Living Life without Expectation

What if we were to live life without expectation? I’m not talking about a hopeless life, where we are broken and faithless, but a life where we can be at peace no matter the circumstances.

Think about this for a moment: how many times have the events of your life matched the expectations in your mind?  These misplaced expectations lead to disappointment, which can lead to discouragement, which can develop into depression, which can make us feel hopeless and purposeless. We shut out God, our loved ones, and our friends because they let us down. We loathe our jobs because the grass wasn’t as green as was promised. We are financially strapped because we decided to take a leap of faith on a new career, a bigger house, that car we always wanted, etc.

If you feel this way or spent part of your life feeling this way, it’s okay. Just take a few deep breaths. Don’t condemn yourself, but find it in your heart to forgive yourself. Ask God to forgive you. Forgive others who hurt you. You made the best choice you could at the time with the information you had. That’s life. We have to make decisions sometimes without knowing what the results will be.

What would be a good example of living life with expectation? Let’s say you have a friend who has fallen on hard times and asks you for $100 to buy groceries for his family. Maybe your friend says he’ll pay you back or you expect the money back as soon as possible. Time goes by and your friend has not given you the money. You ask about it, the friend can’t pay it back now. More time passes and you begin to resent your friend over the money. A possible lifelong friendship could be ended over $100 all because of misplaced expectations. How could this situation be handled without expectations? Your friend, who has fallen on hard times, ask you for $100 to help buy groceries for his family. You have the money and give it to your friend. Your friend offers to pay back the money, but you say, “Don’t worry about it, consider it a gift.” This changes the dynamic of the situation because you have truly been generous with no stipulations. You also have the satisfaction that your friend’s family will have food in their home.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talked about how we are to give to others without expecting anything in return:

“Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:31-36, NIV).

Speaking strictly from the Christian perspective, The Bible spends a lot of verses describing how God has blessed us spiritually in Christ and the ways He will bless us when we are obedient to Him. We must tread very lightly when we read and teach these verses, because we can open up ourselves and others to disillusionment and disappointment, which can lead people to becoming soured on God and the church. There must be a balance so that unmet sky high expectations will not send believers into a soul crushing abyss.

What happens when something doesn’t work out the way it was supposed to work out? What if there is no miracle? What if the financial windfall never comes? What if our or a loved one’s suffering is never eased despite a bevy of fervent, faith-filled prayers?

As Christians and people in general, we are too prideful to say,  “I don’t know.” When it comes to matters of faith, no one wants to say, “I don’t know.” So, in order to save face or relieve the pressure of having to give an answer for why God didn’t answer a prayer, we may say such things as, “It must not have been in God’s will, plan, or timing.” “God must have something better for you” “Maybe you just need more faith.” “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” I admit that I have been on both sides of this situation- as the one with the unanswered prayer and the finite being trying to explain why the infinite and sovereign God did what He did or didn’t do. It is not comforting to be in either situation.

Is it possible for us to live a life of faith without expectation? I believe so because faith by definition is unknowable. If we knew everything coming our way (a sense of expectation), we wouldn’t need faith.  Instead of worrying about what might happen, such as What if I get cancer? What if I lose my job? What if my spouse leaves me? what if we lived life as it came to us? What if we could have peace in the midst of the unknown? I will leave you with the words of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus: “Don’t hope that events will turn out the way you want, welcome events in whichever way they happen: this is the path to peace.” (Enchiridion, 8).

The Holy Spirit our Comforter

In the hours leading up to his arrest, trials, flogging, and death on the cross, Jesus shared a Passover meal with His disciples commonly referred to as “The Last Supper.” Jesus took this precious time to teach many things to His disciples. One of the topics Jesus taught – the role of the Holy Spirit- is what makes Christianity unique among world religions, where God comes to live inside of us and we can have a relationship with God. Jesus taught many things about the Holy Spirit, and we will examine the comforting aspect of the Holy Spirit.

In His discourse, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as “The Comforter.” The Greek word for comforter is Paraklietos (Strong’s #3875), which means “intercessor, consoler; one summoned or called to one’s side.” Jesus introduces the Holy Spirit by stating:

“If ye love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever. Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him; but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” (John 14:15-17, KJV, emphasis mine).

What comforting words that because we know God, God comes to dwell in us and is always with us. Religion gives us a checklist of things to do and maybe, just maybe, God will approve of us. For Christians, we only have to believe.

Life can be lonely. Even when we are surrounded by our families, friends, and the beauty all around us, our trials and our grief can isolate us. We become adept at putting on a front, fooling the outside world, while inside it feels like our spirits are being torn to shreds by a savage beast. The pain is real. The struggle is real. God may be silent, be He has not left you, as Jesus states:

“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14:18, KJV, emphasis mine).

The Greek word for comfortless is the word Orphanos (Strong’s #3737), which means “fatherless or orphaned.” God does not leave us to fend for ourselves. Our Savior did not stay dead in the grave, He is alive! His Spirit is within us. The world may abandon you, but God never will.

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:26-27, KJV).

When we remember God’s Word and everything we have been through, we can have peace in the worst of circumstances. Inner peace is a choice as happiness and contentment are choices. We can make these choices easier when we come to the revelation that God is by our side.

“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with Me from the beginning.” (John 15:26-27, KJV).

Jesus goes on to explain how the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth:

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you. And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment…Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.” (John 16:7-8, 13-14, KJV).

The deeper you go into a relationship with someone, the better you get to know them. This principle applies no matter whether the relationship is romantic, familial, or friendship. You learn the person’s voice, habits, appearance, and their likes or dislikes. If someone were impersonating your spouse, child, or friend, you could spot the impostor. As Christians, we have that same opportunity with God through Christ and the Holy Spirit regarding learning the truth, knowing God’s voice and His Word. Though the temptation is always there when times get rough, to run away from God and everyone else, we can go a different route. We can refuse to listen to Satan’s lies and listen for God’s truth.  We can unload our troubles on God like we can a phone call to our best friend or a conversation with our spouse. God knows you are hurting. Let Him comfort you. You may not get an explanation in this life as to why events have unfolded the way they have, but we can be guided by Christ through the Holy Spirit. We can have peace in the midst of pain; joy in the midst of sorrow; comfort in the midst of tragedy. God bless you all.

Ephesians 2: Our Identity before Christ

In the previous post, we looked at Ephesians chapter one and how the sovereignty and purposes of God played the defining role in our salvation and identity as Christians. To read the previous post, click here:  https://triumphantinchrist.wordpress.com/2016/08/27/ephesians-1-gods-role-in-our-identity/

Of all of history’s recorded events and notable people, I believe the most influential person in the history of the world is the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection represent the ultimate expression of God’s love for humanity as Christ died for our sins. The entire Christian religion hinges on the historic event of the resurrection of Christ.

In fact, for centuries, historians marked the passage of time with the era “Before Christ” (BC) and “In the year of our Lord,” commonly referred to as AD. Of course, secular historians now use the terms “Before Common Era” and “Common Era” to refer to time.

No matter how historians mark the time, all Christians can point to the before Christ time in their lives. We can look back with shame, pain, and regret at our past lives, or we can bask in this current day of our Lord, who has forgiven us for all sins and transgressions, past, present, and future.

In Ephesians chapter one, Paul beautifully explains God’s purposes, plan, and grace toward us in our salvation. In Ephesians chapter two, Paul pivots and contrasts the Ephesians’ identities were before and after Christ.

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” (Ephesians 2:1-3, NIV).

Paul metaphorically takes the Ephesians, and by extension, you and I back in time to remember who we were:

*We were dead in our sins.

*We followed the world and Satan.

*People in the world still live sinfully.

*We used to be like them and lived and did as we pleased.

*Everyone, including us, deserves God’s wrath for our sins.

Here comes the “AD” part:

“But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions- it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in this kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7, NIV, italics mine).

Compare our previous position with who we are now:

*God’s mercy and grace has made us alive, when we were dead in our sins.

*We no longer take our seats with Satan and the world, for we are seated with Christ.

*We are living examples of God’s grace to our generation and those who follow.

If we try to live our faith by ritual, we develop a religious mindset and rely on our abilities and traditions to carry us. While there are steps we can take to become better people in our thoughts, words, and deeds, our salvation is solely the work of God.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by work, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10, NIV, italics mine).

*We cannot earn our salvation- it is a gift that must be received.

*Our boasting does not impress God.

*God has created us and saved us to fulfill His purposes in our lives,

All of us at one point have faced the sting of exclusion and rejection, though by varying degrees and circumstances. Paul drives home to the point that the Ephesians were at one time:

*Gentiles by birth, therefore excluded from citizenship in Israel and the promises of God. Therefore, the Ephesians had no hope and did not have God. (Ephesians 2:11-12).

*Now, all, regardless of birth, Jew, Gentile, nation or status, have been reconciled by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13).

*Christ has broken down all walls that separate us, and reconciled them by the cross, and now we all have access to God by the same Holy Spirit that lives in each of us. (Ephesians 2:14-18).

*We were once strangers and foreigners, but now we are members of God’s family and household. Christ is our cornerstone and the foundation is also built upon the apostles and prophets. (Ephesians 2:19-20).

*The temple of God is no longer about a physical building or a group of people, but we, our bodies, our spirits are God’s temple. God through the Holy Spirit dwells in us. (Ephesians 2:21-22).

Though we are no longer part of this world, we remain in this world until either Christ comes back or He calls us home. As we interact with our brothers and sisters in Christ and those who do not know Christ, let us treat them with compassion, for we were once sinners who needed grace. Do not grieve who you were in the past, but rejoice in the future God’s grace has given you.

Resting During the Storm

My dog, Henry, is terrified of thunderstorms and fireworks. Henry, before and during the storm, will get jittery, pace around the house, and seek comfort from me and/or my wife. A thunderstorm rolled through this afternoon and I took to our dog calming ritual of turning on the space heater and sitting with Henry in our home office. Within minutes of reassuring Henry it was going to be alright, he fell asleep at my feet. I smiled and thought about how we are supposed to sleep at our Heavenly Father’s feet during the storms of life. Just as my presence and the warmth of the space heater comforted Henry, so too are we to be comforted in the warm embrace of our God’s presence.

Somewhere right now on our planet, people are experiencing both meteorological and spiritual storms. Rain is essential for life on earth. If it did not rain, crops would not grow, which in turn would hurt the world’s food supply. All of us will experience spiritual storms in our lives, whether it be overwhelming grief, illness, family issues, financial stress, a loss of faith, or all of these trials at once coming at us with the force of a hurricane or tsunami. God can uses these storms to grow us and to feed our faith.

In the midst of our pain and suffering, we cry out and pray to God for relief, yet, there are times when the rain keeps coming with seemingly no relief in sight. However, your storm will pass. Just as the storm that terrified Henry was over in a few minutes and the sun came out, so too will your dark clouds give way to the sunshine on the horizon.

The big questions we ask during a storm is “Where is God in all this?” “Why doesn’t He do something?” “Why doesn’t He just stop it?” Be honest, you have posed those questions. I know I have. Believe me, you are not the first person to pose such questions, for The Bible gives us multiple examples of people weathering storms.

Probably the most famous biblical example is Jesus quieting a storm as recorded in the gospels of Matthew (8:23-27), Mark (4:35-41), and Luke (8:22-25). Matthew and Mark place this event after Jesus spent the day teaching a crowd of people on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Night came and Jesus said to His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” (Mark 4:35b, NIV). Jesus and His disciples left the crowd on the shore and began their trek to the other side. Mark’s Gospel describes the scene: “A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.” (Mark 4:37, NIV).

Notice Jesus’ approach to the storm compared to that of the disciples, four of whom- Peter, Andrew, James, and John- were experienced fishermen and I am sure weathered many storms while on the water.

Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’” (Mark 4:38, NIV, italics mine).

This must have been quite a storm to upset such experienced fishermen, but these are the same disciples who saw Jesus perform many miracles- healings, exorcisms, and raising people from the dead! The disciples’ reaction is not really that much different from ours, as we question God, asking Him, “Don’t you care about me?” or “Why did You let this happen?”

“He [Jesus] got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be Still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to His disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!” (Mark 4:39-41, NIV).

The storm did not catch Jesus off guard, just as He knows when the storms will come in your life. Man with his radar technology tries to predict when storms will come in and determine their path. However, despite our technological advancements, the weather predictions do not always pan out, due to circumstances beyond our control- the wind could shift the weather front. God’s “radar” is never wrong.

Just as Jesus and His disciples had contrasting reactions to the storm, my dogs have different reactions. My other dog, Maggie, is older than Henry and has seen many storms. Being the older, more experienced dog, Maggie can sleep easy through the strongest summer thunderstorms. As we grow older in our faith, we can rest easier with each passing storm, because we know the Lord has carried us through so many storms before.

Our response can determine the length of the storm. If we have right thinking and are standing on the Word of God, we can stand upright. We go through storms so that we may be a future comfort to someone else. Jesus knew He was going to quiet the storm. He knew His disciples had not built up their faith to ride out the storm. Jesus also knew something that the disciples did not know- that there was a demon possessed man on the other side of the Sea of Galilee who needed to be delivered. The disciples went through the storm so another man could be delivered from a legion of demons and proclaim Jesus’ work.

Just as God spoke to Job in the midst of his “whirlwind,” so too can God speak and comfort us in our storms. God will also sustain us in the storm.

“When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever.” (Proverbs 10:25, NIV).

The Lord will also guide us out of the storm:

“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and He guided them to their desired haven.” (Psalm 107:28-30, NIV).

God bless you all.

Christ Symbolism and Superman

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Superman with his arms in a “cross” pose. 

© Copyright Warner Brothers Studios/DC Comics

My wife and I recently went to the theater to watch Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (no spoilers here if you have not seen it). This film marks the first big screen team up of Superman and Batman in their character histories, which go back to the late 1930s. I admit that my inner fan boy could not wait to see Batman v. Superman, my two favorite superheros together and I enjoyed it. As we left the theater, my wife and I began to reflect on the movie’s imagery.

Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster in 1938 and has gone through numerous incarnations by other comic book writers, screenwriters and artists. The Superman mythos contains elements of Hercules from Greek mythology and parallels the story of Moses, as baby Kal-El is saved from an extinction of his people on his home planet of  Krypton, whereas Moses was saved from pharaoh’s order to kill the male Hebrew children. However, it appears to be the intent of Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice and its predecessor, Man of Steel, to portray Superman as a Christ-like figure.

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke give details concerning the birth of Christ, while Mark and John focus squarely on Jesus’ ministry. The story of a twelve-year-old Jesus debating with the religious teachers (Luke 2:41-49) is the only story Scripture records of a young Christ. The next time the Gospel writers mention Jesus, He is thirty years old. We naturally assume that Jesus worked in obscurity as a carpenter in small town called Nazareth. In Man of Steel, Superman, aka Clark Kent, is portrayed as a drifter who performs occasional heroic acts until he makes himself known to the world at age thirty-three, the same age Jesus was when He was crucified.

In Man of Steel, Superman surrenders to the U.S. Government, as Jesus stated that He would lay down His life Himself (John 10:18). Superman captures the world’s imagination and is seen as a god because he can do things no mere human can do. For example, Superman flies, he is not harmed by bullets, he can see through walls, he has super strength, heat vision, etc. Just as when Jesus walked the earth, He performed acts and miracles on a scale people had not seen- raising the dead, walking on water, healing the sick, casting out demons, teaching with authority, feeding multitudes with a few loaves of bread and a few fish, etc.

Flash forward to Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and public opinion has began to turn against Superman, per the events of Man of Steel. Superman has upset the established government order and people are questioning his agenda and intentions, perceiving him as an alien threat. This can be compared to how Christ upset the religious order and the Pharisees and priests looked for an opportunity to arrest Him. Consider the fact that many of the same people who shouted, “Hosanna,” when Christ came to Jerusalem also shouted “Crucify Him,” at His trial before Pilate.

When you take both movies together, there are numerous references to Christ, such as a stained glass image of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane over Superman’s shoulder as he speaks to a priest  and Superman making another “cross” pose in the water in Man of Steel. Superman is thronged by a crowd of people  as shown in the trailers and commercials for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, just as Jesus was thronged by the masses. In the new movie, there is a subplot (as advertised) of man vs. God and the devil vs. God as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman go against Doomsday.

With the heavy Christ symbolism projected upon this current incarnation of Superman and his drawing the ire of the government, the change of public opinion, and taking on a beast creature such as Doomsday, could this be a way of the New World Order conditioning the masses against the return of Christ? Consider for a moment how the return of Christ will upset and defeat Satan’s plan of world domination. Consider the current violent persecution of Christians all around the world at the hands of oppressive dictatorships and terrorist groups. From the time of the Tower of Babel, to the empires of the Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, etc., Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, the United Nations, men and governments have sought to impose a one world government system upon the masses and to also direct their religious affiliations.

Brothers and sisters, we are closer than ever to seeing the world government and religious systems as described in the Book of Revelation. What is the best way to control the masses? Control the message. With a reported budget of $250 million dollars and millions more poured into marketing, nothing in Batman v. Superman or any movie for that matter is accidental. There is an agenda, there is a message the filmmakers want to spread, as if you hand millions of dollars at your disposal to share the Gospel, we would share the message and love of Christ.

I enjoy movies. I enjoy superheros, science fiction, historical epics, and a good good versus evil story. If you enjoy movies and comic books, enjoy them. However, as Christians, we must be discerning and pay close attention to what we watch and read.  We must watch with our spiritual eyes opened. Let us not sleepwalk through these last days. God bless you all.

 

 

 

The Emphasis of Healing in the New Testament

In the previous post, “Healing in the Old Testament,” the subject of healing was discussed from the perspective of Israel’s constant backsliding and rebellion against God. The Lord, through His prophets, spoke of Israel’s sin as a terrible wound or incurable disease, which served as a metaphor for Israel’s spiritual state. The four gospels and the Book of Acts, discuss the healing ministries of the Lord Jesus and the Apostles. Healing is a controversial subject in the Church and brings up a lot of questions, such as “Is healing for today?” “Is healing in the atonement?” and “Why don’t we see miracles today?”

I believe the spiritual gifts are for today. I believe that if God in His sovereignty chooses to heal a person, He will heal them, whether through supernatural or natural means. Gifts of healings are mentioned in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 12:9 and 12:30). However, the spiritual gifts are bestowed upon believers as deemed by the Holy Spirit. Thus, not every believer will be gifted with the gift of healing nor will every church flow in the gift of healing. After studying healing in the New Testament, there are certain principles that must be understood.

The Word must first be preached

The gospels and Acts show that Jesus and the Apostles first preached the Gospel before healing took place.

“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” (Matthew 4:23, KJV).

“And they [the Disciples] went out, and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.” (Mark 6:12-13, KJV, brackets mine).

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19, KJV).

“The Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many were taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed.” (Acts 8:5-7, KJV).

Salvation must be emphasized before healing

Matthew 9:2-8, Mark 2:3-12, and Luke 5:16-26 all tell a story of a paralyzed man who was brought to Jesus. The first thing Jesus said to the man was that his sins were forgiven. Of course, this caused a stir with the religious leaders who witnessed the event. Neither the paralyzed man nor his friends made any comment concerning his spiritual condition. However, Jesus being God in the flesh, saw the man’s need for forgiveness and salvation as more important than his physical healing. Jesus also healed the paralyzed man and he walked away from the gathering. As believers, we must always keep in mind that God is more concerned about our long-term spiritual growth than our short-term comforts. There are times believers will struggle with a sickness, disease, or affliction, and may not receive physical healing. God can use these difficult times to draw us closer to Him and teach us to rely on Him. Just like the paralyzed man, Christ wants us to know that our sins are forgiven, for that alone God is worthy to be praised. Multiple New Testament writers wrote about the healing that comes when we confess our sins and accept Christ as Lord and Savior.

“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as they soul prospereth.” (3 John 2, KJV).

“Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:14-16, KJV).

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps…Who his own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1 Peter 2:21, 24, KJV).

The Word must be put into action

As the Church, it is important that we study the Word of God to show ourselves approved of God and teach the truth (2 Timothy 2:15). It is doubly important to put the Word into action. Just as Paul emphasized to the Philippian church, we must apply and share what we have been taught. At various times during His ministry, Jesus sent out His Disciples and gave them authority to preach the Word and heal sicknesses, thus the Disciples applied what they learned. Jesus is the Living Word who came to bring salvation and freedom to all people in all nations. Maybe one of the reasons the Church in the United States does not see miracles take place because we are not correctly studying the Word, not properly representing Christ, or not putting the Word into action. Miracles, however, are taking place all over the world. From my own personal experience, when I went on a missions trip to Thailand and saw many mighty miracles and tens of thousands come to Christ because Jesus was declared as the way to salvation and signs and wonders followed the message. In New Testament times, the miracles took place to validate the ministries of Jesus and the Apostles, spreading the Gospel all around the world. I believe the same thing can happen for the Church in these last days and cause the reaping of a great harvest.

Going All In for the Journey

When the Spanish explorer and conquistador Hernan Cortes landed in Mexico in 1519, history states Cortes instructed his men to “burn the ships.” Imagine for a moment what must have gone through the minds of Cortes’ crew. The crew was thousands of miles from home in a hostile land with no escape plan. There was no turning back; there would be no retreat. At that moment, Cortes’ crew was forced to go “all in” on the journey.

The apostles Andrew, Peter, James, and John did not burn their ships, they simply left them to follow Jesus.

“As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fisherman. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. Immediately called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow him.” (Mark 1:16-20, NASB).

These four men, who were fisherman by trade, walked away from their livelihoods and immediately followed Jesus. Of course, the Bible commands us to work and to take care of our families. However, how much does your job consume you? Do material possessions have more of a hold on us than we have a hold of Christ? Are we like the rich young ruler, who followed all of the commandments and wanted to follow Jesus, but was too attached to his possessions?

If we can shed our material attachment, our journey with God can still come with its share of difficulties as we try to live as Christians in a world growing more hostile to the things of God. There may come a time where we may consider the cost of following Christ and look back with pain, but God will always give us back so much more than we could every give up.

“The Peter said to Him, ‘Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?’ And Jesus said unto them, ‘Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.’” (Matthew 19:27-29, NASB).

Once we have decided to fully follow Christ, there is no going back to our old way of life because it will simply not work and be unfruitful. Consider the actions of Peter in John chapter 21. Jesus has risen from the dead and had appeared to His disciples multiple times. However, Peter decides to go fishing, along with Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two other disciples. The experienced fishermen do not catch any fish after what must have been a long night. Jesus then appears on the beach and tells the disciples where to catch the fish, and they catch multitudes of fish. Jesus and Peter have a conversation, where Jesus reiterates for Peter to follow Him. Jesus also tells Peter that he will one day die for his testimony. This is the point where Peter’s journey changed. Just weeks after this discussion, Peter stood up at Pentecost, full of the Holy Spirit, proclaimed the Gospel and 3,000 souls were saved (Acts 2:14-41).

Just as God did an amazing work in the life of the Apostle Peter, so too He wants to do a work in you. This journey may be long and difficult, but the Lord will be with you each step of the way. God has given us all that we need- His Son, His Holy Spirit, and His Word. We must seek out the Lord and allow Him to prepare us for the work ahead. We must be willing and obedient in order to hear from the Lord. We must remember that our sufficiency is not in anything the world has to offer or even in our own abilities. Our sufficiency is found in Christ and in Christ alone.

The Christian’s Place in this World

People throughout history have often asked themselves the question, “What is my place in this world?” Since Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden of Eden, humanity has been separated from God. However, in every person there is an inner longing to be part of something greater than ourselves, a higher purpose. People may pursue this purpose by doing charitable works, education, reading self-help books or taking up a social cause. While these pursuits are not inherently bad in themselves, apart from a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, they will not draw us closer to God. It is in a relationship with Christ and the study of the Bible where we begin to find our true identity and purpose. For the Christian, our place in the current world is to live our lives for Christ, proclaim His truth, and help bring others into His kingdom.

Before his trial and crucifixion, Jesus prayed this prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane:

 “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of this world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:14-18, KJV).

Romans 12:2 reminds us that we need to renew our minds with God’s Word that we may know God’s will for us. It is also through the Word that we come to know that this world is only temporary and we should be looking for our heavenly home, as did the fathers of our faith.

“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth…But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:13, 16, KJV).

As Christians, our focus should not be on pursuing worldly goals, but pursuing God and His kingdom as Jesus mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:33). We should not walk with one foot in the world and one foot with God. We are to be all in for God. If we are not careful, we can allow ourselves to be overtaken by the things of this present world and become “worldly Christians,” whereby we proclaim the Name of Christ, but live as the secular world lives.

Chasing after the world can put us at odds with God

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in Him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” (1 John 2:15-17, KJV).

 “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4, KJV).

The pursuit of worldly things causes us to be unfruitful in our Christian walk

 “He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word: and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word and he becometh unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:22, KJV).

“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26, KJV).

We must not allow ourselves to be polluted by this present world

“According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2 Peter 1:3-4, KJV).

“That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:15, KJV).

We must live our lives for Christ and His blessed hope

 “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20, KJV).

 “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Titus 2:11-14, KJV).

The world is discouraging and growing more embittered with each passing day until the return of our Savior Jesus Christ. Brothers and sisters, we must continue to pursue God and walk in His ways despite of the increasing wickedness of this present world. Do not let your love grow cold. Do not allow the world to beat you down. May the God of grace and peace be with you all.

Wisdom- The Key to Treasure

No one is immune from making an unwise decision. No matter how educated, respected, or deliberate a person is, at some point he or she will make a bad choice. Our daily lives are filled with choices to make. Though some choices are more life-altering than others, the risk to make a bad choice exist nonetheless. In a perfect world, no one would make a decision unless he or she had all of the information needed about making said decision. However, as we live in this fallen world and face the constant struggles from our sinful natures, or flesh if you will, the temptation to take sole control of our lives will be there. Unfortunately, when we make bad choices, these can result in the loss of respect among peers, broken family relationships, the loss of a job, or even the loss of personal freedom. If you are in a season of dealing with the consequences of a bad choice, there is not guilt, shame, judgment, or condemnation here. I would encourage you to seek the love and forgiveness of our Lord Jesus Christ. Repent and be restored.

We are bombarded daily by temptation. The Bible tells us that these temptations come from within ourselves (see James 4:1-6) and the world around us (see 1 John 2:15-17). How can we as Christians stand strong against temptation in an ever increasing morally relaxed world? Wisdom. Wisdom shows us the path we must walk in order to avoid the landmines of temptation and bad decisions. What is wisdom? The dictionary defines wisdom as “The quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true and right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight.”[i] For the purposes of this article, I would define biblical wisdom as the application of God’s Word to a particular situation. In order to apply God’s Word, we must study it diligently. Of course, there is nothing wrong with seeking the wise counsel of a pastor, spouse, or close friend, but we should seek God first in all things pertaining to our lives. In order to understand and apply biblical wisdom, there are things we must know about wisdom.

Wisdom Comes from God and is Part of God’s Character

            “To God belongs wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are His.” (Job 12:13, NIV).

“By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding He set the heavens in place; By His knowledge the watery depths were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew.” (Proverbs 3:19-20, NIV).

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ…” (Ephesians 1:7-9, NIV, emphasis mine).

God’s Wisdom is Available to everyone who seeks after it

            Biblical wisdom is not something hidden, revealed to only pastors or a select group of people. No, God has made His wisdom known to everyone.

“Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square; on top of the wall she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech: How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings.” (Proverbs 1:20-23, NIV).

“I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.” (Proverbs 4:11-12, NIV).

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Listen! The Lord is calling the city- and to fear your name is wisdom-‘Heed the rod and the One who appointed it.” (Micah 6:8-9, NIV).

When We Acknowledge God, He Will Give Us Wisdom

            Just as the above verse from Micah states, God makes it known what is expected of us, and when we honor and reverence Him and His Word, He will give us wisdom.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7, NIV).

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV).

“He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.” (Isaiah 33:6, NIV).

God Expects Us to be Wise

            “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16, KJV).

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” (Colossians 3:16, NIV).

“Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:5-6, NIV).

Benefits of Heeding Wisdom

            Just as there are consequences for doing the wrong things, there are benefits when we do the right things. For example, if we exercise and take care of our bodies, we can live longer, healthier lives. If we manage our money well, we will have adequate savings and won’t be strapped down by excessive debts. The Bible is very clear about sin and its consequences. However, the Bible also teaches us about the benefits of obedience and heeding God’s wisdom. Though time and space do not permit me to list each Scripture reference, I would encourage you to seek the Lord in the book of Proverbs. Though not a comprehensive list, Proverbs does list the benefits of heeding wisdom:

*We will avoid trouble.

*We can live a blessed life.

*We can live a life free from fear.

*We can find the favor of God.

*We will have understanding.

*We will walk with integrity.

*We will develop patience.

            My prayer for all who read this is that you will seek the Lord’s direction for your life- whatever that may be. Do not reject the free gifts of God- His love, salvation, mercy, or wisdom. Grace and peace unto you.

[1] www.dictionary.reference.com/browse/wisdom%20?s=t/ Accessed 17 January 2015.