Saved Through Grace

Bible Study
Saved Through Grace
August 20, 2022

“We will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus” ~Acts:15:11

            Law or grace? Now that we have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, don’t we still have to try living by the Law? Can we simply turn our backs on what God gave His people through Moses? I hear Christians refer to meeting on the Sabbath, meaning Sunday; or for some, Saturday. Which is proper and what does God expect from Christians today?

            Faith in Jesus Christ brings righteousness (apart from the law) to all who believe!

(Romans 3:19-26)   “The law commands many things. We know that those commands are for those who are under the law. This stops all excuses and brings the whole world under God’s judgment, because no one can be made right with God by following the law. The law only shows us our sin.
But God has a way to make people right with him without the law. And God has now shown us that way which the law and the prophets told us about. God makes people right with himself through their faith in Jesus Christ. This is true for all who believe in Christ, because all are the same. 
All people have sinned and are not good enough for God’s glory. People are made right with God by his grace, which is a free gift. They are made right with God by being made free from sin through Jesus Christ. God sent him to die in our place to take away our sins. We receive forgiveness through faith. And all of this is because of the blood of Jesus’ death. This showed that God always does what is right and fair. God was right in the past when he was patient and did not punish people for their sins. And God gave Jesus to show today that God does what is right. God did this so that he could judge rightly and also make right any person who has faith in Jesus.”
Realizing how difficult it is for Jews, who have been taught that following The Law is essential, Paul uses strong language to explain that faith in Christ is what justifies everyone…Jew and Gentile.
(Gal. 2:15-16)   “You and I are Jews by birth, not sinners like the Gentiles. Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.”
   One of the most powerful explanations of the difference between law and grace is verse twenty-one:
(Gal. 2:21)  “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.”

            Beginning chapter three, Paul slaps the Galatians in the face with this powerful point: (Gal. 3:1-4)  “Foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of His death on the cross. Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?”

            Pounding the message home further, Paul’s fervent love and concern for the Galatians continues in verse 5, “I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.”

            A scribe asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”
            (Mark 12:28-31)  Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”

            In the Gospel of John, Jesus emphasizes the importance of love as a command:

            (John 14:15; 15:9, 17)  “If you love me, you will obey what I command…As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love…This is my command: Love each other.”
“Love each other.” Sounds easy, especially when we are not frustrated with each other; when all is going well; when we are in agreement; when we’re not stuck in traffic in the pouring rain and the gas gauge is hovering over empty! God’s example of love is the innocent Jesus dying on the cross. Love is sacrifice

Walled Off!

“Hey, what are you doing?”
“Building a wall.”
“How big?”
“Around my life.”
“All of it?”
“Oh Yeah.”
“Why?”
“To protect myself.”
“From what?”
“From being hurt!”
“Do you think it’ll work?”
“I do. Simply because of this; if no one can get to me, I can’t get hurt. Pretty smart huh?”
“I need to know more about your past before I can accurately answer your question.”
“Like what?”
“What happened to make you think you need to build a protective wall around your life? Before you answer, you have to tell the truth or I cannot give you an honest opinion. Agreed?”
“Well…Ah, what If I can’t remember?”
“Is that true? You can’t remember?”
Fidgeting as he looked at the ground, he finally let out a deep sigh and said, “Ok, here goes. A few years ago I met a woman who just knocked me off my feet. I’ve never been a guy who hangs out with women and gets dates anytime. I’ve always been shy that way.
“So we get involved and it gets serious. I mean I was ready to move heaven and earth for her. She said she was moving to Nevada. Well I had a good job and spent my entire life in Illinois. She said her family could get me a good job with one of the casinos and we’d be well off in a few years. After lots of talks, I agreed to leave it all for her; You know, the romantic, all-out sacrifice like in movies.”
“Sounds like a big sacrifice all right. But it sounds exciting too.”
“Yeah it was. And I got excited. Anyway, we moved to Nevada and her family came through with a great security job at the Bellagio. She was a blackjack dealer and made lots of money in tips. I thought I was in heaven. We had great jobs. Her family were good people and it never rained!”
“Oh no. I sense a collapse of your good life around the corner.”
“You’d be right. We’d been together in Nevada for three years when she met me for dinner in town. Just as they served dessert she said, “I’ve got to tell you something and you’re not going to like it.”
“When a woman you’re about to marry says that, your heart sinks and you want to scream. But I didn’t. Like a big dummy I just sat there, head hung, looking up at her. “Go ahead,” I said, “get it over with.”
“Well, ok. But first I have to tell you how great you’ve been since we’ve been together. I mean you moved across the states for me and gave up your life. How many men would do that for a woman?”
“Ok, that’s enough of that. Tell me the bad news right now.” I wanted to punch her and storm out. Now I knew what she was going to say and I think you do too.”
“Yeah, I do.”
“Turns out her original boyfriend, well, her fiance, the guy she ran away from back when we met, returns to town and gives her a call. She falls all over herself and wants to take back up where they left off. She’s leaving me.”
Neither man spoke for almost a minute.
“Am I right in thinking you don’t ever want to be hurt like that again, therefore the wall around your life?”
“Exactly. Now you can see why I’m building it, right? So I can ask again, pretty smart, huh?”
“Before I answer, let me ask you a question. Do you wonder why you don’t see walls around lots of other people? I mean, do you actually think you’re the only person who’s had their heart broken? How many divorced people do you know? Lots probably. And guess what, one of those people had their heart broken in the divorce. Where’s their protective wall?
“If you finish building your wall, you may not be taken advantage of or have your heart broken but, and this is important, you will never find love again or have great friends that are willing to give their all for you. We have to be vulnerable to experience the rewards of love and deep friendship. Broken hearts come with the territory. No matter how hard you try, friendships can fall apart and engagements can be dashed into the dust. In all of life, there’s only been one person who never disappointed anyone even though everyone turned their back on him and he was killed for them. He even forgave the people who killed him. He refused to build a protective wall and got killed in the end. But his life, although not too long, was filled with power and love because he was always vulnerable.
Galatians 1:4 ~”Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live.”
Galatians 2:20 ~”My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Are You Sanctified?

Are You Sanctified? 

June 6, 2022

Let us prove our reverence for God by consecrating ourselves to Him” 2 Corinthians 7:1 

“Are you sanctified?” bellowed the animated preacher, pointing and sweeping his right hand in a grand gesture to the church. “Are you sure? Are you holy? If you have any doubts you better come down to the altar and pray your way through! God is not happy with any fence sitters tonight. He means business and you better mean business too. You got to be sanctified to make God happy and get a golden key to your heavenly mansion.”

Terrified and confused people flocked to the altar, crying and begging God for the elusive sanctification, fearing they might miss the golden key awaiting those who have achieved sanctification, as the sweat-drenched pastor walked to and fro among them, satisfied with the response to his fear-packed message. Contrary to his threats and confusing statements, God was not happy with him or his misguided sermon. Believers do not receive sanctification as a result of fear or condemnation. 

This very emotional and dramatic pastor should rather have claimed, “Your faith has made you whole and you are all sanctified (made holy) by the Holy Spirit!” 

Let’s see what God’s Word has to say about our sanctification/holiness. 

Romans 6:19  I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. 

1 Corinthians I:30-31  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 1:2  To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours. 

1 Corinthians 6:11  Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. 

1 Thessalonians 5:23  Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Along with the unimaginable grace and mercy of God’s provision for our sanctification, He also expects us to do our part, to work our faith in day to day circumstances. He has already done the impossible and has assigned us the possible such as making choices and slipping on His armor. We’re at war! 

 2 Corinthians 7:1  Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God. 

1 Thessalonians 4:3  It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality. 

2 Thessalonians 2:13  As for us, we can’t help but thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation—a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth. 

Hebrews 10:10  For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time. 

Romans 15:16   I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit.  

Acts 26:18   I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.  

Sanctification is not something we can beg God for at a church altar. Sanctification is a gift from God as a result of our faith in Jesus Christ. Although a gift, God requires our involvement to make choices for purity and holiness. Even so, the Holy Spirit enables us to follow through on our Christ-like decisions. 

Global Warming

Global Warming

April 30, 2022

“The heavens will disappear with a roar!” ~2 Peter 3:10

The Bible study group settled in for the weekly meeting. It was a diverse group, ages ranging from 22-82; men, women, married and single. Politically they were mostly Republicans, except for two young closet Democrats. As such, talk radio and TV were quite popular, with the exception of the teacher, Craig. He didn’t subscribe to regular TV nor did he listen to talk radio. When asked why, Craig was fond of replying, “I have enough of a problem overcoming my own skewed ideas, let alone listening to hours and hours of purely slanted opinions. Besides, it gets my blood pressure up!”

So it was with great surprise when, after opening prayer, Craig opened the study with, “How many of you believe in this idea of global warming?”

Silence and puzzled looks. After a few seconds, the group erupted into the latest viewpoints bandied about by the mostly conservative political opinions. Craig brought them back to order before emotions soared too high. “Ok. Ok. I guess I took you by surprise with that question. Now, without quoting any of the popular conservative opinions, would you say that most of us do not believe in what is taught as global warming?” They agreed.

“Well, I have a big surprise for you, then. The Bible teaches the opposite. Some day in the future, the world will experience the most cataclysmic global warming when the current heavens and earth will burn with a fervent heat. The entire earth will perish in flames!”

Once again, silence in the room. Finally Bob Jensen said, “I am stunned, Craig. In the political furor, taking sides with whichever party I consider the most balanced, I’ve lost track of what the Bible says about that very scary subject.” 

Craig brought them back to God’s Word; “Let’s look at 2 Peter 3:10-13: “But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.

“Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, He will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.”

A sense of soberness filled the room. Political opinions had faded, replaced by thoughts of the end of the world and what that really meant to them. “When will all this destruction take place, Craig?” asked Bob. 

“There are many ideas and books written about that subject, Bob. My stand on when it will all take place comes from Matthew 24:36-44.

“However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.”

“Since we believe the Bible is God’s Word, that means the world is going to be destroyed. This will happen someday. But, more importantly, we are instructed to live holy and godly lives, looking forward to the end of the world as we know it.

“Jesus died for us, to transform and redeem us. And then He asked God to fill us with His Holy Spirit. That happened. It is a fact; more factual and trustworthy than any human endeavor or political party. We owe total allegiance to our Heavenly Father who spared nothing to give us hope in this life and the one to come. 

“So yes, global warming is on God’s list of things to come. As surely as we live and breathe, God’s scheduled events will never be thwarted. In His time and His way, the current earth and the heavenly bodies will all pass away to make room for the new heavens and earth. Praise His name!

One God

Bible Study

One God 

February 26, 2022

“Do not make an idol for yourself—no form whatsoever”  Exodus 20:4 

I’ll never forget the first new car I bought. I was so excited to finally have a brand-spanking new car. Shiny and clean. And I vowed to keep it that way. Even though I had a family and job, my red and white Volkswagen Bus was always clean. Rain or Shine! At a neighborhood meeting, I met a man for the first time who said, “Oh, you’re the guy who washes his bus in the rain. Boy, I thought, he is really dedicated.” 

But that was the wrong description of what I was. I was obsessed. I was inching God a little off His rightful place of worship in my life to make room for my vehicle. I loved a man-made, metal box on wheels. I was dedicated to its well being. “See my shiny new bus? See how dedicated to keeping it clean and shiny I am?” God was not pleased. 

How hard is it for us to let go of things and people we love? Very! But our Heavenly Father understands, which is why he provided Jesus as our Savior, the One who could overcome all the temptations for us. He knew and decided to commit Himself fully to us by sending Jesus to die in our place. “Amazing Grace, how could it be?” And yet, in the middle of His grace and mercy is our choice to be obedient. His death can only cleanse our sins if we choose to follow Him. Choose to be forgiven. And choose to walk in His way. 

Matthew 4:10  “For the Scriptures say, You must worship the LORD your God and serve only Him.”

Matthew 16:24-29  Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. 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. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds. And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”

How serious are we about following the Lord? “Here I am Lord, send me!” Is this our stand? Really? Have we counted the cost? 

Matthew 10:32-42  “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven. 

 “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.  ‘I have come to set a man against his father,  a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  Your enemies will be right in your own household!’ 

  “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. 

 “Anyone who receives you receives me, and anyone who receives me receives the Father who sent me. If you receive a prophet as one who speaks for God, you will be given the same reward as a prophet. And if you receive righteous people because of their righteousness, you will be given a reward like theirs. And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.” 

If we were in an audience listening to a person preaching on this subject, as they finished with this section of Scripture there would be silence in the room. Instinctively we recoil from these demands. Say it isn’t so, we quietly murmur. Surely not. God is not like this. He is a God of love. Indeed He is but He demands our absolute loyalty and focus if we are to walk on the path He’s set out before us. 

Life is spiritual and the battle is intense! We are the messengers of the Lord on earth, carrying out our orders from On High. Soldiers in battle are acutely aware of the dangers and keep their senses keenly alert. A moment of lethargy could spell disaster or—death! And that, dear friends, is our life, until the Great and Mighty God calls us home. 

Hebrews 12:1-4  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.”

Elijah The Prophet

Elijah the Prophet

January 29, 2022

“The Lord heard Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned” ~1 Kings 17:22

Elijah, whose name means, My God is the Lord, was sent by God to confront, not comfort. And he spoke God’s words to a king who often rejected the message just because it was Elijah who brought it. Elijah was faithful to carry out his ministry for God, and this caused great tension and animosity between him and the king, who wanted Elijah’s loyalty to be directed toward him. As a result, Elijah was on the run at times, having to hide from the angry king who meant him harm. Alone and isolated from the fellowship of others who were also serving God. Elijah sometimes wondered if he was the only person left in the land who was faithfully following his Lord.

During a severe drought (that Elijah predicted), God sent Elijah to live with a widow and her son. She only had enough flour and oil to make one loaf of bread for her and her son before they died of starvation. According to God’s instructions, Elijah told her to make bread for him and her as he told her, “There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!” 1 Kings 18:14

Some time later the woman’s son became sick and died. The distraught woman confronted Elijah and said, “O man of God, what have you done to me? Have you come here to point out my sins and kill my son?” Elijah carried her son upstairs and laid him on his bed, stretched himself out over the child three times and cried out, “O Lord my God please let this child’s life return to him.” The Lord heard Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned!

Later on, in the third year of the drought, the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and present yourself to King Ahab. Tell him that I will soon send rain!”

16 So Obadiah went to King Ahab and told him, and Ahab set off to meet Elijah. 17 When Ahab saw him, he said, “So there you are—the worst troublemaker in Israel!”

18 “I’m not the troublemaker,” Elijah answered. “You are—you and your father. You are disobeying the Lord’s commands and worshiping the idols of Baal. 19 Now order all the people of Israel to meet me at Mount Carmel. Bring along the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of the goddess Asherah who are supported by Queen Jezebel.”

20 So Ahab summoned all the Israelites and the prophets of Baal to meet at Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah went up to the people and said, “How much longer will it take you to make up your minds? If the Lord is God, worship him; but if Baal is God, worship him!” But the people didn’t say a word. 22 Then Elijah said, “I am the only prophet of the Lord still left, but there are 450 prophets of Baal. 23 Bring two bulls; let the prophets of Baal take one, kill it, cut it in pieces, and put it on the wood—but don’t light the fire. I will do the same with the other bull. 24 Then let the prophets of Baal pray to their god, and I will pray to the Lord, and the one who answers by sending fire—he is God.”

The people shouted their approval.

25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Since there are so many of you, you take a bull and prepare it first. Pray to your god, but don’t set fire to the wood.”

26 They took the bull that was brought to them, prepared it, and prayed to Baal until noon. They shouted, “Answer us, Baal!” and kept dancing around the altar they had built. But no answer came.

27 At noon Elijah started making fun of them: “Pray louder! He is a god! Maybe he is day-dreaming or relieving himself, or perhaps he’s gone off on a trip! Or maybe he’s sleeping, and you’ve got to wake him up!” 28 So the prophets prayed louder and cut themselves with knives and daggers, according to their ritual, until blood flowed. 29 They kept on ranting and raving until the middle of the afternoon; but no answer came, not a sound was heard.

30 Then Elijah said to the people, “Come closer to me,” and they all gathered around him. He set about repairing the altar of the Lord which had been torn down. 31 He took twelve stones, one for each of the twelve tribes named for the sons of Jacob, the man to whom the Lord had given the name Israel. 32 With these stones he rebuilt the altar for the worship of the Lord. He dug a trench around it, large enough to hold about four gallons of water. 33 Then he placed the wood on the altar, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood. He said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the offering and the wood.” They did so, 34 and he said, “Do it again”—and they did. “Do it once more,” he said—and they did. 35 The water ran down around the altar and filled the trench.

36 At the hour of the afternoon sacrifice the prophet Elijah approached the altar and prayed, “O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove now that you are the God of Israel and that I am your servant and have done all this at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so that this people will know that you, the Lord, are God and that you are bringing them back to yourself.”

38 The Lord sent fire down, and it burned up the sacrifice, the wood, and the stones, scorched the earth and dried up the water in the trench. 39 When the people saw this, they threw themselves on the ground and exclaimed, “The Lord is God; the Lord alone is God!” 1 Kings 18

God has work for us to do even when we feel fear and failure. And God always has more resources and people than we know about. Although we might wish to do amazing miracles for God, we should instead focus on developing a relationship with Him. The real miracle of Elijah’s life was his very personal relationship with God. And that miracle is available to us.

The Advocate

In the beginning, God created!

“He will give you another Advocate who will never leave you”  John 14:16 
 
The men were wrapping up their weekly Bible study, choosing last minute snacks for the trip home, putting away the fold-up chairs and shifting into another mode of Dad, husband and sports fan. In the midst of this, Norm took Al aside and said, “Do you have time for a question, Al?” 
“Of course. Let me tell John I’ll lock up.” 
Five minutes later the two men sat alone. “I am really confused about the Holy Spirit, Al. Just when I think I understand His purpose, I hear another sermon that sends me in a different direction which makes me scratch my head and wonder. I need some simple guidance to understand the Holy Spirit.” 
“Ok, let’s look at the Gospel of John and follow what Jesus said.” 
John 14:16-17 ~I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 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. 
John 16:13 ~When the Holy Spirit, who is truth, comes, he shall guide you into all truth, for he will not be presenting his own ideas, but will be passing on to you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. 
Acts 1:8 ~But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power to testify about me with great effect, to the people in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, about my death and resurrection. 
1 Corinthians 12:1-11 ~Now, concerning what you wrote about the gifts from the Holy Spirit. I want you to know the truth about them, my friends. There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. There are different ways of serving, but the same Lord is served. There are different abilities to perform service, but the same God gives ability to all for their particular service. The Spirit’s presence is shown in some way in each person for the good of all. The Spirit gives one person a message full of wisdom, while to another person the same Spirit gives a message full of knowledge. One and the same Spirit gives faith to one person, while to another person he gives the power to heal. The Spirit gives one person the power to work miracles; to another, the gift of speaking God’s message; and to yet another, the ability to tell the difference between gifts that come from the Spirit and those that do not. To one person he gives the ability to speak in strange tongues, and to another he gives the ability to explain what is said. But it is one and the same Spirit who does all this; as he wishes, he gives a different gift to each person. 
“There it is, Norm, straightforward and clear. Jesus told his disciples that He would ask God to send an advocate, a comforter, who would never leave them. Never! And then He tells them He is the Holy Spirit who will lead them into all truth. That is part of His job, leading all followers of Christ, you and me included, into all truth. 
“He goes on to explain that the world, those who do not believe in Christ as Savior, cannot receive the Holy Spirit but you and I know Him because he lives in us! Now that is a mind-bender to think that the Holy Spirit lives in us but it’s true.” 
“When I became a Christian, I was taught to ask God for wisdom each time I opened the Bible, Norm, and I pass that advice on to you. God wants us to know Him, His Holy Spirit and the Lord Jesus. I recommend that you take your Bible and read all the verses you can find about the Holy Spirit, ask God for wisdom and believe He will answer you. One day you will be teaching someone too.” 

Am I Selfless?

Bible Study 

Am I Selfless? 

“For the love of Christ controls us…”  2 Cor. 5:14 

He was a pastor and quite well known in church circles. Not only within church circles but as of the past two years, after publication of his book, his name was seen across the internet in opinion pieces, essays, and talk-show interviews. His fame was growing as was his church. He was indeed a powerful man of God. Or so it seemed. 

In the inner circles of his church and his book publication team he was more controlling and demeaning. His icy looks, his stern “suggested” paths to take or friends to keep were becoming legend. And for those of the most inner circle, family and pastoral associates, his control was even more infamous. During a meeting in his office with an elder he told him that his friend, who seemed to be taking too much of his time away from the church, was not to be seen again! The elder walked away heart-broken and confused. 

And what of us? Are we leaving our lives in the hands of God or are we “helping” Him? Do you find yourself suggesting who people should see or what they should do? Have you taken time to pray and ask God before sharing your opinion or do you prefer those spontaneous words from the Lord? 

Are we handymen, looking for projects to fix or are we focused on being a new creation, formed in the image of Jesus, looking for people to love and serve? 

C.S. Lewis: “Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to the death of your ambitions and your favorite wishes every day, and the death of your whole body in the end, submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look out for yourself and you will find, in the long run, only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ, and you will find Him, and with Him, everything else thrown in.” ~Mere Christianity

Galatians 2:20-21  “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” 

Matthew 20:25-28  “But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 

Colossians 3:12-15  “God has chosen you and made you his holy people. He loves you. So always do these things: Show mercy to others; be kind, humble, gentle, and patient. Do not be angry with each other, but forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, then forgive him. Forgive each other because the Lord forgave you. Do all these things; but most important, love each other. Love is what holds you all together in perfect unity. Let the peace that Christ gives control your thinking. You were all called together in one body to have peace. Always be thankful.” 

If Jesus Himself came to be a servant, how can we possibly ignore the same mindset? Don’t be like the world, He reminds us, be like Me! 

Book of James

 James 1 

December 11, 2021

“Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds” James 1:2 


James 1:1-4 

“This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to the “twelve tribes”; Jewish believers scattered abroad.
Greetings! 

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad.”

When I was young and foolish—ok, stubborn and self-serving too, I often suffered for my choices. Typically, when caught, I cajoled and moaned, smiled or cried, and begged for mercy. Often, mercy was in short supply. But behind it all, I knew I deserved whatever punishment came my way.

  After accepting Jesus Christ as my Savior, of all the differences I may have anticipated, suffering for my faith was certainly not one. Suffering for doing wrong is expected but suffering for doing right? And then considering those sufferings as light and momentary? (2 Corinthians 4:17, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all”) Can I be stretched that far? Won’t I explode? But Lord, aren’t you satisfied with my expressions of faith and times of prayer and reading your Word? 

And then I began to see that accepting trials and tribulations as an element of faith, I was simply following in the footsteps of Christ. He suffered for me and now I can imitate Him. And, oh yes, no complaining please. Count it all joy! Yes, enduring is not good enough, we must learn to count it as joy. 

By the way, He knows we will have worlds of trouble accepting suffering joyfully, that’s where His mercy and grace come into play. He loves us that much.

James 1:12 “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.”

1 Peter 1:6-7 “…though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith, of greater worth than gold. . .may be proved genuine…” 

1 Peter 4:12-19 “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ…”

Romans 5:3-5 “…We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” 

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 

What’s It Mean?

“A righteousness has been made known” ~Romans 3:21 

   After their weekly Bible Study, Phil and James always took time to share coffee, muffins and their thoughts about the study at The Daily Grind.

“Do you have a Bible reading plan, Phil?”

“I used to, but no matter which system I’ve tried it always ends the same with feelings of disappointment, guilt and frustration that I don’t keep up the pace.

“The last one I began combined the Old and New Testaments with portions of the Psalms and Proverbs.”

“I don’t get it. That sounds like a good idea, Phil. How did it bring about a negative experience?”

“Life! All the requirements in my life got in the way. I found that attempting to add one more obligation was one too many. Instead of looking forward to reading the Bible in a year, it became a weight on my shoulders. Just another “thing” I had to accomplish. After the first month, I found myself significantly behind which brought guilt and disappointment in myself. Instead of basking in reading through God’s Word, I felt like a loser once again. I knew I would never catch up. What was wrong with me? I couldn’t even read the Bible regularly”

James chuckled as his friend poured out his heart. “I’ve been there and done that just like you. And guess what? I had the same results each time. So don’t feel like a loser. You just have to find a system that works. We know the Lord wants us to read the Bible which means I can go to Him for help.”

“Funny,” said Phil. “Going to the Lord asking for help in reading the Bible seems like a no-brainer but I’ve got to admit, I haven’t done it. At least not specifically.”

“What I do is really simple. I choose a section of the Bible to read with no time constraints at all. I may read a chapter at a sitting or I may read one verse. The Holy Spirit guides me with no regard for accomplishing anything. Instead, my goal is to understand what God wants me to understand. The number of verses does not enter into the experience. As you know the Book of James reminds us we can ask God for wisdom but we must believe without doubting. I discovered that asking God for wisdom should always precede our Bible reading and study times. For example, let’s see what God wants to show us in a couple of verses in 1 Corinthians.” They prayed and then opened to that section:

1 Corinthians 2:1-2   

“When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.”

If you’ve not tried this method, do so now. Ask God to give you His wisdom regarding this section of 1 Corinthians and believe that He will. Then take your time, don’t hurry through thinking it’s important to achieve a reading goal. That’s not important. What is important is what God will reveal to you and how that will change your life in some way.