Insecurity

“Jesus Christ. . .is the atoning sacrifice for our sins” ~1 John 1:2

Mexican-sunrise.jpg

The evangelist preached a powerful message on God’s forgiveness of sins; explaining how Christ’s death on the cross, followed by His resurrection provided a cleansing stream of absolute forgiveness of sins; past, present, and future. Anyone who calls upon the name of Jesus will walk in that forgiveness for eternity. Dozens of people flocked to the altar to drink in His forgiveness, desperate for a cleansing experience. And they were not disappointed. Washed in the blood, they became whiter than snow in God’s sight.

A few months later, Frank, one of those who experienced God’s total forgiveness that night, met with Carl who had been a Christian for more than twenty years. He needed assurance. “So, Carl, how does this forgiveness actually work. I mean what about now that I’ve made some bad choices, lied a time or two, still wrestling with past sins? Some of the things I’ve done might curl your hair and I’m beginning to feel like I’m not really forgiven. I’m getting a little depressed if I’m honest. And it worries me.”

“I understand, Frank. And you’re not alone. Every person who has given their life to Christ has those feelings from time to time. And we all sin as well. The blood of Jesus washes all our sins away, Frank. Don’t forget that Jesus is at the right hand of God, interceding for our sins 24/7. God sees us through the blood of Christ. He sees us as pure and holy because of our faith in Christ, not our performance. Look at Romans 8:34, “Who then will condemn us? No one–for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.”

“That Scripture is powerful, Carl but sometimes I feel like a jerk. Like a loser. And then I wonder if I am really saved or if I am worth anything. I guess I get scared of my feelings. I get confused.”

“Many years ago I was at a conference and one of the speakers told us this very important fact, “Feelings are neither right nor wrong, they just are!” At first I thought he was wrong but the more I asked God about it I realized he was correct. We all have feelings and they may be absolutely wrong but that doesn’t make them true. What matters is what we do after we have the feelings. If they are not good do we go to God in prayer or do we wallow in them. Do we ask the Lord to forgive us, believe that He has and move on, walking in the light of His forgiveness? Or do we act condemned, weak and hopeless? Keep in mind the very important verses in Romans 8:1-2 “There is no condemnation now for those who live in union with Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit, which brings us life in union with Christ Jesus, has set me free from the law of sin and death.”

“I can feel (no pun intended) the heaviness lifting from my heart, Carl because I do believe that God never lies and always wants the best for me. You made me think of the verses later in that chapter, Romans 8:37-39, “No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below—there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

“And there it is, Frank, nothing can ever separate us from His love! One of the keys to the Christian life is to believe absolutely in God and His Word, the Bible. He has done everything necessary for our salvation and eternal life but we must believe what it says! If we doubt the Bible and choose to sulk in our pathetic, negative feelings, what hope is there? We are saved eternally, forgiven eternally and never condemned, according to God Himself. If I remember those facts and call out to Him when I “feel” defeated or worthless, those feelings will go away.”

“Here is another promise found in 1 John 1:7, “But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.”  When we accepted Christ as Savior God did not give us a wink and wish us well. Instead, He gave us this assurance as written in Hebrews 13:5, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’.”

Advertisements

We Don’t Have To Be Afraid

 

“Perfect love drives out fear” ~1 John 4:18

After the waitress poured their second cup of coffee, Walt said, “OK, Roger, what’s going on? Clearly something is heavy on your mind this morning. We’ve known each other for a long time, my friend, so spill the beans. Maybe I can help like you’ve helped me so many times.”

        It was a wintry morning and Roger held his cup with both hands, concentrating on the wisps of steam arising, hoping his friend could help him overcome his strong emotions. Fear gripped him!

        “I’ve been meaning to find ways of selling stories and photos because we need more income but…I’ve opened the door to uncertainty which always brings along its friend, fear. Once fear and uncertainty settle in, I become paralyzed.”

        “You, filled with fear? That is a surprise, Roger. You are the go-to guy whenever I have spiritual battles so I would never think of you struggling with fear and doubt. I am so sorry I’ve been so casual about your possible needs and struggles.”

        “Oh, I understand the feeling, Walt. I once had a spiritual mentor who seemed to always be on his game no matter how dire the problem until one day he shared, like I am doing now, his struggles with me. It was then I realized how little I’d been praying for him. He said something I have never forgotten which I’ll share with you. As he was describing his battles with the flesh and satan, he said, ‘Roger, don’t ever stop praying for me. You must realize how important your prayers are to me and to God. He commands us to pray for each other.’”

        “Forgive me, my friend. Let me begin with praying 1 John 4:18 which says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.”

        Right there, in that restaurant booth, fear was driven out as God’s love shattered its stronghold in Roger’s life. Just like athletes willingly force their bodies to come under subjection through rigorous and repetitive training routines, our lives can be free of fear, anger, lust, greed, hate through faith coupled with fervent prayer. “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”  ~James 5:16

Isaiah 41.13  I am the LORD your God. I am holding your hand, so don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.

Psalm 27.1  You, LORD, are the light that keeps me safe. I am not afraid of anyone. You protect me, and I have no fears.

Psalm 62.2  God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe and the fortress where I am secure.

Psalm 91.1-2  Live under the protection of God Most High and stay in the shadow of God All-Powerful. Then you will say to the LORD, “You are my fortress, my place of safety; you are my God, and I trust you.”

2 Corinthians 1.3-4  The Father is a merciful God, who always gives us comfort. He comforts us when we are in trouble, so that we can share that same comfort with others in trouble.

Romans 8.38-39  I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love—not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not the powers above or the powers below.

Isaiah 25.8-9  The LORD All-Powerful will destroy the power of death and wipe away all tears. . .At that time, people will say, “The Lord has saved us! Let’s celebrate. We waited and hoped –now our God is here.”

Psalm 145.13-14  Our LORD, you keep your word and do everything you say. When someone stumbles or falls, you give a helping hand.

Psalm 16.5-9  You, LORD, are all I want!  You are my choice, and you keep me safe. You make my life pleasant, and my future is bright. I praise you, LORD, for being my guide. Even in the darkest night, your teachings fill my mind. I will always look to you, as you stand beside me and protect me from fear. With all my heart, I will celebrate, and I can safely rest.

The following 1933 inaugural address by Franklin D. Roosevelt points to Biblical truth:

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”  ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

2 Timothy 1:7  For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

 

How Do I Know I’m Saved

 

Perhaps you have already trusted Jesus Christ as your own Savior, yet . . . you’re not sure if what you did took hold in your life. God loves you and wants you to fully experience the peace and life that only He can give, including knowing without a doubt that you belong to Him. So, let’s start from the very beginning and review the steps you took when you turned your life over to God.

Being at peace with God is not automatic because human beings by nature are separated from God. The Bible says, “everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence” (Romans 3:23). Romans 6:23 adds: “sin pays its wage — death; but God’s free gift is eternal life in union with Christ Jesus our Lord.” Humanity has tried to bridge this separation in many ways — through good deeds or religious acts, for example — but none of these things are enough to close the gap between God and humans.

God’s love is the only way to bridge the gap of separation between God and humanity. When Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the grave, He paid the penalty for our sins. In the Bible, Jesus Christ says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me” (John 14:6). It also says, “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” (John 3:16).

If we have surrendered our lives to Jesus Christ and accepted His death on the cross as payment for our personal sins, we now belong to Him. The Bible says this about those who received Jesus and believed in Him: “He gave them the right to become God’s children” (John 1:12).

Sinning doesn’t mean we lose our relationship wit God. If it did, then every little slip-up would put us in jeopardy and Christ’s death, which covers all our sins, would be useless. Nor does waking up one morning “not feeling saved” mean that we’re in spiritual danger. While feelings are a part of life, they are not an indicator of truth. Compare our relationship with God to a marriage. Any married couple will have to admit that sometimes they just don’t feel in love. Their feelings, however, don’t mean that they are no longer married.

Again, good deeds and religious acts don’t give you salvation. However, wanting to serve God and to change your actions are indicators that you belong to Him (see Galatians 5:22-24). The Bible strongly states that true believers have a clear desire to live in a way that honors the Lord: “If, then, we say that we have fellowship with Him, yet at the same time live in the darkness, we are lying both in our words and in our actions” (1 John 1:6). Jesus Christ gives us this promise, “ I give them eternal life, and they shall never die. No one can snatch them away from me” (John 10:28). If you know in your heart that you have committed your life to Christ but you doubt your salvation, look to God’s Word for assurance:

God accepts everyone who calls on His name (Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:13).

God will never push us away (John 6:37).

God’s love endures forever (Psalm 136).

We cannot be separated from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39).

© Starting Point Study Bible

By His Stripes We Are Healed?

 

“By His wounds you are healed!”  1 Peter 1:24

 

Partial quotes and quoting out of context are popular among Christians who wish something to be true. In this case, I am talking about a verse found in Isaiah 53 and 1 Peter 2. In the King James Version it reads, “…and with His stripes we are healed.” This verse is misquoted to imply that the horrible beating and subsequent death of Christ has brought physical healing to all believers. I’ve heard it used in prayers for sick and lame people many, many times. There is, however, a problem with using that verse to call upon God for healing. It does not mean that the death of our Lord guarantees healing. Why would it?

Jesus’ death on the cross gave Him the absolute right to become a sacrifice for our sins, not bring healing to our bodies. His death, burial and resurrection brings eternal healing and total future absence of tears, pain, sorrow and suffering. Future!

Revelation 21:4 says, regarding our eternal destination in the City of God, the New Jerusalem; “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Then there’s another problem with using this verse as assurance of God’s desire to physically heal all who call upon the name of Christ…it doesn’t always bring the desired result! How many times have you prayed for healing, using this verse and nothing happened? How many times have you been in meetings where many were prayed over using this verse and nothing happened? I know I have.

God can and does heal people but not because of Christ’s wounds. If He chooses to heal someone, it is His choice and will, not because someone misused a verse in the Bible. I know because I have witnessed two such healings in my life and neither called upon that verse as assurance.

A very well-known example of not being healed is Joni Erickson Tada (Joni Eareckson Tada is an evangelical Christian, author, radio host, quadriplegic, and founder of Joni and Friends, an organization “accelerating Christian ministry in the disability community.). When she was 19 (and she was a Christian) she broke her neck while diving from the high board. There have been thousands of prayers sent up to God imploring Him to touch and heal Joni. All to no avail. But what about the idea that the “stripes of Jesus brings healing?” Perhaps that is not what the verse from Isaiah 53 and repeated in 1 Peter 2 means.

Jesus suffered and died for the forgiveness of the sins of the world, not for physical healing. Look at the lives of His apostles. They were scorned, mocked, beaten, tortured, jailed and killed! Surely they could have called upon the stripes of Jesus  to heal them. While He was alive, our Lord healed hundreds, perhaps thousands of people and raised some from the dead. Not by His future stripes but by the will of God.

Go back to 1 Peter 1:20-25 and see what he is saying about suffering for Christ. Human life is temporary. Pain and suffering are not uncommon expectations for Christians in many parts of the world. Surely we must see that God did not send His only Son to be tortured and painfully killed by crucifixion so we could claim his suffering and pain will guarantee physical healing to everyone living today.

“By His stripes we are healed” is referring to forgiveness of sin, the gift of new life. Eternal life is where we will have perfect pain-free bodies.

 

Life After Death

Sunset-David(sharp)

“He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” ~Jesus

Two men were discussing what happens after death here on earth and one of them said that since they were both Christians, it was certain that they would not really die but pass from this life into the next, living forever with God. The second man, however expressed doubts about that, saying he sure hoped it was true.

Are you a Christian? Have you expressed faith in Jesus Christ? If so, the Bible promises that you will spend eternity with God. The following are Bible verses that give all Christians assurance of eternal life with God.

John 11:25-26  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

John 10:10-11  “I came that [you] may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”

1 Peter 1:3-5  “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.”

John 10:27-30  “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

John 6:35-40  Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me. However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.”

John 6:47, 51  “I assure you, anyone who believes in Me already has eternal life. Yes, I am the bread of life. . .I am that Living Bread that came down out of heaven.”  

Romans 8:38  “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”

John 3:16 “ God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die.”

It is by faith that we are saved and our sins forgiven. It is by that same faith that we believe in eternal life with our Heavenly Father…without exception.

What’s Past Is Past

 

“Do not call to mind the former things”  Isaiah 43:18

“How time flies,” he said to himself as he sat alone on the deck of his favorite restaurant, overlooking the river. “I had so many plans and ideas; so many ways to show God’s love and mercy through stories, articles and a few books too. What happened? Did I just throw my life away because of laziness or fear?”

   At that point the server brought his dinner which forced him to come back to the present, not dwell in the past. And then it hit him, or rather, the Holy Spirit reminded him; life is lived in the present, the here-and-now, not in the past. “I guess I’ll have to get a to-go container for this food,” he said as he shoved his dinner across the table and grabbed his smartphone and the notepad he always carried. Time for a refresher in God’s word.

   Isaiah 43:18 ~”Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past.”

   2 Corinthians 5:17 ~”This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

   Ephesians 4:21-24 ~”If you have really heard his voice and learned from him the truths concerning himself, then throw off your old evil nature—the old you that was a partner in your evil ways—rotten through and through, full of lust and sham.

   Now your attitudes and thoughts must all be constantly changing for the better. Yes, you must be a new and different person, holy and good. Clothe yourself with this new nature.”

   Romans 6:4 ~ “Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.”

   As always, delving into the Bible brought answers, relief, encouragement and “peace that passes human understanding.” Imagine, in the same way that Jesus was raised from the dead by God’s glorious power, we may now live new lives! Not by our power or  mind-over-matter, but by His glorious power our lives can be transformed minute by minute. What a relief!

   Romans 7:6 ~”Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.”

   Romans 12:2 ~”Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think. Then you will learn from your own experience how his ways will really satisfy you.”

   Ephesians 2:10 ~”For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”

   Philippians 3:13 ~Brothers and sisters. . .I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me

   Colossians 3:10 ~”You are living a brand new kind of life that is continually learning more and more of what is right, and trying constantly to be more and more like Christ who created this new life within you.

   There, it happened again, reading God’s Word had brought peace and hope; assurance that God has paved the narrow path with His love and guidance. These verses are promises from God Himself; a perfect series of reminders that the past is just that, past. He has already prepared the way to live our lives for Him as we fully trust in Him, relying on the Holy Spirit. He’s done the impossible part, we are to do the human part. Living in the past is not an option.

God…The Great Dispenser of Stuff?

“You, Lord, are the Most High over all the earth” Psalm 97

Lawrence beamed at the capacity audience in San Francisco; the sixth stop of his Worldwide Evangelical Movement tour. “God is sitting on his throne, waiting for you to give him a hint. That’s right, God is leaning forward, anxious to hear your requests so he can give you what you desire in the deepest place in your heart. He made you to abide with him some day and until that day, he wants to make you happy and satisfied.

“Have you been passed over for that promotion? God knows and wants to release the blessings of that new job to you. Can’t find that special person to complete you? God is aware of that missing piece in your puzzle of life as well. What about the home you keep driving by, wishing it was yours? Yes, my friends, God is fully aware of your needs and he wants to fulfill them, make you happy and give you the greatest, most fulfilling experience that life has to offer.

“I know some of you are thinking something like, ‘How can I ever afford that home I truly want? I need a better job and less debt.’ Friends, God is the God of satisfaction and delight. He made you and knows how to make you satisfied and content on this earth as you prepare for eternal life with him.

Lawrence became silent, walking back and forth on the platform, scanning the audience as he moved. And then, “What is the key to unlocking God’s blessings, you ask? Sacrifice. Yes, it is sacrifice. Think of how he showed his love for us. Sacrifice! He sacrificed his own Son so we could have this wonderful life. And now he expects us to learn that same sacrifice. God GAVE so we could live and now it is our turn. We must sacrificially GIVE to release those blessings from heaven.”

By now Lawrence was commanding the audience with his fine-tuned and powerful voice, it was as though he hypnotized them…”Give, give give. Sacrificially give. Give when you don’t think you can. God is waiting. Release those blessings from the throne of God.” They were on their feet as the army of ushers passed buckets across the rows of excited, believing people.

Does this scenario sound familiar? Do you have, perhaps secretly, desires that God will bring to pass to make your life better? Desires of more money, better job, better marriage, better body, bigger house? If you do, admit it to God. As the famous southern pastor, J. Vernon Mcgee once said, “You might as well tell Him because He knows anyway.”

God does understand our secret desires of wealth, health, homes, trips, etc. But what he wants for us is far better. Does anyone really believe that God sent his only Son, Jesus, to live and die for us so that we could have more money, bigger homes, better cars, and more fun? Jesus did give sacrificially, didn’t he? His sacrifice was given freely so you and I could experience redemption and forgiveness of sins. Surely we can see clearly that Christ did not experience such an excruciating torture and death so we could accumulate more stuff on earth.

Psalm 97:1-5 “The Lord rules! Let the earth rejoice! Let all the islands celebrate! Clouds and thick darkness surround God. His throne is built on righteousness and justice. Fire proceeds before him, burning up his enemies on every side. His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees it and trembles! The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of the whole world!”

Our lives are actually spiritual. As such our warfare is taking place in the spiritual realms, every day…every hour. God’s great sacrifice has made it possible for us to walk in the spirit, guided by the Holy Spirit. As we gear up each day with the Armor of God, we engage in the battle with God as our guide. Do you see material things as important in this daily battle for souls and lives?

Ephesians 6:10-13 “In conclusion be strong—not in yourselves but in the Lord, in the power of his boundless resource. Put on God’s complete armor so that you can successfully resist all the devil’s methods of attack. For our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil. Therefore you must wear the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still stand your ground.”

Men and women who claim to speak for God but seek to gratify their flesh are, in truth, serving the enemy of our soul and feeding their own flesh. The Bible tells us to die to the flesh:

Romans 8:12-16 “So then, my brothers, you can see that we have no particular reason to feel grateful to our sensual nature, or to live life on the level of the instincts. Indeed that way of living leads to certain spiritual death. But if on the other hand you cut the nerve of your instinctive actions by obeying the Spirit, you are on the way to real living.

All who follow the leading of God’s Spirit are God’s own sons. Nor are you meant to relapse into the old slavish attitude of fear—you have been adopted into the very family circle of God and you can say with a full heart, “Father, my Father”. The Spirit himself endorses our inward conviction that we really are the children of God. Think what that means. If we are his children we share his treasures, and all that Christ claims as his will belong to all of us as well! Yes, if we share in his suffering we shall certainly share in his glory.”

A man left his house early one morning to attend a Bible study. It was then he saw an obstacle! A flat tire. Not low but dead flat. He had no time to change a tire. He pondered his situation and felt God nudge him to have faith that He would take care of the tire. So, he prayed and believed that God would do the impossible.

He drove three miles to a gas station, filled the tire with air and drove to the study. The tire never leaked or deflated again. Life is spiritual!