Sunday Morning Word

Do You Know the Word of God?

How many of us can say that we know the word of God; that we can quote scripture on cue; that while we may not have every Bible verse memorized, we have an arsenal of verses we cling to in times of need; that we read the Bible every day?

In my church, our theme for 2017 is “Journey into Knowing God,” and part of knowing God is reading and understanding His word. Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” If you think you can function through this life having never opened your Bible, you’re wrong. Joshua 1:8 says, “Keep this book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Likewise, Psalm 1:2 informs us that blessed is the one “whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who mediates on his law day and night.”

When you know the word of God, when you study it daily and apply it to your life, you will find success. That’s not to say that everything in life will be a breeze, but there’s a certain peace that comes with knowing God’s word, with relying on the scriptures to get you through the day. The word of God isn’t just reading material, an obligation for every Christian. Here are just a few things the word of God can do for us:

  • The word of God teaches us – “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)
  • The word of God corrects us – “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” Proverbs 3:11-12 (NIV)
  • The word of God humbles us – “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10 (NIV)
  • The word of God guides us – “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105 (NKJV)
  • The word of God comforts us – “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4 (NKJV); “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulations; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NKJV)
  • The word of God is food for our spirit – “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 8:3 (NIV)

I think the best example of how knowing the word of God can lead to successful living, overcoming adversities, staying aligned with the will of God, is in the temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11). After fasting for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness, Jesus was hungry and vulnerable, and that’s usually when temptation will show its ugly face, when we are at our weakest point. But remember 2 Corinthians 12:10. Paul says, “When I am weak, then I am strong,” and we gain that strength by leaning on the word of God.

Each of Jesus’ responses to the devil’s temptations comes directly from scripture. When Satan tells Jesus to turn the stones to bread for food, Jesus says, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’”  (Matthew 4:4). When Satan tells Jesus to throw himself off the highest point of the temple to see if the Lord’s angels will catch him, Jesus responds, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’” (Matthew 4:7). When Satan promises Jesus the kingdoms of the world if He will only bow down and worship him, Jesus answers, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’”  (Matthew 4:10).

“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17

And afterward, after the devil leaves Him, the Bible says the angels come down and tend to Jesus, likely giving Him food and water to regain His strength (Matthew 4:11). What I like about this last verse is that it confirms for me that my knowledge of the word is never in vain. John 15:7 says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” There’s a fulfillment that comes with knowing and understanding the word of God, when you can apply it to your life, when you can use it in times of need. Keep in mind that if Jesus had given in to the devil and sinned against God, He couldn’t be the Savior of the world. His knowledge of the word— the Bible says He IS the word (John 1:14)—saves us from death and damnation. And our knowledge of the word, our dependence on the word, our belief in the word will save us also.

So I challenge you, if you’re not in the habit of reading your Bible, do it now. Find a translation that is easiest for you to understand and set aside some time every day to read God’s word, whether it’s a verse of the day every morning, a psalm during your lunch break, a parable of Jesus before you go to bed. In my church we are reading the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. That’s about five to six chapters a day. I invite you to join in. Start your year on today, and from now until next August immerse yourself in the word of God. Study His commandments, take heed of His warnings, follow His teachings. Mark the scriptures that speak to you most, mediate on them, memorize and understand them, so that when the time comes, you always have them in your back pocket, to get you through temptations, to reveal to you truths you never knew, to guide your footsteps when life brings you to a crossroads. The word of God can be all of that for you and more.

God Bless.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we desire to know your word. Feed us with every word from your mouth. Like newborn babies, we crave pure spiritual milk, that by it we may mature in our salvation. While the grass withers and the flowers fade, we know that your word lasts forever. Through every trial, through every storm, through every temptation of the enemy, your word is still there. Teach us to remember it. Bring it back to the forefront when we need it the most. Help us to not just be listeners but doers also, applying your word to our lives. Be the sower who plants the seed of your word on good ground, and open our hearts to receive it so that we may be lights in this dark world, guiding others back to you, sharing the truth of your word in peace and love. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Sunday Morning Word

Are You Doing the Will of God?

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Do you know God’s predetermined plan for your life? If so, are you doing your part to bring that plan to fruition?

There’s so much we can say about God’s will, but for the sake of keeping this post relatively short, I’ll (try to) give you the quick version. So, what is God’s will? Most of us are taught that there are two wills of God. First is His sovereign or general will for every Christian believer. To know this will, all we have to do is open our Bibles. God’s sovereign will asks us to be holy as He is holy (Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 1 Corinthians 6:18-20; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8; 2 Timothy 2:22; 1 Peter 1:15-16), to be examples of Christ on earth (Matthew 5:16; Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 5:1-2), to pursue a relationship with God (John 17:3; Philippians 4:6-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; Hebrews 10:22; James 4:8), to live by the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26; Ephesians 5:18-20), to make disciples of the nations (Matthew 9:36-38; 28:19-20). In other words, God’s general or sovereign will is to promote the coming of the kingdom of heaven.

God’s specific will is His purpose or assignment for each individual person. Usually this will is reveal to us through prayer, reading the word, or meditation. God’s specific will is equally as important as His general will, and I believe the two wills work together. In order to bring God’s general will to pass (which, let’s be clear here, it’s coming regardless), are you doing what you are supposed to do? Are you doing your individual assignment?

And that’s the problem with many of us today. We don’t want to do the will of God. We’re too selfish. We have our own goals and aspirations, and God will just have to wait. Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but its the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” What ends up happening is that God goes out and finds someone else who is willing to do the work and, as a result, that person will receive the reward that should’ve been ours. How many blessings have you missed out on because you didn’t want to do what God said? Hebrews 10:36 says, “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will received what he has promised.” Are you still waiting for a promise God made to you years ago? Ask yourself one question: What have you done to fulfill God’s will?

“Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.” Matthew 21:31-32; NIV

In the parable of the two sons, Jesus describes a father who asks his two sons to do a specific task. The first refuses but later changes his mind and does what he was asked. However, the second answers yes but does nothing. It’s unfortunate that a lot of us are like that second son, and God can’t use us. We don’t follow through on our word, we make empty promises, and then we wonder why we don’t have that satisfaction we crave, why our lives still feel so incomplete. As Jesus said, a lot of people we would call downright sinners are currently enjoying the abundant life Jesus promised (John 10:10) because, unlike us, they chose to listen to God’s word and do what He says.

Remember our teaching on love, how if we claim to love God, we should follow His commands (John 14:15). How much does it say about our “love” for God when we aren’t willing to do what He asks? Can we even say we love Him?

Remember also when we looked at our heart’s desires, how receiving what we desire from the Lord is as easy as taking delight in Him. We looked closely at what exactly that meant to “delight in the Lord,” and one version of the Bible says it plainly; “Do what the Lord wants.” Do what the Lord wants, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Do what the Lord wants, and your life will be fulfilled. Do what the Lord wants, and you will received what He has promised you. James 1:22 instructs us not to be just hearers of the word, deceiving ourselves, but doers also. It all starts with doing.

Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.” Psalm 40:7-8

Doing God’s will won’t always be easy. Sometimes He will ask you to do things that may cause people not to like you (John 15:18-19). He may ask you to do things you find too hard, but keep in mind, God will never give you something He knows you can’t do. Believe in yourself, don’t limit yourself, and if you have to give up certain things that don’t align with God’s purposes for you, do not hesitate to let them go. Doing God’s will, just like loving Him, often requires sacrifice.

Just look at Jesus as your prime example. Do you think He was happy to go to the cross? No! The Bible says He “began to be sorrowful and troubled,” saying, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death (Matthew 26:37-38). When He went to pray in Gethsemane the night He was arrested, He asked, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me” (Luke 22:41-42), and that’s what we tend to do. When things get tough, we chicken out, we give up. We ask God to find someone else, give us a different assignment. But look at Jesus’ resolve in the second part of that verse. Although the realities of His coming death were beginning to shake Him, He understood the end goal, that the world through Him would be saved (John 3:16-17). And so He said, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.”

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24

Do God’s will because you know the end result, because you want to see His kingdom come, because you want all to go to heaven and come to the knowledge of Christ. John 15:16 says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” God chose you for a purpose, and if you don’t know what that purpose is, it is your job to find out, either through prayer, reading the word, or counseling with other mature Christians.

Most of us from an early age already know what God has called for us to do. For example, I’ve known since I was about three or four years old that I was meant to be a teacher. I’ve often run from it, mostly out of fear—I’m intimidated by children, I’m terrified of being wrong, I’m scared people won’t listen because of my age, how I look, the way I speak, my experience, or lack thereof, etc. But a few weeks ago, a soul sister told me this: You’ve been called by God to teach His word. Yes, I have, and I will do it for as long as I can, even on those days when it is hard, or when I’m running behind schedule, or when I’m feeling flustered. I will do it until I absolutely can do it no longer. And you should approach your calling, whatever it may be, in the same manner.

God Bless.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to do your will. Show us your plan and purpose for our lives and help us to bring it to fruition. You said in your word that if we commit to you whatever we do, you will establish our plans. We commit to doing your will, Lord. Establish our steps. Lead us down the correct path. Show us what we need to be doing in order that your kingdom come and your will be done. We ask, according to your will, knowing that you hear us. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Sunday Morning Word

Why Do We Fear Death?

Why are we afraid of death? It’s a natural part of life, is it not? We’re born, we grow old, we die. Of course, the Bible tells us it wasn’t always like that. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were free to eat from the Tree of Life and live forever in peace and paradise and communion with God. Unfortunately, that all changed when they sinned, disobeyed what God commanded, ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and brought death into our world (Genesis 3). They were banished from Eden, and as the story goes, the world has been sinning and dying ever since.

“but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desires and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death.” James 1:14-15; NIV

Sin separates us from God. Sin brings death—no way to avoid it. So that’s it then? We’re born, we sin, we die. The end. Sounds pretty depressing, doesn’t it?

It doesn’t have to be! Not for the believer! The gospel, the good news, of Jesus Christ should restore any hope we may have lost in the Garden with Adam and Eve. In John 10:10, Jesus says that He has come so that we may have life and have it more abundantly. He tells Martha, the sister of Lazarus, “I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26; NKJV). Romans 6:23 says that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Then why do you fear death? God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). So be sound in this: that you are no longer enslaved to sin and its wages, that your mortal bodies may be dead to sin, but spiritually you are alive and well in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11).

“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14; NIV

What is physical death to the Christian believer? The Bible calls it sleep. Before Jesus goes to raise Lazarus from the dead, He tells His disciples, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up” (John 11:11). When I was growing up, my mother used to say that death for Christians isn’t the same as for nonbelievers. When we die, it doesn’t hurt, we go in peace, it’s like falling asleep. Remembering that, my mind goes to 1 Corinthians 15:55; “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The scripture goes on to say that the sting of death is sin, but “thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:56-57). We have the victory over death through Jesus Christ, who died and rose from the grave so that we could have everlasting life. So again I ask, why are we afraid of death? When we die, we are merely just asleep until we are called to rise again.

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28

It was never God’s intention for any of us to perish, but that we all turn from sin and live a life dedicated to Christ (2 Peter 3:9). John 3:16 tells us that God loves His creation— He loves us so much—and through our belief in Jesus Christ, He’s provided us with a way out of the sentence of death and to eternal life, coming to the knowledge of the one true God and of Jesus Christ, the Savoir of the world (John 17:3). If we believe that, we should never have to fear death, not even the second death—being cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14-15)—which, according to Matthew 25:41, was originally reserved for the devil and his angels anyway, not for us, and especially not for those of us who believe.

Let Jesus’ parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus be a warning to us. In life, the rich man lived a luxurious, gluttonous, and—though it doesn’t specifically state, we can only assume—sinful lifestyle, while Lazarus, though living in poverty and squalor, was humble and, we assume, righteous. When it came time for both of them to die, “the poor man died and his spirit was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom (paradise); and the rich man also died and was buried” (Luke 16:22; AMP). But the rich man woke up in hell, “where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side” (Luke 16:23; NIV). He begged Lazarus for a relief from his torture, and Abraham denied him. He asked for Lazarus to go and warn his brothers so they wouldn’t share his fate, and Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them,” basically saying that they have the scriptures, they have the teachings, they have the word of God to show them the way. And we do too. We have the Bible, we have Holy Spirit, we have the teachings of Jesus, we know that He is the at to the Father (John 14:6).

Before I was saved, I used to have nightmares reminiscent of the rich man’s demise. I would dream of being left being in the rapture, of deceased, unsaved loved ones coming back to drag me down to hell with them, of professing last minute confessions to sneak my way into heaven on the day of Judgement when it was too late. I’ve woken from those dreams in the middle of the night, terrified of the dark, of the dancing shadows on my walls, of the distant knocks and creaks throughout the house. I feared opening my bedroom door and seeing the devil face to face.

But then I felt the Holy Spirit’s drawing on my heart. I went to church one night and His drawing grew even stronger. I responded to His voice and rededicated my life to Christ. Since then I haven’t had a single nightmare about going to hell. I no longer fear waking up in the middle of the night. I can walk around the house while it’s pitch black and not be afraid. Now, Psalm 27:1 has more meaning to me. I have nothing to fear, not the devil, not hell, and certainly not death. Because Jesus Christ is the light of my life.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1; NKJV

And He can be yours as well. So why are you afraid of death? Is it because you’re not saved, like I was; you haven’t confessed Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior; you don’t believe in your heart that He rose from the dead (Romans 10:9)? Is it because you’ve backslidden; you were saved, but at some point you’ve turned away from God, you’ve gone back to your old ways of living and thinking, and you fear it’s too late for you? Is it because you haven’t heeded the word of God; you’ve been selfish, thinking only of yourself and not of promoting God’s kingdom? Is it because you haven’t done His will, spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, and you fear there’s not enough time left to get started? Maybe you just don’t want to die, and if that’s the case, I hope 1 Corinthians 15 and other scriptures like it will serve as assurance to you that death is not the end.

If you are one who is afraid of death, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you what is the source of your fear. Maybe it’s one of the reasons listed above or something else. Ultimately, you want to rectify that fear. No Christian should fear death because of the promise we have in Jesus Christ. In fact, we should look forward to it, knowing that to be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).

God Bless.

 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:42-43

Prayer of Salvation: Heavenly Father, you said in your word that sin brings death and separates us from you, but eternal life comes through Jesus Christ. Lord, please forgive us of all our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We want to live a life dedicated to Christ, where we no longer fear death, but hope toward His resurrection. We confess with our mouth and believe in our heart that Jesus Christ is Lord, that He died on the cross for our sins, that He rose from the grave, conquering death, so we could be saved. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your gift of eternal life. Thank you for the promise that death is not the end. Now we can say with confidence that we do not fear death. Now we can say with confidence there is no sting. Our mind is clear, and we’re more determined to seek and do the work of your kingdom, living righteously and holy like you, to the day we meet in paradise. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Sunday Morning Word

What is the Holy Trinity?

The term Holy Trinity isn’t seen anywhere in the Bible. It’s a term we’ve come up with in church in reference to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Trinity is a concept that is often difficult to understand, for non-Christians, new converts, and seasoned Christians alike. If God is one, how then is there a trinity? Are there three different Gods, and if so, which one am I supposed to worship—God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit?

The best definition I’ve heard given for the Holy Trinity has come from my pastor. He explains it as this: God is one God who has given Himself three different assignments— God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Using music as an example, a musical artist can be a musician, a songwriter, and a singer—three different aspects that come together under one artist. It’s the same with God. He has split Himself up into three parts, all in an effort to be closer to us, but He’s still one God. To understand this better, let’s look at the three parts of the Holy Trinity and see how they all connect and circle back to the one God.

God the Father

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over all the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:26-27; NIV

The Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). He created heaven and earth and everything within (Psalm 24:1; Isaiah 45:12), including us. God is our Father. He formed man out of the dust of the earth and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils (Genesis 2:7). He made woman from man’s rib (Genesis 2:21-22). The Bible says God formed us in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13; Jeremiah 1:5). Isaiah 64:8 says, “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).  We are all created by God, and we are all created in His image. When a son has a very strong resemblance to his father, we may say that he his the “spit’n image” of his father, which is dialect for “spirit and image.” Likewise, we are the “spirit and image” of God. If we look at ourselves in the mirror, we should be able to see God reflected in each of us.

Try not to only think of God as a Father in creation. While He didn’t just create you and me but everyone, and while He didn’t just create the earth but the entire universe, He still wants to have a personal relationship with each of us, He still watches over us and directs our paths. Despite all His mighty works, He still cares for us individually (Psalm 8:3-5), He knows us personally even down to the hairs on our head. In the New Testament, Jesus teaches us that we have a Father in heaven (Matthew 23:9) who cares for us just as much as an earthly father would, and He provides for us, just as an earthly father would (Matthew 6:26; 7:11)

God the Son

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel—which means God with us.” Matthew 1:23

Sometimes it’s hard for us to picture God as a Father, as one who cares for us and  desires to know us personally. We see Him as this all-powerful being who created heaven and earth, who sits high in heaven and looks down on us. The Bible says that God is spirit (John 4:24). He can’t be seen; to see God in all His glory would be a death sentence, because He’s so infinite, our finite selves can’t comprehend all of His mystery. He can’t be contained in flesh and bone or a physical address because he’s everywhere (1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 139:7), he doesn’t even exist within time itself (2 Peter 3:8). How can someone so big and so great know each of us personally, and how can we know Him? Like the song, “He’s so high you can’t go over him, so wide you can’t go around him, so low you can’t go under him, you have to meet him at the door.” Well, that door is Jesus Christ.

“I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.” John 10:7-9

Jesus is the way. No one gets to God the Father except through God the Son (John 14:6). Jesus personifies God for us. It’s through Jesus that we know God’s true love for us. While we were still in sin, we belonged to the devil (John 8:44; 1 John 3:8), but God was willing to come down as a sacrifice to bring us, His people, His creation, back to Him (John 3:16-17; Colossians 1:20; 1 Timothy 2:6).  John 1, verses 1 and 14 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, and the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father full of grace and truth.” Jesus is God making the effort, bringing Himself down to our size so that we can understand Him better, not just as a grand architect of the universe, but as a loving Father who wants a relationship with us.

“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 2:3-5

Through Jesus, we feel much closer to God, not only because He was a good teacher, but because He is God making Himself known to us. In John 10:30, Jesus says, “I and the Father are one.” In John 14:9, He tells Phillip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Colossians 1:15 says that Jesus is the “image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” Jesus teaches us that we can call God Father, that we can come to Him in times of need (Matthew 6:6-8). We have the confidence that God will accept us now because of Jesus. We know that God understands the problems of life that we face because He Himself lived it through Jesus (Hebrews 4:15-16). As I said before, Jesus makes God personable for us.

God the Holy Spirit

“You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” Romans 8:9-11

The third manifestation of God is the Holy Spirit. Since the man Jesus no longer walks this earth, and God the Father is much too vast, every believer has the Holy Spirit inside them, a piece of God to carry with them everywhere they go. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit is a gift from God (Luke 11:13; John 14:16). He who lived with Jesus (Luke 3:22; 4:1) now resides in each of us who believe.

The Holy Spirit is Jesus living in all of us. When He promises His disciples the Holy Spirit, Jesus says, “The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:17-18). Notice how when Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit, He never uses the word “it”; instead, He uses the personal pronoun “he/him.” He wants us to understand that the Holy Spirit isn’t a thing, He is God Himself, just as Jesus is. This all comes together in the next two verses: “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and your are in me, and I am in you. (John 14:19-20).

As Jesus is a Teacher, so is the Holy Spirit. Jesus says that He “will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26). He is our helper and guide on the inside (John 16:13), and just as Jesus has made God known to us, so will the Holy Spirit. “He will bring glory to me by taking what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mind and make it known to you” (John 16:14-15).

The Holy Spirit is proof that God lives, and that Jesus lives as well. If we have a relationship with God, we have a relationship with the Holy Spirit. He speaks to us, He leads and directs us, He tells us what’s to come. If Jesus brings God closer to us, the Holy Spirit makes Him even closer. Paul confirms this in 1 Corinthians saying, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?”  (1 Corinthians 3:16), and again in 1 Corinthians 6:19 when he says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?”

To sum it all together, God is now the closest to us He has ever been. Before, He was just a distant creator, a Father but only in the aspect that He made us because that was all we could comprehend. Then Jesus came along, and we learned that God loves us, that He was willing to become a man and die so that we could know Him. And now we know that He has never left us. He is the source of life, the resurrection. Through Him we too have life, and now He is with us to guide us every step of the way through the Holy Spirit. Three versions of God He has created, all in an effort to bring us closer to Him.

God Bless.

When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my son, whom I love; with you I am will pleased.” Luke 3:21-22

Prayer: Heavenly Father thank you for your love, your mercy, and your faithfulness. What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made us a little lower than the angels, yet you have done so much for us. You’ve manifested yourself in three different ways so that we can know you better. You are the great I Am, Lord. You are our Creator, your are our Savior, and you are our Counselor and Helper. After seeing all that you have done for us, only a fool would say you do not exist. We believe in you, Lord, in every form of you, and we desire to know you more, to get even closer to you, for you said in your word that you desire loyalty rather than sacrifice and the knowledge of you rather than burnt offerings. Don’t ever leave our sides, Lord, continue to bless us with your presence, and we will forever praise you, obeying your commands, and fulfilling your will here on earth. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Sunday Morning Word

Do You Really Love God?

Do you love God? Every Christian’s answer to that question ought to be a confident YES. But do we really mean that? How much do we truly love God? Do we love Him enough to obey what He commands? Do we love Him enough to give up certain pleasures in our lives to follow Him?

When asked what is the greatest commandment in the Law, Jesus’ answer is love. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38). He also says that we should love our neighbors. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 39-40). What does it mean that all the Law and the Prophets hang on these commandments? As long as you love God and love each other, you shouldn’t be living against His word.

Let’s look at the Ten Commandments as an example. Of course, we know that the Law consists of more than just the Ten Commandments, but these ten perfectly illustrate how the law is based on the top two commandments that we should love God and love others:

I am the Lord your God…

  1. You shall have no other gods before me.
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.
  3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
  4. Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
  5. Honor your father and mother.
  6. You shall not murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
  10. You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.

(Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21)

Notice how the first four commandments are about God—refraining from doing anything that would offend God, recognizing that His is Lord, the creator of heaven and earth, the one true God, understanding that anything else would be a cheap, powerless imitation made by human hands, remembering to revere Him, fear Him, show high respect for who He is and for what all He has done. If we truly love God none of these things should be a struggle to do.

The second half of the Ten Commandments concern how we should treat others. If you truly love others, you wouldn’t commit such offences against them, like disrespecting your parents, committing murder, taking what is not yours, sleeping with your neighbor’s wife or husband—which not only defiles their marriage but your own as well—lying against your neighbor, cheating your neighbor, showing malice toward your neighbor for what he has. If you were truly a lover of people, such offenses would be furthest from you.

“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also live his brother. ” 1 John 4:20-21; NIV

Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” In John 14:23 He promises, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” And again in John 15:10 He says, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” Disobedience, which is sin against God, blocks us from Him (Isaiah 59:2), but obedience brings us closer to Him, revealing His love, and we will also receive something in return. Remember when we looked at Psalm 37:4, which says, “Delight yourself in the Lord”—another verse says do what the Lord says—“and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Jesus confirms this in John 15:7 when He says, “If you remain in my and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you.” In my church, my pastor teaches us the spiritual principle of obedience, which is God’s plan to reward our lives. Don’t think that God wants us to live like beggars. Jesus came so that we could have abundant lives (John 10:10). Proverbs 3:1-2 promises that if we keep God’s commands, we will have long and prosperous lives. One of my favorite verses, Matthew 6:33, says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” There are so many rewards waiting for us, but we must first obey God’s commands, and if we love Him, that wouldn’t be hard at all.

So do you love God?

“This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world.” 1 John 5:2-4

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we love you with all our heart, soul, and mind. We love you because you first loved us and gave your Son, Jesus, for us. We want to obey you commands. Your word we have hidden in our hearts that we might not sin against you. We desire to be like your Son, Jesus. To consistently walk in your commands and remain in your love. Holy Spirit, continue to teach us, lead and direct us, convicts us when we sin, that we may quickly repent and receive forgiveness. We desire the promises that come with loving and obeying your commands. Reveal yourself and your love to us, and we will forever give you the praise. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Sunday Morning Word

Does Jesus Really Love Us?

Did you know that Jesus loves you? He does. And that’s not because a Sunday school hymn told you so, or even the Bible for that matter. Look at your life; it’s proof enough of His love for you.

Sometimes it’s hard for us to grasp that we have a God in heaven who cares for us. Heaven seems so distant in our minds, and God is so holy and incorruptible, why would He waste His time on mere humans like us, who are far from perfect and so easily persuaded to sin.

“What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.” Psalm 8:4-5; NIV

Psalm 103:13 says, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.” When trying to understand God’s love for you, consider your own mother and father, how they cared for you as a child, provided food, clothing, and shelter. When you disobeyed them, they may have punished you, but they also forgave you. When you made poor decisions, they corrected you. When you were lost and didn’t know where to go, they guided you. Even after you left home and got into a world of trouble, when you finally returned, they welcomed you in. If your earthly parents will do all these things for you, even when you make mistakes, how much more will your Father in heaven (Matthew 7:9-11)?

And don’t you know that God is our Father? He is our Father in creation, for the Bible says that from the dust of the earth He created man and breathed life into him (Genesis 2:7). He formed woman out of man’s rib (Genesis 2:22). Jesus instructed us to call God Father (Matthew 23:9). God is also our Father in salvation through Jesus Christ. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8:6 that “for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” When we believe that Jesus died for our sins and rose again on the third day, when we make Him Lord over our lives and turn away from our sins, which have blocked us from receiving the benefits of God’s love, we are adopted as sons and daughters into His kingdom and can again call Him Father.

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” Ephesians 1:4-5

The shortest verse in scripture—and one that is quickly becoming my favorite—is in John 11:35; “Jesus wept.” My pastor often says that there is no insignificant verse in the Bible. So what does “Jesus wept” tell us about His compassion for us? To provide context, Lazarus, the man Jesus will soon bring back to life, has been dead four days. Earlier in that chapter, his sisters, Mary and Martha, sent word to Jesus saying, “Lord, the one you love is sick” (John 11:3). We know from the Bible that Jesus had a very close relationship with this family; whenever He came to the village of Bethany, He was always welcomed in their home and treated with the upmost reverence  (Luke 10:38-42; John 12:1-8).

On this particular visit, He comes to tragedy. The one He loves is now dead, and seeing his sister weeping, and the Jews who had come to comfort her also weeping, Jesus is “deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (John 11:33), and He also weeps, and when the Jews see this they say, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:36). Even in knowing the miracle He is about to perform—bringing Lazarus back to life—Jesus is deeply moved and stricken by grief, not only by Lazarus’ death, but also by the pain and heartache his death has brought upon his family. He is troubled by their trouble, and that tells us a lot about His love for us too.

“For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15; KJV

I love the King James Version of Hebrews 4:15, because it says that Jesus is touched with our feelings, which illustrates such an intimate and personal love He has for each of us. He can empathize with our sufferings. For us, He suffered more than we will ever have to by dying on the cross. Isaiah 53:5 (NKJV) says, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” No greater love, He says, has anyone than this: to lay down one’s life for his friends (John 15:13). Out of His love for us, Jesus laid down His life (John 10:17-18). Even when we had turned away from Him, became slaves to sin (John 8:34), enemies of God (Romans 5:10; Philippians 3:18; James 4:4), and even children of the devil (John 8:44; 1 John 3:8,10), He still loved us enough to die.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

God’s love and Jesus’ love is seen most in what they have done for us. Every Christian should know John 3:16 by heart: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Notice that God so loved the world. He created the whole world, why would He not love His own creation? And because of that love, He gave His Son, Jesus Christ— Jesus gave His own life—that whosoever, not just the Jews, or whites, or heterosexuals, or people who’ve never committed adultery, never lied, never cheated, never murdered, but WHOSOEVER, meaning anyone who believes, will be saved. All you have to do is believe.

The following verse is equally important. John 3:17 says, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” God never intended for us to perish for our sins (2 Peter 3:9), but Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). The fact that He sought us out— through our good, bad, and downright ugly—came down from heaven to lay down His life and reconcile the world back unto Himself (Colossians 1:19-20), and chose us to do the Father’s business is enough proof for me.

Hallelujah! How grateful I am for His love! Jesus loves you. God loves you.

God Bless.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:13-15

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for your great love. Your love is unfailing; your mercy endures forever. There’s no greater love than the love you’ve shown, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Father, forgive us of all our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We strive to be holy as you are holy. We want to love as you love. Lord, you said the two greatest commandments are that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and that we love our brothers as ourselves. We love you, God. Let your love be an example for how we should love others. Father, you are love, and we want to live in your love, and live in you, and you in us. We bless your name for your love. From the rising of the sun to the going down of the same we praise your name for your love. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Sunday Morning Word

What Does Your Heart Desire?

What do you desire most of all? To find love? To have kids? To become famous? To make more money than you could possibly spend? To build a personal relationship with your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?

When it comes to our list of wants, God is most often tacked on at the very bottom. However, Matthew 6:33 says to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” That particular verse refers to the clothes on our backs, the food on our tables. Rely on God to supply your every need, and He will come through.

But what about our wants?

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4; NIV

Over the years, we’ve come to misinterpret the promise in Psalm 37:4. We go out and make our own decisions without first asking permission from God, and then return after the fact wanting Him to bless it. We say things like “The Lord knows my heart,” as an excuse for why we’ve done things outside of His will, because after all, we still love Him, right? But if we disobey what He’s commanded of us, can we truly say we love Him (John 14:21)?

We think God will give us anything we ask for, as if He were a magic genie. We come to prayer with a list of requests, not humbling ourselves to know and do His will, but demanding that He fulfill our own. Our prayers sound something like this: “Lord, I want this. I want that. I want these, and those too. Amen.” Then we wonder why our prayers haven’t been answered.

“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:3

Are you guilty of wanting something that pleases you rather than God? You’ve been asking God for a brand new Mercedes that’s beyond your means, while that beaten-up, twenty-year-old Honda Accord you’ve been driving still gets you places in one piece. You’ve been praying to God for children when you’re not even married. You’ve been asking God to let you marry this man who’s not saved and doesn’t even have a job. What is the motive behind all these requests? That God’s kingdom come? That His will be done? 1 John 5:14 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” The verse doesn’t say, “If we ask anything, he hears us.” There’s a catch. It must be according to His will. Are you lining up with God’s will in all your prayer requests?

In Matthew 6:21, Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Put your treasure in God’s kingdom and in His will. Let’s look back at Psalm 37:4. We get so caught up in the “he will give you the desires of your heart” part, that we miss the command in the beginning. There’s something we must do first: Take delight in the Lord. What does that mean to take delight in the Lord? The Contemporary English Version of the Bible states it plainly: Do what the Lord wants. I would add to that, saying do it with a willing and joyful heart. Do God’s will with as much enthusiasm as you had when you prayed for that new car. Psalm 40:8 says, “I desire yo do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.”  To do God’s will, first our hearts need to change.

“Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:8

Our hearts aren’t the cleanest. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” (NKJV). Jesus says in Matthew 15:19, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it springs the issues of life.” We must guard our hearts about all else. David says in Psalm 51:10, “Created in my a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” In your prayers, instead of asking God for a husband, or a car, or to win the lottery, ask Him to clean your heart, and then fill it with His word so that you don’t sin against Him (Psalm 119:11).

And once God has given us a new heart (Jeremiah 24:7; Ezekiel 36:26), and we’ve aligned with His will and His word, we’ll start to discover that our heart’s desire, is God’s desire, that we want what God wants for us to have. And then at the top of our list of wants we’ll see “To build a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” in such big letters that it completely overshadows everything else. When we go to prayer, we will say, “Not my will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Because ultimately isn’t that what we as children of the Most High God  should want most of all? To desire after God’s own heart? That our prayers be God-centered, Kingdom-driven? The answer is YES.

God Bless.

“For it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13; AMP

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we desire to do your will. Forgive us of our selfish prayers, for putting our will above your own. Clean our hearts, Lord, and line them up with your word, so that our plans become your plans, our desires become your desires. Establish our steps, and show us which way to go, according to your will. And we will continue to seek you first, and your kingdom in our lives. We bless you and we love you for your continued faithfulness. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Sunday Morning Word

Where Does Your Wisdom Come From?

Do you believe that wisdom comes from God? If so, why are you always searching the internet for answers to your questions? Why do you accept the lies of false teachers just because they can memorize a single Bible verse, or they can speak with authority? We learned last week that even the devil can quote the scriptures, but that doesn’t mean he speaks the truth.

So often, we rely on the words of man to gain wisdom and understanding, which has led to countless confusion throughout the world, and even within the church. While there are great preachers and teachers out there who simplify the word of God so others will come to understand it, why is it so hard for us to come to the One who knows all, the One from whom all knowledge originated, the One who is knowledge, who is wisdom, who is understanding?

“But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.” Jeremiah 10:12; NIV

Every good and perfect gift comes from above (James 1:17), so why not ask God for the gift of wisdom? “For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6). The wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight (1 Corinthians 3:19), but wisdom from God is “pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17). So above all, let’s seek after the wisdom of God.

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” Genesis 3:6-7

Adam and Eve, instead of seeking after God, with whom they already had an intimate relationship in the Garden, listened to deceitful advice and sought to gain wisdom for themselves by eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the same tree God commanded them not to eat from because on that day they would surely die (Genesis 2:16-17). How many of us fall out from under the authority of God because we listened to the wrong people? How often do we heed to foolish and ungodly counsel? Psalm 1:1-2 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” Was Adam and Eve’s delight in God’s word, in His command? Didn’t they trust that obeying His word would give them life, while doing the opposite would surely lead to their destruction?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.” Proverbs 3:5-7

Proverbs 3:5-6 teaches us not to rely on our own wisdom, but to trust the wisdom of God and let Him lead us to righteousness. But recently, I’ve come to discover how essential the following verse is in explaining how we can successfully allow God to lead us. Verse 7 tells us to be not wise in our own eyes, but to fear the Lord and shun evil, as if to say that human wisdom is evil. And isn’t it, according to Genesis 3? Adam and Eve attempted to gain wisdom on their own, without God, the One who created them, and directly disobeyed Him, introducing sin, evil, and death into the world.

The second part of verse 7 tells us to fear the Lord. Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding.” Proverbs 1:7 repeats this with, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” And again it is reiterated in Proverbs 9:10; “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Verse 11 goes on to tell us why: “For through me your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.”

Fear the Lord. That word “fear” doesn’t necessarily mean to be afraid of God, but to revere Him, show great respect for Him, worship Him for who His is—the creator of heaven and earth and of everything within (Psalm 24:1)— obey His commands and do His will. And when we do this, not only will we have wisdom and a better knowledge of God, but He will also preserve us (Psalm 119:88) and give us eternal life (John 17:3).

“but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord. Jeremiah 9:24

If Adam and Eve truly feared God—revered Him, respected Him, loved Him, worshipped Him, took great pleasure in doing what He commanded, trusted His promises—that would’ve gone to Him for wisdom. Instead they let their own desires entice them into sin (James 1:14-15), they acted as if God’s command was a burden, as if He were a strict, overbearing parent who was hindering them from their own greatness. Their actions revealed their great disdain toward Him, and Eve went so far as to add to God’s command, saying they weren’t even allowed to touch the tree or they would die (Genesis 3:3), as if He were being an unnecessary dictator with His instructions. Adam was the one God had given the command to, and yet he was with Eve the whole time and remained silent, showing that neither of them had much respect for God’s word.

I believe if Adam and Eve wanted to gain wisdom, they could have approached God, and He would have answered. In fact, I believe He wanted them to ask Him. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” Just ask God! Pray that He reveals to you the things you don’t understand. If the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, then we know that the only way to gain wisdom is to go straight to the source. Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). So often we look everywhere but to God, and then we wonder why we aren’t getting the answers we seek. God wants us to ask Him. He says you need only ask, and you will have it.

Let’s look at Solomon as an example. When King Solomon went to Gibeon to sacrifice to God, God came to him in a dream and told him to ask for whatever he wanted God to give him. Do you know what Solomon did? He humbled himself before his Lord and asked for wisdom. And to this God responded:

“Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.” 1 Kings 3:11-12

Because Solomon asked for wisdom and not selfish gain, God gave him more than he even asked. The Bible says, “God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore” (1 Kings 4:29). Solomon had more wisdom than any man on earth. He administered godly, fair, and righteous justice throughout Israel, and kings from all nations came to see of his wisdom. On top of the wisdom, God gave him more riches and honor than all the kings of the earth (1 Kings 3:13). And He gave Solomon this promise: “And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life” (1 Kings 3:14).

Now that we’re under the new covenant, God’s promise hasn’t changed. I would even say it’s gotten better. Colossians 2:2-3 says, “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order than they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Have you accepted Christ in your life as Lord and Savior? Every Christian has a helper on the inside called the Holy Spirit. He is God living in all of us. Through the Holy Spirit, we have access to more knowledge and wisdom than we can ever imagine! Jesus said He will lead us into all truth (John 16:13). He will teach us the mysteries of God. In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul says that only the Spirit knows the thoughts of God, and if we have received that same Spirit from God, don’t we too have His thoughts, able to discern spiritual truths? Yes, even we have the mind of Christ, who is God (1 Corinthians 2:15-16). There’s no greater wisdom than that.

“For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.” 1 Corinthians 2:11-13

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you are the source of all knowledge and understanding. By your wisdom you laid the earth’s foundations, by your understanding you set the heavens in place, by your knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew. We need your wisdom today. We want to rely not on our own wisdom, but on yours, which is our righteousness, holiness, and redemption through Jesus Christ. Holy Spirit, lead us into all understanding, that we may boast in our knowledge of God. Help us to discern the spirits, that we may know what is of God and what is not. Help us to obey God’s commands, help us to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, for His word is true and will give us everlasting life. Thank you, Lord, for your wisdom and love and mercy. To you be all the glory forever and ever. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Sunday Morning Word

How Do We Recognize False Teachers?

Do you listen to everyone who claims to be a preacher? Many people shake their Bibles in the air and profess that everything they say is truth, but do you know for sure? These days, we have to be careful of who we listen to, what we watch, and what we open our minds to. Just as there is more “fake news” or “alternative facts” being shared on the internet, there are a lot of false teachings being preached in pulpits in churches.

Jeremiah 23:1 says, “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” Jesus warned us that many will come in his name, that “false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:5; 24). Are you being deceived? Are you confident that your church is teaching God’s truth from His word? People say things that sound Scriptural but are found nowhere in the Bible, and the sad truth is that many believe it. Some false teachings I’ve heard include:

  • To repent means you can sin again – If that were true, why would Jesus tell us to repent, lest we perish (Luke 13:3), and that all heaven rejoices over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:7)? If repentance were just an empty promise, why is it repeated throughout the Bible, instructing us to turn away from our sins?
  • Once you’re saved you’re no longer a sinner – It is better to say we are sinners saved by grace through our faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:1-10), who died to eradicate the world of sin, but if we claim to be without sin, we are just lying to ourselves, and we are calling God a liar too (1 John 1:8-10). No man is perfect (Romans 3:11-18), but we have our perfect example in Jesus Christ.
  • Grace is the unmerited favor to live like you always have, knowing you will still go to heaven – Didn’t Jesus just tell us to repent? No one who practices sin will inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21). You are no longer a slave to sin. Your excuse shouldn’t be that you can’t help it, you’ve been set free (Romans 6:20-23)! 1 John 3:9 says, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.” If you are truly saved, you shouldn’t still be doing the same things you were doing before you got saved. He who sins (habitually, with no remorse) is of the devil (1 John 3:8), but you have the Holy Spirit on the inside of you to convict you (John 16:8) when you make a mistake, and you know that God will forgive you if you only ask (1 John 1:9). So be about the Father’s business—not your will, but His be done (Luke 22:42).
  • Cats are the guardians of the underworld – This is a line from Brendan Frasser’s The Mummy, so it must come from Egyptian mythology, but apparently it is also being taught in someone’s church. I was floored when I heard. This is what happens when you mix God’s word with other religions. Read your Bibles, people. This is NOWHERE in Scripture.
  • The Bible is plagiarized. The only true version is the King James – Whoever said this clearly doesn’t know what plagiarism means. If the Bible is the word right out of the mouth of God, who did He copy? And the only thing special about the King James Version of the Bible is that it was translated into English by King James I of England in 1611. It is no truer than the NIV, the NLT, the Amplified, the Message, or any other translation. Most people grew up learning the King James Version, and the King James Version was where we were taught to memorize most Scriptures, but truly, the best version of the Bible is the one you can understand.

It’s so easy for us to get caught up in a preacher who is hootin’ and hollerin’ and saying what sounds biblical, and maybe he even quotes a verse we all know, but it’s important that we not allow ourselves to be “toss to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting”  (Ephesians 4:14). The Bible tells us to avoid such people, because they do not serve Jesus Christ but themselves (Romans 16:17-18). So how do we recognize when someone is preaching lies?

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” Matthew 7:15-17; NKJV

Jesus said we will know them, not by their anointing, not by how well they can sing and shout, not by how many followers they have, not by how many people are falling out at their services, not by their rave reviews, not by the size of their church, but by their fruit!

But what is fruit, Jesus? Why must you always speak in metaphors? Galatians 5:22-23 describes for us the fruit of the Spirit of God, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Watch how a person is living. Are those who claim to be a teacher of God’s word manifesting this fruit in their lives? If we want to make disciples of the nations (Matthew 28:19-20), we have to be that example of Christ here on earth. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” Does your preacher imitate Christ? How does he act outside of church? Is he a completely different person? Jesus said that we are the light of the world, a city on a hill (Matthew 5:14-16). Not a day goes by when someone isn’t watching us, and our good (or bad) fruit that we produce will determine whether or not others will come into God’s kingdom, and glorify Him in heaven.

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” 1 John 4:1-3; NIV

Test the spirits. If they are not bearing the fruit of the Spirit, described in Galatians 5:22-23, you know to leave. If they are not teaching Jesus, that is another clue that they are not spirits of God. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). If someone is preaching something other than Jesus is the way to the Father, he is not a teacher called by God. Our purpose is to spread the gospel, the good news that Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10), that He was God in flesh, who gave Himself as a ransom (1 Timothy 2:6) so that the world could come back to Him, that He came so that we may have life more abundantly (John 10:10), that He gave His life so that anyone who believes would never perish (John 3:16-17), that He rose from the grave and conquered death so we too will rise with Him (Romans 6:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). If Jesus is not being taught, do not stay at that church, do not continue to listen.

Again I want to reiterate that we must be careful of the teachings we accept into our hearts, because the devil has a lot of false teachers in the pulpits, preaching some of the falsehoods I mentioned earlier and confusing many believers. Do not be confused. One thing to remember is that God is not a God of confusion, but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (John 14:27). That peace comes from the Holy Spirit, who is with you to be a helper and guide. He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance everything God has said in His word (John 14:26). He will lead you into all truth. Rely on the Holy Spirit to tell you what is true and what is not. If you don’t feel that peace that comes from the Holy Spirit, you can be sure that whatever is being taught is not of God, for He doesn’t speak of His own accord, but only what He hears from God.

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own, he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.” John 16:13-14; NIV

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to heed your warning against false teachers. Help us to reject the traditions and deceitful practices of man, which make the word of God of no effect. Help us to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit when we are confused by false teaching, for we know that greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world. The thief comes not but to steal, kill, and destroy, but you have come that we may have life, so we rely on your truth, Lord, your truth that gives us life, that lights our world and corrupts the darkness. We praise you for the peace you give us, for the truth you continue to reveal to us each day as we read and study your word. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Sunday Morning Word

Will You Submit to God?

What is submission, and how do we submit? Over the years, the word “submit” has inherited a negative connotation; no one wants to submit to those in authority anymore. Wives refuse to submit to their husbands, children refuse to submit to their parents, citizens refuse to submit to governing authorities, and no one is submitting to God.

We tend to think that submission means that we are giving up the power and control to make our own decisions, that we lose our independence, the ability to use our own free will. But submission doesn’t mean that you accept a dictator over your life, who commands your every movement.

I think the best and most precise definition for the word “submit” comes from the Macmillan Dictionary, which states that to submit means “to agree to obey a rule, a law, or the decision of someone in authority.” I like the use of the terms “agreement” and “authority” in this definition, because I think they go hand in hand when it comes to submission.

Authority means that someone has been given power and permission to make final decisions, and agreement involves two consenting parties. Therefore, when we submit, we agree or consent, to giving authority or permission and power to someone for making a final decision over certain matters. In my church, we are taught nine spiritual principles by which we should live. When we let these spiritual principles govern us, we will live successful, abundant, and satisfying lives, not operating from crisis to crisis, desperate for God to work a miracle every other week. Of these nine spiritual principles are the spiritual principle of authority, which is God’s plan to protect our lives, and the spiritual principle of agreement, which is God’s plan to crown our lives with peace. So let’s look at examples in the Bible of how these two principles work together, particularly when we submit to God.

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” Genesis 2:16-17; NIV

Going back to the very beginning, when God created man and put him in the Garden of Eden, He commanded that man could get from every tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. By obeying this command, Adam had submitted to God. He was under the authority of God; he had God’s protection from death— as long as he did not eat of the tree, he would not die—and he also had God’s protection from sin, for the Bible says, “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Genesis 2:25). Because he was in agreement with what God had commanded, Adam also had peace with God, who often came to fellowship with him in the Garden (Genesis 3:8-9).

Unfortunately the serpent slithered along with his cunning and trickery to get Adam and Eve from under submission to God. If we take a moment to look back at Genesis 2:16-17, we see that God gave the command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to Adam, not Eve. Adam was to relay that information down to his wife. Eve was under the authority of Adam, and Adam was under the authority of God (1 Corinthians 11:3; Colossians 3:18). The serpent disrupted this by going to Eve, who received the command second-hand, and questioning God’s authority (Genesis 3:1-3). He tricked her into thinking that the fruit would make her be like God (Genesis 3:4-5), and she took it, coming out from under the authority of her husband, and gave it to Adam, who was with her, and he came out from under the authority of God. And because they disobeyed God, they were cursed—they lost peace with God, for God is holy and cannot be touched with their sin (Leviticus 19:2; Isaiah 59:2; James 1:13)—and they were cast out of the Garden of Eden, not permitted to eat from the tree of life and live forever—they lost God’s protection, for the punishment of sin was death (Romans 6:23).

From this example, we know that catastrophic things can happen when we don’t submit to the authority of God, but thank God for Jesus Christ, who restored to us both power and authority over that pesky serpent, and reconciliation with God, which Adam and Eve lost in the Garden (Luke 10:19-20).

Another example of submitting to the authority of God, and indirectly to human authority, comes in 1 Samuel 24.

Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way. 1 Samuel 24:5-7

In 1 Samuel 24, King Saul of Israel was pursuing to kill David, who had been anointed by the prophet Samuel to be Israel’s next king. You see, God had rejected Saul as king of Israel for his disobedience (1 Samuel 15). This is another example of what happens when we don’t submit to the authority of God. Instead of completely destroying the wicked Amalekites as God had commanded—killing man, woman, child, and livestock— Saul and his soldiers pounced on the plunder, and for that, Saul lost the favor of God. He had came out from under God’s authority, was no longer in agreement with His commands, and lost peace—Saul was in constant conflict with the neighboring kingdoms, especially the Philistines—and protection—eventually dying in battle.

But in this particular passage, David had the opportunity to kill Saul and become king. Instead, he cut off a corner of Saul’s robe, and immediately felt guilty for it, remembering God’s command not to blaspheme Him or “curse the ruler of your people” (Exodus 22:28). Another verse of scripture says, “Do not touch my anointed ones” (Psalm 105:15). Last week, we learned that God is sovereign; He is always in control. He has the authority to raise up kings and bring them down (Daniel 2:21).  Instead of acting on his own accord, as Saul did, which resulted in him losing the kingdom, and as Adam and Eve did, which resulted in them being kicked out of the Garden of Eden and losing eternal life, David recognized both Saul’s authority given by God, and God’s authority—that He had the power to remove Saul Himself, and anything David would do would equal his disobedience and would require catastrophic consequences. So twice David was given the opportunity to kill Saul, and twice David spared his life. And for his obedience and submission to God, he was given the kingdom, and it was established firmly through his line of succession (2 Samuel 7:16).

So what can we learn from these two examples? That submission doesn’t necessarily mean relinquishing all control and free will, but that it does mean recognizing the authority of a higher power. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (NKJV). Sometimes we are not going to understand everything that God tells us to do. We are not going to understand why he allows certain people to come to power. But we do know that “all things work together for the good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose”  (Romans 8:28).

So instead of deciding for ourselves that we are going to do what we want to do, and having to face the possible disastrous consequences, why not just trust in God and see how His plans for us unfold? It doesn’t matter who we are or how high up on the authority scale we rise, we are always submitting to someone, whether it’s a parent, or boss, or ministry leader, etc. But imagine the rewards you will receive if you only submit to God. Adam and Eve had eternal life. David’s throne was established forever, and through his line came Jesus Christ, whose death on the cross and resurrection three days later returned to us eternal life with God forever (John 17:3). There’s no greater reward than that. So will you submit to Him?

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26

Prayer: Heavenly Father, teach us to revere you, to respect your authority, to come into agreement with you and submit to your will. Not our will, but yours be done. You said in your word that if we love you, we will keep your commands. Lord, we love you, and we have an urgency to heed your call and follow your commands, for we know that our rewards here on earth and in heaven will be great. Lead and guide us by your Holy Spirit to continue to do what is just, what is righteous, what is pleasing in your sight. We give you all the glory and honor and praise. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.