Ephesians 2:8-9 (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.
A couple of years ago I wrote a four part blog series on grace. I started each of the posts with this quote;
“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.”
And I included the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition;
a. unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification
b. a virtue coming from God
c. a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace
In that series the emphasis was on God’s grace to mankind. I wrote about the nature of God’s grace;
In the New Testament grace means God’s love in action towards men who merited the opposite of love. Grace means God moving heaven and earth to save sinners who could not lift a finger to save themselves. Grace means God sent His only Son to the cross so that we guilty ones might be reconciled to God and received into heaven. To make even the slightest contribution to our salvation is to rule out the possibility of grace. For one thing, any contribution on our part would be exaggerated in our own minds. - J. I. Packer
I wrote about God’s;
The kindness or favor God gives to all mankind, believer or not.
Matthew 5:44-45 (NKJV)44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Emphasis mine)
The provision of salvation through Jesus
Romans 5:15-17 (NLT)15 But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.16 And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins.17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.
The favor of God by which the Christian's salvation is kept secure in spite of sin.
John 10:27-29 (NKJV)27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand.
Grace given at special times of need, especially during adversity or suffering.
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.
Sanctifying grace works within the true believer causing them to grow and mature and progress becoming more Christ-like.
Romans 8:28 (NKJV) 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.
The Spiritual Gifts that believers have been given by the Holy Spirit are serving grace. The Greek word translated grace, charis is the root of the word charisma which is the word Paul used for spiritual gifts.
Ephesians 4:7 (NKJV) But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift.
What I Did Not Include In Those Posts
When I read an excerpt from Philip Yancey’s book, Vanishing Grace, I realized what I did not say in that blog series. I didn’t write about how those who were the recipients of God’s grace should respond because of it.
Grace is “unmerited favor” and those of us who have received it should, because of it, give grace to those we interact with whether they deserve it or not. Why? Because under God’s sanctifying grace we are becoming like Christ who though sinless gave His life for those of us who didn’t deserve it.
Romans 5:8 (NLT) But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
Romans 8:29 (NLT For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
Philippians 2:5-8 (NLT)5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form,8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
The introduction to the excerpts from Philip’s book was “In imitation of the ridiculous love Almighty God has for each of us and all of us, let us live and love without labels.”
That should be our response to God’s gift of grace.
Grace on Tap
by Philip Yancey, from Vanishing Grace
Living “in the world,” we can look for natural opportunities to dispense grace — not just words — to those around us. Gabe Lyons recommends inviting community leaders, whether Christian or not, into church to tell how best to engage with the neighborhood and its problems. As he notes, African American churches have historically done that, finding ways to honor teachers, firefighters, social workers, and politicians, all of whom serve without much recognition.
A pastor friend of mine in Chicago operates an internet wedding site. Couples who don’t know a pastor, and thus look for one on the internet, contact him. He insists on counseling sessions before agreeing to perform the ceremony, and he always asks two questions: “Why do you want to get married?” (almost all of them are already living together) and “Why do you want a pastor involved?” Remarkable conversations unfold as the parties struggle aloud with their answers. As one said, “Well, if there is a God, marriage is so important that we think God ought to be involved somehow.”
Kathleen Norris writes about a “cocaine whore” in rural Montana who would sleep with anyone who could provide her with booze or cocaine, or merely show her the slightest bit of attention.
She found Alcoholics Anonymous first, then God, and then church. Soon she was signing up for every Bible study and volunteering for every church-ministry project, as well as for committees that others had to be begged to join. “Salvation took such hold in her that, as the pastor put it, he began to wonder if Christians don’t underrate promiscuity. Because she was still a promiscuous person, still loving without much discrimination. The difference was that she was no longer self-destructive but a bearer of new life to others.” The twelfth step in AA’s guide to recovery — helping others in need — is an act of gratitude. We respond to healing grace by giving it away.
Pastors in both places, Chicago and Montana, began with a good thing, love, and gently pointed toward something even better. Romantic love may lead the way to the Source of all love; passion rightly channeled brings life, not ruin.
I know a former Southern Baptist pastor in North Carolina who, against all odds, now runs a private cigar club. He explains, “I learned from my years in the ministry that when men go deep in conversation and get honest with each other, there’s usually a cigar involved. That’s when they talk about what really counts — sitting on a patio after a golf match or relaxing together on a deck when their wives are inside the house. So in our club we have volunteers available who strike up friendships and know how to respond when the men want to talk about their failing marriages or job layoffs or rebellious teenagers.”
Once, while speaking on the topic of grace in Toronto, I asked the audience about their own experiences conveying grace to others. One woman shocked us all: “I feel called to minister to telephone marketers. You know, the kind who call at inconvenient hours and deliver their spiel before you can say a word.” Immediately I flashed back to the times I have responded rudely or simply hung up. “All day long these sales callers hear people curse at them and slam the phone down,” she continued. “I listen attentively to their pitch, then I try to respond kindly, though I almost never buy what they’re selling. Instead, I ask about their personal life and whether they have any concerns I can pray for. Often they ask me to pray with them over the phone, and sometimes they are in tears. They’re people, after all, probably underpaid, and they’re surprised when someone treats them with common courtesy.”
Hearing such stories, I am aware how often I miss possible hinge moments in my own interactions with people. I marvel at the Toronto woman’s gracious response and think of the times I get irritated with marketers and with employees on computer help lines who don’t speak good English. I catch myself treating store cashiers and Starbucks baristas as if they were machines, not persons. I get a wedding invitation and groan at the hassle of having to shop for a gift and dress up. I rush away after a golf match rather than relaxing on the patio with my partners. Subtly or not so subtly, I let the other person know that I’ve been interrupted and need to get back to work. In the process, I miss golden opportunities to dispense grace.
"What would it take for church to become known as a place where grace is “on tap”?
All too often outsiders view us as a kind of elite club of the righteous.
An alcoholic friend once made this point by comparing church with AA, which had become for him a substitute church. “When I show up late to church, people turn and look at me. Some scowl, some smile a self-satisfied smile — See, that person’s not as responsible as I am. In AA, if I show up late the meeting comes to a halt and everyone jumps up to greet me. They realize that my desperate need for them won out over my desperate need for alcohol.”
One gray fall day in Denver I visited an urban church that makes grace the center point of ministry. This congregation addresses the contentious gay issue not by writing position papers but simply by welcoming all who come. Their bulletin expresses it this way:
Married, divorced or single here, it’s one family that mingles here.
Conservative or liberal here, we’ve all gotta give a little here.
Big or small here, there’s room for us all here.
Doubt or believe here, we all can receive here.
Gay or straight here, there’s no hate here.
Woman or man here, everyone can serve here.
Whatever your race here, for all of us grace here.
In imitation of the ridiculous love Almighty God has for each of us and all of us, let us live and love without labels.
From there I went to a barbecue fundraiser for a nonprofit organization that provides food for Denver’s hungry population. A number of sponsoring churches had sent representatives, and I agreed to say a few words and give away some books. The organizers hoped for a turnout of three hundred, but a cold, drizzly rain kept attendance down to less than half that. The Denver Broncos football team was playing that day, and it occurred to me, as I looked out over the sparse crowd huddled under umbrellas, that sixty thousand screaming fans in a stadium had gladly paid to sit through miserable weather for three hours. Instead, a cause like hunger attracted a small group of churchgoers, idealistic college students, and street people who always seem to know where food is being served.
In the sermon I had heard at church that morning, the guest preacher mentioned she had puzzled over the story of the widow who gave all she had, no more than a few pennies. Why did Jesus merely use her as an object lesson, contrasting her with the rich people who proudly made large contributions? Why didn’t He do something to address her state, perhaps by proposing a poverty program? The preacher told us her conclusion: “God leaves the justice issue up to us.” I had heard Gary Haugen, founder of the International Justice Mission, say something similar:
“God has a plan to fight injustice, and that plan is us — His people. There is no Plan B.”
I pondered that statement as I stood in the rain and watched a small crowd of volunteers assemble food parcels while a soul sister belted out, “His eye is on the sparrow.” For whatever reason, God seems to leave a lot of issues up to us. And the church totters on; we are, after all, the chosen channel for God’s good news.
Excerpted with permission from Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey, copyright Zondervan, 2014.
This is the sixth post in the series "Who Is God?
Ezekiel 48:35 (NKJV)35 All the way around shall be eighteen thousand cubits; and the name of the city from that day shall be: THE LORD IS THERE."
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 Jehovah, but as with you and me His is known by other names that describe Him.
Jehovah is translated as "The Existing One" or "Lord." The chief meaning of Jehovah is derived from the Hebrew word Havah Meaning "to be" or "to exist." It also suggests "to become" or specifically "to become known" - this denotes a God who reveals Himself unceasingly. Shammah is derived from the Hebrew word sham, which can be translated as "there." Jehovah Shammah is a symbolic name for the earthly Jerusalem. The name indicates that God has not abandoned Jerusalem, leaving it in ruins, but that there will be a restoration. - Blue Letter Bible
These are the final words of the Book of Ezekiel, in which the Prophet was giving a prophecy of some time after the exile of to Babylon. In chapter 48, of the book, Ezekiel listed each of the returning tribes and their territory, and then gives the dimensions of a city, the name of which, was to be Jehovah-Shammah.
Ezekiel 48:30-35 (ASV)30 And these are the egresses of the city: On the north side four thousand and five hundred reeds by measure;31 and the gates of the city shall be after the names of the tribes of Israel, three gates northward: the gate of Reuben, one; the gate of Judah, one; the gate of Levi, one.32 And at the east side four thousand and five hundred reeds, and three gates: even the gate of Joseph, one; the gate of Benjamin, one; the gate of Dan, one.33 And at the south side four thousand and five hundred reeds by measure, and three gates: the gate of Simeon, one; the gate of Issachar, one; the gate of Zebulun, one.34 At the west side four thousand and five hundred reeds, with their three gates: the gate of Gad, one; the gate of Asher, one; the gate of Naphtali, one.35 It shall be eighteen thousand reeds round about: and the name of the city from that day shall be, Jehovah is there.
That city is Jerusalem, the place where Jehovah would dwell, and in it was the temple where He met and interfaced with the people through the priest who served as the mediator..
1 Chronicles 23:25 (ASV)25 For David said, Jehovah, the God of Israel, hath given rest unto his people; and he dwelleth in Jerusalem for ever:
Psalm 132:13-18 (ASV)13 For Jehovah hath chosen Zion; He hath desired it for his habitation.14 This is my resting-place for ever: Here will I dwell; For I have desired it.15 I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread.16 Her priests also will I clothe with salvation; And her saints shall shout aloud for joy.17 There will I make the horn of David to bud: I have ordained a lamp for mine anointed.18 His enemies will I clothe with shame; But upon himself shall his crown flourish.
Today Jehovah-Shammah Is There In The Believer
When Jehovah's Son, Jesus was crucified the curtain, in the temple that separated Jehovah from the people was torn and there was no longer a barrier between man and God.
Matthew 27:50-51 (ASV)50 And Jesus cried again with a loud voice, and yielded up his spirit.
51 And behold, the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake; and the rocks were rent;
After Jesus’ return to heaven He sent the Holy Spirit who now dwells in each believer.
John 14:15-17 (ASV)15 If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments.16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may be with you for ever,17 even the Spirit of truth: whom the world cannot receive; for it beholdeth him not, neither knoweth him: ye know him; for he abideth with you, and shall be in you.
Acts 1:4-5 (ASV)4 and, being assembled together with them, he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, ye heard from me:5 For John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days hence.
Acts 2:1-4 (ASV)1 And when the day of Pentecost was now come, they were all together in one place.2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.3 And there appeared unto them tongues parting asunder, like as of fire; and it sat upon each one of them.4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (ASV)16 Know ye not that ye are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?17 If any man destroyeth the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, and such are ye.
1 Corinthians 6:19 (NKJV)19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
Ephesians 2:19-22 (ASV)19 So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God,20 being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone;21 in whom each several building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord;22 in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.
He was present in the past, leading the Israelites through generations of slavery, wandering, and growth. He was present in the specific plans His people carried out as they rebuilt Jerusalem. He is present now, as He guides us through living out His love. He offers His presence through us, acting through our hearts and delivering eternal hope.
Matthew Henry’s Commentary says:
“…it is true of every good Christian; he dwells in God, and God in him; whatever soul has in it a living principle of grace, it may be truly said, The Lord is There.”
Revelation 21:3 (ASV)3 And I heard a great voice out of the throne saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God:
The 23rd Psalm was last week's FTE Psalm of the Week. In that post I wrote that it’s in the “valley of the shadow of death” that we know the extent of God’s love for us. It’s in the valley that He protects and cares for us. It’s from the valley that He leads us into His presence.
After posting my Psalm of the Week for this week I read an excerpt from Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation by Robert Morgan. In the excerpt Robert recounted an interview with Maurice Pink, British World War II veteran who shared his experiences as a nineteen-year-old sailor when torpedoes struck his ship on December 10, 1941. In the interview Maurice described what happened. Maurice’s description shed an entirely new light on the power of God’s word in the most difficult of circumstances. He recited the 23rd Psalm for over an hour while in the water of the “shark-infested South China Sea”, before being rescued.
Psalm 23:1-6 (NKJV)1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.
Here’s what he wrote about his experience:
There are times in your life when things don’t go right and you feel all alone. That happened to me on December 10, 1941, when I was on the battle cruiser HMS Repulse with the nearby HMS Prince of Wales. We were attacked by the Japanese air force, which resulted in both ships being sunk. I found myself alone in the water, not able to see anyone else. It was then that the Twenty-third Psalm came into my head, and I realized I was not alone. I had a Shepherd. The Lord was my Shepherd; I did not need to want. I was not in green pastures, but in oily waters; but He restored my soul. Even though I was walking in the shadow of death, I was to fear no evil for He was with me.
The rod and staff did not ring a bell with me until voices above me were shouting. Looking up there was a big destroyer alongside me, HMS Electra, with nets over the side, which allowed me to climb up to safety. That was my rod and staff. I didn’t have a table set before me, but I did get a cup of the ship’s cocoa.
Since that day goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life, and when I think back to that day, I wonder what would have happened if I had died. There again, the psalm had the answer: I would dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Thank you, Lord, for being my Shepherd and for the Twenty-third Psalm.1
1 Maurice Pink, in a personal interview with the author, January 1, 2012. Used with permission.
Excerpted with permission from Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation by Robert Morgan, copyright Robert J. Morgan.
In this psalm the writer begins by praising God with “Hallelujah”. Hallelujah is a Hebrew word meaning “praise ye YAH (Yahweh). In Revelation the word Hallelujah is used where a great multitude has gathered before the throne in the immediate presence of God Himself.
Revelation 19:1-8 (HCSB)1 After this I heard something like the loud voice of a vast multitude in heaven, saying: Hallelujah! Salvation, glory, and power belong to our God,2 because His judgments are true and righteous, because He has judged the notorious prostitute who corrupted the earth with her sexual immorality; and He has avenged the blood of His slaves that was on her hands.3 A second time they said: Hallelujah! Her smoke ascends forever and ever!4 Then the 24 elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who is seated on the throne, saying: Amen! Hallelujah!5 A voice came from the throne, saying: Praise our God, all His slaves, who fear Him, both small and great!6 Then I heard something like the voice of a vast multitude, like the sound of cascading waters, and like the rumbling of loud thunder, saying: Hallelujah, because our Lord God, the Almighty, has begun to reign!7 Let us be glad, rejoice, and give Him glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has prepared herself.8 She was given fine linen to wear, bright and pure. For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints. (Bold mine)
In verses 1-3 there is a call for thanksgiving for God’s goodness and His mercy. Verses 4-9 acknowledge that God’s goodness and mercy are evident in His creation. In verses 10-25 the writer praises God for each event, from the time that He delivered Israel from Egypt until they entered Canaan, because He is good and merciful He ends the psalm the way he started by thanking God because of His goodness and mercy.
God’s Love Is Eternal
Psalm 136:1-26 (NKJV)1 Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.2 Oh, give thanks to the God of gods! For His mercy endures forever.3 Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords! For His mercy endures forever:4 To Him who alone does great wonders, For His mercy endures forever;5 To Him who by wisdom made the heavens, For His mercy endures forever;6 To Him who laid out the earth above the waters, For His mercy endures forever;7 To Him who made great lights, For His mercy endures forever--8 The sun to rule by day, For His mercy endures forever;9 The moon and stars to rule by night, For His mercy endures forever.10 To Him who struck Egypt in their firstborn, For His mercy endures forever;11 And brought out Israel from among them, For His mercy endures forever;12 With a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm, For His mercy endures forever;13 To Him who divided the Red Sea in two, For His mercy endures forever;14 And made Israel pass through the midst of it, For His mercy endures forever;15 But overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea, For His mercy endures forever;16 To Him who led His people through the wilderness, For His mercy endures forever;17 To Him who struck down great kings, For His mercy endures forever;18 And slew famous kings, For His mercy endures forever--19 Sihon king of the Amorites, For His mercy endures forever;20 And Og king of Bashan, For His mercy endures forever--21 And gave their land as a heritage, For His mercy endures forever;22 A heritage to Israel His servant, For His mercy endures forever.23 Who remembered us in our lowly state, For His mercy endures forever;24 And rescued us from our enemies, For His mercy endures forever;25 Who gives food to all flesh, For His mercy endures forever.26 Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven! For His mercy endures forever.
Israel Knew That God's Mercy Endures Forever
The realization that God’s mercy is everlasting is shown throughout Israel's history. David appointed singers whose job was to repeat at the tabernacle, “give thanks to the Lord, because His mercy endures forever”
1 Chronicles 16:41 (NKJV)41 and with them Heman and Jeduthun and the rest who were chosen, who were designated by name, to give thanks to the LORD, because His mercy endures forever;
Later, when the ark was brought into the newly completed temple, Solomon appointed singers to sing, “He indeed is good, for His mercy endures forever”
2 Chronicles 5:13 (NKJV)13 indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying: "For He is good, For His mercy endures forever,"
Jehoshaphat appointed singers to lead the army into battle singing, “Give thanks to the Lord, for His lovingkindness is everlasting”
2 Chronicles 20:21 (NKJV)21 And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the LORD, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: "Praise the LORD, For His mercy endures forever."
Jesus Proves That God's Mercy Endures Forever
God has shown us His everlasting goodness and mercy is the gift that He gave mankind in His Son, Jesus Christ, who came to give His life to pay the penalty for our sin. Through His shed blood on the cross we are freed from the curse of sin which is death. It’s available to everybody all you have to do is acknowledge that you are a sinner, ask forgiveness, and then:
Romans 10:8-10 (NKJV)8 But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach):9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
The application for us today is that all things point to God’s goodness and mercy, and because it does we can shout Hallelujah because He works everything, every single thing for our good because He is conforming us to the image of His Son Jesus.
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.
For His mercy endures forever.
When someone is going through difficulties, it may be a terminal illness, illness of a spouse or child, loss of a job, a divorce, the thing that we hear is something like “we all have our cross to bear”.
Here’s what Dictionary.com says about the phrase, we all have our cross to bear;
A burden or trial one must put up with, as in Alzheimer's is a cross to bearfor the whole family, or in a lighter vein, Mowing that huge lawn once a week is Brad's cross to bear : This phrase alludes to the cross carried by Jesus to his crucifixion. Today it may be used either seriously or lightly.[Second half of 1500s ]
That comment often made to try and comfort is really not what someone going through something wants to hear. I heard is last week from someone trying to comfort a grieving family of a person of some notoriety who was embroiled in a scandal before their death. When I heard the person say, “well we all have our cross to bear” my response was, “Really”? Many people look at Jesus carrying His cross to show that we must bear our own cross. When Jesus walked the earth the cross meant a painful humiliating death not what we call a burden today. Also scripture doesn’t ever say that Jesus carried His own cross all the way to and up Golgoth alone.
John 19:17-18 (NKJV)17 And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha,18 where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center.
Matthew 27:32 (NKJV) Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. Him they compelled to bear His cross.
Today Christians think of the cross as a cherished symbol of atonement, forgiveness, grace, and love.
For most Christians, today the belief comes from something Jesus said to His disciples
Matthew 16:24-26 (NKJV)24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
Mark 8:34 (NKJV) When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
Since the cross was seen as a symbol of punishment and death it is unlikely that Jesus was talking about the kind of death that He would experience being what His disciples should desire.
When Jesus said “take up your cross and follow me” He was not talking about things like a strained relationship, a thankless job, a physical illness either.
When Jesus said “taking up his cross” He was talking about putting desires of the flesh to death and follow the path that Jesus was on in doing His Father’s will. .
John 5:19 (NKJV) Then Jesus answered and said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.
John 6:38-40 (NKJV)38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day."
To “take up your cross and follow Me” means that you be willing to even die, if it comes to that, to follow Jesus. Whenever Jesus talked about cross bearing He also talked about gaining or saving life.
Luke 9:23-26 (NKJV)23 Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels.
Jesus says that any burden that you carry because of Him is really no burden at all.
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."
Jesus has already born all our sin, the heaviest burden of all on the cross.
Isaiah 53:4-5 (NKJV)4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.
There’s A Difference
When it comes to bearing a cross, or burden, we need to determine if the suffering is for the name of Jesus or the result of living in a fallen world.
Matthew 10:22-26 (NKJV)22 And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.23 When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.24 A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.25 It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household!26 Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.
John 15:20-21 (NKJV)20 Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.21 But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.
Sickness is not a consequence of following Jesus neither is, a downturn in the economy resulting in a loss of a job, a traffic accident, of sudden death of a loved one is not a cross to bear. We need to recognize the origin of the suffering.
You Never Have To Bear Your Cross Alone
When you say that you have a cross to bear you forget what God says in His word about never leaving or forsaking you.
Deuteronomy 31:6 (NKJV) Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you."
Hebrews 13:5-6 (NKJV)5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."6 So we may boldly say: "The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?"
Having to bear our cross alone would mean that God has forsaken us and left us to fend for ourselves.
Jesus Himself said that suffering would come but He has already rescued us from it. That rescue is not necessarily in this life but in eternity. Today’s suffering is temporary, and Jesus has overcome it.
John 16:33 (NKJV) 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."
Romans 8:37-39 (NKJV)37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We Are To Bear Each Other’s Cross (Burdens)
We are told that we are to bear or help bear each other’s burdens.
Galatians 6:2 (NKJV) Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
1 Thessalonians 5:14 (NKJV) Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.
1 Peter 3:8 (NKJV) Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;
Dr. Charles Stanley gives us 6 ways to do that;
Practical Ways to Bear Burdens
There are hurting people everywhere, but at times we just don't know what to say or do to ease their pain. Here are six practical ways to bear someone else's burden.
Because we were unable to do it ourselves, Jesus bore all of our sin and sorrow, even unto death. As a result, we can live happily and eternally in communion with our Father. If Christ did that for us, how can we ever say, "I'm too busy to bear someone else's burden"?
Used with permission from In Touch Ministries, Inc. © 2016 All Rights Reserved.
The title of this post was the title of my Pastor’s sermon yesterday. I went right along with our Bible Study for the day in which we talked about Jesus teaching to be persistent in prayer. In both the Pastor’s sermon and the Bible Study Jesus’ parable of the persistent widow was a major point.
Luke 18:1-8 (NLT) 1 One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.2 “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people.
3 A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’4 The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people,
5 but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’”6 Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge.7 Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?8 I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”
The importance of persevering in prayer was confirmed again today when I read an something from 5 Minutes with Jesus by Shelia Walsh.
A Lesson in Perseverance...from a Yorkie
It had been a long weekend of delayed flights and short nights. I had finally gotten home, but Monday morning I could barely crawl out of bed. I think I was sleepwalking when I made myself a cup of coffee and headed out to the back patio with my three little dogs. And our ritual began.
Maggie the Yorkie wanted to play. She dug through her toy box until she found her stuffed raccoon. She dropped it at my feet and looked up. I didn’t respond. She picked it up again, backed up a few steps, and then approached me a second time. Still nothing from me… because I had nothing to give! After two more futile attempts, Maggie changed her strategy and began to paw my leg. That worked. Wanting peace, I picked up the raccoon, threw it as far as I could across the yard, and watched her run like the wind.
I want you to pray like that.
It wasn’t audible, but I clearly recognized God’s voice deep in my spirit.
I thought about Maggie’s persistence. She was totally committed to getting the answer from me that she wanted. She wasn’t going to quit until I picked up her toy and threw it for her. I realized that, when it comes to praying, I often don’t have a fraction of this Yorkie’s perseverance. Oh, I’ll pray about a situation for a while, but I’ll move on.
I thought of the look in Maggie’s eyes, though. She loves me, and she knows that I love her. Because of that love, she absolutely believes that if she asks long enough, I’ll answer.
How much more does our Father in heaven love us and want to answer us!
Jesus told the story of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1–8) to encourage us to keep dragging our prayers before God, to approach Him over and over again. With that in mind, I decided I wasn’t about to be outdone by a Yorkie!
The Lord rejoices over a believer who loves big enough and long enough to pray until He answers.
Five Minutes in the Word
One day Jesus told His disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. — Luke 18:1
When you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. — Matthew 6:6
Ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. — James 1:6 HCSB
Pray always. Pray in the Spirit. Pray about everything in every way you know how! And keeping all this in mind, pray on behalf of God’s people. Keep on praying feverishly, and be on the lookout until evil has been stayed. — Ephesians 6:18 The Voice
Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. — 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 NASB
Excerpted with permission from 5 Minutes With Jesus by Sheila Walsh, copyright Sheila Walsh.
The 23rd Psalm has been a source of strength when facing trial and tribulation. The strong affirmation of faith expressed in this “song of trust” has driven away feelings of grief, sadness, and doubt and turned them to feelings of peace, contentment and trust. It’s in the valley that we know the extent of God’s love for us. It’s in the valley that He protects and cares for us. It’s from the valley that He leads us into His presence.
Psalm 23:1-6 (NLT)1 The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need.2 He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.3 He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.4 Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.5 You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.
The view from the mountain top is spectacular but growth takes place in the valley
God has not stopped being God because you are in the valley. He has not stopped being a God of goodness and kindness because you are either disappointed or have a broken heart.
We would all love to spend our lives on the top of a mountain. We would all love to vigorously breathe in that fresh mountain air and take in the magnificent view. You can see things on the mountaintop that you would never see from the valley. Things take on their rightful perspective from the mountaintop. You are literally on top of the world. It's a place fit for a queen - the queen of the mountain!
None of us wants to buy real estate in the valley of despair and disappointment. There is an extremely limited vision in the lower places and you are not able to see beyond the next grove of trees.
And yet it is in the valley where vegetation grows and where flowers bloom. There is no growth on the top of a mountain but you will only find rocks and boulders there. The top of a mountain is no place to put down roots - that happens in the valley below. It is in the valley where the most magnificent growth of your life will happen and it is there that the fruit of the Spirit will grow in lush abundance. May I just say it this way: In the valley where your heart was broken will be the place of your greatest harvest.
God wants our cups to run over not only when life is good and the view is spectacular; He wants our cups to run over in the valley of pain and in the desert of brokenness. God sets before you a table of blessing that will heal your broken heart and feed your hungry soul.
God wants you to be a man or a woman who knows that disappointment does not have the power to dis-appoint you. God wants you to be a person who snuggles into His presence during times of brokenness and despair. God wants you to be a Christian who never blames but always blesses. God wants you to be a believer who bears fruit at the worst moment of life. - From Holy Emotions: Biblical Responses to Every Challenge by Carol McLeod
The Church is the Bride of Christ.
Ephesians 5:22-23, 32 (NKJV)22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.
32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
This passage is an expression of God's ideal for marriage. The marriage relationship was designed by him to be symbolic of the spiritual relationship between Christ and the Church. - The Wycliffe Bible Commentary.
2 Corinthians 11:1-4 (NKJV)1 Oh, that you would bear with me in a little folly--and indeed you do bear with me.2 For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.4 For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted--you may well put up with it!
The 'espousal' took place at conversion; the presentation' will be consummated at the Second Coming - The Wycliffe Bible Commentary.
Over 1500 years before these words were written God Himself chose a people to become His. He refers to the nation of Israel in symbolic terms as His wife.
Jeremiah 3:14 (NKJV) "Return, O backsliding children," says the LORD; "for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.
Hosea 2:16 (NKJV) "And it shall be, in that day," Says the LORD, "That you will call Me 'My Husband,' And no longer call Me 'My Master,'
When someone asks another person to marry them it's called a proposal. After God miraculously delivered the people from Egypt, and transformed them into a nation, He symbolically proposed to them at Mt. Sinai.
The nation of Israel that God delivered from Egypt are descendants of Abraham and the Apostle Paul says that those who believe God, as Abraham did, are his the spiritual descendants. There is the seed of Abraham physically (descendants of Abraham according to the flesh); and there is the seed of Abraham spiritually (those who, like Abraham, have faith in God). So God’s proposal to those descendants of Abraham according to the flesh was also to those spiritual descendants of Abraham, the Church
Galatians 3:16 (NKJV)16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, "And to seeds," as of many, but as of one, "And to your Seed," who is Christ.
Galatians 3:29 (NKJV)29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
The following is God’s proposal as described in a YouVersion Reading Plan, Discover God’s Heart
Two months after the rescue from Egypt, God leads his people to Mount Sinai. Speaking to Moses from the mountain, God tells him that out of all of the peoples on the earth, God wants to make a covenant with the Israelites. He wants them to be his special treasure, his people who follow him and his ways. The people unanimously agree — they will be his.
For two days, the people prepare themselves — clothes scrubbed, faces washed. The Most Holy God is going to speak to them. There is no room for impurity in the presence of the perfect.
On the morning of the third day, their knees knock as lightning strikes. Thunder claps. A loud trumpet blasts. Mount Sinai can hardly handle God’s glory as it violently shudders. God comes down in fire, and thick smoke billows.
In the midst of the thundering skies and the trembling knees, the Holy One speaks. God gives the people his holy ways — the Ten Commandments, commands about how to live. Overwhelmed by God’s power and presence, the people beg Moses to speak to God so they don’t have to. The Holy One is overwhelming.
Exodus 20:1-6 (NKJV)1 And God spoke all these words, saying:2 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.3 You shall have no other gods before Me.4 "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
Many Biblical scholars consider the scene at Mount Sinai to be a proposal — and the rest of Scripture as a record of God’s relationship with his people.
The King’s Heart
“I am the God who chooses you,” God said to the childless Abraham. “I am the God of all power,” he said as he mocked Egypt’s false gods through the ten plagues. “I am the God who rescues you,” he said as he parted the sea and drowned the Egyptians. “I am the God who provides for you,” he said in the daily delivery of manna.
The people at the foot of Mount Sinai had been chosen, claimed, healed, fought for and provided for — all before they had ever heard or kept a single commandment.
The events of Mount Sinai are akin to a betrothal. God proposes that the people are to be his — in essence, to take his name. And while keeping commandments was a part of the covenant, it wasn’t the entirety of it. God does want his people to follow his ways. But keeping commandments is just outward evidence that their hearts are his.
We follow God’s ways because we love who he is. We love his character and his perfect goodness, and we trust him. Like the Israelites, we are not to live rightly in order to be God’s. We are to live rightly because we already are his.
It’s no coincidence that our story ends in a wedding celebration
Revelation 19:6-9 (NKJV)6 And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, "Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!7 Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready."8 And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.9 Then he said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!' " And he said to me, "These are the true sayings of God."
From YouVersion Reading Plan Discover God’s Heart by Zondervan Publishers
Not too long ago I wrote a post “Why Why Why”. I wrote it because when tragedy strikes, one of the first questions we ask is why. It could be a serious illness, death of a loved one, the end of a close personal relationship, or loss of a job resulting in financial catastrophe When these things happen, like Job’s friends, many Christians say that God must be punishing you for something you did or didn’t do.
When we read the first two chapter of Job we learn that God did not do, or cause the things that his friends, and Job himself believed that God did. Satan is the one ruined Job financially, caused the death of his children, and eventually ruined Job’s health. God allowed all these things but did not do them. We learn that Job asked God why these things happened, and God never gave him an answer. In the end Job received double what was lost because he never lost his integrity.
The point is that while the “why” behind suffering is almost always a mystery, there are two realities that are certain: Nothing happens to us that isn’t filtered through the Father’s hand of love. And if God allows hard times in our lives, he is always using them for good. Always.
Romans 8:28 (NKJV) 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.
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?
I have long believed that the Bible teaches that God’s punishment comes at the time of His judgement, and what we call punishment is really discipline.
This does not mean that accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior is license to do whatever you want to do, without consequences. Especially if your actions are in direct contradiction or disobedience to the will of God. Just as children are disciplined by their parents for disobedience, because they love them and want them to learn from their mistakes, God disciplines His children (those saved by grace) because He loves us and wants us to learn from our mistakes.
Hebrews 12:5-11 (NLT)5 And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the LORD’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you.6 For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”7 As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father?8 If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all.9 Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness.11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.
The goal of discipline is to bring about change, punishment merely metes out justice.
The purpose of punishment is to inflict penalty.
The purpose of discipline is to promote growth.
The focus of punishment is on the past — what you've done wrong.
The focus of discipline is on the future — what you can be
.The attitude behind punishment is anger. The attitude behind discipline is love. - Rick Warren
A few days ago I read, God Wants the Best for Us, written by Dr. Charles Stanley. In it Dr. Stanley says that God wants the best for us, even in tragedy, and while that tragedy may be discipline (chastisement) it is not punishment.
God Wants the Best for Us
Often when tragedies strike or hard times engulf us, we ask, “Where’s God?” In asking this question, we make the assumption that God must not have known what was about to befall us or else, if He were powerful enough, He would have prevented it. Or we assume that God must not love us, because surely if He loved us, He would keep us from all hurtful times and hard experiences.
We might think that, but none of that is the truth.
This is the truth: God knows. God is powerful. And God loves.
Blameless, Upright, and Broken
When we experience difficult times or feel great inner pain and turmoil, we usually try to assign blame. We say either, “The devil caused this” or “God caused this.”
The greater likelihood is this: the devil caused it, and God allowed it.
Consider the Old Testament story of Job, who was described as being “blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). Yet God gave Satan permission to “strike everything [Job] has” (Job 1:11), but not Job himself.
God allowed Job to suffer incredible loss for reasons that were God’s alone.
Throughout Job’s pain and losses, however, God never abandoned Job for even a moment. He knew at each step of the way how greatly Job was being afflicted. And our sovereign God was overseeing this refining of Job.
The good news for us anytime we find ourselves being broken is this: our sovereign God is overseeing the refining process in our lives. He sees the beginning and the end. He has a good future designed for us, and ultimately heaven awaits.
We can be sure that our period of brokenness is not the end, but rather, a passage and a process to a rich, new beginning.
Yes, God knows. God is powerful. And God loves.
God Always Acts Out of Love
The motivation behind everything God does in our lives and everything He allows to enter our lives is love.
God is never acting in anger or wrath when He breaks us. Rather, God moves in our lives because He loves us too much to see us continue in our sin, remain in a lukewarm spiritual state, or go unfulfilled in His purposes for our lives. God moves in our lives so that we might change, grow, and become both spiritually mature and whole in spirit, mind, and body.
Chastisement Versus Punishment
God’s love prompts Him to chastise us when necessary. Chastisement is God’s method of disciplining us. God’s purpose is to lead us to confront, remove, or change those habits, attitudes, and beliefs that keep us from growing into the full stature of Christ’s likeness.
Punishment is for unbelievers. It is an expression of God’s wrath against those who have rejected the only Sin-bearer who can save a sinful person from that wrath. Our holy God cannot tolerate sin. He must eradicate it from His presence. The unbeliever is in an awesome, terrible position — totally exposed to God’s wrath.
Punishment flows from God’s wrath; chastisement flows from God’s love.
And God loves us so much that He longs for us to reflect His very nature and, literally, to be the body of Christ on the earth today. The chastisement we experience is a means of refinement: just as refining removes the dross and impurities from metal, so God strips us of the sin and the faults that keep us from being made whole.
God Does Not Want to Break Our Spirits
God’s purpose is not to break our spirits, but rather — and for our good — to break the stubbornness of our wills. He does this so He might effect His will in our lives.
A good parent knows that a child’s streak of stubbornness and pride must be broken. The breaking of a child’s stubbornness is not done to break the child’s spirit, but rather, to help the child grow up to be a productive, law-abiding, generous, and loving spouse, friend, parent, citizen, and member of the body of Christ.
Just as a parent breaks a child’s stubborn pride and willful disobedience, so God seeks to break within us the pride and disobedience that keep us from being loving, generous, Christlike people.
God Does Not Delight in Causing Us Pain
Just as it is not God’s desire to break our spirits, neither is it God’s purpose to cause us pain.
Our heavenly Father, the sovereign God, has a purpose in allowing bad things to happen, and His purpose extends not only to my life alone or yours alone, but to the lives of many people whom you and I may influence and help.
If we believe Romans 8:28 to be true, we must believe it to be true for all circumstances in our lives:
We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.
Whatever it is that we may experience and however we may be broken, God has a good end for us.
We must never limit God’s ability to redeem even the worst, most pain-filled experience in our lives and turn it into something worthwhile, something that is good for us and that glorifies Him.
Regardless of the source of our pain, we must accept that God knows, God is powerful, God loves, and God is at work. We may not be responsible for what has happened to us, but we are responsible for our response to it. We must ask ourselves, “How can I walk through this pain? How can I benefit or profit spiritually from this?”
Where is God? He was with you at your first taste of pain, He has been with you in the darkness, He continues to be with you, and He will be with you as He uses this experience to do His refining work in your life.
So ask God to reveal to you what He is doing in your life — and what He desires to do for you, in you, and through you as the result of your brokenness.
Ask Him to help you see your brokenness in light of His great design for your life.
Excerpted with permission from Finding God’s Blessings in Brokenness by Charles Stanley, copyright Charles F. Stanley. Published by Thomas Nelson.
I have written several posts on fear and God’s command that we are to “fear not”.
Fear causes anxiety and worry. Fear shatters our peace. Fear can also cause shame when it’s fear that we have disappointed God and that we are going to feel His wrath. (Click HERE to see the series Fear Not Is A Command).
Yes we know that God is love and we quote;
1 John 4:8 (NKJV) He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
We quote that Scripture when we "blow it", but deep down we are afraid. We're afraid that God is going to “get us”. That kind of fear cause shame. Fear and shame can cause us not to open up to God when we pray because we feel that we are unworthy, and we are afraid of what He will say or do. We forget that we are God’s friends and that He has already forgiven us of sin. All we need to do is acknowledge it. That’s what confession is, it’s agreeing with God.
Fear And Shame Don’t Define You
Here is something written by Brandon Hatmaker in his book “A Mile Wide: Trading a Shallow Religion for a Deeper Faith”. In his book Brandon urges readers to think bigger and go deeper into faith. It asks the questions; Do you feel like you're just skimming the surface of faith? What if the Gospel we've come to know is even deeper than we imagined?
The following is from a section of that book “Gospel Identity: Overcoming Your Fear and Shame”
One of the things important for any believer to understand is how fear and shame impact our identity. Whether I could verbalize it or not growing up, too often I envisioned God sitting on the clouds, waiting to throw thunderbolts at my every sin. I looked at my own shortfalls and could only imagine a God who was frustrated with humanity, especially my humanity. Why wouldn’t He punish me or be disappointed in me? That would make total sense.
It’s uncanny how we allow fear to seep in. Fear of failure. Fear of change. Fear of being found out. Fear of being misunderstood. Fear of judgment.
Fear leads to shame. Shame causes us to doubt. We begin to doubt God’s love and we begin to doubt God’s grace. Ultimately, we begin to doubt the ability of the gospel to work in our lives.
It’s good to remember that God is no stranger to the response of fear. Throughout Scripture, whenever God revealed Himself directly to His people, either as an angel of the Lord or as the risen Jesus , the people’s first reaction was terror. There was something about experiencing the true presence of God that was incredibly revealing and confronting.
God’s response every time: “Fear not.”
From there He would explain why.
Fear not, for I am with you. Fear not, for I am your God. Fear not, for I will strengthen you and I will help you. Fear not, for I bring you great news.
Isaiah 41:10, 13 (NKJV)10 Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.' 13 For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand, Saying to you, 'Fear not, I will help you.'
Isaiah 43:5 (NKJV) Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, And gather you from the west;
Luke 2:10 (KJV) And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
In order to take our gospel identity seriously, we have to stop fearing our inabilities and start believing in God’s ability, that He is with us and that He is for us, and that His view of us and our circumstances is more expansive than ours. This has nothing to do with what we can accomplish; it has everything to do with what we can surrender. Our fear is unnecessary and our shame is unfounded.
Excerpted with permission from A Mile Wide by Brandon Hatmaker, copyright Brandon Hatmaker. Published by Nelson Books.
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.