God’s Sorrow

 

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“For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin”

2 Corinthians 7:10

 

“I am a man of constant sorrow I’ve seen trouble all my day. . .For six long years I’ve been in trouble, No pleasures here on earth I found. For in this world I’m bound to ramble I have no friends to help me now.” I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow – Soggy Bottom Boys

This sad, sorrowful song paints a desperate, hopeless picture of poor decisions leading to sorrow. Usually, when we read or hear of sorrow, this is the picture we see: hopeless, sad, lamenting, regret. However, God has provided a far better definition. Godly sorrow offers repentance and renewal—forgiveness!

How typical of God, the lover of our souls, to wash away the hopelessness of sorrow as we know it, and replace it with hope-filled repentance—the forgiveness of sins. Those who willingly follow Christ understand repentance and forgiveness. Not only do we understand— we relish the thought of God’s unlimited forgiveness. Interestingly, non believers, those who reject Christ, still understand the power of forgiveness as opposite of the power of sorrowful regret or hopelessness. All humans know that forgiveness, whether given or received, brings welcome relief mixed with hope. And why not— forgiveness was invented by God and shown to the world through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 7:8-10

“I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.”  

Psalm 51:16-17

  “You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering.

The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant

heart, O God.” 

Isaiah 66:1-2

“This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is My throne, and the earth is my footstool. Could you build Me a temple as good as that? Could you build Me such a resting  place?

My hands have made both heaven and earth; they and everything in them are Mine. I, the Lord, have spoken! “I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts, who tremble at my word.”

1 Peter 5:5-7  

“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

Psalm 33:16-22

16 “No king is saved by the size of his army;

   no warrior escapes by his great strength.

17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;

   despite all its great strength it cannot save.

18 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear Him,

   on those whose hope is in His unfailing love,

19 to deliver them from death  and keep them alive in famine.

20 We wait in hope for the LORD;

   He is our help and our shield.

21 In Him our hearts rejoice,

   for we trust in His holy name.

22 May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD,

   even as we put our hope in You.”

Hebrews 12:11

“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”

When confronted by punishment, a child is sorrowful (perhaps because they’ve been discovered rather than for their behavior). If they’ve learned a lesson, their life will be more peaceful afterwards. If not, the cycle will be repeated. The same is true in our relationship with God. If we learn the lesson and repent, our sorrow will be short-lived and transformed into righteousness.

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A New Person

“When someone becomes a Christian, they become a brand new person”  2 Cor. 5:17

The darkened theatre was hushed as the magician placed his beautiful assistant in the coffin-like box, balanced on top of two sturdy frames. Seemingly delighted with the prospect, her white teeth gleamed as she obliged, stepping into the box, disappearing beneath the closing lid.  

It was clear to the audience that the box was balanced on the frames, nothing beneath, no cloth to hide an escape route, just a long box on wooden frames which he now nailed shut to add even more drama and suspense.  

To this point, I was mildly interested in what came next, how he would make believe that she disappeared and would walk out from stage-left or some such thing. But when his other assistant rolled out a cart, piled high with razor-sharp swords, I began to squirm. Sure enough, he brandished one of the swords, touching its sharpened edge and then quickly spun around, shoving it into the box up to its hilt, I joined the audience in an unbelieving gasp! It was not possible.

Before we could regain our composure, the magician quickly and methodically walked around the box, shoving every sword deeply into the box, where his innocent assistant lay! Even though I knew this was a magic show and came with a great deal of skepticism, I have to admit to absolute shock mixed with fear and unbelief as I watched.

Of course she was not dead or even injured as we all saw in a few moments when he opened the lid with much difficulty (so it seemed) to reveal the undamaged young assistant. Judging by what we saw on the outside, that young woman should have been fatally wounded. However, what we thought we saw was not what really happened. It was an illusion, unlike our new life in Christ.

On the outside, we may seem the same as we were before Christ was invited into our lives, but inside we are totally changed—new people—filled with His Holy Spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:13-21  “Whatever we do, it is certainly not for our own profit but because Christ’s love controls us now. Since we believe that Christ died for all of us, we should also believe that we have died to the old life we used to live. He died for all so that all who live—having received eternal life from him—might live no longer for themselves, to please themselves, but to spend their lives pleasing Christ who died and rose again for them. So stop evaluating Christians by what the world thinks about them or by what they seem to be like on the outside. Once I mistakenly thought of Christ that way, merely as a human being like myself. How differently I feel now! When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!”

All these new things are from God who brought us back to himself through what Christ Jesus did. And God has given us the privilege of urging everyone to come into his favor and be reconciled to him. For God was in Christ, restoring the world to himself, no longer counting men’s sins against them but blotting them out. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. We are Christ’s ambassadors. God is using us to speak to you: we beg you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, receive the love he offers you—be reconciled to God. For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God’s goodness into us!

1 Peter 1:21-25  “Because of this, your trust can be in God who raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory. Now your faith and hope can rest in him alone. Now you can have real love for everyone because your souls have been cleansed from selfishness and hatred when you trusted Christ to save you; so see to it that you really do love each other warmly, with all your hearts.

1 Peter 4:7-8  “The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore be earnest, thoughtful men of prayer. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love makes up for many of your faults.”

For you have a new life. It was not passed on to you from your parents, for the life they gave you will fade away. This new one will last forever, for it comes from Christ, God’s ever-living Message to men. Yes, our natural lives will fade as grass does when it becomes all brown and dry. All our greatness is like a flower that droops and falls; but the Word of the Lord will last forever. And his message is the Good News that was preached to you.”

John 1:12-13  “But as many as received him—to those who believe in his name—he gave to them authority to become children of God, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of a husband, but of God.”

By one decision, our lives are changed eternally—for the better—for the best! It is no illusion.

 

Help Me Understand This!

 

 

“I have hidden your Word in my heart” ~Psalm 119:112014-02-04_142222-1_thumb.jpg

 

“According to 2 Timothy 3:16, All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right,” said Pastor Frank. Then, to everyone’s surprise, he stood without speaking, looking across the congregation for what seemed an eternity. As he remained speechless, the people began to wonder what this meant. What was he saying by not speaking. The church was silent. And uneasy.

“Right about now you are all wondering what happened. Did I forget what to say. Have a stroke. Get struck dumb like Zecharias? You may relax, I gave us a minute—

And that is what is was, sixty seconds, to consider the Scripture from 2 Timothy 3:16.

“What are the implications of this important verse? What can we get from these words which many of us have read countless times? If you are at all like me when it comes to familiar Bible verses, we shoot them out to make a point without taking time to digest what the Holy Spirit has said. And remember, it was the Holy Spirit who gave these words to the writer, the Apostle Paul. It is also the Holy Spirit who gives life to these words as we read and recite them. “

“When we were in school, we all read thousands of words and in some cases were able to recite them from memory, hoping to get a better grade. However, even the most memorable and thought-provoking of those words pales in comparison to God’s Words given to us in His Bible. As Paul said above, ‘All Scripture is inspired by God!”

“So what am I getting at this morning and why did I give that long dramatic pause? I want to remind us how important all the verses in the Bible are. These are God’s Holy words given to us! As such they deserve our time. Memorizing verses is good for the soul and life giving as well but— if we don’t take time to allow the Holy Spirit to enlighten us as we read, we miss what our Heavenly Father wants to express and drive into our hearts.

Pastor Frank paused again, looking across the congregation. “Take a breath please. Relax your bodies and settle in with an open mind. Don’t think about your kids in the nursery, where you will eat lunch or how much gas  you have in the car. Give your minds to God so He can speak to you through this verse.

“First. Have you ever noticed this important verse has the same reference chapter and verse of the most quoted verse in the Bible, John 3:16? Neat huh. We know it isn’t an accident or happenstance. The Holy Spirit set it up that way which makes it easier to remember how to find both of them.

“Second. All scripture is inspired by God. Take a moment to consider the power of that statement. When people challenge us about the Bible being just a book written by some zealots from the past and has no bearing on life today, you can say, with certainty, that ALL scripture is inspired by God. And you can point them to this verse. It is up to the reader to accept or reject this truth.  

“Third. All scripture is. . .useful to teach us what is true. How reassuring to know that God Himself uses the Bible, His Word, to teach us what is true. By our faith in Christ and belief in the Bible, God will teach us what is true in our lives and His Word. Because we are frail humans who weaken and allow insecurity to slip in, God has given us the reminder here in 2 Timothy 3:16; All scripture is useful to teach us what is true. Regardless of my feelings, God’s word is always true. My feelings will vary but His Word never does!

“Fourth. All scripture is. . .useful to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. What an incredible promise. Now this is beyond human understanding Isn’t it? By reading and listening to the Bible, God will reveal what is wrong in our lives. You may be thinking you’re not sure you want to be reminded of what is wrong in your life. However, this is an example of God’s amazing love for us. He knows we need to be reminded so we can repent and go on with a clean slate. He is all about forgiveness you know. And so it is with our sins, they are covered by the blood of Christ and our willingness to repent accentuates His forgiveness.

“Fifth. All scripture corrects when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. And there it is, His Word corrects and teaches. He doesn’t correct and leave it there but guides us into correct behavior or the best answer to problem. God is not hoping we will sin so he can smash us with a big rock. Rather He is a loving Father who already gave His only Son to death so we can live forever. As we consider how God has shown his love for us then surely we must understand He is not hoping we will sin so he can teach us a lesson or two.

“We can clearly see,” said Pastor Frank, “all scripture is indeed useful for many things in our lives, established to be an extension of God’s magnificent love and concern for all believers. As a child, were you ever told to take your time eating your food and not gulp and run? Even so, God is telling us to take our time in His Word to savor the spiritual nourishment He’s planted therein.”  

Live By Faith

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Hebrews 11:1  ~Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

 

I attend a weekly Bible study that has been ongoing more than six years. The study is aimed at practical application of God’s Word, the Bible. This approach can bring daily challenges and will often bring spiritual growth in each life. Recently, that is what happened.

I ride with one of the men in the study who has an occasional variance in his work schedule which prevents his attendance. When this happens, the men in the study share their disappointment and I make sure to send a copy of the study via email. But this week would prove different and bring about a God-ordained journey and ending.

“I have a new job and will have to miss a few Wednesdays,” he said at the study. “I hope it won’t be permanent but I’m not sure.”

True to form, we expressed our disappointment and continued with the morning’s study. A few days later, it seemed that God was speaking to me about my lack of faith. “We live by faith, not by sight,” says 2 Corinthians 5:7. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but opn what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal,” says 2 Corinthians 4:18.

Then I understood what God, through the Holy Spirit, was showing me: believe that my friend, Matt, could be there; to have faith that God would answer our prayers to shift Matt’s schedule to allow him to continue attending. In that instant it was very clear to me, Matt wanted to be in the Bible study, would benefit from his attendance and the rest of us would benefit from his presence.

This is an element of spiritual warfare and the victory belongs to God. Instead of saying, “Too bad you can’t come, Matt, see you when your schedule changes.” We can ask God to make a way for him to attend and believe He will do that!”

Two days later Matt called and said, “Hey my schedule has changed and I will pick you up as usual.” Joyfully I shared my revelation with Matt and we rejoiced in the answer to prayer. God cares. He is always victorious, and He delights in answering our prayers.

 

Building a Wall

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Walled Off

 

“Hey, what are you doing?”

“Building a wall.”

“How big?”

“Around my life.”

“All of it?”

“Oh Yeah.”

“Why?”

“To protect myself.”

“From what?”

“From being hurt!”

“Do you think it’ll work?”
“I do. Simply because of this; if no one can get to me, I can’t get hurt. Pretty smart huh?”

“I need to know more about your past before I can accurately answer your question.”

“Like what?”

“What happened to make you think you need to build a protective wall around your life? Before you answer, you have to tell the truth or I cannot give you an honest opinion. Agreed?”

“Well…Ah, what If I can’t remember?”
“Is that true? You can’t remember?”
Fidgeting as he looked at the ground, he finally let out a deep sigh and said, “Ok, here goes. A few years ago I met a woman who just knocked me off my feet. I’ve never been a guy who hangs out with women and gets dates anytime. I’ve always been shy that way.

“So we get involved and it gets serious. I mean I was ready to move heaven and earth for her. She said she was moving to Nevada. Well I had a good job and spent my entire life in Illinois. She said her family could get me a good job with one of the casinos and we’d be well off in a few years. After lots of talks, I agreed to leave it all for her; You know, the romantic, all-out sacrifice like in movies.”

“Sounds like a big sacrifice all right. But it sounds exciting too.”

“Yeah it was. And I got excited. Anyway, we moved to Nevada and her family came through with a great security job at the Bellagio. She was a blackjack dealer and made lots of money in tips. I thought I was in heaven. We had great jobs. Her family were good people and it never rained!”

“Oh no. I sense a collapse of your good life around the corner.”

“You’d be right. We’d been together in Nevada for three years when she met me for dinner in town. Just as they served dessert she said, “I’ve got to tell you something and you’re not going to like it.”

“When a woman you’re about to marry says that, your heart sinks and you want to scream. But I didn’t. Like a big dummy I just sat there, head hung, looking up at her. “Go ahead,” I said, “get it over with.”

“Well, ok. But first I have to tell you how great you’ve been since we’ve been together. I mean you moved across the states for me and gave up your life. How many men would do that for a woman?”

“Ok, that’s enough of that. Tell me the bad news right now.” I wanted to punch her and storm out. Now I knew what she was going to say and I think you do too.”

“Yeah, I do.”

“Turns out her original boyfriend, well, her fiance, the guy she ran away from back when we met, returns to town and gives her a call. She falls all over herself and wants to take back up where they left off. She’s leaving me.”

Neither man spoke for almost a minute.

“Am I right in thinking you don’t ever want to be hurt like that again, therefore the wall around your life?”
“Exactly. Now you can see why I’m building it, right? So I can ask again, pretty smart, huh?”

“Before I answer let me ask you a question. Do you wonder why you don’t see walls around lots of other people? I mean, do you actually think you’re the only person who’s had their heart broken? How many divorced people do you know? Lots probably. And guess what, one of those people had their heart broken in the divorce. Where’s their protective fence?

“If you finish building your fence, you may not be taken advantage of or have your heart broken but, and this is important, you will never find love again or have great friends that are willing to give their all for you. We have to be vulnerable to experience the rewards of love and deep friendship. Broken hearts come with the territory. No matter how hard you try, friendships can fall apart and engagements can be dashed into the dust. In all of life, there’s only been one person who never disappointed anyone even though everyone turned their back on him and he was killed for them. He even forgave the people who killed him. He refused to build a protective wall and got killed in the end. But his life, although not too long, was filled with power and love just because he was always vulnerable.

Galatians 1:4 ~Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live.

 

Weekly Bible Study-Determination

Weekly Bible Study

Determination

August 19, 2017

“So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable.” 1 Cor. 15:58

How do we remain steadfast in our faith when our lives seem to fall apart? Sitting in church, surrounded by people of like faith, singing songs of worship to God, our Savior and listening to the encouraging words of men of God, our faith seems reasonable and steadfast. Yes, we proclaim, we will overcome and be victorious. Glory to God!

But then, later in the day or perhaps the following day, our problems begin to creep back in and slowly take away that previous victory we proclaimed. Mountains of debt, illness, death, failure in life, business collapse and more tear at our faith, shredding the very foundation on which it is built. What will I do? Where is God in the midst of all this?

Deeper and deeper we fall, grasping for a handhold that speaks of God and His promises to provide and care for us in every situation. Where is the light at the end of this very dark, dark tunnel? There must be an answer.

There is. The answers are all waiting for us in His words to all mankind, the Bible. Unfortunately, when we focus on the problems mounting all around, our feelings take over and guide us down a path of discontent, fear, insecurity, doubt and frustration. We want God to give us a break and solve the problems…even though we may be the cause.

Perhaps living in a time when everything seems possible, every want seems likely to be fulfilled and every person seems promised to have it all, confuses and derails our faith in Christ. However, He has warned us in the Bible that our lives may have suffering, trials, enemies, and even imprisonment, for the sake of our faith in Christ Jesus.

1 Corinthians 15:58 So, my dear brothers, since future victory is sure, be strong and steady, always abounding in the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever wasted as it would be if there were no resurrection.

2 Peter 3:13 But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

If we had joined a group of people dedicated to protecting our city against enemy foes who promised to destroy all of us, we would prepare for the impending battle. There would be classes teaching everyone how to stand firm against the foes. We would be prepared to possibly give our lives for the cause. We would take it seriously, keeping an eye to the horizon, ever-watchful, ready to fight at a moment’s notice.

The fact is, we are in spiritual warfare, facing the enemy of our soul, Satan, who desires to destroy everything good. Without our faith intact, we are defenseless to defeat our greatest arch-enemy. Since he cannot take away our promise of eternal life, he can make us useless with fear, discouragement and despair. This is war and we are in the fight of our lives. Even so, God is now and will always be, victorious over Satan.

Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed. I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

Romans 8:31 What is there left to say? If God is for us, who can be against us? He that did not hesitate to spare his own Son but gave him up for us all—can we not trust such a God to give us, with him, everything else that we can need?

A squad of Navy Seals were gearing up to rescue two journalists from certain death, even though their top secret orders seemed to have been leaked to the enemy. If true, this meant these men would be facing certain death. When asked why, then, would they go ahead with the mission, the leader said, “We’re Navy Seals, that’s what we do.” No backing down, even in the face of death, the mission must be carried out.

As followers of Christ, that should be our attitude no matter the circumstance. With Jesus as our leader and Savior, we should not back down, allow fear to rule, feel inferior or hopeless. “He did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind”-1 Timothy 1:7.

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose.

God Wants To Bless You

 

“We have been made right in God’s sight by faith…” Romans 5:1

 

            Bethel Church sat on a quiet road on twelve acres of well-tended land. Across the parking lot was a very nice parsonage. There were six primary families who had the vision for Bethel and saw to it that their vision became a reality. In the process, they confused building the church with “owning” the church.

            As the head elder Bud would say, “We have the responsibility to keep an eye on the pastor just to make certain sure he don’t go down any wrong trails.” They took their jobs very seriously. So far six pastors failed to make the grade. A seventh was about to find the door out.

            An emergency meeting had been called to discuss the pastor. A young believer sat in the meeting, astounded by the petty, ridiculous accusations leveled at the pastor. He knew him to be a man of love; a man who guided his young life to trust in the Lord. With tear-filled eyes he stood and reminded the people of God’s desire for believers to walk in love, to practice forgiveness and pray for healing. Instead, one of the founding fathers smiled and said, “Well son, we know you mean well but you’re young yet. Some day you will understand. Now let’s have the vote so we can start looking for a new pastor.”

            The next morning, the pastor called the young man over for coffee and a little help in preparing for the move.

            Laying his hand on his Bible the pastor said, “Son, God’s Word will never fail or let us down. He has seen to it that the answers to all our problems can be found between these pages. Let me show you an important section in the book of Romans.”

            Romans 5:1-2  Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

            “What a wonderful set of promises,” said the Pastor. “You will notice that it does not say anything about having perfect conditions or a place of prominence. These promises are based on our decision to believe in Jesus Christ; in spite of any problems we might have. And they have nothing to do with our performance. Notice the word undeserved!

“We can’t stop reading there. To fully understand how God works, let’s keep reading.”

            Romans 5:3-5  We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

            “Now, let’s look at some verses spoken by Jesus in the book of Matthew.

           Matthew 6:9-15  Pray like this:  Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

            “Here is a powerful prayer given to us by Jesus Himself. Look at what he says about forgiveness, ‘forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven…’ As we pray this, we are agreeing with God to put a condition on our forgiveness. We are saying, forgive me in the same way I forgive others who have sinned against me. You see how it plays out? If we don’t forgive others He can’t forgive us. Now that is a place I do not want to be in with God.

“So, when I consider these verses, I have no choice but to believe that God was not taken by surprise when our tenure here was cut short and that He has another place for us to go. What God considers most important is how I react to this trial. Do I allow Him to change me by this or do I stomp off mad, pouting in a corner somewhere? We mustn’t forget the words of James either.”

            James 1:2-4  Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

            “And as I read James last night, the Holy Spirit reminded me of Matthew as well.”

            Matthew 5:11-12  God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.

            “Son, I fully believe all the words that God has placed in our Bible and I have placed my life in His hands. I understand your feelings of hurt and outrage over what happened to me but you’ve got to go to His word and see what He says about life. The Bible is not buffet style, where we pick and choose which verses we consider important or relevant for today. If you want to follow the Lord, you must give it all up to Him. Believe me, you will never regret it. Never.”