventually, over time, I was able to make peace with my family, though my stepfather never repented or apologized for the sin he had committed against me. He went to his grave without apologizing to me, even though he had claimed that I had caused him to molest me.
Now, twenty years after revealing that terrible secret that I had held onto for so long, I can honestly say that I am thankful the Lord helped me release that secret. You see, as long as I held onto that secret, I also held onto the lies that I had been told…
… the lie that it was my fault that I was molested.
… the lie that if I told the truth, I would destroy my family.
… the lie that my feelings didn’t matter.
… the lie that I was unimportant.
I no longer hold onto secrets and lies, because I’ve been set free from the terrible secrets and lies that destroyed my life for so many long years. That’s why I’m so grateful to Jesus for setting me free…
32 “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:32 NLT
36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.
18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit,19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.
Ephesians 5:18-19 NLT
The first part of Ephesians 5:18, (Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life…”) is a no-brainer. We’ve all known and loved people who allow drunkenness to ruin their lives and the lives of their loved ones as well. Too much liquor over a short time, can at the very least, cause people to act foolishly, and at the very most, cause death, either from alcohol poisoning, or by drinking and driving. Drunkenness leads to a loss of self-control, and clouds one’s mind, leading to broken families, broken marriages and much pain, to oneself and to those who care about that person. This is a warning that all should heed.
… Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit,19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.
… Be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. Be filled with the Holy Spirit… What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit and how do we get filled with the Holy Spirit? On the night before He was crucified, Jesus told His disciples how to be filled with the Holy Spirit…
15 “If you love Me, obey My commandments.16 And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.17 He is the Holy Spirit, Who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive Him, because it isn’t looking for Him and doesn’t recognize Him. But you know Him, because He lives with you now and later will be in you.18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.19 Soon the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me. Since I live, you also will live.20 When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you.21 Those who accept My commandments and obey them are the ones who love Me. And because they love Me, My Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal Myself to each of them.”
John 14:15-21 NLT
Let’s examine this passage closely, and see what Jesus says about being filled with the Holy Spirit. The very first thing we must do, according to Jesus is to love Him and obey His commandments. Let’s ask ourselves, “Do I love Jesus?” If we do, we will obey His commandments. These aren’t my words or interpretation, they are the words of Jesus…
15 “If you love Me, obey My commandments.
John 14:15 NLT
Those are powerful words. Obedience isn’t popular these days. Perhaps obedience has never been popular, but it is absolutely necessary, especially if we claim to love Jesus. Do you love Jesus? If you do, obey Him. Do you hate Him? Then don’t obey Him. It’s just that simple. Those who truly love Jesus, obey Him. Jesus makes this very clear to us.
22 Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, “Lord, why are You going to reveal Yourself only to us and not to the world at large?”
23 Jesus replied,“All who love Me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and We will come and make Our home with each of them.24 Anyone who doesn’t love Me will not obey Me. And remember, My words are not My own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent Me.25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you.26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as My representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.”
John 14:22-26 NLT
A lot of people say they love Jesus, but their lives tell another story. All who truly love Jesus will do what He says. Again, those aren’t my words. They are the words of Jesus. Anyone who doesn’t love Him, will not obey Him. These words force us to examine our own hearts. Do I obey Jesus? Or do I rebel against Him? What are Jesus’ commandments? An expert in religious law once asked Jesus this question:
36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
37 Jesus replied,“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22:36-40 NLT
Do we love the Lord, our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength? According to Jesus, this is the first and greatest command. Therefore, if we love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, we will obey His commandments, and that means that not only will we love Him, but we will love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
So, who is our neighbor? When He was asked that question, by an expert of religious law, Jesus answered by telling him the story of the good Samaritan, who showed mercy to an injured man, who normally would have been his enemy; while those who should have loved him and cared for him, left him to die. (See Luke 10:30-37) Therefore, according to Jesus, our enemies are our neighbors, and we must show them love and mercy.
So, let’s ask ourselves, “Do I really love Jesus? Do I truly want to be filled with the Holy Spirit?” If your answer to these questions is yes, then we must obey His commands. We must love our neighbor and our enemy, as we love ourselves…
43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy.44 But I say, love your enemies!Pray for those who persecute you!45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.47 If you are kind only to your friends,how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Before we continue with our study of being filled with the Holy Spirit, let’s examine our own hearts. This command that Jesus gives us is not an easy command. It isn’t easy to obey this command to love our enemies.
I’ve heard many people preach and teach about loving your enemy, and I’ve heard a lot of false teaching about it, so I want to be sure that we truly understand Jesus’ command. The best example for knowing how to love our enemy comes from none other than Jesus. Let’s see how He handled His enemies, beginning with His betrayer, Judas Iscariot…
Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that His hour had come to leave this world and return to His Father. He had loved His disciples during His ministry on earth, and now He loved them to the very end.2 It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.3 Jesus knew that the Father had given Him authority over everything and that He had come from God and would return to God.4 So He got up from the table, took off His robe, wrapped a towel around His waist,5 and poured water into a basin. Then He began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel He had around Him.
John 13:1-5 NLT
Fully aware that Judas Iscariot had betrayed Him, Jesus still chose to lovingly wash his feet. Later, after the foot washing was done, Jesus spoke about His betrayer…
18 “I am not saying these things to all of you; I know the ones I have chosen. But this fulfills the Scripture that says, ‘The one who eats My food has turned against Me.’19 I tell you this beforehand, so that when it happens you will believe that I am the Messiah.20 I tell you the truth, anyone who welcomes My messenger is welcoming Me, and anyone who welcomes Me is welcoming the Father who sent Me.”
21 Now Jesus was deeply troubled, and He exclaimed,“I tell you the truth, one of you will betray Me!”
John 13:18-21 NLT
Think about what Jesus must have felt as He knelt down on His knees to wash Judas Iscariot’s feet, knowing that this man, whom He had loved and cared for, was His betrayer. What strength Jesus showed, in kneeling before him, and washing his feet, just as He had washed the feet of His other disciples. What kindness He showed Judas, by not revealing His betrayer’s identity to the other disciples…
22 The disciples looked at each other, wondering whom He could mean.23 The disciple Jesus loved was sitting next to Jesus at the table.24 Simon Peter motioned to him to ask, “Who’s He talking about?”25 So that disciple leaned over to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?”
26 Jesus responded,“It is the one to whom I give the bread I dip in the bowl.”And when He had dipped it, He gave it to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot.27 When Judas had eaten the bread, Satan entered into him. Then Jesus told him,“Hurry and do what you’re going to do.”28 None of the others at the table knew what Jesus meant.29 Since Judas was their treasurer, some thought Jesus was telling him to go and pay for the food or to give some money to the poor.30 So Judas left at once, going out into the night.
John 13:22-30 NLT
Whenever I read John 13, I can’t help but marvel at the great love Jesus showed to His betrayer. Although He knew very well that Judas was a thief (John 12:6), as well as His betrayer, Jesus treated Him with great lovingkindness and mercy. Just think about it, the closer you are to someone, the more painful the betrayal. Jesus loved His disciples like brothers, and this brother’s betrayal cost Jesus His life. Yet, even knowing this, Jesus didn’t shout his name out, so the other disciples would perhaps take care of Judas Iscariot on their own, and get rid of him, using any means necessary. Instead, Jesus lived what He taught. He lived a life of love and obedience.
What about you? Have you ever been betrayed? Have you been stolen from, lied to, used or abused? Do you love your abuser? Or do you hold on to your pain, hating those who have hurt you and betrayed you? Do you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit? Then choose to obey Jesus’ commandments, starting with His command to love…
Father, I pray that You would touch the heart of every person who reads these words, and that You would fill our hearts with Your love. Help us to love those who don’t love us. Help us to love those who love those who have harmed us. Help us to love others, just as You have loved us. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
The evil all around us permeates the atmosphere, invading homes, neighborhoods, cities, towns, municipalities, states, regions and nations with fear and angst, deception and theft, as well as hatred and murder. From racist cops to criminals and terrorists, including many others in between, evil is all around us. How did this evil get here, and who is responsible for it?
While most people like to believe that mankind is basically good, with only a few who are capable of evil, I subscribe to another, less popular viewpoint. It is my belief that since Adam and Eve partook of the fruit, forbidden to them by God Almighty, the Creator of mankind, everyone birthed thereafter, was born with a sinful nature, which makes each one of us susceptible to evil. Indeed, as the knowledge of man increases, so does his capacity for evil, and it is the sin, into which we are all born, that destines us to death.
Many, who don’t ascribe to my views often pose this question to those who believe as I do, “If all of mankind is truly born into sin, then how can there be any good people? The answer to that question is that the Creator of all humanity has given everyone a free will, which enables them to choose whether to succumb to their sinful nature, or choose to do good. Furthermore, He gave people (who, because of their sinful nature, were all condemned to die once, and after that, receive judgment), the option to receive the free gift of salvation and redemption, if they would simply choose to have faith in Him and His Son, Jesus. However, as simple as that sounds, our humanity rebels against the notion that our salvation rests on something as simple as having faith in the One who created us.
When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. (Romans 5:12 NLT)
Adam’s single act of disobedience to God’s command led to the first murder, which, incidentally, was also the first death, when his and Eve’s firstborn son, Cain, killed his younger brother, Abel, in a jealous rage. I’m certain, that when Adam and Eve partook of the fruit, in an act of rebellion against their Creator, they never dreamed that this single act of disobedience would lead to the devastating loss of not just one, but two sons. For when Cain slew his brother, Abel, not only was Abel lost to them, but Cain was as well, for the Lord punished him by cursing the ground he walked on, forbidding it to yield crops to him. He also banished Cain from the land, and condemned him to walk the land as a homeless wanderer. From Cain’s vicious and murderous attack on Abel, man grew more and more sinful, and more and more violent. If Adam’s one act of disobedience could have such devastating effects, that have continued to grow more and more horrible, with each generation that followed, how do we effect the world and the people around us, when we reject our Creator and His commands?
Because each of us is born with a sinful nature, sin is instinctual to us. Children need to be taught what good is, and how to do it. Yet, no one has ever had to teach a child how to sin, because that comes naturally to us. Have you ever noticed that when a child begins to crawl around and walk, discovering the world around him, he immediately begins discovering the many dangers around him? Though we try to baby proof our homes, there is always some danger that the toddler discovers, that causes our hearts to pound in fear for him. It is during this time, that we begin to tell the little one, “No,” and the child quickly learns what “No” means. However, although that child knows that it is wrong to touch certain objects or to go to certain places within (or sometimes even outside) of the home, for some reason, the child seems to gravitate towards those things. Did you ever wonder why that is? It is because that baby, just like every other baby born after Adam ate the forbidden fruit, is born with a sinful nature, and it is the responsibility of the parents and those who are involved in that child’s life to teach him what is good, and how to do good.
Though all of us have different weaknesses, every one of us has been guilty of some wrongdoing, and no one had to instruct us on how to do the wrong thing. Indeed, no one even needs to tell us that it is wrong. For just as we are all born with a sinful nature, we are also born with the knowledge of right and wrong, because God, in His infinite mercy, has written His law on the hearts of mankind, so that no one can truly say, “I didn’t know my actions were wrong.” In fact, that very law that is written on our hearts not only checks our actions, but even our very thoughts, so that we also feel guilty, when we are simply thinking about those things that are wrong.
14 Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know His law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it.15 They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.
(Romans 2:14-15 NLT)
“If this is true,” some may ask, “then why do so many people commit such heinous crimes, without feeling any guilt?” The answer to this question is very simple, yet very profound. For although we may feel guilty when we first commit a sin, the more we engage in that or other sins, the less guilty we will feel about it, until, eventually, our conscience is seared.
12 Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. 13 You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. (Hebrews 3:12-13 NLT)
This is true for all sins, no matter how big or small they may seem to be. For God does not measure the size of a sin to determine one’s guilt or innocence. God hates ALL sin, because sin is deadly. It’s like cancer, killing and destroying every cell within us, until we, like every man, woman and child, since Adam sinned against God, finally die. For those, whose hearts are hardened against God when they die, there will be no other chance for redemption. Those, who choose to believe in their Creator, and His Son, Jesus, will receive eternal life, though their earthly bodies have died.
Yet, in spite of God’s great mercy and compassion on mankind, the overwhelming majority of mankind will choose to reject their Creator, choosing, instead, to follow their own sinful nature. Although God has written His law on the hearts of humanity, they will still choose to go to hell, rather than heaven. Indeed, despite the knowledge that is written on every heart, they will still choose to ignore that knowledge and follow the road to destruction. They even make jokes about it, saying, “Well, if I go to hell, I won’t be alone. All of my friends will be right there with me.”
13 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. 14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14 NLT)
When I look at the world we live in today, it both saddens and sickens me to see how much evil has increased since I was a child. When I was a child, there were the occasional fights in school, talking too much in class and chewing gum. Most crimes were limited to big cities, which were far away, and though we had bomb drills, and lived during the Cold War, we had no fear, for who would ever be foolhardy enough to dare attacking us on American soil?
Now, I am fifty-four years old, and in today’s world, children and their parents fear they might not come home from school, alive, each day. We now live in a world, where children plot and kill their parents, and where not only fathers, but also mothers, murder, abuse and molest their own children. There are also police, who are corrupted by power, and use it to commit violence and homicides against both innocent citizens and unarmed criminals, thereby violating their duty to protect and defend. Though they have made an oath to heal to the best of their ability, and to do no harm, doctors and nurses murder the very patients they have sworn to care for. Yes, things like this have been happening since Adam’s rebellion, yet it is becoming more and more prevalent, and the crimes that people commit against one another are becoming more and more heinous.
As we look at the evil all around us, and perhaps even within us, it would be easy to lose heart. Yet, the very God who created us, also loves us with an unfathomable love, and He knew, long before He created the heavens and the earth, that Adam would sin against Him, thereby ushering sin into His beautiful creation. Therefore, because sin is so deadly, God had a plan worked out for the redemption of mankind, who was created in His image, even as He breathed life into Adam and Eve.
For the penalty for sin is death, and because sin is so deadly, there are no exceptions. Whether you eat a forbidden fruit, or whether you destroy the life of another human being, the requirement for the atonement of sin is the death of the sinner, for the sins he has committed. Yet, despite the evil all around us, God’s love for mankind was so great that He made a way to redeem the life of man…
16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NLT)
God knew the depths to which the depravity of man would sink, still, even so, His love for us was so great, that He was willing to sacrifice His only Son, so that we could live. He knew that Nero would be born, and that he would commit terrible, torturous atrocities against those who followed Christ. He knew that Adolf Hitler would one day, destroy the lives of untold millions, and in the process, slay six million Jewish men, women and children. God knew that Osama bin Ladin would rise up and kill thousands, in the name of his false god, Allah, as he spewed out violence and hatred. God also knows that one day the antichrist will rise up against Christ and His people, torturing and killing countless men, women and children. Still, God chose to give the life of His one and only Son, so that you and I could live and be with Him in eternity. And don’t think that Christ had no say in the matter, for He made it very clear that His love, is so great, that He laid His life down for us willingly…
17 “The Father loves Me because I sacrifice My life so I may take it back again. 18 No one can take My life from Me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what My Father has commanded.” (John 10:17-18 NLT)
Yes, it is true that we live in a world with evil all around us, yet we don’t have to be discouraged or afraid. For Jesus has told us in His word that as long as we live here on earth, there will be pain and tribulation, but we mustn’t fear, for He has overcome the world. In fact, the word of God also tells us something else that many Christians in the western hemisphere have chosen to ignore…
12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. 13 Instead, be very glad – for these trials make you partners with Christ in His suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing His glory when it is revealed to all the world.
14 If you are insulted because you bear the name of Christ, you will be blessed, for the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. 15 If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs. 16 But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by His name! 17 For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God’s household. And if judgment begins with us, what terrible fate awaits those who have never obeyed God’s Good News? 18 And also, “If the righteous are barely saved, what will happen to godless sinners?”
19 So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for He will never fail you. (1 Peter 4:12-19 NLT)
Sadly, not only do these “leaders of the church” ignore this passage, they also accuse those who suffer of having weak faith, causing believers to doubt their own faith in God, sometimes even causing them to turn away from the Lord, because they feel hopeless. Those so called “leaders,” who make these false claims that someone’s suffering is their own fault, because a true child of God would claim healing and walk in it, will be held accountable for every false statement they have made in the name of God. Indeed, the blood of every man, woman and child they have caused to stumble and turn away from God, will be on their hands. For those who do these things, causing emotional pain and spiritual death, are just as evil as those who cause physical harm to another human being, and God will hold them accountable for every sin they committed in the name of Jesus.
As I stated earlier, there is evil all around us. The spirit of evil dwells in the hearts and souls of many men and women, and it also exists in Satan and his demons. Even so, when the enemies of our souls attack us, remember this, and take hope; though the evil all around us can steal our bodies and our minds, those who belong to Christ, should have no fear, for the evil cannot touch our spirits, which belong to Christ, and will one day arise from the grave in triumphant victory, clothed in our heavenly bodies. Therefore, when you read of evil in the news, or watch it on the television, fear not! For if God is for us, who can be against us?
The following is a letter that I posted on Facebook this morning, and I believe it’s important enough to post here as well, for it is vital to the life of our church and nation:
Greetings to ALL My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
To each and every man, woman and child, who has surrendered themselves to God in Christ Jesus our Lord, out of a heart filled with love and gratitude to our Savior, who willingly paid the penalty of death for your sins and for mine, I greet you in the name of Jesus. I’m writing this letter to you because my heart is filled with love and grief for the church, and for this beautiful nation that God has blessed us with. I have always felt honored and blessed to live in this great nation, which was founded on the principles that…
… all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness… (Declaration of Independence)
I believe with all my heart that this is true, not because the Declaration of Independence says so, but because the bible tells me so…
26 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you. (Galatians 3:26-29 NLT)
Beloved readers, do you understand what this means? It means that once you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you become a child of God and a joint heir with Jesus, Himself! It doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor, a servant or a king, black or white or any other shade in between, you are a child of God, who loves each of His children equally. It doesn’t matter whether you are very intelligent, or whether you have a learning disability, your Daddy (Abba/Father) loves you just as much as He loves His other children. It doesn’t matter if your parents loved you more or less than your siblings, because God is your Father now, and He is just. He loves you just as much as He loves me. He loves you just as much as He loved King David, the Apostle Paul, Peter, James and John. Do you understand?
If you understand this, you need to understand something else. When you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and you become God’s child, you also gain some new siblings, who are also children of God. Do you know what this means? It means that you have brothers and sisters from every race and culture, and because they are your siblings, you have to love them, no matter what, because Daddy loves them, and if Daddy thinks they’re worthy of His love, don’t you think they’re worthy of yours too?
Now, I’ve told you that I’m writing this letter because my heart is filled with love and grief for the church, and for our wonderful nation, and I’ve established a very good case for why we should love ALL of our brothers and sisters in the Lord, so now, I’m going to take this love thing a step further, before I share my grief with you. Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord, not only are we supposed to love our brothers and sisters, but according to the bible, we’re supposed to love our enemies too…
43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy.44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48 NLT)
16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NLT)
After reading these words of Jesus, it is very clear that God expects us to love each other AND our enemies. There is no wiggle room, no way to escape this. And, beloved reader, please allow me to make this perfectly clear, for it is of the utmost importance that you understand. Jesus isn’t saying, “Try to love your enemies.” He isn’t saying, “Love good people.” Jesus is COMMANDING us to LOVE our enemies. Do you still need more evidence?
9 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved Me. Remain in My love. 10 When you obey My commandments, you remain in My love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in His love.11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with My joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!12 This is My commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:9-13 NLT)
14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15 NLT)
Do you want to be forgiven? Then forgive ALL who hurt you. Do you want to remain in God’s love? Then love ALL mankind.
This brings me to the reason for my grief. We are all aware of the deep rooted racial anger that exists in our country. It is like a dark plague that is killing the church and this once great nation. You may ask why I say it is killing the church, and I will tell you, but first, I will remind you of my love for each and every one of you, my beloved readers, friends and enemies. Some may read what I am saying and take offense, and I can live with that. However, one of the things that truly grieves me is that some of my brothers and sisters in the Lord may take offense, and it is this very thing that is killing the church.
Let’s talk about what is going on in our country, not as black or white people, but as Jesus’ people, okay? You see, when we became children of God, we took on HIS identity. I am no longer defined by my race or ethnicity, and neither are you, brothers and sisters. I am now called “Christian,” and when I interact with people of the world, I want them to see Christ in me, not the white in me. Also, when I look at my brothers and sisters of different races, I don’t see the color or lack of color in them, I look to see the same Jesus, who lives in me, in them too. When I see the Christ in you, my beloved brothers and sisters, how can I help but love you?
Not only that, but when I look at those who don’t know Christ, it isn’t their color that I care about, it’s their heart. My heart is filled with love for those who don’t know Christ, because I know the One who could set them free from their anger and bitterness against people of different races. I grew up in a racist household, and I know firsthand that racism breeds bitterness, and that terrible root of bitterness chokes the life out of every other relationship the bitter person has.
Church, the reason I’m grieving is because WE are supposed to be different from the world. WE are the ones who are supposed to be setting the examples for the world, and yet, how many of us have found ourselves caught up in the anger that is all around us? How many of us are part of the problem, instead of trying to be part of the solution? What if God’s people united as ONE, just as Jesus prayed we would be, and what if we humbled ourselves and prayed, and turned from our wicked ways? And what if we joined together, seeking God’s face, and asking Him to bring unity and love to our land? I believe God would hear our cry and He would heal our land. Do you know why? Because the bible says so.
14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14 NKJV)
But sadly, something is preventing us from uniting and praying together, and do you know what that something is? This may be offensive to you, but the words I write are written in love. My heart’s desire is for God to heal our land, and in order for this to happen, we must humble ourselves, but PRIDE is preventing this from happening. You see, there are some among us, who are proud of our race.
Now, I have to be honest with you, and if it offends you, I encourage you to study God’s word, and pray about it. You see, there are some white people who are proud of their lack of pigment. There are also some black people who are very proud of their dark pigment. Now, here’s where I stand on the matter. I’m white, but I’m neither proud nor ashamed of it. I didn’t choose to be white. In fact, I had nothing to do with it, because long before He laid the foundations of the earth, God had determined that I would be a white woman. He’s the One who carefully formed me, and knitted me together in my mother’s womb, and for reasons that only He knows, He didn’t bless me with as much melanin as some of my darker brothers and sisters. That’s okay. I don’t feel slighted. In fact, in the whole scheme of eternity, my lack of melanin, and someone else’s abundance of melanin is really unimportant. After all, the current tent that I dwell in is only temporary, and at nearly fifty-four years old, it’s starting to break down. In fact, one day in the not so distant future, it will finally wear out, and my spirit will leave this body. At some point in time that only God knows, I will eventually receive an eternal body (my forever body), which will never wear out and die, so why should I care about the color of my current flesh?
Indeed, people of God, why should any of us care about our skin tone? You don’t have to tell me the answer to my next question, but it is something you need to pray and talk to our Father about it. Do you have white pride? Do you have black pride? Are you prideful of your race? If so, you need to lay that pride aside and humble yourself and pray for forgiveness. You do know that Lucifer was cast down out of heaven, because he was proud of the body God had given him, right? Do you think that God likes racial pride? Think again. If you want something to boast about, children of God, boast about this:
30 God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made Him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; He made us pure and holy, and He freed us from sin. 31 Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31 NLT)
14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.15 It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation.16 May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God. (Galatians 6:14-16 NLT)
Beloved children of God, it’s time for us to stop allowing our flesh to control our thoughts and our attitudes. It’s time for us to stop taking sides in the current trouble our nation faces. The fact is that there are good white cops, and there are bad white cops. There are good black cops, and there are bad black cops. There are good black men, who have been the innocent victims of bad white cops, and vice versa. However, there are also dangerous and criminal black men, who have attacked good white cops, and been shot in self-defense, and vice versa. So, what can we, as children of the Most High God, do to bring peace and righteousness to our land???
We can start by repenting of any pride that we may be clinging to. We can unite as One church in this battle for peace in our land – no more “white” churches or “black” churches. Let us come together as One people, not to preach or shout or argue about why “I” am right and “You” are wrong. Instead, let us come together as the sons and daughters of God, and let us humble ourselves, as Jesus did…
1 Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from His love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. 3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, 8 He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God elevated Him to the place of highest honor and gave Him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:1-11 NLT)
My beloved brothers and sisters, do you want to heal our land and bring about a true and lasting peace? Or, do you want to hold on to your bitterness and anger? Do you want to prove that you are right, holding fast to your pride? Or do you want to surrender it to Christ and join together with ALL of your brothers and sisters, humbling ourselves and praying? Do you want people to see the black or white in you? Or do you want them to see the Christ in you? Are you willing to risk offending friends and family for the sake of the cross? Or are you ashamed of this gospel of peace?
Shall we teach our children to respect law enforcement officers and pray God removes the bad ones? Or should we teach them to rebel against the law? Shall we love our friends and hate our enemies? Or shall we love our enemies, with no regard to race, and bless them, as Jesus commanded? The choice is yours. Shall we choose a time to unite and come together to humble ourselves and pray and seek God’s face? Or will we hold on to our bitterness and malice towards another race, refusing to forgive? The choice is yours. If you want to meet and join together, please leave a comment, and we can figure out where and when to join together and cry out to Jesus for our children, our law enforcement officers and our land.
In closing, I’d like to share the priestly blessing with each one of you. For not only are we children of God, but we are also a royal priesthood…
24 “The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; 26 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”
In the blessed name of Jesus, I remain, Your Sister Cheryl
He heard the roar of the crowd from a distance, as the young donkey He rode, slowly trudged toward Jerusalem. He was a Man on a mission, and He was determined to accomplish that which He had been sent to do. Nothing or no one would stop Him. He would do just what He and His Father had planned to do before the foundation of the earth was laid. Indeed, for the joy that was set before Him, He would do what was necessary, enduring the pain, though He despised the shame of the cross.
Sitting astride the donkey colt, He quietly watched the throng of humanity, many dancing and shouting, and spreading their capes and coats on the ground before Him. Others cut palm branches off the trees and laid them on the ground, so that it appeared to be a predominately green carpet (much like today’s red carpet is used for special events and for special people to walk upon), inlaid with the colorful garments the people had laid down for the King of kings to ride upon.
As He observed the mass of humanity singing praises and dancing before Him, Jesus didn’t just see a crowd, He noticed each individual. He took note of the woman, whom He had healed from the issue of blood, rejoicing in His presence, and smiled gently at her. He saw Bartimaeus, nevermore to be known as Blind Bartimaeus, since Messiah had healed him, wildly waving his palm branch when Jesus came near. He then laid it down in front of Jesus, and prostrated himself to His Savior and Healer, in worship. Jesus grinned at his enthusiastic worship, filled with love for each and every one of His people, as they cried out to Him with fervor, shouting:
“Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!”
He knew that some genuinely thought that He was Messiah, but their faith was weak, and though they celebrated Him that day, they would revile Him in just a few days hence, and He felt a pang of pain in His chest. There were others who were roaring and rejoicing with the crowd that day, and caught up in the excitement of it all, but they never knew Him. Just a few days later, He knew that they too, would be caught up in the hysteria of another crowd, and then, they would no longer shout,“Hosanna (Save Now!) to the Son of David (the giant slayer)! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”On that day, these same people would shout,“Crucify Him! We will take responsibility for His death – we and our children!”Again, though the crowd rejoiced, Jesus’ heart was heavy. Though they had no way of knowing, He knew what was before Him, and how the journey, begun on this day, would end.
“Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!”
“Rabbi (Teacher).“He heard the angry voices of the Pharisees, vying for His attention, and He fixed His saddened gaze on them.“Rabbi, rebuke Your followers for saying things like that!”He looked at each one of them, then, taking note of their self-righteous indignation, as they stood there piously, looking at Him and His followers with barely veiled contempt. His heart was especially heavy, as He gazed at these men, who saw, and yet didn’t see. Perhaps their situation was the most dire, for they acted so religious, but they rejected the power that could make them godly.
Sighing, Jesus replied to their angry demand,“I tell you, if they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!”Then, as the little donkey on which He rode, drew closer to Jerusalem, the pain in His heart was too much to contain, and He wept. As he sat upon the little donkey, and stopped to look upon Jerusalem, God’s holy city, He spoke these words, though no one responded…
42 “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes.43 Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side.44 They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not recognize it when God visited you.”
As I have read and reread the accounts of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, I’ve often wondered how He felt that day. He knew who He was and why He was there. He knew that by the end of the week, He would be tortured and hung on the cross to die a painful death. He knew that while the crowd was rejoicing, there were many, who wanted Him dead, perhaps, even some of those who rejoiced that day. What a great love He had (and has) for us, that He was willing to endure the pain and the shame of the cross, so that we might live!
I pray that you will be blessed and take the time to meditate on all that Christ did, and still continues to do for each one of us, as we remember His life, death and resurrection this week. God bless you!
He had never felt so dejected, so all alone before. Though he cried out to God over and over, He was silent. He was a strong and fearless man, as long as he was hearing the voice of God, and as long as His Spirit rested on him, but from the time of his arrest, YHWH remained silent, leaving him with nothing but time…
Time to reflect on his life and wonder, “Could it be that I misunderstood? Is it possible that I got it all wrong? El De’ot (God of Knowledge), please give me wisdom! Reveal the truth to me!” he cried in anguish, thinking back on his ministry.
He had heard of his destiny from the time he suckled on his mother’s breasts, as both parents shared the miraculous events leading up to his birth. His father, Zechariah, a priest of the Almighty, who served in the Temple, told John about his visit from Gabriel, one of YHWH Tzevaot’s (God of Hosts’) angelic warriors. It was Gabriel who informed Zechariah that he and his wife, Elizabeth, had found favor with YHWH, and that Elizabeth would give birth to a son, whom Zechariah was to name John. Gabriel also told his abba (father) that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth, and that he would bring joy to many.
“Adonai,” John whispered in the silent darkness of the dungeon, “from the time of my birth, I never so much as took a sip of wine or allowed any other alcoholic drink to pass my lips, according to the command Your angel, Gabriel gave to my Abba. I lived in the wilderness, and I cried out to the people, according to Your word:
“‘Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near…’(Matthew 3:2 NLT)
“And Adonai, I was fearless and bold, knowing I was doing what You had called me to do. When the Pharisees and Saducees came to watch me baptizing many in Your name, I cried out to them in righteous anger:
“You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath?Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones.Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.
“I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be His slave and carry His sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with His winnowing fork. Then He will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into His barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.(Matthew 3:7b-12 NLT)
“And El Shaddai, I was so certain, when I saw Jesus that day and baptized Him, that He was the long awaited One, but now, in this foul and wretched dungeon, I haven’t heard You speak to me, and my heart is heavy. Could I have been wrong? O YHWH! Speak to me, please!” Yet, though he cried out, there was no comfort to be found in that dreadful dungeon, where the only certainty seemed to be his impending death.
The nights were the worst, for it was then that the darkness was thickest, and it was then that the tormenting doubts were at their worst. During the days, there was a thin shaft of light that came through a small window, high above him. John tried to keep track of each new day, by that small bit of light, but as his strength ebbed, with little nourishment, and only a cup of water in the morning and at night, he lost all track of time.
One day, he heard the voices of his disciples, calling down to him from the small window above. Though he couldn’t see them, he rejoiced to hear their voices, picturing each one in his mind. His eyes filled with tears, as his disciples reported the many things that Messiah was doing. It had been so long since he had heard a report from Adonai, and as he listened to their report, John stood up and called two of his disciples by name, telling them, “Go to Jesus for me, and ask Him:
His disciples departed quickly, to do their prophet’s bidding, while John sank to the prison floor, and closed his eyes. Exhaustion overwhelmed him, and within minutes, he was asleep. It was dark, when he awakened. His throat was dry and parched, as though all of his saliva had been blown away in a desert sand storm. Disoriented, he shook his head, trying to see in the vast darkness, but there was only black all around him. He was unable to even see himself, let alone his surroundings.
“John!” he heard a familiar voice calling his name in the darkness, somewhere above him. “Are you in there John?” the voice of his disciple called, as John suddenly realized where he was and who was calling out to him.
“Yes!” he tried to shout, but his dry and raspy voice sounded more like the croak of a frog, than the shout of a prophet of God. “Did you find Him? What news do you bring? What did he say?” Closing his eyes, tears welled up in them once again, and John breathed a soft prayer to El Elyon (Most High God), “Please, El Roi (God who sees me), let this be the answer to my prayers.”
“We found the Rabbi (Teacher), John,” they spoke in unison, hoping John would find comfort in their message.
“Did you ask Him if He is Messiah or if we should look for someone else?”
“We did, John and Jesus told us to:
‘Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who are not offended because of Me.’ (Matthew 11:4-6, Luke 7:22-23 NLT)
“That’s all He said, John, nothing else. Is there anything else we can do for you?”
“No,” John said. “You’ve done enough. Thank you. Go quickly now, before someone discovers you here.” His disciples quickly departed, promising to come back to visit him again, as soon as they could.
Tears rolled freely down John’s cheeks, mingling with the mucous from his nose and falling to the dirt floor of the dungeon, as John whispered to himself,“The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. God blesses those who are not offended because of Me.“
John repeated the words again, smiling through the tears, “The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. God blesses those who are not offended because of Me.“
Rejoicing, John began to repeat the words of the prophet Isaiah, that his father, Zechariah had taught him so many years ago, when he was just a boy…
5 “And when He comes, He will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. 6 The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy! Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the wasteland. 7 The parched ground will become a pool, and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land. Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish where desert jackals once lived. 8 And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. Evil-minded people will never travel on it. It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways; fools will never walk there. 9 Lions will not lurk along its course, nor any other ferocious beasts. There will be no other dangers. Only the redeemed will walk on it. 10 Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness. (Isaiah 35:5-10 NLT)
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon Me, for the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.”(Isaiah 61:1 NLT)
Again, John repeated the message Jesus had given Him, laughing aloud as joy welled up within him, “The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. God blesses those who are not offended because of Me.
“El Chaiyai (God of my life), thank You. This poor man cried, and You heard me and saved me out of all my troubles. You sent Your word out to me, and it produced the fruits of joy and peace, accomplishing exactly what You meant it to accomplish, and it has prospered me.
“Thank You for Your lovingkindness in the midst of my weakness. The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. God blesses those who are not offended because of Me. Adonai, I am not offended because of Messiah. I can now die in peace, because You have spoken to me in the depths of darkness and misery.”
I love this story of John the Baptist, because it shows his humanity. John was a strong and powerful man of God. Even Jesus, Messiah, the Son of the Living God, respected John. In fact, after John’s disciples departed to deliver Jesus’ message to him, Jesus said this about John:
“What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind?25 Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people who wear beautiful clothes and live in luxury are found in palaces.26 Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet.27 John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say,
‘Look, I am sending My messenger ahead of You, and he will prepare Your way before You.’
28 I tell you, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of God is greater than he is!” (Luke 7:24-28 NLT)
Do you want to know one of the reasons I love this story about John the Baptist? It is because Jesus honored John by telling this to everyone afterJohn had asked if He was truly the Messiah. Jesus wasn’t angry when John, in a time of weakness, doubted.
Think about it, John’s father, Zechariah doubted Gabriel’s prophecy of John’s birth to him and his wife, and because of his doubt, Zechariah was made mute, until after John’s birth. I’m certain that his father must have shared this with his son, on more than one occasion, as he grew up, and now, John was imprisoned, and faced with his own doubts. In light of Gabriel’s response to his father’s question,“How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.”(Luke 1:18 NLT)I wonder if John feared Jesus’ response to his question,“Are You the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”(Matthew 11:3, Luke 7:19 NLT)
It’s obvious that there is a difference in the questions that were asked. Zechariah’s doubt stemmed from the fact that he simply didn’t believe what Gabriel had told him. John’s doubt was different. He was at a low point in his life (Can you relate?), imprisoned and alone, no longer able to minister as he had been called to do, and in his weakness, he became uncertain. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe. He had lost everything, and that’s when he started to question.
Have you ever been there? I have. When I was no longer able to continue ministering in prison, because of my back problems, I had questions. If I could no longer work and no longer minister in prison, was my life over? Was I a disappointment to God? Had I imagined that I was called by God to minister? Like John, I struggled with these questions. And I cried out to God for comfort and reassurance, and for awhile, all I heard was silence.
There’s another reason why I love this story so much. The reason why this story blesses me is because of the way that Jesus answered John’s question:
4 Jesus told them,“Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen—5 the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.6 And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of Me. (Matthew 11:4-6, Luke 7:22-23 NLT)
Jesus could have simply replied, “Yes,” but I don’t think that would have assuaged John’s doubts. You see, John needed a word from God. He needed to hear the word from the Word. From the time he was in his mother’s womb, he had been filled with the Holy Spirit, and after his birth, I’m certain that Zechariah and Elizabeth shared God’s word with him, in preparation for the ministry he had been called to. Therefore, the only thing that could mend John’s broken heart and renew his hope, was the word of God. Knowing this, Jesus answered him by quoting Isaiah’s prophecy about Messiah’s coming.
It is the same way with me, and all who seek the truth. When I need the truth, I find it in God’s word. When I am anxious or fearful, I find peace in the word of God. When I am uncertain or unsure of what my next step should be, I find my answer in God’s holy word. For peace, joy, certainty and truth can only be found in the Word of God.
After having to give up my job and my prison ministry, I was crushed, because I thought God would no longer be able to use me if I was stuck at home. And then, I heard a message from the Lord, instructing me to begin writing again, something that I hadn’t had time to do for many years.
2 Then the Lord said to me, “Write My answer plainly on tablets,so that a runner can carry the correct message to others.”(Habakkuk 2:2 NLT)
I was excited to do what He had called me to do, and then this thought came to me, “I should start a blog.” Now perhaps that doesn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary to you, but at the time that thought came to me, I had no idea what a blog was. I had heard the word before, but no one had ever explained it to me, and I was never interested enough to know what it was, until the Lord placed it in my spirit to start a blog. Therefore, in October, 2012, I started a blog, and this has become my ministry.
Beloved reader, are you in a dark place right now? Do you have questions and uncertainties? If so, I encourage you to pray and seek your answers in God’s word. It is easier now, than ever before, to search for the answers you need from God’s word. You have only to use your favorite search engine online, and enter “Scriptures about _________.” You fill in the blank.
Also, you can read scriptures from just about any bible version you want at the sites listed below. There are many other sites as well, but the top three are ones that I use most frequently.
If you are looking for answers like John the Baptist was, or like I do, I encourage you to seek those answers in the word of God.
12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.(Hebrews 4:12 NLT)
16 There are six things the Lord hates —no, seven things He detests: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, 18 a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, 19 a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family.
Is it me, or does it seem that lying has reached epic proportions? Think about it… Politicians (including the President), whom we vote into office, lie so much and so often, that we’ve come to expect it from them. Indeed, it has become the norm, and most people are seldom even shocked or angered when a politician is caught in a lie. And what about lawyers, who are supposed to be teachers and keepers of the law? Most are quick to lie, especially if it means winning their case. And what do we do, when we discover that someone has told yet another lie? Many just make jokes about it…
18 Just as damaging as a madman shooting a deadly weapon 19 is someone who lies to a friend and then says, “I was only joking.
Many people were outraged, when Stars and Stripespublished the truth, as reported by U.S. soldiers, who were actually involved in the incident, Williams claimed to have been a part of, and according to them, his helicopter was an hour behind the ones that were shot at. After being caught in his lie, Brian offered the following apology…
9 But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.
I’m troubled by the fact that Williams didn’t apologize for lying or misleading the public. He merely apologized for making a mistake. Below is the definition for the noun, mistakeaccording to dictionary.com…
An error in action, calculation, opinion, or judgment, caused by poor reasoning, carelessness, insufficient knowledge, etc.
A misunderstanding or misconception.
A mistake is unintentional, but he deliberately lied, and not just once either, though his apology seemed to imply that. The truth is that he has told this repeatedly over the years, on NBC’s Nightly News, in books, in print, and also in the above interview with David Letterman. With each telling of the story, it has evolved over the years, and Williams’ personal involvement in the shooting has grown from zero to hero, His apology seems very insincere too, because he never accepts responsibility for lying. Instead, after being caught in his lie, Mr. Williams confessed that he “made a mistake in recalling the events of twelve years ago…”
Now, as you might imagine, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly had something to say about Mr. Williams’ lie, near the end of one of his segments. Unfortunately, O’Reilly’s statement makes it sound as though ‘t Williams’ lie wasn’t a problem, but the fact that he got caught in his lie…
“He knows what he did was wrong, a lot of people exaggerate their life experience, and he did and he got caught.”
Of course, Bill O’Reilly has also been called out on several occasions recently, by former coworkers at CBS, who say that his claim of having been in the “war zone” during the Falklands war between the United Kingdom and Argentina in the 1980’s, is false. In fact, NO American journalists ever reached the war zone in the Falkland Islands and other territories in the Southern Atlantic Ocean, during the conflict. The difference between Mr. O’Reilly and Brian Williams, is that O’Reilly chose to attack those who called him out for lying, admitting to no wrong doing.
1 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.2 For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”
Within just a few days of the aforementioned scandals, we learned about yet another scandal, this time from one of the members of the President’s cabinet. While on CBS Evening News, recently, when a homeless veteran told V.A. Secretary, Robert McDonald, that he had been in the Special Services unit of the armed forces, McDonald replied, “Special forces? What years? I was in special forces.” Sadly, that turned out to be a lie…
McDonald’s lie was discovered and reported within days of Brian Williams’ scandal, and like Williams, Mr. McDonald publicly apologized… Furthermore, just as Brian Williams’ apology seemed insincere to me, Robert McDonald’s apology also seemed phony. For, just as Williams did not confess and apologize for lying, neither did McDonald, who claimed he had “incorrectly stated that I had been in Special Forces. That was inaccurate and I apologize to anyone that was offended by my misstatement.” According to this apology, McDonald was just trying to connect with the homeless man and while doing so, he misstated his military history. Really??? Give me a break!
In the midst of all these lies, the media is having a hey day, as they gather around the liars like vultures, ready to feast on the road kill. Meanwhile, the military and its veterans are outraged over the lies, and rightly so. The general public is also incensed over the lies, and I have to admit, I was too. Then, I started thinking…
How many of us have lied and justified or excused ourselves for doing so?
“It’s just a little white lie…”
“I only told a small fib…”
“I exaggerated about what happened…”
Have you ever lied to your spouse or your parents about how much money you’ve spent on something or where you’ve been? Have you lied to your boss about why you really called out? Did you ever tell someone to say you weren’t home, so you wouldn’t have to talk to the person at the door, or answer the phone?
Have you tried to justify your lie, because you wouldn’t need to lie if that person didn’t always over-react to situations? Or perhaps you’ve excused yourself, because one little lie never hurt anyone… Maybe you’ve even told yourself it doesn’t really matter, because no one will ever find out about it anyway…
17 For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light.
Many of us become completely outraged, when someone lies to us. It also makes many of us furious, when someone like Brian Williams, Bill O’Reilly or Robert McDonald lies. After all, someone in their position should be credible, right?
As a child, I lied constantly. It’s true that I was abused as a child, and many times I lied for survival, but that doesn’t justify it or excuse it. In fact, the more I lied, the easier it got, and the lies grew. I lied so much, that I was often able to convince even myself that a lie was true. I lied to survive, and I lied about things that didn’t even matter. You see, when you tell one lie, you become enslaved to it, because one lie leads to another, then another, and so on.
I wish I could tell you that when I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior, one summer, somewhere between the ages of eleven and fourteen, I stopped lying, but that wouldn’t be true. I will say that I tried really hard to stop lying, because I knew it was sinful, but lying was a stronghold in my life, and the harder I tried to stop lying, the harder it was to quit.
During my teenage years, I fell away from the Lord. I still believed in Him, but I was also filled with doubts about Him. You see, someone, who habitually lies, usually has a deceiving spirit within him/her, and not only does that spirit lead him/her to be deceptive; it also succeeds in deceiving the deceiver. So, basically, I was a liar who found it easier to believe lies rather than the truth…
I was around fifteen years old, when I stopped walking with the Lord, and for the next ten years, I chose to go my own way. I am so grateful that during the time I walked away from God, He never left me. When I lied, He continued to convict me of my sin. When I cussed and told dirty jokes, He was still there, reminding me that my behavior was sinful. When I was twenty-five years old, my son was three, and my daughter was a little over one, and I decided it was time to take my children to Sunday School, because they needed Jesus. I didn’t realize that I needed Jesus just as much or more than they did, but God knew. He also knew that before my children could know Him, I needed to know Him.
I hadn’t been bringing the children to Sunday School for very long, when I was asked to start teaching Sunday School. Now, in order to teach Sunday School, you have to prepare for it, and the way to prepare for it is to pray and read and study the bible. As I began to study the bible more and more, I realized how much I needed Jesus back into my life. Meanwhile, though I struggled to stop, I continued to lie, and since I’d rededicated my life to Christ, I was racked with guilt.
I hated lying by now, but I just couldn’t stop it, because I lived in fear. Looking back over my life, I understand that the biggest stronghold in my life, which led me to lie, was fear. When I was younger, I lied because I was afraid of losing my parents’ love, as they beat me and cursed me. As an adult, I lied because I was afraid of losing my husband’s love.
I remember fasting one Saturday, and going to church to be alone with the Lord, praying and preparing for my Sunday School class. As I was praying, the Lord pressed me to tell my husband about a secret I’d been keeping from him, but I was afraid he would leave me, so, I refused. I lived in such fear of losing his love, that I didn’t tell him, when some of our bills increased beyond what we were able to pay. Though he never abused me, I’d grown up in an abusive household, and I was terrified of losing him and being forced to live with my parents again. The Lord kept leading me to tell my husband about this, but I was afraid to trust Him, so I continued to refuse.
Then, a few days later, after a medical procedure, which left my husband feeling very sick, he began to talk about how much he loved me, and what a great wife I was. I told him to stop saying that, because I wasn’t a great wife. I told him I wasn’t even a good wife, but he just looked at me with love in his eyes and said I was a wonderful wife, and he loved me very much. Guilt and shame overwhelmed me, and I confessed everything to my husband, just as God had commanded me to do. After confessing my deception to my him, my husband looked at me through his eyes of love and told me not to worry. Together, we would take care of things.
After that day, I was no longer bound by fear and deception. Does that mean that I haven’t failed since then? No, I’ve lied since then, but I’m quick to confess and repent of my sins, and here’s the funny thing. I don’t lie now, because that sin no longer binds me. God set me free from fear that day, and I’m no longer afraid to tell the truth.
32 “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
What about you, beloved reader? Before you get angry with those who lie and try to deceive us, have you examined your own heart? Are you free from deception? If so, praise God, and instead of being angry at people like Brian Williams, Bill O’Reilly or Robert McDonald, pray for them, and ask God to set them free from their fear of the truth, in Jesus name!
If you still continue to lie to people, especially those you love, ask God to deliver you from fear and deception, in Jesus’ name.
7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
Yesterday, people from all over the world celebrated Valentine’s Day, the day of love, which begs the question, “What is love, anyway?”
Love is something that most human beings long for and seek for most of their lives. I truly believe that within every man, woman and child, there is a place within our hearts that needs to love and to be loved. There’s a place within us that longs to know and to be fully known, and yet despite our obvious flaws, still be loved completely…
Almost my entire life has bee spent seeking the love and approval of others… family… friends… strangers… and even enemies! Rejection from family, the ones who are supposed to love you no matter what, left me feeling alone and unworthy of love. All too often, I would prayerfully and tearfully ask God what was wrong with me. Why was I so unlovable?
Because of the pain I felt from the rejection of those family members, I was blind to those who truly did love me, just as I am. I was blessed with a husband and children who love me very deeply, and yet, I spent most of my life waiting for them to see the “real me”, which would cause them to reject me too.
As a child, I had to fight to win my parents’ love and approval, and unfortunately, all too often, I failed in my plight. As a result of this, I grew up feeling unloved. For I always did something terrible, which caused them to withhold their love from me.
Knowing how my family felt about me, I was certain that the God of heaven and earth, who knows all and sees all, could never love me. He has seen the best in me, and the worst in me. He knows every bad thing I’ve ever done and ever thought of doing. He also knows every bad thing that I will someday do, and so I was convinced that He couldn’t love me, until I began to hear His voice…
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.
I had always felt ugly and defective, both inside and out. As a child, I had buck teeth and a curved spine, which caused me to have to wear a back brace for 23 hours a day. And yet now, the Lord was telling me that He had knit me together in my mother’s womb, and He had made me fearfully and wonderfully in His image. Even so, I still doubted that God could really love me. After all, I had grown up believing that I was unlovable, so how could He love me?
Long ago the Lord said to (Cheryl) Israel: “I have loved you, My (daughter) people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to Myself.”
I was amazed. How could the Lord of all Creation, the King of Glory possibly love me? And yet He not only loved me; He also drew me to Himself. What an amazing God and what an amazing love!
I accepted the great gift of His love, and yet, there was still the little girl within me that wondered, “If God had really loved me and chosen me from the foundations of the world, why had I always felt so unloved? Why had I always felt so alone? What was wrong with me?”
You see, I wasn’t questioning God’s goodness. I was questioning my own worth. I was certain there was something terribly wrong with me, something ugly and unlovable. Then, one night, as I was driving with my daughter, who was pregnant with her first child, while we were discussing baby names and their meanings, the Lord spoke to my heart…
Glancing at my daughter, as I drove, I suddenly said, “Do you know what Cheryl means?”
“No,” she responded, “what does it mean?”
“It means ‘Beloved,'” I replied.
“Yes, My child. Your name is Beloved, because you are My beloved. I loved you and chose you before the foundations of the earth were laid, and it is I who named you. For you are My beloved, and I have always loved you.”
Suddenly, everything made sense. I am lovable, because God loves me. I am worthy of love, because God has made me worthy, and if God has that kind of love for me, isn’t it possible that He loves you as well?
Now, my outlook has changed. After all, if God could love me so much, that He would sacrifice His one and only Son in exchange for my life, then how could I not love people, even my enemies, just as He did? Because He loves me so much, I can’t help but share His love with others.
So, what is this love that God has for us, and that He commands us to share with others? Paul, an apostle of Christ, and a great man of God, gives us a wonderful image of what love is, in 1 Corinthians 13…
13 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
8 Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!9 Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture!10 But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.
11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
For every heart that has ever been broken, destroyed by abandonment, rejection and betrayal, and for those that have not, you have been loved with an everlasting love before there was time. These words the Lord spoke to Israel are for all who will call upon His name:
Long ago the Lord said to Israel: “I have loved you, My people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to Myself.
Do you doubt that these words are meant for everyone who will call on His name? Not only did God love Israel with an everlasting love, He also loves ALL of mankind with a love so strong that He was willing to sacrifice His One and Only true Son for the sake of ALL of us.
For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.
Those who have been broken, abandoned, rejected and betrayed all long for that one thing. Whether you are willing to admit it or not, there is an ache deep within your heart, a longing for love that cannot be quenched. And how do I know this? I know this because I am one of the broken, abandoned, rejected, and betrayed, and my first memories are of a little girl who had a hunger for Someone to love me no matter how bad, or how ugly, or how undesirable and unlovable I was.
When I was very young, my mother and father divorced. After they divorced, I can count on one hand the number of times I saw my birth father again. Now that I’m an adult, I understand that my father’s abandonment was not because I was bad, ugly, undesirable or unlovable. Instead, it was his problem, but as a child, I believed every single one of those things about myself.
When I was around two and a half, my mother married my stepfather, a man that I grew up thinking was my daddy until right before I entered the first grade, and I had to learn how to write my name. You see, up until that time, I thought my name was Cheryl Mitchell, and I already knew how to write that, but now I learned that my real name was Cheryl Payne, and I didn’t really belong to the man I called Daddy. I wondered why God had made someone like me. You see, even then, I knew there was a God, and though I didn’t yet know Him personally, He knew me, for He was the One who had knit me together in my mother’s womb, and He had a plan for my life.
13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 Thank You for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. 15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. 16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in Your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.
I was one of those children that trouble seems to follow, or maybe it would be more accurate to say that I was the one following trouble. I hated school, from the first day I set foot there. It seemed like I was always in trouble once I was in school. When my parents went to parent/teacher conferences, they were told that I could do better if I would just apply myself. I always dreaded those parent/teacher conferences, which would lead to my parents’ cussing me and telling me how worthless and stupid and lazy I was, as they beat me over and over and over again. I was afraid to go to sleep at night, because they would come into my room over and over again throughout the night, until they went to bed, pulling me out of the bed and beating me yet again.
When I was in the sixth grade, I really did something stupid, You see, if I brought home a bad report card, I would receive several beatings, then be punished for the following nine weeks, until the next report cards were issued. My punishment consisted of being banished to my bedroom to study for those nine weeks. I was not permitted to go outside, receive phone calls, play or watch television during those long weeks. I was only allowed out of my room to use the bathroom, eat dinner, go to school and to go to church. I thank God for the church bus that would pick my sister and me up on Sunday mornings, because that was when I was able to laugh and sing and feel loved.
Anyway, when I was in the sixth grade, I received an “Inc.” (Incomplete) on my report card for not writing my fire prevention essay. Don’t ask me why I didn’t write it, because I honestly couldn’t tell you. I knew the incomplete was coming, but I didn’t worry about it until it was actually there, on my report card. When I saw that grade, I panicked, and then I got this “brilliant” idea. I had learned that if you licked the tip of an eraser, you could erase ink. As soon as I got home from school, before my parents came home, I did just that, and changed my grade from an “Inc.” to a “G” (the equivalent of an “A”). I actually got away with my ruse until nine weeks later, when report cards were once again issued.
In those days, we carried our report cards to each class and the teacher would call you forward and print your grade on the report card. My heart pounded all morning long, and through lunch, until it was time to go to my Language Arts class. By then, I was really worked up. I must have had millions of butterflies in my stomach – so many that I was beginning to feel ill. When my teacher called me, my whole body shook with fear, yet still, I walked forward to her desk. As soon as she took my report card out of the envelope, she looked at me and stated loudly, “You erased this!”
I looked behind me, hoping against hope that my classmates hadn’t heard her, but of course, all eyes were on me. I shook my head emphatically, as I looked her in the eye and whispered, “No I didn’t. You did. Don’t you remember? You accidentally put someone else’s grade on here, and you changed it,” but she wasn’t buying it.
“You erased this report card and I’m calling the principal.” With that said, she stood up and walked over to the intercom to call the principal. I was truly panicked by this time, and I didn’t care that my classmates were all staring at me as I cried and pleaded with her not to call the principal, but to no avail. She stood by the intercom and told the principal what I had done, and he hurried to our classroom, where I was weeping inconsolably, and pleading with her and then him not to call my parents.
At that point, I was such a wreck, that they sent me to the nurse’s office. The nurse tried to quiet me, and then she began prying into my business, asking why I was so afraid. She asked me if my parents beat me. Did they abuse me? As she questioned me, all of my fear now turned to anger and hatred, not against my parents, but against her. I was already in enough trouble, without her being nosy and trying to make things even worse for me. It wasn’t until nearly thirty years later, that I realized she wasn’t being nosy. She was trying to help me, but I was too blinded by fear and misplaced anger to realize it.
I thought about running away, but I didn’t know where to run to, and I was too afraid to do it. So, I just sat in my bedroom waiting until my mother came home at 6:00 that evening. By then, my fear had grown immensely, and with good reason. Soon, the bedroom door was opened, and there stood my mommy and my stepfather, whom I thought of as my daddy. My mother began shouting at me, and then my daddy began to speak, and the angrier she got, the louder she was, while the softer his voice got, the more I feared him. They told me how stupid and lazy I was. They said that I was worthless and nothing but trouble. And then, my daddy said the words that really crushed me, “I’m ashamed that anyone thinks you’re my daughter.”
Then they each took turns beating me, but as bad as the beatings were, the thing that still hurts, even now, at 53 years of age, were those words spoken by my “daddy,” the man I truly adored. I wasn’t angry at him or my mother, though, because they were right, I thought. I believed every single curse they spoke over me, and it took many years for the Lord to finally set me free from them. All night long, until she finally went to sleep, my mother would sit in the den smoking cigarettes and thinking about what I had done, and the more she thought about it, the angrier she became, again and again. Then, she would burst into my bedroom, snatch me out of bed and begin beating me again and again. I laid in the bed, shaking with fear, and crying, and it seemed like every time I would begin to doze off, my door would slam open, and I would be snatched from the bed and beaten again and again.
I was punished for the following nine weeks until the next report card was issued and my grades were good, but until then, I was berated over and over again. I wasn’t angry with my mommy and daddy though. I was angry with my teacher and myself. I hated her for many years, but I hated myself for many more.
On the church bus every Sunday, we would learn different scriptures, and one of the first ones I learned was John 3:16
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Now, I remember my thoughts when I first heard those words, “For God so loved the world…”
“Yeah,” I thought, “but He doesn’t love me. He knows how bad I am. He knows everything about me, and there’s no way He could ever love me.”
It wasn’t until many years later, on a Saturday as I prepared a Sunday School lesson for children who were the same age that I had been when I first heard those words, “For God so loved the world…”that He revealed to me that those words included me too. While preparing a lesson on Psalm 139, as I read, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” the Lord spoke to my heart and said, “Cheryl, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. It was I who knit you together in your mother’s womb, and I knew every single day of your life before you were born, and I loved you.”
Beloved reader, can you believe that? Those words are not just for me. They’re for you, too. And get this, the very same God who knit each and every man, woman and child in their mother’s womb, decided long before then that He would adopt those of us who wanted Him to be their Daddy.
God decided in advance 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.
Isn’t that wonderful? And do you know why He chose to adopt us? He didn’t do it because He pitied us, or because He felt like it was something He should do. No! He adopted us into His own family through Jesus because He wanted to do it! Not only that, it gave Him great pleasureto adopt us!!!
Beloved reader, has your heart ever been broken, abandoned, rejected and betrayed? Have you ever felt unloved and unlovable? Have you ever longed for a Daddy who would lavish His love on you, without feeling like you must earn His love? Do you have a hole in your heart that cries, just as mine did, “Please won’t Somebody love me, even though I don’t deserve it?”
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.
Beloved reader, my whole life, I felt like I was nothing but a burden to my family, who I loved deeply. But I now have a Daddy who loved me long before He formed the earth, and He chose me to be His adopted daughter, because I bring great pleasure to Him.
I shared all of this with you, not to make you pity me, but so you can rejoice with me. For you see, I was always loved, even when I felt like no one loved me, and I am no better or worse than you. God loves you, just as much as He loves me, and if you want to experience that love, call upon His name. The following prayer that Paul prayed many, many years ago is the prayer that I now pray for every person who reads this post:
14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father,15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.16 I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit.17 Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him.Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is.19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
4 Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes. 5God decided in advance 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 1:4-5 NLT ~
Do you remember what it was like to play sports in school? I never did like gym class except for badminton and bowling. Running races was humiliating, because as tiny as I was at the time, I was equally slow. However, by far, the most degrading thing about gym class, was the team sports (i.e. – dodgeball, kickball, softball, basketball etc.), because that was when the gym teacher would choose team captains (always the most popular and athletic), who would, in turn, choose their teams. Of course, the team captains always chose the most athletic (because they wanted to win), and the most popular (because if the team captain wasn’t already one of the popular crowd, if he/she chose wisely, perhaps they would welcome him/her into their elite clan).
Now, I don’t know where you landed in the scheme of things, but I was neither popular, or very athletic. Therefore, I was usually one of the last ones chosen for a team sport. In fact, when the captains began choosing their teammates, I would often pray, “Lord, please let them pick me somewhere in the middle. Please don’t let them pick me last.”
Not only did I hate team sports, team projects were equally undesirable. You see, the brighter, more popular children would team up with one another. Those children who weren’t as intellectual also had their own cliques to work in, which still, left me the odd one out. I was just one of those children who don’t quite fit in anywhere, and even as an adult, I likewise, continue to struggle with feeling out of place.
That’s why I get so excited about this scripture…
4 Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes. 5 God decided in advance 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 1:4-5 NLT ~
Do you see it? Before He made the world, God loved me and chose me! Praise God – this is one instance in my life, where I was among those who were picked first! What’s more, if you are born again, believing that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead, then you, too, can rest assured that as surely as God loved me and chose me before He made the earth, He loved you and chose you before He made the world. Isn’t that Good News?
Just think about it! When I was a child in school, it felt as though my whole world was broken all around me, every time I was rejected. Actually, even as an adult, it still sometimes feels that way, when someone rejects me…
And yet, if I put things in perspective, I gain a whole new insight that allows me to see things as they really are. Now, all of those soul crushing moments don’t seem as devastating, when I consider that the God and the Creator of the universe chose meto be His beloved daughter, long before He spoke all of creation into being. For you see, my present problems are nothing, when I fix m eyes on Christ Jesus, my Lord and Savior…
16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NLT ~
Now, when I keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, and think of how God chose me before He created the earth, Jesus reminds me of this…
16 You didn’t choose Me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using My name.17 This is My command: Love each other.
Isn’t that wonderful news? Jesus chose His followers. Are you one of Christ’s followers? If so, that’s because He chose you. Do you doubt me? The fact is that we wouldn’t even love Him or anyone else, if not for one thing…
Do you need more convincing? Well, beloved reader, it just gets better!
But you are a chosen people,the King’s cohanim (priests), a holy nation, a people for God to possess! Why? In order for you to declare the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. ~ 1 Peter 2:9 CJB ~
Do you see the beauty of it? Long before we were born, indeed, long before the earth was even created, God thought of each one of the men, women and children who would love and follow Him, and He chose us. He called us by our name, and do you know what we were chosen for? We were chosen to be holy and without fault in God’s eyes. We were chosen to be God’s chosen people, and not only that. We were chosen to be a royal priesthood (the King’s priests), in order for us to declare the praises of Christ, who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light. We were chosen by God, because He loves us and it gave Him great pleasure to bring us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and adopt us into His own family.
4 Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes. 5 God decided in advance 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 1:4-5 NLT ~
Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes.~ Ephesians 1:4 NLT ~
One of the things I love about the Lord is that He loved us even before He made the world. Isn’t that wonderful? Just think about what that means… Who knows how old the earth is? Only God truly knows, but before He even laid the earth’s foundation, long before the earth was ever formed, God loved us. Do you know what this means?
It means that even before the heavens and the earth were made, God loved us…
It means that before we were planted in our mother’s womb, God loved us…
It means that before our mother even knew we were planted in her womb, God loved us…
It means that before our eyes were opened in the darkness of the womb, God loved us…
It means that before we ever drew our first breath, God loved us.
It means that though we were born sinners from the moment we were conceived, God loved us.
It means that even though no one else does, God loves us.
So, you’ve heard this before, but what does it mean to you? Perhaps, like me, you’ve lived a lifetime feeling unloved, and even though you’ve heard that God loves you or Jesus loves you, you haven’t experienced it.
Believe me, I understand those feelings. I grew up in a home where I felt unloved and unlovable. I was always in trouble for something. Sometimes I got in trouble for things I had done, and many times, for things I hadn’t done.
I hated school. When I went to school, I was tormented by the other children. I had buck-teeth, and believe me, I was called every name you can think of. Not only did my classmates hate me, my teachers did as well, and when I went home, I felt no reprieve.
When report cards would be issued every nine weeks, my grades were often lower than what my parents expected of me. This doesn’t mean that all of my grades were terrible. They just weren’t goodenough. “C’s” were considered to be as bad as “F’s”, and if I received an “A” one marking period, and a “B” the next, I was subject to punishment.
Punishment for bad report cards was extreme. For a “bad” report card, both parents would beat me. Then, I would be banished to my bedroom for the following nine weeks. I was only allowed to leave my room to go to school, go to church on Sundays, and to accompany my parents when they went to visit my aunt and uncle. On those occasions, I was banished to the living room to sit by myself, while Mom and my stepfather played pinochle, and while my sister played with my cousins, who would take turns walking past me, to laugh and point at me.
When I was in the sixth grade, I had a pretty good report card, except for an incomplete in Language Arts. As an adult, I can see the stupidity in a plan I conceived, but at the time, I wasn’t thinkingabout the future or getting caught. I was just thinking about how I could avoid getting in trouble at that time. Therefore, even though the grade was written in red ink, I licked the tip of an eraser (a trick I had learned for erasing ink) and I erased the red “Inc.” for incomplete, and I changed the grade to an “A”.
I knew my mother would notice that the grade had been changed, so I blatantly lied, saying, “Mrs. Murray was looking at the wrong line and accidentally wrote someone else’s grade on my report card.” It’s nothing I’m proud of, but I was a believable liar, and so, I was free from punishment for the following nine weeks.
Of course, nine weeks later, we received our report cards again. Things weren’t computerized in those days. The grades on the report cards were handwritten. So, at the beginning of each class, we would read and work on lessons until the teacher called our name.Then, we would go forth, with report card in hand and the teacher would place your current grade on the report card.
Fear and dread filled my heart when I got to Mrs. Murray’s class, and it only grew with each minute that passed. Since my last name began with the letter “P”, I was one of the last students to be called forth to receive my grade. My heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest as I walked forward,
I was shaking all over as I handed Mrs. Murray my report card. I foolishly prayed that God would make her not notice what I had done, even though the evidence was very clear. As soon as she pulled my report card out of the envelope, she looked me in the eye and said so loudly that the entire class heard and every eye was on me, “You erased this report card.”
Fearful and ashamed, I whispered softly and desperately, “No Ididn’t. You did, don’t you remember? You accidentally wrote the wrong grade on here and you had to change it.” I was so scared and so embarrassed. The kids in my class already made fun of me, and I didn’t want to give them another reason to torment me.
“No, I didn’t change your grade,” Mrs. Murray stated very loudly. “You did, and I’m going to call the principal and have him call your parents.”
Every eye in the classroom was on me, but suddenly that didn’t matter to me. All that mattered was convincing them not to call my parents. “Please don’t call my parents,” I cried, as she walked over to the intercom and called the principal, once again telling what I had done in front of the whole classroom of students, who were snickering. Still, it didn’t matter, as long as I could convince them not to tell on me.
I begged Mrs. Murray notto tell on me, and when the principal came to the classroom, I begged him not to tell. The principal took me to the nurse’s office because I was so distraught, and she began to question me. “Cheryl, why are you so afraid for us to call your parents? Is everything okay at home? Are you afraid of your parents? Cheryl, do your parents beat you?”
As I sat there sobbing uncontrollably, I looked at the nurse with hatred. Then I responded angrily to her nosy questions, “I’m not afraid. I just don’t want to upset them. Everything’s fine. I’m not afraid of my parents. No, they don’t beat me,” I lied, answering all of her questions. I knew what she was up to. She just wanted more ammunition to get me into even more trouble than I was already in, and I wasn’t giving it to her. It wasn’t until many years later, when I was an adult, that I came to realize the nurse was trying to help me. She wasn’t trying to harm me.
When I got home from school that day at 3:30, I had to wait for two and a half hours for my mother to get home. I sat in my room, fearfully dreading her arrival, and the long wait only increased my anxiety. I knew what was coming, and I prayed God would protect me.
I was still in my bedroom when Mom got home. Dad (my stepfather) had gotten home an hour earlier, but he hadn’t said anything about report cards, and I certainly wasn’t going to bring that dreaded topic up. As soon as I heard my mother open the door my heart began to hammer my chest, and my whole body trembled. I could hear her talking to Dad about what I had done, but I couldn’t hear his response. That did not bode well, for when Mom was angry, she was loud and shrill, but the angrier Dad was, the quieter he spoke.
All too soon, I heard Mom’s feet stomping toward my bedroom, followed by the shuffle of Dad’s feet following her. Then, my door burst open and there she stood, with her eyes flashing in anger. Irealized it would be foolish to lie now, and so, when I was confronted with the truth about erasing my report card and changing the grade, I admitted that I had done it and I was sorry.
Mom and Dad were both cussing at me and telling me how worthless and stupid I was. Then one would beat me, while the other watched and waited for his/her turn. I had never seen such fury in Dad’s eyes before, as he told me that he did electrical work for the school, and that the principal was his friend. Then he spoke the words that just crushed me. For you see, though I was bruised and battered from the beatings, I eventually healed from them, but the verbal and emotional abuse took a lifetime to recover from. Indeed, it seems just when I think I’ve got it licked, those old feelings of worthlessness raise their ugly heads at me.
“I’m ashamed that Mac (the principal and my stepfather were friends) knows you’re my daughter. I wish I could tell him I don’t even know you and you’re not related to me,” my stepfather said softly and angrily. My birth father was like a stranger that wandered in and outof my life only a few times when I was growing up, and I loved my stepfather as though he was my daddy, and his words just crushed me. Then he beat me again.
After this, the first round, he and Mom left my room and Mom prepared dinner. I was summoned to the dinner table, even though I wasn’t hungry at all. “What’s wrong with your dinner?” one of them asked me.
“Nothing,” I replied, trying to swallow the big lump in my throat that wouldn’t allow me to eat.
“Do you think you’re too good to eat after your mother worked all day and then came home to fix your dinner?”
“No,” I choked out, as tears streamed down my face. I wasrewarded by another beating, though I can’t remember if one or both administered it, nor can I remember who did it. I was then sent to my room, which was a welcome reprieve for me, though not for long.
Within a few minutes, I heard the stomping sound of my mother’s feet coming toward me. I hurried up and sat up, just as the door burst open. I don’t remember what words were spoken to me, only that they hurt, and then I was beaten yet again.
Off and on all night, the door would slam open, and I would be cursed and beat. I was terrified of falling asleep, for fear that the door would bang open, and Mom would curse me and beat me again. And she did, over and over again, all night long. Sometimes, I would drift away into an exhausted sleep, only to feel my arm being grabbed, as Mom pulled me from the bed and beat me over and over and over again.
I was a nervous wreck, and I believed every curse they spoke over me. I was stupid, lazy, worthless and, unlovable. I was a whole lot of other things too, but they aren’t worth writing. You get the picture anyway…
So, I grew up feeling unloved and unworthy of love. I knew the scriptures that said God so loved the world, but I truly thought that meant everyone but me. Even when I married my husband, I believed that if he knew the real me, he wouldn’t love me. Like I said, I felt I was unlovable.
But, as I began to know Jesus more and more, I began to feel His love. Psalm 139 forever changed my life…
13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and
knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 Thank You for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. 15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter
seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the
womb. 16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in Your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had
17 How precious are Your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! 18 I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, You are still with me! ~ Psalm 139:13-18 NLT ~
I remember preparing a Sunday School lesson for my students, based onPsalm 139, and though I had read this before, this time the words spoke to me. God had made all the delicate inner parts of my body, and He had knit me together in my mother’s womb. Suddenly, I began to see myself through God’s eyes, and not through the warped reflection of what others thought of me, nor even what i thought of myself. God makes all things good, and that included me, with buck-teeth, scoliosis, and all that made me the unique being that I am. Indeed, He saw me before I was even born, and His thoughts about me are not terrible, but precious. Though my understanding of God’s love continues to grow, back then, it was my first glimpse of His love, and for the little girl inside me, who always hungered for love, it began to heal some of my wounds.
Fast forward to five or six years later, my daughter (who waspregnant with her first child) and I were going for a ride, and as we rode along, we talked about baby names for her little girl. As we talked about the various baby names she was thinking of, she would share the meaning of those names.
Suddenly, I asked my daughter, “Do you know what Cheryl means? “When she said, “No,” I responded, “Cheryl means “Beloved.” It was then that I heard the Holy Spirit speaking to my spirit. “Beloved, I gave you that name before you were conceived in your mother’s womb. Indeed, before the foundations of the world were laid, I named you Beloved, for you are My beloved.
“When you were a lonely little girl crying and longing for someone to love you, I loved you. When you longed for your parents love, I loved you with a Father’s love for My daughter. When you thought no one would ever fall in love with you, I made you My bride. Child, I have loved you with an everlasting love.”
Long ago the Lord said to Israel: “I have loved you, My people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to Myself. ~ Jeremiah 31:3 NLT ~
Beloved reader, do you feel unloved and/or unlovable? If you do, rejoice, for God is no respecter of persons, He loves you just as much as He loves me, and who knows? Perhaps God had me share this lesson now, for such a time as this, so that you would know that God loved you, too, even before He created the world,
Praise the Lord! Yesterday, I wrote an introduction to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, and today, before we begin to really dig in to this message, we’re going to do an overview, of it and answer the five W’s about Ephesians. Therefore, let’s dig in and discover the answers to our questions.
Before we begin this overview of Ephesians, let’s ask our Father in heaven to open the eyes of our hearts…
Heavenly Father, thank You so much for leading us in this walk through Your word. I pray Lord, for each person who joins in this study of Ephesians, that You would open the eyes of our heart, and that as we begin to understand this message, our hearts would hunger to know You better.
Lord, I pray that we would love You more, and that we will gain wisdom through Your word. I also pray that as our love for You increases, our love for mankind would increase as well, in Jesus’ name. Lord, reveal Yourself to us through Your holy word in the precious name of Jesus. Amen.
Before we get started on the overview, I encourage you to read the book of Ephesians. It really isn’t that long (just 6 chapters), and it will help you to answer the five W’s for yourself. Below are the links to each chapter…
The above links will take you to Bible Gateway, and if you sign in, you will discover that there are many study tools that you may use. While I’m reading, I like to highlight the verses that answer the five W’s in one color. Later, I may go back and highlight the key verse in each chapter, or sometimes, key words. You can always undo this, if you like, but I find this method of studying really helps me. Therefore, I urge you to click the links above, and keeping in mind the five W’s we learned in yesterday’s Introduction to Ephesians, highlight your answers to those questions as you go along…
Who? Paul wrote the Ephesians Epistle (epistle is a letter) to the Ephesian believers…
When I think of all this, I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the benefit of you Gentiles. . . ~ Ephesians 3:1 NLT ~
Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. ~ Ephesians 4:1 NLT ~
To Whom was the book/letter written?
I am writing to God’s holy people in Ephesus, who are faithful followers of Christ Jesus. ~ Ephesians 1:1b NLT ~
And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, He identified you as His own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom He promised long ago. ~ Ephesians 1: 13 NLT ~
Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. ~ Ephesians 2:11 NLT ~
He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from Him, and peace to the Jews who were near. ~ Ephesians 2:17 NLT ~
So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. ~ Ephesians 2:19 NLT ~
Through Him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by His Spirit. ~ Ephesians 2:22 NLT ~
When I think of all this, I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the benefit of you Gentiles. . . ~ Ephesians 3:1 NLT ~
… assuming, by the way, that you know God gave me the special responsibility of extending His grace to you Gentiles.~ Ephesians 3:2 NLT ~
Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. ~ Ephesians 4:1 NLT ~
What? Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesians to both encourage the Ephesians, by reminding them that God chose them before the foundations of the earth were laid. He also wanted to encourage them to lead a life worthy of their calling. Also, by reinforcing how they were saved, and how they are to live as Christians, Paul also warns the Ephesian believers against false teachings, encouraging them to be ready to battle the enemy at all times…
What did the author hope to accomplish by writing this book/letter?
Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes. ~ Ephesians 1:4 NLT ~
Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. ~ Ephesians 4:1 NLT ~
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. ~ Ephesians 6:12 NLT ~
When? Paul wrote this Epistle to the Ephesians between 60-62 A.D., while he was imprisoned in Rome.
When was the book/letter written?
When I think of all this, I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the benefit of you Gentiles. . . ~ Ephesians 3:1 NLT ~
Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.~ Ephesians 4:1 NLT ~
I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for Him, as I should. ~ Ephesians 6:20 NLT ~
Where was the book/letter sent? As we stated earlier, Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesian believers, where he had spent three years, establishing a church.
This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. I am writing to God’s holy people in Ephesus, who are faithful followers of Christ Jesus. ~ Ephesians 1:1 NLT ~
Where was the book/letter written? As we’ve already established, Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesians from his Roman prison (Ephesians 3:1, 4:1 and 6:20).
Why? The purpose is so all of God’s children will praise and glorify Him.
Why did the author of the book/letter write it?
12 God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God.13 And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, He identified you as His own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom He promised long ago.14 The Spirit is God’s guarantee that He will give us the inheritance He promised and that He has purchased us to be His own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify Him.
This concludes the overview of Ephesians. We will begin studying Ephesians 1 in my next post, line by line and precept upon precept. I look forward to studying with you again soon! Meanwhile, please join me as we close this post with a prayer to the Almighty.
Father, thank You so much for sending Your word to us. I pray Lord, that You would speak to each person who reads and joins this study, and that we would be drawn ever closer to You. Holy Spirit, You are the great teacher, so please Lord, teach us, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.~ Psalm 51:6 NASB ~
We live in a sinful world filled with deception and governed by the father of lies. We’re taught from a young age to hide our feelings, and put on a happy face, no matter what is going on inside of us. Those who have been raised in an abusive family are taught from a young age to deny and hide the truth, using any means of deception necessary to protect the abuser(s). We’re even taught that it’s better to tell a “little white lie” than to hurt someone. Even Fleetwood Mac alluded to “sweet little lies,” in their 1987 hit song, “Little Lies,” but are lies really sweet?
How do you trust someone who lies to you, when lies are the polar opposite of the truth. As a matter of fact, scripture makes it very clear where both lies and the truth come from…
6 Jesus told him,“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.”~ John 14:6 NLT ~
44 “For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.”~ John 8:44 NLT ~
How do you feel? Do you think it’s okay to tell little white lies? What makes a lie white? If some lies are white, are other lies black? Where do you draw the line?
According to the bible, Satan is a liar and the father of lies. Also according to scripture, Jesus said that He is the Truth. Please note that nowhere in the bible do the scriptures imply a difference in types of lies (i.e. – white lies or black lies). Indeed, the scriptures make it very clear that not only is the devil a liar, he is the father of all lies. Wow. Just think about that for a minute. If the devil (God’s enemy) is truly the father of all lies, then there is no such thing as white lies. Furthermore, the scripture says that when the devil lies, it is consistent with his character.
So, keeping this in mind, what do the scriptures say about God’s character???
God is not a man, so He does not lie. He is not human, so He does not change His mind. Has He ever spoken and failed to act? Has He ever promised and not carried it through? ~ Numbers 23:19 NLT ~
29 And He who is the Glory of Israel will not lie, nor will He change His mind, for He is not human that He should change His mind!”~ 1 Samuel 15:29 NLT ~
2 This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began.~ Titus 1:2 NLT ~
18 So God has given both His promise and His oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.~ Hebrews 6:18 NLT ~
According to Hebrews 6:18, it is impossible for God to lie, just as there is no truth in the devil. Therefore, when we become a child of God, Jesus, who is the Truth, dwells in our hearts, and if He dwells within our hearts, then how can we participate in any lie? Yet, sadly, so many people, Christians included, are confused about this, because they have bought into the lies the world has repeated to them, rather than seeking the truth from their Father.
Think about it this way, God’s Holy Spirit lives in the hearts of all of His children, who are believers in Jesus Christ. Now, if I am walking in the Spirit, I will not even utter a white lie, because it is impossible for God to lie, and when I walk in the Spirit, I am walking in obedience to God. However, if I choose to share a sweet little lie, for a good reason, then, I am walking in my flesh, and it is sin.
Who is truly a good friend, one who lies and tells you what you want to hear, or someone who tells you the truth, even though it may be painful to hear? Do you want to confide in someone who promises to keep your confidence, but tells you sweet little lies or the one who always speaks the truth?
Finally, beloved readers, consider this. Lies do not lead to freedom. Indeed, they bind us in a tangled web…
Finally beloved reader, I leave you with this warning from Revelation…
8 “But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars—their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”~ Revelation 21:8 NLT ~
23 When Jesus arrived at the official’s home, He saw the noisy crowd and heard the funeral music. 24“Get out!”He told them.“The girl isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.”But the crowd laughed at Him.25 After the crowd was put outside, however, Jesus went in and took the girl by the hand, and she stood up!26 The report of this miracle swept through the entire countryside.~ Matthew 9:23-26 — NLT ~
Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.~ John 21:25 — NLT ~
Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to us, when we read that among the many miracles He performed in the name of God, He raised the dead. Jesus was fully aware of the power and authority God had given Him. Therefore, He walked in the complete fullness of God.
He was and is the Son of God. Therefore, He had authority over everything in heaven and on earth. This included authority over every living creature…
9 Therefore, God elevated Him to the place of highest honor and gave Him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.~ Philippians 2:9-11 — NLT ~
… authority over every animate and inanimate object…
36 As He rode along, the crowds spread out their garments on the road ahead of Him.37 When He reached the place where the road started down the Mount of Olives, all of His followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen.
38 “Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!”
39 But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, “Teacher, rebuke Your followers for saying things like that!”
… authority over the angels in heaven and the demons that roam the earth…
53Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and He would send them instantly? ~ Matthew 26:53 — NLT ~
33 Once when He was in the synagogue, a man possessed by a demon—an evil spirit—began shouting at Jesus,34 “Go away! Why are You interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”
35 Jesus cut him short. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,”He ordered. At that, the demon threw the man to the floor as the crowd watched; then it came out of him without hurting him further.
36 Amazed, the people exclaimed, “What authority and power this Man’s words possess! Even evil spirits obey Him, and they flee at His command!”~ Luke 4:33-36 — NLT ~
... authority over every curse…
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.~ Romans 8:2 — NASB ~
… authority over every sin…
1 Jesus climbed into a boat and went back across the lake to His own town.2 Some people brought to Him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Be encouraged, My child! Your sins are forgiven.”
3 But some of the teachers of religious law said to themselves, “That’s blasphemy! Does He think He’s God?”
4 Jesus knew what they were thinking, so He asked them,“Why do you have such evil thoughts in your hearts?5Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’?6So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.”Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said,“Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”
7And the man jumped up and went home!8 Fear swept through the crowd as they saw this happen. And they praised God for sending a man with such great authority.~ Matthew 9:1-8 — NLT ~
… authority over every illness, whether curable or incurable…
16 That evening many demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. He cast out the evil spirits with a simple command, and He healed all the sick.17 This fulfilled the word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah, who said, “He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases.” ~ Matthew 8:16-17 — NLT ~
Jesus’ authority even included the wind and the waves…
23 Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with His disciples.24 Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.25 The disciples went and woke Him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
26 Jesus responded,“Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!”Then He got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.
Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, has ALLAUTHORITYon heaven and on earth. This all encompassing power includes the power of life and death. Therefore, because of His great power and authority, He was able to walk into that house filled with mourners grieving the death of a little girl and after shutting them up, He then threw them out of the house, allowing only the little girl’s parents and His disciples to enter the house with Him and go to where the little girl lay, dead on her bed…
41 He took her by the hand and said to her,“Talitha koum!” (which means“Little girl, I say to you, get up!”).42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished.43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.~ Mark 5:41-43 — NLT ~
So what does this mean to us? My beloved readers, it means everything to us! For you see, our whole hope is built on Christ’s authority over death, because each day that we live, we are also draw one day closer to our death. Now, for the very young, that day seems far off, but for those who are middle-aged and beyond, that day becomes more and more imminent. Therefore, Christ’s authority over death is our only hope…
14 Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could He die, and only by dying could He break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.15 Only in this way could He set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.~ Hebrews 2:14-15 — NLT ~
I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave. ~ Revelation 1:18 — NLT ~
54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:
“Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
56 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power.57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:54-58 — NLT ~
Beloved readers, Jesus’ authority to raise that little girl from the dead wasn’t just a one time event. He raised others, and at the end of time as we now know it, He will finally destroy death, once and for all! That means our loved ones who were born-again before their death, will be resurrected. That also means that if we, who are born-again, die before His return to earth, we will be resurrected as well.
Thank You, Lord, for Your compassion and grace. Thank You so much for sacrificing Your One and only Son for us, and Lord, thank You for making a way for us to be reborn in the Spirit. Lord, I praise You for conquering sin and death, so that we, Your children, could live with You throughout eternity. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
1 Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets.2 And now in these final days, He has spoken to us through His Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son He created the universe.3 The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and He sustains everything by the mighty power of His command. When He had cleansed us from our sins, He sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.4 This shows that the Son is far greater than the angels, just as the name God gave Him is greater than their names.~ Hebrews 1:1-4 — NLT ~
Many people in this world call upon the angels to help them. Many call upon gods created in the minds of men. Many others call upon idols created by the hands of man. And yet, there is one God and Creator of the heavens and the earth, and all that is in them. There is only one God and Creator of mankind and only one way to reach Him…
Jesus told him,“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.” ~ John 14:6 — NLT ~
Why would someone call on anyone else for help? In my darkest hour, in those times when I am desperate for help, I want to be sure that I cry out to the One who can help me…
You see, the angels have to answer to God, so why would I go to them first, when He is the One who must give them permission to help me? For you see, it is Christ who created the angels, and not only did He create them, but they were created for His purpose…
15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, 16 for through Him, God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see — such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through Him and for Him.~ Colossians 1:15-16 — NLT ~
20 Praise the Lord, you angels, you mighty ones who carry out His plans, listening for each of His commands. 21 Yes, praise the Lord, you armies of angels who serve Him and do His will! ~ Psalm 103:20-21 — NLT ~
You see, beloved readers, the scriptures make it very clear that the angels were created to serve God and to carry out His plans. Therefore, if I choose to worship the angels, and seek their help, rather than His, my cries for help will be fruitless. For His holy angels cannot act on my behalf, apart from His will, and the fallen angels, who serve Satan, desire to steal, kill and destroy all of mankind. Therefore, to call on any other name, other than Jesus, whose name is far greater than the angels would be foolish.
This shows that the Son is far greater than the angels, just as the name God gave Him is greater than their names.~ Hebrews 1:4 — NLT ~
There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.~ Acts 4:12 — NLT ~
9 Therefore, God elevated Him to the place of highest honor and gave Him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ~ Philippians 2:9-11 — NLT ~
You see my friends, when we need help and when we need salvation, to call on the angels would be foolhardy, because the only way to get any help at all is to cry out to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. For there is salvation in no one else. Indeed, the only way to God the Father is through Christ, and at His name, every knee will one day bow. That means that every angel, and even every demon will one day bow to Him. Even Satan, His enemy will bow down to Him one day…
So, in those times when we are weak, call upon Jesus, who is high above all else. In those times of dismay, cry out to Him for salvation. In those times of great joy and triumph, bow down to the Almighty God, and give Him praise and glory in Jesus’ name, for He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, and He is far greater than the angels, and His name is far above their names!
26 As they led Jesus away, a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, happened to be coming in from the countryside. The soldiers seized him and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.27 A large crowd trailed behind, including many grief-stricken women.28 But Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.29 For the days are coming when they will say, ‘Fortunate indeed are the women who are childless, the wombs that have not borne a child and the breasts that have never nursed.’30 People will beg the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and plead with the hills, ‘Bury us.’31 For if these things are done when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” ~ Luke 23:28b-31 — NLT ~
Right up to the very end, Jesus lived a life of ministry to others. Right up to the very end, the glory of the Lord shone through Him. Concerned for the women who were weeping over His certain death, He turned to them and warned them not to grieve over His death, for it would be far better for them to mourn for themselves and their own children…
You see, within forty years, Jerusalem would fall, and with it, many of those who were even now weeping for Jesus’ impending death. These weeping women, and if not them, then certainly their children, were doomed to a life of slavery and death.
Jesus knew this, and that’s why He warned the women not to weep for Him, for indeed, their only hope for Jerusalem, for the lives of their children and for their own lives, rested in His death. For unlike them, He knew that His imminent death was necessary, if they were to survive what was to come. He knew that His death was necessary if they and their children were to have any hope of salvation. He knew that His death was necessary if you and I were to have any hope of salvation and everlasting life… and so, He warned the women…
… “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.29 For the days are coming when they will say, ‘Fortunate indeed are the women who are childless, the wombs that have not borne a child and the breasts that have never nursed.’30 People will beg the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and plead with the hills, ‘Bury us.’31 For if these things are done when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” ~ Luke 23:28b-31 — NLT ~
Have you ever seen such love? Of course not, for He is love…
32 Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with Him.33 When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed Him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on His right and one on His left.
34 Jesus said,“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”And the soldiers gambled for His clothes by throwing dice.
35 The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let Him save Himself if He is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”36 The soldiers mocked Him, too, by offering Him a drink of sour wine.37 They called out to Him, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!”38 A sign was fastened above Him with these words: “This is the King of the Jews.”
39 One of the criminals hanging beside Him scoffed, “So You’re the Messiah, are You? Prove it by saving Yourself—and us, too, while You’re at it!”
40 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? 41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this Man hasn’t done anything wrong.”42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.”
After warning the women not to weep for Him, Jesus continued walking towards His death sentence. After arriving to the place called Golgotha, the place of the Skull, He was laid on His cross, while the Roman soldiers nailed His hands and His feet to it. After being nailed to the cross, they then set the cross into a standing position, raising Him high, for all to see…
And they laughed at Him. They mocked Him. They even gambled over His clothing, as He hung there, naked and exposed. And all the while, Jesus continued to do what He did best… He ministered to them.
It makes no sense, because I can’t even begin to understand where that kind of love comes from, but there He was… Beaten beyond recognition… Tortured brutally… Mistreated… Forsaken… Betrayed… Despised and rejected… Yet, still, He loved them. He loved the soldiers who stripped Him, nailed Him to the cross, and even now, gambled over His clothing, and instead of bringing the wrath of God down on them, He simply looked down on them, and then, raising His eyes up to the heavens, He said…
As He hung there between the two thieves, He could have lashed out, because it was so unfair. It was so unjust, but instead, He continued to love and minister… As the one thief reviled and ridiculed Him, Jesus could have easily exacted His anger and wrath against him and everyone else who had taken part in His arrest… in His anguish, He continued to love and minister to others…
Surrounded on either side by common thieves, one of whom ridiculed Him as He hung there, suffering, while the other thief defended Him. What craziness! He had nothing in common with either of these thieves. Jesus was the sinless Son of God. He had never lied, never cheated, never did anything but good, yet in some strange miscarriage of justice, He was hung between two thieves — one who took it upon himself to mock Jesus, while the other took it upon himself to defend Him!
What kind of craziness was this? It wasn’t a priest, appointed by God, who defended Jesus. It wasn’t a prophet who defended Him. Not even His beloved disciples bothered to defend Him. And yet, hanging there next to Jesus, one of those thieves — a man guilty of lying and stealing, boldly defended Jesus!
40 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? 41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this Man hasn’t done anything wrong.”~ Luke 23:40-41 — NLT ~
Imagine how that man’s defense must have touched our Savior, who had received nothing but rejection, hatred, and torture for the last twelve hours. And now, here was a common thief, an ordinary man who had sinned and fallen far short of God’s glorious standard, defending Jesus… showing Him the love and respect that He so deserved, and asking nothing in return, except for one thing…
And Jesus, in the midst of His suffering responded with all of the grace and mercy of His Father… Indeed, He was the exact representation of His Father, who in His great love and mercy for mankind, offered the greatest gift…
“For God loved the world so much that he gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16 — NLT ~
And now, Jesus, so like His Father, looked at that poor dying thief, who had shown Him such mercy, responded as only the Son of God could respond…
There it is! Do you see it? Mercy — undeserved! Grace given — unreserved! And here is the wonderful part… His offer wasn’t just for that thief — He did this for you and for me — just because He loves us!
But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.~ Romans 5:8 — NLT ~
3 The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and He sustains everything by the mighty power of His command. When He had cleansed us from our sins, He sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. ~ Hebrews 1:3 — NLT ~
Praise God! Today, we’re going to continue our examination of Hebrews 1:3. In our previous post we learned about how Jesus, the Son of God, radiates God’s own glory, how He is the Light of the world, and how His Light gives us life. Let’s look at the next part of this scripture…
In order to understand the meaning of this very important passage, let’s look at the Greek words used for representation and nature…
Representation = charaktēr
I. the instrument used for engraving or carving
II. the mark stamped upon that instrument or wrought
out on it.
a mark or figure burned in (Lev. 13:28) or stamped on, an impression
the exact expression (the image) of any person or thing, marked likeness, precise reproduction in every respect, i.e. – facsimile
Nature = hypostasis
I. a setting or placing under
thing put under, substructure, foundation
II. that which has foundation, is firm
that which has actual existence the substantial quality, nature, of a person or thing
a substance, real being
the steadfastness of mind, firmness, courage, resolution
confidence, firm trust, assurance
This is such a beautiful revelation. Not only does Jesus radiate God’s own glory, He also expresses God’s character. Have you ever longed to know God? I mean to really know Him, not just about Him…
To know God, we must first know His Son, because Jesus is the exactimage of God. He is the precise reproduction of His Father in every respect…
9 Jesus replied,“Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father! So why are you asking Me to show Him to you?10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I speak are not My own, but My Father who lives in Me does His work through Me.11 Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen Me do.”~John 14:9-11 — NLT ~
37 “Don’t believe Me unless I carry out My Father’s work.38 But if I do His work, believe in the evidence of the miraculous works I have done, even if you don’t believe Me. Then you will know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I am in the Father.”~ John 10:37-38 — NLT ~
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation…~ Colossians 1:15 — NLT ~
InExodus 33:20, the Lord tells Moses that no one can see His face and live. However, Jesus made it clear that anyone who has seen Him, has seen the Father. I’ve always found it interesting that not everyone who saw Jesus saw God…
You see, many who saw Jesus had hearts that were too hard to recognize Him as the visible image of the invisible God…
10 He came into the very world He created, but the world didn’t recognize Him.11 He came to His own people, and even they rejected Him.~ John 1:10-11 — NLT ~
If Jesus were to come to you, or if you were to meet Him somewhere, would you recognize Him? I pray with all my heart that I would know Him, but the truth is, that He does sometimes visit His people without revealing who He is at the time…
34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.35 For I was hungry, and you fed Me. I was thirsty, and you gave Me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited Me into your home.36 I was naked, and you gave Me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for Me. I was in prison, and you visited Me.’
37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see You hungry and feed You? Or thirsty and give You something to drink?38 Or a stranger and show You hospitality? Or naked and give You clothing?39 When did we ever see You sick or in prison and visit You?’
40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these My brothers and sisters, you were doing it to Me!’
41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed Me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give Me a drink.43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite Me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give Me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit Me.’
44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help You?’
45 “And He will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these My brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help Me.’
That’s why it’s so important for us to pray that we have the same mindset that He did… Indeed, in Jesus, we see the steadfastness of mind that is in God the Father.
5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.~ Philippians 2:5-7 — NKJV ~
I can do nothing on My own. I judge as God tells Me. Therefore, My judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the One who sent Me, not My own will.~ John 5:30 — NLT ~
We see in Christ, the mind of God, and as His followers, we are to have the same mindset that Jesus has. You see, a Christian is a follower of Christ, His disciple, a child of the Most High God. Therefore, if we truly belong to Him, our thoughts will be His thoughts…
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him.2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.~ Romans 12:1-2 — NLT ~
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.~ Philippians 4:8 — NLT ~
1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all His glory.~ Colossians 3:1-4 — NLT ~
Do you see, beloved readers? Sometimes, we get so caught up in the struggles and worries that we must endure here on earth, that we lose hope. Have you ever heard the saying, “They’re so heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good”? The truth is, that this saying is just another example of how the enemy distorts God’s word. The truth of the matter, and the real cause for concern is that there are too many who are so earthly minded that they’re no heavenly good. This bible study is so good not only for you, beloved readers, but for me. We must all (certainly I must) keep our minds set on heaven, so that we don’t become disheartened by our earthly circumstances…
We see in Christ the firmness, the courage and the resolution that is in God, as well as the confidence, firm trust and assurance…
54 Jesus answered,“If I want glory for Myself, it doesn’t count. But it is My Father who will glorify Me. You say, ‘He is our God,’55 but you don’t even know Him. I know Him. If I said otherwise, I would be as great a liar as you! But I do know Him and obey Him.56 Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to My coming. He saw it and was glad.”
57 The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?”
27 My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from Me,29 for My Father has given them to Me, and He is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.30 The Father and I are one.”~ John 10:27-30 — NLT ~
Do you see the courage Jesus exhibited as He spoke these words? Can you see the power He possessed? So much power enveloped Him, that when the soldiers, who had come to arrest Him, heard Him say that He was the “I AM” they were looking for, the power of His authority knocked them off their feet.
Indeed, Jesus possessed such courage and resolution, such firm assurance that He was doing the will of the Father, and that was all that mattered, that He set His face like flint and rode into Jerusalem for the Passover, knowing that by the time it was over, He would be arrested, tortured, convicted and crucified. A question for each one of us to ponder, as we close this lesson, is this… As a child of Almighty God, and a joint heir with Christ, am I really willing to do what Paul said in Romans 8:17? And if I’m not, am I willing to begin praying for God to give me this same mindset that Jesus, and all of His disciples (except for Judas Iscariot) had?
And since we are His children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share His glory, we must also share His suffering.~ Romans 8:17 — NLT ~
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.~ Romans 8:28 — NLT ~
Have you ever felt the devastation of guilt? Do you know what it is to be weighed down by the heaviness of regret for not doing the things you should have done? Have you experienced the anguish that comes from a guilt-ridden conscience, because you did the wrong thing? Have you ever felt the endless torment of knowing that you not only let yourself down, but even worse, you failed God?
I’ve known that pain, and I felt as though the guilt and shame would kill me. I’ve known what it is to lose all hope, because the guilt and shame that I carried convinced me that I was unlovable, and that my sins were unforgivable. And though others showed me much mercy, and tried to comfort me, telling me that I hadn’t failed God, in my heart, I knew better.
You see, even though things may seem right in the eyes of man, it doesn’t change the fact that they are wrong. Even though others tried to console me, and even though they saw no wrongdoing on my part, I knew I had sinned against God. Therefore, I did what I had always been taught to do as a Christian. I confessed my sin to God.
But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. ~ 1 John 1:9 — NLT ~
Have you ever confessed your sins to God and still felt the heavy weight of guilt and shame? Have you ever questioned whether you truly are forgiven? Do you know what it is to doubt your own heart? Have you ever seen the error of your ways and wondered if your whole life was a lie?
That’s how I felt. Do you remember the scripture where Jesus describes what will happen to some who did many things in His name?
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” ~ Matthew 7:21-23 — NKJV ~
I was so wracked with guilt that I wondered if I was one of those who had prophesied in His name, and yet never knew Him. Was I mistaken to believe that I was a child of God? Had I been presumptive in assuming that I was saved? I had believed some things that I’ve since discovered weren’t true. So now, what could I do?
I could start anew. I could go back to the One True Source of all wisdom. I could look to God’s word, and find life.
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.~ Hebrews 4:12 — NLT ~
So, how can you mend a heart that has been shattered by guilt and shame? How do you rid your heart from the doubts that have been sown within it, by that same guilt and shame? You go back to the basics…
According to God’s word, I was no different than everyone else. I had sinned, just as everyone else has sinned. Therefore, although my guilty conscience said otherwise, according to the scriptures, which are God-breathed, I was no worse than anyone else… and it goes without saying that I am certainly no better.
16 “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him. ~ John 3:16-17 — NLT ~
9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. 11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in Him will never be disgraced.” 12 Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on Him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” ~ Romans 10:9-13 — NLT ~
I do confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord. He is the Lord and Master of everything. And He is certainly the Lord and Master of my life. And yes — I DO believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. I believe it with my whole heart.
And yet, how could I know for sure that I was truly saved and forgiven? Have you ever needed reassurance? Have you ever been so consumed by the guilt and shame, that you just needed some assurance that you were indeed saved and forgiven?
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. ~ Ephesians 2:8-9 — NKJV ~
Do you see? When the time comes that we have failed God and ourselves, so that we are riddled with guilt and shame, causing us to doubt whether we can be forgiven, and whether we are truly even saved, that is when we must have faith in Christ. And this faith is not something we can earn by being good enough or by doing enough good deeds. This faith in Christ is quite simply a gift given by our gracious Almighty God, and the more we hear His word spoken aloud, the stronger our faith grows.
Now, I won’t tell you that going to church will save you, because the church can’t save anyone. And the scriptures make it very clear that salvation is a gift from God. However, I will tell you that when you gather together with your brothers and sisters in Christ, your faith will grow.
24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. ~ Hebrews 10:24-25 — NLT ~
You see, when I was so addled with guilt and shame, my natural instinct was to pull away from other believers, for in my shame, I didn’t feel that I was worthy of their love, and worse yet, I didn’t feel worthy of God’s love. And so it was, that by pulling away from other believers, my faith began to weaken, for I had no one to pray for me and with me. By hiding myself away, I had no one to encourage me and speak life to me, and I became consumed by the fear of dying.
And yet, though I was brought low, God, in His infinite mercy and grace, never let me go. He never forsook me. You see, it was also during this time, that He was leading me to leave the fellowship that I had been a part of for more than three years. I no longer belonged there, and at the time, I felt as though that was my punishment — to no longer belong in His house. But I was wrong.
I no longer belonged in that fellowship, because God was calling me elsewhere. A sister in Christ had been placing posts on Facebook about the church that she had been attending for quite awhile, and I felt the Spirit leading me to go to this house of worship, and yet, I was hesitant, because the weight of my guilt and shame left me weary and fearful. What if I still didn’t belong here either?
And yet, I still felt a pull to go to this church, and one thing was for sure… I was sick and tired of being sick and tired! I hadn’t gone to worship with other Christians since before Thanksgiving, and I was hungry! I was hungry to worship and sing to God corporately with other believers, and I was hungry and thirsty to hear the word of God spoken. And so, two Sundays ago, I determined that I would attend worship service at the church my friend had been writing about for so long.
Beloved reader, do you know what it’s like to walk straight into the will of God? Do you know how good it is to receive confirmation and encouragement from His sweet Holy Spirit… to know that Jesus really does love you? I knew that I had stepped right into His perfect will for me that Sunday. The worship was like honey to my lips. And the preached word pierced right through my broken heart, as the Lord began to mend it with this message about guilt and God’s forgiveness.
You see, beloved reader, the scripture that says, For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,”is true. During this whole trial, I called on His name, and He saved my life from the pit. But it wasn’t enough to merely rescue me, for you see, His love for us is much too great to stop there. That’s why He not only forgives our sins when we confess them to Him, He also cleanses us from all unrighteousness. He heals the brokenhearted. Beloved reader, He healed my broken heart. And if He did that for me, He will certainly do the same for you. Just do as I did, confess your sin, and call upon His name — JESUS!!!
23 Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with His disciples. 24 Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke Him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
26 Jesus responded,“Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!”Then He got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.
Imagine this, Jesus gets into the boat with His twelve disciples, to set sail across the Sea of Galilee to the region of the Gadarenes. Sailing across the sea of Galilee, which was quite large, approximately 13 miles long by 8 miles wide, would have probably taken around 2 hours on a good day with a good wind. It seems like all is well as they take off to cross the lake, and Jesus, who is likely exhausted from ministering, goes to the back of the boat by Himself to lie down, after which, He quickly falls into a deep sleep. The disciples were probably laughing and joking, possibly discussing all that they’ve witnessed while walking with Jesus.
Suddenly, who knows how long they had already been sailing?, a wild storm arose. Now, because the Sea of Galilee is 600 feet below sea level, and surrounded by hills and mountains that rise to 2000 feet above sea level, the air coming from the mountains is cool and dry, while the air down around the Sea of Galilee is very warm and moist, almost tropical, so, when the two air masses collide, it often sparks violent storms. Also, because the Sea of Galilee is only approximately 200 feet deep, when such storms arise, the water is churned up much quicker and more fiercely than deep water would be.
Therefore, the storm that arose, rapidly became wild and brutal. I can picture the disciples rushing around the boat, doing all of the necessary things one would do when in a sailing vessel in the midst of a storm. They probably hastily lowered the sails, and threw the anchors over, in order to protect themselves and the vessel they were in, but it was all to no avail, as the storm raged on, and they began to panic.
Put yourself in their place, and try to imagine the terror they all must have felt. Before dedicating their lives to Christ, eight of the twelve men worked on the land, so their immediate terror is understandable, but let’s not forget that Peter, Andrew, John and James were professional fishermen before following Christ. They made their living on the sea, and I’m certain they had probably faced many storms on the sea, so I don’t imagine they panicked right away, as they went about their business, barking orders to the others, and trying to control the ship caught up in the tempest, but still, the storm raged, increasing its assault on the men and their sailing vessel, which seemed to get smaller and smaller, as the waves grew larger and more powerful, now washing over the sides of the boat. It seemed as if all hell broke loose, and maybe it had, and soon, even the stalwart fishermen were reduced to fear and trembling, as their lives flashed before them.
Still the terrified disciples frantically tried scooping the water out of the boat, which was in danger of sinking or being torn asunder, when suddenly, one or more of them realized that Jesus was missing. I can almost hear them shouting to one another above the storm, “Where’s Jesus? Have you seen Him?”
“No — the last time I saw Him, He was asleep!” Can you even begin to understand their fear? They were now clinging on to the boat and to one another to keep from being washed over the side and drowning, and the last time anyone had seen Jesus, He was asleep, in the back of the boat. What if He had washed over? What if He drowned? What if they drowned? They all rushed, as quickly as they were able to move across the water-logged deck, through the hurricane force winds, and the pounding rain, to the back of the boat to see if their Lord was still there.
Can you imagine their relief at seeing Jesus, still very much alive, and sleeping peacefully though the terrible storm fumed furiously all about Him? Can you understand how their relief might have quickly turned to ire, as they all stood their soaking and trembling, fearing they were all about to die, while Jesus slept on, as though He didn’t have a care in the world?
Have you ever felt that way when you’re in the midst of a storm? When it seems as though all hell has broken loose around you, and you’re in danger of losing your sanity, do you ever wonder where Jesus is? When it seems as though your whole world is crashing down around you, and you’ve tried to do all of the right things, but your storm just seems to get worse and worse, do you ever wonder if Jesus even cares about you?
Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with His head on a cushion. The disciples woke Him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t You care that we’re going to drown?”
I wonder how Jesus felt, as His disciples awakened Him so abruptly? I can be pretty grouchy when someone wakes me up from a deep sleep so abruptly, and yet, given their circumstances, and given the fact that Jesus was filled with the Spirit, I imagine He felt love and patience for His battered and frightened disciples. His anger was directed, not at His disciples, but at the prince of the air, and so, after looking at His terrified, wet and wind-blown disciples, who looked as though they were on the losing side of a battle for their lives, Jesus arose…
Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.
Jesus rebuked the wind and the waves. Think about this… Jesus expressed sharp, stern disapproval of the wind and the waves. I’ve heard many people say that Jesus rebuked the disciples, when He spoke to them, but the bible doesn’t say that. The bible says that Jesus rebuked the wind and the waves, and He spoke to the disciples…
Jesus responded,“Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then He got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.
Jesus didn’t rebuke the disciples for their fear. I can almost see Him looking each one of the disciples in the eye, not in anger, but with love and compassion, as He questioned them,“Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
His simple questions, as He spoke to the disciples makes me think of my children (me to – even as a young adult, before I developed a relationship with the Lord), who used to be frightened by loud and violent storms, no matter how often I comforted them, and told them that they were safe in God’s hands. No amount of coaxing and teaching could rid them of their fear, and had I scolded them, their fear of storms may have grown, as they associated anger and punishment with storms. It was only as they (and I) developed their own relationship with the Lord, and began to grow stronger in their faith, that they were able to overcome their fears.
Surely, the disciples were no different. Yes, they had been walking with Jesus for a time, and they had seen Him do many miracles, but no one could have the authority to control the weather, could they? You see, though they had witnessed and even participated in many of these things, the disciples still had much growing to do, and Jesus understood this and had compassion on them, just as any good father has tenderheartedness on his children, and so I believe His questions to the disciples were spoken in love, as He gently showed them that the raging storm wasn’t their problem. Their real problem was their lack of faith…
And so, beloved readers, what’s your problem? Is your real problem the storm that is raging all about you? Is your real problem the people who have hurt you, rejected you, stolen from you, lied to you or abandoned you? Is your real problem your illness or the sickness of a loved one? Or could it be that the real problem is that your faith in the One who calms the wind and the waves is weak? If so, my beloved reader, be of good cheer, and ask the Lord, who will not withhold any good thing from His beloved friends…
The apostles said to the Lord, “Show us how to increase our faith.”
So, how about it? How far are you willing to follow Jesus? Are you willing to follow Him to a Christian conference or a Christian concert? Are you willing to follow Jesus to your financial blessing? How far are you willing to follow Him?
Have you ever thought about it? Did you ever say, “Lord, I’ll follow You wherever You go”? Did you mean it? Did you ever think about what it could mean to you?
When the scribe said that to Jesus, the Lord gave him a warning… “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Think about it. Jesus didn’t say, “Hallelujah! That’s great, now come on and follow Me.” Instead, He warned the scribe that following Him wouldn’t guarantee him an easy life. Jesus was warning him that if he followed Him, the scribe might not have a place to lay His head.
He was warning the scribe that there wouldn’t be a lot of parties and fun. Following Jesus meant that there would be many lonely times, many times when he didn’t know where his next meal was coming from, and many times when people would turn against him.
So what about you? Have you counted the cost? Have you read the scriptures? Jesus had no place to live or sleep. Are you really willing to follow Him wherever He leads you, no matter where He goes?
Suppose He leads you to Crack Alley? What if He leads you to prison? What if the Lord leads you to bars and dives? What if He leads you to hang out with prostitutes and pimps? Are you willing to go wherever He goes?
Suppose the Lord never leads you to a financial blessing, and you live a life of poverty? Are you still willing to follow Him wherever He goes? Suppose the Lord has decided not to heal you physically, and you must live the rest of your life in pain and suffering? Are you willing to walk that road with Him? Are you willing to walk down a road of rejection and hatred for Christ’s sake?
My beloved reader, if Jesus, the Son of Almighty God, the Prince of Peace, was homeless, despised and rejected, why should we expect more? If Jesus and His disciples were mistreated and falsely accused of wrong doing, should we expect things to be better for us?
Is it possible that in our pain and sorrow, God can be glorified? Is it possible that good can come from our poverty and pain? Absolutely.
Let me ask you once again, my friend, are you willing to follow Jesus everywhere, no matter how painful, no matter how frightening, no matter how lonely that road may be?
These are some of the questions I’m asking myself, since I’ve gone from a job with an income to no job and no income… I ask myself if I’m willing to follow Jesus wherever He goes even if it means that I must spend the rest of my life with the chronic/acute pain that I’ve dealt with for more than two or three years now… I sometimes wonder, as I suffer from grief over the loss of my mother, and depression from years of buried pain, “Am I willing to follow Jesus wherever He goes, even if it’s in the midst of a dark and frightening wilderness?” And my answer is much like Peter’s responseto a similar question that Jesus asked him…
68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Beloved reader, my answer is yes. I will follow Jesus wherever He takes me, and when I am weak, I will lean on His strength. When I grow fearful, I will cling to His love for me, because perfect love casts out fear. Therefore, even though I may walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for He is with me. It is His love, His rod and His staff that comforts me. I must trust that His plans for me are good, and they are for His glory. I believe that wherever He leads me, He will prosper me — not necessarily with finances, but with the fruit we all need to survive — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control. Therefore, yes, I will follow Christ wherever He leads me.
So now, my friend, the ball is in your court. What will you do with this message? Will you heed Jesus’ warning, and follow Him wherever He goes, regardless of the suffering that you will endure???
2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
Or will you heed Jesus’ warning, and turn away from Him, like the rich young man, who didn’t want to give up his belongings and his lifestyle, to follow the rough and rocky road that Jesus traveled???
20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”
21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” He told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
23 Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” 24 This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God. 25 In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”
Beloved reader, forget the prosperity messages you’ve heard in the past, and see what the scriptures say. We are followers of Christ, who was despised and rejected. We follow the Jesus, who had no home of His own, no wealth or worldly possessions… And yet, though He seemed poor to others, He was filled with a wealth of wisdom, mercy, compassion and love that was limitless.
Now, my beloved friend, I’ve set the truth before you, and you have a choice to make. Will you follow Jesus wherever He leads you? Or will you go your own way? I pray you will choose life and follow Jesus.
Thank you so much for your patience in waiting for me to continue with the tithing series, To Tithe or Not To Tithe?,while I was temporarily out of commission. Thanks also to everyone who has been praying for me. I truly appreciate your prayers, more than you know…
And now, let’s continue with the fifth part of the series, To Tithe or Not To Tithe?. In the last few posts, we’ve compared Old Testament teachings about tithing to New Testament teaching. Now, let’s take a look at the early church to see if they tithed. Let’s also see where their money went, and how they got it…
“It is admitted universally that the payment of tithes or the tenth of possessions, for sacred purposes, did not find a place within the Christian Church during the age covered by the apostles and their immediate successors.”
~ Hastings Dictionary of the Apostolic Church ~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
“The Christian Church depended at first on voluntary gifts from its members.”
~ Encyclopedia Britannica ~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.
As you can see from the scripture above, and from the references above, the early church did not tithe. Instead, all of the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. Now take note of who shared… All of the believers shared… This included apostles, pastors, prophets, teachers and evangelists, as well as everyone else…
Next, let’s look at what they shared… And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.~ Acts 2:44 — NLT ~Wow. Just think about this. All of the believers shared everything they had. Obviously, there would have been no apostles, pastors, prophets, teachers and evangelists who were independently wealthy from the tithes and offerings they received from other believers, because they would have shared everythingthey had. There would have been no worshipers or Christian musicians who charged people to see them and listen to their music, because it all would have been for the glory of God.
Finally, it’s important for us to see who the early church shared everything they had with… They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.~ Acts 2:45 — NLT ~ The early church shared with those in need. Money was not collected to pay ministers, but to give to those who were in need.
“The New Testament nowhere explicitly requires tithing to maintain a ministry or a place of assembly.”
~ Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan,Oxford Companion to the Bible ~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
As you can see, giving in the early church differs greatly from the church today, who gives first to pay for clergy, buildings, maintenance, heat and air conditioning for the buildings, utilities, administrative staff and administrative costs, and a portion goes to whatever denomination the church members belong to. It is only after this and so many other expenses are met, that the money taken in is shared with those in need, and then, it is often given very selectively, after those in need meet certain criteria. I can’t help but wonder what Jesus or the early apostles would think of the giving of tithes, which are given to support many pastors, evangelists and televangelists, who never even come in contact with those who are in need?
“The silence of the N.T. writers, particularly Paul, regarding the present validity of the tithe can be explained only on the ground that the dispensation of grace has no more place for a law of tithing than it has for a law on circumcision.”
2 Corinthians 9encourages the Corinthian believers, and us as well, to give to those who are in need. It is not a command to tithe to any church, but to give to those who are in need. It also encourages believers to determine in their hearts how much to give, and not to give reluctantly or in response to pressure. It does not command us to tithe our income…
In fact, after studying the subject, I’ve come to the conclusion that tithing is part of the Old Covenant, which was fulfilled by Jesus. Further, Old Testament tithing never included the people’s income – rather, they tithed their produce and their meat. Finally, we must remember that we are no longer under the law, therefore, if we tithe, we are placing ourselves under the law…
So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.
I’d like to share one final thought about tithing and giving. The Lord wants us to give to the poor, orphans and widows. He wants us to give with a cheerful heart, not under compulsion. What if we listened to Holy Spirit as the early church did, and gave accordingly, not limiting ourselves to a 10% tithe? The early church shared freely of everything they had. If they had nothing to give, they felt no shame for it. The early church didn’t need a lot of money to share the gospel with their coworkers, families, friends and acquaintances.
My friends, I urge you to prayerfully consider what you’ve read in this series, and give according to what Holy Spirit leads you to give. Don’t limit yourselves by tithing to a place of worship. Instead, let Holy Spirit lead you to give to those in need, according to the will of God.
For as long as I can remember, many leaders in the church have said that poverty is a curse, and has never been a part of God’s plan. And yet, as I read the scriptures, and as I look around me, I see that people have been impoverished since man’s fall from grace. Another thing that I’ve noticed is that both good people and bad people live in poverty, which leads me to believe that poverty is not a curse or a punishment for sin, as many in the church have been led to believe.
Poverty was never God’s plan. That is why we have got to talk about this. God never intended us to struggle financially and be in poverty all of our lives. There are seasons, yes we go through tough times and there is hard work getting the foundations down. But it is often our wrong thinking, negative attitudes and bad choices or lack of principled living that causes us to continue the battle in financial areas.
~ Pastor Paul DeJong, Christian Life Centre Aukland, New Zealand ~
Have you ever struggled with poverty? Have you ever heard statements like these in church or on Christian TV? I have to tell you, as someone who is struggling with poverty, I don’t find any comfort in these words. As a matter of fact, statements like these don’t increase my faith. They only serve to fill me with more questions, and when I have questions about God’s intentions and His plans, the best and only place to seek answers is in His word…
There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need.