Smart Guy!

August 27, 2021

“I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom” ~1 Corinthians 2:1

He began life as Saul of Tarsus. He was a standout theologian who became a member of the elite Pharisees. His fervor for studies and obedience to God’s laws brought him acclaim and stature. When those heretical followers of Christ got his notice, his fervor turned him into a zealot who decided it was his job to extinguish them and their false doctrine.

Paul’s own words,  as spoken to King Agrippa: “As the Jewish leaders are well aware, I was given a thorough Jewish training from my earliest childhood among my own people and in Jerusalem. If they would admit it, they know that I have been a member of the Pharisees, the strictest sect of our religion. Now I am on trial because of my hope in the fulfillment of God’s promise made to our ancestors. In fact, that is why the twelve tribes of Israel zealously worship God night and day, and they share the same hope I have. Yet, Your Majesty, they accuse me for having this hope! Why does it seem incredible to any of you that God can raise the dead?

“I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.

“One day I was on such a mission to Damascus, armed with the authority and commission of the leading priests. About noon, Your Majesty, as I was on the road, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.’

“‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked.

“And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Now get to your feet! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and witness. Tell people that you have seen me, and tell them what I will show you in the future. And I will rescue you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.’

“And so, King Agrippa, I obeyed that vision from heaven. I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do. Some Jews arrested me in the Temple for preaching this, and they tried to kill me. But God has protected me right up to this present time so I can testify to everyone, from the least to the greatest. I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen— that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and Gentiles alike.” Acts 26:4-23 (NLT)

In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul reminds them of his determination to speak only as guided by the Holy Spirit even though he was well known for his intellectual gifts: “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. I came to you in weakness…timid and trembling. And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.”

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (NLT)

In spite of all his education and accomplishments, Paul trusted the Holy Spirit to give him utterance which could change lives eternally. We have that same opportunity if we, like Paul, will trust in the Holy Spirit to speak through us.

Sanctification!

Let us prove our reverence for God by consecrating ourselves to Him completely. 2 Cor. 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 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 the Bible 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 Cor. 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. 31Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”  

1 Cor. 1:2  “I am writing to God’s church in Corinth, to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.”

1 Cor. 6:11  “Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

1 Thess. 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 by walking in 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 Cor. 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.” 

2 Thess. 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.”   

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. 

Read Galatians 5:16-18

The Struggle

The Struggle 

July 24, 2021

“I decide one way, but then I act another” Romans 7:15 

The clever college professor got the attention of his class when he declared, “Whatever you do, do not think of a pink elephant”, knowing that it was now the one image dancing around in their minds. Our thoughts are powerful and sometimes controlling. Jesus addressed our thought life when he said, “everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Thoughts are the stimulus of the pornography industry. Our fantasy lives are much stronger than our actual lives. 

The daily struggle we have as followers of Jesus is with our thoughts, as Paul explains in the Book of Romans: “I decide one way but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.” (Romans 7:15-16) 

Even though a law or command may seem to work on the outside, it’s the inner battle of our mind that acts as a rudder, controlling thoughts and, if not stopped, actions. Thus our constant struggle. Who will rescue us from this dilemma? Jesus is our rescuer and the blood of Jesus has taken every sin, every evil and despicable thought and washed them with His blood. We are forgiven and cleansed daily. Each day is a new day, a day of forgiveness and hope. God has provided the answer. 

Romans 7:17-25  “I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. 

21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.  24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?  25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.”

How often do we describe our struggles with terms such as, “I can’t seem to quit”–”I’ve tried to stop”–”I just don’t have the strength”–”That’s what I have a problem believing!” Of course we cannot change ourselves. God, through Jesus, has forgiven our sins forever and then, because He knows we will always need reassurance, implanted His Holy Spirit deep within us. We are never alone and never expected to change ourselves. If we could make ourselves better then Jesus’ death would be a sham. 

Romans 8:1-2  “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”

  The rugged father took his young son out on their weekly camping trip but this trip would be different. This would be the time for his son to show what he had learned over the past few years. After hiking several miles into the forest, they set up camp, ate and climbed into sleeping bags to fall asleep under the stars. 

In the morning the son awoke alone. Beside him, leaning against his backpack was a note. It read, “Son. I’ve taught you everything you should need to know about hiking, camping and finding your way home. I’ve gone on ahead and will see you there later. I know you can make it. At least I hope you can. After all, you are nine years old! Love, Dad.” 

Far-fetched story isn’t it? A loving father would never leave his young child completely alone to face all the uncertainties of the forest. In a similar way, our Heavenly Father would never leave us alone to face a sin-riddled world. 

John 14:16-18  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. 

On my own, many things are impossible. With God nothing is impossible. 

Baptism

Baptism

July 17, 2021

“Many men and women were baptized”  Acts 8:12

Have you been baptized since you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior? Have you experienced the public profession of your faith by following the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus through baptism? The Bible clearly instructs us to take this step, to show all who may be watching that we are symbolically washed clean; are buried (in the water) and raised again, coming up out of that watery grave, arms raised to heaven with a smile from ear to ear.

And yet, there are those who have taken this simple act of obedience and turned it into “Jesus plus”. Jesus plus is any act or belief that says His death on the cross was the first step of forgiveness and eternal salvation. In the case of baptism, some have decided that if you are not baptized following your confession of faith, you are not actually saved. They have taken Peter’s words above to be inclusive, meaning “Repent and be baptized” are the requirements to be saved. Repentance is not enough. In essence, the suffering and death of Jesus Christ on the cross did not grant us full forgiveness. According to this belief, His resurrection from the dead still did not fully save us from death and grant us eternal life with Him. We must be baptized! Jesus plus.

“Twice baptism seems to be linked with forgiveness of sins. On the day of Pentecost Peter said, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (2:38). And later Ananias said to Saul, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord…” (22:16). In both cases the instructions were given to Jews; no Gentile was ever told to be baptized for the remission of sins. In believer’s baptism a Jew publicly repudiated his connection with the nation that rejected and crucified its Messiah. The basis of his forgiveness was faith in the Lord Jesus. The purchase price of his forgiveness was the precious blood of the Lord. The way in which his forgiveness was administered was through water baptism, because his baptism publicly removed him from Jewish ground and put him on Christian ground.” ~William MacDonald’s Bible Commentary

Our salvation is based on our faith in what Jesus did for us, not on something we did. Jesus did not appear to His disciples after His resurrection and tell them something like, “Yes, it’s true, I suffered that incredible pain and suffering and then God raised me from the dead for your eternal life. But now you have to do one more thing. If you aren’t baptized, you won’t be saved!”

    Ephesians 2:8-9  You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of.

    Acts 15:11 “We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”

    When Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman at the well, He said, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you the living water.” ~John 4:10. Notice that the Lord did not mention baptism. Jesus Himself never baptized anyone!

    John 14:6  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”

    Romans 10:9-10  “If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; 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.” Notice that Paul does not add, ‘and is baptized.’”

    Acts 16:30-31  “…He said, ‘Sirs what must I do to be saved?’ And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.”

    Nothing we do can add to our salvation. It is complete in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He gave Himself to forgive our sins and grant us the beauty and majesty of eternal life with Him. If you’ve not been baptized, you should. It is a wonderful experience, a joyous celebration, and an important step in proclaiming our salvation to the world. However, our sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus, not the water of baptism!

Life After Death!

Life After Death

July 10, 2021

“Anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die” ~Jesus

Two men were discussing what happens after death.  One of them said that since they were both Christians, it was certain that they would not really die but pass from this life into the next, living forever with God. The second man, however expressed doubts about that, saying he sure hoped it was true. He had been a Christian for over 40 years!

Are you a Christian? Have you expressed faith in Jesus Christ? If so your sins are forgiven and the Bible promises that you will spend eternity with God. The following are Bible verses that give all Christians assurance of eternal life with God.

John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

John 3:36 “Anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life.”

1 Peter 1:3-5 “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.”

John 10:27-30 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, 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. The Father and I are one.”

John 6:35-40 Jesus replied, “. . .This is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those He has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. For it is my Father’s will that all who see His Son and believe in Him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.”

John 6:47, 51 “I assure you, anyone who believes in Me already has eternal life. Yes, I am the bread of life. . .I am that Living Bread that came down out of heaven.”

Romans 8:38 “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”

John 3:16 “ God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die.”

It is by faith that we are saved and our sins forgiven. It is by that same faith that we believe in eternal life with our Heavenly Father…without exception.

New Self

“Put on the new self, created to be like God”  Ephesians 4:24 

William’s first experiment with drugs was his last year in high school. Wow, was it fun to be with so many cool “friends” expanding their minds with various pharmaceuticals. William was certain the drugs increased his creative abilities and opened his mind to greater understanding. They also sank their evil talons into his soul with a powerful death-grip, creating a tremendous addiction that sent William spiraling into an abyss of destruction. Within a few months, he was an addict. 

Eight years later, after several stints in jail, loss of friends and relationships, William discovered he qualified for a sponsored rehab out in the clean air of the desert. He had high hopes. This would change his life. And it did…temporarily. His new life lasted three short months until one of his former friends invited him to a party where drugs flowed freely. His will power was not up to this formidable test, he was back on the slippery slide to destruction.  

William’s life is not unusual. Most people cannot possibly stay clean from drugs and alcohol on their own. True change, life-change, is only possible through faith in Christ because He provides supernatural power to overcome these mind-numbing addictions. With Christ in your life, fending off the Devil’s attacks, permanent change is indeed possible. Faith in Christ brings a new life. 

Ephesians 4:22-24  “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”   

2 Peter 1:3-4  “By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know Him, the one who called us to Himself by means of His marvelous glory and excellence. And because of His glory and excellence, He has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share His divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.” 

Galatians 2:20  “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  

Colossians 3:1-4  “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”  

Colossians 3:13-16  “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” 

Philippians 2:1-4   “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  

But what if I am a Christian and have given myself to sin more than once. Does that mean God’s power is not in me or strong enough to help me avoid the sin? No! God has done everything necessary to give us new life and daily renewal. His forgiveness is everlasting. If I am struggling with sin, God has provided the way to victory. He created us and understands our weaknesses.  

1 Corinthians 10:13  “Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps His promise, and He will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, He will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out.” 

1 John 1:8-9  “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. But if we confess our sins to God, He will keep his promise and do what is right: He will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing.” 

Walking with God provides a new life, a life free of condemnation. Jesus is at the right hand of God’s throne, fending off all of Satan’s accusations and granting us forgiveness of all sin. However, once we have tasted the incredible love of Christ, it is our responsibility to want a new life, to repent of our sins, to believe in the Bible which is God’s guidebook for all Christians. Our forgiveness is absolute but we have to accept it as absolute.  

How Can I Experience God’s Peace?

“ I forget what is behind” ~Philippians 3:13

There’s always hope! No matter what happens. Each day with the Lord welcomes us with new hope, and a fresh start. All is forgiven, washed clean by the everlasting blood of the Lamb. The past is just that…past.

What about those times we can’t find the bliss of sleep, tossing and turning as we replay the day’s challenges or those just around the corner of tomorrow? As the infomercial salesman says, “But wait, I have a solution for that!” And God really does. It is found in Philippians 4:6-7Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.”

Are you carrying unnecessary burdens around like a steamer trunk? Going to the Lord in prayer, asking Him to relieve you of these burdens; thanking Him for His grace, forgiveness and mercy and then, after your prayers, you pick up your heavy load and walk away?

Do you find yourself thinking these thoughts, “I know God has forgiven me but—” “His grace and mercy are so wonderful but—” “I know He wants me to stop worrying about life but—” Are you really a believer or are you but-ing yourself into sleepless nights and a stomach ulcer?

What is God’s promised peace? Is it tangible or spiritual and is it impervious to Satan’s attacks and worldly pressures? Finally, is His peace permanent? Answers to this question are found in the Bible.

John 14:27 “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”

John 16:33  “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.”

Jesus made these promises to his followers as they were under tyrannical Roman rule. Not only that but they had chosen to walk away from their religious leaders to follow Christ which  brought scorn, arrests, beatings, and death! 

If Jesus could promise his followers in such dire living conditions that he was giving them peace, how can we possibly doubt his promises today? Consequently, if I am not walking in the peace of Christ that passes human understanding, who is to blame?

Most of us have a constant struggle with sin but God has provided the antidote that never fails. An antidote that we can claim by faith in Jesus Christ, fortified with God’s promises.

Romans 8:1-2; 9 “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you.”

Philippians 3:7-9  But all those things that I might count as profit I now reckon as loss for Christ’s sake. Not only those things; I reckon everything as complete loss for the sake of what is so much more valuable, the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have thrown everything away; I consider it all as mere garbage, so that I may gain Christ and be completely united with him.” 

Philippians 3:13 “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it (knowing Christ and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering), but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” 

Jesus willingly subjected Himself to the pain of death to free us from the penalty and control of sin. Additionally, His sacrifice blotted out our past sins as well. Our arch-enemy, Satan will attempt to rekindle our memories of past failures but the shield of faith prevents those fiery darts from hitting home. If you have accepted that love and forgiveness then each day is a new day. . .guided by the Holy Spirit, directed by the Lord Jesus.

What Is God’s Will?

 “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” ~Mark 3:35 

Many Christians spend countless hours on their knees, begging God for an idea as to His will for their lives. Thousands of sermons have been preached, books written and website columns produced, advising believers of the 10 best steps to finding His will (often there is a fee for the book or website subscription).  

Considering the extreme measure God has taken for our forgiveness and eternal salvation (death, burial and resurrection of Jesus), is it reasonable to think He would hide His will for our lives? Would God take a perverse pleasure in watching us grovel around begging Him to reveal His purpose and direction instead of joyfully directing our lives to follow a path He alone has created just for us? No secret password needed fellow Christians, God reveals aspects of His will sprinkled throughout the Bible—His love letter to us.  

Just as a building needs a foundation for support, God has provided the necessary spiritual support to guide us into the understanding of His will. He gave us the Holy Spirit.  

John 14:16-17, 26  ~And 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 14:26  ~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. 

1 John 2:27  ~You have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ. 

Romans 12:1-2  ~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. 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. 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  ~Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 

Colossians 1:9-10  ~So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. 

So you see, God has provided everything we need to hear His voice, and live according to His will. Romans establishes steps that open the door for the realization of His will in our lives: 

1. Give our bodies to God as a living and holy sacrifice which is true worship. 

2. Don’t copy the world (be separate). 

3. Let God transform our thoughts which gives birth to the understanding of His good and pleasing and perfect will for our lives. 

I call out to God, “Oh God, show me your perfect will for my life.” 

God replies, “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances!” 

Literally

“Greater things than these you shall do” -John 14:12

Shall I take the Bible literally? Some people say the Bible is informative, great literature, allegorical, fascinating but probably not literal. Perhaps we should think of it as a book of helpful stories that are sometimes informative and encouraging. But literal? Actually God’s written words to us?

Let’s make a comparison to a textbook. If you are in a math class, the professor assigns a book to study. This book is your math book and all its contents must be studied and. . .believed. The professor is not interested in your opinion that this book may be interesting but absolutely literal? You’re not sure about that. Most of us have taken math classes and would not have considered challenging the professor in such a way. All the students know the textbook is filled with factual information necessary to navigate the field of Algebra or Geometry, etc.

It seems to me then, even more than a math textbook, we have a choice to believe that the Bible is literal, given to us by God, via forty different authors over a period of 1,600 years, as imparted by the Holy Spirit, or it is not worth reading at all. 

According to GotQuestions.org: “It is accurate to say that God wrote the Bible. According to 2 Timothy 3:16, Scripture is “breathed out” by God. Throughout the Bible, it is obvious that God is being quoted: over 400 times in the Bible, we find the words “thus says the Lord” (NKJV). The Bible refers to itself as the Word of God dozens of times (e.g., Psalm 119Proverbs 30:5Isaiah 40:855:11Jeremiah 23:29John 17:17Romans 10:17Ephesians 6:17Hebrews 4:12). The Bible is said to proceed from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3Matthew 4:4).” Peter says it this way, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:21

Ok, you say, I want to believe the Bible is God’s Word. However, it seems like a leap to say we should take it literally. How about the story of God parting the Red Sea so the Israelites could march across on dry land as the sea stood vibrating on each side of this huge throng of people?

“Then Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the Lord opened up a path through the water with a strong east wind. The wind blew all that night, turning the seabed into dry land. So the people of Israel walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side!” Exodus 14:21-22

Now that is hard to believe, you may think. And you would be correct. Without God it is impossible! If God is real, then the Bible is real and literally true. You can’t have one without the other. Either God saw to it that the Bible was written for all who come along throughout history; and it is literally true or the whole idea is ridiculous and the Bible is a hoax.

Here’s another mind boggling story. It is a true story from the Book of Numbers, chapter 22 verses 22-33. This is the story of a prophet named Balaam and his donkey. Balaam was sort of a prophet for hire who was not as interested in spreading God’s dictates as he was feathering his financial nest. On his way to give King Balak, a Moabite, a prophecy, God sent the Angel of the Lord to shock him into speaking the truth to Balak. He got his attention through the mouth of his donkey.

As they were traveling, the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord standing on the path with a drawn sword. The donkey turned into the field to avoid this obvious problem. Balaam hit her. This happened three times in all. After the third encounter, the donkey plopped down under Balaam. She was not moving. Balaam was furious and he beat her again.“Then the Lord gave the donkey the ability to speak. “What have I done to you that deserves your beating me three times?” it asked Balaam.

“You have made me look like a fool!” Balaam shouted. “If I had a sword with me, I would kill you!”

“But I am the same donkey you have ridden all your life,” the donkey answered. “Have I ever done anything like this before?”

“No,” Balaam admitted.

Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the roadway with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam bowed his head and fell face down on the ground before him.

Sounds like fiction doesn’t it? But it really happened. Now let’s look at the New Testament at one of the most important moments in man’s long history. This true story is found in the Book of Luke, 1:26-31. 

“God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

Yes, the Bible is beyond human understanding but is literally true. God chose a simple young woman with no fame or fortune to bear the Son of God, Jesus. Jesus who died and rose from the tomb as the living sacrifice for our sins. He literally did!

You see, God used people to write the Bible. They were guided by the Holy Spirit. Since that is true, how can we presume to ignore certain sections of His Word or decide they no longer apply? 

1 Peter 1:24-25. “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like a flower of the grass. The grass withers and the flower drops off, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.”

Let Go!

“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Phil. 4:13 

Daniel was frustrated with his Christianity. He attended a huge church with about 12,000 members. Each Sunday service (three of them) had room for 3,000 people. In addition, there was a Saturday evening service.  

He had always loved to be around other believers as they shared their faith, sang songs of worship and shared meals. He loved songs of worship, praising God and this place had an orchestra and professional quality singers that rocked the house (if you found the music too loud, ear plugs were provided)! 

Over the past several months Daniel realized his experience in this church was not feeding his spirit, it was massaging his flesh, attempting to make him feel good and entertain him. It was empty of substance. It had become Jesus Light…using the Bible as their source yet glossing over any challenging texts. God loves you was the theme but how did that play out in real life?  

Sharing his feelings with a Christian friend, his friend replied, “God holds you accountable for your actions, not your church. If you aren’t getting fed at church, feed yourself and and meet with just a few like-minded Christians. The Bible is a self-study book, Dan. The Spirit of God has given us all we need for a walk with the Lord. He wants to use us but we have to do something. There’s nothing new about ineffective churches or people. For that matter, there’s nothing new about complaining instead of doing something about your situation. You and I can be church if that’s what you need for now. There are no limits with God.” 

Phil. 4:10-13  In my life in union with the Lord it is a great joy to me that after so long a time you once more had the chance of showing that you care for me. I don’t mean that you had stopped caring for me—you just had no chance to show it. 11 And I am not saying this because I feel neglected, for I have learned to be satisfied with what I have. 12 I know what it is to be in need and what it is to have more than enough. I have learned this secret, so that anywhere, at any time, I am content, whether I am full or hungry, whether I have too much or too little. 13 I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me. GNT 

Eph. 3:16-21  I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, 17 and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, 18 so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. 19 Yes, may you come to know his love—although it can never be fully known—and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. 20 To him who by means of his power working in us is able to do so much more than we can ever ask for, or even think of:21 to God be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time, forever and ever! Amen.  GNT 

2 Cor. 12:7-10  So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. NLT 

And then Daniel saw it, the light shining through the darkness, penetrating into his heart; God is all about love but His love is powerful, even confrontational at times, so we can walk with Him, proclaiming that love. God’s love contains elements necessary to purify us, to heat up the cauldron so the dross may be scraped off the top, rather than a gentle warming of the pot of our lives which does not separate us from the world. 

We despise weakness and loss of control but those are qualities in us that God values most. Like the man who got too close to the edge of the cliff and fell off. Plummeting down he managed to grasp a bush protruding out. He called out to God and God answered him. The man was relieved and said, “Help me!” God said, “Let go.” After a pause the man replied, “Is there anyone else up there?” 

1 John 4:7-10  Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 

And that is it…through Him, all things are possible in our lives, but these are not necessarily things of pleasure and comfort, they are things of sacrifice and servanthood, things of humility and sacrificial love—as He loved us.