I’ve always been taught that God doesn't play favorites like we do. We prefer one friend over another for almost any reason but we have always been taught that God doesn't favor any person one person over another. That's funny because we are always asking God for His favor even when that favor comes at the expense of someone else even another Christian.
Now think about this statement from “The Greatest” a YouVersion Reading Plan;
“Did you know that God doesn’t play favorites? Now, this might seem like good news or bad news depending on how your week is going. Okay, but really, the truth is that this is GOOD news for everyone. Not only does God love all people, He wants us to do the same. We’re supposed to accept, love, and value everyone—no matter how different they may be. Today, ask God to help you resist playing favorites. Ask Him to help you be open to loving and accepting people who are way different than you. Accepting all > favoring some, every time!”
James 2:1 NIV My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.
So you can understand my surprise when I read that God has given some people over others. .
The author, Cindi McMenamin, in her article “What is God’s Favor and How Do We Get It?”, points out that the scripture we quote to show that God is impartial, when taken in context is referring to God’s impartiality in salvation only.
Acts 10:34 NIV Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism
Here it is in context;
Acts 10:23-24, 26-35 NIV Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along. The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.” While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?” Cornelius answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’ So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.” Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.
So maybe we should change to say that God doesn't play favorites when granting salvation, but He does give some favor over others in some things in the church and for His Kingdom. When it comes to working through individuals for His purposes here on earth, God clearly singles out some over the rest.The decision to grant favor is His alone and may or may not be the answer to a request for favor. When He grants favor it is for His glory alone.
In fact there is a scripture that says God is looking for specific people to receive His favor.
2 Chronicles 16:9 NIV For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.” (emphasis mine)
After that “aha” moment I remembered that Paul said that we are rewarded for what we do in this life. Yes rewards are earned but everybody doesn't get them. That’s a form of favor.
2 Corinthians 5:6, 8-10 NIV Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
The question now is how do I become one of those who gets God special favor. Cindi gives us ten people from the Bible as examples for us to follow so that we can receive favor and reward from our very generous Father who shows no partiality in giving us the opportunity to obtain in His favor.
What is God’s Favor and How Do We Get It?
by Cindi McMenamin
* ALL Bold Emphasis mine
God doesn’t have favorites…right? That would seem impartial or unfair. And yet, look through Scripture and you’ll find ordinary people whom God chose to get up close and personal with. They were individuals whom God used in a particularly powerful way and they clearly had His anointing, protection, and extraordinary blessings.
While Peter said “God is not one to show partiality” (Acts 10:34), and Romans 2:11 says “there is no partiality with God,” those verses, in context, refer to God’s impartiality when it comes to saving both the Jew and the Greek. God is impartial when it comes to salvation, “not wishing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9). But when it comes to working through individuals for His purposes here on earth, God clearly singles out some over the rest.
Second Chronicles 16:9 tells us: “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (NKJV). In essence, God is looking for a few committed, surrendered hearts so He may pour His favor out on them.
So what can you and I do to get in God’s “inner circle?” How can we be singled out for His purposes and blessings? By looking at 10 people in Scripture who were clearly favored by God, we can learn more about what it is that attracts the heart and favor of God:
1. Walk with God intimately – like Enoch.
Scripture says Enoch “walked with God” for 300 years (Genesis 5:22-24). We don’t have any details of what Enoch did during his life, other than that he “walked with God.” Enoch and God must have had some great talks as they walked. Enoch must have done a lot of listening, too. And they must have gained a true intimacy because God longed for Enoch’s presence so much that He “took him” home to heaven rather than leaving Enoch to die a natural death. I imagine God thought Enoch, your father, Jared is going to live 962 years, your son, Methusaleh, will live even longer! I’m not waiting nearly that long to see you face to face. Get up here… now!
Do you want to be someone whom God can’t wait to be with? Let your life be characterized by a meaningful walk – not a brisk, hurried run – with God. Take the time to get to know Him, to recognize His voice, to hear His heart through His Word, and perhaps even take long, uninterrupted walks with him every morning or evening. Leave a legacy, like Enoch, of having been one who “walked with God.”
2. Be His “friend” – like Abraham.
God told Abraham to leave his country, his people and everything he knew and “go to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). Even though Abraham knew very little of God at that time, he left everything familiar and went out “even though he did not know where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8). That is faith. Hebrews 11:6 says “without faith it is impossible to please God.” Furthermore, Scripture tells us “‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God” (James 2:23).
Is God asking you to take a step of faith even if you don’t have the numbers, the statistics, or a “comfortable feeling” about it? Do you even recognize His voice enough to know when He is urging you to take a step of faith? Grow in your faith by growing in your knowledge of Who God is. Study His attributes. Be convinced He can be trusted. As you show tremendous faith in a tremendous God, He will likely call you His friend, too.
3. Strive for obedience – even in difficult circumstances – like Joseph.
Joseph, the favored son of Jacob, had a life of difficult circumstances that included abandonment by his family, being sold into slavery, being falsely accused, and years of imprisonment. Yet Joseph was able to see the hand of God in all his suffering and declared at the end of his life to his brothers (who earlier attempted to murder him): “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20). Joseph’s obedience and continual acknowledgement of the sovereignty of God touched God’s heart so much so that God continued to grant Joseph favor in every circumstance he was in, ultimately promoting him to second in command of all of Egypt. On Joseph’s authority, his family and the entire tribe of Israel was spared during years of severe famine in Egypt.
Are circumstances in your life less than perfect? Are they downright painful? Thank God in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and capture His heart by praising Him in spite of how you are being treated. Keep a humble heart that ever acknowledges God’s sovereign will and He will honor you for it.
4. Be meek and humble – like Moses.
In Isaiah 66:2, God said: “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” We also learn in Numbers 12:3 that “Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” Perhaps it was his meekness and humility that caused God to meet with Moses “face to face” and ultimately show him His glory – something He didn’t do for anyone else. In Exodus 33:17, God told Moses: “for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name” (Exodus 33:17).
God dwells with, provides for, and shows favor toward the humble. Not to those who want to share the same level of leadership and glory as the Almighty. Be one who is humble and realizes that promotion comes from God alone, who “puts down one and exalts another” (Psalm 75:6-7, NKJV).
5. Desire to do His will – like David.
David, the Psalmist, wrote songs of devotion to God. He poured out his heart to Him. And because of the time he spent in sweet devotion with his Lord he cultivated the kind of faith and loyalty to God, as a mere teenager, who could take down a giant with just a pebble and a slingshot. David became Israel’s greatest king because of his heart to please the Lord. And even after a season of sin (in which he slept with and impregnated the wife of one of his “mighty men” who was out at war for him, and then had him murdered to cover up his sin), God still gave David the enduring legacy as “‘…a man after My heart, who will do all My will’” (Acts 13:22, NASB).
How can you not fall in love with a God like that – one Who sees your heart over your horrific mistakes? Study the songs of David in Scripture and get a look at the kind of heart that is pleased to obey God over anything else. That kind of devotion leaves a lasting impression on God.
6. Seek God’s wisdom above anything else – like Solomon.
As a young man – possibly insecure as he took the role of Israel’s king in the shadow of his larger-than-life father, David – Solomon was humble and dependent on God. So much so that when God appeared to Solomon in a dream and asked Solomon what he desired God to give him, Solomon didn’t pause to consider riches, fame or even success as a king. Solomon immediately asked for a discerning heart to govern God’s people and to distinguish between right and wrong. Solomon’s answer to God’s “million-dollar question” pleased God so much that God gave him wisdom, along with more riches and fame than any person on earth had ever known (1 Kings 3:5-15).
What do you want more than anything? To succeed in your business? To be known as a “good person”? To raise children who love the Lord? To be respected and admired by others? When God sees that your heart’s desire is the same as His desire for your life, He will be pleased to grant it.
Psalms 37:4 NLT Take delight in the Lord , and he will give you your heart’s desires.
7. Be surrendered – like Mary of Nazareth.
The angel Gabriel called Mary of Nazareth “favored one” when he announced that she would bear the long-awaited Messiah. But his news also meant public scandal and the possibility that Mary would be an outcast in her community (because she was still a virgin). Yet, despite those legitimate concerns, she showed no reservation, only a humble, surrendered response: “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38, NASB).
In other words, “I’m Yours, Lord, for whatever You have in mind.”
Can you say that when God unfolds a path before you that looks uncertain, undesirable, or maybe even threatening? What if His plan, like His plan for Mary, means no wedding, loss of your reputation, and a life that will be misunderstood and burdensome in a way that few will understand?
Luke 2:34-35 NLT Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”
Develop an obedient, surrendered heart like Mary and you may find yourself “favored” by God.
8. Love God extravagantly – like Mary of Bethany.
Mary of Bethany was the woman who sat at Jesus’ feet, hanging on his every word as her sister, Martha, scrambled about the kitchen, taking care of the dinner preparation. Mary wasn’t being lazy by sitting it out when there was work to be done. She was seizing the moment to sit at the feet of her Master, and Jesus commended her for it (Luke 10:38-42). We read later that Mary, shortly before Jesus’ death, anointed Him with expensive perfume she had saved possibly for her own wedding. She realized her “Bridegroom” was at hand and she spared no expense to honor Him. Jesus again commended her, saying wherever the gospel was taught, the story would be told of what she did, as a remembrance to her.
John 12:1-8 NLT Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead. A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance. But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself. Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
Mark 14:3-9 NLT Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard. She broke open the jar and poured the perfume over his head. Some of those at the table were indignant. “Why waste such expensive perfume?” they asked. “It could have been sold for a year’s wages and the money given to the poor!” So they scolded her harshly. But Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why criticize her for doing such a good thing to me? You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time. I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.”
Would you rather be with Jesus than do a bunch of things for Him? Can you risk the misunderstanding or judgment of others for not joining in the busy work, but instead sitting it out to spend more time with God? God honors the heart that reveres and loves His Son without hesitation, without reservations, and without regard for cost. Love God’s Son extravagantly and spare no expense to show Him what He means to you.
9. Lean in close to Him – like John the beloved disciple.
John, son of Zebedee, described himself throughout his gospel as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Didn’t Jesus love them all? Of course, He did. But John was especially close to Jesus. John was the one who leaned on Jesus’ breast as they reclined at the dinner table the night Jesus was betrayed, and John wasn’t afraid to ask Jesus the question everyone else feared to ask Him.
John 13:21-22, 24-25 NLT Now Jesus was deeply troubled, and he exclaimed, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!” The disciples looked at each other, wondering whom he could mean. Simon Peter motioned to him to ask, “Who’s he talking about?” So that disciple leaned over to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?”
John, incidentally, was the only one of Jesus’ disciples not martyred for his faith, but died in exile on Patmos, after seeing and recording the vision of God’s glory. John wasn’t perfect. Scripture calls him one of the “sons of thunder” (that tells me he was a “hot-head” when it came to his temper!). Yet John stayed close to Jesus and it made all the difference in softening him to become the one who wrote First John – the Bible’s book on love.
Can you stick close to Jesus, no matter what He says that you don’t understand? Can you stay near Him even if all your friends walk away? John stayed at the foot of the cross with the women closest to Jesus on the night Jesus died after all the other disciples had scattered for fear of their lives. Be the one who stays close to Jesus no matter what. God notices.
10. Become like Jesus – God’s beloved Son
God clearly showed favor to His beloved Son. God gives us eternal life when we embrace His Son.
1 John 5:11-12 NLT And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.
He promises to give us whatever we ask for on behalf of His Son.
John 16:23 NLT At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name.
He seeks to mold us into the image of His Son.
John 16:23 NLT At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name.
If you want to have favor with God, be fully committed to His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Worship and revere Him, identify with His pain, gain a heart like His, and display His characteristics in your life. Jesus prayed that we would have the kind of unity with our Heavenly Father and with one another that He had with His own Father.
John 17:20-21 NLT “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
That means just as Jesus shared intimacy with God, you and I can share that intimacy with God, too, as we love Him like Jesus did – with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.
Mark 12:30 NLT And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’
Whenever something big happens in our lives; like getting that job that we really wanted, that raise, your child’s graduation, escrow closing on that dream home, that once in a lifetime vacation, learning that you're cancer free, I could go on, when those life changing things happen we say and often shout GOD IS GOOD!
Yes God is good, and we thank Him when the big things happen. But God never changes so He's good all the time even in the small things.
James 1:17 NIV Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17 NIV Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
I confess that I I don't often say “God is good” for the small things like waking up, being able to breath, being healthy enough to go for long walks on Tuesday or Thursday, having enough to eat, having good friends, my mother still living at 96 (that’s a big thing), and the other things we take for granted.
What Does it Mean that God Is Good? 5 Examples in Everyday Life
Carrie Lowrance - Crosswalk Contributor
We often hear the phrase, “God is good.” It is used in songs, sermons, and is sometimes used as a response when both good and bad things happen in our lives, for example: a person who avoids tragedy due to car trouble or a delayed flight. Other examples are good things that happen to people, like circumstances aligning perfectly for them to buy a house or replace their old car when previously things looked very bleak. In all these things, we often say, “God is good.”
Still, what does this mean? According to Merriam Webster, the definition of “God" is “the being in perfect power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe," however; isn’t he more than this? God is good in so many ways--the way he provides for us, guides us, and watches over us--but it goes even deeper than that. God's goodness is who he is, and we are created in his image, so, therefore, we share his goodness.
God’s goodness shows up in our lives every single day. Although we often think of his goodness when something big happens, his goodness abounds all the time--in every hour, minute, and second of the day, in the smallest of things around us. Here are five examples of his goodness in our everyday lives.
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good.” Luke 18:19
1. Waking Us Up
Every day that God wakes us up is an example of his goodness. This means we are still working towards the purpose and gifts he has given us. It shows us that he isn’t finished with us yet and that we still have a mission to fulfill. We shall not grumble and complain about getting out of bed and going to work. We should be happy that we are still breathing and living for him. Many are worse off than us who need to see our light shining in the world every day.
"Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life." - Psalm 143:8
2. Pouring His Favor on Us
On the days when we are surrounded by the smallest and most significant of blessings, we know that God is pouring his favor on us. This can be anything from your coworker bringing you your favorite coffee to your boss calling you in their office to discuss a raise or promotion. We need to pay attention to all the little things in our day, both big and small, that are a blessing to us. A lot of times, it’s the little things that mean so much.
“God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ-which is to fulfill his own good plan.” Ephesians 1:9
3. Protecting Us
We have all heard about the woman who had car trouble and missed being in a massive pile-up on the interstate. We have heard about the disease/cancer detection that almost did not happen due to a practically-missed appointment. These are the significant ways he protects us, but he works in the smaller things too: for example, the gossip that is going around that never reaches your ears or the coworker that is trying to sabotage you but your boss, instead, sees the honest and hard work that you do. These are all ways he protects us on a daily basis.
4. Speaking to Us through Prayer
Prayer is our most powerful connection to God. It is how we express our thanks and gratitude, make our petitions known, and intercede for others. Sometimes we get an answer of “yes,” sometimes, “no” and sometimes, “wait.” Sometimes, he gives us specific instructions and, sometimes, he is silent. Other times, he speaks to us and provides us with an answer in the most surprising of ways. No matter what, he always answers, and we need to look for those answers every day. In issues big and small, he will often nudge our hearts and draw our attention in the right direction.
5. Guiding Us
We make a thousand little decisions a day, everything from deciding whether we will do our job well or whether or not to take on a client. Sometimes, we have to determine whether an opportunity is right for us and if we should follow a particular path. In these moments, God is guiding us. We need to stop, take a breath and pay attention. How do we feel in our hearts? How do we feel in our gut? We need to be still and listen to that small voice we know so well. Listen to him whispering to our hearts about what choices are right for us. Pay attention to the signs he sends us. This is his way of guiding us and nudging us to our best selves, so that we may live in the gifts we have been given and the purpose he has for us.
Are you concerned that you will get too busy and miss the signs of God’s goodness in your life?
Matthew 22:37-40 NIV Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Galatians 6:2 NIV Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
There is much debate among Christians about our requirements for obeying the Law as presented in the Old Testament. The Law they are talking about is really all of the rules and regulations that God gave Moses (including the Ten Commandments) during the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites.
The key to understanding the relationship betweening the Christian and the Law is knowing that the Old Testament law was given to the nation of Israel, not to Christians. Some of the laws were to reveal to the Israelites how to obey and please God (the Ten Commandments Exodus 20:1-17,). Some of the laws were to show the Israelites how to worship God and atone for sin (the sacrificial system Numbers 15). Some of the laws were intended to make the Israelites distinct from other nations (the food and clothing rules Leviticus 11, 13, 19, ). The Old Testament law is not binding on Christians today. When Jesus died on the cross, He put an end to the Old Testament law.
Romans 10:4 NIV Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
Galatians 3:23-25 NIV Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.
Ephesians 2:14-15 NIV For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace,
Christians are under the Law of Christ, not the Old Testament Law
Galatians 6:2 NIV Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
The law of Christ a summary of Jesus’ response to a question about the greatest Commandment.
Matthew 22:34-40 NIV Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
This doesn’t mean the Old Testament law is irrelevant today. Many of the commands in the Old Testament law fall into the categories of “loving God” and “loving your neighbor.” The Old Testament law can be a good guidepost for knowing how to love God and knowing what goes into loving your neighbor.
The Ten Commandments were essentially a summary of the entire Old Testament law. Nine of the Ten Commandments are clearly repeated in the New Testament (all except the command to observe the Sabbath day). If we are loving God, we will not be worshipping false gods or bowing down before idols. If we are loving our neighbors, we will not be murdering them, lying to them, committing adultery against them, or coveting what belongs to them. The purpose of the Old Testament law is to convict people of our inability to keep the law and point us to our need for Jesus Christ as Savior.
Romans 7:7-12 NIV What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.
Galatians 3:23-24 NIV Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.
While we will never keep God’s commandments or be righteous before Him by our own efforts, Christ did. It is His sacrificial death on the cross that causes our sins to be imputed to Him and His righteousness imputed to us.
Romans 3:21-22a NIV But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.
Here's the problem;
Romans 7:14-20, 25 NIV We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
Here's the solution;
Romans 10:9-13 NIV If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Salvation is not by the Law
The gospel message is that we can receive forgiveness of sins through faith in the sacrifice of Christ. It was Jesus who kept of the law perfectly and never sinned sacrificed His life and died for our salvation.
1 Peter 2:21-22 NIV To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
Christians have "died with Christ"
Romans 6:4 NIV We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
That means that they have also died to the law
Romans 7:4-6 NIV So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
Therefore, Christians are not obligated to keep the law in order to be saved. But, when we love God, love our neighbor, and love one another, it's love that fulfills the law.
People have always used the Bible to justify their actions, whether those actions were what we would consider good or evil. You can justify almost anything by taking a verse or several verses of scripture out of context. Things like slavery, genocide, racism, murder, suicide, or the separation of illegal immigrant families. This may not be accurate but it seems to me that there is more use and abuse of scripture used to justify political positions or policies in the last two years than in the past. That includes those on both sides of the abortion and homosexuality arguments. This post is not to take a position on those issues.
This post includes a guest editorial for Herald-Mail Media, written by Don Stevenson is an adjunct instructor of philosophy and ethics at Hagerstown Community College, Hagerstown, Maryland. It points to the use of scripture to justify the zero tolerance arrest and prosecution policy on those entering the United States illegally, specifically the separation of minor children from their parents, as an example of the abuse of scripture to do something that is opposition to the overall narrative of scripture which is the love of God for mankind.
The use and abuse of the Bible
When sacred stories of the Bible are harvested by those who have selfish, mean-spirited and cunning attitudes, then this great book becomes a victim of human abuse and degradation.
The Bible is an assemblage of faith stories and messages that hold themes of truth and goodness that a loving God bestows. It is not a history or science book, per se, though it may and does include some historical and scientific data. Specifically, the Bible is a spiritual book reflecting the faith quests of a people at certain stages of development, as they searched to understand holiness and their destiny.
The Bible also includes cultural taboos, desires and perspectives of the time in which it was written. Such is why we need to carefully study and discern what the Bible’s core message is and discard those obvious cultural bents that many parts of the Bible contain.
Admittedly, the Bible holds a number of rather weird admonitions that are not compatible with its larger message — the acts of a benevolent and loving God.
Exhortations like “Purchase slaves, sell your daughter as a slave, and make sure the slave submits to the master, even cruel ones” (Leviticus 25:44-46; Exodus 21:7-8; and 1 Peter 2:18) are demeaning. And, “have rebellious children stoned to death” (Deuteronomy 21:18-21) or “be pleased when little children are dashed upon the rock” (Psalm 137:9) are horrific statements, to say the least. Or, “Cut off the hand of a woman if she grabs the genitals of a man who is fighting with her husband” (Deuteronomy 25:11-12) is a bizarre directive. Interestingly, some biblical passages would have us ban cheeseburgers, subs and ham sandwiches (Exodus 23:19, Leviticus 11:12 and 11:4). Also, “Women should not teach in houses of worship,” and “blind people, dwarves, and the lame are not allowed at the altar” (1 Timothy 2:12, Deuteronomy 23:1, Leviticus 21:17-23) are equally insane and insensitive injunctions. To repeat, passages like these reflect the culture of the time and not the essential message of the Good Book. Therefore, serious Bible study happens when the reader/interpreter understands that not every sentence of the Scriptures breathes the breath or holds the blessing of a loving God.
The attorney general of the United States recently used a piece of a Bible verse that he thought gave support to the government’s behavior regarding immigrants coming into America along the Mexican border. What Mr. Sessions did was what many people do with the Scriptures — “cherry-pick” to support personal purposes and/or a desired public policy. When this occurs, and it happens too frequently, the Bible can be used as a cherry tree, wherein one selects the fruit that savors their own taste bud, or is supportive of their own views or biases. And this selection process makes the sacred book so very vulnerable to skewed attitudes of every Tom, Dick and Sessions. Yes, to understand the central message of the Bible, all readers have the task of selecting or “cherry-picking” the Bible, as Mr. Sessions did. It just so happens, he picked the fruit that agreed with his stuff and not necessarily the universal message of goodness, truth and a loving God, which is the Bible’s dominant and greater message. Consequently, he forgot or chose not to use, many other verses of the Bible, which call for “a welcoming of strangers,” not a dispersing of them.
Often, humans lift and import words and phrases out of the Bible to support their cause. It is not that they use the source to enlighten their understanding of something but rather to support an understanding they already have or want. And this is a manipulative use and abuse of a book of faith. A better use of the Judeo-Christian Bible is that it be a spiritual guide and resource
When your world is falling apart and you're uncertain of the future, you can turn to the One who holds the future. To assure that He will always be there when you need Him even when it seems that you are all alone He’s left you His Word, and His promises.
2 Peter 1:3 NIV His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
2 Corinthians 1:20 NIV For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Isaiah 55:10-11 NIV As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
10 Verses to Help in Times of Uncertainty
By Anne Peterson Poet and Author
*Complete Scripture text and BOLD emphasis by me
You just got the call. Your test shows something questionable and they’d like you to come in for further testing. You can feel your stomach tie in familiar knots.
Or maybe you are standing over the bed of a loved one. They were perfectly fine just hours ago and then this car came out of nowhere and hit them head on. You wait, praying that somehow they will pull through. You pray that God will bring them out of this coma and that they will be able to resume their life. You’re just not ready to say goodbye.
We all have things happen in our lives that cause uncertainty.
Here are 10 verses to help when your future is uncertain.
1. God directs our paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
You try hard to trust God with your whole heart, but sometimes, like Peter, the wind and the waves become huge. We try to keep our eyes on the Master, but we feel shaken. And then you remember that God asks us to let him know what is going on in our lives. He said in all your ways acknowledge him. God is concerned about test results that seem questionable. He is concerned about anything that concerns you.
Loving fathers listen to their children when they are afraid. They reassure them that they are there, that they don’t need to worry. And little by little, the child begins to trust his father, the one he knows loves him so completely. Like a child who is carried off to bed, we can nuzzle our heads into our father’s neck resting our whole weight to the all-powerful one. The one who holds the whole world has no trouble carrying one of his children.
2. God's ways are higher.
We look around and hear the messages the world tells us.
You can do it.
You’ve got this.
And somehow when something happens to us we try desperately to be strong. After all, aren’t we supposed to handle our lives? Aren’t we supposed to be large and in charge?
But God’s ways are different than our ways.
Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord . “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
His ways are much, much higher. Doesn’t it make sense then, that we turn whatever we are worried about over to him. His view is much clearer from up there. Plus God is sovereign. He knows everything. He’s never sitting around thinking, “Oh, what should I do now?”
Turning over our uncertain situations to the one who is all-knowing is the only thing that will give us peace. We can know that God can handle anything that comes our way. Nothing is too big. He is the one who is large and in charge. And all he asks us to do is to believe that. To take whatever faith we have, albeit small at times, and place it in him. And then, to leave it in his capable hands, not grab it back because we are impatient.
3. God gives us good things.
But what if we are waiting to hear about a promotion our family needs? One that will help us get out of this debt that threatens to crush us. Isn’t that a time when worry is acceptable? Doesn’t God see the importance of this thing before us? At times, we think that if we worry enough, God will see how much this matters to us. How important it is that he answer this prayer with a yes. And once again, we need the reminder that he is God and we are not. He is well aware of not only what the job could do for us, but if it would be good for us.
Psalm 84:11 NIV For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.
We need to get to the point where we trust that God does know best, no matter what we think. We must learn that if we do not get the job that we are hoping and praying for, it is because God knows it would not be good for us. If it were, then maybe he would have answered that prayer with a yes. We have to remember that God knows not only the past or the present we are in, but he also knows what lies ahead. Yes, we may think we know what is good for us, but only God truly knows.
4. God gives us peace.
The enemy of our souls is the only one who tries to discourage us, especially when we have made the decision to trust God with our uncertainty. We get to the place where we have handed it over to God. We patiently wait for his answer, though sometimes we get a little shaky. We made a decision and when we start to falter, we go to the God of all strength, the one who can uphold us. And we once again have our faith bolstered. We know it’s God because nothing in our circumstances has changed and yet, we are at rest. It’s almost unexplainable.We feel all wrapped up in God’s blanket of peace. Read
Philippians 4:7 NIV And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Whenever we feel with certainty things are going to be okay, without one shred of evidence, we can be sure God is involved. When we went through my sister’s murder trial, I remember being led to a room before I would testify. Then I was left alone to wait until it was my turn. I sat there and started praying and before I knew it, I started singing. I may have been sitting in the courthouse in Chicago, but I saw myself sitting on God’s lap in his throne room. When the police officer returned to escort me into the courtroom, God went with me.
5. God's not done.
But what if things don’t turn out the way that we wanted? What then? Was putting our faith in God wasted? Did he choose not to answer? No. Sometimes God’s answer is “no.” But we have to remember whatever the outcome, God is still involved. He tells us in Romans 8:28, that the answer we got was no mistake. God is not done yet. He has a bigger purpose than what is before our finite eyes.
Romans 8:28 NIV And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
When I waited for the doctor to come in after I had an ultrasound, I was full of hope. I just knew that it was a miracle that I had not miscarried as I thought. So that week I waited for the ultrasound I was full of joy and faith. But when the doctor returned and said, “I’m sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Peterson, there is no baby.”
I had a decision to make, the same decision we all have to make when things do not work out as we wanted them to. Would I stop trusting God or would I believe that he is still at work? The choice is up to us. I knew God was not done; I decided to trust him.
6. God knows the way.
This world and everything we see is not all there is. Oh, the world will tell us it is. The world will try to get us to put down deep roots. But the Bible tells us there is more than we see here - much, much more. And we need to exercise our faith and believe it when things try to blur our vision. We can thank God that he never loses his way.
Psalm 143:8 NIV Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.
When we go to God and pour out our hearts to him, we know that he is listening. We also know that he will guide and direct us.
When our lives look like they are in a fog, it is only that way to us. We can trust the God who sees through the fog. The God who can see in the dark when we see nothing. The God who knows what path we should take and has promised he will get us there. When we are unsure, we can rest in the fact he is always certain. And isn’t that the kind of person you want leading you? At times we can’t take another step, he will carry us. Yes, he’s that strong.
7. God strengthens us.
When the uncertainty is becoming like a monster under your bed, it threatens to overtake you and all you feel is afraid.
Isaiah 41:10 NIV So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
We are gently reminded we are not in that situation alone. He has promised that he is with us. He is aware of what is before us, and he will help us. There is a comfort that comes when we know we are not alone. But when we realize that it is God who holds our hand and God who is looking out for us, there is a peace like no other.
Even when the ground seems too shaky and uncertainty overtakes our thoughts causing us to become anxious, God tells us that he will reach out his right hand and hold us up. The God of the universe, who created the mountains and everything we see before us, tells us not to worry. He will make sure we don’t fall. He will be right beside us. Like a father who holds the hand of his toddler, we can trust that God will not only lead us, but make sure we get there unharmed.
8. We walk by faith. What if we can’t see what is before us? The results of the doctor’s reports, whether or not we will be able to make the rent this time, etc. What about those times?
2 Corinthians 5:7 NIV For we live by faith, not by sight.
This is the reminder we need. We don’t walk by sight, but instead we walk by faith. This is where trust comes in. Here on earth, this is the only place we will be able to exercise our faith. This is our opportunity to trust God implicitly. And when we struggle with doubts, God will encourage our hearts. He will remind us of what is true so we can hold onto the truth when our feelings overwhelm us.
Faith is trusting in God without seeing any proof. And the only reason we are able to do that is because he empowers us to do it. It’s like how we believe that Jesus died on the cross and paid for our sins. Were we there? No. We had to accept that by faith. And then when we started walking as Christians, we were faced with many opportunities to trust God. You are faced with some today. And we have the choice to believe God even though we have no idea how he’s going to work things out. We still have the choice to put our faith in him and know that he is at work, even when we can’t see a thing. If we could see something, we wouldn’t need faith.
9. There is a purpose to suffering. Sometimes we wonder why we have to go through hard things. “God doesn’t love you,” the enemy whispers to us. “If God loved you, he wouldn’t allow hard things in your life.” We have to remember that Satan is a liar and he will tell us anything so that we will not trust God. He tries to convince us a loving God wouldn’t let us suffer. And yet, if we read Romans 5:3-5, we find just the opposite is true. Because God loves us he allows suffering. Tribulation brings about perseverance, and that will develop character in us. And God wants us to have character.
Romans 5:3-5 NIV Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
One day we will be in heaven and we won’t have trials and tribulations, but here on earth, we do experience them. But why should we be surprised? God’s own son suffered on this earth. And he did nothing to bring it on. Suffering is something God allows because of his love for us. And when God’s children suffer, God doesn’t step back. He is right there with us.
10. God meets our needs.
God is our provider. We are told that over and over in Scripture. Whatever your need, God can take care of it.
Philippians 4:19 NIV And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
God has promised something that we can hold onto with both hands. And this is a verse we need to really read carefully. First of all, God says he will meet all our needs, not just some of them. We can have confidence that if we have a legitimate need, God our Father will meet it. What a sense of peace that can give us when our money is small and our bills are big. God is bigger still.
And he doesn’t do it according to how much faith we have, or how much we serve him; he does it according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. What unbelievable love.
Father God, we come before you and we pray that you will help us meditate on what’s true when we have uncertainties in our life. We thank you that there is nothing in our future that is unseen by you. And we thank you that you do not leave us alone, but you are our guide, our strength, and the one who will uphold us. Give peace, Lord, to those who are unsure what lies ahead. Thank you for your Son. It is in his precious name we pray. Amen.
Have you ever questioned God and His timing and asked where He was when you really needed Him. Have you ever asked “where were you God”, when my wife Ruth lost her children, one at 6 months, another at 16, and another at 41? “Where were you God” when the company I relocated from Atlanta from Orlando to join closed its doors less than one month after I moved,? “Where were you God” in the three months that I was unemployed with no unemployment benefits, twice; “where were you God” when my wife of 40 years breathed her last breath? “Where were you God” when ____________________ (you fill in the blank)?
I know that we’ve been taught all our lives, by well meaning people, that He was always there He promised to never leave or forsake you; He promised to give you “peace that passes all understanding”. We’ve probably said those things to people when trying to provide some comfort during a tragic and tying time. Because I’ve asked those questions myself I stop using them when anybody asked me where God was during a tragedy.
J.D. Greear, in his book Not God Enough, says that God is never late after all. While we are looking and waiting God is actually going through with us.
He Wasn't Late After All
excerpted from Not God Enough by J.D. Greear,
Where were you?
It’s a question we’ve all asked of somebody. Their absence or tardiness left us feeling abandoned, helpless, confused, and angry. If the stakes were high, we wondered if that person actually cared about us at all. Those moments when someone I depended on let me down have left me feeling helpless. When friends forget to call. When a trusted colleague doesn’t deliver. When a teammate doesn’t show up.
When the one who fails to show up as expected is God, it does more than disappoint. It can knock your faith off the rails.
“Lord, if You had been here…”
Mary and Martha felt this way about Jesus when their brother Lazarus got sick and died. Jesus, their friend, was not far away, and they had sent an urgent message for Him to come straight away.
So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days. — John 11:6
They waited. And waited. And Lazarus died. Then Jesus showed up. He offered no excuse.
Why hadn’t He come? Didn’t He love them? They thought He did. Everyone referred to Lazarus as the one Jesus loved (John 11:3). Did He not care after all?
Haven’t you felt this way? These are the questions that almost every Christ-follower asks as they pass through a dark valley: Where are You, God? Why haven’t You come? If You had been here... I wouldn’t have failed. My parents wouldn’t have gotten divorced. I wouldn’t have gotten so hurt. My wife wouldn’t have died.
Jesus’s tardiness in coming to Lazarus was not due to a lack of care. As Jesus would explain, God had orchestrated this situation for a greater purpose — to reveal His glory through His control and ultimate victory over all things (John 11:4).
I’ll go ahead and give you the punchline: Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. But along the way, Jesus teaches us what faith in a really big and sometimes confusing God looks like.
Jesus was doing three things in Mary’s and Martha’s pain, and they are what He’s doing in your pain as well.
When Jesus hears firsthand from Mary that Lazarus had died, He weeps (John 11:35). Jesus’s tears have always struck me as a little strange. Didn’t He know He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead? If you know that in less than ten minutes a loved one will be alive, why cry? Instead, why not say to Mary and Martha, “No, no! You don’t need to cry! I’m about to fix everything!”
I am a big college basketball fan, and sometimes games I want to watch happen during our services, so I record them to watch later. Invariably, someone spoils the outcome for me before I get home. If I find out that my team has won, I’m still excited to watch the game because even when something bad happens, I can say, “Who cares? In the end we win.” The bad calls, which normally drive me insane, don’t bother me that much. So why would Jesus weep knowing that in just a few minutes He was about to fix everything? It makes no sense.
But then I had kids, and I realized what it’s like to see someone you really love go through pain, even when you know the pain is temporary.
When your heart is closely knit together with someone else’s, their pain causes you pain.
It’s true that one day God will wipe away every tear and make every sad thing come untrue. To God, that moment seems like it is only seconds away (2 Pet 3:8)! Even so, when we are in pain now, He feels it. He has united His heart with ours. So when our heart is broken, His is too. When we weep, He weeps.
I know that Jesus will one day raise the dead, and I know He will take the worst situations and use them for His glory and my good. But when I’m hurting, maybe the most comforting truth of all is knowing that Jesus weeps with me.
He’s not late because He doesn’t care. He’s late because He’s up to something greater.
When Jesus first heard about Lazarus’s sickness, He emphatically declared that this bout of death would not have the final word.
“But when Jesus heard it He said,
This illness does not lead to death. — John 11:4 ESV
But Lazarus did die! Jesus was looking past Lazarus’s death to his resurrection. This sickness did not lead to death; it led through death to a resurrection. Death was just a brief stop along the way.
When Martha, Lazarus’s other sister, told Jesus about her brother’s death, Jesus responded by saying,
Your brother will rise again. — John 11:23
To be frank, Jesus’s words here seem a little bit insensitive. If I were mentoring a pastor on how to do hospital visits, and this was the first thing he said to the weeping family after someone died, I’d tell him to work on his bedside manner. Imagine a funeral of a wife who tragically lost her husband. You wouldn’t slap her on the back and say, “What are you crying for? Haven’t you read the Left Behind books? It’s called the rapture, sister. Have some faith.”
Jesus wasn’t just offering her a theology lesson about the future. He was attempting to change her perspective on the present. We are to live in present awareness of eternal life. Martha didn’t see that at first, so she responded with a good Sunday school answer, saying,
I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day. — John 11:24
She knew her theology.
Jesus says, But I’m talking about more than resurrection on the last day . . .
I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this? — John 11:25–26
I am the resurrection and the life right now. In other words, I’m already turning the power of death around, using its powers of destruction to glorify My name and heal you. In Me, even when you die, you don’t really die.
To her credit, Martha believes. I suspect that many people in the church today don’t. We still act like our “illness” terminates in death. What scares us about death is that it feels like permanent loss. Someone we loved is gone forever. But Jesus took all these permanent, bitter parts of death into Himself so that none of it remains for us. As Paul explained, Jesus takes away death’s sting (1 Corinthians 15:55).
Jesus took the sting of death into His hands so that in Him we have nothing more to fear. Death, the mighty enemy, has been reduced to a temporary, inconvenient nuisance.
As Jesus walked up to Lazarus’s grave, the apostle John tells us He was “deeply moved” (John 11:38), a Greek phrase indicating not just sadness, but anger — the kind of anger you might feel at someone who has hurt or threatened someone you love. Some scholars say you can translate that word “snorted,” like a bull about to charge into battle. And then, like a fighter, Jesus yells out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” (John 11:43).
Lazarus, who had now been dead for four days, comes staggering out of the grave. By the way, “four days” was significant to Jews because they believed that a person’s spirit hovered above their dead body for three days to see if some miracle might rejoin the soul to the body. By the fourth day Jews believed the spirit had given up hope and gone on to Heaven. Death at four days was considered irreversible.
Not for Jesus. In Him death was finished, and after His resurrection there remains no power that can ever threaten His people. That’s because in dying for His people He took death’s terrible sting.
Jesus told His disciples that the biggest objective He was pursuing in this encounter was God’s glory.
Through every episode of our pain God is writing a story for His glory. Like Mary and Martha, we sometimes can’t see where that story is going, how our pain fits into it, or why Jesus seems to arrive too late to help us. But because of stories like this one, we can rest assured that He is always working.
I’ve heard God’s work in our lives compared to the weaving of a tapestry. On one side you see a beautiful, intricate work of art. But if you lift the corner and look on the backside, you find an erratic and chaotic mess of strands. If all you could see were the backside of a tapestry as it was being woven, you would conclude that nothing beautiful was taking shape. When you flip it and look at it from the front, however, you see that every strand finds its perfect place according to the plan of the artist. One day, God will “flip over” history, and we will see that every strand of our lives was part of a picture God wove together for His glory.
Part of that beauty is something He is weaving into us. Through suffering we come to know Him better. He breaks up our confidence in ourselves. We develop compassion for others. We understand how much better God is than all earthly gifts, how He alone has power over death, and how He is faithful to sustain us even in pain. Through our pain, we experience parts of God we may not otherwise know! These are not easy or cheap lessons. They are costly and often brutal. But they are beautiful.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul says that one day “death will be swallowed up in victory.” When you swallow something, it becomes part of you. Paul doesn’t say that the memory of death will simply vanish. It becomes part of us, making us better for having gone through it. Death itself contributes to God’s beautiful picture.
Excerpted with permission from Not God Enough by J. D. Greear, copyright J. D. Greear.
In Not God Enough, J.D. Greear explains that the thing between you and the vibrant faith you want isn’t answers to all our spiritual questions, but an escape from the small God we’ve imagined in place of an actual encounter with the real, awesome, glorious God of the Bible. Your God is too small. We like God small. We prefer a God who is safe, domesticated, who thinks like we think, likes what we like, and whom we can manage, predict, and control. A small God is convenient. Practical. Manageable. The truth: God is big. Bigger than big. Bigger than all the words we use to say big. Ironically, many today seem turned off by the concept of an awesome, terrifyingly great God. We assume that a God you would need to fear is guilty of some kind of fault. For us, thinking of God as so infinitely greater and wiser than we are and who would cause us to tremble in his presence is a leftover relic from an oppressive, archaic view of religion. But what if this small version of God we’ve created is holding us back from the greatest experience of our lives—from genuine, confident, world-transforming faith? In Not God Enough, J.D. reveals how to discover a God who: is big enough to handle your questions, doubts, and fears is not silent is worthy of worship wants to take you from boring to bold in your faith has a purpose and mission for you on earth is pursuing you right now God is not just a slightly better, slightly smarter version of you. God is infinite and glorious, and an encounter with Him won’t just change the way you think about your faith. It’ll change your entire life. $16.99
Psalm 96:3-4 NIV Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. (Emphasis mine)
The beauty and power of praise that will come to the Lord from the diversity of the nations are greater than the beauty and power that would come to him if the chorus of the redeemed were culturally uniform.
Why Is Diversity Important In The Church?
Cultural diversity is important because our country, workplaces, and schools increasingly consist of various cultural, racial, and ethnic groups. We can learn from one another, but first we must have a level of understanding about each other in order to facilitate collaboration and cooperation. Learning about other cultures helps us understand different perspectives within the world in which we live, and helps dispel negative stereotypes and personal biases about different groups.
In addition, cultural diversity helps us recognize and respect “ways of being” that are not necessarily our own, so that as we interact with others we can build bridges to trust, respect, and understanding across cultures. Furthermore, this diversity makes our country a more interesting place to live, as people from diverse cultures contribute language skills, new ways of thinking, new knowledge, and different experiences.
Cultural diversity supports the idea that every person can make a unique and positive contribution to the larger society because of, rather than in spite of, their differences. Imagine a place where diversity is recognized and respected; various cultural ideas are acknowledged and valued; contributions from all groups are encouraged; people are empowered to achieve their full potential; and differences are celebrated.
Fight, Surrender, or Invest
I John 4:18 NKJV There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
Even though the concerns in our society may not be as new or extreme as we have assumed, they are present. So, how should we approach a broken society?
One option would be to fight back. The Bible is filled with examples of God sending His people to not only speak firmly but also stand in opposition to the injustice in the world. Yet while many Christians have taken brave stands against the marginalization of people, there are also examples of Christians who, in their efforts to stand up for truth, have actually hurt society.
Anytime we find ourselves putting down a community, or group for any reason, means that we have a problem with people, Any hateful feelings you may have toward these people are opposite of the feelings God has for them. Combativeness without compassion is always going to be counterproductive.
Another response would be to surrender to society. But because society is always in flux, it’s impossible to have a consistent worldview when we’re eager to go along with society. We should never change our orthodox beliefs to line up with a culture that is constantly changing.
A third option is to invest in society with empathy and conviction. As opposed to words such as fight and surrender, the word invest paints a picture of people giving of themselves to improve the world around them. It means that you and I don’t just write blogs or talk boldly about cultural problems; we sacrifice and invest in the lives of others in society.
Invest is another way of saying the word engage. Engagement encompasses learning about a certain context or group of people to better understand them. Developing relationships with people not like us or people who might intimidate us is so necessary. Our differences with people should drive us to them, not from them.
This third option makes the most sense. When we’re afraid of what tomorrow holds for society and respond by fighting against people, surrendering to misguided ideas, or simply showing indifference to growing causes around the world, we’re choosing to mistreat and devalue others. Not only is dismissing people never a valid option, but it isn’t pleasing to God. - From God Of Tomorrow 5 Day Reading Plan by Caleb Kaltenbach
Unity in diversity is more beautiful and more powerful than the unity of uniformity. When their diversity unites in worship to God, the beauty of their praise will echo the depth and greatness of God’s beauty far more than if the redeemed were from only a few different people groups.
“Diversity is the one true thing we have in common. Celebrate it every day.”
“Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!”
“Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!”
The success of the Superman franchise is testimony to the character’s enduring popularity. As versatile as he is powerful, the Man of Steel has flown from comic books to radio to movies highlighted by ever more sophisticated special effects.
Psalm 18 is David's expression of confidence in and thanksgiving to the Ultimate Superhero, God Almighty!
Psalm 18 was written by David after his deliverance from Saul and from others who hated and opposed him. Many believe that it was written when David was old and He praised God as he recalled God’s mercy and deliverance. Others think that he actually wrote it when he was young, after God delivered him from his many early adversities. In the psalm he gives glory to God, and takes comfort in Him because of His past favor, and in anticipation of future favor.
Like David we should, in our praise, look as far back as we can, and thank God for His protection, His, grace, His mercy, and His salvation through His Son Jesus; and we should look forward with anticipation for more of the same, as my Pastor loves to say, we move from glory, to glory, to glory.
Is Anybody Up There?
by Gary D. Robinson
It was always the same. Episode after episode, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, two of the only three reporters the Daily Planet could afford, rushed off in pursuit of a “scoop” only to be scooped up by the bad guys.
Did these two have the good sense to worry? Of course not! For, in the guise of Clark Kent, their mild-mannered colleague, Superman was always watching out for them. Lois and Jimmy knew they could depend on Superman.
He bursts through the brick wall. The adobe bounces and the dust flies and there he stands! Out come the villains’ guns. How I love George Reeves’ classically bored expression as the bullets bounce harmlessly off his chest!
“Oh, Superman!” gushes Lois. “You saved us again!”
With a wry grin, Reeves would reply, “That’s my job, isn’t it, Miss Lane?”
Wouldn’t it be a comfort to have somebody like Superman watching out for us? Got a flat and no jack? No problem for the Man of Steel! He can pick up the car, hold ‘er steady while we change the tire, and never even break a sweat!
But why waste such a magnificent creature on small stuff? Save him for when we’re stricken with a fatal disease. Why, he can fly into the future, retrieve the cure, and be back before one second has ticked by! (George Reeves never did that, but the comic book hero used to all the time.)
Did Mom and Dad break up? Superman can fix it. . Am I saddled with some fear or compulsion, habit or addiction? You know the Man of Tomorrow must be able to help!
After all, that’s why they call him “Superman,” isn’t it?
But, let’s face it; reality is more steel than Superman will ever be made of. And fantasizing does little to salve our suffering.
Well, what about God, then? He’s real, isn’t He? Yes, I believe He is. He loves us, doesn’t He? Yes, I believe He does. Well, why doesn’t He rescue us when we’re in trouble?
You know, sometimes He does. If you listen to the “Focus on the Family” radio program, you may remember hearing the dramatic story of Duane Miller. He was a minister who loved to preach and sing. Then Duane lost his voice and plunged into a pit of despair. Did God rescue him? Did He! Not only did He restore Duane’s voice, He allowed the miracle to be audiotaped as it happened!
King David knew how God could rescue. He’d pulled David’s fat out of the fire more than once.
And David loved to make up songs – Psalms, we call them – about these rescues. “The sorrows of death compassed me,” sings David in the eighteenth Psalm. “The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.
Psalm 18:4-5 NIV The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.
In David’s distress, he calls on the Lord. Then, by George, things start to happen!
Psalm 18:7-10 NIV The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry. Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind.
David’s description of God’s ride to the rescue includes lightning, hail, and coals of fire. About the only thing missing is His bursting through a brick wall!
But David knew the other side of the coin too. The 18th Psalm is a song of triumph. Flip forward a couple pages in your Bible, however, and you’ll find David singing a different tune”
Psalm 22:1 NIV My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?
The favor he quaffs in Psalms 18 is flung back into his face.
Psalm 22:7-8 NIV All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. “He trusts in the Lord ,” they say, “let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”
One thing about the Bible, it’s realistic. Pollyanna didn’t write it, and you do get the bitter with the sweet.
But the question remains: Why must we have the bitter at all? Especially if God loves us?
And we’re not talking about flat tires or even the flu. We’re wondering why we’re dealt such cruel and continuous blows. Here’s a thirty-eight-year-old mother of two bereft of a husband and a father for her children. Here’s a lady who’s being fed a steady diet of contempt by her philandering mate. Here’s a kid who has to cope with dope on the playground and no hope at home. Here’s a world where “Look! Up in the sky!” is just an invitation to look at a bird or a plane . . . .or a particularly dark cloud.
Is there anybody — anybody — to rescue us?
Believe me, beloved, if I didn’t think there was, you wouldn’t be hearing this.
Is God interested in you? The Bible says so.
Just read the first few verses of Psalms 139 and be convinced.
Psalm 139:1-6, 17-18 NIV You have searched me, Lord , and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord , know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.
Does God love you? Again, the Bible says so.
John 3:16 NIV For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Romans 5:8 NIV But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
1 John 3:1 NIV See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
Psalm 103:11 NIV For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;
Shall I go on?
“All right, then. If He loves me so darn much, why doesn’t He rescue me?”
It all depends on what we want to be rescued from. We don’t have time to fathom all the deep questions of suffering and evil. Suffice it to say that evil and suffering are part of life. God doesn’t rescue us from life.
Instead, He rescues us from meaningless, purposeless, hopeless living.
I personally don’t have a dramatic testimony. (Wish I did. It really wows a crowd!) I was raised in a good home, brought up to know right from wrong, taken to church. I married an excellent woman and the Lord blessed us with two excellent kids. I’ve had my troubles, sure, but nothing major. So what do I have to say to those of you who really wonder whether God loves you?
Just this: I don’t think, I know – if it weren’t for Jesus Christ, my life would be a wreck
In the first place, He gives me a Meaning without which I would surely despair. I know who I am: I am one who was loved by God before time began. No, I’m not afraid to say it, I am the apple of His eye, the cream in His coffee, and the sugar in His tea.
How do I know this? Easy. “The Bible tells me so.” It tells you the same.
What’s more, He gives me a Purpose without which I, for one, would flounder miserably in life. It’s not that I know I’m to be a preacher so much as it is I know the purpose of life in general. Beloved, I know what to do whether I stand before a congregation with a Bible before me or before an wall with a bucket of paint beside me. Whether preacher, plumber, or paperback writer, I must live to please God. For that is the whole duty of man.
How do I know this? Elementary. “The Bible tells me so.” You too.
Ecclesiastes 12:13 NIV Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.
Finally, He gives me a Hope that is greater than circumstances. It’s a hope without which I think I would commit suicide. Without it, even a relatively undamaged life like mine is just a wind-up clock running down. With it, the world can do its worst. Ultimately, it won’t matter.
My late brother-in-law, a man who had to surrender this life at a mere 41 years of age, died with that hope. My sister, who must live without her husband, lives with that hope. It’s the hope of a city, a glory, a hope of seeing the very face of God in a place where they’ll never ever be separated from on another again.
It’s the hope of a whole new world, a place that’ll make this place at its best look like a shoddy, painted doll beside a man’s sweetheart. A place where we can never ever feel afraid, even if we try.
How do I know this? You know. The same way I know Jesus loves me. “The Bible tells me so.” And so it tells you.
What you have to do is believe what it tells you. That’s what makes the difference.
He didn’t come in a rocket, but in a manger. He didn’t deflect bullets nor heft autos. Instead, He sweated bullets of blood and bore the awful weight of our sin upon the cross.
Look! Up on the cross! It’s the love of God come down to us in Jesus Christ!
Colossians 1:27 NIV To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
When we go to the movies or read stories, the heroes are always the ones who can do more. They have a special ability or a special story. Whether it’s immense brainpower, super speed, or strong magic - each time we recognize who the hero is because of what they can do. But God’s heroes are never those people.
He never chooses the ones everyone else would choose. He looks for the disadvantaged, the small, the scared, the unlearned and he transforms them into testimonies for His glory!
Apart from God, David was never going to be more than a shepherd. He was never going to slay giants or conquer armies until God pointed at him and said, you are my chosen.
God has done the same to you.
Psalm 18:1-50 NIV I love you, Lord , my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the Lord , who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies. The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called to the Lord ; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry. Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him— the dark rain clouds of the sky. Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning. The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them. The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, Lord , at the blast of breath from your nostrils. He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord ; I am not guilty of turning from my God. All his laws are before me; I have not turned away from his decrees. I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin. The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight. To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd. You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty. You, Lord , keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop ; with my God I can scale a wall. As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord ’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the Lord ? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great. You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way. I pursued my enemies and overtook them; I did not turn back till they were destroyed. I crushed them so that they could not rise; they fell beneath my feet. You armed me with strength for battle; you humbled my adversaries before me. You made my enemies turn their backs in flight, and I destroyed my foes. They cried for help, but there was no one to save them— to the Lord , but he did not answer. I beat them as fine as windblown dust; I trampled them like mud in the streets. You have delivered me from the attacks of the people; you have made me the head of nations. People I did not know now serve me, foreigners cower before me; as soon as they hear of me, they obey me. They all lose heart; they come trembling from their strongholds. The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior! He is the God who avenges me, who subdues nations under me, who saves me from my enemies. You exalted me above my foes; from a violent man you rescued me. Therefore I will praise you, Lord , among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name. He gives his king great victories; he shows unfailing love to his anointed, to David and to his descendants forever.
In the past several weeks I’ve published two posts about God’s relationship to mankind. In the first, “God Is A Globalist Not A Nationalist” the post points out that Scripture is clear that God respects no nation’s boundaries He's a globalist not a nationalist. In the model prayer that Jesus taught His disciples He said pray;
Matthew 6:9-10 NIV “This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
That kingdom has no geographic boundaries.
The last thing that Jesus said to his disciples was to go into to all the word not as a nation but to make disciples, and citizens of God’s Kingdom.
Matthew 28:18-20 NIV Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
“Today 60 % of all Christians inhabit regions equaling two-thirds of the world’s area: Asia, Africa and Latin America. We find more Christians attending worship in China than in all of Western Europe. Today in Scotland, less than ten percent of Christians attend church, while in the Philippines this morning, you will find seventy percent of that nation’s Christians in the pews. In Nigeria alone, there are seven times as many Anglicans as there are Episcopalians in the United States. Korea now has four times as many Presbyterians as we have in this country.
There are black faces, brown faces, yellow faces, red faces, white faces. With flat noses and pointed noses, black eyes, brown eyes and blue eyes, round and almond-shaped eyes. All of them, our sisters and brothers from every tribe and nation, are gathered in this morning’s joyful feast of the people of God.” - From the Sermon Cracks In The Wall by Victor D. Pentz
Galatians 3:28 (NLT2) There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
That's globalism not nationalism!
The second post was “God Is A Globalist And Not A Nationalist, And He Loves Diversity”. In that post I point out that God is all about diversity as evidence by the diversities of the Gifts of the Spirit for the church.
I Corinthians 12:4-6 NKJV There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.
“The Church is called to be a Christ-centered community of diversity. “In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28).
Too often the divisions of the world are brought right into the church. Instead of reflecting the light of Christ, we mirror the broken world. Women are discriminated against, racial segregation persists and whenever an international conflict arises, those in the church are frequently uncritical cheerleaders for our nation’s side in the hostility.
What can we do to live with our differences in a way that honors Christ and is good for the church?
First, open your own life to change. In 1 Corinthians 13 the scripture tells us, “Love does not demand its own way.”
Second, recognize that you don’t have the right to judge the motives of others. “Who are you to pass judgment on the servants of another? It is before their own Lord that they stand or fall” (Romans 14:4).
Third, we need to recognize that there is sometimes more than one right way to think and to behave. The choice is not always between right and wrong. Yes, some things are black and white, evil or good. Don’t allow controversy over opinions to be the center of your conversation. Welcome one another. “Welcome one another … but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions.” (Romans 15:1; Romans 14:1).
Fourth, we need to recognize that no one of us, and no single group of people like us, can stand alone. We need each other to do what God calls us to do in the world. As Paul wrote, “We do not live to ourselves and we do not die to ourselves.”” - From the Sermon Diversity: Living With Diversity Romans 14:1-9 by Craig M. Watts
What Does the Bible Say About Racism?
By Megan Bailey (Bold emphasis mine)
God makes it clear that no man is superior to another.
Racism: prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.
The civil rights movement happened over 50 years ago, yet we still have a lack of understanding about how to treat each other with respect. Racism isn’t a problem we can ignore as it’s a very pertinent issue in today’s society.
As Christians, we should seek to understand how God wants us to react to racism. The Bible is the source of knowledge for Christians, and it directly addresses the problem. Racism has been an issue throughout history, including when the Bible was written.
Stories of Racism in the Bible
The problem of racism can be found in Bible stories. God chose to work with the nation of Israel, however made it a point to tell them that they were not superior to anyone else because of this. Leviticus 19:34 states “the stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
Despite this, some felt that Israel and its descendants were racially superior to those around them because they descended from Abraham. They believed that their salvation was completely secure because of their lineage. John the Baptist told them “Do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones” (Matthew 3:9).
God told Peter what had always been true; that “God is no respecter of persons”
Acts 10:34 (NLT2) Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism.
The Gentiles were just as much of God’s plan as those in Israel and no group was superior to the other. Peter spoke to them and stated “But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him”
Acts 10:35 (NLT2) In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right.
Nationality, lineage and race never determined where the Israelites or gentiles stood with God. People like Ruth, Rehab, and Luke were all gentiles who came to God. In contrast, God’s chosen people of Israel suffered defeat and near-annihilation because they consistently disobeyed God’s Word. It is clear that God does not support the authority of any ethnic group above another.
Racism is a Sin Against God
Most people know that racism is wrong. But as Christians, we should seek to understand why it’s morally wrong in the eyes of God as well. Through more education, we can better explain to others why racism shouldn't be tolerated and how to overcome the distorted thinking.
Most Christians know that Genesis 1:27 says that we were all made in the image of God. No matter what color you are, you are no more worthy or deserving of dignity than any other human. In addition, all believers of Christ are one with Christ. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.
Galatians 3:28-29 (NLT2)28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.29 Our most important identity is not our gender, socioeconomic status or race; it’s that we are Christian. We continue to be more alike than we are different because we are all cut from the same cloth. We are brothers and sisters in Christ.
Christ came down to earth to break down the walls between people, not to build them up
Ephesians 2:14-16 (NLT2)14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.
We have all been made in the image of Christ and were born into the same dark world. How can we not all draw near to each other as members of this same family?
Being partial to a group of people over another in itself is a sin according to James 2.1.
James 2:1 (NLT2) My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?
When we treat people differently and build up space to create an “us” vs. “them” mentality, we are not reflecting God.
Spreading the love of God is one of the best arguments against racism. Matthew 22:39-40 says that real love loves as we hoped to be loved.
Matthew 22:37-40 (NLT2)37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
No one can honestly say that racism treats our neighbors as how we would like to be treated. You cannot share love and find the best in people when your life is filled with prejudice, ignorance and misguided convictions. But true love rejoices in finding what is best in others.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT2)4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
Reconciliation With God
The good news is that despite what racial tendencies you may have had in the past, they can be forgiven if you choose to accept God into your heart truthfully and ask for His forgiveness. The Gospel tells us that we aren’t just brought near to God, we are also brought near to those we once considered so different from ourselves
Ephesians 2:11-13 (NLT2)11 Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts.12 In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope.13 But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.
God will help you restore your relationships with groups you mistreated. It’s important to not only reconcile with God, but to remove the prejudice and restore relationships with those you once hurt. You can create healthy relationships that create appreciation for each other.
God can bring peace where there was once violence and kindness where there was once anger. He does this within our hearts when we accept Him, and do so again with others. Since we belong to Jesus, we are a part of His movement to bring more reconciliation between people and God.
2 Corinthians 5:18-20 (NLT2)18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
As His representatives, we have the opportunity to share how the life-changing message of the Gospel creates a healthy relationship with God and healthy relationships between people, no matter who they are.
I recently published God Is A Globalist Not A Nationalist. He is also all about diversity. He proves it through the diversities of the Gifts of the Spirit for the church.
I Corinthians 12:4-6 NKJV There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.
1 Corinthians 14:12 NLT And the same is true for you. Since you are so eager to have the special abilities the Spirit gives, seek those that will strengthen the whole church.
Ephesians 4:11-14 NLT Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.
These following are excerpts from a sermon by Craig Watts, pastor of Royal Palm Christian Church in Coral Springs Florida. In his sermon Pastor Watts talks about God’s will for the Church to be a Christ-centered community of diversity. (To read the complete sermon go to Preaching.com)
Diversity: Living with Diversity Romans 14:1-9
Craig M. Watts (Full text of Scriptures added by me) (Bold mine)
Romans 14:1-9 NLT Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval. In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead.
Whether or not we are big fans of diversity, the fact is we are experiencing more and more of it. And it comes in all forms: a greater range of entertainment options, a wider selection of foods at the supermarket, more car companies and models than ever before, more ethnic restaurants and the list goes on. During a routine trip to the mall, it’s not that unusual to overhear two or three foreign languages. If you go to the hospital some of the doctors treating you are likely to be from India, Egypt, South Africa or any number of other places.
Some people are enthusiastic about this increase in diversity. They see the richness of the difference as something that benefits us all. The mix of cultures and races and opinions provide opportunities to learn from others and grow in understanding. Hence, many call us to celebrate diversity. But others are not ready to party. Instead of finding reason for joy, some find reason for fear and insecurity and even hostility. The old rules we used to take for granted have been shaken. Cherished convictions are challenged. Diversity has led to division: political, racial, gender, cultural and economic division. There has always been some of this, but now it seems to be more prevalent.
But God has something to say about all of this. The church is what God has to say. The Church is called to be a Christ-centered community of diversity. Its very life proclaims the power of God to overcome the divisions that set people against each other. In his letter to the Galatians, the apostle Paul announced, “In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28). The church is to live as a people touched by God's grace and no longer defined by the divisions that plague the world.
At least that’s what God expects. But that is not what we find in far too many cases. Too often the divisions of the world are brought right into the church. Instead of reflecting the light of Christ, we mirror the broken world. Women are discriminated against, racial segregation persists and whenever an international conflict arises, those in the church are frequently uncritical cheerleaders for our nation’s side in the hostility. But on top of all that, the church has its own problems with diversity. Differences in practice and opinion become occasions for distrust and fragmentation.
Among ecumenically minded Christians, unity in diversity has been one of our strong values. But as I recently heard it said, we sing our hosannas to the principal, but in practice too quickly we hear the cries, “Crucify him, crucify him.” No matter how much we claim that we value diversity, living with it is tough work.
But it’s always been that way, all the way back to the first century. Differences between church members have strained the fabric of fellowship. In the scripture passage that we are considering we find an ancient church that is no dealing with its diversity very well.
In the Roman church, the threat of division was over whether or not it was more spiritual to be vegetarian. You had the salad group and the steak group. And some argued over whether or not to celebrate special holy days. They took these issues very seriously. Naturally, we tend to think that our issues are much more important. They probably aren’t.
Differences don’t have to divide.
Why do they? At work, in society, in church, why does diversity so often bring hurtful divisions?
First of all, we tend to be wary of those who are different from us. When people look, or act, or even think unlike the way we do, we’re not sure what to expect of them. They make us uncomfortable, even fearful. And in our fear we may even be tempted to strike out.
Not long ago two brothers, Matthew and Tyler Williams, were arrested for murder. The police believe they committed the shotgun slaying of a gay couple in California. Evidence also links them to the arson fires of three synagogues. Not many of us are inclined to kill or destroy property because of the differences we face. But sometimes we do have a shoot first, ask questions later, approach. We don’t normally shoot at someone’s body but we might take pot shots at their character. And we feel justified. We imagine we have to defend ourselves. But it’s all in our minds. The person who differs from us isn’t necessarily against us.
There is a second closely related reason why differences can bring division. We attribute bad motives to the actions of others. If our viewpoint or values are challenged by someone, it may hurt our feelings. We may get angry. If someone hurts or angers us, most of us have a hard time believing that other person’s heart is pure. The religious leaders in Jesus’ time certainly weren’t happy that He challenged them. They questioned His motives. They even claimed that the healings He performed were done by demonic power. Of course it was His accusers who had the real problem.
Studs Terkel tells a story of a friend of his, a progressive older woman. For years she had opposed Jim Crow laws, fought segregation and supported civil rights. But one day a disturbing thing happened as she drove into a section of town almost entirely populated by African American people. As her car moved down the street she saw folks gesture wildly at her. They were shouting at her car, but she couldn’t hear what was being said. Person after person yelled and waved their hands at her. She was certain of one thing: these people were threatening. Finally after driving a few more blocks she made a discovery. She had been driving the wrong way on a one-way street. The people she thought were threatening her were in fact trying to help her.
A third reason diversity can bring division is because people with different values or interests can become destructively competitive. Some time back I heard a news report about the ineffectiveness of the California delegation in the U.S. Congress. California has more representatives than any other state. You’d think they could accomplish a lot. But the representatives apparently have a knack for paying more attention to what makes them different from each other than seeing what they share in common. So rather than working together to promote the interests of the entire state, each representative works only for the interests of his or her little piece of the state. In the end all suffer.
It can be that way in the church, too. People can become so intent on defending turf or promoting the interests of the few that they forget the mission of all. Jesus prayed for His people saying, “I ask … that they may all be one … so that the world may believe You have sent Me.” (John 17:20-21) We can all contribute to the mission of the church. But the mission of the church as a whole rather than the interests of those most like us must be the primary concern.
Well, differences are not going to just fade away in society or in church.
So what can we do?
What can we do to live with our differences in a way that honors Christ and is good for the church?
First, open your own life to change. Naturally we want the people who differ with us to make the change. We tend to make our own practices and opinions the standard of truth. There is an old “Cathy” cartoon strip that speaks to this. Cathy is walking along with another woman, talking about her boyfriend. “I know Irving and I are totally different people, Andrea. But we keep coming back to each other,” says Cathy. With a look of love on her face she continues, “Down deep, I think we both want exactly the same thing.” Then with a frustrated expression in the last frame she says, “We both want the other person to change.” That’s the way it is with us, isn’t it? But we need to be open to change, too. In 1 Corinthians 13 the scripture tells us, “Love does not demand its own way.”
Romans 13:8-10 NLT Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.
Second, recognize that you don’t have the right to judge the motives of others. To attribute bad motives on the part of people who differ with us is to guarantee trouble. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, “Who are you to pass judgment on the servants of another? It is before their own Lord that they stand or fall” (Romans 14:4).
Third, we need to recognize that there is sometimes more than one right way to think and to behave. The choice is not always between right and wrong. Yes, some things are black and white, evil or good. But most aren’t. Many decisions are based on taste, preference or tradition. God is equally honored by vegetarians as by carnivores. God can equally be honored by an organ or a kazoo. Decisions in these matters are not about right and wrong. So the apostle Paul writes in our Scripture text, “Welcome one another … but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions.” (Romans 15:1; Romans 14:1) In other words, don’t make a big deal over differences. Don’t allow controversy over opinions to be the center of your conversation. Welcome one another.
Fourth, we need to recognize that no one of us, and no single group of people like us, can stand alone. We need each other to do what God calls us to do in the world. Only as we live with each other, differences and all, are we whole, healthy and prepared to serve God. All of us are flawed. All of us need to be forgiven; so, too, we need to forgive. When we come together with our brokenness, together we can serve God. As Paul wrote, “We do not live to ourselves and we do not die to ourselves.”
Some years ago in the Durham, North Carolina Morning Herald there was a story about two female musicians who performed together. One was black and the other, white. They called their duo Ebony and Ivory. Both of the women were handicapped. One had lost her left hand in an accident. The other had lost her right hand. Neither knew of the other, but both were brokenhearted after the tragedy they had individually faced. Each of them believed she would never again experience the joy of her life, the joy of creating the sound of music.
But a third woman heard of the plight of the injured musicians and put them in contact with each other. When the two one-handed pianists came together, they found that each could supplement the loss of the other. Together they could again play their beloved piano. When the black hand and the white hand were skillfully coordinated with each other, the maimed musicians could coax beautiful sounds from the instrument.
God calls us together in our brokenness and with our differences. God has given us to each other. Each supplements what is missing in the other. Together and only together with our differences are we whole and ready to serve. So in the words of scripture, “Welcome one another … just as Christ has welcomed you for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7).
More from one of my favorite arthurs.
From Vanishing Grace
by Philip Yancey
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.
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.