Psalm 144:1-15 (NLT)1 Praise the LORD, who is my rock. He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle.2 He is my loving ally and my fortress, my tower of safety, my rescuer. He is my shield, and I take refuge in him. He makes the nations submit to me.
3 O LORD, who are we that you should notice us, mere mortals that you should care for us?4 For we are like a breath of air; our days are like a passing shadow.5 Open the heavens, LORD, and come down. Touch the mountains so they billow smoke.6 Hurl your lightning bolts and scatter your enemies! Shoot your arrows and confuse them!7 Reach down from heaven and rescue me; rescue me from deep waters, from the power of my enemies.8 Their mouths are full of lies; they swear to tell the truth, but they lie instead.9 I will sing a new song to you, O God! I will sing your praises with a ten-stringed harp.10 For you grant victory to kings! You rescued your servant David from the fatal sword.11 Save me! Rescue me from the power of my enemies. Their mouths are full of lies; they swear to tell the truth, but they lie instead.12 May our sons flourish in their youth like well-nurtured plants. May our daughters be like graceful pillars, carved to beautify a palace.13 May our barns be filled with crops of every kind. May the flocks in our fields multiply by the thousands, even tens of thousands,14 and may our oxen be loaded down with produce. May there be no enemy breaking through our walls, no going into captivity, no cries of alarm in our town squares.15 Yes, joyful are those who live like this! Joyful indeed are those whose God is the LORD.
David Blesses God For His Mercy Both To Him And To Mankind
Psalm 144 may have been compiled from two or more different Psalms, and written after David’s putting down his son Absalom’s rebellion. In verses 1-11 the writer David praises God for His past blessings. He uses words similar to those in Psalm 8 to confess his humility before asking for help.
Psalm 8:3-4 (NLT)3 When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers— the moon and the stars you set in place--4 what are people that you should think about them, mere mortals that you should care for them?
He then asks that God deliver him from His enemies because they have broken treaties and brought false charges against him. Here here are references similar to those in Psalms 18 and 104.
Psalm 18:6-15 (NLT)6 But in my distress I cried out to the LORD; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears.7 Then the earth quaked and trembled. The foundations of the mountains shook; they quaked because of his anger.8 Smoke poured from his nostrils; fierce flames leaped from his mouth. Glowing coals blazed forth from him.9 He opened the heavens and came down; dark storm clouds were beneath his feet.10 Mounted on a mighty angelic being, he flew, soaring on the wings of the wind.11 He shrouded himself in darkness, veiling his approach with dark rain clouds.12 Thick clouds shielded the brightness around him and rained down hail and burning coals.13 The LORD thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded amid the hail and burning coals.14 He shot his arrows and scattered his enemies; his lightning flashed, and they were greatly confused.15 Then at your command, O LORD, at the blast of your breath, the bottom of the sea could be seen, and the foundations of the earth were laid bare.
Psalm 104:1-4 (NLT)1 Let all that I am praise the LORD. O LORD my God, how great you are! You are robed with honor and majesty.2 You are dressed in a robe of light. You stretch out the starry curtain of the heavens;3 you lay out the rafters of your home in the rain clouds. You make the clouds your chariot; you ride upon the wings of the wind.4 The winds are your messengers; flames of fire are your servants.
At the end of this section of the Psalm David promises to praise God for his deliverance
In verses 12-15 David prays not for himself but asks that God give His people Israel peace and prosperity.
When we read and meditate on Psalm 144, today, we can give God the glory for our spiritual privileges and advancements, and ask Him to deliver us from our enemies in spiritual warfare. We can pray for our spiritual prosperity, and that of our families, friends, the Church, and our nation.
Last month I published a series of three posts on the trials and tribulations of Christians (If You “Trust God Every Trial Can Be A Blessing Even Though I Doesn’t Look That Way At The Time”, “Your Trials Can Help Others”, and “Why God Allows Trial And Temptation”).
In “Trust God Every Trial Can Be A Blessing Even Though I Doesn’t Look That Way At The Time”, is the statement’ “Maybe you are facing a major difficulty right now. It may be an illness or guilt or a financial problem or strain in a relationship. Does God have a word for you while you’re going through your difficulty? Absolutely. God is saying to you, “Don’t give up. Grow up.” Fulfill the purpose of your difficulty — becoming more and more the person he created you to be.
In “Your Trials Can Help Others”; “Though the typical human response is to avoid pain at all costs, Paul calls Christians to accept their trials in light of the fact that God suffers with us and because God causes good things to come from our difficulties Suffering is part of being united with Jesus, but suffering is temporary.”
In “Why God Allows Trial And Temptation”; is this;
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. — James 1:12-17
Remember, sin is that which is anti-God. Therefore, God will never lead someone to sin; doing so goes against His very nature.
However, He will test believers by putting them through difficult training that will both strengthen them and reveal their current conditions (like a refiner’s fire).
Both situations involve challenge. How do we know then if it’s a temptation or a trial? We don’t — that’s God’s business. In either situation, we are to remain faithful to the Lord and believe He will reveal the reason in due time. If we are obedient in a temptation, we will resist the Devil, and he will flee from us. If we’re obedient in a trial, we will emerge stronger than ever. We must believe by faith that God has our best interests in mind and not doubt His love or provision regardless of the circumstances we are going through.”
Recently I read something written by Rick Warren. He writes about the struggles of family following the suicide of his son and the very public reaction to it. In this devotion Rick says that God used the most difficult trial that he has ever endured to set him free.
God Can Use Your Trials to Set You Free
By Rick Warren
“You let captors set foot on our neck; then we went through fire and water and you led us out to freedom” (Psalm 66:12 NAB).
You’ll face trials in life, no doubt about it.
But God will use them to free you.
In fact, sometimes what others expect will enslave you, God uses to liberate you. He’ll use them to set you free from the expectations and opinions of others.
The Bible says it like this: “You let captors set foot on our neck; then we went through fire and water and you led us out to freedom” (Psalm 66:12 NAB).
God wants you to be free. The Bible says the truth will set you free. But truth often comes with a high cost.
Four years ago my youngest son died. You might have heard the story. He had struggled with mental health his entire life. He had a troubled mind but a tender heart.
The day he took his life was the worst day of my life. I’ll never forget it.
But to make matters worse, Satan tried to take advantage of it. Critics came out in full force, saying horrible things about my family. You’d see them on TV, in magazines, and on blogs. They celebrated and laughed at his death. It was brutal, public, and constant. I thought I was going through Hell itself.
But God walked with me every step of the way. During this time, someone asked me how I was doing and I responded, “Honestly, I feel fearless.”
I wasn’t afraid. All I kept thinking was, “Satan, is that all you can throw at me? Are those critics the best you have?”
I’m not afraid of anything anymore. I’m living for an audience of one. Sometimes God uses tough times to wean you off an addiction to other people’s approval. You just don’t need it to be happy.
God Can Use Your Trials to Set You Free - Daily Hope with Rick Warren - October 20, 2017
Yesterday my post,“The Key To Growth As A Prayer Warrior Is Consistency In Training And Conditioning”, was about the importance of consistency in training in spiritual warfare. I read something today that we can use as a test that we can give ourselves to see if our conditioning and training is working. It was in a devotion written by Adrian Rogers of Love Worth Finding Ministries. The scripture references are mine.
Are You a Growing Christian?
By Adrian Rogers
Are you growing? Here are some ways you can tell.
What do you think about?
One of the first signs that you are growing in Christ is that you think about what Jesus has done on your behalf. You reflect upon it and you praise Him for it. Your sins are forgiven and you’re on your way to heaven. What a glorious thought!
John 10:11 (NLT) “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.
Romans 7:24-25 (NLT)24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT) For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
Galatians 1:3-5 (NLT)3 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.4 Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live.5 All glory to God forever and ever! Amen.
What are you doing with your life?
You’re saved, but you don’t stop there. You develop muscles and become a strong warrior to the glory of God. You become an active member of the Lord’s army.
Romans 8:35-37 (NLT)35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”)37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
Let me ask you: Is the devil afraid of you?
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NLT)3 We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do.
4 We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.5 We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.
James 4:7-8 (NLT)7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.
Are you an overcomer or are you overcome?
John 16:32-33 (NLT)32 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
1 John 5:4-5 (NLT)4 For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.5 And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
If you are saved and still sitting on the sidelines, shame on you! Indeed, shame on all of us if we’re not exhorting and encouraging one another to lay down our lives to get into active service for our Lord!
Are you evangelizing and disciplining others?
Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT)18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
2 Corinthians 5:19-21 (NLT)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!”21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
A father is one who has children. Do you have any spiritual children? This is a mark of a growing Christian--that you are multiplying yourself (what God did in you) by sharing it with others. When you appear before the throne of God, will you be standing there alone? Or will you be standing with children you have “parented” in Christ?
Do you know why we have so many flabby Christians? They come down the aisle of the church, get baptized, then come Sunday after Sunday and just sit, soak, and sour. They do not exercise. They don’t have daily quiet times; they’re not sharing Christ in their communities and neighborhoods; they’re not ministering in their church.
Joshua 1:8 (NLT) Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.
Psalm 1:2 (NLT) But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night.
Psalm 119:105 (NLT) Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.
Taken from “How To Be a Growing Christian” by Love Worth Finding Ministries (used by permission).
As many of you who follow my blogs know, the Study Group that I lead just finished a study of the book Prayer Warrior: Praying Your Way To Victory by Stormie Omartian. One of the things that we learned about being a prayer warrior is that, just as any soldier, it’s necessary to be consistent in our training and conditioning, and in the use of our weapons. We must physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared and ready for battle at all times.
1 Peter 5:8 (NLT) Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
God has already equipped us, but it’s up to us to be consistent in our conditioning so that we don’t lose our edge.
2 Peter 1:3 (NLT) By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.
Ephesians 6:13-18 (NLT)Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
Spend Time with God in Prayer
We get power because we spend time with God in prayer.
Acts 1:4-8 (NLT)4 Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before.5 John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”6 So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”7 He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know.8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Live in a Way That Pleases God
The first way to please God is to keep His commandments and laws, and we get them from the Bible. That’why it’s important to read and study it.
Hebrews 2:1 (NLT) So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it.
Jesus equated keeping the Commandments and laws with loving Him.
John 14:23-26 (NLT)23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me.25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you.26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.
Acknowledge God’s Call to Holiness
Holiness is a desire of the heart to please God and an invitation to the Holy Spirit to do what it takes in us to make us more like Him. A life of holiness is a life of power and significance because God can use you powerfully and significantly.
1 Peter 1:15-16 (NLT)15 But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.16 For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”
Get Rid of Anything in Your Life That Is Not Glorifying to God
Things of the flesh don’t glorify God. Separating ourselves from things that do not glorify God is a matter of reverencing Him. It means we have the fear of God in our heart. And having the fear of God means we know there are consequences for not having it—the greatest of which is separation from God.
Galatians 5:19-23 (NLT)19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures,20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division,21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Refuse All Pride
Pride is the main characteristic of the enemy. That is what caused Satan’s downfall. When we become full of pride, we align ourselves with the enemy.
Isaiah 14:12-15 (NLT)12 “How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning! You have been thrown down to the earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world.13 For you said to yourself, ‘I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars. I will preside on the mountain of the gods far away in the north.14 I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High.’15 Instead, you will be brought down to the place of the dead, down to its lowest depths.
While we shouldn’t see ourselves as worth less than God sees us, we should never think of ourselves as worth more than anyone else. Pride causes us to compare ourselves to other people when we should only compare ourselves to God’s standards.
Romans 12:3 (NLT)3 Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.
Fulfill God’s Command to Love Others
This doesn’t mean that you have to hang with everybody, but it does mean that you must care about their welfare, not talk about them or ignore them. Even with those of us that are the most unlovable.
Matthew 22:34, 36-36, 38-39 (NLT) But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
John 13:34-35 (NLT)34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
1 John 4:20-21 (NLT)20 If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see?21 And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters.
Take Care Of Your Body
Now we know that we all age and with age come some limits on what we can physically do. But we shouldn't do things that we know cause sickness or break down our bodies. We need to do what we can do to protect the temple of the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (NLT) Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
Separate Yourself from the Ungodly
If you hang around the ungodly you can be contaminated.
Galatians 5:9 (NLT) This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough!
1 Corinthians 15:33 (NLT) Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for “bad company corrupts good character.”
Proverbs 6:27 (NLT) Can a man scoop a flame into his lap and not have his clothes catch on fire?
2 Corinthians 6:14, 17 (NLT) Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord . Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you.
Don’t Dwell on What You Are Not
Too many believers don’t know what God says about them. They think about what someone else has said about them, or what they keep telling themselves in all their self-criticism. Don’t let this happen to you because this is not of the Lord and it only weakens you. Don’t allow the enemy to put thoughts in your head of all that you aren’t. Instead, think about what you can be. Don’t dwell on what you think you should be. Think about what God says you are.
Romans 8:31-39 (NLT)31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself.34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”)37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Bold mine)
1 Peter 2:9 (NLT) But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
Walk in a Way to Produce the Fruit of the Spirit
Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT) But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
As the fruit of the Spirit grows and develops. We become more and more conformed to the image of Christ.
Romans 8:28-29 (NLT) And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
Be Renewed in Your Mind
Filter out all the negative things from our past, and all the distractions of the day, , and focus on the goodness of God and His love for you.
Romans 12:2 (NLT)2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Ephesians 4:25-32 (NLT)25 So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry,27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
Be Forgiving at All Times
In the Lord’s Prayer we ask God to forgive us just like we forgive others
Matthew 6:11-12 (NLT)11 Give us today the food we need,12 and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
Unforgiveness is a sin and if we have unconfessed sin we have a problem.
Matthew 6:14-15 (NLT) “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Psalm 66:18 (NLT) If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
Watch What You Say
This does not mean only foul language but includes everything that we say.
Ephesians 4:29 (NLT)29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
Ephesians 4:29 NLT
She’s talking about everything that comes from you mouth.
Proverbs 20:19 (NLT) A gossip goes around telling secrets, so don’t hang around with chatterers.
2 Corinthians 12:20-21 (NLT) For I am afraid that when I come I won’t like what I find, and you won’t like my response. I am afraid that I will find quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorderly behavior. Yes, I am afraid that when I come again, God will humble me in your presence. And I will be grieved because many of you have not given up your old sins. You have not repented of your impurity, sexual immorality, and eagerness for lustful pleasure.
James 4:11 (NLT) Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you.
Proverbs 10:19 (NLT) Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.
Proverbs 18:21 (NLT) The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.
To be effective prayer warriors and to be effective as witnesses we must be consistent in our training otherwise we may not be prepared when attacked or given the opportunity to witness to the glory of God and salvation through Jesus Christ.
Paul talked about consistent training in his letter to the church in Corinth.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NLT) Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.
Greg Laurie says that abiding in Jesus is the consistency that we need for spiritual growth and I would add that it also makes us more effective prayer warriors.
The Need for Consistency?
By Greg Laurie
Imagine if I planted a tree in my front yard, but after awhile, I decided it would look better in my backyard. Then after a few months, I realized it would be better in the front yard. So I dig it up and plant it again in the front yard. Not only will that tree fail to flourish, but it also will struggle to just survive.
Yet some people are like that with God. They decide to go to church, read their Bible, and pray regularly. They do this for a month, and then they uproot themselves and disappear for a few months. Then they come back again. Then they uproot themselves and go back to the old life again. Eventually they come back and are at it again. But they never will grow spiritually that way.
Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4). That is the secret of spiritual growth: to abide. To abide means to stay in a given place. For believers, it means to maintain unbroken fellowship with God. It is regularity. It is consistency. And it results in producing lasting fruit.
Another way of abiding is walking with God. As 1 John 2:6 says, “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” Walking speaks of consistent motion. That means making time for the Word of God and for prayer every day. If you are too busy, then get up earlier. Go to bed earlier. You will find time for what is important.
The true mark of conversion is the test of time and results in your life. Are you producing spiritual fruit?
Taken from “The Secret of Spiritual Growth” by Harvest Ministries (used by permission
If someone asked you what the dictionary definition of a Christian is you would probably say “a person professing belief in Jesus as the Christ and in His teachings". While this is true, like many dictionary definitions this really doesn’t communicate what it means to be a Christian.
The word Christian appears three times in the New Testament;
Acts 11:26 (NLT) When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.)
Acts 26:28 (NLT) Agrippa interrupted him. “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?”
1 Peter 4:16 (NLT) But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name!
Considering how the word “Christian” is used in these three verses it literally means, “belonging to the association or alliance of Christ” or a “follower of Christ.”
While that is the dictionary definition of “Christian” it doesn’t really describe what it means to be a Christian. If you apply the dictionary definition many people who do not believe and trust in Jesus Christ could, and in many cases do, consider themselves Christians because they go to church or they live in a “Christian” nation. But going to church, or being a good person does not make you a Christian. Being a member of a church, attending services regularly, and giving to the work of the church does not make you a Christian.
What a person does doesn’t make them a Christian. As a matter of fact the Bible says that there is nothing that a person can do to make themselves a Christian. You become a Christian by God’s grace through faith. In other words it’s a gift from God.
Titus 3:4-5 (NLT)4 But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love,5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT)8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
A Christian is someone who becomes one by the actions of God.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
The first thing we need to understand is that this new creation is something created by God.
John 1:12-13 (NKJV) 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
This new birth or creation was brought about by the will of God. We didn't inherit this new nature, and we didn't re-create ourselves. God didn't just clean up our old nature either; He created something entirely fresh and unique. The new creation is completely new, created from nothing, just as the whole universe was created by God from nothing. Only God can do that.
We don’t know how it happens but we know that is does. In Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus when he asked Jesus how is it possible to born again Jesus said;
John 3:7-8 (NKJV) 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."
John 3:3-7 (NLT)3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”4 “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”5 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.7 So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’
The following section is my interpretation of an Issues of Faith column in the Peninsula Daily News written by The Rev. Patrick Lovejoy of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Port Angeles, WA.
HAVE YOU EVER wondered what makes a Christian a Christian?
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. — Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV
It is interesting how we often adopt terms and titles in our lives without fully knowing what they imply. For instance, what does it mean to be a Washingtonian or an American? Sure, we come up with quick answers like, “It’s where I was born,” but do these titles change the perspective on our lives and the world we live in?
It is interesting to me when a person from the Northwest, Southeast or Midwest travels around the country, how the locals can always tell who the stranger is by their customs and mannerisms.
That example pales in comparison to the recent controversies we are repeatedly exposed to that challenge our sense of national identity as we say definitively, “That is not very American!”
The point is, we all have different experiences and definitions as to what makes us … well, us. Thank God this obscure and nebulous, self-defining reality is not the basis of our identity as Christians.
No, we have been given this identity with clear description concerning its nature. Therefore, when somebody accuses us of “not being very Christian” we know exactly what that means. But do they?
Being a Christian is not being self-righteous. Being a Christian is not boasting of all the good you may have accomplished in your life or how you are able to refrain from the temptations of this life.
Being a Christian is not found in how one points to themselves, but points to the One who called them by name;
John 15:16 (NLT) You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.
The One who took on their brokenness and suffered and died for their sin;
1 Peter 2:24 (NLT)24 He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.
Who has given them pardon and peace from their guilt
Romans 4:25 (NLT) He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.
Colossians 1:12-14 (NLT)12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son,14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.
Who gives them everlasting life;
John 11:25 (NLT) Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52 (NLT)51 But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed!52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed.
It is easy for a person to fall into the trap of thinking that being a Christian hinges on their decisions or their actions. There are many false teachings that declare that you are only a Christian if you make a bold decision, dedicate yourself to the Lord and live a life of purity.
In my opinion, there is no difference between those teachings and all other false teachings of the other man-made religions of the world where the participants try to ascend to God — as if he could be impressed by us and our choices, as if words we speak could rise to the level of being equal with the work of Christ on his cross.
No, as Ephesians 2:8-9 says clearly: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (2:8 ESV).
Christians are those who make the bold confession that they have been saved by faith, a faith imparted to them by the Holy Spirit through the Word of Christ.
Romans 10:17 (NLT) So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.
Trust in Christ
Being a Christian, therefore, is not found in placing our trust in decisions we make, words we speak or actions we take, but in Christ who saved us when we were still enemies to him and dead in our trespasses.
Romans 5:10 (NLT) For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.
Ephesians 2:4-6 (NLT)4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much,
5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.
What a relief that being Christian doesn’t depend on me; it depends on Christ, who saved me. It is easy for the world to look at a Christian and see them as broken, flawed and hypocritical, and therefore judge Christianity as being phony.
The world, and Christians, at times forget that being broken, flawed, even hypocritical is being Christian, as it is marks this earthly pilgrimage and struggles we face as we cling to Christ as our sole source of salvation.
Being a Christian is proclaiming to the world that God in Christ has been merciful to even me … a sinner
Luke 18:13-14 (NLT)13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
1 Timothy 1:15-16 (NLT)15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all.16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.
This doesn’t mean you can live your life any way you want because you’ll be forgiven
Romans 6:1-4 (NLT)1 Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace?2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?3 Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death?4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
This doesn’t mean that you give up aspiring to demonstrate your salvation in your lives by living a life worthy of your calling
Philippians 2:12-18 (NLT)12 Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.14 Do everything without complaining and arguing,15 so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.16 Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.17 But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy.
18 Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.
What this all means is that you strive to live your life according to the will of God because of what he has done for you, not because of what he might do for you.
A Christian does what they do because they are Christian, not because they want to be or remain Christians.
Remember, it is by grace you have been saved. It is that same grace we have been called to share with the whole world.
If you go into any bookstore or search the Internet you will find thousands of self-help” books . These books tell us how to improve our our lifestyles, our looks, our jobs, our marriages, our families, and our relationships. Some of them even talk about improving your relationship with God. If you follow the advice in these books, blog posts, motivational speeches, seminars, retreats, etc., you may become stronger, have a better marriage, get a better job, or get closer to God. Many of them do give you good advice, and in if you follow the advice it will help you improve your earthly life. But it never seems to be enough.
There is no self-help book, or advice and guidance from your mother, your father, your sister, your brother, your business mentor, your psychiatrist, your physician, your teacher, your minister, or anybody else, that can convince you that are good enough for God. There will always be something there, a feeling that you’re not good enough. That’s because apart from Him who by his grace through Jesus you aren’t and can’t become good enough.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
Jesus came to save people who, because of sin, will never be good enough to save themselves. The only way that we can be good enough to have a personal relationship with God is through Jesus Christ his Son. When we acknowledge Jesus as our Savior and Lord.
Romans 10:9-11 (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.”
When God looks at us he sees the righteousness of Christ and not us. Then we are good enough.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV) God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
In this excerpt from her book, Sacred Rest, Cheryl Wunderlich, tells us that we are enough because God says you are because He is.
Through Him Who Loved Us
by Cheryl Wunderlich, from her new book Sacred Rest
We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
— Romans 8:37
Self-improvement is big business. Who doesn’t want to improve? We hope to become fitter, healthier, wiser, and more loving. We want to be more successful in business and more present in our daily lives. We try so hard to be good. The question is, how good is good enough?
Most of us end up exhausting ourselves in the quest for ever-elusive “balance.” But many self-help gurus hide the hard truth that we will never attain it on our own. Today’s verse reveals the key: we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
The victory over sin — and all our other weaknesses — is through Christ.
The Christian life is not a self-improvement course, so you can stop trying to be good enough and rest. Jesus has done all the work for you. He offers to take every scrap of your sin, put it on Himself, take the penalty you deserve, and give you His righteousness in return. If you have received His gift of salvation, when God looks at you He sees Christ’s perfection — period. Your failures were pardoned at the cross.
You must admit, the offer of salvation He holds out is too good to pass up!
Once you receive Christ’s righteousness, you are invited to live in rest and freedom. If guilt or shame arises, just remind yourself Jesus has already declared you “not guilty.” You do not need to pay again for your sins, which Jesus already paid for once and for all. Just turn from them and toward Him.
When temptations and trials come, know that you can overwhelmingly conquer through Him. When you feel weak or unable to move forward, you can continue through Him. Jesus said,
My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.
So like Paul we can “boast all the more gladly about [our] weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on [us]” (2 Corinthians 12:9). How’s that for self-improvement?
Lord, I try everything to avoid being weak. But I don’t want to miss out on experiencing Your power at work in me when I have reached the limit of my sufficiency. Weak people need You. I desperately need You. I can’t be a conqueror without You.
Excerpted with permission fromSacred Rest by Cheryl Wunderlich, copyright Cheryl Wunderlich.
Editor's Note - Discover the soul-soothing peace of rest as God designed it to be. Sacred Rest: Finding the Sabbath in Every Day offers insight, prayers, and exercises to help you practice steps to a life that is rich and at ease. One hundred devotions interspersed with prayers and Scripture verses will be welcome relief in our stressed and overwhelmed culture.
A few days ago I published the post, “The Kingdom Of Heaven Is Within You - No! That’s Not In The Bible” While the statement “the kingdom of heaven is within you” is not in the Bible, it does exist. Two years ago I published Heaven...What...Where...Who’s Been There? Yesterday I published What About Life-After-Death And Near-Death Experiences? All of these posts talk about heaven which is the place that Christians believe is where God’s throne is and where they will go to be in God’s presence until Jesus returns and there will be a new heaven and new earth on which they will live eternally.
In the post “The Kingdom Of Heaven Is Within You…”, I write that The Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God are synonymous. The phrase “Kingdom of God” occurs 68 times, and the “Kingdom of Heaven” 10 times in the New Testament.
One of the most quoted verses in the Bible is;
Matthew 6:33 (NIV) But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
The context of that verse is that we should not worry about material things but that we should focus our attention on God and His kingdom and He will make sure that we have the things that we need for life.
That begs the question exactly “What does it mean to seek the Kingdom of God?”
Greg Laurie tells us what that means.
What Does it Mean to Seek God's Kingdom?
A verse every Christian should commit to memory is Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
What does it mean to seek first the kingdom of God? God’s kingdom is the rule and reign of Christ in our lives. Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven”
“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.
This is praying for a day when God will bring heaven to earth and will bring His rule on this planet. God still has a plan for planet Earth. He will rule and reign here, and as believers, we will rule and reign with Him. So that is in the future.
But when we pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven,” we are also praying for the rule and reign of the kingdom of God in our lives. This is when Jesus is in charge. On one occasion Jesus said, “For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you”, where He was speaking of himself.
Luke 17:20-21 (NIV) Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
When you are under His lordship, and when He is in control of your life, that is the kingdom of God. It is not rules and regulations, but “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”.
Romans 14:17-18 (NIV) For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.
Have you, as a Christian, surrendered your life to Christ? Have you said, “Lord, I want Your will more than I want my own will. I am willing to surrender to You now”? Because you cannot pray, “Your kingdom come” until you first pray, “My kingdom go.” Have you done that yet?
A lack of faith can bring a lot of anxiety into our lives. So instead of worrying, we should put God and His will first in our lives. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
Taken from “First Things First” by Harvest Ministries (used by permission).
In this Psalm David speaks of the glory of God, and how the glory of man, who He created a little lower and the angels, and his destiny reflects upon God. It develops the thought from the majesty of God’s throne in heaven to man and the earth over which man was to have dominion. Mankind is at the center of God's creation.
The question “What is mankind that you are mindful of them….?” is repeated in Hebrews when the writer speaks to the humanity of Jesus, who humbled Himself to become a man in order to save mankind.
Hebrews 2:5-9 (NIV) It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified: “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him? You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor and put everything under their feet.” In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
God’s Glory Is Magnified By His Works, And By His Love To Man
Psalm 8:1-9 (NIV) Lord , our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. Lord , our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Two years ago I wrote and published Heaven...What...Where...Who Has Been There?. From the Christian’s perspective heaven is the location of the throne of God, and the place that the Christian goes to be in God’s presence after they die. The post also looks at and asks the question “has anybody other than Jesus actually been to heaven and returned to report the experience?” (Read the post HERE! for answers)
The information in that post leads to the next obvious question; what about the experiences of people who say that they died and went to heaven, or went to heaven and saw Jesus, but didn’t die (near-death experience)?
It doesn’t matter if you’re a Christian or not there is a fascination with what happens after you die. Randy Frazee gives us an interesting perspective, based on scripture, from his book What Happens After You Die.
In an excerpt from the book, Randy looks at the fascination of life-after-death and near-death-experiences recounted in books and movies. He makes no judgement on the veracity or lack thereof for any experience. He goes to scripture to discuss “two bona fide life-after-death experiences and two that likely don’t qualify”. Here is the excerpt.
What About Life-After-Death and Near-Death Experiences
Life-after-death and near-death experiences fascinate me. Shucks, they fascinate millions of people, if anything can be gleaned from the sales of books and movies on the topic. We so want them to be true. Maybe they are; maybe they aren’t. On one end of the spectrum, people cling to these stories to give them the evidence they need that there is more to this life. Others vehemently criticize the experience for a variety of reasons, from medical to theological. As for me, I feel no need to undermine someone’s personal experience. However, my commitment and confidence lie within the pages of the Bible. In these pages I find two bona fide life-after-death experiences and two that likely don’t qualify but give me tons of hope.
The first involves a guy named Lazarus (John 11). This was not the same man Jesus referred to in the parable with the rich man in Luke 16. This was the brother of Mary and Martha from Bethany. He had been dead a total of not four hours but four days. He was already wrapped in linens and placed in a tomb shut off by a large rock. It is hard to breathe under such circumstances. He was not nearly dead; he was totally dead.
When Jesus finally arrived in Bethany, He had the stone removed from the tomb and commanded Lazarus to rise up and come out. And he did! What did Lazarus say afterward? The text records not a single word. His life-after-death experience is not germane to the point of the story. Rather, Jesus told us the ultimate purpose in a conversation He had with the Father:
When Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard me. I knew that You always hear Me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that You sent Me.” — John 11:41-42
In the end, the most important thing is that all would be pointed to belief in Jesus. Our focus should not be the life-after-death or near-death experience but the more important, personal experience with and belief in the One who saves.
I can imagine Lazarus saying privately to Jesus, “I was at Abraham’s side with the other Lazarus guy You taught about. It was very restful and peaceful. I just have one question: Do I have to go through death again?” The answer would most definitely have been yes. Lazarus was brought back to life, only to have to eventually experience death once again. What a bummer, in my book.
The second life-after-death experience in the Bible is that of Jesus Himself. He died and lay in the tomb for three days. On Sunday morning He rose from the dead. He went on to appear in front of hundreds of people. His return to life was very different from Lazarus’s.
Jesus was resurrected once and for all. He conquered death; He didn’t have to die again.
Over the years, people have read about this event. Many have believed it, and many have rejected it. You may doubt the veracity of near-death experiences, but this life-after-death experience is the only one that really matters. Your personal decision about this experience will be the sole determining factor in the outcome of your own eventual eternal destination.
The next story we find in the Bible carries a similar theme and tone to the modern-day near-death experiences we read about. It is the true story of Stephen, the first martyr of the church.
Stephen, having been seized in Jerusalem by people opposing the early church, gave a stirring speech that he concluded by identifying his hostile audience as the perpetrators who had killed the Messiah. This infuriated them. They decide to stone him to death. At the moment of their decision, while Stephen was still alive, something happened to him that was out of the ordinary:
Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see Heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” — Acts 7:55–56
This encounter is similar to the stories we hear from Christians in modern near-death experiences.
They see a light; they see the glory of God; they see Jesus.
It is interesting to note that in other passages of Scripture where Jesus is in Heaven next to the Father, He is sitting. In this case, Jesus was standing. It is as if He were telling Stephen, “You have stood up for Me on earth; now I am standing up for you in Heaven. Keep your eyes fixed on Me. Everything is going to be all right. You will be in My presence very soon.”
After this, the mob took Stephen outside the city and stoned him to death. His body died, but his spirit went to be in the presence of Jesus. This glimpse into Stephen’s vision gives us hope as we face our own valleys of death.
Paul had a similar experience, though it was not centered on his death but on his stoning at Lystra. He wrote:
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know — God knows. And I know that this man — whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows — was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things. — 2 Corinthians 12:2–4
Paul told us he saw the “third heaven,” or “paradise.” The third heaven designates a place beyond the earth’s atmosphere and beyond the planets and stars to the presence of God Himself. Paul reaffirmed the existence of this higher plane in his later letter to the Ephesian believers:
He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe. — Ephesians 4:10
This is confirmation that the dwelling place of believers in the intermediate state is beyond our universe. That is helpful to know. What else did Paul see while in the third heaven? We actually don’t know, because he went on to tell us that the things he saw “no one is permitted to tell.” Interestingly, people with life-after-death and near-death experiences today freely share what they saw, but Paul felt it was not permissible for anyone to do so.
As we consider the ramifications of all our modern-day sharing of life-after-death and near-death experiences, we must go back to Jesus’ teaching and the story of the rich man and Lazarus. When the rich man begged Abraham to let Lazarus return to earth to warn his brothers of Hades, remember that Abraham replied:
They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them… If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead. — Luke 16:29, Luke 16:31
Life-after-death and near-death experiences are very intriguing, at least to me. If they inspire us to draw closer to God and increase our hope in the afterlife, then great. But at the end of the day, we must be able to stand on the truth that the Word of God is enough. As Abraham said in the story above, we have the teachings of Moses and the prophets to point us to God, but even further, believers today also have twenty-seven New Testament books filled with new revelation. We have been given a wealth of wisdom and insight that is enough to lead us to Jesus.
My favorite heavenly vision of all is found in Revelation 21–22. And because it is in God’s Word, I can say with confidence, “Heaven is for real.”
About What Happens After You Die
In both Christian and pop culture, there is a certain fascination with the afterlife. What happens after you die? What happens if you die with Christ or without Christ? What happens when Jesus returns if you have or haven’t accepted Christ? What exactly comes next?
Randy Frazee, pastor of Oak Hills Church and general editor of the wildly successful Believe and The Story programs, answers these questions and more.
Born out of a deeply personal search for truth after the death of his mother, What Happens After You Die is a straightforward exploration of what the Bible says about life after death.
From heaven and hell to the Lake of Fire and the actual presence of God, Frazee uncovers what is simply cultural tradition and what is truly biblical. He shows readers not only the death Jesus came to save us from but the life he came to save us for.
Based on a teaching series that has had more online views than any other series Frazee has done to date, What Happens After You Die is a guide to the perennial questions about life and death, what comes next, and how we should live until then.
As many of you know, who follow my Bible Study blog, I’m leading a study of the book Spiritual Warfare: Praying Your Way To Victory by Stormie Omartian. Stormie writes that whether we admit, like it, or not, we are involved in spiritual warfare. The war is taking place between those in the kingdom of God, which includes all those who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, and those of the kingdom of Satan Ignoring or denying it doesn’t matter to your enemy Satan and his demonic army. No one can sit on the sidelines. A war is going on between good and evil, and every believer is involved. Refusing to engage the enemy insures that you will become a casualty of war and not reap the benefits of victory.
Jesus has given us the authority to serve as warriors in God’s spiritual army, and He has given the authority to use His name.
John 14:12-14 (NKJV)12 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.
John 16:23-24 (NKJV)23 And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.24 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
We have spiritual armor to protect us.
Ephesians 6:13-18 (NKJV)13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints--
We have spiritual weapons to engage the enemy. Our weapons are the Word of God, our worship, our faith in God, God’s grace, and prayer.
Jesus has defeated Satan but He has not yet destroyed him. The war will continue until God ends it with Jesus’ return to the earth for His body the Church.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (NKJV)16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
God doesn’t want to just save you.. He wants to save everyone. He wants to save your family. He wants to save your friends. But he also wants to save your enemies. God cares about everyone. And so should we.
2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV) The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
That’s our mission in spiritual warfare.
Get Ready for Spiritual Warfare?
By Greg Laurie
When it comes to the Christian life, we will either gain or lose ground. We will either win or lose. But we have to be involved in the spiritual battle. Spiritual pacifists will be knocked down, because the Christian life is not a playground, but a battleground.
It is up to us to fight the good fight of faith. So we need to suit up and learn the principles from God’s Word that teach us how to be more than conquerors in Jesus Christ.
First, we need to put on the full armor of God as we engage in the spiritual battle. Ephesians 6:11 tells us, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (NKJV).
The phrase “put on” carries the idea of doing something once and for all. It speaks of permanence. The full armor of God is not something we put on and then take off again. We are to keep it on all the time.
Second, we need to be aware of the fact that Satan is not the equal of God. The devil would like us to think that whatever God can do, he can do, as though they were two sides of the same force.
Although Satan is a powerful spirit being, he is far from God’s equal. You see, God is omnipotent. God is omniscient. God is omnipresent. God can do anything that He wants to do, anywhere and anytime.
Satan is none of those things. He has limitations as to what he can do.
Third, we need to realize that the devil will primarily attack us in the realm of the imagination. The apostle Paul mentioned this in 2 Corinthians 11:3: “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (NKJV).
The devil knows that if he can get us to think about something, we are only a step away from actually doing it. He knows that our minds are “command central.” It is here that we reason. It is here that we remember. It is here that we dream.
Our minds are the hard drive, the place where everything originates. Satan knows that it is only a short step from a thought to an act.
Last, we need to understand that the devil works with two very close allies: the world and the flesh. “The world” is the world system that is hostile toward God. It is living for personal gratification, our own will above all else.
Then there is the flesh. When the Bible speaks of the flesh, it speaks more of the depraved, fallen human nature in which we are gratifying sensual appetites.
Taken from “The Winnable War” by Harvest Ministries (used by permission).
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.