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.
God bless America and all the freedoms our Constitution affords to our citizens!
May we also be mindful in the midst of our celebrations that freedom isn’t free. It comes with a great price–the priceless blood of those who have fought and died for the political freedom we celebrate today.
Jesus also paid the ultimate price on the cross for our spiritual freedom. His shed blood sets us free from death, hell, and the grave. His resurrection power seals our eternity with Him in heaven. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1 NASB).