Weekly Bible Study-Determination

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.

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God Wants To Bless You

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.”

 

Weekly Bible Study-Is He To Blame?

Weekly Bible Study-Is He To Blame?

Weekly Bible Study

Is He To Blame?

June 13, 2017

“God—His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is pure” Psalm 18:30

It was here at last; graduation night. Carla and Jeb were best friends and had competed for best grades since high school. They pushed each other relentlessly, demanding more and getting it in the end. Carla graduated with honors carrying a 3.9 GPA. Jeb also graduated with honors and a GPA of 3.85.

“I told you I was smarter,” she laughed as they hugged tightly.

“I held back on that last test because I am a gentleman,” he kidded, spinning her around in a wide circle.

“Humph,” she snorted, “If you were a gentleman, you wouldn’t lie like that.” They both doubled over in laughter.

“Hey, you two, let’s go, Heather is giving a party and you are the guests of honor. Get it? Honor!”

“Yeah we get it. Ok, lets have some fun tonight.”

“Can I drive your new Audi?” Jeb asked Carla.

“Sure you can but after tonight don’t ever ask again. I worked hard for this car and it’s all mine.” She pinched Jeb and winked, tossing him the keys.

The ringing phone brought Cynthia Johnson abruptly out of her sleep. Her heart leaped. She had the horrible foreboding feeling. Something is wrong. “Hello, is this Mrs. Cynthia Johnson?”

“Yes,” she shakily replied, the tears filling her eyes. “What is it. What’s wrong?”

“I am with the State Police and we are at your front door, ma’am, could you come talk with us?”

Cynthia leaped out of bed and slipped into her robe, taking the stairs two at a time. She opened the door. Two state troopers were standing there, a man and a woman. Both looked very serious.

“I am trooper Wilson,” said the woman. “And this is trooper Gentry. Can we come in and talk with you?”

In a moment they were sitting in the living room, the female trooper sitting next to Cynthia.

“Do you have a daughter named Carla?” She asked.

Now she knew. Something has happened. Now the tears began to flow.

“Does she drive a new gray Audi?”

“Oh no. What is it? What’s wrong. Is Carla ok?”

Trooper Wilson held Cynthia’s hands and said, “Mrs. Johnson, I’m afraid your daughter was killed in a car crash out on Hayward Drive, early this morning.”

The flood gates flew open as tears flowed relentlessly and Cynthia sobbed hysterically. “Oh no. Oh no. Oh God, it can’t be. There must be a mistake.” Trooper Wilson understood and pulled Cynthia into her shoulder, holding her firmly, letting her pour out her unspeakable grief. There is no real consolation for such times but a shoulder to cry on helps.

Two Months Later

Cynthia agreed to spend the weekend with her best friend, Claire at the beach. Claire’s family had a small cottage there. It was secluded which allowed for contemplation and prayer if the guests were so inclined. Cynthia was not so inclined. She was angry at God.

“Ok, Cynthia, let it all out. Rant and rave to your heart’s content and then we can talk.”

For the next twenty or so minutes, Cynthia did just that, she ranted and raved at God’s unfairness, the Universe’s horrible Karmic twist of fate and Jeb’s stupid, thoughtless, careless driving. She found a long list of people and things to blame for her daughter’s death. Finally, exhausted and wrung out, Cynthia could find nothing good to say about anyone involved, including the car manufacturer who she had sued for negligence. Her conclusion? Rather than joyful, life is horribly disappointing and no longer worth living.

Pouring more tea, Claire said, “What do you mean by not worth living, Cynthia?”

Looking through tear-filled, swollen eyes, Cynthia reach for her friend’s hand and said, “No, dear friend, I don’t mean I want to take my life. I simply mean I am so, so tired of trying to find peace in this horrible mess. And, if I’m honest, I want an answer from God, if he really exists. People tell me to look to God and I have most every day since this happened. However He has not answered me. How could He have allowed this tragedy? Carla was a good girl and so young. Truthfully I hate God.”

No one spoke now. All they could hear were the gulls occasionally squawking and the perpetual ocean waves breaking on shore. They sat silently for several minutes. Then Claire spoke.

“Cynthia, how can you blame God for this tragedy when you don’t even believe he exists? Even though you can’t face the truth yet, a part of you knows the car crash and horrible outcome are consequences of poor judgment on Jeb’s part, not really God’s fault.

“Considering how devastating the death of Jeb and Carla is, try to imagine how God must have felt when His Son, Jesus was beaten and then killed on the cross.”

Cynthia and Claire talked late into the night, alternating between English tea and rocky road ice cream as they bared their souls and cried profusely.

Thought Life

Thought Life

 

 

“What he thinks is what he really is.”  Prov. 23:7

Most everyone who knew Michael enjoyed his company. He was an excellent supervisor, a mature elder, a gifted city-league ball player, a charitable man, father and husband of one wife. Michael was the kind of guy people would line up to toast at his funeral. Most men envied him and many women secretly wished their husbands had some of his traits.

But who was Michael…really? His secret thought life was not exactly parallel with his exterior. Over the years Michael developed resentment at not being selected as the Vice President of his corporation and he harbored a simmering bitterness. The same was true in his church life. He spent more than ten years at his church before being selected as an elder. This was definitely not right or fair, he thought, casting the blame on his pastor who he knew was responsible.

And so it went for Michael, finding fault with people and companies who he blamed for various insults and rejections. His thought life was his secret refuge, a place that allowed him to get even. His thought life was also building a wall between himself and the Lord. “After all, the Lord could have given me the desires of my heart,” he thought.

Michael frequently retreated to a secret thought life in which he was superior, the winner, the smartest and best. The problem with living like that is–it is not real. It is a false life that leads us away from actual life and its challenges. And for a Christian, real life is built on their faith in Jesus Christ and forgiveness of sins, not promises to give material possessions and power.

What do you “think”? Are you building a secret thought life that gives you the pleasure and gratitude you “think” you deserve? Satan is the father of lies and is willing and able to help you along that road. He did remind a hungry Jesus that He could turn stones into bread!

John 5:39-40  You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.

Rom. 12:2-3  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.

1 Cor. 8:2-3  Those who think they know something really don’t know as they ought to know. But the person who loves God is known by him.

1 Cor. 3:18-20  You should not fool yourself. If any of you think that you are wise by this world’s standards, you should become a fool, in order to be really wise. For what this world considers to be wisdom is nonsense in God’s sight. As the scripture says, ”God traps the wise in their cleverness.” (Job 5:13).; and another scripture says, ”The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are worthless” (Ps. 94:11).

Eph. 3:13-21  So please don’t lose heart because of my trials here. I am suffering for you, so you should feel honored. When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

Many people have written books that promise riches through positive thinking. Why do you suppose so many books and celebrities talk about the same idea? Because there is truth in it. A kernel of truth that says whatever you think you will walk in. If you think you are a loser, that is how you will live. Your life will manifest circumstances to convince you it is so.  

As a Christian, it is essential that we think on Jesus Christ and his promises so our life will reflect the light of God. See Phil. 4:8-9. Think on these things!

 

 

Do All Roads Lead to God?

Do All Roads Lead to God?

“You must be born again”  John 3:7

Years ago, down in the South, two children were going at it on the grassy front yard; yelling, scratching and pulling hair. After several minutes of this mayhem, the front door opened and their mother called to them in a melodious, magnolia-infused voice, “Y’all play sweet now.”

Many people seem to think that this scenario represents God’s attitude toward us. After all, He wouldn’t want to offend or insult any of His creations would He? Or would He?

“God helps those who help themselves” is one quote attributed to God which, if followed, makes us equal partners with God. We work hard at helping ourselves and God comes along to give us a reward and a pat on the back. God becomes our buddy, our helper, who is anxious that we should have whatever we want. This idea of God is non-threatening and easy to get along with. After all, God is love! Right?

John 3:16  For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.

“Familiarity breeds contempt” is an old quote not heard much anymore. However, it speaks truth to most relationship situations. For example, when we read the Bible verse, John 3:16 over and over, year in and year out the words lose their power. We become contemptuous of what God is saying through this easily spoken series of words: “God loved the world so much he gave his only Son, so if we believe in him we won’t die!” Cool.

If all roads lead to God then why in the world would God have given His only Son to die for all people everywhere? What would be the point of such a drastic measure if every religious belief system leads people to God?

Consider the harsh reality of the words in John 3:16—He gave his only Son. Gave his only son? Did God give Jesus something? How serious is this? If you know history at all then you probably know that Jesus was falsely accused, arrested, beaten nearly to death and then forced to drag his own cross through the streets—to the place of his death—where nails were driven through his hands and feet, attaching him to the cross. Yes, large spikes driven through his already torn, bloody and ripped flesh. A sledge hammer was used to pound the spikes through his hands and feet. This represents God’s love!

Because the world is so familiar with those words, “God loved the world so much…” we have come to a place of treating them with no respect or understanding. God loves you and I so very, very much that He put the sins of all the world on His only Son, Jesus. Jesus became sin for you and me. My sins are forgiven when I understand that Jesus died for them which defies human logic.  However, I have faith that it happened. And my faith has transformed my life…both now and forever.

So, is God our buddy who is not really too worried about what road we take to heaven? Not really. Why would God bring Christ to the world to die as a sacrifice for sins and then casually say, “Hey, don’t worry about your faith or belief. It’s all good.” All roads do not lead to the same destination. Neither in this world or the next.

Matthew 7:13-14  Heaven can be entered only through the narrow gate! The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide enough for all the multitudes who choose its easy way. But the Gateway to Life is small, and the road is narrow, and only a few ever find it.

Acts 4:10-12  But there is something we must tell you and everyone else in Israel. This man is standing here completely well because of the power of Jesus Christ from Nazareth. You put Jesus to death on a cross, but God raised him to life. He is the stone that you builders thought was worthless, and now he is the most important stone of all. Only Jesus has the power to save! His name is the only one in all the world that can save anyone.

John 14:6  Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Ephesians 2:8-10  Because of [God’s] kindness, you have been saved through trusting Christ. And even trusting is not of yourselves; it too is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it. It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others.

Romans 10:9-10, 13  For if you tell others with your own mouth that Jesus Christ is your Lord and believe in your own heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in his heart that a man becomes right with God; and with his mouth he tells others of his faith, confirming his salvation. Anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.

Acts 2:36  “Therefore I clearly state to everyone in Israel that God has made this Jesus you crucified to be the Lord, the Messiah!”

So then, do all roads lead to God? No! However, God has done everything possible, including the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, to provide a way for us to spend eternity with Him. Faith in Christ brings forgiveness and eternal life.

Nothing Can Separate Us!

Nothing Can Separate Us!

“Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love” ~Romans 8:38

 

There are some sections in the Bible that, by themselves, are an all-encompassing assurance of God’s unchanging, unfailing love for all who call upon Jesus as Savior. The Book of Romans, chapter 8, verses 31-39 is one of those sections. Simple, yet complex; powerful yet tender; adamant yet understanding. This section of the Bible will fortify and solidify our faith in a powerful, loving God who has promised to always love and protect us…as He guides us into eternity with Him.

Romans 8:31-39 ~What can we ever say to such wonderful things as these? If God is on our side, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son for us but gave him up for us all, won’t he also surely give us everything else?

33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? Will God? No! He is the one who has forgiven us and given us right standing with himself.

34 Who then will condemn us? Will Christ? No! For he is the one who died for us and came back to life again for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us there in heaven.

35 Who then can ever keep Christ’s love from us? When we have trouble or calamity, when we are hunted down or destroyed, is it because he doesn’t love us anymore? And if we are hungry or penniless or in danger or threatened with death, has God deserted us?

36 No, for the Scriptures tell us that for his sake we must be ready to face death at every moment of the day—we are like sheep awaiting slaughter; 37 but despite all this, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us enough to die for us. 38 For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, 39 or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us.

How Fickle

How Fickle

“And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in every thing He might be preeminent. ~ Col. 1:18

Father, do I live in the deeply rooted knowledge that You control everything? In this verse are a few of Your true characteristics, the very fibers of Your being: You are the beginning, the conqueror of death, You exist in everything, and nothing is outside of You. I place my hope and trust in all manner of fickle things such as medicine, science, money, and myself.

Lord, there is nothing on this earth that protects me but You. If You reign over all things and have set a course for my life, then You are my sole protector and protector of my soul. Lord, help me turn to You with the “little” things: What present should I give a friend or loved on? Should I volunteer for that event? Is it right to stay late and get ahead of my work? All these decisions I take into my own hands because they seem so insignificant, yet You purchased my life with Yours; therefore, nothing is insignificant to You.

Father, reveal to me the fickle things that I place trust in and help me turn to You with my “little” prayers and questions. When storms arise, the little moments and short trials secure my trust in You. Thank You that You are steadfast. Thank You that You are not fickle and You cannot deny Your holiness and justice, or compassion. Amen.  ~Prayers for an Anxious Heart