A couple of years ago I wrote and published a post entitled “Heaven...What...Where... Who's Been There” In that post I wrote;
"From the time that we were young children we’ve heard about heaven. It was the place where your grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle, and even pets went when they died. It was where you were going if you were a good boy or girl. It is where God, Jesus and the angels live.
What Does the Bible Say?
According to Jewish tradition and teaching there are three heavens.
Genesis 1:6-8 (NKJV)6 Then God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters."7 Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which wereabove the firmament; and it was so.8 And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.
Psalm 19:1 (NKJV)1 The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.
The Celestial Heavens
The celestial heavens refers to the solar system, outer space, the place of the sun, moon, and stars.
Deuteronomy 17:2-5 (NKJV)2 "If there is found among you, within any of your gates which the LORD your God gives you, a man or a woman who has been wicked in the sight of the LORD your God, in transgressing His covenant,3 who has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, either the sun or moon or any of the host of heaven,which I have not commanded,4 and it is told you, and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently. And if it is indeed true and certain that such an abomination has been committed in Israel,5 then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has committed that wicked thing, and shall stone to death that man or woman with stones. (bold mine)
Matthew 24:29 (NKJV)29 "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
The Heaven of Heavens (Third Heaven)
The throne of God is is the third heaven.
Deuteronomy 10:14 (NKJV)14 Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to theLORD your God, also the earth with all that is in it.
1 Kings 8:27 (NKJV)27 But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!
2 Corinthians 12:2 (NKJV)2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago--whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows--such a one was caught up to the third heaven.
What and Where is Paradise?
Sometimes heaven is called or referred to as paradise.
This was Jesus’ message to the church at Ephesus.
Revelation 2:7 (NKJV) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God." '
If this is the Paradise of God it should be obvious that God is there. We said earlier in the post that the third heaven is the abode of God, He’s there. So I believe the the Paradise of the Bible and Heaven are one in the same.
The Hebrew word for Paradise is “pardes”. It’s a borrowed Persian word that means “park” or “garden”.
Definition from Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Persian loanword for "an area enclosed by a wall" or "garden." Its three uses in the Hebrew Bible ( Neh 2:8 ; Eccl 2:5 ; Sol 4:13 ) retain this meaning. The Septuagint uses the Greek paradeisos [paravdeiso"] for the garden of Eden in Genesis (called the "garden of God" in Isa 51:3 ; and Ezek 28:1
We should not try to figure out what heaven is like beyond what has been revealed in scripture. You can rely on what God has given us in His Word as the only reliable knowledge about heaven available to us. That is what we should fix our minds on not on the dreams speculations, dreams, or visions of other human minds.
But no matter how much they might obsess over what heaven is like, people who fill their heads with a lot of fantastic or delusional ideas from others’ near-death experiences have not truly set their minds on things above. If the inerrant biblical truth God has given us is the only reliable knowledge about heaven we have access to (and it is), then that is what should grip our hearts and minds, not the dreams and speculations of human minds."
What Do You Wonder About Heaven?
excerpted from Heaven by Joni Eareckson Tada
Editors Note: I read an excerpt from Joni Eareckson Tada's book, Heaven. In the book Joni says that because God is omnipresent, Heaven is right here. You'll have to read the excerpt to see what she means.
How Far Away Is Heaven?
As a child, I wondered where God lived in outer space and how long it would take to get there. Had I been old enough to read an astronomy textbook, I would have discovered a few statistics that would have blown me out of the water. Our solar system has a diameter of about 700 light-minutes. That’s eight billion miles. But the galaxy in which our solar system is contained has a diameter of 100,000 light-years. Not minutes, but years. Forget doing the math on that one. Our galaxy is humongous. But here’s the kicker: our little galaxy, which is 100,000 light-years wide, is just one of billions of other galaxies out in the cosmos.1
I can’t comprehend such gargantuan distances or the breathless enormity of space. Billions of stars and planets, all created by God, most of which the Hubble Space Telescope will never have time to scan. But it’s up there on the edge of earth’s atmosphere obediently and systematically doing just that — scanning the universe. The Hubble has recently captured images close to the very border of our cosmos, and I think it would knock our socks off if it could photograph the actual edge!
What is on the other side?
Scientific Journal may be stymied by that question, but not the Bible. Far beyond intergalactic space, with its billions of swirling nebulae and novas, lies another dimension. Some speculate it’s the fifth dimension. You could call it infinity, but wherever it is and however far out, the Bible calls it the highest of heavens.
To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens. — reads Deuteronomy 10:14
The outermost reaches of space are not as void and lonely as we think, because the highest part of heaven is the abode of God. It would seem this “third heaven,” as Scripture calls it (2 Corinthians 12:2), spreads out into infinity and completely engulfs our expanding cosmos with all its celestial bodies. It is the dimension where the Lord says: ‘Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool’. — Isaiah 66:1
The dwelling place of God exists in infinity. It is far, far away. That’s why I’m amused when the apostle Paul writes so casually in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4,
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know — God knows. And I know that this man… was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.
The third heaven? The highest of heavens? C’mon, Paul, how did you arrive there so fast?
Paul wasn’t the only one to reach the throne of heaven in a flash. To the dying thief next to Him on the cross, Jesus said,
Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in paradise. — Luke 23:43
Today? Jesus, Paul, and a dead criminal spanned billions of light-years in the snap of a finger?
How Close Is Heaven?
I’ve always sensed that Heaven was a lot closer than we are led to believe. As any good child in Sunday school, I believed that heaven was “up.” In later years, I discovered that the Bible says it plainly: Paul was caught up to the third Heaven; Jesus ascended into Heaven; the Lord will catch us up into Heaven when He returns; and, conversely,
God looks down from heaven on all mankind. — Psalm 53:2, emphasis added
This is the language the Bible invites us to use, much as it encourages us to use other earthbound words like crowns or seas of glass. And it makes sense. Heaven certainly can’t be “down,” or we’d dig a hole to China.
Yet even though the dwelling place of God may be a long way up, distances like “up” and “down” lose their meaning when we realize that Heaven — even the highest heavens — exist beyond our space-time continuum. Latitude and longitude, as well as directions and distances, are related to time, and time is a part of the fourth dimension. And the fourth dimension is only a small part of infinity. Time there will be swallowed up. Step beyond the edge of outer space, and you enter the fifth dimension, where gargantuan distances lightyears long are a snap of the finger to, well… to the dying thief who, when he died, instantly appeared in paradise alongside Jesus.
Had I been the dying thief, I would have been dumbstruck to hear Jesus say, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Today? This instant? Like Jesus taking my hand and walking with me through a wall, as He did in the upper room? Or appearing on a beach to cook breakfast for His friends? Or ambling along the road to Emmaus one instant and — flash — arriving in Jerusalem in no time flat? Like being changed in the twinkling of an eye?
Yes, and the Lord gives a clue as to how He does it in Revelation 1:8 when He laughs at time and distance:
‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’
Notice that Jesus does not follow the convention of our logic about the way time flows; we time-bound creatures want to change the order to read Jesus was, is, and is to come. It sounds more chronological. It’s consistent with our sense of the past, present, and future. But Jesus is the great I Am who always lives in the present. He is the God of the now.
I think of this every time I read Revelation 22, where Jesus says three times to the waiting church, “I am coming soon!” (To which the church replies three times, “Come, Lord Jesus.”) It’s interesting He doesn’t say, “I will come… like, sometime around, oh, a couple of thousand years from now.” Jesus puts it in the present tense as though He is but a hairbreadth away, all ready to part the veil of time and distance and step back into our world. It’s as though He is on His way back now.
So the Kingdom of Heaven, over which Jesus is and was and ever shall be King, is a place, but more so, a dimension where time and distance are not obstacles. The dying thief wasn’t transported at superhuman speed to Heaven when he died. Rather, he slipped from one dimension to the next, much like Jesus slipped from one room to another, through walls or whatever.
You cannot be transported to Heaven. You cannot go there in a rocket ship. You couldn’t even go there in a time machine, if there is such a thing. That’s because Heaven exists beyond even speeded-up time. Traveling at a zillion miles per hour might catapult you instantly to the edge of our universe, but to take a step into the third Heaven requires more. It requires something different, for our flesh and blood cannot enter Heaven.
You must be born again, or you cannot, as Jesus warned, “see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). When the dying thief was born of the Spirit, he was given the spiritual “genes,” so to speak, of God Himself — Christ who is, was, and ever shall be. And we are too when we are Spirit-born. We, like the thief, are fit for eternity. Of course, the fine print in the contract says we must also follow the dying thief in another way and die first.
Where Is Heaven?
Heaven is close. Perhaps closer than we imagine. It’s a little like saying to an unborn infant in his mother’s womb, “Do you realize that you are about to be born into a great big world full of mountains, rivers, and a sun and a moon? In fact, you exist in that wonderful world right now.”
“Wait a minute,” the unborn baby might say. “No way. My world is the one surrounding me. It’s soft, warm, and dark. You’ll never convince me that just a few hairbreadths outside this uterus exists this place of rivers, mountains, and a sun and moon, whatever that stuff is.”
Dear baby! There he is, safe in his little world, ignorant of the fact that a more glorious world is enclosing and encasing his. A world for which he is being fashioned. Only when he is birthed into it will he comprehend that all along his warm, dark world was within it. This other place of wonderful beauty was present all the time. Only inches away.
Even this earth in all its birth pains is about to give one last grunt and find itself born as a “new earth” in Heaven. Actually, this moment, less than a hairbreadth, separates this material world from the spiritual world that is embracing earth. And like an unborn baby, we are being fashioned for the greater world into which we are about to be born (by dying, of all things!). We have a hard time believing that Heaven encompasses this world, and so the Bible has to keep prodding us to fix our eyes “not on what is seen, but on what is unseen” (2 Corinthians 4:18). It’s a matter of “seeing.” Of using our eyes of faith.
Faith assures us that Heaven is transcendent. It is beyond the limits of our experience; it exists apart from our material universe. Heaven is also immanent in that it envelopes all the celestial bodies, swirling galaxies, and the starry hosts. If we believe that God is omnipresent, then we can at least believe that what the Bible in Ephesians 2:6 calls the “heavenly realms” are omnipresent as well. For where God is, the Kingdom of Heaven is.
As I said, Heaven is closer than we imagine, even though we can’t see it. I can almost see God laughing at people’s propensity to fix their eyes only on that which is seen, when in Jeremiah 23:23-24, He reminds us,
‘Am I only a God nearby,’ declares the Lord, ‘and not a God far away? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord.
One day, we will take the same trip as the dying thief. We will arrive in paradise. In the meantime, we can say we operate in the realm of our omnipresent and sovereign God. In some respects, we exist in the Kingdom of Heaven now.
We have already come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem.
We have come to myriad angels in joyful assembly.
We have come to God, the judge of all men. There’s a significant part of us, the new creature in Christ who lives in the present tense. Very much like our great I Am.
This fact makes the far and distant so near — oh, so close. When we seize this reality, we understand that the air we breathe is celestial. The ground we tread is sacred. The light we enjoy is divine. Could the rustling in the trees even be the whisper of angel wings? That’s touching on romanticism, but as the Bible itself says,
[We] have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly. — Hebrews 12:22
Excerpted with permission from Heaven Your Real Home...From A Higher Perspective by Joni Eareckson Tada, copyright Joni Eareckson Tada.
For the past twenty-five years, Heaven has inspired us to live well on earth even as we long for eternity. Drawing on Scripture, Joni Eareckson Tada answers the deepest questions of our hearts about what heaven will be like, who we will see there, and who we will be there. This updated and expanded edition of Joni’s classic brings a new understanding of what heaven is, along with new mysteries and hopes. Now in her late 60s, Joni is much closer to heaven than she was when she first wrote the book in her mid 40s. And she says, “I will soon—soon!—hear His voice, look into His eyes, and feel His embrace. And He will say, ‘Welcome home, Joni.’” It is from this vantage point that Joni now speaks about how we can live for Jesus as we look forward to our real home. As a quadriplegic for fifty years, Joni has also endured cancer and extreme ongoing pain. She doesn’t speak lightly when she reminds us that, “God knows the precise tools to use in your life to cut, facet, cleanse, and refine the diamond that is your eternal soul…. Every good thing that God has ever given you will last for all eternity—including the best part of every affliction.” At the end of each chapter in this updated book, Joni includes additional reflections that speak to where she is now, higher up on the hill of perspective. She calls these thoughts Climbing Higher, and that’s her invitation to all who make this journey with her. 16.99
Sin is any feeling or thought or action that comes from a heart that does not treasure God over all other things. The root of all sins, is such a heart, one that prefers anything above God; a heart that does not treasure God over everything else, and everyone else.
The way you think and feel and act about money, sex, and power puts your heart’s treasure on display—either God, or something he made.
Therefore power, money and sex are all God-given means of showing what you value. All your power, all your money and all your sexuality are God’s gifts for putting on display the supreme worth of God’s glory.They are given by God as means of worship.
Think about how you have felt, thought and acted in regard to money, sex, and power in the last 24 hours… week… month…. What does that suggest about what you are treasuring? What would it look like for you to use power, money, and sex to display the supreme worth of God’s glory?
Disordered sexuality stems from a disordered relationship with God—specifically, a relationship in which the glories of creation are preferred to the glory of God.
Romans 1:21-23 (NLT2)21 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused.22 Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools.23 And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.
This exchange applies to all our sexual sins: adultery—exchanging a spouse for an illicit partner; fornication—exchanging God’s call to chastity in singleness for unmarried sex; lust—exchanging purity for pornography.
All of them—all of our sexual sin—is rooted in this: we don’t treasure the glory of God as supremely desirable over all things. We the fleshly pleasure persuade us that one illicit pleasure or another is more to be desired than God. In the darkness, we fondle the smooth ebony brooch hanging around our neck—not knowing that in the light we would see it is a cockroach. That’s what it means to live in the dark, where God is less to be desired than sexual pleasure.
Sexual sin grows in the soil of blindness, darkness, and ignorance about the all-satisfying greatness and beauty of God.
1 Peter 1:14 (NLT2) So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then.
Romans 12:2 (NLT2) Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
In his first letter to believers throughout the Roman Empire Peter writes that they and we have been “born again”;
1 Peter 1:3 (NLT2) All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation,
And after the freedom of that new birth sin should no longer control our passions, exposing the lie of sinful sexual desires.
1 Peter 1:23-25 (NLT2)23 For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God.24 As the Scriptures say, “People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades.25 But the word of the Lord remains forever.” And that word is the Good News that was preached to you.
There is nothing inherently wrong with sexual desires the danger of those desires is that the first and most important desire is not for God but for our own pleasure. We prefer our sexual pleasure over God himself.
Romans 1:24-27 (NLT2)24 So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies.25 They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.26 That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other.27 And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.
But praise God and thank Him for the glory of His grace. He has made a way, through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ, for sexual sins to be forgiven. He has made a way for sexual sins to be forgiven and we be cleansed of all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:8-10 (NLT2)8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.
1 Timothy 6:9-10 NIV Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
It's strange that despite Paul's warning many Christians still pursue wealth. Paul warns that desiring to be rich is deadly. However protection from those desires comes when you are content.
Philippians 4:12 NIV I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
In my post “What Does Contentment Really Mean?” I wrote this;
Contentment is defined as a state of happiness or satisfaction, but is that what it really means to be content? Is having a new luxury automobile, that dream home, that job you have wanted, the perfect family, a comfortable retirement, all that’s needed for us to be content? If you're like most people, including me, you never really get to complete satisfaction. You may get to the happiness part, but my guess is that few of us ever reach the satisfaction part of the definition.
What we usually do is settle for less and then say we're content but we're really not satisfied. We have settled for less.
But contentment is not settling for the consolation prize. It is being in a place of extreme satisfaction. Being content in Christ has nothing to do with our emotions or our stuff. It is resting in Him knowing that He will provide everything that we need materially, emotionally, or spiritually.
Matthew 6:31-34 NIV So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
What was the secret?
Philippians 3:8-9 NIV What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
In other words, to put it in modern terms, when the stock market goes up or you gets a bonus, you say, I find Jesus more precious and valuable and satisfying than my increasing money. And when the stock market goes down or you face a pay cut, you say, I find Jesus more precious and valuable and satisfying than all that I have lost. The glory and beauty and worth and preciousness of Christ is the secret of contentment that keeps money from controlling us.
Proverbs 29:2 NKJV When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan.
When great power is wielded in the pursuit of great good, we stand amazed and rejoice.
God has appointed human government to wield power for good. When power is wielded to do justice, we rejoice. On the other hand the people groan under wicked authority.
Power may pursue great good, but it may also pursue great evil.Morally, power is no better than the goal it pursues. It is “good” only in the way that a saw is good—and one can use a saw to cut firewood but also to deface an heirloom.
Not only is power dangerous because it can be used to bring about evil, but also because it can be used to exalt the one who has it. Since all humans admire glory, and power can be part of glory, we are all tempted to seek this admiration by getting this power. We love to be admired and praised, and so we bend what power we have toward getting applause. In other words, our power is employed to exalt ourselves. This is a great danger.
Romans 1:18-23 NKJV For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
The reason we abuse power is because we don’t delight in the glory of God’s right to all power. When we are blind to the glory of God’s passion to be known and loved as the source and sum of all power, we take it for our own, and use it for ourselves. That is not why God created the universe—or us.
Putting It All Together
The preference for other things over God is like replacing the sun at the center of the solar system of our lives with an inferior planet—such as money, sex, power or simply self—so that the planets of money and sex and power, which were once held in their God-glorifying orbits, are flying wildly and dangerously out of orbit.
Money is zigzagging everywhere, awakening covetousness and greed, and becoming the currency of “pride in possessions”
1 John 2:15-17 NIV Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
Sex is spiking up and down erratically in fornication and adultery and pornography and public nudity—or even the fear of sexuality, as if it were not a good gift from God. And power is thrusting itself through everything in every manner of self-exalting control and domination and exploitation.
All of this ruin and destruction come because we have exchanged the glory of God—the blazing sun—for other things—things that cannot hold our lives together. We find more pleasure in these other things, and other persons, than we do in God. We were made to live with God as the center of our lives.
Psalm 16:11 NIVYou make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
But there is deliverance. In spite of the way we have all insulted God by our preference for other things, God, in his unspeakable mercy, has done what we cannot do for ourselves, to give us a future and a hope in him.
Jeremiah 29:11 NIV 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.
Editor's Note: Some content in this post is from the Living In The Light, Money Sex And Power Reading Plan by John Piper.
Grace is the most important concept in the Bible, Christianity, and the world. It is most clearly expressed in the promises of God revealed in Scripture and embodied in Jesus Christ himself.”
Dictionary definition for grace;
a. unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification
b. a virtue behavior showing high moral standards) coming from God
c. a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace
To say that someone deserves grace is a contradiction in terms. You can no more deserve grace than you can plan your own surprise party. In the same way that planning voids the idea of surprise, so claiming to deserve voids the idea of grace. You can ask for it. You can plead for it. But the minute you think you deserve it, the it you think you deserve is no longer grace. It is something you have earned.
Grace Can't Be Earned
To earn something is to find an equivalent. There is no equivalent where grace is concerned. Grace is birthed from hopeless inequity. Grace is the offer of exactly what we do not deserve. Thus, it cannot be recognized or received until we are aware of precisely how undeserving we really are. It is the knowledge of what we do not deserve that allows us to receive grace for what it is. Unmerited. Unearned. Undeserved. For that reason, grace can only be experienced by those who acknowledge they are undeserving.
Grace Is Free But It's Not Cheap
As Rick Warren writes, grace "cost Jesus his life. Grace is the most expensive commodity there is. Jesus died on the cross to pay for it.
Jesus’ death on the cross accomplished three things in our lives:
You just have to accept it!" - From "How to Receive the Grace of God"
Ten Ways We Rely on God’s Grace
By Rick Warren
1. “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him”(Philippians 2:13 NLT).
As Christians, we tend to think about grace when it’s connected to our salvation. But grace is about much more than just how we come to Christ. Our entire Christian walk must be fueled by the grace of God.
2. We can do nothing in him or for him that doesn’t ultimately come from his grace. The Bible says, “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13 NLT).
In fact, grace brings 10 great benefits to our lives:
3. We’re saved by grace. The only way to heaven is through the doorway of grace. You can’t earn it. You can’t work for it. You can’t buy it (Ephesians 2:8-9).
We’re forgiven by grace.Though we don’t deserve it, God wipes our slate clean by his grace (Isaiah 43:25).
4. We’re sustained by grace. God will never ask you to do anything he doesn’t give you the ability and the power to do. That power and ability is called grace (Philippians 2:13).
We’re healed by grace.God heals our broken hearts and binds up our wounds even though we don’t deserve it (Psalm 147:3).
5. We’re liberated by grace. Our relationship with Jesus isn’t a bunch of chores to do. Instead it’s about resting in what the Lord has already done. If your Christian life is not a life of resting in Christ, you’re moving into legalism (Matthew 11:28-30).
6. We’re given talents by grace.God has given each of us the ability to do something well, and we’re to use those abilities for him (Romans 12:6).
7. We’re used by grace. God uses us to fulfill his purposes in this world, not because of anything we’ve done but simply through his grace (Ephesians 3:7).
8. We’re kept saved by grace.We cannot lose our salvation because it’s a gift of God. If you could earn it, then you could lose it the moment you stopped earning it (Jude 1:24).
9. We’re transformed by grace.Through his grace, God makes us new through the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2).
10. We’re matured by grace.God’s work of making us more like Jesus happens not because we’ve earned it or by our own effort but by the grace of God (2 Peter 3:18).
God’s grace is not cheap. It cost Jesus his life. Grace is the most expensive commodity there is. Jesus died on the cross to pay for it.
Jesus’ death on the cross accomplished three things in our lives:
It paid the penalty for sin.Someone had to pay for the penalty for our sin. If you have a relationship with Jesus, he has taken care of your penalty.
It broke the power of sin. Jesus’ death on the cross gives us the power to change the habits, hurts, and hang-ups that derail our lives.
The presence of sin will be obliterated. One day all who follow Jesus will go to heaven, where there won’t be any sin.
The costly grace God offers will change everything about your life.
You just have to accept it!
Editor's Note: To read Rick Warren's devotions click here.
James 3:17 NLT But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.
What does it look like to have this wisdom from above?
1. It is first of all pure. Our motives for doing anything should reflect a desire to live like Christ and be in right relationship with God. If our earthly “wisdom” tells us to approach a situation with impure motives such as greed, selfishness, or pride – that is not wisdom from above.
Philippians 4:8 NIV Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
2. It is peaceable. Sometimes we get preoccupied with the imagery of Spiritual Armor and treat everyone we meet like an enemy soldier. We must remember that Ephesians 6:12 says this battle is “not against flesh and blood.”
Ephesians 6:12 NIV For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Our Lord is a Prince of Peace, and we have a duty to act as citizens of peace.
Matthew 5:9 NIV Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
3. It is gentle. Proverbs 15:1. If we speak gently, others are more likely to accept and understand God’s work and wisdom. But gentleness is not just about tone of voice. Remember the gentleness and patience with which Jesus dealt with children, sinners, and his apostles. Gentleness is a way of life.
Proverbs 15:1 NIV A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Galatians 5:22-23 NIV But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (emphasis mine)
4. It is reasonable. Another translation of this reads “willing to yield to others” – and both are absolutely crucial elements of wisdom. It may seem impossible to live a pure lifestyle while being reasonable and willing to yield, but the Bible says we must. We were given an astounding level of intellect and reason – let us use it! We mustn’t buy in to the lie that “reason is the enemy of faith.” It is necessary to yield to God daily with every decision we make. But it is also possible (and necessary, and wise) to yield to others. Whether it’s a matter of selfless giving or resisting the urge to have angry, theological debates, we are called to yield.
Romans 12:14-21 NIV Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
5. It is full of mercy. That parent who abused their authority? That government leader who makes you cringe? That blogger who sounds heretical? Wisdom from above tells us to look on them with mercy. After all, has not God shown us the greatest mercy of all?
Matthew 5:7 NIV Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
6. It is full of good fruits. I’m sure many of us can list Galatians 5:22 of the Lord’s Spirit. When we use godly wisdom to discern what we should do, we will consider the fruits of our choices. Do we strive to make choices that result in the fruits of the Spirit manifested in our lives?
Galatians 5:22-23 NIV But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
7. It is unwavering. Perhaps it might be strange to think that wisdom from above can be both “willing to yield” and “unwavering.” But don’t think of them as opposites. Perhaps think of it like a marriage or a friendship. Each person in the relationship must listen to reason and be willing to yield to the other. But the relationship itself must be unwavering. We must be bold enough to live unwaveringly as followers of Christ and good stewards of the earth, no matter the opposition.
James 1:6 NIV But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
Hebrews 10:23 NIV Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
8. It is without hypocrisy. If something seems like wisdom to you but causes you to be double-minded or deceitful, it cannot be wisdom from above. What we believe must match what we say. What we say must match how we behave. Otherwise, we misrepresent Jesus and the lifestyle we claim to live.
Matthew 5:33-37 NIV “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
The next time you’re faced with a decision, take a moment to match up your actions with "wisdom from above."
Psalm 111:10 NIV The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.
Editor’s Note: Content from Wisdom from Above - Crosswalk The Devotional - October 7 by Debbie Holloway. Full scriptures added by Faith The Evidence
This is the fourth and final in a series of posts on how to study your Bible.
The Bible is an awe-inspiring book. However, we don't want merely to admire it; we need to understand it. Most people don't understand what it says, that includes Christians. Understanding the Bible is crucial because the Bible is the Word of God, so we need to know how to study the Bible. That encompasses four things: reading it, interpreting it, meditating on it, and teaching it.
When we study the Bible we need to approach it with purpose, expecting it to let us know more about God and His plan for us. We need to approach our personal study of the Bible prayerfully.
Psalm 119:33 (NLT)33 Teach me your decrees, O LORD; I will keep them to the end.
And to do so expectantly means we believe that the Lord is going to speak specifically to us
Psalm 25:4 (NLT) Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow.
Sermons, Sunday school lessons, and quiet times on our own are all things to be anticipated. God uses these to build us up, strengthen us, or offer us comfort—He certainly makes listening to Him worthwhile. And obedience is the only proper response to this kind of personal attention.
Approaching the reading of Scripture prayerfully prepares our hearts to listen well and ushers in an attitude of purpose and expectancy.
If you want to experience God working in your life, come to Scripture with a prayerful, expectant, purpose-filled attitude. The mourner will be comforted. The weary will gain strength. Those convicted of their sin will repent and know peace. All will sense joy. Recognize what a gift God’s Word is to you.
When we study the Bible we need to approach it with purpose, expecting it to let us know more about God and His plan for us. We need to approach our personal study of the Bible prayerfully.
The Best Way to Study the Bible: ”Prepare the Way”
By Tamra Hernandez
As in cake-baking, 5K-running, baby-birthing, and home-building, so in Bible-studying – preparation is indispensable. Study methods abound, but using any of them effectively requires preparation. Instead of hunting for ”the best” procedure, let the following thoughts guide your preparation for studying the Bible and remember it through the acronym, B.E.S.T:
B-Before, E-Expect, S-Seek, Search, Savor and T-Take Time.
Taking a closer look at each:
B – BEFORE
Before studying the Bible, answer the following the questions. Each answer has direct impact on the outcomes of your study.
– Why study? Studying the Bible involves nothing less than reading the Bible, but it requires more effort and commitment than reading alone. If you know why you are doing something, you are more likely to persist in that activity when obstacles come, when you encounter opposition, when the task becomes difficult, and when you just don’t feel like doing it.
– Which Bible? You will need some study tools (e.g., maps and timelines) along the way, but first, decide what will be your primary study tool-the translation and format of the Bible around which your study will center.
– To whom will you be accountable? Or, with whom will you study? Personal or individual study may be an important aspect of your Bible-studying efforts, but even the most independently competent Bible student is both dependent on and responsible to the Holy Spirit and the body of Christ.
E – EXPECT
The Bible is a book unlike every other (Hebrews 4:12-13). It is not designed to function as a textbook or a novel, for example. Whenever you read, but especially when you study the Bible . . – Expect its primary Author to speak to you, to reveal something about Himself. The Holy Spirit uses His Word to bring people into right relationship with the Father and to nurture those who belong to ”God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19).
– Expect not only to learn ”about . . .” or to learn ”that . . .” or even to learn ”how . . .”-that is, to add to your mental knowledge bank or skill set-but also ”to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29).
– Expect the living Author of the Bible to convict of sin (John 16:8), to transform and renew your mind (Romans 12:2), and to call you to obey Him (John 15:10).
S – SEEK, SEARCH, SAVOR
The active, passionate pursuit of knowing, fellowshipping with, and obeying the Lord is the opposite of the passive, apathetic response of some who ”sit [in the pew], soak [in God’s Word], and sour [do nothing to apply it].” Prepare your heart to . . .
– Seek the Lord Himself, to meet with Him in His Word and be taught by Him (Isaiah 55:6).
– Search for and confess any sinful attitudes, motivations, or areas of disobedience. These can make your study of God’s Word ineffective.
– Savor God’s Word. To ”savor” or thoroughly enjoy the taste of something delicious is to hold it in your mouth for a while instead of simply chewing and swallowing (Psalm 119:103). Memorizing at least a portion of what you are studying will facilitate meditating on it-thinking about it outside of your study time.
T – TAKE TIME
Studying the Bible takes time. Spending some time in preparation for Bible study can maximize and protect the time you will be setting aside for study. As a disciple-a learner or student-preparing to meet with Christ your Teacher in the school of His Word, recall John the Baptist’s cry: ”Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him” (Matthew 3:3).
Our Greatest Obstacle to Reading the Bible
Have you ever seen a linebacker break through the offensive line, untouched, and lay out an opposing quarterback? That’s kind of how I felt when I read this portion of John Piper’s new book, Reading the Bible Supernaturally. The point is simple, but it hit me like a linebacker tackling me in a full-on sprint. Read this excerpt and then let’s ask God to reveal anything that could hinder us from reading, from truly reading His Word for His glory.
The Greatest Obstacle: Sinful Hearts
Those who love the darkness and hate the light may give their whole life to reading the Scriptures and yet never truly read them—never read them the way Jesus expects them to be read. You may read them day and night, yet hear Jesus say at every point, “Have you never read?” Or worse: “[God’s] voice you have never heard” (John 5:37).
The greatest obstacles to reading the Scriptures are not intellectual. They are not lack of skill. Rigorous thinking and literary skills matter. But nothing creates as great a barrier to seeing what is really there in Scripture as a heart that loves other things more than God. This, as we have seen in the case of the Pharisees, will nullify the greatest attention to Scripture. God’s aim for us as we read the Scriptures is, above all, that we see and savor the glory of God as more desirable than anything. That aim will abort as long as our hearts are enslaved to the adulterous love of our own glory or money or any created thing.
Therefore, if we are going to succeed in reading, as God intends for us to read, it will have to be a supernatural act. God will have to take out the heart of stone, with its hardness and resistance to his glory, and put in a heart of flesh, with its living sensitivity to God’s worth and beauty (Ezek. 11:19; 36:26). What will this supernatural reading be like?
You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God. . . . Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation. - 1 PETER 1:23; 2:2
Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth. . . . Put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meek- ness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. - JAMES 1:18, 21
Editor's Note: Content taken from Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture by John Piper, ©2017. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.
Now that we've learned some practical steps to reading, interpreting, and meditating on Scripture, be careful that you don't start to think that you know it all.
Deuteronomy 29:29 (NKJV) The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
We can only scratch the surface of the infinite mind of God, but even that is a worthy pursuit because He has given us His Word so we might know Him. Our purpose in learning the Word of God is not to have knowledge for its own sake. Our purpose is to know God, and to know God is to learn humility.
1 Corinthians 8:1 (NKJV) Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. (Bold mine).
The book of Proverbs in the Bible was written thousands of years ago but the sayings are timeless and as applicable today as they were then. The primary purpose of the book is to teach wisdom, not only to the young and inexperienced but the old those with tons of experience. The Book of Proverbs provides profound insights and exceptional wisdom on how to live a happy and peaceful life, by honoring and respecting God as all-good and all-powerful. The guiding principles of the Book are to;
Proverbs 3:5 ESV Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
Proverbs 1:7 ESV The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 9:10 ESV The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
How These 10 Proverbs Help in Every Day Life
1. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;” (Proverbs 3:5)
Have you ever been in a situation where you believe God is asking too much of you? Something difficult like forgiving a person who has hurt you and isn’t even sorry, or honoring your parents who weren’t there for you, or loving your spouse who isn’t meeting your expectations?
Instead of looking at your circumstances as the exception, seek to follow His ways, trust His faithfulness to guide you in the right direction, believing He’ll protect and take care of you in the situation. And have confidence that by following God’s leading, your life will be enriched.
Psalm 18:30 assures you that, “As for God, His way is perfect; The Lord’s word is flawless; He shields all who take refuge in Him.”
2. “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act” (Proverbs 3:27)
Do you often think of doing something good for someone but then talk yourself out of it or let others change your mind? Maybe it’s an act of generosity, a kind word, or a way to help or serve another person.
If so, you may be withholding good from those around you.
When faced with a desire to give, resist the temptation to hold back your generosity and choose to be like God who does not withhold any good thing from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11).
Additionally, Scripture encourages you to, “Give, and it will be given to you. A Good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38).
Realize your reluctance to give to others may be holding back what others want to give to you. Make your mind up to be a giver when you have the ability to do so.
3. “An honest witness tells the truth, but a false witness tells lies” (Proverbs 12:17)
Lately, there is much discussion on being an honest witness. Proverbs reminds us how important it is to be truthful in speaking about others, impressing the value of telling the truth.
Have you ever been tempted to lie because you’re scared of the consequences of being honest? Or have you at times told partial truths because it benefited you? If so, keep in mind, “An honest witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies” (Proverbs 14:5).
In today’s culture, the importance of telling the truth is running low. Lying and pointing fingers at each other is at an all time high. Recognize God is serious about your being truthful in what you say about others, as Exodus 20:16 states, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”
4. “Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin” (Proverbs 13:3)
Have you ever said thoughtless, careless words you wish you could take back? Words you said under stress or in a heated moment that you deeply regret?
If so, then you know the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is not true. Words can cause irreparable damage to relationships, cause much heartache and pain, and last a lifetime.
In these days of “say whatever is on your mind,” ask God to set a guard over your mouth and keep a watch over the door of your lips (Psalm 141:3).
Make a decision to choose your words carefully, knowing they have lasting power. As James 1:19 directs, “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”
5. “A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great” (Proverbs 18:16)
In a culture where individuals are fighting for the spotlight and running over others to achieve their dreams, it can be overwhelming, disheartening, and tiring climbing the ladder of success.
Instead, Scripture encourages you to trust God to open doors for you through the gifts and talents He’s given you. Believe Him to accomplish His purposes and will in your life.
So rather than putting all your efforts in worldly achievements, recognition, and rewards that won’t last, 1 Corinthians 9:25 urges you to set your goal to pursue the “crown that will last forever.”
Likewise Matthew 6:20 directs you to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and pests can’t destroy, and thieves can’t break in and steal.”
As Psalm 37:4 encourages you, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart
6. “Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the Lord, and He will avenge you” (Proverbs 20:22)
When wronged in life, it’s natural to feel like you want to pay back the person or group who hurt you. But God urges, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written; ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
Sadly though, more and more headlines are filled with students, co-workers, spouses, and more carrying out their own revenge.
But Scripture urges to, “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else” (1 Thessalonians 5:15).
Rather than seek your own retaliation in situations, believe God to one day take care of every injustice, knowing He exercises justice and righteousness on the earth (Jeremiah 9:24).
7. “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6)
If you believe that you need to let your children figure things out for themselves in life, without your leading or input, you’re setting your kids up for a lifetime of confusion.
If you don’t teach them the way to go, there are plenty of people in the world looking to influence and lead your kids astray.
What you teach your children growing up will impact them for the rest of their lives. Knowing this, God urges you to train your children in His ways for their good, and for your good too. Proverbs 23:24 explains how: “The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.”
If you are faithful to teach your children about God, even if they turn away from Him when they grow up, God assures they will not forget what you have taught them.
8. “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 23:17)
It’s easy to get caught up in the latest trends, admiring and looking to celebrities as your role model and inspiration.
However, it’s good to take a look at their lifestyle to see what types of philosophies you might be letting inspire you. When in doubt of what your modern day hero might be espousing, look to Scripture to see what God has to say about an activity or philosophy they are promoting.
Titus 2:12 urges you “to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions,” choosing rather to practice self-control, and to live upright and godly in the world.
Make God’s Word your leading influencer in life rather than the ever-changing philosophies of the world.
9. “Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully” (Proverbs 28:5)
If you don’t understand how people can do the evil things occurring in the world today, Scripture says it’s because their understanding of truth is distorted.
Whereas you as a Christian have the Holy Spirit to reveal truth to you, John 14:17 explains how the world doesn’t know Him.
So because they don’t know him, Scripture describes how, “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Knowing what is right comes through knowing God and having His Spirit live within you to reveal His truth. 1 John 2:27 explains that the Holy Spirit living within you teaches you what is true.
So instead of criticizing individuals for not understanding how to choose rightly, share the Gospel with them and pray for them to come into a relationship with God, where their hearts and minds can be transformed to know what is true.
10. “Whoever leads the upright along an evil path will fall into their own trap, but the blameless will receive a good inheritance” (Proverbs 28:10)
Have you ever had someone try to persuade, push, or belittle you into participating in questionable activities? Sometimes individuals may ridicule your standards or make fun of your choices to persuade you to join in.
However, Proverbs 12:26 states, “The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.”
Take into consideration that some may want you to become involved, just so they’ll feel better about their own choices. Like the saying goes “Misery loves company.”
“Jesus said to His disciples: ‘Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come” (Luke 17:1).
Also, consider how it might be the enemy working through them to try to rob you of good things that God has planned for your life. 1 John 3:7 cautions to not let anyone lead you astray.
Additionally, prayerfully consider how you’re influencing your friends. Ask God to help you in humility to value others above yourself (Philippians 2:3), looking out for their best interest, as well as your own (Philippians 2:4).
'There is nothing in the world more excellent than man, nor in man than his mind, particular attention should be given to the welfare of the mind; and it should be considered a highest service if we either restore the minds of others to sanity or keep them sane and rational... One ought to feel great compassion for so great a disaster to the health of the human mind, and it is of utmost importance that the treatment be such that insanity be not nourished and increased.' Juan Luis Vives ( Spanish scholar and Renaissance humanist. His beliefs on the soul, insight into early medical practice, and perspective on emotions, memory and learning earned him the title of the "father" of modern psychology).
The church has pioneered ministry in child education, poverty, homelessness, social equality, physical health and disability, but we have largely abdicated any responsibility for mental well being. Our absence in the mental health space only generates even more stigma and suspicion over the origins of clinical mental health problems.
Here are six sigma often connected with mental in the church. The six conversation statements are what is often heard by Christians when they approach other Christians, often leaders. These kind of statements cause many to not talk about their struggles resulting in tragic endings. Many others just leave the church altogether with the feeling that their struggles are their own fault and that they have somehow let God down and they are suffering the consequences.
1. The Trust Conversation: "As you learn to trust God more you will find that your anxiety will gradually fade away."
What the mental health sufferer hears: "My mental health problem is a result of my lack of trust in God, and it will disappear as I go deeper in my faith."
Anxiety disorders impact people with a deep trust in God and are not related to the strength of a person's faith. Anxiety issues also fluctuate over time and need long term management. They tend not to improve on their own but through awareness, medication, talking therapy and self-help strategies.
2. The Self-Indulgent Conversation: "Lots of biblical greats such as Job and Elijah were depressed. The key thing to remember is that they didn't pander to their depression, but got on with the ministry God had called them to."
What the mental health sufferer hears: "It's not OK to be self-indulgent and be impacted by my mental health problems. I need to ignore my pain and get on with what God's calling me to.
God never criticizes people suffering with depression in the Bible, indeed he does the opposite; he comforts them and meets their needs. Dealing with emotional pain is not self-indulgent, any more than dealing with physical pain is. We all need to offer and receive the comfort of God without qualification: that's grace!
3. The Personal Cross Conversation: "We all have our own cross to bear, for you it may be your mental health issues. The good news is that in heaven there will no more weeping or gnashing of teeth."
What the mental health sufferer hears: "I am never getting any better this side of heaven. God is responsible for me carrying this cross. Life is hopeless this side of eternity."
We can identify with the suffering of Christ in our sufferings, but these are not fixed God-ordained things. Mental health issues, like physical disabilities, provoke suffering but also creativity and gifting. They do not define our identity or reflect the sum of our struggles. We can live life well this side of heaven with mental health problems.
4. The Undermining Mission Conversation: "The enemy is using mental health issues to make the church inward-looking. As long as we are being introspective, we are losing our effectiveness in mission."
What the mental health sufferer hears: "Mental health issues are a weapon of Satan to stop people meeting Jesus. As long as I am talking about mental health, I am undermining the gospel."
Jesus was the ultimate pastoral leader who loved the hurting and broken like no other. He calls us to 'take care of the sheep' with the same care and love that he demonstrated. Supporting people with mental health problems in the church is fulfilling the spirit of the Beatitudes and the Great Commission. It is the very thing that will make our message heard in a skeptical world.
5. The Already Healed Conversation: "You have already been healed of your mental health problem, now you just need to agree with the healing that you have received.'
What a mental health sufferer hears: 'Your disobedience is keeping you ill."
Sometimes we need to choose the behaviors that we have decided for in our minds. However, this is not the same as choosing a healing. Mental health recovery is not about disobedience, but it is sometimes about courage. No one with the 'flu is being disobedient by feeling unwell, equally no one with depression is disobedient by feeling low. Let's not confuse healing steps with the healing itself.
6. The Medication Conversation: "Medication is OK, but you haven't been called to rely on it forever. You need to step forward in your faith journey so that this crutch is no longer needed."
What the mental health sufferer hears: "Medication is a weak alternative to real recovery. I should get off it as quickly as possible so that I can do this recovery right.'"
Medication is a valid, necessary and often essential part in mental health recovery. It is neither less virtuous nor effective than other sorts of treatments, in most cases. Just as with conditions like diabetes in physical health, many psychotic illnesses will require a life-long medication regime. This is wholly good and right and should be actively supported by the Christian community.
We carry a huge responsibility to use our words and actions to encourage and not hurt. While we may disagree over the causes and treatment options we can no longer allow ignorance to inform us.
Psalm 91:1-16 NIV Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord , “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. “Because he loves me,” says the Lord , “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
The Protection Of The Most High
We may not always see it, or feel it, we might forget it’s there at times, or even wonder if God has left us to fend for ourselves in the heat of hard situations of life. But His protection is real. He doesn't, He can't, forget us or ignore us. If we belong to Him, His love is too great to leave us on our own.
In whatever troubles we face today, God is the place of refuge we can run to, He is our safe place.
A reminder for us, especially in the tough stuff, that we never walk alone. Full heat of troubles bearing down hard, heavy, it’s a struggle at times to keep trudging through it all. Pressure and stress can seem as stifling as a hot afternoon summer sun. Yet God whispers truth, strong and sure, “Walk in my shadow, up close to my side. It’s in the safe place that brings confidence; for when we are resting in God’s shadow, we will never face the full heat of our difficulties. He shelters from that pain. His shade, His shadow, diminishes what is actually felt in the intensity of all the heat. Rest, peace, and calm rise up strong, right in the struggling mess of life, and we’re assured, He's in control.
Don’t ever doubt it. God works on behalf of those who love Him and honor His name. He is so good to us. We may never fully know, this side of heaven, how very much He has sheltered us from in this life.
A Prayer from Psalm 91:
Dear God, Thank you for your presence with us, thank you for your Almighty Shadow. Thank you that you go before us, and cover us from behind. Thank you that you are in our midst, and that our future is secure in the place you're preparing for us.
Your words bring such hope and comfort. Remind us of your strength today, may we see glimpses of your glory and blessing along the way as we seek after you. For victory and salvation are found in you alone. In the Mighty Name of Jesus, Amen.
Editor's Note: Some content and prayer from A Prayer from Psalm 91 By: Debbie McDaniel
Four unique forms of love are found in the Bible. They are communicated through four Greek words: Eros, Storge, Philia, and Agape.
Eros is the Greek word for sensual or romantic love. The term originated from the mythological Greek god of love, sexual desire, physical attraction, and physical love, Eros, whose Roman counterpart was Cupid. Even though the term eros is not found in the Old Testament, Song of Solomon vividly portrays the passion of erotic love. The Bible's prohibition of sex outside of marriage necessarily limits erotic love to married couples.
Storge is a term for love in the Bible that you may not be familiar with. This Greek word describes family love, the affectionate bond that develops naturally between parents and children, and brothers and sisters. An interesting compound word using storge, "philostorgos," is found in Romans 12:10, which commands believers to "be devoted" to one another with brotherly affection.
Romans 12:10 NKJV Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;
Philia is the type of intimate love in the Bible that most Christians practice toward each other. This Greek term describes the powerful emotional bond seen in deep friendships.Philia is the most general type of love in Scripture, encompassing love for fellow humans, care, respect, and compassion for people in need. The concept of brotherly love that unites believers is unique to Christianity. Jesus said philia would identify His followers:
John 13:34-35 NKJV A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Agape is the highest of the four types of love in the Bible. This term defines God's immeasurable, incomparable love for humankind. It is the divine love that comes from God. Agape love is perfect, unconditional, sacrificial, and pure.Jesus Christ demonstrated this kind of divine love to his Father and to all humanity in the way he lived and died. Following his resurrection, Jesus asked the apostle Peter if he loved him (agape). Peter replied three times that he did, but the word he used was phileo or brotherly love. Peter had not yet received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost; he was incapable of agape love. But after Pentecost, Peter was so full of God's love that he spoke from his heart and 3,000 people were converted.
How does agape express itself?
Paul gives us an excellent description:
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 EASY If I love, I will be patient. I will be kind. I will not want to be like other people so much that I get angry with them. I will not tell people how good I am. I will not think that I am better than other people. If I love, I will always be polite. I will think about what other people want. I will not think only about what I myself want. I will not get angry quickly. And I will not always be remembering the wrong things that other people have done to me. If I love, I will not be happy about bad things. But instead, I will be happy about things that are right and true. If I really love people, I will never stop loving them. It will not matter what happens. Whatever things may happen, I will still continue to love. If I love, then, during all things, I will still continue to believe. If I love, then, during all things, I will still continue to hope for good things. If I love then, during all things, I will still continue to be patient and strong. If I love, that will never come to an end. But it is different for all those gifts that God has given to us. The time will come when we do not need them any longer. People will stop telling messages from God. They will stop speaking in special languages. The many things that people know will finish.
God loves with agape, the love described in 1 Corinthians 13. He loves you so much that He sent His Son to die on the cross for you, that you might have everlasting life. His love is not based on performance. Christ loves you so much that while you were yet a sinner, He died for you.
Romans 5:8 NKJVBut God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
God's Love Is Unconditional
God's love for you is unconditional and undeserved. He loves you in spite of your disobedience, your weakness, your sin and your selfishness. He loves you enough to provide a way to abundant, eternal life. From the cross Christ cried out, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing." If God loved those who are sinners that much, can you imagine how much He loves you -- His child through faith in Christ and who seeks to please Him?
Why Doesn't God Reject Sinners? - Daily Hope with Rick Warren - October 10, 2018
”[God] will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve . . . The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him” (Psalm 103:9-10, 13 NLT).
The Bible says there is no condemnation for our sin once we place our faith in Jesus, but it does not say there are no consequences. Every time you disobey God, you hurt yourself and you hurt other people. You lose your fellowship with Christ. You lose your effectiveness and joy here on Earth. You lose rewards in heaven.
But you do not lose your salvation. Why is that? Why doesn’t God just kick us out when we blow it? Why doesn’t God reject believers when we sin?
God’s love is unconditional.
God doesn’t say, “I love you if” or “I love you because”—just “I love you . . . period!” God will never stop loving you, because you are a recipient of his grace.
Lamentations 3:22 says, “[God’s] compassion never ends. It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us from complete destruction” (TLB).
Your salvation isn’t based on your performance.
The Bible says, “He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:5 NLT). You can’t earn your way into heaven, buy your way into heaven, work your way to heaven, or bluff your way to heaven. The only way you ever have any hope of getting into heaven is by the grace of God.
Jesus has already taken your punishment.
The law of double jeopardy in our criminal justice system says you cannot be tried for the same crime twice. That’s true in God’s book, too. People are not punished for the same crime or the same sin twice.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus stretched his arms out on the cross and took the punishment for your sin. He served your term. The price is paid in full—all you have to do is accept the gift of forgiveness and salvation that he offers!
Jesus understands your human weaknesses.
God is sympathetic and understanding. He knows your frailties, your faults, and how you’re wired. And he is patient with you.
“This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus lived in human flesh for 33 years, so he understands your weaknesses.
God doesn’t keep grudges.
The Bible says, “[God] will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. . . . The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him” (Psalm 103:9-10, 13 NLT). If you are a believer, God is not angry with you. Why? Because all of the punishment was taken on the cross.
You may be thinking, “You don’t know how far I’ve fallen. You don’t know what I’ve done.” No, I don’t. But God does. If you think you’ve strayed too far from God, this is what God says to you: “Come back to me, you unfaithful children, and I will forgive you for being unfaithful” (Jeremiah 3:22 NCV).
No matter where you fall on the political spectrum from ultra-conservative to ultra-liberal I think that most of us can agree that this country is deeply divided. It doesn’t matter who or what you think is the reason for this division we’re divided. We’re divided by race, gender, religion, ethnicity, income, and politics.
Those of us who say that we are Christians (we are deeply divided) too believe that God is in control although everything that we see is a big mess. We also believe that if we pray that God will hear and will answer. The problem is that we all want the answers that we want. Although we pray, “Thy will be done” we don’t really want that. We grab scripture out of context and apply it to our personal points of view not the way that it was meant when it was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Here are a couple;
Romans 13:1-2 NIV Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
Proverbs 21:1 NIV In the Lord ’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him.
Daniel 2:21 NIV He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.
2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Today I found a prayer that we can all pray for this nation that I believe is the prayer that God will hear and answer; a prayer that we can pray together in unity as believers in Christ, for God to heal our land, and strengthen His people. We can pray for all those in authority. We can pray for God’s miraculous intervention, for blind eyes to be opened, for many to see the power of our Lord as never before.
Thank You For Your Great Power. We Praise You For Your Truth. We’re Grateful That You Have Set Us Free From The Clutching Grasp Of Sin And Death.
Would You Be With Your People, Extending Your Grace, Granting Your Freedom, Providing Your Protection, And Empowering With Your Strength. We Ask That You'd Bring About An Awakening Of Your Presence As Never Seen Before. We Ask That Your Name Be Proclaimed, That All Plans To Silence The Name Of Jesus Would Be Thwarted And Crushed.
We Pray That Many Would Come To Know You As Lord And Savior, We Pray That Many Would See Your Light, That You Would Open Blind Eyes And Release Those Still Imprisoned.
We Pray That You Would Unify Your People For The Glory Of Your Name, That All Who Call Themselves Christians Would Rise Up, Believing Your Great Truth.
Wake Us Up Lord! Remind Us To Live Aware, To Redeem The Time, To Listen To Your Words, To Be Willing To Make A Difference In This Land.
We Pray For All Those In Authority, That You Would Give Them Your Wisdom And Discernment As They Lead. We Ask That You Would Appoint Strong, Faithful Men And Women To Serve This Nation And Our People.
We Pray For Your Great Healing On Our Land. Shine Your Face On Us Dear God. We Need You Now, More Than Ever Before. Our Times Are In Your Hands.
Thank You That You Are Rich In Mercy And Full Of Grace. Thank You That You Are Forgiving And Merciful. Thank You That You Are Strong And Mighty. Thank You That You Are For Us And That You Fight For Us Still Today.
Bring Honor To Your Name, Oh Lord, For You Alone Are Worthy.
In The Powerful Name Of Jesus We Pray,
Prayer taken from the blog post, A Prayer for America: 20 Verses of Hope, written by Debbie McDaniel.
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.