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I am writing these blogs with the purposes of educating, and encouraging others in their daily Christian walk. This website is for informational and educational purposes only and contains copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material (specifically referenced quotes) in my effort to advance understanding of human spiritual, religious, cultural, and historical issues, etc. I believe this constitutes a “fair use” of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

To demonstrate personal integrity and allow blog readers opportunity to read the quotes, I will identify the author of said quotes. I will also post the relevant links for the original work either to read or purchase.

Blog contents reflect my personal opinion(s) which don’t necessarily represent a church or educational community in which I currently serve. I am not a licensed personal counselor or mental health professional. Consequently, my blogs are intended for common issues or struggles that individuals typically face in life. I advise individuals to seek qualified professional help for personal issues such as depression, anxiety, grief, martial issues, and etc. in order to receive proper medical and psychological care.

Also, I will be quoting and paraphrasing from various authors in this blog. I don’t necessarily agree with all elements of his/her theology or life practices of selected authors. Please understand that the purpose of this blog isn’t to debate theology or various points of view that exist within topics as they appear in this blog.

Sincerely,

Lee Stanfill

Gift of Love: God is True Love!

Introduction:

This blog will serve as introduction for this week’s Advent theme of love! You will need to check back daily as I will be placing links for podcasts for daily scripture sets! I want to thoroughly, yet concisely explain each scripture reference in its proper context and proper application! All scripture will be from the Berean Standard Bible.

The Holy Bible, Berean Standard Bible, BSB
Copyright ©2016, 2020 by Bible Hub
Used by Permission. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

God is Love: Old Testament Context and Language

The primary biblical language of the Old Testament is Hebrew. The Hebrew word for love is Hesed. Like many biblical words, hesed translates to mean various “English” language concepts depending on how it’s used and the words/meaning around it. For an insightful explanation, please check out the blog post below by Avital Snow:

We can find examples of God’s love all through out the Old Testament! The key to understanding God’s love is to remember that God’s love is active wherein God initiates. God’s love is part of His Character and Nature. He loves because He is True Love! This love moves Him to act with grace, mercy, compassion, and patience toward those in relationship with Him. The Biblical narratives demonstrate God “reaching” out and establishing covenants with His chosen people.

However, we need to understand that hesed is love expressed in a covenantal relationship! This is a relationship that God as Father King establishes with a lesser being. He is the Creator and we are the creatures. The New Testament uses the Greek word agape to describe God’s love. Michael Hunt explains hesed and agape with multiple references in his thorough explanation of this concept:

https://www.agapebiblestudy.com/documents/Is%20Hesed%20the%20same%20as%20Agape.htm

When Yahweh forms a covenant with an individual or with a people, He unites Himself to them, not only as Bridegroom to Bride as in the sense of the corporate covenant with Israel at Mt. Sinai, but in the case of the Davidic covenant. God became David’s and Solomon’s father, and David and Solomon became God’s sons (2 Sam 7:14; 1 Chr 17:11-14). God shows His hesed for his covenant children by the blessings he confers upon them and, similarly, God’s covenant children “know God” when they observe the covenant obligations and show their gratitude for God’s blessings by returning His love:

Michael Hunt, Agape Bible Study “IS “HESED” THE SAME AS “AGAPE”?
GOD’S LOVE DEFINED BY COVENANT IN THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS”

What does it mean to know God? We know God intimately!

Knowledge of God is not merely an intellectual assent that God exists. To “know” in the language of the Bible indicates an intimate knowledge of the person either in a sexual sense or in a covenantal sense. Biblical covenants form families, in marriages and the sense of extended families.

Michael Hunt, Agape Bible Study “IS “HESED” THE SAME AS “AGAPE”?
GOD’S LOVE DEFINED BY COVENANT IN THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS”

This is why that Abram, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, King David, and the Prophets are radically transformed when God calls and begins His Mighty Work in their lives! They’re touched and forever changed. Love is part of this process. All the great men and women of faith realized that God would be true to His promises (hesed) and that he/she could rest in this truth while waiting on God’s timing!

First instance of God’s love in Genesis

Recall when Eve and Adam disobey God and God pronounces His curses upon them. What does God do? He includes a promise, specifically that:

15And I will put enmity between you and the woman,and between your seed and her seed.

He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

Don Stewart explains this:

https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_756.cfm

Later in verse 21,

21And the LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and He clothed them.

God provides for their nakedness. Is this not an act of love? Perhaps even the first animal/blood sacrifice? God provides for them even though they had disobeyed and plunged creation into rebellion and darkness! God promises a future “seed” who will crush the serpent. The serpent is defeated!

The Flood: Noah

Why does God save Noah and his family? The entire world is contaminated with wickedness, death, disobedience, and rebellion; yet God find a righteous man and allows him 120 years to preach and build an ark. God could just as easily wiped every human out! Have you ever considered that God knew that no one would repent and believe, but He still gave Noah years to preach? For more, see article below

https://www.gotquestions.org/preacher-of-righteousness.html

God’s Love is Patient

He calls us to repent and come to Him

The New Testament warns us Jude and 2 Peter that God’s patience is a chance to repent before the finality of His Judgement! Is it His love and desire for people to repent that stays His Righteous Wrath and Coming Judgment?

God’s call to repent Joel 2:12-14

12“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to Me with all your heart,with fasting, weeping, and mourning.” 13So rend your hearts and not your garments,and return to the LORD your God. For He is gracious and compassionate,slow to anger, abounding in loving devotion. And He relents from sending disaster. 14Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave a blessing behind Him—grain and drink offerings for the LORD your God.

and again in 2 Peter 3:8-9

8Beloved, do not let this one thing escape your notice: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise as some understand slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance.

The Truth of Christmas and Jesus’ Coming

Jesus came as an infant, but He will return as a Conquering, Victorious King. His first coming was to die to satisfy God’s Righteous Judgment on sinner. He conquered death and rose again to make all things anew. He is coming back in Judgment and to Restore/End human history. Peter instructs us:

10But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar, the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and its works will be laid bare.11Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to conduct yourselves in holiness and godliness 12as you anticipate and hasten the coming of the day of God, when the heavens will be destroyed by fire and the elements will melt in the heat. 13But in keeping with God’s promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. 14Therefore, beloved, as you anticipate these things, make every effort to be found at peace—spotless and blameless in His sight.

BSB 2 Peter 3:10-14

Sunday’s Podcast

https://spotifyanchor-web.app.link/e/HlGjZuhuuvb

Gift of Hope!

Podcast: read aloud and commentary:

https://spotifyanchor-web.app.link/e/wx1sREZZivb

What is hope? Where should we “rest” our desires, dreams, and mindset about life? Join me as I seek to encourage you with truths about how Jesus is the best gift! All scripture is from the Berean Standard Bible:

The Holy Bible, Berean Standard Bible, BSB
Copyright ©2016, 2020 by Bible Hub
Used by Permission. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Join me at anchor page as I will be releasing podcasts this week entitled “Journey of Hope”

Quotes are presented from Got Questions in accordance to Got Questions’ copyright guidelines.

The Candle of Hope–First Advent Candle

What is advent? Click link below for detailed description/explanation

https://www.gotquestions.org/what-is-Advent.html

This week’s article is all about hope! Take a moment to reflect on what you are hoping for in your life. Some questions for you to consider:

  1. What is hope? How do you define the concept of hope? What does it mean to have “hope”?
  2. Why is hope essential to faith? Why is faith essential to hope?
  3. Can you explain how hope in God/Christ is different from worldly/secular hope?
  4. Is the hope in your life evident to others who daily encounter you?

For a practical definition and explanation of hope, please read:

https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-hope.html

Christ is The Promised Root and Branch! Isaiah 11:1-5

The Root of Jesse

1Then a shoot will spring up from the stump of Jesse,

and a Branch from his roots will bear fruit.

2The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him—

the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the Spirit of counsel and strength,

the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the LORD.

3And He will delight in the fear of the LORD.

He will not judge by what His eyes see,

and He will not decide by what His ears hear,

4but with righteousness He will judge the poor,

and with equity He will decide for the lowly of the earth.

He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth

and slay the wicked with the breath of His lips.

5Righteousness will be the belt around His hips,

and faithfulness the sash around His waist.

How does hope and prophecy work together? They go hand in hand! The Gospel writers make a point to connect recorded events of Jesus to promises made in numerous prophecies. The apostle Paul also includes various prophecies in his numerous letters. In the passage above, Isaiah clearly teaches that a new “Root” and “Branch” will come forth from a dead stump. The idea is that even what seems to be dead is actually alive!

Multiple times in the Old Testament the lineage of King David was nearly exterminated! It came down to just one person/one survivor. Ultimately, Joseph (New Testament earthly father of Jesus) was a descendant of King David. Have you ever considered the many things that God set in motion to fulfill prophecy? Here are two events to consider:

First, Caesar (a pagan ruler) decreed a census that required that a late term pregnant Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem so the Messiah would be born there! Second, God sends Joseph and Mary to Egypt to preserve the young Jesus’ life. For more on the significance please take a moment to read this article:

https://www.gotquestions.org/out-of-Egypt-I-called-my-son.html

For a more complete list of prophecies:

https://www.gotquestions.org/prophecies-of-Jesus.html

Christ is our Light Of Hope!

Jesus’ coming to earth is part of God’s redemption plan. Included in this glorious hope is Jesus’ life, ministry, death, resurrection, and sending of Holy Spirit to His redeemed people! We can have hope because God redeems us. Christmas is a miraculous “invasion” of hope! Have you ever considered what the angels proclaim when Christ arrives?

Luke 2:9-14 BSB emphasis mine

9Just then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! For behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11Today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord! 12And this will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there appeared with the angel a great multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying:

14“Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace to men

on whom His favor rests!”

This is the appearance of our hope! God sends His Only Son to redeem and restore what went wrong in the garden of Eden. This is God’s answer to our sins and all that is wrong with the world. God comes Himself through and in His Son to bring redemption!

Consequently, we have hope because He came and will come again! Our hope is alive because Our Savior lives! 1 Peter 1:3-5 emphasis mine:

A Living Hope

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, reserved in heaven for you, 5who through faith are shielded by God’s power for the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Our Hope and Perseverance Honors Jesus!

6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in various trials 7so that the proven character of your faith—more precious than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

8Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9now that you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

This hope enables us to persevere and rejoice! The knowledge that He is saving us and coming back to complete human history makes this journey worthwhile!

The Longing of the Prophets! 1 Peter 1:10-12

10Concerning this salvation, the prophets who foretold the grace to come to you searched and investigated carefully, 11trying to determine the time and setting to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.

12It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, when they foretold the things now announced by those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and the numerous other prophets longed for the coming of the Messiah! Jesus was the fulfillment of many longings and hopes! They lived lives of faith, hope, and trust in God knowing that God would fulfill His promises.

How faith and hope work together

Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as:

1Now faith is the assurance of what we hope for and the certainty of what we do not see.

Hope is vital to faith! Got questions explains this:

https://www.gotquestions.org/difference-faith-hope.html

Biblical hope is built on faith. Hope is the earnest anticipation that comes with believing something good. Hope is a confident expectation that naturally stems from faith. Hope is a peaceful assurance that something that hasn’t happened yet will indeed happen. Hope must involve something that is as yet unseen: (Romans 8:24). Jesus’ return is our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13)—we can’t see Him yet, but we know He’s coming, and we anticipate that event with joy.

Got Questions, “What is the difference between faith and hope”

Hope is a form of trust! We believe God’s Word and what He promises! This hope is made possible by faith.

Faith is a complete trust or confidence in something. Faith involves intellectual assent to a set of facts and trust in those facts. . . This means we completely trust Jesus for our eternal destiny.

Got Questions, “What is the difference between faith and hope

Faith and hope work together!

Faith and hope are complementary. Faith is grounded in the reality of the past; hope is looking to the reality of the future. Without faith, there is no hope, and without hope there is no true faith. Christians are people of faith and hope. (Titus 1:2).

Conclusion and Prayer for you!

Ephesians 1:16-21

16I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in your knowledge of Him.

18I ask that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know the hope of His calling, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and the surpassing greatness of His power to us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of His mighty strength, 20which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, 21far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

May God increase your hope and faith as you consider His vast mercy and love for us in Christ Jesus our Savior and Lord! For His glory and honor and your edification, I write these words!

God Is At Work!

God is at work in your life as He brings you closer to Himself!

Podcast:

https://spotifyanchor-web.app.link/e/7QxGtBjKdvb

1. The Goal of Our Lives!

God is over every single event of your life! His power and wisdom are on display in our lives and what we go through! God uses events and struggles to make us useful to Him. Have you encountered someone who is truly gentle, compassionate, and kind? What about a friend, family member, or coworker who understands where you are at or what you are going through? This is God at work!

We best understand others’ sufferings and difficulties when we have suffered and struggled ourselves. God is at work in your life–especially when things are hard and you daily seek Him because you have no other alternative. This process keeps us humble and leads us to be more compassionate and understanding of others. Are you walking with God through your struggles and difficulties?

2. God teaches us in our present difficulties

God gives us opportunities to learn each day. Are you seeking His wisdom and guidance as you face difficult people and situations? Are you growing in your compassion for others, or turning away and seeking your own good or easy way out?

3. Relationship with Christ is our source of understanding

We want to know what God’s purpose is before the storm of suffering comes. This isn’t the right way. The right way is through fellowship with Jesus–growing in our love, trust, and dependence on Him as we daily obey His leading! Properly knowing God comes through reading, and applying His Living Word to your present circumstances. God has graciously provided us with the books of Job and Psalms for us to read and pray through.

4. There is no shortcut, take the long road not the easy path!

Just as Christ suffered and labored for His Heavenly Father, so must we in our journeys of faith! There is no easy or quick way to become like Christ! We become like Him as God works through our lives-molding and shaping us into new creations!

Closing Thoughts

We can’t follow God and our ambitions/selfish plans! We daily submit to God trusting that He will supernaturally renew and transform our minds.

Walking through uncertain and difficult times have an important purpose: to keep us humble and dependent on God! We (as finite, fallen humans) can’t fully perceive what God is doing in our lives, but we can trust and depend on Him! We can lean on His everlasting arms, knowing that God is working for the best. The best for us is for us to be radically transformed and made anew in Him!

What if the things that you are grappling with today have a future purpose? God is teaching, shaping, and renewing you! God is also preparing and equipping you to love and serve others! May God bless and encourage you in your journey of faith. For God’s glory, honor, and your edification, I write these words:

Future Plans and Community

First, I want to thank all of you who have been reading my posts. My prayer and intention is that you will be encouraged in your daily walk with Christ! Second, I want to ask you for feedback, topic requests, etc. Here is my vision and purpose for this blog, podcast(s), and videos:

Moving ahead, I will be posting more podcasts and/or vids than published articles. You can find me at spotify:

https://open.spotify.com/show/610VnK9gVSRaOe4gOS5XH4

All podcast episodes will be posted on this site. I will also provide a link on each blog post. I’m currently working on making podcasts for every post. I have completed the latest posts as well as the hard things series. Most podcasts will be between 5-20 mins in length.

Feel free to contact me at the following sites:

facebook: wordsofencouragementinchrist

email: leestanfill@leestanfillyahoo.com

I’m currently exploring options for creating a Facebook group and a meetup group for those would like to meet in person/digitally if distant. Perhaps some encouragement can be done live as well in the near future!

The main point is for this blog to become a community of believers who encourage one another! We all have gifts, experiences, and insights that we can share with others. Look forward to hearing from you in the near future!

Blessing of Brokenness

Intro:

A. W. Tozer writes “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.” The Root of the Righteous. Do you agree with this statement? Why does God often allow or cause hurts, frustrations, and failures in our lives? What is God’s purpose in the difficulties of our lives?

Blog with commentary:

https://spotifyanchor-web.app.link/e/v3FJQwANdvb

Personal Note

If you have been reading my posts, you may be asking yourself why I focus on the darker themes of the Christian journey. Why numerous posts on being disappointed, broken, or dissatisfied with life/God? I write these articles to provide encouragement for those souls grapple with these issues. I am committed to being honest and transparent. Walking with Christ, seeking to honor and glorify Him is a serious, life changing commitment that requires sacrifice. The process of dying to self, facing our own sinful nature, and interacting with other fallen humans brings suffering and difficulty. Dying to self allows us to live for Christ!

The other choice is to remain static, unchanged, safe, and comfortable. If you truly know Jesus or have read any Gospel, then you will be aware that this isn’t the path to life with Christ! Comfortable, easy beliefs that don’t challenge you to become more like Christ is human centered religion that leads to separation and spiritual death. It’s bad to be stuck in a rut, what’s even worse is to know that you’re in a rut and to remain in the muck! Timothy Keller reminds us of the purpose of suffering:

Jesus Christ did not suffer so that you would not suffer. He suffered so that when you suffer, you’ll become more like him. The gospel does not promise you better life circumstances; it promises you a better life.

Timothy Keller

What is Brokenness in the spiritual sense?

5 Defining Points from Mark Maulding’s: Spiritual Brokenness Can Give You Freedom

All five points are quoted directly as written in his article below: Please read for yourself!

Spiritual Brokenness Can Give You Freedom

What Brokenness IS
  1. A growing awareness that no matter how hard I try, my ability to make my life work is getting worse instead of better.
  2. An orchestrated work of God who loves me too much to permit my fleshly coping mechanisms to keep working for me.
  3. The results of the Holy Spirit moving me to the other side of brokenness so that I am changed by Him, not by my efforts.
  4. A growing experience of the reality of my union with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.
  5. Not a one-time event. Though many people in our ministry can point to a time when the process of brokenness brought about a huge spiritual paradigm shift in them, they eventually realize that there are other “miniature versions” of brokenness as part of their ongoing conformity to the image of Christ. See Romans 8:28-29.”

“True brokenness from God will produce lasting transformation in us. This is a result of a type of death in which our reliance on our flesh is exchanged for reliance on Christ in us, not only as our Savior and Lord, but our Life. Colossians 4:4 says it this way, “When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”

Mark Maulding

Grounded in Truth

God grounds us in His reality and truth! This involves revealing to us our sinful and selfish nature. God has something bigger and greater for us than living life for ourselves and the world’s promise of ease, comfort, security, and prosperity. The world’s promise is a lie! The world leads to spiritual apathy, death, and ultimately eternal separation from God. All the things and pleasures of this world are temporary!

How does God save us from this “distraction” and death trap? By His grace and mercy, He redeems us. He rescues us from the present darkness and illusions of life apart from Him. One of His best tools is suffering, difficulties, and disillusionment! When life is easy and pleasant we forget just how much we need Him!

True eternal, abundant life comes through fellowship (relationship) with Christ. God’s truth sets us free! By accepting His grace and mercy we are free from trying to “save” ourselves or earn His merit. Accepting Christ means that we turn away from the world’s darkness to walk in Christ’s light. Suffering and brokenness (realizing we can’t fix or improve ourselves) draws us away from ourselves and this world to “refocus” on Christ.

Dangers of Self-Pity

Self-pity is a slow death. The first stage of self-pity is self-awareness. Self-awareness in this context means to focus on self instead of God.

God does something much greater than sympathize with our self-pity. He kills it! He redeems it, moves us forward and deeper in our love, dependence, and worship of Himself! Self-pity focuses on self and our personal interests, God’s grace and presence draws us to focus on His Glory, Holiness, Righteousness!

Brokenness is an gift when it leads us closer to our Savior and Lord and away from ourselves! God isn’t done with you. He restores the broken and molds the broken heart to be more like Him! We become more gentle, kind, compassionate, and loving with others when we experience brokenness. Brokenness breaks us from our self-pity and selfishness if we invite God to transform us through our hurts.

God’s Grip of Grace

God beckons that we come to Him “Just as I Am”. Take a moment to consider the lyrics and truths of this great hymn. Come to Him and welcome His pardon and cleansing!

God mercifully breaks us from our independence from Him

Are we following and loyal to Christ or our own ideas about Him? Any independence or self-reliance will come to light in our difficult moments. In whom are we entrusting ourselves? Are we living according to our own wisdom? Are we living for ourselves or our own ideas of what life should be about?

God’s presence liberates us from ourselves by uniting us with Christ. This is the role of God’s Holy Spirit. He convicts, teaches, and empowers us!

God brings us into “supernatural identification” with Christ. Peter is an example of this process. While Jesus was on earth, Peter loved Him impulsively. Peter mostly depended on his own wisdom, courage, and power. Yet, after Peter’s betrayal and Jesus’ restoration; Peter is forever changed. Consider the Peter we read about in Acts. He fearlessly proclaims Jesus even when threatened! Peter follows Christ to die by crucifixion. The man who once denied, ran, and hid faithfully followed Christ to his death.

Religion and human-centered religion leads us to self-dependence, human reason, and independence from God. We (in our human nature) eagerly desire to avoid suffering, loss, and difficulties. We foolishly seek comfort, ease, and our own desires. Surrender is God’s Way.

Paul, a bond servant of Christ

What is a bond servant? This term actually means a slave, someone who is devoted to being a servant. For more on what this means in context of the Old and New Testaments:

https://www.gotquestions.org/bondservant.html

The truth is that we are either servants to our own fallen natures or Christ! Pick whom you will serve. You can live life for yourself, others, or you can die to all these things and live for Christ!

In the next post, I will explore the topic of suffering with Christ. May God speak truth and hope into your life as you daily seek Him! Forsaking the ways of this present darkness to walk in God’s Light of Truth! For His glory and your encouragement, I write these words:

Faith: Tested and True!

Podcast Available with read aloud and commentary:

https://spotifyanchor-web.app.link/e/YhBwS9D1fvb

Substantial, transforming faith comes through God working in our lives. This journey begins when Holy Spirit convicts us of our need for God’s salvation. Let’s refer to this as “the way of salvation.” God’s redemption is the first stage of our journey of faith. Numerous scripture passages are included in the following link:

https://www.gotquestions.org/way-of-salvation.html

As God daily renews us and guides us in His ways, we become more like His Son Christ. This isn’t quick, easy, nor a painless process. Daily, we die to our ourselves! This means that we willingly submit to Christ instead of demanding our own human, sinful way. Every follower of Christ daily makes this choice.

Problem with Common Sense and Life of Faith

Faith transcends common sense and reason. Abraham is a good example. Common sense and reason would have kept him comfortable in his home town. Yet, God calls Him on a journey to what would later become the Promised Land. God does the impossible! Old women don’t typically have sons. But, God does the impossible when Isaac is conceived and delivered. Depending on reason or common sense directs a person away from trusting, obeying, and depending on God–especially when God calls one to step out in faith. Abraham’s reason/common sense led him to lie to Pharaoh and impregnate Hagar. His attempts to bring about God’s Promise fell short. Likewise, we can’t bring about God’s Promises through our own efforts.

Walking with God in faith brings reason and common sense into the proper relationship with faith. This simply means that having faith in God leads the pilgrim to consider God’s ability and desire to bring about His plan even when it goes against common sense/reason. Faith opens a heart up to consider things that exceed what one can imagine or explain using human reason! Faith then leads the pilgrim to respond to God’s leading with obedience and trust even when it doesn’t make sense or seem possible!

Remember when Peter steps out of the boat and walks toward Jesus. His common sense and reason would have kept him in the boat! People can’t walk on water. Faith requires something more than common sense and reason.

Faith Requires God’s Revelation

God’s Word is His Revelation. From the first pages of Genesis to the last ones of Revelation, God reveals Himself in creation, through His establishment of His people, coming and ministry of Christ, to the glorious return promised wherein He makes all things right and new. God reveals Himself and that’s the only way that we can rightly “know” and “experience” Him! Man made religions and all false beliefs all start with humanity’s attempt to connect, manipulate, or move God to do or be something contrary to His revealed nature.

Why does faith have to be tested and proven to be true? Why doesn’t God eliminate all doubts, heal every sick person, conqueror death now, and restore our broken dreams? God is glorified when we trust and worship Him during our darkest moments. Faith is just a concept or good thought until we face trials, set backs, and difficulties!

God’s Wonderful Promise from Peter 1:1-11

We know that God has us when all else fails in our lives and we have nowhere else to turn but to Him! Our faith perseveres because He supplies all we need to endure and press ahead! Consider 2 Peter 1:1-11:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Peter+1%3A1-11&version=NKJV

for more on this truth

https://www.gotquestions.org/keep-the-faith.html

When reading any epistle (letter from church leader) to the early Christians, we need to remember the faith journeys of the author (if known), consider how he walked with Christ, and what he is trying to communicate to the original readers. The Four Gospels and the book of Acts give us the background information and character sketches of the authors of the Epistles: John, Peter, Paul, and James. We don’t know for certain who wrote Hebrews as the letter doesn’t mention author by name.

Recall that Peter failed as a disciple. He promised to stand by his Savior during the time after the Last Supper. He tried to defend Jesus when the temple guards and servants arrested Christ. Yet, before the roster crows, Peter publicly denies Christ three times. He then flees and hides while Christ is crucified. Peter had good intentions, he was courageous and bold speaking his mind and walking with Christ. He loved Jesus and wanted to serve Him faithfully. The problem wasn’t the intent, but the lack of prayer (he was asleep in the garden from sorrow instead of praying with Christ) and his faltering human nature.

Peter is one of my favorite people of the Bible. Like King David, Peter is a man who loves God and seeks to faithfully serve Him as best he can only to realize that his best isn’t good enough! God uses Peter’s story to encourage us! God isn’t done with us when we fail or turn away. Remember that God forgives David after his sin with Bathsheba and Jesus seeks out Peter and gently restores Him! God isn’t done with us!

Like Peter we often have good intentions and desires to serve God. Where we go astray is that like Peter, we try to serve God on our terms and in our own feeble understanding and strength!

personal quote

Faith Puts Christ First!

God ordains the circumstances and events of our life to make our faith real! Knowing Christ is crucial! Jesus is a real person not just an idea or spirit that we imagine!

During our journey as believers, we will fight against our sinful nature, this fallen world, experience loss, grief, as well as moments of joy and peace! The nature of faith makes Christ real to us! As Christ and God become real to us, so our lives and journeys of faith will make God evident to others around us!

There is great power in faith! Just read Hebrews 11 for examples of how that God moves in mighty ways through His people! Real faith is limitless! Consider this truth when you face “impossible” situations or difficult people.

A Practical Definition of Faith

Faith means that we are in the right relationship with God! This comes about through the process of sanctification: God’s process to get us into the right relationship with Himself. Each member of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has a role in this process. For more information on the concept of sanctification read:

https://www.gotquestions.org/sanctification.html

May God encourage and strengthen your faith as you daily seek Him! For His glory, honor, and your encouragement, I write these words:

The New Creature

Key Passage/Intro

Podcast with read aloud and commentary is available!

https://spotifyanchor-web.app.link/e/TFWWhuU3fvb

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. —2 Corinthians 5:17

God brings about a wonderful miracle when He redeems us! Our old, sinful nature dies. What does God want from us?

What God desires from us

We must surrender to God. If He is our Savior then He is our Lord as well. Surrendering to Him is how the relationship starts! Trusting and depending upon His grace to redeem us is the first part of the our new birth. Then as Holy Spirit comes into our life, He begins His work.

As God reconciles us to Himself, we become ambassadors for Him. We are to share His Good News with others. (2 Corinthians 5:11-21)

Questions to consider

Are you walking with God in faith? How does your life reflect Christ’s presence? God lays out His expectations and definition of love for others in the above passage. 1 John compliments this command/way of life. We can’t love God and hate others. We can’t walk in the darkness and claim to follow Christ. The reason that we struggle with loving others as Christ commands and empowers is that our old, sinful nature opposes us. Paul writes about his own struggles in Romans 7. Got questions provides multiple scriptural references:

https://www.gotquestions.org/struggling-with-sin.html

The Answer

The answer is that we allow Christ to redeem the old life. Reading God’s Word, being sensitive and obedient to Holy Spirit’s leading/conviction prompts us to put off the old way/life. James commands us to:

7Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

James 4:7-8 New American Standard

Desiring God above all set us free from the “lesser” and corrupt desires of our fallen world and sinful natures. Even though we’re redeemed, we still have a sinful nature that lives within us. This nature will be present in us until Christ Returns or we join Him in eternity. Resist the Devil and he will flee. Resisting temptation and choosing to honor God sends the great accuser away.

Cleansing hands was a ritual that faithful Jews did prior to eating any meal. The idea is that we need Christ to cleanse us daily. Our hearts become tainted by sinful desires and need to be “purified.” The Jewish people had rituals of purification prior to worship at the Temple. James is making reference to what his readers would understand: that cleansing and purification are needed. For more on this:

https://www.gotquestions.org/cleanse-your-hands-you-sinners.html

Double minded refers to a person who tries to please God and the world at the same time. Like a squirrel running back and forth across the road, such people are always seeking safety and comfort. The problem is that eventually the squirrel runs the wrong direction and gets hit. We must run toward God and away from the pleasures and corruption of this present world.

Have you ever considered why that God doesn’t just take this sinful nature away immediately at conversion and regeneration? In some mysterious way beyond my ability to comprehend and explain, God finds glory and pleasure in our journey to be more like Him. Just as a body builder uses weights to sculpt his/her body, so our struggles with sin and failures grow our love, devotion, and daily dependence on Christ.

Do we desire the blessing more than the Giver of All Good Things?

As we daily walk with Christ along the journey of life, we will grow and mature. Early in our journey, God will often bless us with an awareness of His presence, answered prayers, and times of joy and delight. However, God also seems to withdraw from us to purify our desires and draw us closer to Him. I address this in my posts concerning the silence of God and the difficulties of not understanding.

The Blessing of Emptiness

Resting in God: When God Seems Silent

Resting in God: The Dark Nights: The Problem of the Whys

Do you see God at work?

Faith enables us to endure and press ahead in our journey with God. This world and the wickedness of our present age seek to paralyze us with worry and doubt. Our past failures and present wounds weigh our souls. But, we can rest in Christ knowing that He will redeem all things–our mistakes, failures, sins, and even the evil things done against us and what we have done against others! The real beauty of Christ is that He has a way of making even the worst things work according to His plan (Romans 8). Please understand that this doesn’t mean that we won’t feel hurt, pain, and disappointment when such things come upon us. All things shall be made right in God’s Perfect and Just Time!

May God enlighten your heart to perceive His movements of grace in your life and guide you as walk with Him daily! For His glory and honor, I write.

Betrayal and Disappointment -Others

Intro

The journey of faith will bring you through some difficult “valleys.” Feeling betrayed and disappointed in others is one of the more painful seasons. To love or be concerned for others is to be vulnerable. As we open our hearts to share with others we “lower our guard” and the other person(s) may or may not respond in kind. Join me as I share insights from Dan B. Allender’s The Healing Path: How the Hurts in your Past Can Lead You to A More Abundant Life. Quotes are shared for the purpose of discussion, commentary, and spiritual encouragement. I strongly encourage all readers of this post to purchase Dr. Allender’s book title as listed above as it will be a valuable resource on your path to healing.

Podcast reading of this page

https://spotifyanchor-web.app.link/e/YTVY1zv6fvb

The Command and Resulting Trials

One of the defining traits of the Christ follower is love for others! Jesus commands us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Basically, Jesus is telling us to show the same care for others that we show for ourselves. Loving others means serving, giving, and having empathy, kindness, and compassion even when the other person(s) isn’t capable/willing of returning. The early Christians were known for their radical love and devotion to Christ. Remember that to follow Christ means that we become like Him! Consider Philippians 2! God’s love and divine justice required Him to severely punish His Only Son! The example of love and justice is the cross.

I believe that love and grace go together. When we realize the depth of God’s love, mercy, and grace to us, then we eagerly desire to love and forgive others as an “outflow” of what God is doing in our lives. However, when others neglect, abuse, or fail to return our grace/love then we find ourselves in a trial!

Do we react with anger? Is all anger bad? Righteous anger is part of God’s Nature. God hates sin and evil, in fact He hates it so much He created hell to separate it from Himself. God’s Wrath came upon Jesus so that we might be saved from what we deserve: eternal separation from God. Paul reminds us that by nature we are objects of God’s Wrath.

So my question for you is your anger righteous or unrighteous? Righteous anger seeks to restore and reconcile what is broken. Unrighteous anger seeks to totally destroy and cut off. Daily, I remind myself that God is the only Righteous Judge and Avenger. Paul teaches in Romans that we are to avoid revenge and striking back at others even when they wrong us. You would probably agree that this is easier written and read than lived out in daily life.

How we go astray

“All human relationships, even our most intimate alliances, are temporary and incomplete. When we demand that another person provide safety, certainty, and fulfillment of our deepest desires, we turn from God to an idol for the fulfillment of our needs.”

Dan Allender, The Healing Path pg. 53

Looking to others, career, education, etc. for fulfillment is a trespass against God. As fallen humans living in a material world, we are attracted to what we can immediately see and touch/experience. We turn people ( or careers and other things) into idols. We thus set them in a position whereupon failure is the outcome. Only God can fully satisfy our deepest desires and that will only come when we enter into eternity. Why doesn’t God immediately satisfy the thirst that He has created within us? Perhaps because that’s how He draws us even closer. God made us for Himself! God made us to live for His Glory and in His Presence.

Do we love others because we deeply desire that they will love us in return? Why do we do what we do? Do we act and do well hoping for some reward or to get something back, or do we do good because it pleases our Heavenly Father? What is our motive(s) for what we do?

“When we turn from God, we inevitably demand of others the very things we miss in our relationship with God. If we don’t know his deep care and protection, then we will insist another human being provide what we lack.”

Dan Allender, The Healing Path pg 53

Drawing close and depending upon God is the our only source for True, Abundant Life. John chapter 10 teaches this wonderful truth. For more on abundant life see below:

https://www.gotquestions.org/abundant-life.html

When I find myself becoming disappointed with people or life, God leads me to the following questions:

  1. What am I seeking first? Am I placing anyone or anything ahead of seeking His Kingdom and righteousness first?
  2. Where am I seeking joy, peace, and comfort? Am I looking to my job, finances, health, or relationships to find peace and contentment? If so then I am seeking an idol instead of my Creator and Savior.
  3. Why is my heart discontented? Pray through Psalm 103.
  4. Am I depending on anyone or anything for purpose, meaning, etc.?

The Remedy

First, we need to recognize the source of our disappointment with others/life. The experience of discouragement/disappointment is a warning that something is not right. Just as physical pain warns us of injury or damage, so does emotional upset and suffering. We need to look deeper into our souls–guided by God’s Word and Holy Spirit. Ask God for discernment and wisdom. God reveals areas of idolatry in our lives. God calls us all to repent. Repentance is a process that is ongoing. Simply explained: we are to seek God’s Truth and respond to Holy Spirit’s prompting. When we realize we are walking/living apart from God then we must immediately stop and turn back!

Second, we must look to Christ for joy, hope, and peace in the difficult seasons. Remember that God disciplines and refines those He Redeems and Loves! Ultimately, our disappointments with others in life should cause us to desire for God’s Second Coming and Eternity with Him where there is no sin in our lives or others! Having been hurt by others should make us more kind, understanding, and gentle in our dealings with others.

Remember the example of our Gentle Savior! He was betrayed by his disciples, murdered by His own people, mocked, and tortured to death. If we want to be like Him, then we should expect to be mistreated. God’s love, justice, and righteousness demanded a Perfect Sacrifice. Jesus was truly innocent and the Only Perfect Person, who left the glories of heaven to die for us!

Third, the world and joy with temporal things is a false friend. Things and people will only fail us, because only God is Complete and Perfect. Even the best friend/loving parent/partner will disappoint us. We are all fallen. We get hurt and we hurt others. Thankfully, God took care of our failures on the cross. By His wounds, we are healed! So we should be in the business of working to heal and sooth others’ wounds!

Writing this article has been a painful process for me. Writing from the heart isn’t easy, especially when one is deeply disappointed in various aspects of one’s life. Yet, the disappointment is a mercy “gift” from God in that it causes me to trust Him more and daily seek His grace for myself and others. Anything or anyone who leads or causes us to depend and thirst for God is a blessing. I write this article to encourage you, not to complain about how others have treated me. Nor am I criticizing or accusing any person or group of individuals.

We have a choice in life. We can be numb and uncaring or risk the sorrows of caring for others. May God give us grace, courage, discernment, and hope as we seek to love others and lead them to our Savior! We shall long for the brighter, fair shores of God’s Country wherein all sorrows and pains shall cease. All things will be made anew, all hurts and troubles redeemed!

God’s Silence: His Answers

Intro:

Podcast commentary:

https://spotifyanchor-web.app.link/e/hj3VrMtfhvb

Join me as I consider how that God’s silence is part of His answer. We will discuss quotes from chapter 19 “Do You Believe This? Martha and Death” of Jon Bloom’s Not By Sight: Quotes are used for the purpose of commentary/discussion, teaching, and spiritual encouragement. I recommend that you purchase a copy of Jon’s book available at the link below:

https://www.amazon.com/Not-Sight-Fresh-Stories-Walking/dp/1433535939

As we walk with God on our journeys of faith, we will experience times in which God is silent. This is a “hard thing” especially when you’re in the midst of a trial or personal difficulty, but God has a purpose for the silence! God also has purpose/meaning for our disappointments and suffering.

Truth 1: God silence reveals His Trust in you and a greater purpose!

Do you cry out to God seeking answers and guidance for your life? Why doesn’t God just answer us? Maybe it’s because He loves us enough to reveal something far greater than a simple answer. In John chapter 11, Jesus is aware that his friend is ill, yet waits to send word or heal him. Why did Jesus delay when He could have healed Lazarus from a distance as He had healed others?

Jesus has a greater revelation to reveal to Martha, Mary, Lazarus, and His disciples! Jesus wants them to know that He is the Life and the Resurrection (John 11:25). He is our Source of Life and Life Eternal. What if God is moving in your life–directing you through a period of silence and no immediate relief or answer? God’s silence is an indication that He trusts you!

Remember that God is All Powerful (Omnipotent) and All Knowing. Sovereign means that God is the Almighty King and Ruler of All. He does as He decrees. We can rest knowing that God will accomplish His plans, purpose(s), and intention even when we are experiencing His silence. God’s purposes/plan flow forth from Him as water flows through a river. The best for us is to be aligned and riding the river of God’s ways.

God’s timing is absolutely perfect. He will accomplish His plans! Nor does God expect us to completely understand His timing. This is part of trusting and walking in faith. Abraham faced long periods of waiting for Isaac–nearly 25 years! Yet, Abraham proved faithful because even with his failures (lies, Hagar’s son Ishmael, etc.), He trusted and believed God. David waited years to become king, but all this happened according to God’s Good and Perfect timing! Jesus, our Savior, came into human history (Incarnation) at just the right moment too!

Truth 2: God’s silence means that He has heard your prayers!

This doesn’t seem to make sense, but I want you to carefully consider this truth. When we pray for ourselves and others, we are depending on God to act. Proper prayer is asking God to do what we or others can’t do for ourselves! This requires honesty, humility, and courage to depend on Him instead of ourselves.

Truth 3: Jesus delays because He perfectly loves us and glorifies God

Please take a moment to consider the situation of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Jesus deeply loved them, yet He delays. Why? Consider these words from Jon Bloom pg 123

“We know how the story ends. But in the horrible days of Lazarus’s agonizing illness and in the dark misery of the days following his death, Martha did not know God was doing. He seemed silent and unresponsive. Jesus didn’t come. It’s likely she knew word had reached him. She was confused, disappointed, and overwhelmed with grief.”

Have you ever longed for God to speak or move in your life, but nothing happens? Ever struggled and no answer seemed to come from on high? Why does God not speak? Do you know what God is doing? Does He explain His purposes for things that happen?

Jon explains why:

“And yet, Jesus delayed precisely because he loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus. He knew that Lazarus’s death and resurrection would give maximum glory to God, and that his friends would all experience maximum joy in that glory. It would make all their suffering seem light and momentary.”

God, Jesus, Holy Spirit don’t immediately act because something else is coming! It’s His love that keeps Him from immediately making our problems go away. While this seems harsh, it’s not when our problems are what draws us closer to Him! God’s love is perfect and does what is the best for us! The best for us is to draw closer to Him daily and seek Him even in our times of great disappointment and sorrow!

Truth 4: God has a purpose for our disappointments and suffering

Jon explains God’s profound love for us:

“God only ordains our deep disappointments and profound suffering for the sake of far greater joy in the glory he will reveal to us (Romans 8:18). It is crucial to remind one another of this. Before we know what Jesus is doing, circumstances can look all wrong. And we are tempted to interpret God’s apparent inaction as unloving, when in fact God is loving us in the most profound way he possibly can.”

This last quote should cause us to look upward and praise God that He Perfectly loves us! He loves us not as we desire, but in a manner far better than our frail human minds and weak souls can comprehend! Now is a good time to read and meditate on Romans 8.

May God encourage you on your journey of faith! I write these words for His glory and honor,