Who desires God’s blessings today? Let’s come together in His house for spiritual refreshment.
How lovely is Your tabernacle,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, even faints
For the courts of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
And the swallow a nest for herself,
Where she may lay her young—
Even Your altars, O Lord of hosts,
My King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in Your house;
They will still be praising You.
Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage?
As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
They make it a spring;
The rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
Each one appears before God in Zion.
O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
Give ear, O God of Jacob!
God, behold our shield,
And look upon the face of Your anointed.
For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
The Lord will give grace and glory;
No good thing will He withhold
From those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts,
Blessed is the man who trusts in You! ~ Psalm 84 NKJV
Which lines of this psalm speak to you today?
Dear Heavenly Father, draw our hearts to You today in true worship. May we find rest and strength for our souls in Your house. Protect us in these days where wickedness dwells openly in the land. Give us Your grace, fill our lives with good things, and bless us with Your presence as we place our trust in You, our Redeemer and Lord. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness…
Romans 3:23-25a NKJV
How will you be spending Good Friday this year? My desires today are:
to humble myself before Him;
to be still and know that He is God, my Saviour, and my Redeemer;
to meditate through Scripture on the depths of His sufferings;
to remember His sacrifice through taking communion;
to thank and worship Him for His gift of salvation;
to listen to what the Holy Spirit would speak to me.
On this holy day of Passion week, may we take time to prayerfully ponder the meaning of what Christ accomplished for us on the cross. Let’s remember the ways Jesus shed His precious blood and the benefits He purchased for each of us. It cost Him everything, but by His grace, it costs us nothing. How wonderful that salvation is a free gift!
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV
Christ shed His blood in seven places.
Let’s discuss the seven places Christ shed His blood (if you wish to read a medical explanation of how Jesus could be born with pure and sinless blood, click HERE).
The seven places where Jesus shed His blood fulfilled Old Testament Scripture in Leviticus 16.When the Jewish High Priest made atonement for the sins of the people once a year, he sprinkled blood seven times on the mercy seat, seven times in front of the mercy seat, and seven times on the horns of the altar. (Click HERE to read the full account in Leviticus 16:11-19 NKJV.)
The first place Jesus shed His blood happened during His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.
“And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44 NKJV). Just as in the Garden of Eden where Man lost his state of innocence through Adam’s sin, it was in this garden that Jesus’s blood began the redemption process for all mankind.
The second place occurred when Pilate ordered His scourging.
They flogged the back of Jesus with thirty-nine lashes–just under the legal limit of forty. “Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified” (Matthew 27:26 NKJV). This blood paid for all our sicknesses and diseases: “The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5b NKJV).
The bruises he bore under His skin marked the third place He bled for us.
“Then they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands, saying, ‘Prophesy to us, Christ! Who is the one who struck You?’ (Matthew 26:67-68 NKJV). This blood was shed for our inherited weaknesses or iniquities, as Isaiah states. “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5a NKJV).
The crown of long thorns the soldiers wove and pushed onto Jesus’s head was the fourth place He shed His holy blood.
This blood gives us the mind of Christ, freeing our thoughts from the control of the enemy. (Click HERE to read this account in Matthew 27:27-31 NKJV.)
When the centurion drove the nails into Jesus’s hands and feet, these were the fifth and sixth places Christ bled for us.
His blood-stained hands freed us to receive all that God has for us and to lift our hands in holy prayer (Click HERE to read 1 Timothy 2:8 NKJV). His blood-stained feet gave us back dominion on the earth that we lost through Adam’s sin. Through His blood, we can claim righteousness and power over Satan wherever our feet touch the ground (Click HERE to read Luke 10:19 NKJV).
The blood and water that came out of His side was the seventh place He shed His blood for us.
After Jesus had surrendered His spirit into God’s hands, the centurion speared His side. (Click HERE to read John 19:31-37 NKJV). The release of blood and water proved medically that Jesus’s heart had burst, making this blood the provision for the healing of our broken hearts.
Dear Lord, may we truly understand the depth of Your love for us. Thank you for suffering and dying in our place on this holy day. We worship You, precious Lamb of God. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Have you ever wondered about the significance of waving palm branches to the Lord? Let’s glean a richer understanding of this Palm Sunday celebration. Come along as I share this nugget from God’s treasure chest with you.
“The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: ‘Hosanna!“ Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” The King of Israel!’”
John 12:12-13 NKJV
Here’s the story…
As Jesus and His disciples approached Jerusalem, He sent two of them ahead to find and untie a colt on which no one had sat. The Lord instructed them to answer anyone who questioned their actions by saying that the Lord had need of it, so they would allow it. As the disciples obeyed, it happened exactly as Jesus had said. They spread their cloaks over the animal’s back where Jesus then sat and led him down the hill into Jerusalem.
When the multitudes who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was arriving, they ran to meet Him. They laid their cloaks on the ground and cut down leafy branches as a “red carpet” for Jesus’s entrance into the city. The excited crowds consisted of those from Bethany who had witnessed Lazarus’s resurrection from the dead and those in Jerusalem who had heard about this great sign. They congregated joyfully around Him, waving palm branches and chanting Scripture taken from Psalm 118:25-26: “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ The King of Israel!” (John 12:13 NKJV).
The Jews intended to cast off Caesar and his Roman rule and crown Jesus as their king. This uproar, however, distressed the Pharisees because they were losing the fight to suppress His popularity. Caiaphas expressed fear over what would happen to them politically, realizing they had to side with Rome against Jesus in order to save themselves.
What’s the significance?
What is the significance of people waving palm branches? We can trace this practice in both the Old and New Testaments.
In Leviticus 23:39-44 (Click HERE), the Israelites waved beautiful palm branches for seven days during the Feast of Tabernacles (also called the Feast of Booths or Sukkot). This feast memorializes how God brought them out of slavery from the land of Egypt. (For more study about the Feast of Tabernacles, click HERE.)
During Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the people rejoiced by waving palm branches in His honor. They welcomed the deliverance they believed He was bringing to them—freedom from Roman tyranny and the political occupation of Israel. They honored Him as a king riding victoriously into His kingdom. A worldly king would come riding on a horse—a symbol of war—but He came riding on a donkey’s colt—a symbol of peace. Later the disciples would understand how this act fulfilled Zechariah 9:9:
“‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
Lastly, we find a future waving of palm branches during a thrilling time in heaven. Revelation 7:9 describes those who will be saved out of the Great Tribulation wearing white robes and holding palm branches. They will cry out, “‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (v.10). (Click HERE to read more about it.)
Do you understand why waving palm branches is significant to God? It represents people showing thanks for God’s deliverance.
In Leviticus, God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and entrance back into their Promised Land.
The Gospels describe how the Jews expected deliverance from Rome’s political tyranny and the beginning of Messiah’s reign.
Revelation reveals the Lamb of God who will deliver a multitude from the evil rule of the Anti-Christ. They will stand before God’s throne and will serve Him day and night in His temple.
The triumphant entry into Jerusalem will happen one day in the future. At the Second Coming of Christ, Jesus will be riding on a white horse, not a donkey’s colt. He will come to make war on the Anti-Christ and destroy his reign. This is the age when the Messiah’s eternal reign will begin. (Click HERE to read Revelation 19:11-16.)
As we joyfully wave our palm branches on Palm Sunday, let’s remember to be deeply thankful to God for His gift of deliverance. Jesus loosed us from the bondage of sin and death and gave us the right to become God’s sons and daughters through Jesus’s shed blood. We will be joint-heirs with Christ in His kingdom forever.
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”
John 1:12 NKJV
Dear Lord, thank you for becoming our King of kings and Lord of lords. We wave our palm branches to you with hearts full of thanksgiving and praise for Your gift of deliverance. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Happy Purim! Purim takes place this year on February 25-26, 2021. I’m re-posting to again commemorate this blessed season and share Queen Esther’s amazing story. Jerusalem is now the official capital of Israel, and Netanyahu is still Prime Minister of Israel. God had strategically placed President Trump in the White House for this time in history. Let’s remember that God is in control, not a political party or a European secret society. Let’s not fear but rejoice as we look to God and place our trust in Him and His perfect plan.
God makes no mistakes when it comes to timing.
International secret societies may laugh at us common folks. Their ultra-rich members think they’re the ones who clandestinely hide an evil secret—that they control the world’s future, driving it headlong into the coming one-world government.
However, as Christians, we’ve read the end of the Book. Revelation comforts us that Jesus will return, destroying the anti-Christ’s seven-year one-world system at the Battle of Armageddon. Then Jesus will set up His kingdom without end—the Judeo-Christian Kingdom of God.
What about today? God made no mistake about our existence at this time in history. You and I are destined to be here now.
So it was with Hadassah, a beautiful Jewish girl who attained royalty in Persia during the 5th-century BC. She had no idea she had been chosen by God to deliver her Jewish people from annihilation until she was in the thick of a life-and-death battle. Her story began when her cousin, Mordecai, sent word about what wicked Haman, a close adviser to the King, had plotted.
And Mordecai told [Hathach] all that had happened to him, and the sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king’s treasuries to destroy the Jews.He also gave him a copy of the written decree for their destruction, which was given at Shushan, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her, and that he might command her to go in to the king to make supplication to him and plead before him for her people ~ Esther 4:6-8 NKJV.
What could Esther do to defend the Jews from Haman’s evil plan? Mordecai had directed her not to breathe a word about her ethnic background. Her husband, King Ahasuerus, had no idea she was a Jew.
Esther communicated with frantic messages back and forth to Mordecai, who was clothed in sackcloth and ashes. In response to her questions, her cousin replied with deep wisdom—words we quote even today:
‘For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knowswhether you have come to the kingdom for sucha time as this?’
Esther 4:14 NKJV
Esther threw herself into her destiny, willing to sacrifice her life for the Jews if necessary—and she broke a law that could have done just that.
Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: ‘Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!’
Esther 4:15-16 NKJV.
God anointed Esther with great favor in the king’s sight, and he promised to grant her petition up to half his kingdom. In response, Esther extended an invitation for the king and Haman to attend a banquet on the following two days.
Then Queen Esther replied, ‘If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me as my petition, and my people as my request; for we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed and to be annihilated.’ … Then King Ahasuerus asked Queen Esther, ‘Who is he, and where is he, who would presume to do thus?’ Esther said, ‘A foe and an enemy is this wicked Haman!’
Esther 7:3-4, 5-6a NASB
After the King understood that his top political adviser had devised the plan to annihilate the Jews, he commanded Haman to be hanged on the gallows—ironically, the one on which Haman had constructed to hang Mordecai.
In response to their deliverance, the Jews celebrated, feasting and sending food to one another. This feast is called Purim, named for the lot Haman cast for the day he would annihilate the Jews.
It’s clear that Queen Esther was promoted to the palace to serve God’s purpose, which came to pass through her humility and obedience.
But Esther’s story has recently been repeated in our modern times.
On March 3, 2015, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke before the United States Congress. He pled his case for protecting Israel from her enemies, today’s Persia. Like Queen Esther, Netanyahu is a Jew from the Tribe of Benjamin. Like her, he pled before the mightiest nation of the world on the afternoon before a very auspicious day: Purim. Coincidence? No, it happenedfor such a time as this.
God answered Netanyahu by placing a pro-Israel President into the Oval Office in 2017. This is a man who not only honors and defends Israel and her rights of existence but also defends the rights of Christians to worship in freedom. Coincidence? No, it happened for such a time as this.
God makes no mistakes when it comes to timing. You and I were born for such a time as this.
What is God asking you to do for His kingdom in these days?
For Such a Time as This by Karen Jurgens copyright 2021. All rights reserved.
Who is the author of love? On Valentine’s Day, the world may claim it’s Cupid. But as Christians, we know who is the real author is—Jesus Christ.
What are the characteristics of love?
4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NASB
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, most of us have someone special on our minds. The day lends a unique opportunity to express our appreciation in a way that demonstrates devotion to our loved ones.
What about exchanging valentines with Jesus?
God gave us His valentine when He sent Jesus into the world.
16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
John 3:16-17 NASB
Jesus signed his valentine in red from the Cross.
8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 NASB
How much does He love us?
15 Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. 16 Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.
Isaiah 49:15-16 NASB
Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Matthew 10:29-31 NKJV
Let’s rejoice in His love!
9In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.
1 John 4:9 NKJV
I will extol You, my God, O King; And I will bless Your name forever and ever. 2 Every day I will bless You, And I will praise Your name forever and ever. 3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
Psalm 145:1-3a NKJV
On Valentine’s Day, how will you celebrate your love for Jesus?
The Author of Love by Karen Jurgens copyright 2021 All rights reserved
Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the Lord.
Psalm 31:24 NKJV
Christmas Day may be almost a week behind us, but its message of hope to the world still rings strong and true. Let’s enjoy a former post that brings HOPE to the forefront as we ring in 2021.
Do you think Mary dreamed God-given dreams? Perhaps even becoming the Mother of God? From their study of the scriptures, every girl knew of the promise that Messiah would one day be born of a virgin. So, can you imagine her shock when Gabriel appeared, unfolding God’s purpose for her life? Chosen above every other woman, Mary listened as the angel told her she would carry the Promised One, Messiah, in her womb. She even discussed with this heavenly messenger the biological technicality of how this pregnancy were possible, seeing as how she was a virgin. All she had to do was trust God and the Holy Spirit would deposit this immaculate conception inside her—a marvelous mystery of Scripture fulfilled.
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel ~ Isaiah 7:14 NASB.
Like Mary’s physical womb, God fills up our spiritual wombs with godly hope and dreams. We must guard them carefully to avoid spiritual abortion. Our enemy, described as a roaring lion, is secretly lurking to devour us and steal our deepest desires.
But sometimes God may give us a dream and then call us to move. And it may seem to make absolutely no sense.
God moved Mary in the last days of her pregnancy due to a census registration in the land. Instead of staying home in her warm bed surrounded by family and friends, Joseph placed her on the back of a donkey and led her to Bethlehem.
Why did God do that to her at a time so close to her delivery date?
When they arrived, Mary was in hard labor. Although imperative that Joseph find a place for her immediately, even that was tenuous. No room at the inn for a mother-to-be. But a smelly stable full of animals and straw was available. I imagine that Mary was grateful for any place she could lie down and give birth to Jesus, even if it meant being surrounded by a chorus of moos, baas, and neighs of animals witnessing this great event.
The blessing of the birth taking place in Bethlehem is also a fulfillment of Scripture.
‘But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth from Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity’ ~ Micah 5:2 NASB.
It’s easy to understand from a human perspective how a stable in Bethlehem would be God’s perfect plan. In Nazareth, Mary’s reputation was tarnished by this out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Which of those prejudiced townsfolk would have understood that this was the Savior of the World? This great event had to take place where Mary and Joseph were strangers, as well as apart from crowds registering for the census.
The angels appeared in the skies that night to the shepherds in the fields, who came running to witness the miracle told to them. Could that announcement have been possible in Nazareth? With all the gossip during those nine months, perhaps no one would have believed that Messiah, instead of an illigitimate baby, had been born.
God always brings glory to Himself, and that is what He did the night of Jesus’s birth. He glorified His name through the birth of His Son, who was born both fully God and fully man. The sinless One was born to die thirty-three years later for the sins of every person. The time to worship Him is now as we celebrate His divine entrance into the world.
No matter what trials you face in this life, Jesus brings ultimate hope. Like Mary, may you conceive and carry God-given dreams, and may this Christmas season birth in you the hope of heaven.
“And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; ”
(Luke 21:25a NKJV)
Did you hear that the Christmas star is reappearing on December 21st? Saturn and Jupiter will once again come together in the night sky and form what is also called the Bethlehem Star. This sign in the heavens hasn’t been witnessed exactly like this since the 13th century. (Read more HERE.)
But what about the star’s appearance in the first century?
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’”
Matthew 2:1-2 NKJV
The birth of Christ occurred during an era of political unrest and upheaval, much like our day.
“When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.”
Matthew 2:3-4 NKJV
The chief priests and scribes knew the prophecy well. They told the magi,
“In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel’” (Matthew 2:5-6 NKJV).
Herod’s heart was black with envy and murder. He pinned down the magi about the exact time the star had first appeared. Then he instructed them to report back to him regarding the Child’s whereabouts, pretending that he also wished to worship Him.
This star led the three magi on until it rested above the place sheltering the holy family.
“When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
Matthew 2:10-11 NKJV
God supplied the material and spiritual needs for His Son’s thirty-three years on earth. The gold represented His kingship; frankincense for His high priesthood; and myrrh for His suffering and burial.
“Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.”
Matthew 2:12 NKJV
This Christmas season is unlike any the world has experienced. Ever. The political upheaval and worldwide plague we are suffering have led us down a dark path. But on December 21st, great hope will appear in the night’s sky. Look up! We will witness the same star that will lead us, like the magi, to our Lord and Saviour. May we fall on our knees and worship the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, as we enter into His holy presence. May we give Him our gifts–our whole hearts–and rejoice in the true meaning of this Christmas season.
Let’s commemorate this amazing event together with of my favorite carols, We Three Kings. Reverend John Henry Hopkins, Jr., wrote the lyrics and music in 1857. It was published in Carols, Hymns, and Songs in 1863. Below are the lyrics along with a youtube video from King’s College, Cambridge.
We Three Kings (lyrics)
We three kings of Orient are Bearing gifts we traverse afar Field and fountain, moor and mountain Following yonder star
O Star of wonder, star of night Star with royal beauty bright Westward leading, still proceeding Guide us to thy Perfect Light
Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain Gold I bring to crown Him again King forever, ceasing never Over us all to reign
O Star of wonder, star of night Star with royal beauty bright Westward leading, still proceeding Guide us to Thy perfect light
Frankincense to offer have I Incense owns a Deity nigh Prayer and praising, all men raising Worship Him, God most high
O Star of wonder, star of night Star with royal beauty bright Westward leading, still proceeding Guide us to Thy perfect light
Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume Breathes of life of gathering gloom Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying Sealed in the stone-cold tomb
O Star of wonder, star of night Star with royal beauty bright Westward leading, still proceeding Guide us to Thy perfect light
Glorious now behold Him arise King and God and Sacrifice Alleluia, Alleluia Earth to heav’n replies
O Star of wonder, star of night Star with royal beauty bright Westward leading, still proceeding Guide us to Thy perfect light
Let’s follow the Christmas star, which points the way to peace, hope, and salvation. Wishing you a blessed Christmas season!
The Christmas Star copyright 2020 by Karen Jurgens
The Hanukkah celebration isn’t just for Jews. If we look closely, we’ll find Jesus Christ, both the Jewish Messiah and Savior of the world, at its very core.
First, some history…
The significance of Hanukkah is embedded in a miracle. The second Temple was rebuilt in Jerusalem following the successful Maccabean revolt against the Greco-Seleucid Empire. The Jews expelled these pagans, after which the Jews purified the Temple. During this Feast of Dedication, eight menorah candles were lighted, one for each day. The flames required sacred olive oil, but there was only enough oil to last one day. In spite of the impossible circumstances, the flames miraculously burned all eight days.
Today, Jews celebrate this minor religious holiday not only to remember this miracle but also to commemorate the victory God gave to Jewish freedom fighters, the Maccabees, in 139 B.C.
Jesus celebrated Hanukkah…
The gospel of John gives us the only account of Jesus during Hanukkah, also called the Feast of Dedication. In John 10, we find Jesus walking in the Temple along Solomon’s porch.
Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, ‘How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly’ ~ John 10:24 NKJV.
This group of unbelievers (much like a lynching mob) didn’t want the truth—they had already decided Jesus was a blasphemer, and they only wanted His words to legally condemn Him. But Jesus responded with a clever answer.
Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one’ ~ John 10:25-30.
Then the Jews took up stones to kill Jesus, claiming their right to do so since He had made Himself equal with God, a sin in Jewish law punishable by death. But Jesus proved His deity another way.
If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him ~ John 10:37-38.
This mob refused to believe Jesus’s miraculous works, which proved His supernatural identity. Instead of waiting for them to cast their stones, Jesus slipped away and withdrew to the region of the Jordan.
But isn’t it ironic that just as the Maccabees had driven unbelievers out of the Jewish Temple, now unbelievers were driving out the Son of God from that very Temple?
Jesus’s true identity…
Jesus claimed to be the light of the world.
He [John] was not that Light but was sent to bear witness of that Light.That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world ~ John 1:8-9.
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life’ ~ John 8:12.
‘As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world’ ~ John 9:5.
What does Jesus, the light of the world, have in common with this Festival of Lights, beginning at sundown on December 10, 2020, and concluding on December 18th?
The symbol of lights comes from the lighted menorah candles, which burn for eight days and nights. As Hanukkah’s candles light Jewish homes, so Jesus lights the lives of believers.
God created our spirits with a God-shaped vacuum that only He can fill. When we’re born again, the war against unbelief is won, expelled from our hearts. Then our spirit’s “temple” is purified by the blood of the Lamb shed at the cross. The Holy Spirit fills our spiritual “menorah” with His sacred oil and ignites our hearts with the flame of belief. We shine with the eternal light of Jesus living within us, as a lighted lamp for the world to see.
The lamp of the body…
‘The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light’ ~ Matthew 6:22.
‘You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven’ ~ Matthew 5:14-16.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light ~ Ephesians 5:8.
God provides several prototypes of the miraculous advent of Messiah in the Old Testament. Jewish believers will understand how Jesus shines through the eight candles of the Hanukkah miracle, but now it’s time that Christians also discover this truth. Judaism and Christianity fit together like a hand in a glove.
As we come into this season of Christmas, let’s remember that the light of God came into the world through the birth of His Son, Jesus. May we rejoice, as did the shepherds that Holy Night, in the salvation message the angels brought to earth, announcing that a Savior had been born in Bethlehem.
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’ ~ Luke 2:8-14.
May our eternal spiritual menorahs burn brightly. May all the world see the light of Jesus, our Messiah, shine through our lives.
Wishing you all a Happy Hanukkah and a Merry Christmas!
Copyright 2020:Finding Jesus in Hanukkah by Author Karen Jurgens: All Rights Reserved
What does true thankfulness look like? Let’s delve into the Scriptures for a picture of this deep emotion, that it may inspire us as we thank God for our blessings this year.
“’I am the resurrection and the life; the one who believes in Me will live, even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.'”
John 11:25-26 NASB
Have you ever been disappointed if your prayer wasn’t answered in your timing?
We can surmise that Mary and Martha felt intense disappointment when Jesus came too late to heal their sick brother, Lazarus. Each sister had a unique emotional reaction to Jesus’s arrival, although each greeted Him with the same words: “‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died’” (John 11: 20-21 NASB). I imagine that in the four days since Lazarus’s death, they had often repeated this wish as they grieved.
The sister of reason and responsibility
As soon as Martha heard that the Lord was approaching, she didn’t wait for Him to call her. She ran to Him first. No tears, no scolding for tarrying. Instead, she professed her deep faith in the Messiah. “Martha then said to Jesus, ‘Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You’” (John 11:22 NASB).
They conversed about the concept of resurrection in relation to her deceased brother, and Jesus announced that Lazarus would live again. Martha acknowledged that Lazarus would be raised at the resurrection, but Jesus took the opportunity to clarify His true identity.
Mary, on the other hand, had chosen not to accompany Martha to the outskirts of town to meet Jesus. Perhaps her heart was too torn with grief. But when her sister raced back and whispered secretly that Jesus was calling for her, Mary ran to Him.
“So when Mary came to the place where Jesus was, she saw Him and fell at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’ Therefore when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled.”
John 11:32-33 NASB
Next, we see Jesus weeping, and we observe the reaction of the crowd to His display of emotion. Not only did they marvel at the Lord’s deep love for Lazarus, but they also wondered. Why hadn’t He come sooner to save this man’s life?
Can’t we imagine the crowd’s shock when Jesus commanded the stone be rolled away? Even Martha cautioned Him about a four-day stench. Jesus, however, commanded: “’Lazarus, come out!’” (John 11:43 NASB).
Although the story ends with the miracle of Lazarus in his graveclothes hobbling to the entrance of the tomb, we aren’t privy to the rest of the story. But we can imagine everyone on their knees, believing in and worshiping the Messiah who had just proved His identity as the resurrection and the life.
The last visit
The next time we find Jesus in Bethany was shortly before His crucifixion. Martha again served the meal as Mary sat at the feet of the Lord.
“Mary then took a pound of very expensive perfume of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair, and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”
John 12:3 NASB
Her sacrifice of lavishing a year’s wage upon Jesus was an act of deepest gratitude for resurrecting her brother.
How does this story relate to us?
What a valuable lesson! No, Jesus isn’t ignoring our prayers, even when all appears lost. He arrives at the right time and performs a miracle of resurrection in a way we couldn’t have imagined.
Some of us may be rational like Marthaand question God. The Lord will reason with us about our disappointments and help us to understand. He is the resurrection and the life every day, not just on Resurrection Day. Like Martha, may we serve Him with a gift of deep gratitude.
Others may be emotional like Mary and weep at Jesus’s feet. The Lord is kind and compassionate, and He weeps with us. He shares our deepest grief out of His perfect love. Like Mary, may we fall at Jesus’s feet and lavish Him with a sacrificial gift of worship.
Since we are all born in original sin, our spirits are like that dead body stinking in the grave. But Jesus doesn’t turn away from us in our spiritual rottenness. Instead, He calls us to come forth into His marvelous light of salvation, making our spirits alive.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB
Are you truly thankful this year? As we gather around our Thanksgiving tables, let’s express deep gratefulness to Jesus, especially for His free gift of salvation and grace.
Dear Father, we thank you out of a grateful heart for all Your blessings in 2020. We bring you our unanswered prayers and lay them at the foot of the cross. We believe in a God of resurrection power who can bring life to what appears to be dead. Most of all, we praise You for Your free gift of salvation and pray that many would believe in You today. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Wishing you a blessed Thanksgiving!
Copyright 2020: True Thankfulness: Author Karen Jurgens: All Rights Reserved
This year has shaken the world to its core. I’m more than ready to return to normal life. How about you? Has your life changed? Regardless of what you may have lost, there is a lighthouse of hope and faith shining in the distance. We may be uncertain about our future, but we can be certain of WHO holds our future. Jesus. He will always be our answer to whatever we face along life’s road.
Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ And He said, ‘Come!’
Matthew 14: 28-29a NASB
Has Jesus ever extended His hand, called you, and said, Come?” In this topsy-turvy boat of 2020, we yearn to grasp the comforting, outstretched hand of our Savior, but there’s a catch.
Walk on the water?
Jesus had sent his disciples ahead of him to cross to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. During that windy night, the Lord appeared in the distance, walking on the water. The disciples initially cried out, thinking they had seen a ghost.
“But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid’”
Matthew 14:27 NASB
Peter’s boldness tested the veracity of the Lord’s identity. After Jesus called to him, he stepped out of the rocking boat and kept his eyes on Jesus. Miraculously, the water supported his weight. He took one step, then another. Just when he might have grown a bit confident, the wind kicked up, causing a distraction.
“But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’”
Matthew 14:30 NASB
When we take our eyes of faith off the Lord, fear causes us to sink into a sea of doubt.
Twenty-twenty has been a year of immense change.
In some ways, our lives may never be the same. Regardless, we mustn’t be fearful of the windy, unfamiliar days on which we now tread. Jesus will always keep us safe. We can trust Him with all our hearts.
“Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’”
Matthew 14:31 NASB
How did the story end? Here is the best part.
“When Jesus and Peter got into the boat, the wind stopped. And the rest of the disciples who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son!’”
Matthew 14:32-33 NASB
As Jesus calms the storms in our lives, our hearts will burst with gratitude. We will fall on our knees and worship Him. Like the disciples, we have proof of His identity—He is indeed the Son of God.
Jesus is extending His hand and saying, Come!” Are you ready to step out of your boat and walk on the water?
Dear Jesus, when we’re in a storm, may our eyes stay focused on You. Give us courageous faith to walk on the water to Your outstretched hand. We praise You for keeping us safe in Your loving arms. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Copyright 2020: Walking on the Water: Author Karen Jurgens: All Rights Reserved
I scrolled through social media posts and fell to my knees.
“The fires are getting closer and we have been ordered to evacuate. We don’t know what to take with us or if our house will even be here when we can return. Please pray!”
“Our business has been ransacked and our building is on fire. We’ve lost everything. Please pray!”
“We’re at the hospital after we were attacked at a restaurant. My husband may not survive his injuries. Please pray!”
These messages of despair–just a few of many others– bring tears to my eyes, and I pray for God’s merciful hand of protection and deliverance for each one.
When have there ever been such upheavals in our land? The United States has been blessed not to have fought a war on our soil until September 11, 2001. But today we have an internal war raging unlike anything since the Civil War. It is still hard to make sense of this conflict, although many theories abound.
In addition to our present circumstances, Friday marked the nineteenth anniversary of 9-11. We need to pause and remember what our nation suffered on that fateful day so it will never be repeated. Despite the horrors, we see its heroes—the police and firefighters who rescued so many trapped in burning buildings before the towers collapsed in a nightmarish heap of steel and dust. Those who lived to tell their story will be forever in debt to those brave people who sacrificed everything to save innocent lives. And let’s not forget the brave souls on flight 93 who sacrificed their lives. We will forever remember those who lost their lives that tragic day.
Where is God?
Through the current rioting, plagues, floods, and fires, where is comfort? Hope? Answers? Where is God?
The prophet Habakkuk shows us the answer. He takes us into his time of terror and destruction about 2,500 years ago when he also cried out to God:
How long, O Lord, will I call for help, And You will not hear? I cry out to You, “Violence!” Yet You do not save. Why do You make me see iniquity, And cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; Strife exists and contention arises. Therefore the law is ignored And justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore justice comes out perverted.
Habakkuk 1:2-4 NKJV
How does this apply to us?
What applies to our lives from the study of the Babylonians’ (a.k.a. Chaldeans’) ancient invasion of Judah? When Habakkuk cried out to God to save the temple and God’s people, how did God respond?
Instead of stopping the overthrow of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, God assured Habakkuk that He, God, was in total control, and the Babylonians would be accountable for their evil actions. The prophet realized that God’s knowledge and wisdom was far above Man’s when God said, “Look among the nations and watch—Be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you (Habakkuk 1:5 NKJV).
But the prophet continued to question God, much like we do.
How can a holy God look on evil and allow the wicked to swallow up the righteous? Why doesn’t God stop this injustice?
God had an answer that we must hear, for it is as relevant today as it was in 588 B.C.
Then the Lord answered me and said, “Record the vision And inscribe it on tablets, That the one who reads it may run. “For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay. “Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.
Habakkuk 2:2-4 NASB
Timing, patience, and faith
We must understand that God has a much bigger plan than we can imagine, and it has its own timetable. We must wait patiently for the answer to arrive, which is neither early nor late. God’s timing is perfect.
And most importantly…we, the just, must live by our faith, and, at the same time, understand that the lawless ones cannot due to the evil in their souls.
The rest of the book describes God’s greatness, strength, and goodness, which encourages Habakkuk. He prays an emotional prayer, asking God to show mercy through His coming wrath.
Can we praise God through our pain? Our suffering? Our fears? Habakkuk began with frantic desperation but ended with confident trust. His prayer inspires us to praise God, live in faith, and trust Him to guide us along narrow, rocky paths. Here are his words:
I heard and my inward parts trembled, At the sound my lips quivered. Decay enters my bones, And in my place I tremble. Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress, For the people to arise who will invade us. Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, And makes me walk on my high places.
Like Habakkuk, are you willing to trust God through devastating circumstances?
Dear Lord, help us who are suffering through these painful days. Even when we can’t understand why, we know you have a good plan to save us. Deliver us from evil, plagues, and natural disasters, and let us place all our trust in You. You are a good, good Father. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Copyright 2020: Trusting God Through Devastating Circumstances: Author Karen Jurgens: All Rights Reserved
Just as the disciples witnessed the beginning of the Church Age, are we witnessing its end?
Nothing about 2020 has been ordinary. This New Year’s cup has gushed over with one surprise after another. First, the Covid-19 Pandemic has gripped most of the world inside its tight fist. Then civil unrest around our country and the world has produced rampant lawlessness. Many lives have been turned upside down by fear of the future as jobs and businesses disappear overnight. The swiftness of these events occurring almost simultaneously have left us stunned, asking, “What’s next?” Could this be the end of our civilization and culture as we know it?
What did the disciples live through?
The disciples lived through frightening upheavals after Jesus’s arrest, torture, and crucifixion. Peter had sworn only hours before that he would never forsake the Lord, even if he had to die with Him. As Jesus had predicted, Peter denied Him three times out of his fear of man.
While the distraught disciples took refuge together, Judas hanged himself over the regret of his denial of Jesus. Only John stood with the Lord and the women at the foot of the cross where they witnessed His death.
Although Jesus had told his disciples several times that the Son of Man would be crucified, they still acted in surprise. And even though Jesus had explained that He would be resurrected to life on the third day, it took time for them to believe it—especially doubting Thomas.
Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
John 20:24-26 NKJV
Nothing turned out the way the disciples had planned a few days earlier when Jesus had ridden triumphantly into Jerusalem. Following His death, they sorrowed in deep depression as evidenced by the two men who had walked to Emmaus and encountered Jesus unaware.
And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?”
Luke 24:17 NKJV
2020 hasn’t turned out as we planned.
So we find ourselves in unexpected turmoil and sadness today, questioning God about what is going on. Separation from friends and loved ones, closed churches, masked faces, and the rise of lawlessness—nothing has turned out the way we had planned in 2020. Like the disciples, we are sorrowing in depression over what we have lost.
But just as the disciples joyfully realized that all wasn’t lost after Jesus had appeared to them, so should we. They found Jesus, who gave them newfound hope and victory through the power of His death and resurrection. Every word Jesus had spoken to them had come true. Then they understood, and Jesus took the next forty days to prepare and commission them to be the foundation of the Church Age. The Age of Grace entered the world with free salvation of eternal life for whoever would receive it.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
Matthew 28:18-20 NKJV
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV
The curtain of this age is closing.
This Church Age of God’s grace has endured for two thousand years, but I believe the curtain is starting to close. We are entering the final phase before the Tribulation begins, and it is perfectly normal that we are shaking in our shoes as we wonder what to expect. We are so like the disciples, aren’t we?
But just as the disciples had Jesus to prepare them for what to expect, so do we. God has spoken to us in His Word, telling us what these last days will be like and not to fear.
“Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.“
Luke 12:32 NKJV
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
2 Timothy 3:1-5 NKJV
Read the words of Jesus as He explains the end of the age HERE. (Matthew 24: 3-44.)
We mustn’t waste time wringing our hands in anxiety and finding a place to hide until this evil time passes over us. We may feel lost like the men on the road to Emmaus, but Jesus will join us on our journey. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit in Acts Chapter 2 to give His disciples the power to witness to the world about Christ and His wonderful plan of salvation. Jesus is also giving us a new anointing, stronger than before, to live and witness in these last days before the Rapture.
As the disciples received this fresh anointing after they had gathered and prayed in the Upper Room, so we will also receive our fresh anointing as we gather to pray for revival.
We will receive a new anointing for these last days.
This is the hour to receive our fresh end-time anointing, just as in Acts Chapter 2. We are to use it to witness to the lost and invite everyone to enter the ark of salvation.
It’s also time for us to repent, wash our sins in the blood of the Lamb, and put on our white wedding clothes. We must get ready for our Groom to come to get us and take us to His home in heaven.
In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
John 14:2-3 NKJV
Let’s rejoice that we are alive and participating in the end of this age. What a privilege to make ourselves ready to meet our King Jesus in the air! The time is short. Are you getting ready?
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 NKJV
As the world grows darker, the church grows brighter. As the world grows more evil, the church is growing stronger in righteousness and courage. Allow your faith to grow and sustain you during these transitional days. We may be mourning our past, but it doesn’t begin to compare to our future in heaven. Look up! The trump of God will soon be calling us home.
Are you ready to meet Jesus? If you’re not sure, you can be sure today. Please pray this prayer with me.
Dear Lord, I’m a sinner in need of a Savior. I confess my sins and ask you to wash them away in the blood of the Lamb. I receive You into my life to be my Savior and Lord. I thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to be my Teacher and Comforter. Thank you, Lord, for saving me and writing my name in the Lamb’s Book of Life. And I rejoice that I will live forever with You in Your kingdom. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
First published in 2015, I want to again share my thoughts with you this Father’s Day. This year marks the twenty-fifth year of my dad’s passing, and I miss him so very much. But I look forward to heaven where we’ll all be reunited with our loved ones forever.
During my regular run in a nearby park, I slowed to a walk in the midst of the growing afternoon heat, mopping away the perspiration dripping down my face. Close behind me, a father and his little girl held hands as they went along. Proximity provided me an ear to their conversation.
“I love you, Daddy, on Father’s Day.” Her excited voice bubbled up to him.
“I love you, sweetheart, every day!” His tone promised forever, unconditional love.
The exchange was precious, and a smile spread across my face, reminding me of my own father. The only thing I have of him now are my sweet memories since he went to heaven twenty years ago. How I yearn to have him on earth again, to walk hand in hand and tell him that I love him. Even though that’s not possible, I still have the rich legacy he left behind.
His love of sports…
Growing up, he shared his love of baseball with me. In summer, he taught me how to play softball by practicing batting and playing catch in the backyard after dinner. He took my mother and me to practically every Reds game, beginning at the old Crosley Field and continuing years later at Riverfront Stadium. We had great seats in the section where visiting VIPs would watch Opening Day, the Playoffs, or the World Series, and I have lots of famous signatures on my scorecard books tucked away for permanent safe-keeping.
Although I still have his valuable collection of autographed baseballs and bats, my most precious possession is my memory of sitting next to him at the games, sharing a bag of fresh roasted peanuts while pestering him with all my annoying questions–whether foul tips count as balls or strikes, and who the players were—all which he patiently answered. Whether quoting RBI or home run averages, he lit up and was at his happiest when discussing the sport he loved most.
Around the house, cutting the grass was one of his favorite jobs. Anyone who knew him would remember that because his lawn was always perfect. When I was a kid, our lawn’s size was an acre, and I used to sit on the front steps for hours and watch him mow. After he finished, we would sit together for a while and admire the fruit of his labor. Afterward, he would invite me to go with him to a nearby fast-food restaurant, Henry’s, for a celebratory orange soda. Each week during grass season we followed the same routine, and that memory of sharing those times with him is still a comfort today.
Another one of Daddy’s loves was water. Our family enjoyed boating on the Ohio River every summer, and I have fond memories of our outings. He loved to water ski, and it was his encouragement that helped me learn to slalom.
My dad was also a big tease with a great sense of humor. I can remember his laughter at comedy shows back in the ’60s like Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, and Carol Burnette. But he also played jokes on his own family. When I was about five or so, he convinced me that if I could sprinkle salt on a bunny’s tail, then I could catch it. That entire summer I ran around the backyard with a salt shaker but never could catch a single rabbit. I didn’t learn the truth until school began that fall, and I thought that he must have had a good laugh watching me zigzag around the lawn with that salt shaker. Just like with skiing and softball, he always encouraged me to keep trying.
His godly character…
He also passed on important lessons of character through his own example, for which I am eternally grateful. I learned about developing a strong work ethic as I witnessed him work tirelessly to provide well for his family. He is a true example of how to capture and attain the American Dream.
He taught me to be honest and never lie (the few times I tried, I always got caught).
I learned to be obedient to his rules and respectful to others in authority (he only had to take me over his knee once, never twice).
He always instructed me, “If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all.” (I’m always working on that one.)
His example of keeping everything clean, neat, and in its place made a huge impression on me. Order and peace reigned in our home and, to this day, is an important priority. He always said, “Everything has a place, so put everything in it.”
Most of all, his love of Jesus Christ and public profession of his Christian faith spoke volumes to me, teaching me to always be an active church member, study the Word of God, and tithe the first ten percent of my income to the church. His courage and fearlessness to stand up and speak up for what’s right have been my bedrock over the years. Even though he is not physically here, the Christian convictions that he modeled live within me as my rich heritage.
Those dreaded words: It’s cancer…
In November 1994, a time arrived when he could no longer play his role as protector, and our roles reversed. On a day when he had routine prostate surgery, the doctor gave my mother the bad news. She wrote a note on the back of a dry cleaning receipt she found in her purse and handed it to me when I walked into his hospital recovery room. It’s bladder cancer. The doctor says it’s hopeless. At that point, my mother and I became his caregivers until his death on June 13, 1995—just a few days shy of Father’s Day.
Amid the sadness of that time, two specific occasions are picture-framed in my memory’s gallery. The first was after he was diagnosed with cancer and my mother had just told him the bad news. I entered their bedroom where he was standing and hugged him, saying, “I love you, Daddy.” We both shed tears. The last grains of sand in his life’s hourglass were swiftly slipping away.
The second was after he had been admitted to a nursing care facility for Hospice patients. His memory would come and go as he slipped into dementia, due to big doses of experimental chemo. One afternoon when he was lucid, I was guiding his wheelchair through the outdoor gardens where we stopped to admire beautiful flowers. I took that opportunity to thank him for being such a wonderful father and told him how much I loved and appreciated him. That was one of the final days that he recognized me, and I am eternally thankful to God that I was given a window to tell him one last time. Such a priceless gift.
So, as I look into the sky this Father’s Day, I breathe out these words toward heaven. “I love you, Daddy. On Father’s Day and every day.”
What exactly is Shavuot? As Christians, we are more familiar with the term Pentecost. Let’s explore this festival’s Jewish and Christian roots for a deeper understanding of its meaning.
Tori Avey explains in her words: “Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) commemorates the revelation of the Torah on Mt. Sinai to the Jewish people, and occurs on the 50th day after the 49 days of counting the Omer. Shavuot is one of the three biblically based pilgrimage holidays known as the shalosh regalim. It is associated with the grain harvest in the Torah.” (Read more at Toriavey.com)
Chabad.org also has some interesting festival background: “Shavuot 2020 (a two-day holiday, celebrated from sunset on May 28 until nightfall on May 30) coincides with the date that G‑d gave the Torah to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai more than 3,300 years ago. It comes after 49 days of eager counting, as we prepared ourselves for this special day.”
When did Shavuot turn into Pentecost (its Greek name)? It began on the forty-ninth day or seven weeks after Jesus ascended into heaven. Christ spoke of His sending the Holy Spirit several times to the disciples.
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”
John 14:16-17 NKJV
Tell me more…
Jesus also explained the Holy Spirit’s role in their lives, and why it was necessary for the Spirit to come.
“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.”
John 16:7-11 NKJV
That day arrived…
Acts 2 tells about this supernatural event. The disciples, along with Mary and a few others, had convened in the Upper Room, praying and waiting on the promised Helper. On that Pentecost day, the Holy Spirit descended like flames of fire resting above each person’s head.
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.”
Acts 2:1-4 NKJV
Many Jews from different countries happened to be in Jerusalem at that time to celebrate Shavuot, and they heard these men, full of the Holy Spirit, speak in each one’s native language about the mighty deeds of God. The Jews laughed, claiming the disciples must be drunk, but Peter rose up and preached to them all, quoting from the prophet Joel:
“Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:
‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams; Even on My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit And they shall prophesy. ‘And I will grant wonders in the sky above And signs on the earth below, Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke.‘The sun will be turned into darkness And the moon into blood, Before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come. ‘And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
Acts 2:14b-21 NKJV
Jesus also explained the difference between John the Baptist’s water baptism and the fire baptism of the Holy Spirit:
Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Acts 1:4-5 NKJV
Water versus Fire…
At salvation, Christians are baptized with water, which represents the washing away of sin and being filled with the Holy Spirit. But Pentecost is a baptism of fire from Jesus Himself through the Holy Spirit, usually with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. What is the purpose of this second baptism?
“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.”
John 16:13-15 NKJV
“…but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
Acts 1:8 NKJV
May we all experience the wonderful power of Pentecost in our lives.
Dear Father, thank you for sending us the Comforter, our Helper, to live inside our spirits. As you did in the day of your disciples, send us fire from heaven and baptize us in Your power and anointing. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
The pandemic has taken the world by surprise, and daily information about its cause and remedy has poured forth from every direction. Conflicting opinions abound, making it difficult to know what to believe. How can we know the truth?
Instead of looking to the world, let’s search for answers by refreshing ourselves in the only source of Truth–God’s Word. What can we learn about such a time as this? I guarantee you’ll find a delightful surprise that will lift your spirits with hope and joy.
It is good to give thanks to the Lord, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, And Your faithfulness every night
Psalm 92:1-2 NKJV
The Lord God is so faithful. He promises to always care for us, to never leave nor forsake us. The Old Testament tells one story after another of God’s care for His children through perilous times. Let’s review a few of them.
Story #1: Noah and the Ark
The Lord shut up Noah’s righteous family for forty rain-filled days and nights while He destroyed all life on the earth with a flood. Do you think those six persons got a bit claustrophobic as they waited several additional months for the waters to recede? What joy when they could set foot on dry ground and free the animals who must have also wearied of their confinement. Afterward, God made an eternal covenant with Noah.
It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.
Genesis 9:14-15 NKJV
What a blessed ending to such a long trial! People around the world have been shut up at home for a month or more, making us all the more empathetic for Noah. Fortunately, like the ark, our pandemic has an ending in sight.
Story #2: Moses and the Passover
“Let my people go!” Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. Destination: the Promised Land.
But before Pharoah finally agreed to free the Jewish slaves, many plagues befell Egypt: blood, frogs, lice, flies, diseased animals, boils on man and beast, hail, locusts, darkness, and death of the firstborn of both men and animals. God purposely hardened Pharoah’s heart in order to reveal His power and glory to the stubborn, unbelieving king of Egypt.
Let’s keep in mind that not only were the Israelites present when God sent these plagues, but also God supernaturally protected them. As the Jews witnessed Egypt’s suffering, their camp was spared. Only the final plague demanded that the Israelites take action in order to be saved—the establishment of Passover–a Jewish feast celebrated to this day.
‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
Exodus 12:12-13 NKJV
Can’t we imagine the joy those captives experienced at their moment of freedom? After 430 years, God’s grace rescued them from slavery and set their feet on a path to the Promised Land. Likewise, God will supernaturally rescue us and set us on a path to freedom from this health crisis.
Story #3: Jonah and the Whale
Remember Jonah and the big fish? His disobedience to God’s command to go to Nineveh and preach repentance to the Ninevites had landed him in that dark, stinky jail cell. Shut up in the fish’s foul-smelling belly for three days and nights, Jonah repented and prayed mightily for deliverance.
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish’s belly. And he said: “I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction, And He answered me.“Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, And You heard my voice.” (Read the rest of Chapter 2 HERE)
Jonah 2:1-2 NKJV
After Jonah vowed to be obedient to God’s command, the fish vomited him up onto dry land. Then God spoke again: “’Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you’” (Jonah 3:2 NKJV).
So, Jonah walked across that city–a three-days’ journey–and cried out that God was going to destroy Nineveh in forty days. The people, as well as the king, believed and heeded the warning. They donned sackcloth, proclaimed a fast, and earnestly repented of their sins.
Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.
Jonah 3:10 NKJV
Thus the people of Nineveh were rescued from certain destruction through citywide repentance centered on fasting and prayer. If this pandemic is the judgment of God for our rebellion against His Laws, can’t we also stay God’s hand through repentance, prayer, and fasting, just like Nineveh?
How does this apply to the current pandemic?
Calamities of all shapes and sizes have come to the earth in response to man’s disobedience and sin. But the Bible tells story after story of man’s repentance followed by God’s responses of forgiveness and deliverance.
By studying the character of God during distressing times, we find comfort and hope. We can rest assured that God will always protect and bring His children safely through all sorts of disasters. But do we have a role to play?
Let’s take action…
This Easter and Passover season, let’s repent, fast, and pray for God’s divine deliverance from the virus that has our world in its grasp. Just as the Israelites painted their doorposts with the blood of their Passover lamb, let’splead the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God, over our homes and families for supernatural protection. We can trust the Lord to keep us safe and bring us into His Promised Land. (Click to read Ephesians 6:10-18.)
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, Until these calamities have passed by.
Psalm 57:1 NKJV
How are you trusting in the mercy of God during these present trials?
Dear Father God, we look to You in these times of pestilence and distress. We repent of our sins and ask You to forgive us and heal our nations from this virus. May we turn to You for protection and comfort. We plead the blood of the Lamb over us and our loved ones. Hide us under Your wings until this pestilence passes by. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Think back to all those magic shows we loved as kids. We would be spellbound, watching a man in a tuxedo tap his magic wand over a top hat and pull out a rabbit. Or how about those fascinating card tricks? And best of all was a woman sawn in two. All hoaxes, but we loved the thrill of being tricked.
But magic is evil. Think of a dark veil made up of lies and trickery that we wouldn’t—and couldn’t—see through. As Christians, though, aren’t we immune to deception?
In order to answer that question, let’s begin with a definition. According to Merriam-Webster, deception means:
the act of causing someone to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid : TRICK fooled by a scam artist’s clever deception
Where did deception originate? We would all point to Genesis. That old serpent, the devil, deceived Eve to believe a lie and commit an act of sinful disobedience. Let’s listen in on their conversation and pinpoint how Satan’s trickery worked.
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
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.”
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.
Genesis 3:1-7 NKJV
Step 1: Twisting the truth
The first step involves questioning what God has said. (“Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” ) Satan expected Eve to refute his question in order to engage her in a conversation to confuse her logic. But let’s review God’s exact words:
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 2:16-17 NKJV
Now let’s backtrack. When God spoke this command to Adam, where was Eve? Apparently, not yet created. So if Adam had instructed her himself, it may explain Eve’s embellishment–that even touching the tree would result in death.
Step 2: Using Naivety Against Us
Satan knew that if he could deceive Eve about what God had said, he could win a battle against the Almighty. How? By dragging His trusting creation into the devil’s evil world of sin.
When Eve misquoted God’s command, the serpent used her mistake to his advantage. The serpent played upon Eve’s emotional naivety to convince her to bite the forbidden fruit. He dangled sparkling lies to convince her it wasn’t dangerous but would make her wise like God. He tricked her into trusting his words to be true.
Step 3: No Fear
Step 3: The serpent took away Eve’s fear of death. (“You will not surely die.” v.4) Remember, no one had ever died yet (her son Abel, not yet born, would be the first), so the concept of death was a great mystery. Satan’s false assurance must have given Eve comfort from her fears as she trusted the serpent’s words.
Step 4: Be Smart and Powerful
Step 4:“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” (v.4). Here Satan claims to know God’s words, which he falsely twists. He tells Eve the end result of her potential disobedience, promising her that she will be equal to God Himself in power and knowledge. No longer will she take orders from God–she will be wise enough to make her own rules, to live her own way. The tantalizing promise of the knowledge of good and evil would be a glorious promotion to omniscience and omnipotence. And she fell for Satan’s bait–hook, line, and sinker.
Step 5: Justification of a lie
Step 5:“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate” (v.6). Eve, no longer afraid to touch it, listened to Satan’s voice of justification. Who doesn’t want to be wise? Why not eat such beautiful fruit? Eve reached out to pluck the fruit and share it with Adam. At that moment, deception led to sin.
Like Adam and Eve, we can use our God-given free will to either obey or disobey. Our choice, yes, but also we must face the consequences.
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.
James 1:13-16 NKJV
How do we apply these truths to our lives today?
Lesson 1: Know God’s exact Word
Let’s make sure we know God’s exact Word so Satan can’t deceive us. He’s a master at serving up a glass of truth with a twist of lies. If the devil can confuse us about the truth, we drink it down, falling into deception and thus into sin. Memorizing and knowing the Word will cancel those plans.
When Satan tempted Jesus
Remember when Satan came to tempt Jesus after the Lord’s forty-day fast in the wilderness? Each time Satan tried to deceive Him, Jesus quoted Scripture to refute those lies mixed with truth. (Click HERE to read about it.)
Lesson 2: Naivety, our worst enemy
Satan deceives us to turn away from our beliefs at any age. Especially when we’re young, about to enter teen years, Satan uses our naivety to trick us into sin.
For example, kids will entice those who are inexperienced about the world, luring them with the promise of thrilling fun–drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. If they balk at first, the tempter will use other ploys, such as shaming them for not being cool, being a scaredy-cat, or threatening their inclusion in a group of friends. As innocent kids submit to rejecting their true beliefs in exchange for lies, their lives can be ruined, or in extreme cases, ended too soon.
Thankfully, Jesus provided forgiveness of our sins at the cross.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9 NKJV
Lesson 3: Living without fear of God
For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.
Psalm 96:4 NKJV
Not too many years ago—back in the ’80s—kids used to wear tee-shirts emblazoned with No Fear. When the fear of authority and a living God are absent in the human heart and mind, falsely-enlightened people easily break rules and laws. No longer afraid of any repercussion or punishment, they have a cyclonic heyday, leaving behind a wake of destruction. Today we can especially witness the results of this deception in many crime-infested cities, failing schools, and corrupt governments around the world.
Beware of NO FEAR deception in the church. Have you wondered why Seeker-Friendly churches never display a cross or mention sin and its consequences? Their weekly talk is only positive, laced with the serpent’s classic cunning found in Genesis 3:1: “Has God indeed said,” and verse 4: “You will not surely die.” But a one-sided or twisted gospel is a deceptive gospel, smearing the truth of salvation and sanctification to afford sinners comfort and acceptance to remain as they are. And it’s another way Satan’s kingdom grows.
Churches must preach the truth of the whole gospel, which convicts sinners and brings them to the altar of repentance and saving grace.
…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…
Romans 3:23 NKJV
Lesson 4: Not little gods
Satan also promises to give us God’s power and knowledge to make us equal to God. His false reasoning convinces us that we won’t need God anymore. We can be our own little gods, following our own false wisdom.
This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.
James 3:15-17 NKJV
Lesson 5: Don’t buy the lie
Where do we find this principle? Advertising, for example. Companies pay a fortune for an ad or video to convince consumers they can’t live happy, complete lives without their product. That’s the lie. They play on our emotions and our five senses to make us crave it, rather like Eve: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.” (Genesis 3:6)
Satan is waiting to deceive each one of us with his lies: good is evil and evil is good. He tempts us through sight, arousing our desire. He reasons falsely that we will benefit in some way–beauty, wealth, comfort, or status.
Here’s a description of Satan in Jesus’s words:
‘He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.’
John 8:44b NKJV
Are Christians exempt?
No. Satan comes to everyone with his deception—even Christians. The difference is that the Holy Spirit provides us with the gift of discernment to know the truth so we don’t fall for Satan’s lies.
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: …to another discerning of spirits, …
1 Corinthians 12: 7, 10b NKJV
Let’s discern the spirit of truth by reading and memorizing God’s Word. His Word is truth–our sword of the Spirit that divides truth from lies. With the Word in our mouths, Satan can never deceive us with his false trickery.
Let’s always be prayerful that God will give us His truth and wisdom to discern Satan’s clever deception.
Let’s conclude in agreement with Paul’s prayer:
“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Amen.
Philippians 1:9-11 KJV
How have you been victorious in using God’s Word to destroy Satan’s deceptive lies?
I’ve missed posting on my blog since December, but these weeks have been reserved for resting and recuperating from the flu. The good news is that I was finally on the upswing and feeling back to normal, just in time for tying on my apron and heading to the kitchen for Christmas dinner. And although Christmas is many weeks behind us, it’s still a good memory. I want to share a story with you about what the Lord taught me during that season.
Early in December—before the flu—our family had planned a special holiday outing. I had purchased tickets for a concert in a nearby town where the venue was described as a charming theater in an old courthouse building. A relaxing evening with a symphonic jazz band and featured singers sounded like a good way to get into the Christmas spirit.
Upon our arrival, what a surprising sight greeted us inside. We had stepped back in time to creaking wooden floors, cement walls painted gunmetal grey covered with old posters of bygone days, narrow staircases with steel handrails, and groaning elevators designed more for carrying janitorial equipment rather than people.
After locating the second-floor theater, we settled into well-worn seats of red plush velveteen. The stale air roared with voices. Bobbing heads of every shade and style exchanged merry greetings with passersby searching for their ticketed rows of seats. On stage, high-heels and oxford dress shoes rushed across the floor on a time-sensitive mission. Violas and bass violins stood straight, and violins found their perches under tucked chins. Sequined dresses swept the floor, shimmering in bright stage lights. At one end, drums rat-a-tat-tatted and piano keys tinkled. A complete cacophony of dissonance.
Eventually a quiet swept over the stage, and its contagion gripped the audience into a hushed silence. The conductor walked solemnly to the front of a platform and bowed, signaling our applause. Clapping exploded like a bomb into the room’s acoustics, then subsided. One piano key sang out, and every instrument slid collectively into tune.
What good can come out of this?
My eyes roamed around the room. What kind of inspiring music could come out of such a musty, ancient place? I already regretted not traveling the extra miles to a downtown state-of-the-art venue featuring famous professionals. As I mourned over my mistake, beautiful string music began and sweetly beckoned a finger at the door of my heart.
My rising yawns cut off as the upbeat music carried me into its rhapsody. It didn’t take long before I was hooked. My soul stirred with delight and appreciation as each new song swelled from the stage and swept through the auditorium. Songs about Christ’s birth and the miracle of God coming down to earth in the form of a perfect, holy newborn. Angels trumpeting horns, proclaiming His birth as they led choruses of rejoicing. From jazz band to cultured symphony to rich-throated singers, I acknowledged my grateful surprise of this unexpected gift: deep love from the heart and soul of every stage performer’s instrument lavished itself upon the audience.
What must that holy night have been like?
I could envision through the music the rustic stable where Mary gave birth to Messiah. Almost smelling the animals’ earthy scent which enveloped the holy couple, I could imagine their clouded breath in the air as they snorted questions about who these intruders might be. The rough, wooden trough filled with straw would not feed them this night but would instead cradle the swaddled baby. Sweet peace must have filled the air and quieted the animal audience into reverent submission from their front-row seats as they witnessed the greatest story that would ever be told.
Have you ever wondered why God chose for His Son to make His earthly entrance into such poor circumstances? Humble, common parents in the midst of traveling for the census. Not even a decent indoor retreat for Mary’s labor and delivery. Yet, God provided and created a celebration fit for a king. The angels announced His birth—not to the world’s wealthy and royal—but to the lowliest class of people at that time–shepherds tending their sheep on nearby hills, drawn to that stable as human witnesses. Such a wonderful miracle, yet such a great mystery.
We can fully understand God’s symbolism as Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the House of Bread. He was placed in a manger, a trough from which animals eat, because He is our Bread of Life.
“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ ”
Matthew 26:26 NKJV
Prophecy also described Him as the Good Shepherd, which made us, His followers, His sheep. We can likely recite Psalm 23, but here is another reference:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel. ”
Matthew 2:6 NKJV
The comparison between this humble concert venue and Jesus’s humble birth meshed with clarity. From this simple stage on a chilly December night came something more than wonderful: the message of God’s divine, perfect love poured from a blend of harmonious instruments and voices, just as the angels sang and played for the shepherds and all of heaven on the night of Christ’s birth, set in a simple stable.
This message isn’t just for Christmas–it’s for today and every day of the year.
Finally, the Lord showed me these concerns for 2020. Are you feeling inadequate or discouraged about your life? Have you recently lost a loved one and feel as though you don’t know how to continue? Are you unsure about your financial future? Seeking a godly mate? Trying to find God’s purpose to chart your future?Seeking physical healing and health?
God takes our commonplace lives and works miracles for His glory, just like He did on the night Jesus was born. Something very special can come out of a humbled life. He can take our lives and make them into something wonderful, but we must first lay down our selfish god of SELF on God’s holy altar. We all must die to SELF.
“ ‘But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.’ “
Isaiah 66:2 NKJV
Have you been born again?
Have you surrendered your life to Jesus and accepted Him as your Lord and Savior? You can do that now by praying a simple prayer, confessing your sins, turning away from them, and asking Jesus into your heart.
“…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’ ”
Romans 10:9-11 NKJV
It’s what God does best–making us new creations in Christ Jesus, cleansing us from sin by His blood, and filling us with His Holy Spirit. Writing our names in the Lamb’s Book of Life and the Book of Remembrance. Making our lives a clean slate with a new story to write. Giving us the assurance of eternity in heaven where we will dwell in His presence forever.
May this be your best year yet as you serve the Lord. May He transform you and play His beautiful music through your life to bless others.
Wishing you all a blessed and prosperous 2020!
What do you need the Lord to do for you in 2020? Leave your prayer request in the comments and I will pray with you and for you. May God bless yourichly.
Wishing everyone a very merry Christmas! God bless you as we celebrate the holy birth of our Savior, the Lord Jesus. May His everlasting love and salvation be born in your hearts today. Please join me prayerfully in the lyrics of a familiar Christmas hymn.
It came upon the midnight clear, That glorious song of old, From angels bending near the earth To touch their harps of gold; “Peace on the earth, good will to men From heaven’s all-gracious King” – The world in solemn stillness lay To hear the angels sing.
Still through the cloven skies they come With peaceful wings unfurled, And still their heavenly music floats O’er all the weary world; Above its sad and lowly plains They bend on hovering wing, And ever o’er its Babel-sounds The blessed angels sing.
But with the woes of sin and strife The world has suffered long; Beneath the angel-strain have rolled Two thousand years of wrong; And man, at war with man, hears not The love song which they bring; – O hush the noise, ye men of strife, And hear the angels sing!
And ye, beneath life’s crushing load, Whose forms are bending low, Who toil along the climbing way With painful steps and slow, Look now! for glad and golden hours Come swiftly on the wing; – Oh, rest beside the weary road And hear the angels sing!
For lo! the days are hastening on By prophet bards foretold, When, with the ever circling years Shall come the age of gold; When Peace shall over all the earth, Its ancient splendors fling, And the whole world give back the song, Which now the angels sing.
It Came Upon The Midnight Clear Also seen occasionally as “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” Erik Routley, University Carol Book (Brighton: H. Freeman & Co., 1961) Words: Edmund Hamilton Sears, in the Christian Register (Boston, Massachusetts: December 29, 1849), Vol. 28, #52, p. 206. Afterwards published in Sermons and Songs, 1875, 5 stanzas of 8 lines. Source: Edmund H. Sears, Sermons and Songs of the Christian Life (Boston: Noyes, Holmes, and Company, 1875), pp. 17-18.
Welcome to the final chapter of our year-long study. What a wonderful time we’ve had studying God’s Word together! It’s been my honor to host you here and also on the Heart”wings” Ministry Facebook Page. Let’s take one last look at what we’ve learned this year about growing in the Fruit of the Spirit.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such there is no law.”
Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV
Let’s take a look back and enjoy what we studied this year. All of our former posts will be linked under each heading for you to access here.
I trust you have grown in the fruit of the Spirit along with me this year. The fascinating thing about the Christian walk is that we are always in the process of growth. No matter how many times we may read a particular Scripture or study a specific topic, the Lord always teaches us something new.
We’ve reached the end of our journey, and bidding you farewell is bittersweet. I have been very blessed to walk with you down life’s path this year. May you be blessed each day as you continue to grow in the fruit of the Spirit.
Please continue to follow me here on my blog, Touched By Him, for future posts where I’ll be sharing some thoughts for Christmas. I plan to continue posting as usual in January, as the Lord leads.
Dear Lord, thank you for this past year of growth in the fruit of the Spirit. Bless Your Word richly in each person, and water the seeds to grow up into mature plants. May we be known by our fruit, that we are Your disciples. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Welcome to our study on the last Fruit of the Spirit: SELF-CONTROL. Just because self-control is last doesn’t make it least important. On the contrary, it is the strongest one, holding the other eight fruits in place. Without the discipline of self-control, the other fruits of the Spirit would spiral wildly out of control. Let’s see how increasing self-control accelerates our spiritual growthand gives us victory in our lives.This week we’ll look at our struggle against the flesh.
“For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.”
Romans 7:15 NKJV
The Legend about Two Dogs…
Have you ever heard the legend about two dogs living inside us? One is disobedient and selfish, the other gentle and loving. They constantly fight, like an eternal tug-of-war.
The Apostle Paul decried this human condition. As Christians, we try to quash our former rebellious nature (our iniquities) and walk in obedience to please God. When we accept Jesus as Savior, our sin nature dies but never goes away in this life. Hence, our two natures continuously struggle.
How do we win the struggle?
We win the struggle through self-control and sanctification–by studying the Word and communing with God through Jesus in prayer. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to control how we react to temptations that enter our lives. Without Him, we would have no hope. With Him, we always have the victory. As Paul gratefully proclaims, “It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free” (Romans 7:25 TLB).
The flesh and self-control…
The flesh certainly has its specific appetites, doesn’t it? We all have our own particular battles to fight. Check off which ones apply to your life:
what we eat and drink
words we speak
The message we receive through music or the spoken word
What we watch on television, the computer, or at the theater
What we read
The places we allow ourselves to go
What we allow ourselves to do, hold, or touch
“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
Back to the legend…which dog wins the fight? The one we feed the most. As we grow in sanctification, the struggle lessens. God gives us the power to overcome and be victorious through the fruit of self-control. Although we never “arrive” at perfection in this life, our blessed hope is that we will attain it in heaven through our Savior’s perfection.
How are you overcoming your struggles against fleshly desires? How are you developing self-control in areas of weakness?
Dear Lord, thank you for understanding our temptations and giving us the power to overcome them. It’s through Your Holy Spirit that we grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. May we live in victory as we grow in the fruit of self-control. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Welcome to the second part of our study on GENTLENESS. This week we’ll look at James’s teaching as he defines meekness in greater detail. We’ll conclude with examples of strength founded in humble meekness that we can model from the lives of Moses and our Lord Jesus.
“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”
James 4:10 NKJV
How do gentleness and wisdom fit together? Click HERE to read James 3:13-18.
According to James, worldly wisdom is…
Unspiritual, earthly, and demonic, a kind of wisdom that has no substance of goodness. When others get ahead or attain success, bitter envy and jealousy rear their green heads. In competition, its red-hot ambition is not for the good of others–it’s purely selfish. James declares that envy and selfish ambition yield disorder and every kind of evil practice.
But heavenly wisdom…
The yield of heavenly wisdom is good deeds rooted in humility. Peacemakers sow seeds of peace and reap a crop of righteousness. Godly wisdom overflows with purity, peace, consideration for others, submissiveness, mercy, good fruit, impartiality, and sincerity.
May we always pray to receive God’s heavenly wisdom that allows us to grow in humble meekness.
“(Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.)”
Numbers 12:3 NKJV
This passage of Scripture describes Moses as the meekest and most humble of all men. Bearing these powerful credentials of spiritual strength, God chose him to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land–a gargantuan task. He faced problems no one man has ever encountered, but God brought him through each one with success. Here are a few of God’s miraculous provisions: water in the barren desert pouring from rocks; daily manna from heaven; clothes and shoes that lasted forty years; a dry path through the Red Sea to escape the Egyptians; speaking face-to-face with Moses on Mount Sinai where he received the Ten Commandments on stone tablets; and God’s guiding presence in the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
One story shows Moses’s humble gentleness toward his siblings, Aaron and Miriam. Apparently these two became upset after Moses had married a Cushite woman, and they began to criticize their brother’s leadership. “’Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?’” (Numbers 12:2 NKJV). The Lord heard their words and became angry, dressing them down in front of the tent of meeting and dealing out retribution by making Miriam leprous. Aaron repented, and Moses pled with the Lord to take away Miriam’s punishment. (Click HERE to find out the rest of the story.)
Jesus shows His strength like a lion and His humble meekness like a lamb. From the Gospels through Revelation, He is depicted as the strong Lion of Judah as well as the humble Lamb of God. He embraced the little children to bless them (Matthew 19:13-14), and He treated women with respect and forgiveness (Luke 7:36-50).
The Scriptures about Jesus’s road to Calvary reveal the most about His gentle humility and controlled strength. Here are a few examples:
When Peter cut off the slave’s ear during Jesus’s arrest, Jesus rebuked Peter and performed a healing miracle (Luke 22:49-51).
Later when Peter denied knowing Him, Jesus sadly looked over at His disciple without a word (Luke 22:54-62).
He remained silent at the lying accusations of a mock trial and submitted to their physical torture (Mark 15:1-20)
When Pilate threatened Jesus that he held the power to either release or crucify Him, Jesus responded that God alone was in control of His fate (John 19:10-11).
Even as He was dying on the cross, Jesus forgave His enemies and voiced His will concerning His mother, Mary (John 19:25-27).
He forgave the sins of the thief on the cross next to Him (Luke 23:39-43).
Like Moses, have you ever struggled with humble gentleness as a leader of obstinate people? Have you ever forgiven an undeserving sibling or family member?
Like Jesus, have you forgiven your enemies–even in the face of the threat of death? Have you extended grace to them? Held your tongue when rejected or wrongly accused?
Whatever our trials, may we count them all joy because through them we will be made perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4) Our triumph and victory glorify our Savior, Jesus Christ. May we follow the humblest, gentlest and meekest man, the Son of God, and emulate His example.
Dear Father, thank you for teaching us about spiritual strength found within humble meekness. May we follow Your example and grow to be like You as we study Your Word and commune with You in prayer. May Your controlled strength shine through our lives as we humbly submit to You. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Welcome to our final month of study. During the next two weeks, we’ll define GENTLENESS and examine what meekness looks like through Scriptural examples. Our goal is to understand how to do our part so God can grow seeds of gentleness in our hearts and lives.
“Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.”
Let’s begin by defining GENTLENESS, also commonly called MEEKNESS. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the quality or state of being gentle, especially: mildness of manners or disposition.”
We’re weaned as children to understand meekness as someone who’s a wimp. Do you remember the cartoon, Popeye? One of the characters was a rotund man, even named Wimpy, who constantly ate hamburgers. Another example is hen-pecked Dagwood Bumstead in the cartoon, Blondie, who made the Dagwood sandwich an American cultural fixture. Even from childhood, we’ve been indoctrinated into the world’s definition: meekness equals weakness.
πράγματα / prágmata
But the Bible’s definition is the complete opposite. The Greek word written above is “prautes,” a challenging word to define in English. Picture a wild horse that’s broken and now under the control of a bridle. R.C. Trench in his classic work “Synonyms of the New Testament” says that “Prautes does not consist in a person’s outward behaviour only, nor yet in his relations to his fellow man…rather it is an inwrought grace of the soul, and the exercises of it are first and chiefly towards God. It is that temper of spirit in which we accept his dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting.”
Meekness means we have surrendered and entrusted our soul and spirit to God’s good control without argument or resistance. Therefore, gentleness implies great strength under control. It’s courage, not mousey fear; true humility, not false modesty; “a humble and gentle attitude that is patiently submissive in every offense while being free from any desire for revenge or retribution.” (John MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary)
How do we personally measure up to these standards? Let’s explore this divine strength in the Scripture by reading Psalm 37.
We see how Matthew 5:5 relates directly to Psalm 37:11. It says, “The meek shall possess the land, and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.” So, what does meekness mean in this Psalm and what does it have to do with God? Let’s read verses 5-8:
5 “Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. 6 He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, And your justice as the noonday. 7 Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. 8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret—it only causes harm.”
Psalm 37:5-8 NKJV
A portrait of meekness…
COMMIT: We commit everything to the Lord–our business, relationships, finances, health, fears–because we realize we are insufficient to deal with all the complexities of life. God is willing and able to sustain, guide, and protect us. (Verse 5a)
TRUST: We confidently place our trust in the Lord because we know God is on the side of the righteous. He will defend and vindicate us whenever the enemy attacks. (Verse 5b)
WAIT: This is perhaps the most difficult for us to do. Meekness means we are still and patiently wait for the Lord to bring His will to pass in our lives. In the middle of life’s storms, we are still and calm, trusting in God’s control and His willingness to work things out for our good. (Verse 7a)
DON’T FRET: Another challenge for sure! When the wicked go on their merry way in prosperity, it’s hard not to be upset or angry. Yes, it may feel very unjust and unfair. But since we trust God completely, it’s possible to rest in Him when we encounter opposition or setbacks. (Verse 7b-8)
If we have ever previously regarded gentleness as weakness, we now have a clear picture of its powerful, controlled strength. As Jesus taught in the Beatitudes, the meek will inherit the earth. What an amazing blessing awaits us as we understand how important it is to cultivate this strong fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
Next week we’ll look at how the Book of James defines meekness and also how we see it reflected in the lives of Moses and especially our Lord Jesus.
How is God growing seeds of gentleness in your soul and spirit?
Dear Father, thank you for teaching us that meekness is strength under control. It takes divine strength to answer with a soft word or to turn the other cheek. Help us to commit, trust, wait patiently, and not fret as You work out Your good will in our lives. May we grow in Your sweet gentleness each day. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Welcome to our fourth study about FAITHFULNESS. This week will wrap up our study on this fruit of the Spirit. Let’s examine God’s faithfulness by continuing to look at the last four covenants. There is one that is very special to us Christians–do you know which one?
“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Jeremiah 31:33 NKJV)
Various Scriptures will be included in today’s lesson.
The Mosaic Covenant…
This covenant between God and Israel was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. God’s finger wrote out the Ten Commandments on tablets, and He also spelled out 613 laws for the Jews to live by. Breaking even one commandment made them guilty of all. The only path to forgiveness was the shedding of animal blood.
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that makes atonement by reason of the life.“
Leviticus 17:11 NKJV
The Law contained blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. Signed and sealed by the Shechinah Glory in Exodus 24:1-11, this covenant was rendered conditional. (If you would like to read the 613 commandments, click HERE.)
The Land Covenant…
Now Jehovah said unto Abram, “Get you out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house, unto the land that I will show you: and I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and be you a blessing: and I will bless them that bless you, and him that curses you will I curse: and in you shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”
Genesis 12:1-3 NKJV
The Land Covenant, an unconditional covenant, is still very much in effect. It is an expansion of the original Abrahamic Covenant and emphasizes the promise of the Land to God’s earthly Jewish people in spite of their unbelief. The Abrahamic Covenant teaches that ownership for the Land is unconditional. The Land Covenant, however, teaches that the enjoyment of the Land is conditional on obedience. (Read some provisions of the Land Covenant HERE.)
The Davidic Covenant…
The unconditional Davidic Covenant was between God and King David. You can read two accounts: the first emphasizes Solomon (click HERE) and the second emphasizes the Messiah (click HERE).
In summary, God made David four eternal promises: an eternal House or dynasty, an eternal Throne, an eternal Kingdom, and an eternal Descendant. This guarantees the eternal covenant since the Seed of David produces One who is Himself eternal: the Messianic God-Man, Jesus Christ.
The New Covenant and The Law of Messiah…
In relationship to the Church, the New Covenant is the basis of the Dispensation of Grace. In relationship to Israel, the New Covenant is the basis for the Dispensation of the Kingdom. The New Covenant itself is an unconditional covenant and therefore eternally in effect.
“Behold, the days come,” says Jehovah, “that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they broke, although I was a husband unto them,” says Jehovah. “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” says Jehovah: “I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people: and they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know Jehovah; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them,” says Jehovah: “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more.“
Jeremiah 31:31-34 NKJV
This unconditional covenant is between God and the entire nation of Israel. (Please note that this covenant is not Replacement Theology. It applies to the Church but is not made with the Church.) Further, it is now a replacement of the Mosaic Covenant, considered broken. It promises the blessings of salvation and the regeneration of the nation of Israel. It provides for the forgiveness of sins, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and material blessings as well as the rebuilding of the Temple during the Millenial Age.
The New Covenant also contains the Law of Messiah: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2), and “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
Here is another difference. The Law of Moses said: “Love your neighbor as yourself “(Leviticus 19:18), making man the standard. The Law of the Messiah said: “Love one another, even as I have loved you”(John 15:12), making Messiah, who died for mankind, the standard.
Last, the Law of the Messiah provides a new motivation. Instead of the Law of Moses teaching, “Do, in order to be blessed,” the Law of the Messiah teaches, “You have been and are blessed, therefore, do.”
One New Man…
Here is a mystery: Gentiles have been grafted into this Jewish heritage and share in the blessings of this New Covenant. Two passages clearly explain it. The first is Ephesians 2:11-16:
“Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.”
Ephesians 2:11-16 NKJV
Romans 11:17 also describes the concept of partaking:
“And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, the Gentile believers.”
Romans 11:17 NKJV
The Olive Tree represents the place of spiritual blessings of the Jewish Covenants. The two types of branches partaking of the blessings are the natural branches, which are the Jewish believers, and wild olive branches, which are the Gentile believers.
However, the Blessing aspect, as highlighted by the New Covenant, included the Gentiles. The Church enjoys the spiritual blessings of these covenants, but not the material and physical benefits. The physical promises still belong to Israel and will be fulfilled exclusively with Israel, especially those involving the Land. However, the Church now also shares all spiritual benefits.
The blood of the Messiah shed at the Cross is the basis of salvation in the New Covenant. The blood of the Messiah ratified, signed, and sealed the New Covenant(Hebrews 8:1-10:18). The Church has become a partaker of Jewish spiritual blessings, but the Church is not a replacement for the Jewish people.
The Mosaic Covenant’s purpose…
An important purpose of the Mosaic Covenant jumps out at us. Is it possible for Man to keep all 613 commandments without breaking one of them? Of course not. Its purpose is to point out our sins and our need for a Savior.
Only Jesus lived a perfect life on earth without breaking one commandment. As God and Man, Jesus alone can identify with our human struggles, yet without sin. He is the Promise of God sent to fulfill the Law, not to abolish it.
The Land Covenant’s importance…
The special importance of the Land Covenant is that it reaffirms the title deed to the Land as belonging to Israel. Although she would prove unfaithful and disobedient, the right to the Land would never be taken from her. Furthermore, it shows that the conditional Mosaic Covenant did not lay aside the unconditional Abrahamic Covenant. It might be interpreted by some that the Mosaic Covenant displaced the Abrahamic Covenant, but the Land Covenant shows that this is not true.
The Impact of the Davidic Covenant…
The impact of the Davidic Covenant is its magnification of the Seed aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant. According to the prophecy, Messiah would come from the Seed of Abraham, the Tribe of Judah, the family or house of David.
The Benefits of the New Covenant…
Our gift of salvation comes through Jesus’s death and resurrection. He died for all mankind. Although the majority of Jews don’t believe in Jesus as Messiah now, they will believe in the future. In Romans 11, Paul taught that the Gentiles share in spiritual blessings, but these are Jewish spiritual blessings attained through the Jewish covenants.
As believers in Messiah, all spiritual blessings are available to us, whether we’re Jews or Gentiles. Through Jesus’s death on the cross for our sins, believers reap spiritual benefits that would never be ours otherwise. The eight covenants of the Bible pinpoint exact provisions, which are valuable for a full understanding of Scripture.
Thanks for joining me this month for a fascinating study about faithfulness. Not only are we to be faithful to God and to one another, but God shows His faithfulness to us through His covenants. I’ve learned a lot from studying God’s eight covenants–I hope you did too.
Next month I’ll be combining each of our last two fruits of the Spirit, GENTLENESS and SELF-CONTROL, into two-week studies. I’m looking forward to concluding our year-long Bible study and hope you’ll join me in November.
Which covenant of God’s faithfulness means the most to you?
Dear Father God, we give You thanks for teaching us about Your holy covenants with Israel. As Christians, we also enjoy the blessings and benefits of them, especially the New Covenant. Thank You for Your faithfulness to us. We praise and glorify Your Name throughout all the earth. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Welcome to our third study on faithfulness. This week we’ll explore how God shows His faithfulness to us and how we experience it in our personal lives. Just as in a marriage ceremony, God makes a covenant to be a faithful husband to us. Let’s relish every moment with this covenant-keeping God who never breaks a promise and who vows to never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
“Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.”
In the Holy Scriptures, God proves His faithfulness and the truth of His Word. Hebrews 6:18 states that God is not a liar, nor is He a promise-breaker of an unconditional promise He vows to fulfill. He keeps every covenant, every promise or foretelling that has or will come true. The Bible is full of one testimony after another of God’s faithfulness, which people still testify to today.
Did you know that the Bible mentions covenants between God and His people about 277 times? Deuteronomy 7:9 says “Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Deuteronomy 7:9 NKJV).
Conditional versus unconditional...
A conditional covenant means God will fulfill His promise if Man is obedient to do his part first. Man’s failure to do so results in some type of punishment, but his obedience results in God’s blessings. The Edenic and the Mosaic Covenants are both conditional.
The Adamic Covenant, the Noahic Covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant, the Palestinian or Land Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the New Covenant areunconditional. These are dependant on God Himself and are a sovereign act of God to bring blessings to His people.
How are these covenants meaningful to us? Today we’ll discuss four: the Edenic, Adamic, Abrahamic, and Noahic. As we progress, be thinking about how each one affects your life.
The Edenic Covenant…
God first made a conditional covenant with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and spelled out the rules for a blessed life. However, they had to first obey God’s direction.
“And Jehovah God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And Jehovah 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 of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.”
This unconditional covenant came about after Adam and Eve sinned by eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Throughout the ages, mankind has been affected by this covenant, causing us all to be born in sin. God pronounced judgment on Adam, Eve, and the serpent as follows:
“And Jehovah God said unto the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon your belly shall you go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life: and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed: he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.’
Unto the woman he said, ‘I will greatly multiply your pain and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; and your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over you.’
And unto Adam he said, Because you have hearkened unto the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree, of which I commanded you, saying, You shall not eat of it: cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil shall you eat of it all the days of your life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to you; and you shall eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of your face shall you eat bread, till you return unto the ground; for out of it were you taken: for dust you are, and unto dust shall you return.'”
God made several promises to Abraham, specifically to multiply his seed into a great nation. The token of this covenant is the male child’s circumcision on the eighth day after birth. This unconditional covenant is very lengthy, so I will quote one and link more Scriptures for deeper study.
“And the angel of Jehovah called unto Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said, ‘By myself have I sworn, says Jehovah, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son, that in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because you have obeyed my voice.'”
God wiped out His creation of Man due to their rampant wickedness. However, He saved righteous Noah and his family along with pairs of all the birds and animals. The token promise of this unconditional covenant is the rainbow. Do you remember God’s promise every time you see a colorful bow in the sky?
“… I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud, and I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.’ And God said unto Noah, ‘This is the token of the covenant which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.'”
Genesis 9:1-17 NKJV
Our God demonstrates His faithfulness to us through His covenant-making and covenant-keeping. What impact do these promises have on your life? How has God personally shown you His faithfulness?
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for Your covenants. They prove Your love and eternal faithfulness to us, Your people. We bless Your Name, O God, for You are worthy of worship and praise. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Welcome back to our second study on faithfulness. This week we’ll be focusing on how faith comes alive through works. Although works alone don’t save us, they are important in relation to our faith. Let’s explore this important teaching by studying what James tells us in the New Testament.
“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
First, let’s review last week’s definition of faith: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 NKJV).
We know that faith isn’t wishful thinking. In fact, faith is probably the most practical possession we possess in our Christian walk. Do you realize that faith is a living thing, just like our physical bodies? Just as our bodies are dead without our spirits, our faith is also dead unless it shows action, proving it is alive.
James explains it by giving an example in James 2:15-16: “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what doesit profit?”
Helping others in need is a basic Christian work. All missionary and charity work flow out of our faith’s love for Jesus. We are all commissioned as believers to spread the gospel to those in our sphere. These noble works spark tangible life into our spirits, assuring us that the Lord is well pleased.
Faith versus works…
“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?”(James 2:14 NKJV).
James may come across as controversial with this question. In the Greek language, this question demands a negative answer. However, according to the Scriptures, we know that faith alone does indeed save us. But we need to realize that James is speaking to a specific group of Jews who, before Jesus died on the cross, only believed in salvation through works. His argument is an effort to base salvation on faith first, but second, to also show that works have an important place in the Christian walk. Christian belief can only motivate us one way–to do good works as part of our worship and love for our Lord and Savior.
Justification by faith alone…
Paul teaches that salvation is graciously extended to the Gentile as well as the Jew. He clearly tells us in Scripture that David and Abraham both agreed that salvation is through faith, not works:
“But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works.”
Romans 4:5-6 NKJV
“For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’”
Romans 4:3 NKJV
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
Romans 5:1-2 NKJV
“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. Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also…”
Romans 3:27-29 NKJV
Saving Faith versus professing faith…
James is examining salvation is a different light. He sees it as a two-sided coin–as saving faith versus professing faith. For James, justification is by a faith that works—by a genuine faith that manifests itself in post-conversion works.
James explains that although a person may believe in God’s existence, that doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is saved. “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” (James 2:19 NKJV). We must first have a conversion experience by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Afterward, our faith grows and comes alive through good works.
John Calvin said, “Faith alone saves, but a faith that saves is never alone.” Thus, James’s question is not simply “Can faith save?” but as the Greek text may suggest, “Can that faith save him?”
“For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”
Although good works don’t produce salvation, they are going to matter after we get to heaven. At the Judgment Seat of Christ, believers’ works will be judged by fire, and each one will receive rewards based on them. However, if a Saint has no works or if all his works are burned up, that person will still be saved.
“Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
James refers to Abraham’s justification, citing his willingness to sacrifice his son on the altar as his work to prove his faith.
“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.”
James 2:21-24 NKJV
I hope James’s teaching has inspired us to put our faith to work! Although works cannot save, we are commissioned by the Lord to go forth doing good and helping others as we are enabled. We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus to our lost and dying world, spreading the gospel of the Good News. Let’s remember Jesus’s promise to us to reward every good work:
“‘And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.'”
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for showing us that we all need to breathe life into our faith by doing good works. May we be inspired to serve You more by sharing our faith and ministering to one another. May we have acceptable, pleasing works to lay at Your feet at the judgment seat of Christ. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Welcome to October’s first study on FAITHFULNESS. This week we’ll more fully understand what faith is and how it operates in our lives. The Apostle Paul explains it by giving examples from the beginning of creation to Old Testament heroes. Let’s discover how God is faithful to us and how we can become more faithful toward Him and to one other as we grow in this seventh fruit of the Spirit.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…what does that mean to us?
Faith is having absolute confidence that the Lord will do what He has promised. Not simply wishful thinking, but the absolute conviction that God is willing and able to accomplish all He has promised to us, regardless of our circumstances or obstacles that may look impossible to overcome. Through the ages, the saints of old learned that our confidence in Him is never in vain, for “He who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23).
Faith at the dawn of history…
The invisible Word of God formed our universe and our world. God’s Word is the substance of faith out of which all visible worlds have come. That fact alone negates the man-made theory of evolution, which proposes that a “big bang” created our universe (see Hebrews 11:3).
Abel’s testimony still speaks to us today. God accepted his animal sacrifice as an act of faith, declaring it righteous, although He didn’t accept his brother Cain’s (see Hebrews 11:4).
Noah believed God’s warning of unseen things to come and faithfully built an ark according to God’s direction. Noah “became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (see Hebrews 11:7).
Enoch was miraculously translated to heaven without dying. He had a testimony of being pleasing to God, which testified to his great faith. Paul sums it up: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (see Hebrews 11:5-6).
Abraham and Sarah…
Has God ever called you to leave your home and travel by faith to an unknown destination? Like a bride traveling to a foreign country, she trusts that her husband is waiting for her and will take her to his home where he will love, protect, and provide for her.
So went the story of Abraham. God called him to leave his homeland to follow His leading to a future Promised Land. Abraham’s willingness to believe the promise without first seeing it (2 Corinthians 5:7) proves his great faith. For us, too, living by faith means walking forward in obedience to God’s voice and trusting Him for His provision and safe arrival to the destination He has prepared (see Hebrews 11:8-10).
Abraham wasn’t the only one with great faith. His wife, Sarah, proved hers when she believed the promise that she would conceive a son in her old age. God rejuvenated their bodies to be able to conceive and bear this child whose descendants would be as numerous as the stars–the origin of the Jews, God’s chosen people (see Hebrews 11:11-12).
But the story doesn’t stop there. When God tested Abraham’s faith by commanding him to sacrifice his son of promise, his only son Isaac, God stopped him when he was seconds away from plunging the dagger into Isaac’s heart (see Hebrews 11:17-19). Abraham had believed that God wasn’t negating the promise of multiplying his seed through Isaac but would raise Isaac from the dead. Abraham couldn’t know then that God had future plans involving His own Son, Jesus, the final sacrifice for the sins of mankind whom God would raise from the dead.
The Faith of Moses…
What a glorious story of faith! Not only did his parents hide Baby Moses, refusing to put him to death and allowing him to be adopted by Pharoah’s daughter, but Moses also forsook the life of Egyptian royalty as an adult.
Later he obeyed God’s call to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and to the Promised Land. Moses witnessed God’s plagues of judgment on Pharoah when he kept refusing to let the Jews go worship in the wilderness. He watched God split the Red Sea, providing dry ground for them to cross over as they escaped the pursuing Egyptians and their enemy’s subsequent drowning. Moses experienced one miracle after another during their forty-year journey of faith (see Hebrews 11:23-29).
Paul cited several more examples of heroes of the faith for our encouragement (see Hebrews 11:30-40). So many have gone before us and set great examples for us to follow. Faith is truly a divine walk with God down the path of life. That’s how we learn to trust Him and walk boldly in our faith.
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. As we hope in God, we know that He will bring forth the evidence in His timing. Are you living by your faith today, hoping and believing for something not yet seen?
Dear Father God, thank you for being a faithful God we can trust. May we obey Your voice each day and walk a walk of faith. We claim 1 John 5:4: “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith.” In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Welcome to our fourth and final study on the sixth fruit of the Spirit, GOODNESS. Goodness is a main attribute of God, and all His promises for us are good. As children of God, we have the legal right to claim every one of them for our lives. Which promises are you standing on?
“And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises.”
2 Peter 1:4
This week we will have our scriptures attached to each category of God’s promises. You can read each one by clicking directly on the scripture reference.
Right now the hymn, “Standing on the Promises of God,” is playing in my memory. Our church frequently sang it on Sunday mornings–such a good reminder as we began a new week. Let’s refresh our spirits as we begin this new week by remembering some of God’s good promises from His Word.
A long life…
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
“He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.”
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.”
Malachi 3:10 NKJV
Provision for our physical needs…
“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
“‘In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.'”
John 14:2-3 NKJV
Healing the land…
“‘If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.””
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
The list of promises continues and is longer than I could possibly write here. Which promises are you standing on? If not mentioned above, please share the ones that are special to you.
Nothing is more powerful than praying God’s Word back to Him. Please join me in Paul’s prayer of blessing found in Ephesians 3:16-21.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 3:16-21 NIV
What a glorious ending to this fruit of the Spirit! Rehearsing God’s promises refreshes our hearts and minds. No matter what you may be dealing with in your personal life today, Jesus is the answer. Pray His promises back to Him. Stand firm and be encouraged. God will always bring His Word to pass, and His Word never fails. We can trust God completely.
Next month we will be studying about one of my favorite fruits–FAITHFULNESS. I’m looking forward to October, and I’ll be saving you a seat on the “Front Porch!”
Welcome to our third study about GOODNESS. When Jesus walked the earth, His life fully reflected His Father’s perfect goodness. This week we’ll look at some of the stories focusing on Jesus’s words and actions from the New Testament. Pull up a chair and let’s get started!
“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.”
While on earth, Jesus reflected the goodness of God through His teaching ministry and healing the sick.
Teaching in parables…
During the three years of Jesus’s earthly ministry, He began by preaching the Sermon on the Mount. (Click HERE to read the beginning part–the Beatitudes.) The crowds were astonished by the wisdom, truth, and authority of His teachings. He continued to attract crowds wherever He traveled, and He used parables to explain God’s kingdom.
“On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. Then He spoke many things to them in parables…”
Mathew 13: 1-3 NKJV
The parable of the sower…
Do you recall the parable of the sower? (Click HERE to read it.) After Jesus finished speaking, the disciples asked Him why He only spoke to the masses using these metaphors.
“He answered and said to them, ‘Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled…’ ”
Jesus concluded by assuring His disciples, as believers, of their special standing with God.
“‘But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.'”
Matthew 13: 16-17 NKJV
The purpose of parables was to reveal as well as conceal the truth. Just as in Isaiah’s day, hiding the truth was a judgment for unbelief.
Matthew 13 has several other parables we can study. Verses 13 through 18 explain the spiritual meaning of the sower (click HERE to read). As believers, ask the Lord to reveal their mysteries to you, and He will.
Healing the sick…
One of the main displays of Jesus’s ministry was the miraculous healing of the sick. He opened blind eyes, unstopped deaf ears, made the lame walk, healed lepers, cast out demons, and raised the dead.
The Gospels document many examples of stories about healing. Here are a few of my favorites.
The pool of Bethesda…
Remember the man who had been sick for thirty-eight years? An angel would suddenly stir the waters of the pool, and the first person into the water was healed. The man couldn’t step into the pool fast enough when the waters began to churn, so he never received his healing. Click HERE to read about the miracle Jesus performed for him.
Stories about healing the blind are special to me since my mother and several other relatives suffer from eye diseases. Jesus healed a blind man near Jericho who begged the Lord to restore his sight. Click HERE to read the story.
A demon-possessed man…
Who hasn’t read the famous story of Jesus casting out demons, called Legion, into a herd of swine? Only Christ and His disciples had the power then to cast out demons, but on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to dwell in and give all believers the same power. Click HERE to read about this dramatic deliverance.
A deaf-mute …
As Jesus traveled by the Sea of Galilee, they brought a deaf-mute man to Him for healing. Read how Jesus opened his ears and made his speech normal HERE.
How has God’s goodness blessed your life?
Do you have a favorite parable? Would you share it and explain its hidden mystery?
Do you need healing in your body? Or have you or someone you know ever received the touch of Jesus and been healed? Would you share your testimony with us?
Dear Lord, thank you for God’s goodness in Your teaching ministry and Your miracles of healing. We praise You for revealing the mysteries of the kingdom of God to us. May Your Holy Spirit empower us to share the gospel with the world and draw the lost to the cross of Christ. In Jesus’s Name we pray. Amen.
Welcome back to our second study on GOODNESS. God’s goodness is evident throughout all of His creation. This week we’ll look at the genesis of our planet and His masterpiece: Man.In spite of the Fall of Man, God’s masterplan to redeem us overflows with His goodness.
“And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.”
Who is the creator of the universe and the earth? In public school, the textbooks tell a man-made story that denies a creator in its Big Bang Theory. The true story, however, is recorded in the Word of God.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
Genesis 1:1 NKJV
On the first day, God created light to separate the darkness and called them Day and Night. “And God saw the light, that it was good; ” (v.4). This is the first reference to a reflection of goodness, one of God’s main attributes.
The next reference to goodness happens on the third day of creation when God commanded the dry land–the earth–to appear, separated from the seas. He also created mature fruit trees with its seeds as well as seed-bearing plants. “And God saw that it was good” (v.10 and v.12).
On the fourth day, He created the sun, the moon, and the stars. Their purpose was manifold: to map out signs and seasons, and to mark days and years. The sun ruled over the day and the moon over the night. “And God saw that it was good” (v. 18).
God created all sea life and birds on the fifth day. “And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth’ ” (v.21-22).
On the sixth day, God created cattle, creeping things, and beasts of the earth. “And God saw that it was good” (v.25).
God’s masterpiece, however, was the creation of man, made in the image and likeness of God the Holy Trinity.
“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’
And God said, ‘See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food’; and it was so. Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.”
Genesis 1:26-31 NKJV
And on the seventh day, God rested. The creation of the heavens and earth was finished. He blessed and sanctified this day “because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Genesis 2:3 NKJV).
The second chapter of Genesis describes Adam and Eve living in a perfect world inside a lush garden. God had lavished his goodness on everything He had created (Click HERE to read).
After reading this chapter, wouldn’t we expect to read, “And they all lived happily ever after?” So, what spoiled their perfect life?
The Fall of Man…
The serpent deceived Eve to eat from the one forbidden tree in the garden, and she shared the fruit with Adam. In an instant, shame overcame them as they saw that they were naked. They didn’t experience physical death, but instead, they died spiritually, which resulted in separation from God. (Read the account HERE).
We can only imagine how their sin must have broken the heart of God. But out of His goodness poured justice and mercy, a two-sided coin. You can’t have one without the other.
God’s judgments flow from His goodness…
God first dealt out just punishments to Adam, Eve, and the serpent. Below is a summary of His judgments (Click HERE to read the Scriptures).
God cursed the serpent to always crawl on his belly and eat dust. But He also promised that the head of the serpent would be crushed in the future through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross (Genesis 3:14-15).
Eve would experience pain and sorrow in childbirth, and her husband would rule over her (Genesis 3:16).
The ground would be cursed on account of Adam’s sin, and he would have to do hard labor in the fields to grow food (Genesis 3:17-19).
God’s mercy and lovingkindness flow out of His goodness…
God’s new creation, Man, had created a terrible problem–sin now separated them. God had the power to erase His creation and begin over, but He didn’t. He mercifully planned to redeem mankind by sending Jesus to pay the price for sin that Man couldn’t pay.
The first blood sacrifice…
A holy God cannot look on sin without a blood covering. Out of His innate goodness, God showed His mercy and lovingkindness by first covering Adam and Eve’s nakedness. This is the first recorded blood sacrifice for sin in the Bible. “Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21 NKJV).
Today God covers us with His blood when we repent of our sins at the foot of the cross. As the song lyrics say, “Oh, the blood of Jesus that washes white as snow.” Jesus died once for all sins of mankind, and payment was made in full to satisfy our debt to God. Now we can commune fully with our Father in heaven and be secure in our heavenly home when we die.
What Satan meant for evil in the Garden of Eden, God turned around for our good. As a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, we’re all born in sin, but each of us has the opportunity to repent and accept Christ as Savior and Lord. Let’s be grateful and thank God for His goodness toward us.
“Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful. Praise the Lord with the harp; Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy. For the word of the Lord is right, And all His work is done in truth. He loves righteousness and justice; The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
Psalm 33:1-8 NKJV
Dear Father, we thank you for being such a good, good God to us. Thank you for creating the earth and everything in it to fully enjoy. We didn’t deserve Your mercy and grace, but You loved us enough to save us from our sin and redeem us back to You. We praise You for rescuing us from spiritual death and making us alive through Jesus, our Savior. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Welcome to our September study about GOODNESS. Let’s begin by grasping the meaning of this attribute of God. Isn’t it amazing that God grants us His goodness as one of the fruits of the Spirit? God’s goodness is a vast conceptthat blesses us richly.
“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”
Psalm 118:1 NKJV
Let’s define GOODNESS…
What exactly does GOODNESS mean? We might refer to someone as a “good person,” or write “good” across the top of a student’s graded essay. A rich dessert or a juicy steak may taste “good.” Or we might proclaim that a home run or touchdown was “good.” In Texas, we usually reply “good” when asked how we are doing (yes, it’s bad grammar, but it sounds right in Texas).
God’s goodness is different…
We use “good” to describe all sorts of things, but in relation to describing God, it falls short. God is far above our ways and thoughts. Let’s first look at some definitions to better understand this attribute of God’s divine GOODNESS.
Goodness is the central essence of God’s character.
It means God is not evil, abhors evil, and cannot be tempted by evil.
He uses divine wrath and divine justice to manifest His goodness to His creation.
His mercy flows out from His goodness.
God’s kindness flows out from His goodness.
His holy love for His people flows out from His goodness. He saves us through Christ, who is the propitiation for our sins.
God, Himself, is the definition of GOODNESS because He is naturally good in and of Himself. He cannot lie or deceive because He is Truth. God created the universe and its worlds, including our planet, and declared that it was good. Everything holds together in nature perfectly because of His goodness.
Jesus defined goodness…
A rich young ruler asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life. “So Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God’ ” (Luke 18:19 NKJV).
Let’s take time this week to focus on God and His perfect goodness. Let’s soak our minds and hearts in King David’s beautiful psalm that describes this divine attribute.
I will extol You, my God, O King; And I will bless Your name forever and ever. 2 Every day I will bless You, And I will praise Your name forever and ever. 3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearchable. 4 One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty acts. 5 I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, And on Your wondrous works. 6 Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts, And I will declare Your greatness. 7 They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness, And shall sing of Your righteousness. 8 The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy. 9 The Lord is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works. (Click HERE to read the rest of Psalm 145.)
Psalm 145:1-10 NKJV
How has God revealed His goodness to you?
Dear Father, thank you for revealing your divine goodness to us through nature, Your kind actions, and Your free gift of salvation through Your Son Jesus. Plant seeds of goodness in our hearts today so we can reflect Your divine nature in our lost and dying world. May Your goodness draw all people to the cross of Christ. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Welcome to our last week of study on the fruit of KINDNESS. We will conclude the month of August with the story of Ruth and Boaz. Not only is it a romance, but it’s also a redemption story of God’s salvation for mankind.
“But Ruth said: ‘Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God.'”
What a time to be alive! The story of Ruth took place about one hundred years before David took the throne as King of Israel. It was a time of hardship and famine in the pagan Moabite culture. But it was also a time when God showed His lovingkindness and faithfulness to redeem unexpected partners in amazing ways.
Here’s the story…
Naomi’s story begins with her husband, Elimelech, and their two sons–Mahlon and Chilion–and ends with her two daughters-in-law. Originally from Bethlehem in Judah, Naomi’s family left their Jewish homeland due to famine and settled in Moab. (Click HERE for historical background on Moab.) Over a ten-year period, her husband and sons died in a foreign land that worshiped false gods, leaving her with only Orpah and Ruth, both Moabitesses.
A patriarchal culture…
The culture of that day was patriarchal, so a woman without a husband or male relative was doomed to starvation or worse. With no protection or provision, she would be completely dependant on the kindness and generosity of others to survive. Facing a hopeless future, Ruth did the only thing she could: she departed for her homeland.
Naomi directed her daughters-in-law to return to their own families and their own gods. Orpah left, but Ruth clung to Naomi, promising to stay with her and become a worshipper of the God of Israel.
Ruth’s sterling character…
Upon their return to Bethlehem, Ruth set out to make a living for her and Naomi by gleaning in the barley and wheat fields. Ruth became known for her chaste character and her sacrificial loving kindness toward her mother-in-law. One day, Ruth carried jars of barley to Naomi, who discovered that Ruth had gleaned in the fields of Boaz, a close relative.
One night, Boaz was going to winnow barley at the threshing floor. Following Naomi’s instructions, Ruth washed, anointed herself, and dressed in her best clothes.
“So she went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-law instructed her. And after Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was cheerful, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came softly, uncovered his feet, and lay down. Now it happened at midnight that the man was startled, and turned himself; and there, a woman was lying at his feet. And he said, ‘Who are you?’ So she answered, ‘I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a close relative.’ Then he said, ‘Blessed are you of the Lord, my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich.'”
Ruth 3:6-10 NKJV
A happy ending…
Ruth’s action moved Boaz to redeem the property of Elimelech and marry Ruth in order to raise up children to her deceased husband. Isn’t it interesting how God grafted a Moabitess into the lineage of Jesus?
In order to understand this story, we must begin with grasping how redemption worked in a patriarchal culture. God established the Israelites in the knowledge that He was their Father or Patriarch. As such, God desired to redeem the family in relationship to one another and to Him. So, Boaz is a picture of God Himself working out our redemption.
Ruth was brought into Israel’s community, redeemed as the wife of Boaz. But it didn’t stop there. She also joined in the redemption process for others, becoming the great-grandmother of King David. By God’s redeeming a foreigner, we know ahead of time that Jesus would also redeem all men to Himself, not just Jews. The family of God embraces all mankind with lovingkindness and without exclusivity.
How does the story of Ruth show God’s loving-kindness?
We are sojourners born into a sinful world, like Ruth. Left there, we will spiritually starve and remain dead in our sins. But God’s loving-kindness invites us to come home to Him. Like Boaz, He redeems us through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. He pays the price for us to belong to Him and become His bride. The best part? We will worship Jesus and reside forever in His heavenly kingdom.
Hasn’t this month been an enlightening study? The KINDNESS of God relates directly back to salvation in each story we’ve examined. Let’s praise our heavenly Father for loving us in our sinful state yet extending His hand of KINDNESS to us through the blood of Christ shed at the cross. It’s only through His grace that we can be redeemed from the curse.
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Ephesians 2:4-9 NKJV
Which part of Ruth’s story impacts you the most?
Dear Jesus, thank you for teaching us about Your kind and loving character through the story of Ruth and Boaz. Although we are all born into sin, You are here to redeem us and make us Your bride. We give You all the praise, honor, and glory because You are worthy, dear Lamb of God. In Your precious Name we pray, Amen.
Welcome to our third study about KINDNESS. This week we’ll be looking at King David who, out of love for his dear friend Jonathan, extended kindness to Jonathan’s crippled son.Woven into this story is also the salvation message.
“So David said to him, ‘Do not fear, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake’ ” (2 Samuel 9:7 NKJV).
After King Saul and his son Jonathan were killed on the battlefield, David reigned as king over all of Israel. Although Saul was David’s enemy, Jonathan and David were the closest and dearest of friends.
Years after David had been reigning as king, he called for Ziba, a servant from Saul’s house, to ask if there were any relatives of Saul who were still alive. David’s motive wasn’t to murder anyone–which would have secured David’s title to the throne. Instead, his noble motive was to show God’s kindness for Jonathan’s sake.
Ziba informed the king that Jonathan’s crippled son named Mephibosheth lived in Lo Debar. (For the backstory on how he became crippled, click HERE.)
An unexpected gift of kindness…
So, David sent for Mephibosheth who, fearing he might be killed, prostrated himself at the king’s feet. But David assured him that he only intended to show him kindness for his father’s sake. David restored to him all of Saul’s land and instructed Ziba and his fifteen sons to be Mephibosheth’s servants.
“And the king called to Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said to him, ‘I have given to your master’s son all that belonged to Saul and to all his house. You, therefore, and your sons and your servants, shall work the land for him, and you shall bring in the harvest, that your master’s son may have food to eat.”
2 Samuel 9:9-10a NKJV
David’s last instruction amazed everyone. Not only was Jonathan’s son reinstated with his family’s wealth (that now legally belonged to David), but also Mephibosheth ate every meal at the king’s table for the rest of his life.
How is this story of David and Mephibosheth reflected in the salvation story?
We are all like Mephibosheth– outcasts born into sin, living outside the kingdom of God.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Romans 3:23 NKJV
Out of David’s love for Jonathan, he sought to bless any of Jonathan’s relatives left in the land. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, goes to look for us out of His lovingkindness and brings us to Himself.
“…for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Luke 19:10 NKJV
David legally restored King Saul’s lands and servants back to Saul’s grandson. God makes us joint-heirs with His Son through salvation at the cross.
“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”
Romans 8:16-17a NKJV
King David invited Mephibosheth to dine at his table for the rest of his life. God invites us to eat at His table with Christ for eternity and forever live in His presence.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.
Psalm 23:5-6 NKJV
How has the kindness of God changed your life?
Dear Lord, we praise You for seeking us out, inviting us to live in Your kingdom and to eat with You at your table. Thank you for Your precious gift of salvation through Jesus’s blood, shed for us at the cross. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Welcome to our second study about KINDNESS. This week we’ll be reading about the Good Samaritan who showed kindness to aman, beaten and robbed, as he traveled down the road.We’ll also discover some deeper meanings of this parable and how it relates to our lives today.
“ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ”(Luke 10:27 NKJV)
A certain expert in the law stood up in the temple and tested Jesus by asking what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus also tested the lawyer by asking him to explain what the law said about it.
“So he answered and said, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
(Luke 10:27 NKJV)
Jesus commended him for answering correctly, but the lawyer wanted to argue in his own defense by asking, “And who is my neighbor?” (v.29) Apparently, the lawyer felt justified in choosing from an exclusive circle. That question was a springboard for Jesus to answer with a parable.
Here’s a short summary: A man traveled from Jerusalem to Jericho and encountered a band of thieves who beat and robbed him, leaving him naked and half-dead. A priest and a Levite both passed him by, but later a Samaritan stopped to help. He applied first-aid to his wounds and carried him on his animal to an inn where he cared for him. The next day the Samaritan paid the innkeeper to take care of the man in his absence and promised to pay him any additional costs upon his return.
Then Jesus questioned the lawyer. “ ‘So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?’ And he replied, ‘He who showed mercy on him.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’ ”
(Luke 10:36-37 NKJV)
“Who is my neighbor?” (v.29)
Jesus rubbed more salty truth into the lawyer’s query by choosing a Samaritan as the hero of the parable. A Samaritan was the most unlikely person to help a Jew according to the culture of that day.
Notice that right off the bat, the Lord brought in two clashing cultures who had no dealings with one another. (To understand why not, click HERE to read last week’s post.) So, right away this story must have sounded unbelievable to the ears of the scholarly lawyer.
The beaten, naked, half-dead man on life’s road is each one of us.
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.”
(John 10:10a NKJV)
2. The priest and the Levite represent the lawyer but can signify anyone who reacts to others’ needs with a cold heart.
“And He said, ‘Woe to you also, lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.’ ”
(Luke 11:46 NKJV)
3. The Samaritan is Jesus, a kindhearted, compassionate person who doesn’t hesitate to help anyone in need, whether in or outside his cultural or religious circle. He accepts us just as we are.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
(Galatians 6:2 NKJV)
“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin.”
(James 2:8-9 NKJV)
4. When we become saved,the Lord pours in the oil and the wine to heal all our inner and outer wounds, and he binds us up with His tender mercies.
“Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindnesses, For they are from of old.”
(Psalm 25:6 NKJV)
5. He carries us to the inn, His house of worship where we are sheltered and protected. Therewe grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ during our earthly sojourn.
“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”
(Ephesians 2:19 NKJV)
6. The Innkeeper is God the Holy Spirit. Jesus paid the price to Father God for our sins by shedding His blood and dying on the cross in our place. We reside on earth with our Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to care for us until Jesus returns to take us to heaven.
“And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”
(I John 2:2 NKJV)
Jesus is our picture of true kindness…
Jesus gives us a picture of what true kindness looks like. Like Him, let’s show mercy to kindly help others in need. Let’s lead the lost to the lovingkindness of the cross.
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
(Ephesians 2:4-7 NKJV)
Do you love God with all your heart, soul, strength, mind–and your neighbor as yourself?
How do you show God’s lovingkindness to your neighbor?
Dear Lord, We love and praise You for being our Good Samaritan and giving us eternal life. May we generously give Your love away to those who are hurting and always love our neighbors as ourselves. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Welcome to August! This month we will resume our study on the Fruit of the Spirit, continuing with KINDNESS. This week we’ll read about the kindness Jesus showed to the Samaritan woman at the well. Isn’t it wonderful how the Lord shows us, the undeserving, the same compassion?
“Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst’” (John 4:13 NKJV).
Jesus and His disciples had to travel through Samaria on their way from Judah to Galilee. Jesus, weary from their trip, rested by Jacob’s well while his disciples went into the city to buy food. That’s when a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus, out of kindness, broke the customs of that day by asking her for a drink.
A conversation ensued between them, in spite of the fact that Jews never spoke to Samaritans. Using water as an analogy, Jesus piqued her curiosity: “’If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, “Give Me a drink,” you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water’” (v.10).
“Sir, give me this water…” (v. 15)
Toting a heavy water pot was women’s work, so we can well imagine the lure of never having to do that back-breaking chore again. She swallowed the bait, asking Jesus for some of His “magic” water. But that’s when He knocked her off-balance with knowledge about her personal life. He said to her, “‘Go, call your husband and come here’” (v.16). When she answered that she had no husband, Jesus commended her answer. “’You have well said, “I have no husband,” for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly” (v. 17-18).
Thus began her journey of belief. The woman realized Jesus must be a prophet, and their conversation turned to the subject of worship. One of the main contentions between Samaritans and Jews involved their places of worship–Mount Gerizim as opposed to Jerusalem. Jesus countered that as for worship, neither the city Jerusalem nor the mountaintop mattered.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (v. 21-24).
“The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When He comes, He will tell us all things.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He’” (v. 25-26).
In John 4:27, the disciples returned from their errand, bringing food for Jesus. Why were they so surprised to find the Lord conversing with a Samaritan woman? Prejudice has always existed throughout the ages, and Jesus’s day was no different. Jews had no dealings with Samaritans, and here’s why.
Jews v. Samaritans…
Like the Jews, Samaritans exist today and still live in Israel. Although they are a small sect, Samaritans are half-Jew and half-Gentile. Their origin dates back to the northern kingdom of Israel before the Jews were exiled to Babylon. During the seventy-year exile, the few Jews left in the homeland intermarried with Persians and Assyrians, thus forming the Samaritan race. They believe they are the true worshipers of God according to Jewish tradition, only accepting the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, as their holy Scriptures. They also claim Mount Gerizim as their place of worship, not Jerusalem. (Click HERE to read about the history of Mount Gerazim.)
When the Jews returned from Babylonian exile, they were greeted by the Samaritans who wanted to help rebuild the Temple. The Jews, however, refused to accept these “half-breeds” and their different religious practices, claiming they were no longer true Jews. Thus began a hostile animosity between the two people that still exists today, and Jewish travelers will still go out of their way to avoid crossing into Samaritans’ territory. (Click HERE to read more about the history of the Samaritans.)
Jesus and His disciples were crossing land where Jews wouldn’t normally travel. Although Jews and Samaritans didn’t mix, Jesus also crossed the line of cultural prejudice by speaking to a woman. He showed kindness by not judging her for her sinful lifestyle, but by offering her eternal life through belief in Him as Savior.
Prophecy is the accurate foretelling of a future event. It proves the truth of the Bible and Jesus’s identity as the Son of God. No fortune teller has ever predicted the future at 100 percent–that’s impossible. But, to date, God’s prophecies in the Word have come true at 100 percent—and the future ones will too. God cannot lie because His Word is Truth.
The Samaritan woman believed Jesus because He had correctly prophecied about all the things she had done. The others in the town initially believed because of what the woman had told them. But after listening to Jesus for two days, they said to her, “’It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world’” (v. 42).
The kindness of the gospel…
We may never know her name on earth, but this woman did a great thing that was recorded in the Bible–she ran to tell everyone that she had found the Messiah sitting at Jacob’s Well.
What about you? Has Jesus found you in your daily walk of life? Has He sat beside you and kindly offered you a drink from His eternal well of salvation that will never run dry?
Do you share the kindness of the gospel with others?
Dear Father, thank you for Your kind gift of salvation through your Son. May we be true worshipers of You, worshiping in spirit and truth. May we witness to others, especially those outside our social circles. Give us Your wisdom and discernment to speak the right words in those moments of opportunity, and draw all men to Yourself. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Welcome to our final summer review lesson. This week we’ll review the theme of salvation, which is the ultimate gift of LOVE from God. Let’s travel back to the night when Nicodemus secretly visited Jesus to ask Him questions about how to be born again.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17 NKJV).
Nicodemus secretly met with the Lord one night, so he could question Him about His miraculous works. Can’t we identify with this Pharisee’s literal thinking? I know I can. Even with all his religious education and high position as a ruler of the Jews, he was baffled by Jesus’s statement that “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
God is spirit…
Jesus took the opportunity to teach Nicodemus the difference between the flesh and the Spirit. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). Jesus used the wind as an example to illustrate this principle. “‘The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit’” (John 3:8).
Spiritual birth, a mystery…
Jesus explained spiritual birth to Nicodemus, a Torah scholar and intellectual who found Jesus’s teaching incredible. As was Jesus’s custom, He used an illustration to express what salvation is like–a mystery of God that we feel and witness but cannot see with the naked eye. Perhaps that’s why intellectuals, even today, find this concept difficult to understand because it can’t be dissected and examined under a microscope. It’s a spiritual place in our heart where true salvation takes place.
The consequence of Adam and Eve’s disobedience sentenced every person to be born into spiritual death, a condition which separates us from God. But God sent His Son into the world to save mankind and reunite us with the Father. God provided His only Son as the perfect sacrificial Lamb who laid down His life on the cross. Jesus took the sins of the world on Himself so we could be saved through His shed blood. Everyone who believes in the Name of Jesus will be born again, but those who don’t believe are already condemned.
Are you saved? Or not?…
How about you? If you’ve been born-again, would you share your salvation story with us? If not, pray this prayer below and let us know so we can rejoice with you! “‘Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents’” ~ (Luke 15:10).
Dear Heavenly Father, I’m a sinner, and I want to be born again. I confess and repent of my sins. Come into my life and be my Lord and Savior. Wash my sins away in the blood of the Lamb and robe me in Your righteousness. Thank you for making me alive in Jesus and writing my name in the Lamb’s Book of Life. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Thank you for joining me this month to review some of our past posts about LOVE, JOY, PEACE, and PATIENCE. I’m looking forward to resuming our regular study in August, focusing on KINDNESS. How does the Lord show kindness to us? How can we show more kindness to others? Next week we’ll begin with the story of the Woman at the Well and learn how to win the lost to Christ. See you then!
Welcome to our fourth summer review! This week we’ll study about finding God’s patience. Today’s culture encourages prompt satisfaction of our needs and wants without any wait, so we’re out of practice when it comes to patience. Let’s explore Scripture and find the blessings that will be ours by planting and nurturing this important fruit of the Spirit.
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4 NKJV).
James instructs us to respond with JOY when we encounter trials in our lives. Although we aim to avoid them, we are all dealt those unavoidable cards at some point in life. Trials come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors, and sometimes it seems as though they will never end. So, since they are inevitable, how should we handle them? Do they have a purpose?
God uses trials to test our faith. Our measure of faith may only be as small as a mustard seed, “‘but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade’” (Mark 4:32 NKJV). Our faith grows a little more through each test and has the capacity to become huge.
And the product of tested faith? Patience. James outlines the method for acquiring the precious fruit of patience as we endure trials. Here they are:
First, ask for God’s wisdom…
James tells us to first pray for God’s wisdom, which is free for the asking. “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6 NKJV). Doubt produces double-mindedness, which in turn robs us of God’s blessings. We can’t receive wisdom with one foot in the world and the other in the Spirit. Ask, believe, and rest in the assurance that you have received God’s free gift.
Wisdom will also help us when we encounter persecution. As Jesus faced persecution, so may we. The godly person prospers by enduring the noonday heat, which in turn scorches and wilts the persecutors of their faith. “Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away” (James 1:9-10 NKJV). Wisdom will stand by us through trials and help us develop patience instead of a wrong response.
Second, understand the source of temptations…
Temptations can be hard to resist, and to do so requires spiritual strength. Does God send temptations to us? No, not ever! We must never blame God for those trials because He is a good God who never tempts anyone to do evil. The true source of temptation comes from our own desires of the flesh. “Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:15 NKJV).
Last, embrace these for success…
We must control our tongues and our tempers. Learning to practice silence and good listening skills help us walk in God’s righteousness. “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20 NKJV). Here “slow” means patient.
As we humbly receive the Word that saves our souls, we must be doers of the Word and not merely hearers. “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25 NKJV).
Practice pure religion and bridle the tongue. “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:26-27 NKJV).
Merriam Webster defines patience as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.
In our hurry-up, instant world, our culture encourages impatience and entitlement. We abhor trials and try to avoid them at all costs. God, on the other hand, performs a work inside each of us to give us patience, a precious fruit of the Spirit, to make us complete. However, we must slow down and learn how to wait. Learning how to develop patience may take a lifetime.
How can we develop patience in such an impatient world? James gives us an example. “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient” (James 5:7b-8a NKJV).
What are you waiting on today? Whether it’s about finances, relationships, education, health, or something else—allow God to enlarge your faith. As you wait, you’ll be growing branches of patience inside your spirit. After all, “Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:4 NKJV).
Dear Heavenly Father, help us face our trials with JOY. Grow our faith and produce the fruit of patience in our spirits. We thank you for making us perfect and complete through endurance in Jesus’s Name. Amen.
Welcome to our summer review about finding God’s peace. This week we’ll be exploring how to experience peace in our relationships with people. We’ll begin by looking at Moses and how he dealt with his huge assignment of leading the Israelites to the Promised Land–a 40-day journey that took an exhausting forty years.
“When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7 NKJV).
When God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses balked. He claimed that neither the sons of Israel nor Pharaoh would listen to him due to his poor speaking skills. How could he find peace and have success in these new relationships God had thrust upon him?
“So the Lord said to Moses: ‘See, I have made you as God to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you. And Aaron your brother shall tell Pharaoh to send the children of Israel out of his land. And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh will not heed you, so that I may lay My hand on Egypt and bring My armies and My people, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the children of Israel from among them’” (Exodus 7:1-5 NKJV).
But God had a plan. He appointed Aaron, Moses’s brother, as his spokesman. He also explained His plan from beginning to end and what Moses could expect from his relationship with Pharaoh.
Each time, Moses approached Pharaoh’s throne to make his request with humility coupled with God’s reassuring strength. God had already told Moses that Pharaoh would refuse to honor his word.
So, the plagues arrived as Pharaoh refused to let God’s people go: water turned to blood, frogs, lice, flies, diseased livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness– and finally– the death of every firstborn, which pried open Pharaoh’s chains and freed the Israelites.
Isn’t it interesting that God purposefully hardened Pharaoh’s heart?He tells us why: “‘…so that My wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt’” (Exodus 11:9b NKJV). God always brings glory to His Name.
Therefore, God had a greater purpose in Moses’s relationship with Pharaoh. He also proved that He protects His children even while punishing His enemies. We witness this in two places: when Egypt was covered in darkness and when God smote the firstborn of the Egyptians. (Click HERE to read about the miracle of light and HERE to read about the miracle of Passover.)
God had forewarned Moses of His plan but also promised His peace and protection.“‘But against none of the children of Israel shall a dog move its tongue, against man or beast, that you may know that the Lord does make a difference between the Egyptians and Israel’” (Exodus 11:7 NKJV).
How does this lesson about Moses help us find peace today? We’re all called to be leaders, whether it’s in ministry, our jobs, or our families. No matter our title, we all must relate to someone above us as well as to those equal and below us in rank.
Relating to those superior in rank
Just like Moses approached Pharaoh, we should approach those who rank above us with respect, patience, and humility. But, in spite of our best efforts, what if our superiors treat us badly? Moses must have dreaded the job of going before Pharaoh to continuously ask for freedom, but remembering God’s promises pushed him forward.
We, too, must go forward as God directs. If it’s God’s will, we must patiently endure harsh treatment, resting in God’s promises and the knowledge that He is in control.
Peter sums it up: “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good” (I Peter 2:13-14 NKJV).
On the other hand, God is everyone’s superior. Moses found out the hard way that the Lord has boundaries he mustn’t cross. After God instructed Moses to speak to the rock so that it would yield water, Moses struck the rock twice instead of obeying the Lord. Therefore, God refused to allow him to set foot in the Promised Land. (You can read about it HERE.)
Relating to those equal in rank
Our relationships with friends and family may be sweet one day and sour the next. These relationships may steal our peace the most. How can we learn to live without struggling against our loved ones?
Moses struggled in his relationship with his siblings, but God defended him. His older brother, Aaron, and his sister, Miriam, spoke against him because of the Ethiopian woman Moses had married. “So they said, ‘Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?’ And the Lord heard it” (Numbers 12:2 NKJV). God proceeded to give the two a dressing down for judging their brother, whom God honored as His faithful servant and with whom He spoke face to face. God’s punishment slammed Miriam by making her become leprous. After Aaron repented and appealed to Moses, Moses appealed to God for her deliverance. (Click HERE to read the story.)
Let’s heed wise advice from Peter for finding peace: “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 2:8-9 NKJV).
Relating to those below us in rank
Do you gaze at those in charge of you and dream of future leadership? It may look easy on the outside, but the responsibility is heavy. Those who lead others at work and/or children at home must learn excellent coping skills for maintaining peace.
As the Israelites roamed the desert for forty years, Moses had a plethora of duties as he cared for the people–and no peace. He dealt with everything–from their daily complaints to wars against various enemies they encountered on the way to the Promised Land. We can witness, for example, how Moses suffered over their demands for food (Click HERE) and for water:
“Therefore the people contended with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water, that we may drink.’ So Moses said to them, ‘Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the Lord?’ And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, ‘Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?’ So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!”’ (Exodus 17:2-4 NKJV).
Delegating authority is a good solution to attaining peace. As Moses experienced exhaustion and frustration from dealing with the people, God used Moses’s father-in-law to help find peace through governance. Jethro recognized that Moses couldn’t bear up under such a weight of responsibility and convinced him to get help. Read about Jethro’s advice HERE.
Peter shares the recipe for finding peace in every relationship
“For ‘He who would love life And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers’” (1 Peter 3:8-12a NKJV).
Throughout our lifetimes, we’ll experience different relationships with people as varied as the stars. Let’s heed the Apostle Paul’s encouragement when he says, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18 NKJV).
How do you find God’s peace in your relationships?
Dear Father, we look to You for divine guidance and wisdom as we seek peace in our relationships. With your help, may we love one another and live in peace all our days. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Welcome to Week 10 where we’ve been studying the second Fruit of the Spirit, JOY. Last week we explored how JOY comes through trials in our lives. It’s a paradox for something so wonderful to come out of difficulty or suffering. (Click HERE to read Week 9) Where does JOY originate? Deep in our salvation, placed there the moment we say YES to Jesus. This week we’ll see what happens in heaven when just one sinner repents.
When tax collectors and sinners gathered around Jesus, the Pharisees and scribes criticized Jesus for allowing such men to be near Him. That sparked Jesus to relate three parables directed at these hypocritical Pharisees.
The first one deals with a shepherd who leaves his flock of ninety-nine to seek for one that is lost. “‘And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing’” (v.5). But his JOY multiplies after returning home. He invites friends and neighbors to a party to celebrate with him over finding his one lost sheep.
The second parable tells about a woman who loses one of her ten silver coins. She lights a lamp, sweeps her house, and searches diligently until she finds it. “‘And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’” (v.9)
The third relates the story of the prodigal son. After he squanders all his money, he finds himself working in a pigsty where even the pig’s food looks appealing to his empty stomach. After he comes to himself, he makes the long journey home to appeal to his father to make him as one of his slaves.
Much to his surprise, his father runs out to meet him and welcomes him with a joyful kiss. “‘But the father said to the servant, “Bring out the best robe and put it on him and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” And they began to be merry’” (v. 22-24).
Have you ever lost something of great value? I have. The situation caused my heart to canter and my mind to swirl in panic. I retraced my steps and got on hands and knees, feeling behind furniture and shining a flashlight into dark corners. Finally, my lost treasure was discovered–usually in the last place I looked. My relief turned to JOY, and my family and friends rejoiced with me.
What do these parables have in common? Probably something that has happened to each of us–something precious is lost and later is found. And the finders’ joy overflows to a celebration.
But the meaning is far deeper…
“‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me’” (Revelation 3:20 NKJV).
The lost sheep, coin, and prodigal son represent those who are lost in their sins but who find JOYful salvation at the cross of Christ. Jesus uses these parables to show the Pharisees and scribes how God feels about one lost sinner. Each person is so special that God personally seeks out each one. Then He calls His angels in heaven together to rejoice with Him over every person who repents.
As an altar minister at my church, I have prayed with several people over the years for salvation. Through our tears, I remind them that the angels are celebrating JOYfully in heaven as well as writing their name in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
There is no sweeter time of celebration on heaven or on earth than when a lost soul repents and meets Jesus as personal Lord and Savior. “The king shall have JOY in Your strength, O Lord; and in Your salvation how greatly shall he rejoice!” (Psalm 21:1 NKJV)
Can you share your story of JOY with us, either about your own salvation or the salvation of a friend or loved one?
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for making the salvation experience one that is full of JOY. May we feast on the JOY of our salvation and also rejoice with those whose salvation we witness. We ask You to send forth Your Spirit to draw in the Lost and use us as Your witnesses during these last days. In Your Son’s Name we pray, Amen.
Welcome to the month of July! I’m pausing our study of the Fruit of the Spirit until August. In the meantime, we’ll be reviewing some of our past posts to refresh our spirits during this hot month. Pull up a chair on the “front porch” and enjoy a cool glass of lemonade as we dive into the theme of LOVE.
Memory Verse: “He said, ‘Do not stretch out your hand against the lad and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son from Me’” (Genesis 22:12 NKJV).
God tested Abraham by commanding him to take his only son, Isaac, to Moriah to offer him as a burnt offering to God. After a two days’ journey, he told the young men traveling with them, “’Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you’” (v.5). As they went up the mountain, Isaac asked his father, “’Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham said, ‘God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son’” (v.7-8).
The story of Abraham and Isaac parallels the future story of Jesus’s obedient sacrifice on the cross. God stopped Abraham from plunging the knife into his son’s body, and Abraham’s reward for His obedient faith was great. Read the climax of the story here.
Sacrifice is defined by Merriam-Webster as “an act of offering to a deity something precious especially, the killing of a victim on an altar.”
But in the case of Jesus, He was not a victim. He willingly laid down His life for our sins. That was the very reason He came to earth, to restore our salvation stolen by Satan in the Garden of Eden. Read about it here.
When Jesus walked the earth, He told His disciples: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35 NKJV).
Jesus added, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:12-13 NKJV).
Jesus, the supreme sacrifice…
Jesus complied with God’s request to become the supreme sacrifice for the sins of mankind. He willingly left his abode in heaven with the Father and the Holy Spirit and came into the world through the Virgin Mary. We praise and worship Jesus for His sacrifice on the cross where we are saved through His blood, and our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Choosing the assurance of eternity in God’s kingdom is an awesome gift.
Out of our overflowing love for our Savior, let’s generously demonstrate our love to one another through sacrifice. What better way for us to prove we are His disciples!
Have you ever sacrificed for someone else? Or has someone sacrificed for you? Please encourage us with your story.
Let’s conclude this week’s study with a look at the definition of LOVE as defined by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” ( v.4-8). To read the full chapter, click here.
I prayerfully leave you with Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:13: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Lord, thank you for loving us enough to come to earth and lay down your life so we can be saved. May we love one another and sacrifice for our fellow man, and so prove to be Your disciples. In Your Name, we pray. Amen.
Welcome to our last week of study about patience. This week we’ll study how to be patient as we wait on the Lord. Waiting is proactive. We should be busy in the Lord’s service and fervent prayer, not only for ourselves but for others in similar circumstances.
“But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31 NKJV).
Pray earnestly and seek God through disciplined prayer.
Listen attentively to His voice by opening our spiritual ears to His leading.
Rest in God’s sovereignty, trusting Him for the ultimate answer.
Serve God while we wait by actively serving others.
And the result for waiting on the Lord?STRENGTH. (Isaiah 40:31)
Inward strength: to persevere
Upward strength: to mount up with eagles’ wings
Outwardstrength: to run and not get weary
Onwardstrength: to walk and not faint
Waiting on the Lord means being in a season where–what we’re waiting for–“IT”– hasn’t happened yet. During this time, we don’t sit back and do nothing, like waiting mindlessly in a line at the market. Instead, we proactively pray and seek God, the truest and most correct ways to wait on Him. Psalm 27 sums it up best:
“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:13-14 NASB).
Pray, Trust, and Obey…
As we pray and seek the Lord, we must place all our faith in our good heavenly Father. We must trust in His sovereignty, for He alone is God. We are here to serve Him and bring Him all praise, worship, and glory through our obedience to His Word.
Here’s something I learned the hard way: we don’t have to understand everything first in order to obey God. We may still have unanswered questions, but that’s where trust comes into play.
Take Job, for example. Although he had lost everything and had lots of WHYS, he still worshiped in obedience. In the end, Job learned that God is Sovereign and can be trusted through the worst of trials. Remember…God blessed Job double for all he had lost. (Click HERE to read our study about Job during Week 23 if you missed it.)
The Parable of the Faithful Servant…
In this parable, Jesus compares waiting for the second coming of Christ to servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding. What is the parable’s advice?
“Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them (Luke 12:35-37 NKJV).
As we wait on the Lord, may we faithfully serve one another, praying and showing Christian love…
Are you waiting on physical healing? James instructs us:
“Is anyone among you sick? 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 will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:14-16 NKJV).
Are you waiting on financial provision? Pray for those who are also in material need. Isaiah 37:25 assures us we will have our needs met. The Apostle Paul tells us:
“And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NKJV).
Are you waiting on a godly mate? Pray for others who seek a husband or wife. Following are some encouraging verses from Proverbs:
“He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22 NKJV).
“An excellent wife is the crown of her husband” (Proverbs 12:4 NKJV).
“Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:10-12 NKJV).
Are you waiting for a life’s situation to change? Jeremiah 29:11 is a favorite to cling to:
“‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you’, says the Lord, ‘thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.'”
All Christians are waiting on the coming of the Lord. Here are some encouraging Scriptures.
The Ascension of Christ:
“Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:9-11 NKJV).
The Rapture of the Saints:
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.)
The Second Coming of Christ:
“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God…And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:11-13, 16 NKJV).
How about you?
What is IT that you’re waiting for? As Christian brothers and sisters, let’s lift up one another in prayer. May you be blessed as you wait patiently on the Lord.
Dear Father in heaven, we are waiting on You. May we pray with discipline, listen with spiritual ears, rest in your sovereignty, and serve others while we wait. Strengthen us to run and not get weary, to walk and not faint. May we serve You faithfully and work diligently for Your kingdom. Thank you for growing our patience as we wait on You. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Thank you for joining me for our Fruit of the Spirit study. I’ll be taking off the month of July for summer vacation, but I’ll return in August when we’ll continue with KINDNESS. Each Monday in July, I’ll be sharing some of our past posts over Love, Joy, and Peace for you to enjoy in my absence.See yousoon!
What exactly is a parable? According to Merriam-Webster, it’s an allegory or a short fictitious story that teaches a moral or religious principle.
As an agrarian society, the people in Jesus’s day could easily identify with a story about farming. The sower in this parable scattered identical seed on four different types of soil, each yielding different results.
Same seed, different results…
Some seed fell by the wayside or the side of the road. People trampled over it, and birds devoured it before it had a chance to take root.
Some fell on the rock where plants sprang up immediately. But they withered and died just as fast due to a lack of water.
Some fell among thorns, which sprang up and choked out the new plants.
But the seed that fell on the good ground sprang up, producing a crop with a yield hundreds of times over.
“When He [Jesus] had said these things He cried, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear!’” (Luke 8:8b NKJV).
Why Jesus taught with parables…
The disciples asked Jesus why He spoke to the crowds only in parables. “And He said, ‘To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that “Seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand”’” (Luke 8:10 NKJV).
Have you ever heard unbelievers remark that if they try to read God’s Word, it makes no sense? The Word springs from a spiritual source, not from the world’s cistern. That may