Who is God? That’s a question asked by by John Mark Comer in his book God Has a Name., which is also the title of a new blog series . In this series we will explore all of the names of God found in the Bible.
Exodus 3:15 (NLT)15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you. This is my eternal name, my name to remember for all generations.
The following is from a Devotional by John Piper 10 Things “Yahweh” Means
God’s name is almost always translated LORD (all caps) in the English Bible. But the Hebrew would be pronounced something like “Yahweh,” and is built on the word for “I am.”
So every time we hear the word Yahweh, or every time you see LORD in the English Bible, you should think: this is a proper name (like Peter or John) built out of the word for “I am” and reminding us each time that God absolutely is.
There have been hundreds, perhaps thousands of blog posts, articles, books, and sermons written and given about the names of God. I like to call them names for God. My proper name is Donald, but I’m also called dad, father, grandpa, son, uncle, brother, nephew, and pastor along with others. Each of these is a name for me which describes certain attributes. God’s proper name is Yahweh (Jehovah is a Latinization of the Hebrew YHWH). What I will be doing in this series is looking at the names for Yahweh and the attributes that fit those names.
I begin the series with John Mark Comer’s response to the question Who is God?
When we talk about God, it turns out we’re all over the map.
In the West, we still live in a hangover from our Christianized past. There was a time when you could say “God,” and people would immediately think of the God we read about in the Scriptures and see in Jesus. Most people would even come to the same basic conclusions about this God.
That time has long since gone the way of the earth.
Today, when I say “God,” you might think any number of things, depending on your country of birth, language, religion, church experience, background — and, of course, whether or not you have cable.
All of this brings me to the question at the heart of this book: Who is God?
I’m not writing this book to prove that God exists. If you’re an atheist, welcome to the table. We’re glad you’re here. Just know that I won’t go into a litany of reasons that I’m right and you’re wrong. There are a lot of people way smarter than me — the kind with extra letters after their name — who’ve already had a crack at that.
I can only speak out of my own life, and, for me, God’s existence was never the question. I’ve been down the road of doubt, had a crisis of faith — a few actually — thought long and hard about Jesus, and had a list of questions about the Bible stretching to Florida and back (I live in Portland — it’s a long trek). But for me, the question was never whether God exists. The way I’m wired, that was axiomatic and self-evident.
Have you been outside recently? For me, the far more interesting question was always, “What in the world is God like?”
Let’s assume for now that there is some kind of an invisible-but-real being who made everything, and for now let’s call this being “God.” If so, what is this God like?
Or how about this one: Is God even good for the world anymore? Fewer and fewer people answer yes. What if God and religion are just an endless source of violence and hatred and bigotry and hypocrisy and really bad music?
Who is this “God” we love, hate, worship, blaspheme, trust, fear, believe in, doubt, cuss in the name of, bow to, make jokes about, and most of the time just ignore?
I would argue that how you answer this question will define you.
The twentieth-century writer A. W. Tozer made a stunning claim: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”1
The most important thing?
More than our gender or sexuality or ethnicity or family of origin or the town we grew up in or where we went to college or our tax bracket or whether our sport is American football or futbol football?
Absolutely. Here’s a truth that cuts across the whole of the universe: we become like what we worship.
Tozer went on to write, “We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God . . . Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, ‘What comes to mind when you think about God?’ we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man.2
Put another way, what you think about God will shape your destiny in life.
If you think of God as homophobic, racist, and mad at the world, this distorted vision of reality will shape you into a religious bigot who is — wait for it — homophobic, racist, and mad at the world.
If you think of God as a Left-Coast, educated, LGTBQ-affirming progressive, that will shape you into the stereotype of the wealthy bohemian with the “We Will Not Tolerate Intolerance” bumper sticker on the back of your hybrid. (Don’t take that as a slam. I’m writing about half of my neighbors and friends.)
If you think of God as the cosmic version of a life coach, there to “maximize your life,” that will shape you into a self-helpy yuppie, even if you dress it up and call it following Jesus.
You see what I’m getting at?
The ISIS terrorist beheading the infidel, the prosperity gospel celebrity preacher getting out of his Hummer after late-night drinks with Kanye West, the Westborough Baptist picketer outside a military funeral screaming “God hates f—s!”, the Hindu sacrificing a goat to Shiva, the African witch doctor sacrificing a little boy, the U.S. Army sniper praying to God before he takes the shot, the peace activist risking her neck to stop another war because she believes in Jesus’ teachings on enemy love, the gay singer who stands up at the Grammys and says thank you to God for his song about a one-night stand, the Catholic nun giving up a “normal life” to live in poverty and work for social change — all of these men and women do what they do because of what they believe about God.
So clearly, what we think about God matters. Who God is has profound implications for who we are.
Here’s the problem: we usually end up with a God who looks an awful lot like us.
As the saying goes, “God created man in His own image. And man, being a gentleman, returned the favor.3
There is a human bent in all of us to make God in our own image.
My friend Scot McKnight is a New Testament professor in Chicago. For years, he taught a class on Jesus, and he would start every semester with two surveys. The first was a set of questions about the student: what they like, dislike, believe, and so on. The second was the same set of questions, but this time about Jesus. He told me that 90 percent of the time, the answers were exactly the same.
That’s telling, isn’t it?
Here’s how you know if you’ve created God in your own image: He agrees with you on everything. He hates all the people you hate. He voted for the person you voted for. If you’re a Republican, so is He. If you’re a Democrat, She is too. If you’re passionate about _____, then God is passionate about _____. If you’re open and elastic about sexuality, so is He. And above all, He’s tame. You never get mad at Him or blown away by Him or scared of Him. Because He’s controllable.
And, of course, He’s a figment of your imagination.
Often what we believe about God says more about us than it does about God. Our theology is like a mirror to the soul. It shows us what’s deep inside.
Maybe the truth is that we want a God who is controllable because we want to be God. We want to be the authority on who God is or isn’t and what’s right or wrong, but we want the mask of religion or spirituality to cover up the I-wanna-be-God reality.
The most ancient, primal temptation, going all the way back to Adam and Eve in the Garden, is to decide for ourselves what God is like, and whether we should live into His vision of human flourishing or come up with our own. All so we “will be like God, knowing good and evil.4
This is why theology is so incredibly important.
The word theology comes from two Greek words — theo, meaning “God,” and logos, meaning “word.” Simply put, theology is a word about God. It’s what comes to mind when we think about God.
It’s not like some of us are into theology and others aren’t. We all have a theology. We all have thoughts and opinions and convictions about God. Good, bad, right, wrong, brilliant, dangerous — we all theologize.
But the problem is that much of what we think about God is simply wrong.
I know that’s blunt, but I don’t really know how else to say it.
Much of what we read in the news or see on TV or pick up on the street about God and the way He works is wrong. Maybe not all wrong, but wrong enough to mess up how we live.
In the modern world, we start with the assumption that we know what God is like, and then we judge every religion or church or sermon or book based on our view of God.
A while back, I read an interview in Rolling Stone with a celebrity who said he grew up in the church but left it in college because he “couldn’t believe in a God who would limit sex to one man and one woman for life.5 What was shocking to me wasn’t the sex part. This is the modern world after all. And the dude was a rock star...
What was shocking to me was the bizarre twist of logic.
I couldn’t believe in a God who _____?
As if what we think and feel about God is an accurate barometer for what He is actually like.
The Scripture writers come at it the other way around. From Moses to Matthew, they just assume we have no idea what God is like. In fact, that a lot of what we think about God is totally off base. If history teaches us anything, it’s that the majority are often wrong.
And don’t think that if you’re religious — or even if you’re a Christian — you’re off the hook. Jesus spent the bulk of His time helping religious people see that a lot of what they thought about God was wrong too.
You’ve heard it said . . .
But I say to you . . .
Or He would start a teaching by saying, “The kingdom of God is like...” and then tell a story that was radically out of step with how people in His day and age thought.
For Jesus and all the writers of Scripture, the starting point for all theology is the realization that: we don’t know what God is like, but we can learn. But to learn, we have to go to the source.
Excerpted with permission from God Has a Name by John Mark Comer, copyright John Mark Comer. Published by Zondervan.
The next post in the series will be YAHWEH-JIREH is God.
1. This is from the opening page of Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy (1961; repr., San Francisco: Harper-SanFrancisco, 1975).
2. This is found on the same page of Tozer’s book.
3. The source of this quote is in dispute. The Swiss philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau is the most likely, but Mark Twain frequently gets credit.
4. This is a line from Genesis 3:5. Once you get past the talking snake, this is one of the most profound and insightful stories into the human condition ever written.
5. It was Chris Martin of Coldplay. You can read a great article on his spirituality (“Coldplay’s Quiet Storm” by Austin Scaggs) at www.rollingstone.com/music/news/ coldplays-quiet-storm-20050825.
It’s March Madness! The NCAA College Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament is happening right now, and fans of college basketball teams throughout the country are rooting for their teams hoping that they will stand alone as the champion. On Monday April 3rd, 2017 the champion of NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball will be crowned. That team will be a basketball champion. Jesus is our champion!
A champion is defined as; a person who has defeated or surpassed all rivals in a competition, especially in sports; a person who fights or argues for a cause or on behalf of someone else.
The Hebrew word translated to each of these words is archēgos, which Strongs Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible defines as a chief leader :- author, captain, prince.
Depending on your translation the Bible, in Hebrews 12:2, calls Jesus guide, author, source, or champion.
Hebrews 12:2 (BBE)2 Having our eyes fixed on Jesus, the guide and end of our faith, who went through the pains of the cross, not caring for the shame, because of the joy which was before him, and who has now taken his place at the right hand of God's seat of power.
Hebrews 12:2 (NKJV)2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:2 (HCSB)2 keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.
Hebrews 12:2 (NLT)2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. (Bold Mine)
Jesus, Our Champion Has Defeated Sin And Death For Us
All these versions or translations indicate that Jesus went to battle, on the cross, and won. On our behalf, He defeated death (eternal separation from God), which is the punishment of sin, which was the last enemy of the believer.
1 Corinthians 15:24-28 (NLT)24 After that the end will come, when he will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, having destroyed every ruler and authority and power.25 For Christ must reign until he humbles all his enemies beneath his feet.26 And the last enemy to be destroyed is death.27 For the Scriptures say, “God has put all things under his authority.” (Of course, when it says “all things are under his authority,” that does not include God himself, who gave Christ his authority.)28 Then, when all things are under his authority, the Son will put himself under God’s authority, so that God, who gave his Son authority over all things, will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere. (Bold Mine)
1 Corinthians 15:54-57 (NLT)54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory.55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”56 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power.57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Bold Mine)
We are now observing the time of Lent, and as we look to Resurrection day and all that happened, we can see that we as Christian have received many blessings as the result of our Champion’s victory.
Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT)18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Because Jesus, our Champion, has secured the victory, we can rest in him, knowing that the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead is also at work in us.
1 Corinthians 6:14 (NLT)14 And God will raise us from the dead by his power, just as he raised our Lord from the dead.
Ephesians 4:8 (NLT)8 That is why the Scriptures say, “When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people.”
Psalm 68:18 (NLT)18 When you ascended to the heights, you led a crowd of captives. You received gifts from the people, even from those who rebelled against you. Now the LORD God will live among us there.
If and when you find yourself overwhelmed with worry and anxiety remember that Jesus is your Champion, and He has been victorious which now makes you more than a conqueror. (See By Faith In God You Have Victory - You Are More Than A Conqueror)
Romans 8:35-37 (NLT)35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”)37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
This is a prayer that ended one of my Lenten devotionals and I will end this post with it.
Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for the power present in our lives because of our champion, Christ Jesus, and would ask that today we would find ourselves equipped with courage and joy because of him who ascended on high. In Christ’s Name, Amen.
We often hear people say that “if God loves people why does He still send them to hell", or they ask “why would a loving God send anybody to hell?” I actually agree with the answer of these two presumptive questions. The answer is that God doesn’t send anybody to hell. They choose to go there.
Most people who ask those questions don’t believe in God, heaven, or hell anyway so your answer won’t matter. It’s just a way to try to get under your skin and make you start to question and doubt God’s promises and actions. However there are people who really do wonder about heaven and hell and who goes, and we should be prepared to give them an answer.
1 Peter 3:15 (NLT)15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.
Do Heaven and Hell Exist?
The first thing that we need to address is whether heaven and hell even exist.
The Bible teaches that there is a real heaven and a real hell. Heaven is the spiritual dwelling place of God. Hell is the place of eternal separation from God, prepared for the devil and his angels. It is a place of eternal torment.
In the Bible, the term heaven generally refers to areas beyond the earth. These areas can be the air, outer space, or the dwelling place of God sometimes called the highest or third heaven.
Corinthians 12:2-4 (NLT)2 I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows.3 Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know4 that I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell.
The Bible tells us that heaven is God’s throne.
Isaiah 66:1 (NLT)1 This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Could you build me a temple as good as that? Could you build me such a resting place?
Acts 7:48-49 (NLT)48 However, the Most High doesn’t live in temples made by human hands. As the prophet says,49 ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Could you build me a temple as good as that?’ asks the LORD. ‘Could you build me such a resting place?
After Jesus’ resurrection and appearance on earth to His disciples, He was taken up into heaven.
Mark 16:19 (NLT) When the Lord Jesus had finished talking with them, he was taken up into heaven and sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand.
Acts 7:55-56 (NLT)55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand.56 And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”
According to the Bible, after the return of Christ, believers will live with God in a New Jerusalem on a new earth.
Revelation 21:1-4 (NLT)1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone.2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
While we don’t know exactly what heaven will be like but the Bible tells us that there will be activity there.
Revelation 21:22-27 (NLT)22 I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.23 And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light.24 The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory.25 Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there.26 And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city.27 Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Heaven exists and it’s splendor is unimaginable.
According to the Bible, hell is just as real as heaven. Jesus used certain images of hell that show it as a place of awful torment.
Matthew 25:44-46 (NLT)44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.” (Bold mine)
Matthew 8:10-12 (NLT)10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to those who were following him, he said, “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!11 And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world—from east and west—and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven.12 But many Israelites—those for whom the Kingdom was prepared--will be thrown into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Bold mine)
Here is the way Revelation describes hell;
Revelation 14:9-11 (NLT)9 Then a third angel followed them, shouting, “Anyone who worships the beast and his statue or who accepts his mark on the forehead or on the hand10 must drink the wine of God’s anger. It has been poured full strength into God’s cup of wrath. And they will be tormented with fire and burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb.11 The smoke of their torment will rise forever and ever, and they will have no relief day or night, for they have worshiped the beast and his statue and have accepted the mark of his name.” (Bold mine)
Revelation 21:8 (NLT)8 “But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars--their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Bold mine)
While the Bible tells us what being in hell is like it doesn’t explicitly say what it is or how it functions. However, the Bible makes perfectly clear that hell is real and that it is eternal and not a place where you want to go. It is to be avoided at all costs.
Does God Really Send People To Hell?
Now that we’ve established the fact that hell does indeed exist let’s get back to the questions that we asked at the beginning; “if God loves people why does He still send them to hell’, or they ask “why would a loving God send anybody to hell?”
When God created man He gave Him “free will”, in other words He gave man the ability to choose. We often ask why God would do that and I believe that God wanted man to have the ability to choose to obey or not obey Him in order to really know if man loved Him. If you don’t have the ability to choose to not love love me I never really know if you do. So God gave man the ability to choose to obey (love) or not obey )love) Him. Well as we know Adam chose to not obey and suffered the penalty of disobedience
Genesis 2:15-17 (NLT)15 The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it.16 But the LORD God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden--17 except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”
Death in this context is not only physical death but eternal separation from God.
Because of Adam’s disobedience all of mankind was cursed with his punishment.
Romans 5:12 (NLT)12 When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.
Romans 3:23 (NLT) For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
But because God loves mankind so much He put a plan in motion to save us from eternal punishment. That plan was for His Son Jesus to suffer the punishment for sin for all mankind.Jesus allowed Himself to be nailed to a cross and while hanging there, He took upon Himself all of our sins.
Romans 4:20-25 (NLT)20 Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God.21 He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.22 And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous.23 And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded24 for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God. This is a free gift that God gave us, but it is a gift that we must choose to accept. It comes down to whether we choose Heaven or we choose hell.(Bold mine)
Romans 6:23 (NLT)23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
If you don’t believe in Christ the Bible says that you have been judged already.
John 3:16-18 (NLT)16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.
One day, we don’t know when, there will be a day of judgement and those who have believed in and trusted Christ will be with Him in heaven and those who choose not to believe will be sent away, and the place where they will be sent is hell. The choice is theirs.
Matthew 25:31-34, 41 (NLT)31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne.32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.
God wants everybody to be with Him so much so that He has delayed that day of judgement
2 Peter 3:8-10 (NLT)8 But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.10 But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.
God given every person the right to choose to or reject the gift of life through Jesus Christ. Those who choose will spend eternity in heaven and those who reject Christ have already been told what awaits them in hell.
We make many choices every day. We choose whether to obey or not obey our parents as children. We choose the college we want to attend. We choose our friends. We choose our spouses. We choose what car to buy, what to eat, choice after choice. For some of the choices we think long and hard and even pray. For others we give little thought but there is one choice that everybody must make and that is whether to accept or reject Christ. That choice that we all must make is one that will affect us forever, even after death.
In Moses last address to the Hebrews before he died and they went into the Promised Land he talked about the choices that they could make. They could obey and be blessed or disobey and be cursed. He urged them to choose to obey.
Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (NLT) 19 “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!20 You can make this choice by loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the LORD, you will live long in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
C. S. Lewis wrote in “The Great Divorce” “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done."
It’s Your Choice!
I am unqualified!
How often have you said this when you are asked to do something for your church like lead a Bible Study, or small group? What about leading a fundraising effort or teaching a Sunday School class? We often say I’m not qualified even if what we’re asked to do is what we do everyday at work. There’s something about doing something that we think is spiritual that frightens us and we feel unqualified. I think it’s more that we feel unworthy rather than unqualified. I just wrote a post about failure (No Failure Is Fatal). In it I said that God doesn’t care what you’ve done in your past. Through Jesus, He’s forgiven you for any failures that resulted from your actions and He doesn’t hold you responsible for those failures that were not your fault. He even uses your failures to strengthen you. Read my post and you will see how he used Abraham, Moses, David, Peter and me. We all fail at some point in our lives and until we go the be with the Lord, in death, or Jesus returns we will probably fail at something again.
The List Of The Unqualified Is Long
How tragic it would be if we still thought, felt, and acted the same way we did before we received the Holy Spirit.
Acts 2:38 (NLT)38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins, turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ to show that you have received forgiveness for your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit enables us to live as God directs and equips us. We don’t always live that way but we can because the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to do it.
God is determined to accomplish His goals here on earth through unqualified people like us.
Isaiah, the great prayer warrior, was a man of like passions meaning, and just like the rest of us weak and wounded.
Isaiah 6:5-7 (NLT)5 Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.”6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.7 He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.”
David, the man after God's own heart, was a murdering adulterer who had no moral right to any of God's blessings.
2 Samuel 12:13 (NLT) Then David confessed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan replied, “Yes, but the LORD has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin.
Acts 13:22 (NLT)22 But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’
Peter denied Jesus.
Matthew 26:73-74 (NLT)73 A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.”
74 Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!” And immediately the rooster crowed.
John 21:17 (NLT)17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.
Paul persecuted the church.
1 Corinthians 15:9 (NLT) For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church.
The list goes on and on of people who loved God, people who were greatly used by God who felt themselves undeserving and unqualified.
2 Corinthians 4:7-13 (NLT)7 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies.12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you.13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.”
Maybe there's a flaw in your character you try to hide. Even if it's in the past, you may live in secret fear that one day it will come back, so you deem yourself unqualified.
Maybe you feel called to be a leader, a decision maker, a risk-taker. But your track record is far from spotless. And the thought of putting yourself out there is paralyzing,
Many of us fight these feelings. We consistently hear the voices telling us that we don't qualify, that they will never qualify, that we are totally disqualified. But God has a habit of picking people who have been passed over. If you look at the great men and women of Scripture, you will see that they have one thing in common: They were all unqualified.
God Is Not Looking For The Qualified
God is looking for people who will allow themselves to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. When Jesus called His disciples He called and selected 12 men most of them not even educated.
Acts 4:13 (NLT)13 The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.
The Bible does not describe the backgrounds of all of Jesus’ disciples. It only reveals the vocations of Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew. Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen.
Matthew 4:18-22 (NLT)18 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living.19 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!”20 And they left their nets at once and followed him.21 A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too.22 They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.
Matthew was a tax-collector
Matthew 10:3 (NLT) Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew (the tax collector), James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus,
We don’t really know the vocations of the rest are unknown. The names of all twelve are as follows: Yet they turned the world upside down.
Here’s what Paul told the Corinthians;
1 Corinthians 1:26-29 (NLT)26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you.27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.
Don’t use your weaknesses and insecurity as an excuse of being unqualified. It’s not your qualifications that matter anyway. It’s God’s qualifications. Remember Moses’ excuse and God’s response.
Exodus 4:10-12 (NLT)10 But Moses pleaded with the LORD, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.”11 Then the LORD asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the LORD?12 Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.”
Remember what God told Paul.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NLT)9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
God Equips Those He Calls
Hebrews 13:20-21 (NLT)20 Now may the God of peace— who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood--21 may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 2:8-10 (NLT)8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.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.
If He called you, you’re qualified!
"The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure." Sven Eriksson
"Failure is a detour, not a dead-end street." Zig Ziglar
"It is a mistake to suppose that people succeed through success; they often succeed through failures." Author unknown
Have you ever failed at anything? I’m not talking about failing a test in school, although that can be pretty traumatic. I’m not talking about a health related test either although failing one may mean life or death and even long term suffering. I'm talking about failures in the everyday things of life. Let me give you some examples of things I’ve failed at. I failed at my first marriage, I failed at jobs resulting in layoff and being fired, I’ve failed at managing my finances, and there have been other failures.
How did you feel when you failed? Here’s how I felt. I felt that I left my family down and by family I mean my entire family from my ancestors to my immediate family. I felt I let my friends down. I let my employer down. I let God down. I felt terrible. In short I felt like a failure.
Everyone wants to be a success. I have never met anyone who purposely set out to be a failure, but what’s important is what happens after failure. Do you wallow in the failure? Are you so afraid of failing again that you don’t do anything?
The fear of failure paralyzes or neutralizes many people. We consciously or subconsciously ignore our sins and failures because we believe to admit them is to admit failure. People often refuse to tackle a job or take on a responsibility for fear of failure. People believe if they fail they are no good. They think failure means you are a bad person and that YOU ARE A FAILURE!.
I’ll let you in on something that I learned even in the midst of my failures. God doesn’t care that you failed He can still use you. Think about that.
Romans 8:28, 35-37 (NLT) 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”)37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
Failure can be the result of others’ actions, circumstances beyond our control, our own actions, or a combination of all three.Whether caused by sin or something else, all failure teaches us the important truth of just how desperately we need God, His mercy and His grace in our lives. Failure can become tools for growth and deeper levels of trust and commitment to God. Failures are reminders that we must live with eternity in mind.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NLT)16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT)1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
God used failures all the time. A study of Bible reveals that many of those who made great contributions to history were people who failed at some point, some of them pretty bad. The one common thing among them is that they repented of their failures. They learned to know God as the God of the second chance and sometimes third and fourth chance. But, as previously mentioned, many of the great leaders in Scripture at some time in their careers experienced some sort of failure.
Let’s look at a few of them
After having been told by God that he and Sarah would have a son he agreed with Sarah to have a child with her slave Hagar.
Genesis 15:4 (NLT)4 Then the LORD said to him, “No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.”
Genesis 16:1-2 (NLT)1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not been able to bear children for him. But she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar.2 So Sarai said to Abram, “The LORD has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her.” And Abram agreed with Sarai’s proposal.
Yet Abraham is championed as a hero of faith and called the “father of the faithful.”
Genesis 15:6 (NLT) And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith.
Hebrews 11:12 (NLT)12 And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead—a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them.
Jesus Christ came from the linage of Abraham.
Matthew 1:1, 16 (NLT)1 This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham: 16 Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah.
Exodus 2:11-12 (NLT)11 Many years later, when Moses had grown up, he went out to visit his own people, the Hebrews, and he saw how hard they were forced to work. During his visit, he saw an Egyptian beating one of his fellow Hebrews.12 After looking in all directions to make sure no one was watching, Moses killed the Egyptian and hid the body in the sand.
Later, against the command of God, he struck the rock in his anger.
Numbers 20:11-12 (NLT)11 Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out. So the entire community and their livestock drank their fill.12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!”
Yet God chose Moses to lead the Hebrews from slavery to the Promised Land.
Deuteronomy 34:10-12 (NLT)10 There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face.11 The LORD sent him to perform all the miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, and all his servants, and his entire land.12 With mighty power, Moses performed terrifying acts in the sight of all Israel.
2 Samuel 11:2-5, 14-17 (NLT)2 Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath.3 He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.”4 Then David sent messengers to get her; and when she came to the palace, he slept with her. She had just completed the purification rites after having her menstrual period. Then she returned home.5 Later, when Bathsheba discovered that she was pregnant, she sent David a message, saying, “I’m pregnant.” 14 So the next morning David wrote a letter to Joab and gave it to Uriah to deliver.15 The letter instructed Joab, “Station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is fiercest. Then pull back so that he will be killed.”16 So Joab assigned Uriah to a spot close to the city wall where he knew the enemy’s strongest men were fighting.17 And when the enemy soldiers came out of the city to fight, Uriah the Hittite was killed along with several other Israelite soldiers.
He ordered a census that resulted in the death of thousands.
2 Samuel 24:1-2 (NLT)1 Once again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he caused David to harm them by taking a census. “Go and count the people of Israel and Judah,” the LORD told him.2 So the king said to Joab and the commanders of the army, “Take a census of all the tribes of Israel—from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south—so I may know how many people there are.”
2 Samuel 24:15 (NLT)15 So the LORD sent a plague upon Israel that morning, and it lasted for three days. A total of 70,000 people died throughout the nation, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south.
Yet God calls David a man after his own heart.
Acts 13:22 (NLT) But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’
Matthew 26:33, 69-75 (NLT) Peter declared, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.” 69 Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.”70 But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.71 Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”72 Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said.73 A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.”74 Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!” And immediately the rooster crowed.75 Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly.
Yet Jesus told Peter that the church would be based on his confession and then He forgave Peter and give Him a very important assignment.
Matthew 16:16-18 (NLT)16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”17 Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.
John 21:15-17 (NLT)15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.
Failure teaches us to depend on God and His strength
Much like Paul when he asked God to remove something from his life.
2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NLT)8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Faith in Christ enables us to do through God’s power what we could not otherwise.
Philippians 4:13 (NLT)13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
It’s important to learn from our mistakes, but we can’t let them become obstacles. We have to move forward, trust God for both forgiveness and guidance, and prepare for what's next.
Now back to my failures
They are all behind me. My second marriage, while not perfect, was a blessing and not a failure. The jobs that I failed at prepared me for the successes I had later as a consultant and adviser to business and my church. Those experiences enable me to really understand how others feel under the same circumstances and I’m better able to counsel and advise them. My failure at financial management better enables me to advise individuals, small businesses, non-profit organizations, and my church. God has used all of these failures to equip me for the ministry that He prepared for me beforehand.
Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) 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.
He will do the same for you so rejoice even in your failures.
God’s grace is greater than your failures!
This past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, the first day of the 40 days of Lent. Lent is the time that Christians prepare for Easter by reflecting on the sinful state of mankind that culminated in the death of Jesus Christ and His subsequent resurrection. During Lent I, along with many Christians, spend time in prayer and reflection. This year during my daily quiet time with God, I’m reading a Lenten devotion by Redeemer Presbyterian Church, "Preparing Our Hearts For Easter: A Lenten Devotional."
Today, “Day 3 The Darkness” was very powerful. The devotion highlights the covenant that God made with Abraham. In those days when parties made a covenant the ceremony included the dramatization of the penalty of breaking it. In this case God was the only one who participated in the penalty phase. We know that God is not a man who can lie or go back on His word, so in essence He was saying that if this covenant is broken, and only you can break it Abraham, I will be the one to suffer the fate of it being broken. That is exactly what happened when Jesus died on the cross. He suffered the fate of man breaking the covenant with God so that we could become His sons and daughters and spend eternity in His presence.
Here is my edit of the devotion.
"Day 3: The Darkness”
Genesis 15 presents one of the most remarkable if not macabre episodes in the life of Abraham.
For a nomad, the promise of a land to possess would have been both comforting as well as difficult to believe, so it is only natural that Abraham would respond to God’s promise with a request for assurance.
Genesis 15:7-8 (NKJV)7 Then He said to him, "I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it."8 And he said, "Lord GOD, how shall I know that I will inherit it?"
What is surprising is not the request, but the sign that God provides.
Genesis 15:9-12, 17-21 (NKJV)9 So He said to him, "Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon."10 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.11 And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.12 Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him. 17 And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces.18 On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: "To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates--19 the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites,20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim,21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites."
Animals are brought before God, split in two, and then arrayed before him. The writer makes clear that as the sun goes down, Abram does not merely fall asleep, but experiences a “dreadful and great darkness.” In the thick darkness, a smoking fire pot and flaming torch pass between the pieces and the episode ends with the statement, “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram”
What is going on? In the Ancient Near East, when parties entered a covenant it was often dramatized by a sacrifice or some other enactment of the penalty that would fall on the party who did not keep up their end of the bargain. This signified that both parties were willing to honor the arrangement at the possible expense of their lives — their fate would be the same as that of the animals. In the darkness Abraham witnesses God (represented as a fire pot and torch) passing through the pieces, and yet he himself is not required to!
The gospel writers note that when Jesus died, darkness fell over the land, and in that moment, we see the sacrifice God made in order to honor his promises to us.
Mark 15:33-34, 37 (NKJV)33 Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which is translated, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"37 And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last.
It is a reminder that he went to the grave to give us the skies, became alienated to give us a home, and experienced deep darkness to bring us into the light. In fact, this vision is what comforted Abraham’s fear in
Genesis 15:1 (NKJV) After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward."
Is this your comfort too?
Father, remind me that because Jesus experienced the darkness, you have shown me your light; because he experienced alienation, you have promised me a home; because he experienced the grave, you have given me the skies. And help me not to be afraid, because you are my shield and very great reward. In Christ’s Name, Amen.
Original devotion Copyright (c) 2012 by Redeemer Presbyterian Church.
Matthew 28:19 (NLT) Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Mark 16:15 (NLT) And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.
In the Gospel of Matthew the last thing that Jesus told His disciples to do was to go out and make other disciples everywhere. In Mark’s Gospel it was a little more specific in that He told them to go preach the Good News (gospel) to everybody.
While most Christian don’t make a habit of sharing the gospel at every opportunity many of us do look for the opportunity to share. We're so excited and grateful that Jesus has paid for our sins that we can’t wait to share the Good News with our family, friends, acquaintances, and every person we meet.
Psalm 96:3 (NLT) Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.
2 Corinthians 5:20 (NLT) So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
What we often fail to realize however is that in our excitement and eagerness, to share the gospel, we can sometimes come on too strong, be overbearing, or convicting. In short we can become pests. The cornerstone of the Gospel is God’s love for mankind shown through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ. When we share the gospel, that love needs to come through loud and clear. However, I’ve seen unbelievers "turned off " by an over aggressive believer that came on too strong. There must be a happy medium between the desire to see everyone, we know and come in contact with, accept Jesus as their Savior, and knowing when to back off.
We also need to remember what Jesus said about the harvest of souls.
John 4:37 (NLT) You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true.
Paul also talked about us working together in sharing the gospel.
1 Corinthians 3:7-8 (NLT) 7 It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.8 The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.
The Game Plan
I found an excerpt from Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Gregory Koukl, that gives you eight ideas “to remove obstacles that get in your way as an Ambassador for Christ.”
How to Put a Stone in a Non-Christian's Shoe
On a flight back from the Midwest, I listened while a Christian brother in the row directly behind me vigorously shared his faith with passengers on either side. I was glad for his effort (my wife and I were both praying for him), and he made some fine points. But some of his tactics were questionable. Here are some things I learned from that experience that might make your own efforts more effective.
These eight ideas remove obstacles that get in your way as an ambassador for Christ. They will make it easier for others to focus on your message without being distracted by your methods. The irony is that when our method is skillful, it fades into the background. But when our method is clumsy or offensive, then it becomes the focus instead of the truth we want to communicate.
1. Be ready.
The Christian brother behind me was clearly on the alert for chances to represent Christ. Seated between two other passengers, he had a captive audience on either side for almost four hours, and he was determined to make the most of the opportunity.
Though you do not need to squeeze each encounter dry (as he seemed to be doing), you should be willing at least to test the waters to see if there is any interest. Good ambassadors are vigilant, always watchful for what might turn out to be a divine appointment.
2. Keep it simple.
On the way to sharing about the cross, our Christian passenger ranged from young-earth creationism to Armageddon. That is a lot to have to chew on to get to Jesus. The basic gospel is challenging enough. Generally, you will have to deal with a few obstacles that come up. But if the listener is interested, why complicate things with controversial issues unrelated to salvation? Remember, you want to put a stone in his shoe, not a boulder. If other issues don’t come up, don’t bring them up.
3. Avoid religious language and spiritual pretense.
Our dear brother was obviously a Christian. His dialog was littered with spiritual lingo and religious posturing. Everything about his manner screamed “fundamentalist.” Even when this is genuine, it sounds weird to outsiders. Words and phrases like “saved,” “blessed,” “the Word of God,” “receive Christ,” or “believing in Jesus as Savior and Lord,” may have meaning to you, but they are tired religious clichés to everyone else.
Experiment with fresh, new ways to characterize the ancient message of truth. Consider using the word “trust” instead of “faith,” or “follower of Jesus” instead of “Christian.” I try to avoid quoting “the Bible.” Instead, I quote the words of “Jesus of Nazareth” (the Gospels), or of “those Jesus trained to take his message after him” (the rest of the New Testament).
Avoid spiritual schmaltz like the plague. Even though a person is attracted to Christ, he may still be reluctant to join an enterprise that makes him look odd. Don’t let your style get in the way of your message.
4. Focus on the truth of Christianity, not merely its personal benefits.
I appreciated our evangelist’s focus on truth rather than on experience. When one of his fellow passengers said he liked reincarnation, the Christian noted that “liking” reincarnation could not make it true. The facts matter. By focusing on the truth claims of Jesus instead of making a more subjective appeal, he gave his message a solid foundation.
5. Give reasons.
This brother understood that making assertions without giving evidence would be an empty effort. He was ready to give the support needed to show that his claims were not trivial. Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, and all the prophets did the same. Even in a postmodern age, people still care about reasons.
6. Stay calm.
Don’t get mad. Don’t show frustration. Don’t look annoyed. Keep your cool. Our friend stayed composed the entire time. The more collected he was, the more confident he appeared. The more confident he seemed, the more persuasive he sounded.
7. If they want to go, let them leave.
When you sense the one you are talking to is looking for an exit, back off a bit. Signs of waning interest — wandering eyes, a caged look, darting glances toward the doorway — are clues she’s probably not listening anymore. Don’t force the conversation. Instead, let the exchange end naturally. Remember, you don’t need to close the sale in every encounter. God is in charge. He will bring the next ambassador along to pick up where you left off. When the conversation becomes a monologue (yours), it’s time to let it go.
8. But don’t let them leave empty-handed. If possible, give the person a tangible way to follow up on what you challenged him to consider.
Our friend had an arsenal of tracts, booklets, and Christian paperbacks to leave behind to keep the thinking process going. You might offer your business card, a Christian Web site, or something to read. A copy of the Gospel of John is a good choice. It’s small, inexpensive, and focuses on Christ. Offer it as a gift, suggesting, “It might be best for me to let Jesus speak for Himself.”
Last Sunday I preached a sermon,“God Created You To Be A Good Works Machine”. In it I said that we perform those good works when we obey the law of Christ.
Mark 12:28-31 (NKJV)28 Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, "Which is the first commandment of all?"29 Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.30 And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment.31 And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
To love God with all of our being and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves is the law of Christ. Love is to be our motivation. When we recognize the value of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, our response is to be love, gratitude, and obedience. When we understand the sacrifice Jesus made for us and others, our response is to be to follow His example in expressing love to others.
When we bear one another’s burdens we obey the law of Christ and perform good works.
Galatians 6:2 (NKJV) Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
The Greek word rendered burden is bareos meaning something that makes an overwhelming demand, that which brings sorrow or grief.
God bears our burdens so that we can in turn bear the burdens of our brothers and sisters.
Psalm 68:19 (NKJV) Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, The God of our salvation! Selah
The early church did this. To lift the load of poverty, they pooled their resources so that no one was in need.
Acts 4:32 (NKJV) Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.
To bear someone’s burden is to really put the love that we say we have for one another into action. It means more that just having sympathy for someone. Sympathy is just an emotion and emotion is not enough. Emotions fail but love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:8 (NKJV) Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
To fulfill the law of Christ is to exhibit the love shown in bearing one anothers burden. It’s the same thought that James had when he said that we show that we have faith by our works.
James 2:18-20 (NKJV)18 But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble!20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
Burdens May Be...
Whatever the cause, bearing the burden means carrying the load until the brother or the sister can walk unburdened on his own again.
How Do We Bear Someone’s Burdens?
Bearing one another's burden begins with us dealing with another person’s sin.
Galatians 6:1 (NKJV) Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.
The burdens we need to help carry for one another include guilt, worry, sorrow, anxiety, and all other similar spiritual and emotional issues. A sinful habit is much more harmful to a person than sickness, or unemployment, or loss of a loved one, or loneliness, or rejection.
If the burden is emotional, you bear it through counsel, hugs, listening and prayers. You may do that day after day after day, as long as that brother or sister carries the burden. If the burden is financial, the burden can be carried by giving your money or other assistance. If it's a physical burden, you bear it through your time, effort, compassion, and energy.
We can give a caregiver a weekend off; make a mortgage payment for a family who is in financial difficulties; sitting with an Alzheimer's patient whose spouse needs to run an errand; just listening to a brother or sister who’s hurting when it's inconvenient (When Serving God Is Inconvenient). The Holy Spirit has given some believers the spiritual gift of mercy by all Christians are called to bear one another's burdens (Motivational Gifts).
5 Tips On How To Bear One Another’s Burdens
Galatians 6:1 (NKJV)1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.
You don’t want to become a crutch for someone. For example, if a friend has lost a job you may want to help them financially but you want them to actively do what they need to do to become financially secure. If it is finding employment you want them to actively seek it. Bearing a burden does not need to turn into a co-dependent type of situation. So make sure to prayerfully consider what role God would have you play in bearing your brother or sister’s burdens.
At some time or another, we all struggle under tremendous burdens and some of them are more than we can bear alone. I wrote a post in which I said that God will allow us to experience circumstances that we are not able to bear alone, but He will help you bear it if you’ll only trust in Him (That’s Not In The Bible - God Will Never Give You More Than You Can Bear).
Jesus Is Our Example
Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV)28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
Since God predestines believers to be conformed to Christ’s likeness, we must imitate His care for and concern for others.
Romans 8:29 (NKJV) For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Charles Stanley said in one of his devotions; “A believer cannot wait until his life is clear of obstacles before reaching out to others, since that day may never come. Even though we have our own needs, we can do all things through Christ’s strength—including sharing someone else’s adversity.”
2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV) And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
"When someone staggers, we help steady the load. If he is straining, we help bear the burden. And if he stumbles, we lift him up. Helping fellow believers carry the weight of their worldly troubles is one of the chief practical duties that ought to consume every Christian.
When you’re willing to wade into someone else’s troubles to help that person hold up under the weight, two things happen. First, he or she receives desperately needed blessings in the form of aid, support, and love. When we bear one another’s burdens we fulfill God’s command to love a neighbor as yourself."
Mark 12:31 (NKJV) And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
Not only this but in bearing one another’s burdens we become witnesses to the world that we are Jesus’ disciples.
John 13:35 (NKJV) By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
Every time something bad happens, a disaster, a death, an illness, or a financial catastrophe, many people either ask “Why would God allow this to happen” or why did God do this”? When things happen that don’t appear to make sense, or go against what we think is good, we say God did it or allowed. It probably doesn’t surprise you that many Christians who don’t like Donald Trump or voted for him try to rationalize it by saying that “God put him in”. I’ve heard that very thing more times than you think. We say that God does or allows bad stuff because we don’t understand how a God that we know loves us can allow us go through situations that stretch our abilities as human beings to handle or understand. Why are we struck with a debilitating illness in the prime of life, why does one of our children die young, or why do we lose a job right after we sign a big mortgage? What about facing foreclosure because we haven’t been able to find a job? Why is your spouse stricken with a chronic illness ending in death. When these things happen in succession we search for answers. When we Christians say that God does or allows these things, without any explanation, why would anybody want to become a Christian? Think about it. If on the one hand we say that God is love, merciful, faithful, compassionate, and forgiving, and on the other hand say that God took a loved one, or caused a natural disaster just to punish, or teach us a lesson what kind of message are we sending?
Christians and nonbelievers alike might wonder, “What do you think they did to deserve cancer?” If someone’s wife walks out, insensitive churchgoers might think, “If he had been a better spiritual leader, his wife wouldn’t have done that.” If a teenager is rebellious, hardened onlookers might privately reflect, “If that kid’s parents had been more involved, this never would have happened.” When we are going through a tough time, or have a tragic loss our well meaning Christian friends say “This was God’s will,” and that, “we don’t always understand why God does what God does, but we must accept God’s will.” What a terrible thing to say! I don’t believe that it is God’s will that we face disaster. I haven’t been able to find anywhere in the Bible that God wants His children to suffer.
1 Thessalonians 5:9 (NLT) For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us.
How about turning the question around and asking "Why would an all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful God allow good things to happen to bad people?" After all, if seeing good people suffer is horrible, it's not much fun seeing evil people having fun either.
Being a Christian doesn't exempt you from suffering. Jesus Himself assured us that there will be trouble in our lives.
John 16:33 (NKJV)33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
1 Peter 4:12 (NKJV)12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;
God is sovereign and He knows everything that has or ever will happen good, bad, or indifferent. That means that, in a sense, He allows everything. However allowing and doing are two very different things.
God Does Not Do Evil
James 1:13 (KJV)13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
Job 34:12 (KJV)12 Yea, surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment.
If God doesn’t do anything that hurts us what does it mean then when it says in Job that God gives and takes away?
Job 1:20-21 (KJV)20 Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.
When you start reading at verse one of this chapter you will see that God didn't do anything to or take anything from Job. It was Satan that did and took, but God did allow it by giving him permission. Job knew that he hadn’t done anything to cause what was happening to him so he, like most of us, needed to find someone or something to blame. Most of us “good Christians” blame Satan or God but never ourselves or acknowledge that some bad things just happen because we live in a fallen world.
Romans 8:20-22 (NKJV)20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope;21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.
God Does Discipline Us
God does discipline but discipline is for good and not evil. Discipline with love does not result in tragedy as long as you don’t fight or despise the discipline.
Hebrews 12:7-11 (NKJV)7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
God warns us throughout scripture of the consequences of sinful behavior. As with our natural parents the warning and then discipline is proof God’s love. Because God, in His sovereignty gave mankind free will, if we continue to ignore the warnings and discipline the results are our fault not God’s.
Here are some examples of warning and discipline.
Leviticus 20:9, 11-13, 16, 27 (NKJV)9 For everyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother. His blood shall be upon him.11 The man who lies with his father's wife has uncovered his father's nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.12 If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death. They have committed perversion. Their blood shall be upon them.13 If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. 16 If a woman approaches any animal and mates with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood is upon them. 27 'A man or a woman who is a medium, or who has familiar spirits, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones. Their blood shall be upon them.' "
God even withholds punishment because He doesn’t want anyone to face it.
2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV)9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
People don’t want to take responsibility when bad things happen instead we like to place blame somewhere else.
Purpose in Our Pain
Here’s an account of a conversation between Jesus and His disciples;
John 9:1-3 (NKJV)1 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"3 Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him".
This man had spent years enduring the hardships of a life without sight, and Jesus basically said that God would be glorified through this tragedy. God has a purpose in our pain.
Ephesians 1:11 (NKJV)11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,
God takes the long view. His goal is not to give us temporary, superficial and fleeting comfort, but His purpose is our eternal welfare.
Yes, sometimes bad things happen to people who seem undeserving of them. But God allows things to happen for His reasons, whether we understand them or not. We know that God is good, just, loving, and merciful. Often things happen to us that we don't understand. However, instead of doubting God's goodness, our reaction should be to trust Him.
Joseph is a perfect example of a series of tragic events that included his brothers throwing him in a pit, then selling him as a slave. Joseph while serving his master was falsely accused and then thrown in prison. He was forgotten after doing a doing a favor for a servant of Pharaoh by interpreting a dream. What a series of bad fortune. This same guy became the second in command in Egypt. Instead of becoming bitter Joseph was used by God to save his brothers and his family when they needed food in order to escape the famine. What those brothers originally meant for evil was proof that in His sovereignty could turn that evil into good, proving that nothing that man does can thwart the purposes of a sovereign God.
Genesis 50:20 (NKJV)20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.
Jesus came from that family.
God allowed the religious leaders, Roman authorities and Satan himself to murder His Son Jesus and it appeared that they won. But, allowed it to accomplish His plan of the reconciliation of man back to Himself.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
As with the life of Joseph, God was orchestrating these unthinkable acts in order to accomplish His plan of satisfying the punishment of sin in mankind through the death of his Son.
When things seem to be coming apart remember that God is not causing those things but He may be allowing them, and if He’s allowing them it’s to accomplish His purpose in you.
Romans 8:28-29 (NKJV)28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
We are told in scripture, and by our Christian leaders that we should raise our hands in praise.
Psalm 134:2 (NLT) Lift up holy hands in prayer, and praise the LORD.
Psalm 63:4 (NLT) I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
I agree that it is a wonderful way of expressing our thanksgiving to our sovereign Creator and God. It is also a gesture, when our palms are turned up to heaven, or our request and acceptance of God’s grace and blessings.
Uplifted hands with our palms up can be both, a gesture of receiving and an indication a of releasing. Receiving God's love, grace, and salvation, releasing things like greed, doubt, anger, guilt, and fear.
So while uplifted hands are an outward expression of praise and thanksgiving it is also an opportunity to release the thing that hamper that praise and thanksgiving.
This devotion is an excerpt from Palms Up: Receiving the Blessing- .Daily Guideposts: 40 Devotions for Lent, copyright Guideposts. Published by Zondervan.
The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. — Numbers 6:24-26 KJV
In the closing moments of the Sunday morning service, our pastor raises his arms toward Heaven and calls down the blessing of the Lord upon all of us in the congregation. I bow my head in the contemplative prayer that has become for me a pre-blessing ritual.
I am a greedy child of God — I want every blessing, every gift the Lord has for me; I want nothing within me to hinder His giving or my receiving.
All too frequently, as I put down my hymnal and turn my hands palms-up to receive the blessing, I wince; I find my hands already full. Sometimes my fists are clenched, white knuckled, in unresolved anger, as they were the week a hit-and-run driver fatally injured our small calico cat. Sometimes I find myself holding on to brooding resentments over words spoken to me in the heat of an argument; or worse, I may be holding on to the guilt of harsh words I’ve spoken to others. Sometimes I’m clutching habitual worries I thought I’d let go the previous Sunday, only to find that through the days that followed I’ve picked them up again.
So I begin my weekly ritual of letting go:
Bless me and keep me, Lord.
Let Your face shine upon me, uphold me, and give me peace. —Fay Angus
Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.