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Bible Study Notes

pastor dave2

The Miraculous Crossing

En route to the promised land, Joshua led the Israelites to the shores of the River Jordan.  How were they going to cross it?  God calmed Joshua, assuring him that by this wonder He would do, He was going to exalt him.  Joshua then instructed the people to consecrate themselves, stay pure because tomorrow God will do wonders among them.  He thereafter instructed the Priests to carry the Ark of the Covenant ahead of them; as soon as their feet touched the water, it would divide, making a heap and so the people crossed over on dry ground.

After they had crossed over, Joshua asked twelve men to pick big rocks from the middle of the Jordan and to stack them as a Memorial at the other end.  Why?  So that when their children would ask what it meant, they would tell them how God miraculously made a way for them to cross over the Jordan.  And as promised, God used this event to exalt Joshua in the sight of all Israel, and they feared him just as they feared Moses.  Of course, the Priests came out and the waters returned back.  Then Joshua instructed them to tell their children about these wonders that God had done, so that the whole world might know that God’s hand is mighty.

The Scarlet Thread

So the men said to her: “We will be blameless of this oath of yours which you have made us swear, unless, when we come into the land, you bind this line of scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you bring your father, your mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household to your own home. – Joshua 2:17-18

The scarlet thread represented the channel or instrument for the escape of the two spies from capture in Jericho, and later the escape from death by Rahab and her family.  This is an encouraging word: God has a scarlet line for all of us. Before we get into that in detail, though, what are the things that entrap us?

Things that entrap

  1. Sin is one thing that ensnares us and opens us up for the devil to ensnare. Heb 12:16 refers to Esau’s sin of sexual immorality for which he despised his birthright for a meal’s sake.
  2. More powerful people entrap the weak, as Egypt did to Israel, for which God sent Moses to set them free – Exo 3:1-9. Also, Sennacherib laid siege against Israel in Isa 36 and 37.  God sent an angel to kill all his soldiers and they were set free (Isa 37:36).
  3. Disobedience, knowing what God says and doing something else, is another entrapment – Heb 4:1-11. They heard what God said but disobeyed it and so they perished.
  4. Ignorance is a trapper. God said His people are destroyed for lack of knowledge – Hos 4:6.  Hence we need to get knowledge and understanding (Pro 4:5-7).
  5. Fear entraps. Pro 29:25 says the fear of man entraps.  Gen 20:11 – Abraham said his wife was his sister because he was afraid they would kill him.  It was the same fear of man that made Saul to disobey God by listening to the people – 1Sam 15:14-25.

God’s Ways of Escape for Us

  1. God has provided His Son as atonement for sin, to restore us back as though we never sinned. Jesus has paid for the sins of the whole world (1Jn 2:2), and if we accept Him, He is able to save us to the uttermost (1Jn 4:14; Heb 7:25-26).
  2. God sends angels to us. Heb 1:14 says they are ministering spirits sent to us.  Daniel said God sent His angel to shut the mouth of the lions (Dan 6:22). Sennacherib’s army was wiped out by an angel (Isa 37:36).  God will give his angels charge over you to protect you (Psa 91:11).
  3. God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psa 119:105). David said, “Your word I have kept in my heart, that I may not sin against You” (Psa 119:11).  When we spend time reading, meditating and doing what the word of God says, we become evergreen (Psa 1:1-3).
  4. Prayer is how we allow God into our affairs. One who refuses to pray is saying, “God, I don’t need you. I can handle it on my own.” But when we pray, we see God doing exceedingly, abundantly, above what we can think (Eph 3:2).

Conclusion

In reflecting over this text, we can see that as far as God is concerned, there is no case beyond redemption.  No matter how bleak things may seem, God has a way of escape for us.  As His children, He has put things in place for us to bring us out.

 

How To Live By God’s Promises

“That you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through
faith and patience inherit the promises” – Heb 6:12

Introduction

The promise of God reveals His intentions, and biblical history has repeatedly shown that He fulfills His promises (Gen 21:1, Josh 23:14). God promised the Israelites a land flowing with milk and honey (Ex 3:8), and although circumstances warranted a change in leadership (from Moses to Joshua), God still reiterated His desire to make good on His word (Josh 1:2-7). Joshua assumed the daunting leadership role and courageously led the Israelites to the Promised Land simply by acting on God’s promise (Josh 23:14, Ps 44:3). Today, we shall examine how we as believers can operate likewise.

PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Living By His Promises

When opportunity called, Joshua chose to trust the One who gave the promise; he defied his fears and responded actively in faith (Josh 1:10-11). To live out God’s promises, we also must learn to imitate the patriarchs who through faith and patience obtained what was promised (Heb 6:12). The following discusses the practices that if imbibed, will guarantee we consistently experience God’s promises.

1. Trust the Character of God

The patriarchs’ success story in living out God’s promises is rooted in their personal conviction of God’s character (Num 23:19, Rom 4:17, 2 Tim 1:12). To successfully live by God promises, like Sarah, we also must choose to “judge” Him faithful (Heb 10:23, 11:11).

“Accordingly God also, in His desire to show more convincingly and beyond doubt to those who were to inherit the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose and plan, intervened (mediated) with an oath. This was so that, by two unchangeable things [His promise and His oath] in which it is impossible for God ever to prove false or deceive us, we who have fled [to Him] for refuge might have mighty indwelling strength and strong encouragement to grasp and hold fast the hope appointed for us and set before” – Heb 6:17-18 (AMPC)

2. Walk by Faith and Not by Sight

The Christian lifestyle is from faith to faith; from the point of salvation to experiencing the promises that accompany salvation (Rom 1:17, Eph 2:8, Heb 12:2). Accordingly to Hebrews 11:1, faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses because it is the conviction of things not seen (AMP). The following outlines the integral elements of faith.

  1. Faith is conceived when the counsel of God is known (heard or received)

“So faith comes by hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the preaching [of the message that came from the lips] of Christ (the Messiah Himself)” – Rom 10:17 (AMPC)

  1. Faith believes with the heart and not the head (Rom 10:10). Heart convictions are  established by meditating in the Word of God

“And He said to them, be careful what you are hearing. The measure [of thought and study] you give [to the truth you hear] will be the measure [of virtue and knowledge] that comes back to you—and more [besides] will be given to you who hear” – Mk 4:24 (AMPC)

  1. Faith is only regulated (governed, controlled) by the unseen because contrary physical evidences are subject to change (2 Cor 4:18)

“And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God,” – Rom 4:19-20 (NKJV)

  1. Faith expresses its convictions by speaking (2 Cor 4:13). However, the potency of  the confessions lies in aligning heart convictions with the spoken word

“So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God.  Forassuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says” – Mk 11:22-23 (NKJV)

  1. Faith requires a corresponding action for effectiveness

“So also faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative, dead)” – Jas 2:17 (AMPC)

3. Sustain your Faith with Patience

Patience is not a “resignation to fate” which simply means giving up and accepting whatever happens! Rather, it means being “consistently constant” in agreeing with God’s word (in our hearts, speech, and actions) in spite of contrary physical evidences (Rom 4:18-20).

“He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief;
but was strong in faith, giving glory to God” – Rom 4:20 (KJV)

PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Hindrances to Faith

A non-compliance with the aforementioned elements will make the faith lifestyle unproductive and the potential of joyfully living by God’s promises unattainable. Some other factors that can hinder the faith lifestyle include:

  1. Fear and doubt – initiated and fed by focusing on contrary physical evidences.

So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” – Matt 14:29-31(NKJV)

  1. Unforgiveness – faith works through love, and love forgives. Unforgiveness will negate your faith.

For this reason I am telling you, whatever things you ask for in prayer [in accordance with God’s will], believe [with confident trust] that you have received them, and they will be given to you.

Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him [drop the issue, let it go], so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions and wrongdoings [against Him and others]. [But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your transgressions.”] – Mk 11:24-26 (AMPC)

  1. Disobedience – includes disobeying “promise-related” instructions, worldliness, unthankfulness etc

“So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God. So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall. So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall.” – Heb 4:6, 11 (NLT)

Conclusion

It is the doing of the word that guarantees God’s blessings (Jas 1:25). Joshua dared to act in faith in response to God’s promise and as a result obtained what was promised (Josh 1:11, 23:14). A deliberate commitment to “walk the talk” (within the confines of God’s promises) will always deliver the desired results, and more importantly grant us the Father’s good report (Heb 11:2).

Discerning The Voice Of God

If there is any one thing that can help you solve a thousand problems in your life, and give meaning and purpose to your existence, it is the capacity to discern the voice of God.  Discerning, one must observe, is much more than hearing.  It implies the ability to distinguish, perceive, filter, and identify what God is saying.  It therefore follows that one does not hear God’s voice casually or negligently.  You have got to be intentional and deliberate about hearing Him. See what Hab 2:1 (NCV) says:

“I will stand like a guard to watch and place myself at the tower. I will wait and see what He will say to me; I will wait to learn how God will answer my complaints.”

God’s New Man

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Cor 5:17

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.Gal 3:26-28

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.Romans 12:1-2

Introduction

The above passages paint vivid pictures of the new man. The moment you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you were born again into the family of God. You have a brand new spirit. The new you is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, and neither male nor female. However, because you are triune being, you still have two-thirds of you that isn’t brand new. For emphasis: you are a spirit, you have a soul and you live in an earthly suit, your body (1The 5:23).

Why Is There Suffering In This World?

Texts:

Job 2:11-13:  “Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him. And when they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept; and each one tore his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven. So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great.”

John 16:33: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Introduction

The above question has often been asked often by both Christians and non-Christians alike. Put another way: why does God allow people to suffer in this world if He is a God of love? Even as Christians, we sometimes wonder why we are going through pain and suffering while it seems unbelievers do not. They do too. The difference is Christians think they should not suffer these things. Christians do suffer abuse, broken relationships, betrayal, sorrow, injuries, disappointment, heartache, crime and death. And perhaps you’ve been asking the question as well: “Why? Why me? Why now?” The “why” question is not a new one; it goes back thousands of years. It was asked in the Old Testament by Job and the writers of the Psalms, and it was especially relevant during the 20th Century, when we witnessed two World Wars, the Holocaust, genocides in the Soviet Union and China, devastating famines in Africa, the killing fields of Cambodia, the emergence of AIDS, the genocide in Rwanda and the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo. Unfortunately, the 21st Century hasn’t started much better. There was 9/11, and now the Syrian slaughters, and on and on. Why do all of these horrific things happen if there’s a loving and powerful God? Why do bad things happen to good people—like loss of loved ones, pains of divorce, horrors of rebellious kids, devastations of cancer, accidents, etc?

This study is not likely to answer all our questions about why there is suffering in this world, but we will make an attempt to do so. Jesus said that we will face persecution and suffering. Unlike some other religious leaders who wrote off pain and suffering as mere illusions, Jesus was honest about the inevitability of suffering. In John 16:33, He said, “You will have suffering in this world.” He didn’t say you might—He said it is going to happen. We may not be able to make out all the details of why certain things happen, but there are some key biblical truths that can help provide some answers to our questions about pain and suffering in the world.

Suffering In This World

  1. My first response consists of four words that no one wants to say or express: “I do not know.” Pains are real and never superficial. In 1Cor 13:12 we’re told, “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.” In Job 2: 11-13, Job’s three friends reacted to his suffering as they or we ought to. They sat down with him for seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him because there were really no words to say. Bottom line: we don’t know all there is to know about suffering.
  2. God is not the creator of evil and suffering. Sometimes people suffer because we have a vicious enemy Satan who hates us and is out to steal, kill, and destroy everything redemptive and beautiful. This answers the question you hear so often: “Why didn’t God merely create a world where tragedy and suffering didn’t exist?” The answer is: He did! God created a beautiful world (Gen 1:31). But when man decided to listen to Satan, the consequence was that Satan’s evil reigned from then on.  Choices always have consequences, even today.
  3. Though suffering isn’t good, and He did not create it, God can use it to accomplish good. In Rom 8:28, the Bible promises: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Notice the verse doesn’t say God causes evil and suffering, just that he promises to cause good to emerge. And notice that the verse doesn’t say we all will see immediately or even in this life how God has caused good to emerge from a bad circumstance. Remember, we only see things dimly in this world. He makes the solemn pledge that he will take the bad circumstances that befall us and cause good to emerge if we’re committed to following him. You might say, “No, he can’t bring good out of my circumstance. The harm was too great, the damage was too extreme, and the depth of my suffering has been too much.” But if you doubt God’s promise, remember that He took the very worst thing that has ever happened in the history of the universe, the death of His Son on the Cross and turned it into the very best thing that has happened in history of universe. If God can take the very worst circumstance imaginable and turn it into the very best situation possible, can He not take the negative circumstances of your life and create something good from them?
  4. Misery inflicted by corrupt leaders who steal money that could have been used to better the lot of their citizens, and instead use it to enrich themselves. All over the world, we see examples of this.
  5. Sometimes people suffer through no human fault at all. The best of God’s saints had their nights. This is no indicator of divine disfavor. Life is simply hard.
  6. Sometimes people suffer because we live on a physical earth where natural disasters can and do happen. These include tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires, tsunamis. Natural disasters are a part of any living, shifting, fluctuating planet.
  7. God made us and gave us choices, otherwise we would be robots. Man chose to rebel with Satan, and so he is suffering the consequences of his choices.
  8. The day is coming when suffering will cease and God will judge evil. Many people wonder: “If God has the power to eradicate evil and suffering, then why doesn’t He do it?” Just because he hasn’t done it yet doesn’t mean he won’t do it. The Bible says that the story of this world isn’t over yet. It says the day will come when sickness and pain will be eradicated and people will be held accountable for the evil they’ve committed. Justice will be served in a perfect way. That day will come, but not yet! So what is holding God up? One answer is that He’s actually delaying the consummation of history in anticipation that more people will put their trust in him and spend eternity in heaven. He’s delaying everything out of his love for humanity. 2Pet 3:9 reads: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
  9. Our suffering will pale in comparison to the good things God has in store for his followers. In Rom 8:18 we read: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Remember, these words were written by the apostle Paul, who suffered through beatings and stoning and shipwrecks and imprisonments and rejection and hunger and thirst and homelessness—far more pain than most of us will ever have to endure. We certainly don’t want to minimize pain and suffering, but it helps if we take a long-term perspective. “God has all eternity to make it up to me.”—And he will. God promises a time when there will be no more crying, no more tears, no more pain and suffering, when we will be reunited with God in perfect harmony, forever.

Response to Pain and Suffering

  1. As we go through pain and suffering, let us key into God’s response to Paul in 2Cor 12:9-10: “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” By “grace,” I do not mean the general definition of “unmerited favor”, but rather the extraordinary enablement and ability that God gives through the Holy Spirit to respond to the pain and suffering: the ability to persevere, remain at peace, have joy, be sensitive, sincere and empathetic.
  2. We decide whether to turn bitter, or to turn to God for peace and courage. There are examples in Scripture of how the same suffering that causes one person to turn bitter, to reject God, and to become hard and angry and sullen, can cause another person to turn to God, to become more gentle and more loving and more tender, willing to reach out to compassionately help other people who are in pain. We make the choice to either run away from God or to run to Him. What happens if we run to him? John 16:33 says: “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. “You will have suffering in this world. But be courageous! I have conquered the world.” In other words, He offers us the two very things we need when we’re hurting: grace and peace to deal with our present and courage to deal with our future. How? Because He has conquered the world! Through His own suffering and death, He has deprived this world of its ultimate power over you. Suffering doesn’t have the last word anymore. Death doesn’t have the last word anymore. God has the last word!

Is God Angry With Me?

The starting point for this study is to understand the implication of God’s anger: if God is angry with you, then you’re in a lot of trouble. His anger is fierce and devastating, and there is no hiding from it.

“O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your wrath, Nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure!
For Your arrows pierce me deeply, And Your hand presses me down.”
– Psalm 38:1-2

God’s anger is a terrible thing. Our next question therefore is this: against what and when did the anger of the Lord emerge? Put simply, His anger is against SIN, and the ultimate sin began in the Garden of Eden.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” – Romans 1:18

Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” – Genesis 2:15-17

Satan told Eve, “God is withholding something from you! He knows you will be like God when you eat it.” She then obliged, and as a result sin entered into all mankind, and thus the curse:

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” – Genesis 3:2-5

“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—” – Romans 5:12

“For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” – Romans 5:17

It therefore is of utmost importance that we deal with this all important issue of sin. It is what stands between God and mankind:

“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened,
That it cannot save;
Nor His ear heavy,
That it cannot hear.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
And your sins have hidden His face from you,
So that He will not hear.”
– Isaiah 59:1-2

God made provisions under the old covenant of Moses for sin to be temporarily covered on the Day of Atonement:

“Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house. He shall take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat on which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer it as a sin offering. But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness.” – Leviticus 16:6-10

In the New Covenant, Jesus is the Lamb that takes away our sin, and that of the whole world:

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” – John 1:29

And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. – 1 John 2:2

In doing what He did on the cross, Jesus fully reconciled us back to the Father. Sin has been paid for. This is the good news, that God is no longer mad at us. Rather, He is in love with us—not because we earned it, but because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

It is very important you know that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself; and He no longer imputed their trespasses to them. That means He does not charge it to their account, but to instead to Christ’s.

Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. – 2 Corinthians 5:18-21

Back then, even those who lived under the Old Covenant had their sins covered:

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered. 
Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit. – Psalm 32:1-2

God’s goodness to us is far beyond words. Rather than cover them, He has chosen not to remember our sins at all:

“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake;
And I will not remember your sins.” – Isaiah 43:25

“I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions,
And like a cloud, your sins.
Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.” – Isaiah 44:22

As a result of what Jesus did for us, we are no longer under any curse. Rather, we are altogether blessed:

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. – Galatians 3:13-14

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. – Ephesians 1:3

The truth is that God is no longer angry with us because of Christ, and thus it is very important we change the way we think. Wrong thinking produces bad behavior. Sin has been fully atoned for. There is no longer any additional sacrifice to be made for sin, other than that which Christ already made. Sin is no longer the issue: Christ is what matters.

Much unlike the sacrifices of the high priest under the old covenant, Jesus made a permanent sacrifice for all of our sins:

“And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” – Hebrews 10:11-14

Now that I know that my sin has been atoned for, and that sin is no longer an issue between me and God, how should I live?

  1. Live in liberty, and make sure no one makes me feel guilty, or teaches me anything to the contrary.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” – Galatians 5:1

  1. Refuse to live in fear, and refuse to allow my conscience or any person to condemn me.

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” – Romans 8:1

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.” – 1 John 4:18-19

“Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.” – 1 John 3:20 (NLT)

  1. Approach God with confidence, knowing I am His son.

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:16

  1. What do I do when if I sin? Confess it to Him and move on.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” – 1 John 1:9-10

  1. Keep your eyes on Jesus. If you don’t do this and live in fear of sin instead, your Christian journey will be painful and worthless. What you keep looking at is what you will become. Keep looking at Him; He started your journey and trust Him, He can and He will see you through to the end, as the Author and Finisher that He is.

“looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:2

  1. Stop living and acting like an orphan – instead live like a son of the Father:

And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. – Galatians 4:6-7

 

Defending Your Hope In Christ

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” – 1Pet 3:15

Have you ever had questions about your own faith? Has someone ever asked you why you believe what you believe? Have you ever used evidence to support your belief? If you have done any of these, then you’ve been doing what is expected of you.

We are all commanded to be ready to give an answer for our faith, and to do it with both wisdom, grace and gentleness.  The world is in turmoil and hungry for answers.  They have tried many systems and their hope is waning.  The Christian has the answer.  He must therefore be ever ready to give them the Good News and do it in a gentle and clear manner.

There are, broadly, a few ways we defend our faith, as in a courtroom, in our conversations or articulations:

  1. Showing evidence of the truthfulness of the Christian faith. Some use cosmological phenomena, issues of morality, the bodily resurrection of Christ, etc.
  2. Answering the questions of those who ask, by listening to them and then responding in love.
  3. Rebutting incoherent arguments against Christian faith and showing Christianity as the truth. Beyond intellectual belief, we want our audience to decide for faith in Christ—in other words, we want to evangelize.

Imagine a person is at the emergency room with a serious illness. The doctors explain that the sickness is lethal, and that this person will die unless he gets an antidote. However, if he takes the antidote, he is guaranteed to be well. There is no other choice: you either take the only antidote or you die. The cure is the cure. That’s what Christianity is.

“Because I live, you will live also.” – Jn 14:19

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.  26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” –Jn 11:25-26

The world today is in disarray.  I once heard a story of these two sailors that went to town and had much more fun than they had planned, but lost their way back to their boat in the process.  Eventually, they spotted a highly decorated sailor approaching them.  “Surely he knows the way,” they thought.  And so they asked him, “Hey sailor, we’re lost. Show us the way to our boat.”  Feeling insulted at the way they talked to him, this top officer asked, “Don’t you know who I am?” Now these two guys turned towards each other and said, “Now we are in a big mess. We don’t know where we are, and he doesn’t know who he is.”

Indeed, the world is in confusion.  Virtually every single word has a different meaning to different folks, depending on who you ask.  A simple word as basic as “human” has different descriptions from one people group to the other.

Where did this mess begin?  It started right there in Genesis.  Read what God says:

“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” – Gen 2:17 (emphasis mine).

God said the day you eat of it, you will die—be demeaned and self-destruct.  But what transpired? They listened to the devil instead. He reprogrammed their minds, changed their paradigm, their worldview, even painting a picture of a God who was withholding something from them.

“Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” – Gen 3:4-5.

Therein lies the beginning of human misery.  Man became god to himself, defining his own absolutes, and the result was the depravity that is today prevalent everywhere.  Hence there is a need for us to make TRUTH clear (1Pet 3:15; Psa 119:46; Jer 26:1-12; Dan 3:16-18; Col 4:6; 2Tim 2:25).

The darker the darkness of the world gets, the brighter our light should shine.

Four of life’s deepest questions are:

  1. The question of Origin—where we came from;
  2. The question of Meaning;
  3. The question of Morality, and
  4. The question of Destiny.

As for origin, if a person says there is no God, and therefore no vertical relationship, then everything in life is vain and purposeless.  Is this not why our world today is so bloody?  There is no right or wrong.

So, how do we defend our faith?

1. First, we sanctify (set apart) Christ in our hearts. How?

  1. Love God with all your heart.
  2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

We are made in the image of God, so we must love other people, no matter how much we disagree with them.

2. Our defense must transcend our words. People know who we are not merely by our words, but also by our love. We must touch other peoples lives by doing good deeds for those in need.

3. We must avoid fruitless arguments. Allow the Holy Spirit to do His work on the other person’s heart. Hence, we need to be humble in heart and wise in our responses. You’re answering a questioner, not just the question. Pray for wisdom, for “a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Pro 25:11).

We must not concentrate merely on our end—to bring them to Christ: the means matter too.  The gospel gives you more. It is the answer to the yearning hearts of men out there.  Jesus is the hope of the world.  Live for Him; serve Him; and if you don’t know Him, let this be the day you ask Him into your heart.  And if you know Him, then “let the light of your good deeds so shine among men that they will give glory to the Father” (Matt 5:16).

Righteousness: The Basis Of It All

Unless we really grasp the true meaning of righteousness, living the life of liberty that is rightfully ours will be really difficult.  Without being righteous, everything a man does will be a severe struggle.

To really underscore how important righteousness is, it appears 540 times in the Bible—compared with faith, which was used 348 times, meaning that the word “righteousness” appears more than 1½ times more than the word “faith”.  And in simple terms, faith is the means for appropriating what is yours by righteousness.  Without righteousness therefore, faith has nothing to appropriate, and the Christian walk becomes nothing more than religion.

What therefore is righteousness?  What must we do to be righteous?  More appropriately, whose righteousness is it we are talking about?

Righteousness means “to be in right-standing with God”. It means having the right relationship and being in favor with Him. Without it, approaching God with any amount of assurance becomes problematic: it is the foundation of our faith.  True righteousness is not based on what we can do to earn the favor of God, but instead on placing our faith in what Christ has done.  This is huge.  Anything we can add to what Jesus has done will only pollute, destroy and mess up what has been done.

And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work. Rom 11:6

It is important that true righteousness is the Lord’s, never our own.  If a man works, he’s entitled to payment.  If the righteousness is based on your performance, then you are entitled to boasting, but not before God.  Your righteousness is imputed or charged as a gift to your account.

Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.  Rom 3:27-28

Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.

But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.  Rom 4:4-5

If your righteousness is based on your performance, how many things are you going to do?  Okay, assuming you are able to do several things, what about those things you miss out?  Even those things you missed out to do, make you a sinner.

But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Gal 6:14

Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. Jam 4:17

Let us correct a most significant assertion about right standing with God—how we become it.  We don’t become it by what we do. Rather, we do what we do because we are righteous.  Let me use this wonderful coinage:  We are not human doings, we are human beings.  It is not our doing good and acting religious by performance that makes us righteous, good and necessary as those things may be.  Our righteousness is based on our relationship with God because we received the faith of God into our lives.

 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.  Gal: 2:20

You see, in Christ, we identify with Jesus in totality.  When He died, we did.  When He rose, we did.  As He sits in glory, we are there right now with Him, pure and powerful as He is.

Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 1John 4:17

For emphasis, we do what we do because we are in right standing with God, not to earn His favor through our performance.  This is huge and it’s what separates us believers from the religious performances of folks out there.

For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Rom 8:3-4

There are many religious efforts that people put in place to try to make themselves righteous—outward appearances, conducts, and so on.  However, if a man is not renewed in the inside, everything he does on the outside is worthless.

That was what Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3.  The new birth is what makes you righteous, not your outward performance.

I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.  Gal 2:21

Friends, your penitence, deprivation, fasting, giving to the poor, etc. – good as they are – are no basis for your righteousness.  Actually, they can be a rejection of Christ if they are the basis of your faith.  As believers therefore, we don’t get what we deserve, which is death.  We get what we believe.  Jesus is the right payment for us and anything short of what He has done is a rejection of Him.

Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” John 8:24

All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Isa 53:6

“As you have received Christ, continue in Him.” – Col 2:6.  The question then is how did you receive Him?  It is by grace through faith (Eph 2:8-9).  You place your faith in what God has done by grace in Christ.  God says that’s exactly how you are to continue living; not by works or by the law which cannot save you (Gal 2:16).

We are righteous by faith in Christ.

For he made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  2Cor 5:21

 

Discover Your Distinctiveness: A Pointer To Your Potential

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- Ps. 139: 14-16.NLT

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations. Jer.1:5 NLT

From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. Act 17:26 NIV.

The following texts uniquely reveals that no one is on earth by accident; we’re all here on specific assignment from God. He packaged each of us in our mother’s womb and we were delivered/born to a family He chose, in a place/land He identified as most ideal for the accomplishment of His purpose and to fulfill His agenda for our individual lives. Unless we accomplish the divine agenda for our lives, anything else we do is worthless. Hence you need to really know your own uniqueness, because it is an indicator of the reason for your existence.

What is your Uniqueness?

God prescribed every single detail of our lives to fit the assignment He has in store for each of us. He deliberately chose your race, the color of your skin, your hair and every other feature. He custom-made your body and everything else to help you accomplish your purpose. He also determined the natural talents and abilities each of us, including the uniqueness of our personalities. Scientific study has shown that the likelihood of someone exactly like you i.e. your DNA is 10 to the 2,400,000,000th power. If you were to write that number out on a paper, the zeros will be 37,000 miles long! That’s how unique you are!! Directly related to your being unique is the ability(ies) that God has given to each of us to distinguish us. The Bible clearly says that… all abilities are from God and he wants you to serve him with the abilities-i.e. use them for him. Your job is to discover those abilities and deploy them in the right way – that is your calling.

Let’s be more practical here. There’s a reason why some folks can crunch numbers and others cannot; or why some folks like to talk, are more empathic or sensitive to the needs of other around them, while some don’t even notice it. Yes still, there’s a reason why some can sing, swim, etc, and others just don’t. When you read the story of Nehemiah, he was already comfortable in the palace, but for the way God wired him, that when he saw Hanani, the welfare of the people of Jerusalem was his concern (Neh 1:1-7). Obviously, Nehemiah wasn’t the only person that could have been used for the rebuilding of the walls. The difference was in Nehemiah’s uniqueness. Your uniqueness is an arena of your greater sensitivity, capability, interest, desire or commitment. Put simply, you just want it more than others and are willing to do anything to accomplish it, thereby fulfilling your life’s calling in so doing.

How to Discover Your Calling

The key to discovering your calling is to examine how God uniquely “wired” you – according to Rich Warren in Purpose Driven Life, this is called your SHAPE.

  1. Discovering and using Your Spiritual Gifts – God has given every believer spiritual gifts to be used in ministry. These are special God-empowered abilities for serving him that are given only to believers.
  2. Listening to your Heart – The Bible uses the term heart to describe the bundle of desires, hopes, interests, ambitions, dreams, and affections you have. Your heart represents the source of all your motivations – what you love to do and what you care about most is one of the clearest pointer to your calling.
  3. Applying your Abilities (Talents) – Your abilities are the natural talents you were born with. Make no mistakes, as I said earlier, all your abilities came from God – the bible says, “God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well”. Since your natural abilities are from God, they are just as important and as “spiritual” as your spiritual gifts. The only difference is that you were given them at your natural birth.
  4. Using your Personality – Remember when God made you, he broke the mold. There never has been, and never will be, anybody exactly like you. It is obvious that God loves variety; just look around you! He created each of us with a unique combination of personality traits. God made “introverts” and those who love “society”. He made people who love “routine” and those who love “variety”. He made some people “thinkers” and others “feelers”. Some people work best when given an individual assignment while others are better with a team. God made you to be you! By copying or trying to be like someone else will never work and you will never become the best God of what wants you to be. You are the best you that can ever be – So work it!
  5. Employ your Experiences. You have been shaped by your experiences in life, most of which are beyond your control. God allowed them for his purpose of molding you. In pursuing your calling, you should examine at least six kinds of experiences from your past.
    1. Family Experiences: What did you learn growing up in your family?
    2. Educational Experiences: What were favorite subjects in school?
    3. Vocational Experiences: What jobs have you been most effective in and enjoyed the most?
    4. Spiritual Experiences: What have been your most meaningful times with God?
    5. Ministry Experiences: How have you served God in the past?
    6. Painful Experience: What problems, hurts, thorns, and trials have you learned from?

If you really desire to be used by God, you must understand one powerful truth: “The very experiences that you have resented or regretted most in life – the ones you’ve wanted to hide and forget – are the experiences God wants to use to help others – They are your ministry – they are your calling.”

Finally, remember that Jesus’s parable of the talents illustrates that God expects us to make the most of what he gave us. We are to cultivate our gifts and abilities, keep our hearts a-flame, grow our character and personality, and broaden our experiences so we will become increasingly more effective in our service to God. Paul told the Philippians to “keep on growing in your knowledge and understanding” and he reminded Timothy, “Kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you”.

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